Water System Civil War

Asheville Politics Facebook thread
Letters to the Editor

Facebook thread, Oct 15-18, 2015

BARRY SUMMERS: Julie – I’ve held my tongue this long (for the most part), but this is too much. Where was this “whatever is necessary” talk when we were meeting on the water issue two – three years ago? A number of our group, SaveOurWaterWNC, met with you and others to try to craft a defense against this act of piracy, and I’d have to say you were the most conservative of us by far. In fact, anything that might ruffle feathers – you were against. And I have a certain group of feathers in mind: anything that would make Chuck McGrady mad, you were against.

Mountain Voices Alliance proposed a forum that would pit McGrady & Moffitt against Council members, Clean Water advocates, the Downtown Association, and our group… and you tried to talk us into cancelling it.

Asheville City Council voted unanimously to urge Gov. Perdue to veto the pre-seizure bill, H1009, that set the stage for the seizure to come. Our group lobbied hard to get the Gov. to veto… you urged her NOT to veto the bill. Your principal reason? We don’t want to make the Republicans mad (read: Chuck won’t like it.)

And the things you said in our meetings: ‘What provisions do we want Chuck to put in the bill? I know, we’re still against the bill, but Chuck says he’ll put in things like environmental protections etc. if we ask.’ Julie, it still amazes me that we had to ASK YOU to stop meeting with Chuck and acting as if you were negotiating for us.

‘Chuck will keep Moffitt from making the bill any worse than it already is.’ Julie, CHUCK was the one driving this (and still is), not Moffitt. I met with Chuck McGrady very early on, Julie, and he told me flatly that it was HIS idea to take Moffitt’s ridiculous one-page bill and turn it into a study committee instead, and that’s where it was honed into something that might pass constitutional muster.

‘At the end of the day, I think we’ll be glad that Chuck is working on this bill’. No words come to express my outrage over the fact that you thought we were that stupid.

Julie, I know that you lied to me on at least one occasion about something that I had tried to set in motion,that might have changed the game. But it would have been horribly politically damaging to Chuck, so I should have known better.

We proposed staging protests at McGrady/Moffitt/Ramsey offices or homes, and you were against that. This was the point where the other statewide groups like Sierra Club, American Rivers, League of Conservation Voters, etc. all started dropping out of working with us, with one saying explicitly that they couldn’t afford to anger the one “good” Republican on the environment, Chuck McGrady. It isn’t a coincidence that YOU were the Chair of their umbrella group, the NC Conservation Network that year, and that you all thought that Chuck would be your guy on fracking (he wasn’t) and offshore drilling (he didn’t) and coal ash (he wouldn’t)? We got the sense that who controls Asheville’s water system was small potatoes compared to those, and Chuck was the one dangling them in front of you.

Everyone should read the ‘legislator profile’ of Chuck McGrady on Julie’s MountainTrue website. Other than that one sentence buried halfway down the second page about how much she disagrees on the water issue, the rest reads like a love letter.

We received tepid support from Julie on some of the things we tried to do – the petition, the rallies, the referendum, etc. It would have been conspicuous had she not. As long as it wasn’t really in Chuck’s face, she wasn’t opposed. WNC Alliance members were great – several of our group are also WNCA members, of course. But Julie was a different story.

Julie has known that I and others in our group felt this way for a long time (“Barry – let’s get together to talk about our differing recollections on how we worked together”). But the pressure to not form a circular firing squad is strong, and so I’ve resisted. But lord, Julie. The “whatever is necessary” talk you’re waving around now that you’re running for office is just too insulting for those of us who HAVE been fighting.

You were fighting back then alright – fighting to protect your political currency, your relationship with Chuck. What happens the next time he comes to bully the City over something, as we all know he will? Do we want someone on Council who will be trying to decide which master she is supposed to serve every time this happens? This is a critical time for Asheville, and I’d like to see people on Council who we KNOW will be fighting for the City.

BETH JEZEK: My memory of what took place closely matches Barry’s. At the time I thought Julie was politically naive. I now believe her actions had more to do with her political ambitions than with her desire to save the water. It is politically expedient to oppose Chuck McGrady’s legislation now that City Council has voted unanimously to appeal the court’s decision. I respect Julie’s intelligence and her ability to articulate the issues. I do not trust her.

ELAINE LITE: Barry didn’t say Julie was working for the enemy, but that she was working for herself. It was important to her to stay on Chuck’s good side for her to retain her clout in the environmental work she does, so she tried to keep us from making him mad. Unfortunately, that was going to be an unavoidable side effect of actually prevailing on the water issue, so she put herself in the position of weakening our unified response.

JULIE MAYFIELD: Ah, at last Barry emerges from the shadows. We do have different opinions of what happened back then, so let me be clear for the folks watching from home. You and I stood completely aligned on the goal of Asheville keeping its water system. There is, and never has been, any daylight between us on that. What we differed on was strategy and tactics – MVA took a more aggressive approach, but WNCA was fully engaged: I testified at the legislative hearing in opposition to the bill, we hired phone bankers who called thousands of people to ask them to vote No on the referendum; we took out a full page add in the AC-T (which MVA signed on to), I drafted a resolution that other local governments adopted in opposition to the takeover, I secured not one but two of the full-time environmental lobbyists in Raleigh to be our eyes and ears on the ground every day (American Rivers and NC League of Conservation Voters). Our group meetings happened at our office and I took the minutes. We have never disagreed that Asheville should keep its water system.

Did I meet with Chuck McGrady to talk about the bill? Yes, along with the Sierra Club. Did we have anything to offer or give Chuck to do what we wanted, which was for him to stand down? No. Absent that, did we hope that Chuck would improve the bill and make it not so punishing? Yes. Did that happen? Only slightly.

Do I disagree with Chuck on this? You bet. Does he know that? Absolutely. Does he know that if I’m elected, he and I will fight about it? Yep – I made that perfectly earlier this year. Do I also work with him on a range of other issues where he is incredibly helpful? Yes. Did he prevent some terrible provisions from becoming law this year and last year and the year before that? Yes and you would be happy he was there on those issues.

The bottom line is this: Asheville was not going to win the legislative fight on the water bill. All we could hope for was this the bill wouldn’t be the worst possible. The full-time lobbyists working with us knew that too and pulled out when MVA took what they viewed to be an unconstructive approach (I chaired NCCN’s board, not NCLCV’s board, so I had no influence in that decision). No amount of grassroots lobbying or calling for vetoes was going to change any of that. The fight needed to happen, and WNCA and MVA played different roles. We didn’t – and didn’t have to – agree on everything.

We’re on a different playing field now. No amount of lobbying or discussion will change the outcome now since it’s in the court’s hands. You can ask anyone else involved in working on the water bills back then – city staff and elected officials, the city’s lobbyist, environmental lobbyists, business leaders – where I stood and they will tell you: firmly in the court of Asheville keeping its water system.

BARRY SUMMERS: “The bottom line is…”

There it is. All of us who thought it was important to fight with all means necessary, were deluding ourselves, according to Julie. She determined that it was already a lost cause, and then set out to work on the bill with Chuck. WNCs leading environmentalist sent the signal that in her estimation, those of us who were still fighting were wasting our time. The fact that this is precisely what Chuck wanted, well… And she kept telling US that she was committed to fighting the bill, while in OTHER meetings, it was officially unwinnable already. Julie, did you tell City Council that you were lobbying against the veto that they were lobbying FOR?

After a meeting in Hendersonville mid-2013, a former DENR official said to me, “People around the state know that I know Asheville water issues, and they ask me: Why is Asheville being so passive?” I didn’t know what to tell him, other than that there were some who thought that the fight was unwinnable. Here’s the confirmation from Julie.

The Goethe quote, “Act boldly and mighty forces will come to your aid,” has a corollary: “Signal your surrender, and mighty forces will stand back and watch you get the tar kicked out of you”.

We’ll never know what might have happened had Julie not been working against us and the City. I just know that the situation now is as bad as if we hadn’t lifted a finger. I want to see people on City Council who haven’t thrown in the towel before the next round starts.

From the “shadows”? Really Julie?

CECIL BOTHWELL: Cave first, negotiate later?

JULIE MAYFIELD: To be clear, I was not working against anything or anyone. I simply did not do everything you wanted to do and did. I never undercut or made what you or City Council or anyone else did less effective. I did not ask City Council not to request a veto and I certainly never urged Perdue not to veto the first bill. That would have been ridiculous. There are many forms of partnership and teamwork – in our case, we were singing from the same song book but off of different pages. I accept, and even embrace, that groups work in different ways and have different strengths – it takes groups of all kinds to mount effective campaigns. I never, ever undercut my partners – even when I don’t agree with everything they do. I may not join them or I may distance myself from them, but I never undercut. Even though we didn’t agree on everything, we still shared a common enemy and a common goal of Asheville keeping its water system. That was far more important than any differences you and I might have had. I am sorry we continue to see it differently.

CECIL BOTHWELL: And so, distance yourself from Marc Hunt?

JULIE MAYFIELD: Not sure what you mean Cecil Bothwell. Marc was working hard on the watershed protection piece of the puzzle. My communications were directly with Esther on the legislation.

BARRY SUMMERS: Julie Mayfield gives him a glowing review (below):


Mayfield failed to fight hard for city water system
Barry Summers | MX | October 28, 2015

As we fought the oncoming state seizure of Asheville’s water system, members of our group, SaveOurWaterWNC, met over a number of months with WNC Alliance Director Julie Mayfield and other environmental leaders to try to craft a unified response.

We eventually quit working with Julie after it became clear to us that it was more important to her to protect her relationship with the “good” Republican on the environment, Rep. Chuck McGrady, than to fight really hard for the city of Asheville. This impression came from her attempts to get us to “work’” with Chuck to make the bill less bad, if it happened to pass. It came from Julie’s opposition to Gov. [Bev] Perdue vetoing the precursor Metropolitan Sewerage District bill, which we and a unanimous City Council were lobbying her to do.

It came from her opposition to actions we proposed, like the Mountain Voices Alliance forum, which put Reps. McGrady and [Tim] Moffitt face-to-face with angry Asheville opponents to the seizure. Julie tried to get us to cancel it. And, it came out of the other environmental representatives dropping out of the fight, one stating explicitly that he “can’t afford to make McGrady mad.” This was a common refrain from Julie that we should avoid doing anything that would anger the Republicans, especially Chuck McGrady.

And we found it significant that that year, she was the chair of the NC Conservation Network, the umbrella group for all the environmental groups in the state. There was much more, and all this was documented in emails to our working group.

It’s well known that McGrady (one of the sponsors of the seizure bill), currently holds the keys to moving any environmental legislation forward. This is Julie’s professional bread and butter – her access to Chuck McGrady. It’s also well-known that McGrady is going to be the chief enforcer of Raleigh’s will over the city for the foreseeable future.

City Council will have tough decisions to make, over the water and many other issues, and confrontations with McGrady are all but assured.

Do we want someone on City Council during this critical time that has such a serious conflict of interest? I want Julie to succeed in her environmental work — but Asheville residents shouldn’t have to wonder if she’s sacrificing one to succeed at the other.

Mayfield says experience with legislators makes her more effective
Julie Mayfield | MX | October 28, 2015 by Letters

Barry Summers would have you believe that I was not sufficiently committed to fighting the legislative takeover of the Asheville water system, led by former Rep. Tim Moffitt and current Rep. Chuck McGrady. Here is just some of what the WNC Alliance and I did during that fight:

  • I testified in opposition to the bill at a legislative hearing.
  • We took out a full-page ad in Mountain Xpress calling on people to vote “No” on the 2012 referendum.
  • We hired phone bankers who called and asked thousands of Asheville residents to vote no.
  • I drafted a resolution that other local governments adopted in opposition to the takeover.
  • I secured the help of two full-time environmental lobbyists in Raleigh.
  • We promoted the forum Barry references, and we hosted an Asheville Green Drinks on the topic.
  • We worked closely with the city and its lobbyists, making sure our local grassroots strategy supported their efforts.

We stood completely aligned with SaveOurWaterNC on the goal of protecting Asheville’s water system. We differed only on strategy and tactics and, therefore, sometimes did different things. Everyone else involved in the water fight knew where I stood, including Rep. McGrady, and I have disagreed with him on this publicly. I have also told him that, if elected, I will fight him on the issue again if need be.

Asheville voters do not need to question my willingness or ability to fight for Asheville and its water system in Raleigh. Indeed, rather than creating a conflict of interest as suggested, my experience with the legislature and my relationships with our entire WNC delegation only make me more effective.

Mayfield didn’t represent in water system negotiations
Beth Jezek | MX | November 1, 2015

Many of us fought long and hard to keep Raleigh from taking Asheville’s water [system]. Julie Mayfield was there fighting with us.

Or that’s what we thought. We learned that Julie had been meeting with one of the authors of the bill, Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), in an effort to gain minor concessions on the bill in return for us softening our opposition.

Mayfield was not authorized to represent our group, and it’s common knowledge that the water bill that was passed couldn’t be much worse. (If you are interested in the details, see SaveOurWaterWNC)

Julie cannot be trusted to represent us on City Council. What devil would she secretly attempt to cut her next deal with?


About Tim Peck

Unaffiliated Objectivist
This entry was posted in water system. Bookmark the permalink.

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