A whiff of Democracy returns to the General Assembly:
Fisher: “It is beyond my ability to understand why Asheville has been the continual target for authoritarian and penalizing legislation for much of the 12 years I have spent here. I resent the idea that the current senior senator and rules chair feels he must take one last parting shot at the city of Asheville when he in fact only represents a fraction of the residents of that city, less than 10,000. Ladies and gentlemen of the House, I urge you to vote no. And especially if you live in cities and towns that are trying their best to govern your whole city or town. Because beware: Yours may be the next city to be gerrymandered.”
Whether it was Fisher’s words or something else, something shifted. The House would debate for another 40 minutes, with some of the loudest arguments against the bill coming not from Democrats, but from Republicans.
Something definitely shifted, and I have a hunch it was that little voice in the back of some GOP lawmakers' minds whispering: Just because you can do something, it doesn't automatically follow that you should. And then giving words to those thoughts:
Rep. Josh Dobson: “Asheville’s right next door to me, but I don’t have any particular allegiance to Asheville or anything like that. But I have thought about this one a lot. And we’ve heard it said here today, regardless of party, that the members of the city of Asheville have concerns about this. So members, for me personally, because I wouldn’t want this done to Marion or Newland, or Bakersville, or Banner Elk, or any other small town I represent, I’ll be voting no on this bill.”
Rep. John Blust: “This bill is not eligible. I don’t care what you call it. This is a local bill. And you wonder why what’s going on in politics is going on today. It is a local bill that’s not eligible by our rules and our rules mean nothing. Your word means nothing…. When it’s my last day I wanna walk outta here knowing I never crawled. I’m not gonna crawl out of here. Even if I get nothing. I’m gonna hold my head up high and think I did the best I could and I didn’t compromise principle. And if you hit that green button, you’re compromising principle. It’s time to vote this down, take whatever consequences may come from the other side, because that’s what courage and leadership is. It’s the willingness to take whatever hits might come your way.”
Rep. Michael Speciale: “The vision of the anointed, that we know better than the people, the citizens of Asheville, because we may not agree ideologically with the citizens of Asheville or the city council of Asheville. I’m sorry but we don’t need to agree with them because we don’t live there. And the people that live there selected those people that are representing them on the city council and we don’t have to like them or agree with them.
I'm especially surprised (and pleased) with Speciale's comment. That "will of the citizens" issue goes to the core of the entire gerrymandering debate, and hopefully it will stick in their minds for later sessions.