Asheville City Council

Asheville city council is getting closer to taking action to sidestep the North Carolina General Assembly regarding the use of districts for future city council elections.  A final decision won't come until next month, but a public hearing to be held next week could be a sign of which way a majority of council members are leaning.

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Asheville city attorney Brad Branham told council members Tuesday evening a potential lawsuit over a state law that imposes electoral districts for future council elections could cost the city up to $2-million.  

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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.  

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Asheville city council will hold a work session Tuesday evening on whether to take legal action stop the imposition of electoral districts for future city council elections.  Council members appear split on whether to sue the state in an attempt to stop districts, which were created after the Republican-controlled General Assembly approved a measure creating districts last year.  

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Asheville City Council narrowly approved a revised plan to turn the Flatiron Building into a hotel at its Tuesday evening meeting.  The vote took place roughly a month after an initial proposal was pulled from consideration because there was not enough support for it on council.

At the end of lengthy meeting Tuesday night, Asheville city council awarded the naming rights to what is now the U.S. Cellular Center to Harrah’s Cherokee.   On January 1st of next year, the facility will be called Harrah's Cherokee Center Asheville.  The complex includes the ExploreAsheville.com Arena, the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, and an exhibition hall and a banquet hall.

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The Flatiron Building in downtown Asheville will not be turned into a hotel – at least for now.  At the end of Tuesday night’s lengthy city council meeting, four council members – Brian Haynes, Julie Mayfield, Sheneika Smith, and Keith Young – all stated they were against a plan from a South Carolina-based developer to turn one of downtown’s most iconic and oldest buildings into an 80-room hotel.  Those four constituted a majority of council members, so the developer's lawyer pulled the plan from consideration before the council could vote on it.  That allows it to come up again at a future meeting.  

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UPDATE: Tuesday 5:45 p.m. - Shortly before its scheduled meeting was to begin Tuesday evening, Asheville City Council pushed back a public hearing and potential vote on a proposal to turn the historic Flatiron Building into a hotel until its next meeting May 14th.  The plan would turn the 93-year-old building on Battery Park Avenue in downtown into an 80-room hotel with restaurants on its bottom floor.  City staff recommend council members approve the plan, but there has been strong pushback from several residents and neighborhood groups to the proposal.

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Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer says the city’s response has been delayed to a 2018 General Assembly measure forcing election districts to be created for future city council elections because Asheville did not have a city attorney for several months.  Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Manheimer says that all should change now that Brad Branham will take over as city attorney April 8th.

Asheville city council banned electronic scooters on public streets and sidewalks.  But lawmakers admit the ban won’t likely be permanent.  

Asheville city council has given approval to a ‘road diet’ plan for Charlotte Street in north Asheville. 

The city of Asheville has tapped Debra Campbell to be its next city manager.  Campbell has been an assistant city manager in Charlotte since 2014.  Prior to that she served as Charlotte's planning director from 2004 to 2014.  Asheville city council unanimously approved her appointment at a special meeting Wednesday.  Campbell will start her job in Asheville December 3rd.  She's the first African-American to hold the post of Asheville city manager.

The latest report from Buncombe County tourism officials shows just how much short-term rentals have completely transformed lodging in the area.  Short-term rentals, booked through sites like AirBnB, have seen rapid growth in the past two years.  The report compiled the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority shows in 2015, just under 92-thousand room nights were booked with short-term rentals.  Just two years later, that number was over 392-thousand.  Tha

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Asheville city council meets Tuesday evening for the first time in a month, and items related the city’s police department headline the agenda.  

Nine body camera videos were released via court order Monday that depict the beating of an unarmed black man last August and its aftermath by a then-Asheville police officer, who now faces criminal charges for the incident.

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Asheville city council has decided to replace embattled city manager Gary Jackson, effective at the end of the business day Tuesday.  Jackson’s ouster after 13 years on the job was announced by mayor Esther Manheimer during a Tuesday afternoon city council meeting.  Earlier this year, Jackson announced he was retiring at the end of 2018.  But that was before the release of video footage showing a then-Asheville police officer beating an unarmed black man last August.  That video, from a police body camera, only came to light because it was leaked to the Asheville Citizen-Times, which publi

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Asheville city council is scheduled to meet twice on Tuesday, its first regularly scheduled meetings since the release of a body camera video that showed a then-city police officer beating an unarmed black man last year.  

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The city of Asheville Monday afternoon formally asked Buncombe County Superior Court to release any additional police body camera footage of the beating of Johnnie Jermaine Rush.  The unarmed black man was beaten by then Asheville police officer Chris Hickman last August as he walking through the parking lot of a closed business on Short Coxe Avenue.  Rush was initially stopped for suspected jaywalking and trespassing, but charges against him were dropped.  Hickman resigned from the force in January, shortly before a criminal investigation into his actions in the Rush beating was opened by

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Asheville city council has called a closed session special meeting for Monday evening to discuss a video released this week showing a then-Asheville police officer beating an unarmed black man last August.  The video, published by the Asheville Citizen-Times, shows officer Chris Hickman beating and shocking with a stun gun Johnnie Jermaine Rush.  Hickman had stopped Rush for suspected jaywalking and trespassing August 24th. 

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Efforts to promote racial and ethnic equity in Asheville should include community forums focusing on traffic stop data from city police.  That’s one of many recommendations a study group that’s proposing a ‘human relations commission’ in Asheville gave to city council Tuesday.  That group is also asking the city to expand its Office of Equity and Inclusion from one to four employees.  The current head of that office, Kimberlee Archie, was just hired last year. 

City of Asheville

Short term rentals were easily the most discussed issue on the campaign trail ahead of this month's city elections in Asheville.  Even after the votes have been counted, the future and prevalence of AirBnB-style lodgings remains a political flashpoint in the city.  The Planning and Zoning Commission has received requests from outside developers to allow units be set aside for short term rentals in planned townhouse and condominium projects, like McCormick Place (pictured above) which is slated to be built near McCormick Field.  Meanwhile, the Asheville city council took steps to

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Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer got a resounding vote of confidence earlier this month, winning re-election with more than 80% of the vote.  She stopped by BPR to speak with Jeremy Loeb about the election results and to look forward to her second four-year term.  She also discussed possible actions the city might take in response to a legislative effort to force districts for council members, something Asheville voters overwhelmingly rejected.

This week's election in Asheville will produce the most ethnically diverse city council in its history.  Vijay Kapoor, Sheneika Smith, and incumbent vice mayor Gwen Wisler were all elected to city council.  Kapoor is the first Asian-American ever elected to the body (he and Pratik Bhakta, who lost in this year's primary election, were the first Asian-American candidates ever for Asheville city council).  Smith's election means for the first time in 26 years, there will be two African-Americans on city council.  Citizen-Times reporter

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The sponsor of the bill that mandated Asheville draw districts for future city council elections says ‘it isn’t optional’ for the city to follow the law – even though Asheville residents rejected districts by a 3 to 1 margin in this week’s election.  Henderson County Republican Chuck Edwards district includes parts of South Asheville – a supposedly more politically moderate and conservative part of Asheville that rarely has been represented on city council, whose six members are currently elected at-large.  The bill Edwards sponsored which his colleagues in the General Assembly OK’d earlie

Incumbent Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer breezed to an easy re-election, while Vijay Kapoor, Sheneika Smith, and incumbent Gwen Wisler won city council seats.  Meanwhile, three-quarters of those who voted in Asheville said no to creating city council districts, even though a state law passed earlier this year by the Republican-dominated General Assembly mandated the Democratically-controlled city do so for the 2019 election.  

BPR Tech

Blue Ridge Public Radio and the Asheville Citizen-Times partnered on a forum with the six candidates for the November 7th general election for Asheville city council.  It was recorded in the BPR studios on October 23rd.  All six candidates participated - Dee Williams, Kim Roney, Rich Lee, Vijay Kapoor, Gwen Wisler, and Sheneika Smith.  The topic of the forum was discrimination, and questions for the candidates related to issues around that.  Voters will elect three of the candidates to city council.

BPR Tech

Blue Ridge Public Radio and the Asheville Citizen-Times partnered on the first of two forums with candidates for Asheville City Council Monday.  You can watch it on the BPR News Facebook page.  It will be aired this Friday October 27th at noon in place of The State of Things.  The second forum will be held Monday October 30th at noon and can be viewed live on the Citizen-Times website and

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This week's Asheville primary yielded a few surprising results, but the issues that were driving voters to the polls should come as no shock to anyone who follows city politics.  South Asheville businessman Vijay Kapoor was by far the top vote getter in the city council primary, which whittled the number of candidates from 12 to 6 for next month's general election.  Kapoor's showing is a sign the neighborhood he hails from is becoming a burgeoning force in Asheville politics according to Citizen-Times reporter Joel Burgess, who covers city government.  He says growth of Asheville was what

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Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer and Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler advanced to next month's general election in the city, but outspoken city council Cecil Bothwell fell just short in his quest for another term.  The primary whittled down the number of mayoral candidates from four to two, and city council candidates from 12 to six.  Those remaining face off in the general election, which will be held on November 7th.

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