What Cecil stands for

political cartoon, Cecil Bothwell atop City Hall

A cartoon by David Cohen. (He later exchanged the framed original for one of my paintings, so it greets me every time I come in the front door.)

The media seem to focus on my opposition to this or that proposal without any analysis of how his arguments affect actual outcomes. Counter arguments sway debate and “move the ball.” I have consistently served my constituents and spoken out against the establishment and commercial interests that attempt to run Asheville to their personal advantage.

An issue that came up last year is a case in point. The Beaucatcher Greenway has been an Asheville dream since 1920, which is why the City has preserved a right-of-way over most of the intended route. After about five years of planning by the Parks and Recreation Department the idea had come to a decision point. Along with many citizens, and several Council members, I made time to walk the route—where there is already an unpaved path (perhaps originally a logging road.) I studied the plan. I raised serious objections. In the last two days before our Council vote changes were made in accord with the objections I had raised and the new plan was said to save many trees and about $200,000. Because so many citizens expressed high favor for the project I then voted “Yes” to move the plan along, despite my misgivings about the scope and scale of the project.

Many months later we now have a new estimate of costs. Instead of the “about $2 million” minus the “about $200,000” the current estimate is “about $5 million.” This project is very unlikely to be completed in my lifetime. (I’m 66, and a skeptic.)

Another very clear example involves a 2015 development plan approved by City Council. Investors in the proposed subdivision needed Council approval for their plan. Neighbors had filed a Protest Petition, which meant the developers needed a “super majority” of Council to win approval and they knew I opposed the plan. They couldn’t lose another Council vote – and so accepted a greenway right-of-way proposal supported by other Council members. My opposition made this “win” possible, and similar scenarios play out over and over again.

On giant oil tankers and cargo ships, the captain or pilot doesn’t actually turn the rudder to steer the boat. It is physically pretty much impossible to force mechanical parts that immense to budge. What is controlled is called a trim tab which is a small adjustable piece at the trailing edge of the rudder. Adjusting the trim tab pulls the rudder one way or the other due to water pressure. You’ve probably seen similar trim tabs as a passenger on a plane – the small adjustable bits on the trailing edge of a wing. Bucky Fuller offered this metaphor decades ago, and its true. We can turn the ship of state by being trim tabs.

Nor is “no” my only answer. I have led efforts to protect Civil Liberties, protect the property rights of citizens, made the city more energy efficient, switch to single stream recycling, retrofitting street and parking deck lights, pressed for higher efficiency in the city vehicle fleet, and ensured that the City live up to its promise as a Living Wage Certified employer.

The overarching story is that I have consistently stood up for the people who elected me. That’s why I have been voted the Best Local Politician in every Mountain Xpress reader poll since I was elected in 2009 and been tapped as Best Local Hero in five of those seven years (with one second and one third.) If I have sometimes cast my vote on the losing side of issues, close examination would show that the majority on Council has often voted against the will of the citizens here.

It’s amazing how people get elected to office and suddenly think they know better than the people who elected them!

I believe I bring a more diverse set of experiences and skills to my work on Council than most politicians. My career includes decades as a green builder, founding editor of a Warren Wilson College environmental journal, managing editor of the Mountain Xpress, investigative reporter, radio host and commentator, syndicated columnist, musician, slam poet, artist and organic gardener. I’ve authored 10 books, won regional and national journalism awards, and have addressed issues of ethics and the environment before groups in 25 cities in a dozen states. A Buncombe resident for 37 years I have camped and traveled in every state and canoed parts of every major river system in North America. For more than a decade I have served on the boards of two local nonprofit groups building libraries and grade schools in Bolivia and Guatemala.

My time on Council has included Chairing the Public Safety Committee; serving on the Finance Committee, Housing and Community Development Committee and the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission; and as liaison to the Tree Commission, the Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment, the Airport Authority, the Recreation Advisory Board, the Noise Ordinance Appeals Board, and the Board of Electrical Examiners.

I have done my best to serve the people of this City who elected me. I’m willing to serve one more term if  you want me to go round again.

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