What do you believe are the most important issues facing your city in the coming years?

Affordable Housing, Sustainable and Equitable Development, Public Safety, and ensuring a Responsive, Inclusive, Transparent and Accountable Government.

What is your view of the role unions and union members play in the city?

Unions and union membership are vital to support an economically strong workforce. Because North Carolina doesn’t allow municipalities to set a minimum wage, too many of our hardworking citizens can’t afford to live within city limits, close to their workplaces. Too many are exploited by lousy workplace conditions and unfair labor practices. The tourism industry, which is a huge part of our local economy, is notorious for low wages, unpredictable schedules, and high turnover.

I am a strong supporter of unionization. I proudly supported the efforts of health workers at Mission Hospital to form a union, and I’m thrilled that they succeeded. 

Unions strengthen the fabric of our society. They ensure fair wages and safe workplaces. They build networks of mutual support and respect.

Do you support the right of public employees to engage in collective bargaining? Briefly explain your response.

Yes, I do. I support the right of all employees to engage in collective bargaining. I believe the city government and the public would also benefit from it.

If so, would you publicly support of public sector collective bargaining by, for example, writing a letter to local legislators?


Do you support dues check-off (payroll deductions) for public employees who join unions? Briefly explain your response.

Yes. This is an option that should be available to all union members whose employers use such payroll systems.

Do you believe that all workers should be free to choose a union or association of their choice without fear of retribution? Briefly explain your response.

Yes. And I have seen how employers sometimes go to great lengths to undermine attempts at unionization. Such actions are unacceptable both legally and morally.

Do you support the concept of a “living wage” of at least $15 an hour for city workers and those workers employed by companies with city contracts? Why?

Yes, I am a big proponent of a living wage. In Asheville, the living wage is now more like $17.50, given our high cost for housing. As a City Council member, I will push strongly for all City employees and that the City do business only with contractors who pay their employees a living wage. City Government must set the example for other employers in our area. I think local businesses would actually reap the benefits.

If yes, would you be willing to test the limits of efforts by the state legislature to preempt such action at the local level?

Yes, despite the fact that legally it’s likely a losing proposition. I think it’s worth taking a stand about. The City has fought much less worthwhile battles lately (and lost). I think it’s important to raise the profile of this issue.

Do you support tying tax incentives offered to companies relocating to your county to a requirement that those companies pay a living wage with benefits and adhere to job safety standards?

I think tax incentives are complicated question, and often do more harm than good. However, *if tax incentives are offered* they should absolutely include living wage requirements. Should such a proposal come before City Council I would push hard to ensure a living wage requirement is part of any tax incentive package.

Adherence to job safety standards should be an essential minimum for *any* business, let alone one receiving a tax subsidy.

Are you willing to take racial and implicit bias training? If elected, would you push to have your elected colleagues and city staff to take a racial bias training?

Yes. Programs which help people appreciate their own participation in systems of racial injustice help us understand how each one of us must be an active ally in dismantling racial inequity. Specifically, here in Asheville, I took part in the Building Bridges program.

I believe that government officials especially need to be aware of their role in either perpetuating or fighting systems of oppression and discrimination.

If elected, how would you use your position to advance racial justice in your town or city? Please specific policies.

Every decision that comes before City Council needs to be considered through a lens that focuses on racial equity, in terms of accessibility, administration, and outcomes. That lens needs to make inclusion a priority from the beginning, and ensure accountability for an equitable outcome. Everything from the budget to zoning, housing, policing, and business development all need to be considered in this light.

City Council needs to include the voices of everyone who is affected by its decisions early in the decision-making process, and to proactively reach out to underserved communities to ensure they can participate before policies are formulated.

Please list concrete examples of how you have been active in your local community. What have you hoped to achieve through your engagement?

  • I have participated in voter registration drives around every election cycle.
  • I have been an active participant in City Council meetings, advocating for policies that serve local residents ahead of outside interests, as well as supporting small businesses and their employees.
  • I have turned out in support of the health workers seeking to unionize at Mission Hospital.
  • I have served as Chair for Precinct 8.3 in the Buncombe County Democratic Party.
  • I have written letters to the editor and appeared on TV news.

My goal has always been to add my voice to those seeking a fair and just society — one where all are treated with respect, dignity and compassion — and where everyone is properly compensated for their hard work and contributions.

Given municipal growth in recent years, how would you improve public transportation and access to affordable housing?

While I’d love to be able to give you a pat answer on these questions, they are both hugely complex challenges that are also mutually interdependent!

I’d like to see City Government focus more on partnering with not-for-profits in the creation of deeply affordable workforce housing — and perhaps even committing City-owned land to those efforts. I’d also like to see consideration of more bond-funded initiatives. Ultimately, it make take City-owned developments to make a meaningful contribution to the supply of affordable housing.

Public transportation faces huge challenges in our city. For example, building bus shelters often depends on donations from individuals and local neighborhood associations! Our hub-and-spoke system leaves many areas unserved. Our local infrastructure has grown up to serve cars, not mass transit — and of course we have topographic challenges as well.

I’d like to see a data-driven and -supported approach to getting public transportation to those areas that need it most, reliably and on time. I’d like to see all of our fleet become electric. I think the City should consider making at least a portion of downtown car-free.

Briefly describe your strategy to win, including campaign structure, fundraising and communications.

I believe candidates win by interacting directly with voters, meeting them where they are — and by being responsive, inclusive, transparent, and accountable. And I believe that’s what strengthens democracy and makes for good government too. I intend to listen to residents’ concerns and make sure that government decisions about people are not made without those people being heard. 

Our campaign structure is, at present, all-volunteer. Our goal is that each person who participates finds a way to contribute that they find meaningful and empowering.

The Tovish for City Council campaign committee gratefully accepts donations via cash, check, PayPal, and ActBlue. 

The campaign website is still under construction as of this writing; until it’s ready to launch tovish4avl.com currently redirects to our Facebook page. There’s also a Twitter account: @tovish4avl.

[I received the AFL-CIO endorsement: you can listen to my interview here.]

Please share this with your friends!