Is state lawmaker sending a threat to the city of Asheville?

Wow! Things are getting a little heated in the battle over the future of the Asheville city water system. As you will recall, Rep. Tim Moffitt has made it a kind of personal crusade to pass legislation that would turn the municipal water system over to a regional authority — a place where it could quite conceivably be headed for privatization.

Last night, the  Asheville City Council voted unanimously to place a non-binding referendum on the November ballot for city voters to weigh in on the issue.

This move does not appear to have sat well with Moffitt. Yesterday (the day of the vote), a post appeared on the lawmaker’s website in which Moffitt quotes from a UNC School of Government report to make plain that cities in North Carolina exist at the pleasure of the General Assembly.

“Thus, if the General Assembly wants to create a city, county, or other local governmental unit, it is free to do so. If it wishes to abolish a local government, or to merge it with another, or to impose particular obligations on it, it has almost unlimited power to do as it chooses. In sum, North Carolina is not a ‘home rule’ state, as that term is commonly understood. Its local governments exist by legislative benevolence, not by constitutional mandate.”

You got that, Asheville? Better not try to stand too forcefully in the lawmaker’s way or next year there might just be a bill in the General Assembly to dissolve the cesspool of sin altogether.


  1. Frances Jenkins

    August 15, 2012 at 10:29 am

    There is another side to this story. God forbid you would ever take the time to research and get all the facts.

  2. Chuck McGrady

    August 15, 2012 at 10:39 am

    It is not responsible to report that Moffitt is pushing for legislation to turn over the municipal water system over to a regional authority–“a place where it could quite conceivably be headed for privatization.” This is just a scare tactic.

    Moffitt and the other members of the legislative committee that studied the issue consistently denied suggestions that privatizing the water system was an option being considered. He’s even said any legislation he introduced would include a prohibition against privatization.

    Opponents are simply using the privatization issue to scare the public. Just like with your post saying that the “Asheville water privatization issue rests with Governor” in describing an amendment to the Metropolitan Sewerage District law, you seem to be part of that effort.

    Chuck McGrady
    State Representative, District 117

  3. Doug Gibson

    August 15, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Rep. McGrady,

    So is that a promise from you that you will vote against the regional authority bill if by some weird set of circumstances it emerges form committee without language barring privatization? And it’d be nice if you’d define privatization in this instance. Do you mean the selling the entire system to a private entity? Or would that include contracting management of the system to a private company?

  4. Rip

    August 15, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Sounds like Moffit and MGrady are doing just what ALEC tells them to do…

  5. Jake

    August 15, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Rep. McGrady should spare us his b.s. He colluded with Moffitt to steal the water system AND to force Buncombe taxpayers to foot the bill in bailing out Henderson County’s sewer problems. Do not be fooled by McGrady’s “green” background. It has become abundantly clear that the green that matters most to him is the greenback.

  6. Tim Peck

    August 15, 2012 at 11:48 am

    “North Carolina is not a ‘home rule’ state”

    That is correct. And that’s how the Democrat Party set it up to be.

    “if the vote was ‘no,’ the system could not be sold or leased.”

    That’s true. It could not be sold or leased BY THE CITY!

    (Could it be seized? I thought this was a seizure.)

    The statute cited (N.C.G.S. 160A-321) addresses the “sale, lease or discontinuance” of a utility that is initiated by the city. The legislation under consideration is a “transfer” of a utility that is initiated by the General Assembly. There is no home rule in NC and the GA is not asking permission to do something that is already within their authority. So, good luck with that.

    Also, the City of Asheville does not own the water system.


    City council is proposing a referendum for the citizens to vote on whether or not the city should sell or lease something that does not not belong to them. Brilliant.

    “…committee also stated it wouldn’t pass any legislation forcing the transfer if the city and MSD were engaged in ‘good faith’ negotiations.”

    I guess we’re passed all that now.

  7. Votm

    August 15, 2012 at 11:51 am

    Imagine that, a bunch of Dems angry at rules put in place by Dems.

  8. Ascend (of Asheville)

    August 15, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    It is interesting to see Rep. McGrady out on the cyber-town taking up for his buddy. After all, McGrady is only getting everything he asked for from Moffitt; the airport, the Ag center, land, water, and a rather conspicuous exemption for Hendersonville from joining the forced consolidation of infrastructure.
    Nice work McGrady, no wonder you’re so happy with the King. How does it feel to be in another man’s pocket like that?

  9. Doug Gibson

    August 15, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Blaming Democrats for what Republicans have done with the governing structure of this state is like suing the Ford Motor Company because a drunk driver crashed an F-150 into your living room. You can do it, but it doesn’t make much sense.

  10. Frank Burns

    August 15, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    To the nervous nellies from Asheville: We have the same thing in Charlotte called the Charlotte Mecklenburg Utility District, which is a government agency, not a private organization and it works fine. We pay water and sewer on the same bill. Big deal.

  11. Mim Toffitt

    August 15, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    How government works:


  12. david esmay

    August 15, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Frank, did it not occur to you that the citizens of Asheville don’t want a utility district like yours?

  13. Frank Burns

    August 15, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    David, What reason would they not want that? If you support efficiency, you would have no problem with a utility district.

  14. Heather Rayburn

    August 15, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    This isn’t about creating efficiencies – the Asheville water system is already an award-winning system with some of the best water in the county. What this is really about is an out-of-control right-wing pro-privatization extremist working with Henderson County politicos to steal community assets that don’t belong to them. Moffitt does this to detriment of everyone in Buncombe County.

  15. david esmay

    August 15, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Efficiency is fine, the privatization of the public wealth is not.

  16. Frank Burns

    August 15, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    There is no privatization, the utility district is a government agency. Good grief.

  17. barry

    August 16, 2012 at 1:24 am

    Rep. McGrady

    “Moffitt and the other members of the legislative committee that studied the issue…” You say that as if you weren’t one of them, Chuck. In fact, you stated to me long ago that it was you personally who convinced Rep. Moffitt to put together the study committee on Asheville’s water. And now you refer to it as if you weren’t ON that committee, and that you didn’t eventually vote for the seizure of Asheville’s water? What’s up with that?

    But my main point is that you know very well from being in the room on at least two occasions, that Tim Moffitt counts on people not knowing the difference between “privatization” and “public-private partnerships”. You’re right – Tim continually tries to assure us that he would never want to see the system privatized. But it always always turns out that he is only referring to the outright sale of the water system to a private company. That is not the only type of privatization, and in fact I know this from sitting in endless NCGA Public-Private Partnership Committee meetings Chaired by Tim Moffitt himself. The most common form of privatization involves contracting with a private company for 20 – 30 years for the complete operation and management of the system, like in the privatization disaster of Atlanta ’99 – ’02. Atlanta continued to OWN the system, but they had to sit & watch United Water drive it into the ground and gouge their customers for two years, before they could cancel the contract.

    What does it say about Tim’s respect for an honest dialog (or yours for that matter), that the two of you continue to treat us like we’re ignorant?

  18. barry

    August 16, 2012 at 1:33 am

    …And how are you going to explain it to your constituents in Hendersonville when they discover that their water system is next, as you were forced to acknowledge while debating H1009?

  19. david esmay

    August 16, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Frank, the CMUD is a government agency, but the management and control of the facilities is not. Good grief.

  20. Frank Burns

    August 16, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    David, CMUD employees are government employees, your talking out of your fourth point of contact again. CMUD is owned by the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.

  21. barry

    August 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Frank, for what it’s worth, the City of Asheville has hired Doug Bean, CMUD’s recently retired director. He is helping the City navigate the issues. Since the City is dead-set against having their water system yanked away from them, and I’m speaking only for myself here, I can’t imagine that they hired him unless they knew that he opposed the forced regionalization of WNC’s water systems.

    Asheville/Buncombe is not Charlotte/Mecklenburg.

  22. Frank Burns

    August 16, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Obviously the City of Asheville needs to make up its own mind, I was just trying to understand why people would be opposed to a regional water/sewer system that works well here in Charlotte. It is clearly not privatized. Doug Beam is probably advising the city on how a regional system would work effectively since it has been successful here in Charlotte. Why would he be opposed to something that he ran successfully in Charlotte? They just implemented a new pricing system (approved by the City and the County) based on water useage.

  23. barry

    August 16, 2012 at 3:48 pm


    The City of Asheville made up it’s mind – they do not want to have their system taken away by the State. And that includes the citizens, btw – a very recent phone poll of likely voters had 82% opposed to the forced transfer.

    And no, Doug Bean (former Asheville City Manager) is not there to “advise them on how a regional system would work.”

    As for why we’re opposed to having a regional system forced on us from Raleigh – well, that’s not the way we like to do things up here. And besides, as I said – this is not Charlotte. A regional system has very different connotations here. You might be happy with it there, but don’t assume that your solutions will fit us.

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