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Jeff Baker Guest columnist

The Asheville Water system debate lives on

Here we go again.

Even though the courts told the GOP legislature that their law forcing Asheville to relinquish control of our water system was “unconstitutional”, Representative Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson County) would not be deterred.

His new scheme is to highlight the old N.C. mill towns that had built water infrastructure in the past but with less economic activity are now going bankrupt. His suggestion is that the N.C. legislature regionalize these water systems statewide to ease their burden — and “Voila!” — that would also ease the burden of Asheville managing their own water system. As McGrady himself pointed out: “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

He makes the argument this will take care of some disparities he is concerned about. He recognizes Asheville is the regional economic center — he doesn’t want to “kill the goose that laid the golden egg,” but he clearly would like more control of it. He is also passionate about giving Henderson County an authoritative role in administering the Asheville water system. He points to the folks that Asheville is serving outside the city limits. Many see the provision of this service as an asset, however McGrady sees them as un-represented and that the only way to fix that is to form a regional system.

This effort is in keeping with former Sen. Tom Apodaca’s (R-Henderson County) attempt to change the Asheville voting structure for the City Council. These aggressive efforts are divisive in that they do not represent the majority of Asheville citizens. The NC GOP has succeeded in making our district grotesquely linked to the Charlotte district – successfully neutralizing the Asheville vote.

McGrady was gracious with his presentation assuring folks that the “N.C. mill town” effort had nothing to do with the Asheville water squabble. However, he added, “as long as the leaders worked things out,” meaning as long as they form a regional district. One person asked what if they didn’t? McGrady admitted he would be “forced” to take legislative action. The bottom line is McGrady is concerned about representation and believes a regional system is the answer — ironically, we cannot vote for or against him — he’s not our representative.

This underscores the problem with the legislative supermajority in Raleigh. The ability of a party to totally disregard the other is not democracy.

This GOP seems dedicated to systematically remove the checks and balances of one party rule so that legislators like Apodaca and McGrady can make these systematic changes without Asheville’s consent — changes that offer advantage to their party at the expense of our representation and our democratic rights. We must return to a two party system.

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