I’m running for Asheville City Council to make sure that all neighborhoods have a greater voice in City matters and to ensure that all of our residents go to sleep each night feeling safe, fed, healthy and valued. My background, work and life experiences uniquely qualify me to serve.
I grew up in Asheville. I remember family events at the Westinghouse (now Eaton) manufacturing plant where my dad worked, spending Sunday afternoons at the Tourist games, going to the Biltmore Dairy Bar, and exploring the woods off Hendersonville Road with my younger brother and dog. I still have my 4th grade grammar book that Mrs. Ross had all of us make. I can remember when Downtown was a ghost town after 6pm.
Asheville is a very different place now than it was then. It’s facing new challenges and I’m concerned about where Asheville is headed and its capabilities to deal with what might be coming our way. In my view, there are three areas in particular that Asheville City Council needs to address right now.
First, we need to be laser-focused on the needs of our residents and our neighborhoods. Many of them are struggling and we are not doing a good enough job of engaging them, of educating them or of listening to their needs. I want to make sure that every resident goes to sleep each night feeling safe, fed, healthy and valued. All of our residents and neighborhoods need a seat at the table and I will make sure that they have one if I’m elected.
I’ve worked hard to help communities in need. Last year, I heard about a mobile home community in South Asheville that had been sold for development—leaving the residents, many of whom had small children, with little time and inadequate resources to move. I offered my help to parishioners from a local church who were helping the residents and we worked behind the scenes to successfully get more funds from the developer for the residents to help them relocate. Later, we found out that the developer qualified for $528,000 in affordable housing subsidies despite eradicating this community. I spoke out against that subsidy, but City Council still permitted it.
Second, we have not done a good job of planning for or dealing with development and growth. Our infrastructure has not kept up; traffic is a mess in many parts of the City; and we’re losing our tree canopy at a rapid pace. At the same time, many people understandably want to move to Asheville and the high cost of housing here is a significant problem. We need policies that permit rational and responsible development, but preserve what makes this area special.
I’ve taken on developers to make sure their projects are rational and responsible. Last year, I organized my South Asheville neighbors around a proposed development at a notoriously bad intersection. Through town halls, face-to-face meetings with City officials and the developer, and grass roots organizing, we reached a consensus with the developer. The development could move forward—but only after adopting specific changes that effectively addressed traffic and infrastructure concerns. As a result of our work, City Council now requires developers to notify and meet with residents as a condition for certain proposed projects.
The third concern that I have is that our local economy is too heavily dependent on tourism and real estate and we need to diversify it so that it is more resilient. Historically, Asheville’s economy has been boom or bust and after 7 years of growth we’re due for another recession. As a small business owner myself, I will focus on bringing good paying jobs and industries to the City and region so that we can improve wages in this area. We need to encourage more green jobs and those that address climate change.
I know that Asheville is facing a lot of complicated and divisive issues that we need to address and I am not waiting until I get elected to deal with them. In my professional life, in addition to advising local governments on budget matters, I’ve successfully mediated three extremely contentious matters in the public sector involving police and firefighter pensions. I am under no illusions as to how difficult these issues are, but I’m also no stranger to finding consensus. I’ve been spending a lot of time talking with people on all sides of these issues to see if we can find a way forward.
I don’t know about you, but the past couple of months have been difficult for me as a parent, as an Asheville resident and as an American. And I don’t expect the coming ones to be any easier. But I am committed to doing everything that I can to give back to this City to make sure that its current residents and those who come after me have the same opportunities that I did. I am asking for your vote and for your help to make that happen.