Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:

Question: Can you find out what happened to all the street cleaning vehicles? When I moved here five years ago, I saw street cleaning machines regularly and the roadways “sparkled.” When the pandemic hit, I seem to remember that a statement came out saying that it took two operators per truck and due to COVID restrictions the operators couldn’t ride in trucks together. And that is the last time a truck has been seen operating to my knowledge. Meanwhile, you could build a new car from the parts on the Bowen Bridge. That bridge and its surrounding road connections look like a third world country. I recommend that the tourist tax dollars be used to fund regular use of the street cleaning trucks. While they are doing that they can add funds to rebuild the Mills River Water Treatment Plant.

My answer: We may be having divergent memories here, because I’m hard-pressed to recall Asheville’s streets sparkling in the last, say, 28 years. Now, have I seen some free-spirit hippie bliss-ninny fairies sparkling? You bet.

Real answer: “The city of Asheville maintains four street sweeping vehicles,” spokesperson Kim Miller said via email. “Three of the four are in continuous use, while the fourth is held in reserve to replace the main vehicles as needed.”

A reader asks if the city of Asheville’s street sweepers are still in use. This part of Patton Avenue leading toward the Bowen Bridge had some debris trapped by the median. // Watchdog photo by John Boyle.

Each of the three vehicles operates four days a week, Monday through Thursday, 10 hours a day.

“Each vehicle operator is assigned an area of responsibility which equates to just under 125 curb miles,” Miller said. “Running the vehicles four days a week, 10 hours per day, means the vehicle makes a complete circuit of the area of responsibility about every two to three months, except in autumn and winter months when falling leaves can impact operations.”

Miller did mention one pandemic-related caveat.

“During Covid, due to federal guidelines and staffing issues, you may have experienced a temporary reduction in service,” Miller said. “Staff has been operating back on its regular schedule (four days a week, 10 hours a day) for well over a year.”

As far as the Bowen Bridge, which spans the French Broad River and connects downtown to I-240 and Patton Avenue in West Asheville, that’s a North Carolina Department of Transportation responsibility.

The NCDOT is responsible for keeping the Bowen Bridge clean. A crew cleans the bridge four times a year. // Watchdog photo by John Boyle.

“Prior to receiving the question, NCDOT crews from Buncombe County maintenance scheduled a sweeping and cleaning of the Bowen Bridge for the week of Jan. 9,” DOT spokesperson David Uchiyama said via email. “Crews sweep and (clean) the bridge about four times per year. The operation will be conducted at a time with reduced traffic.”

Question: In the presidential election in the U.S., we really don’t have a national election. We have 50 separate state elections. North Carolina, like most states, gives all its electoral college votes to the candidate who receives the most votes. In so doing, essentially all of the votes cast for the candidate who loses no longer count. Could the North Carolina state legislature vote to assign its electoral college votes proportionally based on the percentage of the vote that each candidate receives? How likely is that to happen? Could a voter or a group of voters or an organization take the North Carolina state legislature to court, saying that the First Amendment rights of a voter or voters who voted for the losing candidate at the state level are being denied in an election? 

My answer: Sure, this could happen. I could also lose 50 pounds tomorrow and start dating Scarlett Johansson.

Real answer: Western Carolina University political scientist Chris Cooper took this one on.

“Could this happen? Yes.” Cooper said. “What are the chances? Approximately the chance of a snowball surviving in hell for more than five minutes.”

Cooper noted that Maine and Nebraska do not give all the electors to one candidate. They divide theirs into congressional districts.

But here in the Tar Heel state, which will have 16 electoral votes in the 2024 election, all hope is not lost on overhauling the antiquated Electoral College system.

“There is this very complicated but not as crazy as you might think plan called the National Popular Vote plan,” Cooper said. “The pitch is each state agrees that they will give all of their electors to the national popular vote winner. But, it doesn’t go into effect until states totaling more than half of the electors have joined in.”

“So it’s a way to say, ‘I’ll do this, but only if enough other people do it to make it matter,’” Cooper continued. “Because right now, if North Carolina changes, all they are doing is reducing their power in the presidential election, which they never would.”

In a nutshell, Cooper added, the plan says, “We’ll play nice if everybody else plays nice.” 

Cooper, who does feel the time has come to discard the Electoral College system, says this National Popular Vote plan has more of a chance than you might think.

“What’s interesting about that is we actually passed the National Popular Vote plan out of one of the chambers of the General Assembly a number of years ago,” Cooper said, noting that this track likely has a much better chance of getting somewhere than lawsuits.

On its National Popular Vote website, the organization states, “The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It has been enacted into law by 15 states and D.C., with 195 electoral votes. It needs an additional 75 electoral votes to go into effect.”

Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at  jboyle@avlwatchdog.org or (828)-337-0941.

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3 Comments

  1. Sparkling streets? Ha!
    Until three or four months ago, I would see the street sweeper on my street about twice a year. However, in the last three or four months, the sweeper has visited my street as many times. The problem is, there are a lot of parked cars on my street with prohibit the sweeper from doing a good job. A former public works director told me that Savannah sweeps on a regular schedule and tows vehicles that block the machine. I guess it’s too much to ask Asheville to do the same. Like the water flap, dirty streets are just one more manifestation of The Way We Do Business in Asheville.

    1. I haven’t seen a street sweeper on our street in North Asheville in at least 20 years. What are the lucky streets that are considered an “area of responsibility”?

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