Since I arrived in Asheville in January 2012 I've noted how poor the relationship is among many local politicians.
A WNC native colleague of mine says folks here can be "clannish" and that might explain some of the problems.
Others say the marketing campaigns Asheville undertook to attract new residents worked. While luring a lot of people from more progressive locales, it also changed the social and political dynamics of the area.
However, tensions between the City of Asheville and surrounding jurisdictions are at least a century old. There's a lot of bad blood, it seems.
I suspect the current tensions are also a product of our national climate of political discourse. Add in the hair-trigger hyper-sensitivity to any perceived offense, and it's a volatile mix.
This weekend, the City Council heard from its paid lobbyist who said the perception of Asheville among state lawmakers is not good.
I have long maintained that politics is about personal relationships. And if the relations between individual Asheville City Councilmembers and NC legislators are poor, the City residents are not going to be well served.
These politicians need to find ways to work with each other - when they can.
I urged the City Council to do so on the topless ban. This advice was met with dismissive mockery among the local left.
The topless history
An Alabama clown has organized annual topless rallies in Asheville. Last year, the City Council wrote a letter to the public asking folks to urge state lawmakers to "clarify" the law to prevent future rallies.
The Council wrote: "As citizens of Asheville and individual members of Asheville City Council, we do not endorse this conduct. We believe that it does nothing to help our community, and we recognize that it disappoints and embarrasses many of our citizens and visitors. We wish it were not happening."
When Rep. Tim Moffitt (R-Buncombe) filed the bill, the left ridiculed and mocked him - accusing him of being afraid of breasts, loving breasts too much, or hating breasts.
The bill did not pass.
A few weeks ago, the President of the Chamber of Commerce said it was a mistake to not support the bill, as businesses in downtown are complaining about the event and the image it portrays.
Getting along with others
This weekend, the City Council held a retreat where the Council's paid lobbyist told them:
Among leaders in Raleigh, “There’s a lot of difference between the way you’re perceived and the way you really are,” lobbyist Jack Cozort told council. “The perception is you’re a bunch of liberal crazies who don’t know what you’re doing and that you’re not doing a very good job running your city.”
He went on to say that it's not the fault of Council - that, “What they think of you has been defined by other people and not by you."
The poor City Council. They're totally getting a bad rap. Never mind the way they ran and hid on the topless ban bill.
Pay no attention to the referendum they held on the water system merger that was mainly an effort to make a political statement and motivate a liberal base.
Just forget about that budget hearing last year where Council blamed state GOP leaders for the local budget gap (which was eventually closed while raising property taxes to pay for other unrelated items).
And forget about how Rep. Susan Fisher (D-Asheville) entered the Speaker's office when nobody was there, took pictures, and sent them out on social media.
None of these things are the fault of local lawmakers! It's someone else making the Asheville liberal leaders look like left-wing crazies.
Both the lobbyist and the head of the NC League of Municipalities told the Council this weekend the same thing I offered two years ago:
He and Cozort essentially advised councilmen not to get mad but to get friendly. And, to get other local officials on their side.
“The relations you have with individual (legislators) really will drive the train,” Meyer said.
If councilmen disagree with legislators on one issue, they might be able to agree on others and get something done, Meyer said.
“Even if you get rebuffed, you need to keep trying. Like my dating life in high school, keep trying,” he said.
Let's see if they take the advice this time.