Category: Campaign

A New Poor People’s Campaign

In 1968, Martin Luther King and the SCLC waged the Poor People’s Campaign in an attempt to bring the country’s attention to the economic needs of the underprivileged and underserved. King and the other leaders of the campaign recognized that racial justice and economic justice are intricately intertwined, and to truly liberate the American people, we would have to fight to scourge our nation of both white supremacy and corporate greed.

Part of what came out of that campaign was an Economic Bill of Rights, drafted by the Committee of 100, a group of poor Americans formed to lobby for their economic rights. They came up with the following rights that every American deserves:

  1. The right to a meaningful job with a living wage
  2. The ability to get a secure and adequate income for those unable to get a job
  3. Access to land for economic uses
  4. Resources and capital for poor people trying to promote business
  5. A larger role in government for ordinary people

Unfortunately, the campaign was unable to achieve these critical reforms, and since 1968 wealth disparity has only grown greater in this country, and our need for drastic changes to our economy are even more necessary.

Recently, Rev. Dr. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP, stepped up to lead a new Poor People’s Campaign. In announcing the effort, Rev. Barber argued that “the fights for racial and economic equality are as inseparable today as they were half a century ago. Make no mistake about it: We face a crisis in America. The twin forces of white supremacy and unchecked corporate greed have gained newfound power and influence, both in statehouses across this nation and at the highest levels of our federal government.”

Rev. Barber couldn’t be more correct in his analysis of our current cultural failure regarding both racial relations and the influence of powerful oligarchs. We need to break the grip of moneyed and racist interests on a scale not seen since the trust-busting days of Teddy Roosevelt. Barber has called this renewed effort ‘A National Call for a Moral Revival,’ and I think he’s spot on.

In my time on the Asheville City Council, I’ve worked to fight for the economic rights of the working poor in our community. I’m a strong advocate for the Living Wage Campaign waged by Asheville’s Just Economics. During my time in office, the City of Asheville has adopted Just Economics’ wage as a baseline for all hiring and as a fundamental requirement for any corporate entity seeking tax benefits from the City. I’ve also fought for a living wage requirement for contractors with the City, but Republicans in Raleigh thwarted that plan.

I support Rev. Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign, and I urge my supporters to as well.

Link to Poor People’s Campaign:

Link to Ashevile’s Just Economics:

Fare Free Public Transportation

Cities and municipalities around the world are finding ways to fight the existential threat of climate change — Asheville should join those fighting for expanded and fare free public transportation. Fare free buses would, in the words of the non-profit Fare Free Public Transportation, “lead to a decline in car-traffic and a surge in the demand for public transportation, which in turn would stimulate a much needed capacity and comfort increase in the public transport system.” Increased public transit dramatically cuts down on carbon emissions and reduces traffic congestion, both issues the people of Asheville are eager to address.

Prominent cities around the world, such as Melbourne, Manchester, Athens, and Oslo, along with American cities such as Boston, Miami, Columbus, Baltimore, and even Chapel Hill have all adopted fare free public transit. To see a full list of cities that have followed suit, check out the list cultivated by Fare Free Public Transportation at Asheville has the capability to be a global leader on this issue, and it’s time we take that leap.

Beyond being instrumental tool against climate change, fare free public transportation will help make the lives of Asheville residents more affordable. According to the City of Asheville’s Transit Department, an annual pass costs $220, but because many low-income riders don’t buy annual passes because they never have enough money on hand to purchase one, the cost is closer to $550 annually in order to get back and forth from work each day. Additionally, the only ways to get the discount fares are through Medicare, by being over 65, or having a disability. While it’s vital that those populations receive these important benefits, there are too many working people who don’t get those discounts who dearly need them.

So, how to pay for fare free transit? Fares currently account for only about 11 percent of Asheville’s transit system budget, with receipts in the current fiscal year expected to be $827,000.

My plan to go fare-free includes four elements.

  1. Our current curbside meters are hard to read at night, which is why parking is free when the sun goes down. When the City finishes installation of new curbside meters we will be able to generate upward of $600K per year by extending meter hours.
  2. We can and should expand curbside metering into Biltmore Village and West Asheville as well. Metering actually helps people find parking by eliminating day-long parking.
  3. Our parking garages should charge higher for tourists and lower for residents. This dual price structure could easily bring in another $200,000 per year, and probably more.
  4. Fare boxes on buses run to $15,000 per vehicle, and are slated for replacement. Skipping this expense offers a one-time saving upward of $300,000. When we purchase 6 all-electric buses in the 2018-19 budget year, we’ll cut $90,000 from that bill as well.

The people of Asheville want a more environmentally friendly city, and they also want their day-to-day lives to be more affordable. This is why fare-free public transit is so important.

Fare-free is entirely doable, and we need to get it done.

Filing for re-election

For immediate release: 7/10/17

What: Cecil Bothwell files for re-election to Asheville City Council

Contact: Justin Nemon, campaign manager

cecil bothwell Asheville City Council
Making a point

Citing his successful record as a member of Asheville’s City Council, Cecil Bothwell has filed for re-election. “I have always listened to the people of Asheville and have done my utmost to move the City in the right direction,” he said. “While commercial interests often seem to pull the strings, I have and will continue to fashion a government that works toward environmental health, social justice and economic equity. I regard climate change as an existential threat to modern civilization and consider that issue in every decision I make in both my personal and public life.”

Bothwell’s Council accomplishments include: a Civil Liberties Resolution prohibiting discrimination based on race, gender, gender identity, ethnicity, or place of national origin by all City employees; making Asheville a Living Wage Certified employer; requiring Living Wages as a minimum for economic development grants; single stream “Big Blue” recycling; raising the City’s carbon reduction goal to 4 percent per year; a street light retrofit that saves $350K per year; expansion of the transit/greenway/bike-ped system; a steady increase in homeless services; substantial changes in Asheville Police Department policy; requiring Council approval of more development projects; and winning some battles with Raleigh.

Bothwell is Chair of the Public Safety Committee and has served on the Finance Committee, Housing and Economic Development Committee, the Asheville Area Riverfront Redevelopment Commission, and as liaison to the Sustainability Advisory Committee on Energy and the Environment, the Asheville Tree Commission, the Asheville Regional Airport Authority, the Noise Ordinance Appeals Board, the Recreation Advisory Committee, and the Board of Electrical Examiners.

Bothwell’s career includes decades as a green building contractor followed by years as a writer and editor. He was founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal in the 1990s, wrote a radio and syndicated print commentary for ten years, and became Managing Editor of Asheville’s Mountain Xpress in 2002. He has ten books in print, one song collection, was included in the first issue of the Asheville Poetry Review (after winning the 1993 Southeast Poetry Slam), and his paintings have been exhibited in numerous regional shows. He has lived in solar powered homes for most of the past 37 years, currently resides in a net-zero grid connected all electric house and has been an organic gardener/farmer for 45 years. He was first elected to Council in 2009 and re-elected in 2013.

Time to remove the Robert E. Lee Monument from Pack Square

Constructed in 1926, the Robert E. Lee monument in downtown Asheville commemorates an individual who stood and fought on behalf of racism, white supremacy, and intolerance. He is also arguably responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any individual in our history, given that hundreds of thousands died when he continued to fight long after he knew the war was lost.

Installed by the Daughters of the Confederacy, the antiquated monument is emblematic of the extreme bigotry represented by the Confederacy. This bigotry didn’t end after the Civil War, and our nation has been permanently scarred by racial lynchings, which were common during the period in which this monument was constructed, and systemic racism, which is still prevalent to this day.

Another monument honoring Confederate soldiers next to the Buncombe County Courthouse should also be removed. Perhaps it could be re-installed in Riverside Cemetery where many of those fallen are buried. A memorial to ancestors in a cemetery is appropriate. A monument to those fought against our nation in a public plaza is not.

We must recognize that the values of the Confederacy are not our own and that we should not permit the commemoration of an individual who stood for such values. It is morally reprehensible to celebrate individuals who stood for slavery. Nearly a century after the monument’s construction, it is long past time that we follow in the footsteps of cities such as New Orleans, who have removed and relocated their monuments of Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. Asheville must utilize public spaces to reflect the air of the future: equality, inclusiveness, coexistence.

A similar argument can be made regarding the Vance Monument. It is my view that the Vance monument should be disassembled or repurposed, and certainly re-dedicated. I’ve heard suggestions for renaming the obelisk as a Peace or Unity monument, and of course many have advocated complete demolition.


Campaign Kick-Off June 17

It’s time to kick off this year’s re-election campaign with a party! (As Jim Hightower quips: “It’s never too late to put the party back in politics!”)

Saturday, June 17, 2017 at 7:17 p.m.
In the studio of John Mac Kah – across the parking lot from the new Wedge Brew Pub and 12 Bones, on the back side of Riverview Station, 191 Lyman Street, Asheville.

Participating artists will donate 50 percent of all sales to the campaign during the event. so you can upgrade your visual environment and help out the campaign at the same time!

You can let us know you are coming by replying to this post below. Thanks!

12 Years and Counting … St. Lawrence Green

Basilica of St. Lawrence, Friends of St. Lawrence Green
Thousands of yard signs appeared throughout Asheville in the summer of 2015

A majority of Ashevillians want a public park opposite the Civic Center 

For more than a decade thousands of people in Asheville have expressed a desire to preserve the property opposite the Civic Center and the Basilica of St. Lawrence as a public park. Petitions have circulated, demonstrations have been held, and letters have been written to newspapers and elected officials. Two opinion polls* have indicated overwhelming support for a park. Still those who want commercial development persist.

As we prepare to start holding events in the space that was covered with gravel for several years, the City conducted an online poll in May 2017, to name the performance space. Nearly half of respondents chose St. Lawrence Green or Park, with a majority for Green. It’s hard to imagine that the name will not finally stick.

Two City Council elections have been substantially decided over this issue. In 2005 when a proposed parking deck on the site became a hot issue, three opponents of the deck were elected and the project died. In 2015 when creation of a park became an explicit issue, park proponents finished 1,2 and 4, and the 3rd place finisher had shifted position from mild opposition to qualified support. The vice mayor who had been a vocal proponent of selling the property to a hotelier was voted out of office.

Meanwhile, in a “saved by the bell” moment, sale to the hotelier was scotched by a lawsuit filed by other hotel owners who challenged the legality of the sales agreement.

My view is that the first thing we need to do when Council finally agrees to take action is to enlist a traffic designer to propose the best solutions for traffic at the intersection of Haywood St., Flint St. and Page Ave. Nothing else should be decided before the traffic flow decision is made because it dictates the rest.

In the meantime we should do what we should have done a few years ago—start using the space for public events. In modern design terms these are referred to as “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” uses, a way for people to figure out what they like or don’t like in a public space. A festival? A concert? A farmer’s/tailgate market? Busking? Some benches? Permits for food trucks? Perhaps once the hotel construction on Page is complete, close that street to automobiles on Sundays and create a pop-up pedestrian mall?

The Project for Public Spaces, which made a presentation at the outset of the current task force effort, has helped facilitate this sort of effort around the world. Their advice? Start small with “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper” experiments before any decision is made about the ultimate shape of a public park.

* One poll conducted online by the Asheville Citizen-Times was “self-selecting” and therefore somewhat unreliable. However about 75 percent of respondents wanted a park.
The poll I conducted was an automated poll (respondents touched 1 or 2 or 3 to indicate answers). Such polls are way cheaper than “scientific” polls where a company dials a few hundred “representative” people and talks to them. Automated polls cannot dial cell phones, which arguably shifts the sample to older people more likely to have land lines. But mine dialed over 5,000 Asheville voters who had voted in the previous two City elections, which is a large and arguably random sample. The results were 86 percent in favor of a park. On the same poll, conducted several weeks before the 2015 election, I asked about retention of the City water system which was being snatched away by the General Assembly, and which was a referendum question on the November ballot. My results lined up within a couple of points with the election day outcome. That gives me fairly high confidence in the accuracy of my poll.

Showing up Matters

I have always been an activist

Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts of America
The beginning of my environmental ethic

I’ve been willing to show up, to speak out, to press for change. Between the big marches and protests I have written and spoken out against environmental despoliation, injustice and senseless war. I have addressed students, church groups and conventions on matters of governance, environment and ethics in Newark; Columbus, Ohio; Minneapolis; Denver; Columbia, S. Car.; Lakeland, Fla.; Knoxville; Greensboro; Cambridge, Mass.; Charleston; Washington, DC; Des Moines; Boone; Charlotte; Raleigh; Hickory; Spartanburg; Franklin; Black Mountain; Burnsville; Hendersonville and, of course, right here in Asheville. AltogetherI have delivered talks in 25 cities in a dozen states since 2010.

Beginning in 2004 and continuing through todayI have fought commercial development of the city-owned property opposite the Basilica of St. Lawrence and the Asheville Civic Center and pressed for creation of a public park. The fight goes on.

In August 2015, I was one of 12,000 attendees of a Bernie Sanders for President rally in Phoenix, and among nearly 3,000 in Greenville, S.C.

In May, 2014, I was a speaker at the Asheville Rally Against Monsanto/GMOs.

In Sept. 2013, after four years of meetings and dialogue with lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, George Friday of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, an interdenominational group of religious leaders, representatives of the Asheville Police Department and Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department, leaders from the local immigrant community, members of Occupy Asheville and city council members from cities around the country, the Civil Liberties Resolution I crafted was approved by unanimous vote of the Asheville City Council. It reminds all City employees, and all of our citizens, that discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political actions or beliefs is wrong and won’t be tolerated in our City.

HKonJ, moral monday
With the Rev. William Barber at Mountain Moral Monday

In the summer of 2013, I used campaign funds from my City Council reelection campaign to rent buses for Asheville citizens to attend Moral Monday events in Raleigh.

On Aug. 5, 2013, I opened the Mountain Moral Monday event in Asheville, leading the estimated 10,000 person crowd in Woody Guthrie’s classic “This Land is Your Land.”

In 2012 I attended the Restore the American Dream conference in Washington DC, working with others to advocate a change in our national priorities – toward people and away from corporate welfare.


Washington DC, working for the people
At Van Jones’ Restore the American Dream Conference

In 2012 I challenged incumbent Blue Dog Rep. Heath Shuler in North Carolina’s 11th Congregssional District primary. Shuler had consistently voted with Republicans in Congress and I believed someone had to challenge his voting record. In mid-campaign the General Assembly redistricted Asheville out of the 11th District, Shuler dropped out of the race, and his chief of staff Hayden Rogers jumped in. I came in second in the three-way race, but won handily in the portion of Buncombe County which remained in the district. I addressed urgent issues facing the country in a series of YouTube videos.

In 2011 and again in 2015, I attended the annual Netroots Nation conferences (in Providence and Phoenix, respectively) – learning and planning with other internet activists on methods and strategies to advance progressive political positions.

In Nov. 2011, I was one among thousands protesting the Keystone XL pipeline plan in Wa speechashington DC.

In 2008, I was an outspoken advocate for the N.C. Racial Justice Act which passed in 2009 and permitted NC death row inmates to challenge their sentences if they could prove racial bias in their trials. (The death sentence would be commuted to life without parole. When the GOP took control of the General Assembly in 2010 they overturned the law.)

In Sept., 2005, I was one among 150,000 people protesting the Iraq war in Washington DC.

In 2003, I creaparcprotest copyted a petition drive to stop the City Council sale of a chunk of City/County Plaza (now Pack Square Park) to the Sammons Corp. for construction of a high rise development. The petition triggered a city-wide protest that resulted in Sammons’ abandonment of the plan.


In 2003, I instigated the Asheville iteration of the Rolling Thunder Down Home Democracy Tour, working with Jim Hightower and representatives of about 50 WNC non-profit groups. I rented the Asheville Civic Center, and paid out of pocket for expenses that far exceeded donations at the gate. (Asheville’s Rolling Thunder group held subsequent events over a couple of years to repay me.)

Rolling Thunder Asheville 2003
Grinning with Barbara McCampbell and Jim Hightower

In 2003, I was a co-director of WNC Meetups for Howard Dean, and helped found the Progressive Project which later moved its operations to Boston (under the direction of Jasmine Beach-Ferrara) and was active nationwide in addressing gay-rights issues. Since then Jasmine returned to Asheville, founded the Campaign for Southern Equality, and was elected to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in 2016.

In 2003, I was co-emcee, and co-organizer of the two largest pre-Iraq war protests in Asheville.

Looking further back, in the mid-1970s I was active with the Clamshell Alliance in New Hampshire, lobbying and marching against construction of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station.

In Nov. 1969 I marched against the Vietnam War in Washington DC, after participating in Moratorium teach-in activities on my college campus.

I show up.

Campaign Kick-Off June 17

It’s time to kick off this year’s re-election campaign with a party! (As Jim Hightower quips: “It’s never too late to put the party back in politics!”)

Saturday, June 17, 2017 at 7:17 p.m.
In the studio of John Mac Kah – across the parking lot from the new Wedge Brew Pub and 12 Bones, on the back side of Riverview Station, 191 Lyman Street, Asheville.

Participating artists will donate 50 percent of all sales to the campaign during the event. so you can upgrade your visual environment and help out the campaign at the same time!