An Open Letter from Andrea Boyer, Candidate for Woodfin Alderman
In the world according to the cartoon character Dilbert, it is better to seem good than to be good. Thank goodness most of us strive to be good; after all, our state motto says To Be Rather Than to Seem!
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the new candidate in town, but how much do you really know about me? Please allow me to introduce myself – I’m Andrea Boyer, a new candidate for alderman in the Town of Woodfin. I grew up in Weaverville and when my husband, Cody, and I chose to make Woodfin our home it was because of the small community friendliness, something especially important for a young family like ours. As I’ve been out campaigning door to door, I have been overwhelmed by the openheartedness of my neighbors and new friends, and by their determination to survive and even succeed in this economy that is not turning around for them.
I’d like to address a few of the issues that people have brought up to me in our conversations. The tax increase comes up a lot, as you can imagine. While I applaud the efforts of the mayor and board of aldermen to slow spending, the recent municipal tax increase is proving to be a burden on those who are already struggling to make ends meet. I realize that the overall tax rate will vary depending upon whether a property is located in the Buncombe County or Asheville City school district, as well as the fire district in which they reside or do business. I’ve talked with owners of higher-end homes that have seen a reduction in the appraised values, which presents a problem for some. And I’ve spoken with owners of middle- and lower-end homes who, on the other hand, have not experienced such devaluation. Therefore the municipal tax increase falls most harshly on these middle and lower income residents, many of whom are retired, laid off or underemployed. While an increase in the municipal tax may seem expedient to some people, it was not a principled decision.
Not to become too academic, but I think it is important that, in determining the principles regarding our town’s administration, we ought to think hard about what the proper role of government should be. Public safety and protection of private property are central to community well-being. Certain other concerns might best be handled by people themselves, in a voluntary, cooperative way that would not require the use of more tax dollars. A couple of examples of both kinds of cases come to mind. A lot of people have told me about the high number of speeders on Jonestown Road and other streets. This seems to be an issue that Town Hall could take another look at. In the other instance, creative community fund-raising is an avenue that could be explored to help pay for youth and senior activities. Looking at the creation of neighborhood coalitions is an idea that has come up in conversations too. Innovative neighborhood solutions can often devise better ways to handle situations before big problems arise, and this can encourage people to have constructive conversations instead of relying upon and waiting for Town Hall to respond after the fact. Tax savings could be realized in this way. Regarding the location in Woodfin of an outdoor shooting range once proposed by Buncombe County, the public outcry against it was the key factor that caused the county commissioners to take the proposal off the table. The cooperative effort of the people made the difference.
Something else really grabbed my attention and opened my eyes. Many people do not feel they are truly represented; they sense that Town Hall is out of touch with them, not the least of whom live on the west side of the river. I’ve always been serious about representation, but this widespread sentiment has impressed upon me the need to think even more critically about what it means to be a real representative of people in our town’s government. I’ve had some great conversations with people about how elected officials and bureaucrats all too often assume they know better than the people how they ought to live. Being a different kind of representative is not a small task, but is a challenge I am willing take on and ask to be held accountable. The lack of information on the town’s website has been a popular subject too, and in this age of information, our government can be a better communicator. Admittedly communication is a two-way street, and I am asking people to take on their responsibility too, an idea that has been well-received. The town’s website can certainly help make this easier by providing more information on a timely basis and by providing a means by which people can ask questions and comment.
The role of government regarding regulations is a controversial subject, to be sure. Where businesses are concerned, regulations are often called “hidden taxes.” For example, when the fees to do business are increased, that fee is passed on to the consumer, who does not see it as a tax, per se, but does realize an increased price. The newly proposed sign ordinance is another example where our town’s small businesses may face another expense in order to be in compliance with new regulation. This too, hurts our community and often defies common sense. Maybe it would make sense to have new regulations apply to new signs that come into being, and thereby phase this in more gently.
Regarding the executive session privileges enjoyed by the mayor and aldermen, I consulted with a non-profit advocacy group to determine exactly what the North Carolina General Statues say. I was informed that executive sessions are meant only for very private matters concerning the town’s personnel and matters regarding pending lawsuits. I believe that any other affairs pertaining to the taxpayer’s business ought to be conducted in public, not in private. Having attended monthly meetings of the mayor and board of aldermen, I have to say that I wonder about their adherence to the General Statutes.
For me, it always comes back to this — the best experiences I have had during this campaign have been meeting people and hearing what they have to say about living and working in Woodfin. My motto, Your Voice and Your Vote are Important to Me really is the truth. Your Voice is first because that is most important to me. If I haven’t knocked on your door yet, I hope to soon! As your elected alderman, I will listen to the needs of residents and business owners, learn the facts, and be a voice of representation for our entire community, while working along with our mayor and other aldermen. Honesty and integrity are the values I strive to live by and are the pillars of my campaign.
Please take a bit of time and visit my website. Leave feedback there or give me a call!
Mrs. Andrea Boyer