Asheville City Council held the first portion of its retreat today. One recurring thought in the peanut gallery was Dallas. Dallas has great performing arts centers. They are amazing works of architecture, and they host great acts. They are funded by Ross Perot’s EDS and oil tycoons who give their teenagers stretch limo pickup trucks for cruising Friday nights. Asheville wants the same kinds of venues, but it is home to tattoo parlors, body piercing and head shops, and nonprofit organizations. Would it be progressive to expect somebody who sells wrapping paper for a living to donate as much as the Bush family to the fine arts? There is no concept among a majority on council that one ought to earn money to have money. Needy parties need only want, and government will print as much as they want.

One of council’s five goals is job creation. The first two great providers of jobs listed by Mayor Terry Bellamy were recent recipients of corporate welfare. Workforce development was one of Bellamy’s priorities. We appear but one step from accepting as a proper role of government the determination of the highest and best use for human resources. The free market has, no doubt, failed, and the seven members on city council have the knowledge and power to employ people better than capitalists trying to provide goods and services the community demands. We do, after all, have czars. It is aggravating that three people who do not know the Supreme Law of the Land can get elected and start enacting socialist policies, and everybody else is supposed to be polite and uphold decorum by keeping their mouth shut. One feels like a schizophrenic terrorist to even suggest something about cause and effect. Socialism’s track record for failure is inadmissible evidence.

Newly-elected Cecil Bothwell never ceased to shock. He said he hoped by 2020, Asheville could be recognized for having prepared for the end of the oil industry, having made their city livable with adequate transit beforehand. He had just read in the Washington Post that gas would soon go over $3.00/gallon, and $3.50/gallon is the tipping point for getting people to use transit in droves. Bothwell mentioned about three times the threat of global warming. It is occurring much faster than anticipated, and the polar ice caps will be decimated by 2015. Bothwell expected Asheville’s plentiful water resources would be a boon in the context of global water shortages. Lastly, Bothwell stated he had become a supporter of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and wanted to lobby the legislative delegation for statewide legalization of drugs.

Gordon Smith praised locals helping locals as healthcare costs skyrocketed. He praised the Grove Park Inn for deciding to provide domestic partner benefits and hoped the city would follow suit. Smith also wanted to enact legislation against violence perpetrated against cyclists. He said almost every cyclist he knows has had a bottle thrown at him. Special legislation of this type insinuates it is OK to throw bottles at gays, geeks, or people of color as long as they’re not on bikes.

Last year’s goals for public safety were shot all to a place people usually go in a hand basket. After all, they were all rattled off by that unseated Dr. Carl Mumpower who engaged in crazy talk. He believed, for example, that a major role of government was protecting law-abiding citizens from social predators. His goal to model Rudy Giuliani’s successful zero-tolerance policy was scratched without ado. Esther Manheimer didn’t know why the police were only charged with going after the open air drug market, and nobody on council could remember why, either. Maybe it is because unreasonable searches and seizures, improbable cause, and insecurity in one’s property have become integral parts of the American way of life. Nobody remembered why, “Partner with intergovernmental agencies including the judicial system to comprehensively address drug-related crime,” was on the list, either. Perhaps the press only hallucinated conversations and citizen apprehension about the proverbial revolving door. One public safety element council kept was, “Support recreation and employment alternatives for youth at risk of gang exposure.” Bellamy said in Asheville, 1200 kids aged 11-14 are classified as at-risk, but only 45 are in programs. (Average Daily Enrollment at Asheville Middle School is 665.)

New members of council wanted to get into the affordable housing business, but Brownie Newman and Bellamy explained council lacked authority to do so. Bellamy alluded to multiple abortive attempts the city had made to create affordable housing on one particular site.

Anything pertaining to fiscal restraint was removed from the category on fiscal responsibility. Surviving the cut was the bullet point, “Proactively pursue funding opportunities with state and federal economic stimulus packages.” Mayor Bellamy, as in the past, advocated floating bonds. She shared a slide presentation. Fire stations, recreation centers, libraries, and tennis courts were in need of revamping. She showed a row of commercial buildings (not far from the scene of a recent gang murder), said they did not represent the highest and best use of land, and said the city should talk with a developer about leveling them and replacing them with mixed-use parking and shopping. Jan Davis said some of the county’s libraries were better buildings than libraries, and even the downtown library was lacking in resources. He supported the mayor’s request to consider a bond referendum, only because, “It will probably go down in flames.”

Brownie Newman pointed out bonds would most likely be paid by raising taxes, but the mayor said the city could use other revenue streams. A talk on break with CFO Ben Durant indicated other revenue sources would be piddly. Newman said he would only support a property tax increase if the earth was going to be struck by a meteor and something was needed to destroy it. He did, however, support shifting the tax burden to the rest of the community to afford new companies tax breaks for locating in Asheville.

The mayor mentioned in addition that the legislators had let up on the Sullivan Acts. The city is now allowed to use water revenues for parks and greenways. This brought to mind a past conversation with former representative Charles Thomas, who said the Sullivan Acts were needed because Asheville had a history of irresponsible spending. His worst fears seemed to be coming to life.

City Manager Gary Jackson prepared a white paper in response to “the Locke Foundation.” On break, he clarified the comment pertained only to the “By the Numbers” report. The white paper contained no new information. After conferring with city staff, more will be posted here.

Overall, the meeting left a bad taste in the mouth. Christmas week, yours truly had to run through a foot of snow in the woods carrying computer parts and boxes of assembly pieces in twelve-minute round trips to a vehicle parked as close as possible, in order to satisfy customers. Mechanics with knobby, scarred knuckles working three jobs to buy their kids shabby second-hand clothes are also taxpayers. Government does not have to satisfy customers. It need only sit around a grand table and say the people want glorious gateways and other expensive community identity designations and tender them the bill to pay or go to prison. Government thinks nothing of asking the mechanic to take a fourth job to pay for the greenways he will never have time to see. And yet, elected officials deny they are making anybody dependent on government.