It was only this past June that the City Council were “shocked” and “surprised” by the City staff’s notification of a $26 million budgeting miscalculation.
Oversight issues don't just plague Buncombe County government but also the City of Asheville.
The RADTIP, a $50 million project covering 2.2 miles along the French Broad River in the River Arts District was now going to cost $76 million. This budget miscalculation forced the City to cut back on the original plans - $20 million worth. Having just passed the new City budget for FY17-18 only weeks earlier, the City Council were instructed by staff that had to approve $6 million of debt, bringing the total cost to $56 million in order to save the $14 million grant from the Federal Government.
The RADTIP is the largest city funded municipal development project Asheville has seen in decades. With millions involved, there is opportunity for people (contractors, staff, consultants, etc.) to take advantage of all that money swirling around. It requires strong leadership and oversight to ensure that the $31 million to be paid by taxpayer dollars is not misused or misappropriated. With the announcement of this massive budget miscalculation one would think City staff would have been more than merely reprimanded but that was not the case.
As with Buncombe County, people tried to alert the City of the impending financial disaster, but as in the case with Buncombe County, these warnings were dismissed, and actually even put down by other leaders and our local media.
BUNCOMBE COUNTY VS. THE CITY OF ASHEVILLE
Buncombe County and the City of Asheville both have the same kind of management - the County Manager and the City Manager are only accountable to their elected leadership The County Commissioners and City Council are the only ones that can fire the County Manager or City Manager. Yet, in both cases, the Council and Commissioners are a part-time elected body. It is therefore incumbent upon the leadership to ask questions, dive into issues and hold their managers accountable. Longevity in a position does not imbue trust and it should not be assumed by leadership.
In both of these examples, when hard questions were being asked, there was pushback instead of praise which were both backed up by local media. Ms. Greene is gone and Buncombe County is making dramatic, sweeping changes in its organizational structure, compensation and oversight. Will the City follow their example or allow its City staff to continue going unchecked?