#41: Asheville, NC 8/9/16

Anger.

Suspense.

Hemp?

These words barely scratch the surface of the cauldron of civic engagement that was the Asheville city council meeting.

It was a big day, with bonds galore! Transportation bond! Housing bond! Parks and rec bond! But first, the council needed a public hearing. Let’s roll the dice and see what the Good People have to say.

“I rise to state that there is an inconvenient truth about this so-called ‘public hearing,'” a man in a dapper white suit read from his notes. (Whenever someone labels something “so-called,” you know you’re in for a treat.)

“All this, I believe, is merely window dressing on the city council to foist a poorly-planned, unnecessary, pie-in-the-sky, $110 million financial burden upon the city,” he drawled, before socking Asheville’s bureaucrats right in the kisser. “This can become a slush fund to use as they please.”

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For someone who’s against spending money, that’s an awfully fancy pocket square.

He shuffled back to his seat. “Is there anyone else wishing to speak?” Mayor Esther Manheimer asked warily. No one in the crowded room hopped up.

“You all do know that we’re just doing bonds pretty much tonight?” she laughed nervously.

It was do-or-die time. Put-up-or-shut-up time. The vote: all three bonds passed. Easily. Like, really easily.

“Congratulations, we did our first bond package,” announced the mayor with the best poker face this side of Vegas.

Councilwoman Julie Mayfield briefly golf-clapped. “Are we allowed to clap?” she inquired after no one followed suit.

“We can look enthusiastic,” the mayor responded.

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The mayor is at peak enthusiasm.

Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler then kicked off what must have been an uncomfortable moment for three particular Ashevillians.  “We interviewed three candidates for the Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment just before the city council meeting.”

She whipped out a pen. “Each council member, tell me who you vote for.”

Oh, wow. This is happening now. In public.

Councilman Keith Young jumped in without hesitation. “I’m going with Emily” Boyd.

Councilwoman Mayfield agonized over her options. “These are all great candidates….It’s amazing….Tough choice.” She paused. “I am gonna go with Bridget” Herring.

“I’m gonna vote for Brad” Rouse, retorted Councilman Cecil Bothwell.

A three-way tie. What a nail-biter. I can’t watch!

“Bridget Herring,” Her Honor the mayor said without comment.

“Bridget Herring,” the vice mayor and Councilman Gordon Smith dittoed. It was a lock.

“I counted Bridget Herring,” triumphantly declared Vice Mayor Wisler. “We’ll get ahold of the candidates tomorrow and tell them.”

Uh…no offense Madam Vice Mayor, but you do realize you’re on TV, right?

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Vice Mayor: If only there were some way for people to know what’s happening at the city council…

As the meeting drew to a close, the mayor opened up public comment. And the public included a bearded man wearing shorts who talked about, well, what you would expect a bearded man in shorts to talk about.

“Hemp X Asheville is happening,” he grinned. “I hope a few or many of y’all can make it, and certainly those watching on TV as well.”

Sorry, bud. I’ll be busy watching city council meetings.

Final thoughts: I give 10 out of 10 stars to runners-up Emily Boyd and Brad Rouse, who came so close to getting the job but got, arguably, something better: a shout-out on City Council Chronicles.

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