Gordon Smith's blog

Uh Oh

Asheville Citizen-Times:

Buncombe County GOP Chairman Timothy Johnson is running for N.C. Republican vice chairman today at the state party convention in Raleigh. Delegates will select a vice chairman and chairman to the lead the badly battered GOP, which suffered serious losses from the federal level on down in last year's elections.

The leadership race has been marked by infighting and personal attacks. Chairman candidate Tom Fetzer felt it necessary to respond to claims that he was gay. Another candidate, Chad Adams, had to deal with circulated e-mails between him and a former mistress.

Now Johnson has found himself responding to high-level criticism about a charge of felony aggravated assault against his ex-wife in Ohio. He pleaded guilty to the crime in 1996.

Ten Things You Should Know

Doug Gibson at Scrutiny Hooligans has posted an excellent primer about NC tax structure in ten easy bullets. Here's a fun excerpt:

5. Our state government has refused to include services among the items included in the sales tax. This reduces revenues and means that we pay taxes when we buy necessities like clothing, but not when we buy luxuries like pedicures and bikini waxes.

Shelley's Story

This letter came from Shelley Pereda Camp. She gave permission to republish it here:

I am the mother of a 12 year old autistic child in Asheville. She was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at the age of 1-1/2 and then diagnosed with autism with MMR tendancies at the age of 4 1/2. At 4-1/2, my almost catatonic, she only spoke 25 words, was still in diapers and was a danger to herself and those around her. You would never know this about her if you met her today but this would not have been possible without community support services, OT, PT, Speech and Medicaid.

NC Budget Cutting Rampage Continues

Education is getting slashed across the state. Mental Health is being decimated. Now all our other social services are going under the hatchet as well. To put this in perspective, the money saved in this budget will be a drop in the bucket compared to the strain put on counties and municipalities across the state. It will fall to us to provide services for our most vulnerable populations - children, disabled, mentally ill, elderly. The problem, of course, is that we local governments don't have any money either. Non-profits are struggling as well. Families are losing jobs and making enormous sacrifices to make ends meet.

This move by legislators is shortsighted and irresponsible. We'll be paying for it one way or another, and all of us will be affected.

AC-T:

The General Assembly has proposed slashing $2.4 billion from the state's Department of Health and Human Services budget over the next two years in an attempt to close a $4 billion budget gap.

In all, 717 state jobs in human services would be cut, and programs like N.C. Health Choice, the children's health insurance plan for low-income families, would be slashed.

Action: MH/DD Services To Be Decimated, and There Is No Safety Net

{c/p @ Scrutiny Hooligans}

The NC House budget proposes a 40% cut in mental health services including the dissolution of Community Support Services, a vital tool to maintain people in their communities rather than relying on emergency rooms, hospitals, and jails. If you make three calls today, you can help our legislators understand that cutting education and mental health services will have extraordinary costs to future generations. The ARC of North Carolina sent this Action Alert:

Our service system will be set back 40 years. The House’s proposed budget cuts to Health and Human Services and Medicaid will have a total impact of close to $3.5 billion.

Shuler To Run For Senate After All?

Ashvegas has the scoopiness:

News was made on Local Edge Radio 880 AM on Friday. I was sitting in with the show hosts, Blake and Lesley, when they had David Young, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, call in to chat. The hot topic was whether U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler would run decide to take on U.S. Sen. Richard Burr in next year’s election.

Young confirmed what’s been flying around for about a week: that Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee officials have been going after Shuler hard. And Young went a step further, saying “my gut tells me” that Shuler will run.

DTMP: Section Two - Parking and Moving

{Cross posted from Scrutiny Hooligans}

[This is the second of several posts examining the proposed Downtown Master Plan (DTMP). You can see a brief overview of the plan here. Click here for the entire plan. Click here for the appendices. Click here for my post on Section One. A public hearing on the DTMP will be held May 26th at the City Council meeting that night.]

I've got three favorite parking places downtown. One of them remains unmetered. Each requires an extra block of walking to city center. You all have your favorite spots as well, even the cyclists and the scooterati. Anecdotes suggest that some folks have a terrible time finding a place to park whenever they come downtown. Downtown business owners want it to be easy for people to get out of their cars and move all over the city.

The Downtown Master Plan (DTMP), utilizing an inventory of parking spaces at various hours, takes a look at how to get people downtown and how to keep them there. I'm in agreement with a lot of the points made in this section, but there is one area that we can do without.

As was true in the Arts and Culture portion of DTMP Section One, "meeting our own needs and following our own vision, the people of Asheville have garnered world-class attention. This has been the key to our success, and it’s part of what makes us unique." Changing the culture of downtown to cater exclusively to tourists would be a mistake. The Tourism Development Authority's Wayfinding system, which will cost $75,000 up front then over $50,000 per year to maintain, is a portion of the plan we could cut to save money without any negative impact on city residents. More about that after the jump.

A proposed traffic and parking management system in the DTMP has real potential to freeze the need to build more parking spaces/garages. As the city prepares to spend $900,000 to build a parking garage under a luxury hotel, it's time to recognize that by shifting our strategy, we can save a lot of taxpayer money while reducing traffic. I'll list the exciting parts of this plan after the jump.

Asheville DTMP: Section One - Arts, Culture, History

This is cross-posted from Scrutiny Hooligans and will soon appear at my City Council campaign website, GordonforAsheville.com

[This is the first of several posts examining the proposed Downtown Master Plan (DTMP). You can see a brief overview of the plan here. Click here for the entire plan. Click here for the appendices. A public hearing on the DTMP will be held May 26th at the City Council meeting that night.]

In working towards a more affordable, more sustainable Asheville, it's vital we attend to the arts. Arts, culture and history give equally to all of us who live and work here. Every day we're informed, intrigued, or inspired by our artistic, cultural, and historical environment. Art and culture engender civic pride in all of us, and we can prioritize affordable living and working space so our artists can continue providing us with a beating heart. We can reaffirm our commitment to showcasing our history through preservation and cultural events. We can create an Artists' Resource Center to serve as a hub for business, art, and tourism.

Section One of the DTMP is focused on arts, culture, and history in downtown Asheville. Folks all have their favorite and least favorite things about going downtown. I love hearing music in the streets, seeing art wherever I look, running into friends, and the abounding culture of creativity. A combination of low property values a generation ago, relentless entrepreneurship, city planning, and a most excellent populace has created a downtown full of life, where it feels like anything could happen. It's impossible to quantify the creative energy of Asheville's downtown creative arts communities, but the DTMP throws out a few stats to provide context:

- Asheville is now recognized as the number-two arts destination among smaller United States cities (following Santa Fe, New Mexico).

- The arts and artists contribute sixy-five-million dollars annually to Western North Carolina‘s economy.

- WNC‘s artists comprise the largest percentage of self-employed workers in the state.

As unique as our arts community is Asheville's architectural and historical legacy. Section One of the DTMP addresses this facet. Here are a few DTMP bullets to give you an idea of how historical preservation has been valued and to what benefits:

- Since 1976, there have been 82 rehabilitation projects in Downtown Asheville‘s National Register Historic District (NRHD). All of these benefitted from a 20-percent federal rehabilitation tax credit (for income-producing structures). These projects represent over eighy-nine-million dollars in Downtown re-investment—beginning at a time when Downtown was neglected and deteriorating. In large measure, historic rehabilitation saved Downtown Asheville.

- Since 1998, project sponsors and owners have been able to double that tax credit (to 40-percent) by using North Carolina‘s matching tax credit for certified historic
rehabilitation.

- The dramatic impact of historic preservation is well demonstrated by Pack Place--a public/private partnership begun in mid-1980‘s and opened in 1992.

Follow me into ReadMoreLand for a look at how our arts and history can be strengthened, encouraged, and protected.

Asheville's Downtown Master Plan, An Overview

Cross posted from Scrutiny Hooligans

The Final Draft of the Asheville Downtown Master Plan is creation of consensus and compromise. Dedicated people from every cranny of our community devoted 5,000 hours of their time to hammer this thing out. Public input sessions were frequent and very well attended. So no matter where you land in assessing the DTMP, you can respect the process that went into creating it. At the end of this post is a list from the DTMP's acknowledgements page (ii). It's a list of all the folks whose input was key to coming up with solutions.

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