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As Supreme Court Hears NC Gerrymandering Case, Asheville Mayor Reflects On Effect It's Had On City

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in two gerrymandering cases, one of which involves North Carolina’s Congressional districts.  Those were redrawn earlier this decade by Republican leaders to benefit the GOP.  Nowhere in the state felt that change more than the city of Asheville.  

Until 2013, the entire city of Asheville was in one district, North Carolina’s 11th.  Democrat Heath Shuler served for three terms, but retired once his district was heavily redrawn.  That included splitting the city of Asheville into the 11th and 10th districts, and now one of the most liberal progressive cities not just in North Carolina but in all of the U.S. is represented by two of the most conservative Republicans in Congress, Mark Meadows and Patrick McHenry.  It’s been this way the whole time Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer has been in office.  “I think that the majority of the electorate in Asheville feels that their views are not represented in Congress,” she said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon outside of city hall where opponents of gerrymandering urged the high court to rule in their favor.

Neighborhood streets in West and North Asheville serve as the dividing line between the 10th and 11th, meaning residents on one side of a street have a different Congressman than their neighbors on the other side.  Asheville has seen a major growth spurt in population and wealth during this decade, but even so mayor Manheimer says the gerrymandering probably led to a lot of missed opportunities for the city.

“As a mayor of this city, I hear a lot from constituents about what their concerns are.  And so many times, my response unfortunately is ‘that’s a federal issue.  We’d have to get a federal law changed,’" says the mayor.  "That is so frustrating for people when they’re ready to make progressive change.  Asheville is at the forefront.  We’re ready to do some things here, and we feel like we’ve hit a brick wall.”

The Supreme Court could rule in June on the North Carolina case, or it could not, which would be similar to what justices did just last year on gerrymandering cases from Wisconsin and Maryland. 

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.
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