Amid calls to address homelessness and reports of a growing unhoused population, how would you best address this crisis?
What doesn’t work is trying to police our way out of the crises of homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse. Putting people who are already disconnected from mainstream society through the criminal justice system is both hugely expensive and ineffective in improving either their condition or that of our City.
Asheville isn’t alone in facing this challenge, nor can we solve it alone. But we can mitigate the harm done both to the houseless and to our neighborhoods and businesses. We can deploy evidence-based best practices; we can experiment. I support a pilot program offering camping on city-owned land (not public parks), with sanitation, security, and wraparound social services.
Equitable, affordable housing and stability was named as a council strategic priority. What does this mean to you? How would you best support affordable housing in Asheville?
We should use every tool available: land trusts, LUIGI grants, perhaps tax grants to encourage property owners to build ADUs for long-term rentals. The European model of “social housing”—a form of self-subsidizing, cross-income-level housing—is another promising way to increase housing availability for people at all income levels. [https://tinyurl.com/tovish4avl-socialhousing]
The recently-approved collaboration between the Haywood St. Congregation, Dogwood Trust, and the City will create 45 units of deeply affordable housing. We should explore similar projects on city-owned property, perhaps even building city-owned residential units so that a profit motive doesn’t constrain affordability.
The reparations process is underway with the selection of the Community Reparations Commission. How would you like to see reparations take shape in the city?
I’m glad the Reparations Commission is now poised to begin its work. The City has already allocated $2.1M to this effort, of which $1.9M remains as yet unspent. The “point system” for new hotels should be modified to provide even more incentive for developers to contribute substantially to the Reparations Fund. Future sales of City property should also generate capital for the Reparations fund.
As a Council Member, I will first and foremost listen to and be guided by the recommendations of the Reparations Commission. I’ll ensure they get the City Staff support they need to do their work effectively and facilitate, to the best of my ability, their community engagement and communication.
Reimagining public safety is another stated goal of the city. How would you see Asheville implement policy to make this a reality? What budgetary impacts should this effort have?
Our city needs a police force that embodies the fundamental values of public service, personal integrity, and respect for the dignity and civil rights of all. We should be recruiting specifically for those values—attracting officers whose careers show evidence of commitment to community policing. With the money that has been accruing in the police budget due to unfilled positions, we can offer incentives to bring in a handful of high-quality mid-career candidates who will train and lead the next generation of young recruits.
Let’s explore the Denver STAR model, which has been successfully deploying social services teams in lieu of police to some calls. [https://tinyurl.com/tovish4avl-STAR]
What are other priorities of your campaign and how would you see them achieved?
We need a more robust and agile public transportation system, with a much lower carbon footprint. Let’s plan for a future of smaller electric buses that respond flexibly to rider demand (the technology exists!) and cover more territory.
Asheville must prioritize developing the strength and diversity of our local economy, helping our businesses to grow and create living-wage jobs. Let’s invest in workforce education and training, and collaborate with non-profits and advocacy groups to support local entrepreneurship.
City Council must do the public’s business in public. Our government must be responsive, inclusive, transparent, and accountable. I’ll report my activities to you every week.
Please give a brief autobiography explaining your background and what about it qualifies you to serve on Asheville City Council (include age, what part of town you live in, where you’re from).
On Election Day in November, I’ll have been in Asheville for 10 years, having moved here from DC. I live in Shiloh. I came here for the wonderfully diverse, compassionate and welcoming people I met here, for the glorious natural environment, and for the thriving local economy of small businesses and creatives. This is our city, unique and vibrant, that I want to serve on City Council.
I’m a writer and visual artist (I also have a real estate license). I ask good questions, I listen, I think strategically. I used my communication and design skills working for the Smithsonian, then other corporate and not-for-profit clients. I’ve led teams, organized events, and run my own businesses.