[MountainXPress requested that answers not exceed 80 words in length, which was frustrating.]
How do you view the city’s role in addressing homelessness, and what specific strategies will you pursue to fill that role?
Homelessness is a national problem, requiring changes in our social safety net on the national and state levels to resolve. As a municipality, Asheville’s role must be to mitigate suffering and help people overcome barriers to finding and keeping a stable home.
Small-scale, modest-budget pilot programs—developed in collaboration with local social service organizations—would help us explore which strategies work best for our community. We should also enlist the full participation of neighborhoods and faith-based groups.
What specific strategies do you most support for increasing affordable housing in the city, and how will you fund that work?
Developing affordable housing on the scale we need is going to require *all* the strategies, including LUIG and land trusts. Let’s start with zoning for denser residential neighborhoods, especially along transportation corridors. We should also consider using the “social housing” model of mixed-income development on city-owned land, with affordability guaranteed in perpetuity. Construction can be funded by bonds, paid back in part from rent or purchase fees. Removing the middleman in housing development makes deeper affordability possible.
What do you see as the city’s most pressing transportation issue, and what approaches do you favor to address it?
At a bare minimum, Asheville needs reliable, extended-hour public transportation service for our community’s necessity riders.
Ultimately, we need transit that’s so good that people with cars will chose to ride it over driving themselves. Although it will benefit residents first and foremost, visitors will enjoy it too. Great public transit reduces both traffic and infrastructure burdens; it’s good for our economy and our environment. We should collaborate with the county and prioritize transit investment in the city budget.
How do you assess the city’s progress to date on matters of equity, and what would you do to further that goal?
There’s so much more to do, both to redress the harms of the past and to ensure just outcomes now and in the future.
The Reparations Commission has begun its work; we await their findings and recommendations. The role of Council (and County) will be to provide the Commission with the resources it needs and to follow through in implementing its recommendations. Additionally, every Council decision must be deliberated with an equity lens in place, and monitored for equitable consequences.
What area of city government is most overfunded, and how should those resources be allocated instead?
The premise that any area of city government is meaningfully “overfunded” is flawed. Human resources are our largest expenditure. Salaries, wages, and benefits total over $121M in FY2022-23. Operating expenses and capital/debt will cost less, around $88M. City government is not overstaffed, quite the opposite. The new budget finally guarantees a living wage to employees—eventually that should become a thriving wage. We might need to be more conservative about the salaries of our highest paid city staff.