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Something Asheville Does Well

In my opinion, the City of Asheville, over the last couple of decades, has been very good about transparency. My only problem is that staff never answers my questions until after my deadlines, but that’s beside the point. City council agendas are posted with reams of staff reports, and council likes to talk all night about this and that. Granted, sometimes the conversation consists in tidbits of one councilmember showing off how he hasn’t read the reports, or another practicing his public speaking skill. My latest hero is Marc Hunt, who I will compliment again because he persistently asks for clarification when speakers are not being direct, and he tries to tie words down to reality. I think it’s a lost art that used to be called “seeking understanding.”

But I digress. The latest news is that city government is going to become even more transparent. Code Asheville was in the news awhile back, as they were developing a site to allow citizens to look at municipal data. It was just a skeleton back then. Now, the city has hired three more people. One will manage a city news site, and two more, for better or worse, will serve as embedded public information officers. The city is also going to try out letting folks participate in council meetings from home. A moderator would monitor electronic inputs and relay information to council. I’m not sure how, short of that “just machine to make big decisions,” the monitor will filter the commentary down to two days’ worth.

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More on Yesterday

Here’s some more coverage from Asheville City Council’s retreat. (1, 2)

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Jed Striking Bubbling Crude Not Fair

Now that beggars are choosers, local governments get to spend lots of money on things like ce-ment ponds. The Town of Candler has contracted with the architectural firm Clark Patterson Lee because it called for a plan that depended upon garnering $14.3 million in grant money. Now that inputs are outputs, that is considered a plus.* “Lengthy” public input will soon be solicited.

*Can you imagine falling short on rent this month and instead of tearfully begging an extension, you get the landlord to gush all over you when you present a plan for getting money from this, that, and the other guy? “It will bring dollars with multipliers into our community!”

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For a Dose of Sanity – Pluck out the Tourism Factor

Now that petrol prices are halved, the NCGA wants to go revert to using coal-fired trains for hauling freight. The regression would be simple enough, involving only minor tweaks to infrastructure, like the expansion of the Cowee Tunnel. The line would service the economically burgeoning corridor connecting Andrews and Murphy.

Driving the proposal? Returning freight service and attracting tourists: The estimated economic impact to the region is 1,900 jobs over 15 years and $60 million in additional wages. Taxpayers’ estimated cost is $17.4 million to make the dream reality, the draft report says, including paying half of the $4.4 million GSMR says it would need for upgrades.

I say, if people want to fish for tourists, let them – but let’s quit making this a role of government. Contrary to conventional wisdom, governments were not created to collect money. They are not to be run like businesses, because they ought not run at a profit. They would, however, do well to contemplate the concept of trade in their operations. That is, we need to start reaping something for all we’re spending for tourists. Maybe TDA contributions could come with a money-back guarantee.

Expanding the concept of government as a money pit, with few exceptions we’re not little booboos out here. We’re human beings, and as part of a true community, we don’t want to be divided by government into givers and takers. Letting each do some of both adds to self-esteem and potential for growth.

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“Security” is such a ruse. In my experience, it is a license to violate. Regardless, I was wondering if anybody did an economic analysis on how much government could save and lose on their triple bottom line by letting the Second Amendment and traditional law enforcement replace all these guards and gizmos for search and seizure that we’re told make us “secure in our persons and property”?

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How Much You Take for That Poo?

I noticed the Biltmore Estate was hiring a stable worker. I asked me mum if serving as city council correspondent for fifteen years would qualify me. Moving away from the metaphorical, a lady in Tryon has real municipal poo running through her house and gardens. It’s allegedly been going on for fourteen years, and (running government like a business) in the absence of comparables, the buyer and seller are having a hard time agreeing upon a price.

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Once upon a Time

According to some prehistorians, who necessarily make stuff up, economies began with barter. People traded value for value. It was sort of a mirror of the physical world, as seen in the laws of constant proportions and conservation of energy and momentum. It also extended the average useful life of relationships by not short-circuiting goodwill. As folks grew weary of carrying cattle around in their pockets, they substituted coins and credit. To economists of the day, gifts, like big wooden horses, were considered suspect because it was assumed the giver would indeed get something in return. Better was the devil one knew.

Today, however, we embrace psychokinesis in our cosmologies. Free money spontaneously generates in the springs of the federal government and flows freely to states so they can give it to local communities.

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Age Before Beauty, but Beauty before Money

WARNING: The following is a joke. It is based on the form of humor referred to as a pun. It is not intended to demonize, race-bait, misrepresent, malign, or win political points for my campaign chest. Simply read, groan, and dismiss.

Folks in Boone were asked what kind of improvements they wanted for their streets, and they said, “sweeping.”

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Declaring an end to “mindless austerity,” President Barack Obama called for a surge in government spending Thursday, and asked Congress to throw out the sweeping budget cuts both parties agreed to four years ago when deficits were spiraling out of control.

Oh, yes. Tax all but $5 a year from me. I’ll move into subsidized housing and go on food stamps, because government money flowing into the community generates nine dollars on the dollar. I know it is selfish to keep $5 for myself when my dollar will only trade for another dollar; but I may want to get a couple candy bars against the First Lady’s counsel. This is, after all, a free country.

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On the Job – What a Concept

For those of you who didn’t feel they could carve out an eight-hour block in their schedule today to attend the Asheville City Council retreat, David Forbes at the Mountain Xpress is providing twitter feed. Thus far, a big underlying theme appears to be that council deems itself responsible for controlling the economy.

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