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Kapoor To Propose Increasing Asheville City Council Seats To 9 As Fight Over Districts Intensifies

Matt Bush
Blue Ridge Public Radio

Asheville city council will hold a work session Tuesday evening on potential legal options for the city to stop the imposition of electoral districts for future city council elections.  Suing the state or changing the city charter to ensure all council seats remain elected at-large are two of the main options that will be discussed at the meeting.  But city councilman Vijay Kapoor will offer a third.  

Kapoor tells Blue Ridge Public Radio that he’ll propose increasing the number of seats on city council from seven to nine.  Those two new seats would be at-large, meaning under Kapoor's plan council would consist of:    

- Five council seats elected through geographic districts (this change will take place in 2020 already)

- Three council seats elected at-large (currently, all seats are elected at-large, and under the current 2020 map only one seat will be elected at-large)

- Position of mayor remains elected at-large (the mayor of Asheville is a member of city council)

Kapoor says this plan, first suggested by a resident who e-mailed the council, would ensure that voters end up choosing five members of council, a majority.  "We have the authority under our charter, and have the ability to amend our charter, to expand or decrease the number of (council) members we have," Kapoor told BPR in an interview Monday.  That number can be anywhere from three to 12 according to Kapoor.  

Other plans expected to be discussed during Tuesday's work session include suing the state to stop districts, or changing the city charter to ensure all council seats remain elected at-large.  Kapoor believes this new proposal could satisfy most if not all parties involved, because it allows voters to still elect a majority of council members, while keeping the five districts seats in place.  Kapoor said he met with Henderson County Republican state senator Chuck Edwards Monday morning about his proposal.  

Edwards was the sponsor of the bill the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed last year creating five council districts for future elections.  It came just months after Asheville voters rejected the use of districts overwhelmingly in a 2017 ballot referendum.  Kapoor campaigned against districts when he ran for council in 2017.  But he now supports the maps that will be used in 2020, believing they will allow neighborhood issues in Asheville to be best addressed by council.  Tuesday's work session starts at 5 and will be held in the banquet hall at the U.S. Cellular Center.  It is open to the public.  A live video stream of the meeting will also be offered on Youtube.

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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