UPDATE: I RECEIVED THE PCNCDP “PROGRESSIVE CANDIDATE” SEAL OF APPROVAL! Read about it here.

 

Tell us about this race? What position, district, municipality, and/or county are you running for? Is there a primary? Is it a partisan race? How many candidates are running for this seat?

I’m running for Asheville City Council. It’s a non-partisan race. There are three at-large seats available. The primary slate has 11 candidates, of whom 2 are incumbents. Six candidates will survive the primary and go on to the general election in November.

Do you consider yourself politically Progressive? Describe your political philosophy.

I am a proudly Progressive candidate. I envision a future where everyone has access to a healthy, sustainable ecosystem, government-paid high-quality healthcare, safe and affordable housing, a justice system that is truly just, and meaningful work for (at least) an actual living wage. I want to live in a society where the bedrock values of democracy and the rule of law are genuinely embodied in a government and civil society by and for all.

I am not an ideologue; I call myself a “pragmatic idealist.” I think it’s the responsibility of those who are in leadership to model democratic ideals (facilitating participation, inclusion, responsiveness, transparency, accountability), so that people’s trust in government can grow. I believe in taking real steps to improve people’s lives — even if that sometimes means small, incremental changes that achieve concrete advances for people’s lives— rather than merely giving lip service to big goals but refusing to compromise and getting nowhere.

When considering ordinances or policies, I use this lens: will it help or harm those who are most vulnerable among us? If government makes a bad choice, we know that those who have no safety net beneath them, who have been exploited, stigmatized, or systemically mistreated will suffer the most and have the hardest time recovering. Government must prioritize their needs.

Why do you want the endorsement or other support of the Progressive Caucus of the NCDP?

I am aligned with the platform of the Progressive Caucus, and I need your help in reaching out to like-minded voters. My campaign is small and scrappy — we need all the help we can get in both volunteer time and in money.

Why are you running for this position? What makes you the best candidate? What skills and strengths will you bring to the table? Also, please list, with dates, any prior elected positions, or candidacies. Are you the incumbent for this position?

I have never run for office before.

I’m running for Asheville City Council because our city faces huge generational challenges: affordable housing, climate resilience, public safety, and the need for a healthy, diversified economy. We need leadership that puts the needs of residents and workers ahead of the interests of tourists and developers. We need government that listens to the voices of communities that have been ignored and mistreated. And none of that will happen unless Councilmembers are committed to doing the people’s business in a responsive, inclusive, transparent, and accountable manner.

I don’t claim any special expertise in city management, but I do know how to ask good questions and I’m a quick learner. I understand that making good decisions requires good information, both hard data and lived experience. I believe that communication is essential to good leadership — and that has been a hallmark of my entire professional life: as a writer, designer, artist, new media producer, and real estate broker. I listen deeply, always seeking to understand; I value and seek out conversation and connection.

As a Councilmember, I pledge to do the public’s business in public: every week I’ll publish a report that describes who I’ve met with, what we’ve discussed, and how it’s influencing my thinking. You’ll see the documents I see. And I’ll visit communities, advocacy groups, and neighborhoods regularly, so that residents have an opportunity to share their views directly. By the time a matter comes to a vote at a City Council meeting, you’ll understand why I’m voting the way I do.

What would you like others to know about the constituents and the area you want to govern or represent?

Asheville is wonderful city, set in a spectacular natural environment, filled with hard-working, creative, diverse, generous, welcoming people. It needs a City Council that is equally hard-working, compassionate, and creative — and that truly represents the variety of communities, neighborhoods, and local enterprises we enjoy here. We’re at a crossroads in Asheville now: how will we choose to grow? Will we lose the unique character of this mountain gem and become an Appalachian Disneyland for visitors, or will nurture and support the full range of talents and skills of our residents with an economy that holds promise for all?

What are your top three policy priorities? What are your plans for these priorities? Why are they important to your community?

Housing affordability is definitely a high priority—but I’ll respond to that in your next question.

1. Promote economic diversification beyond tourism. The City’s UDO — planning, zoning, and permitting — should be refocused to prioritize the needs and concerns of local enterprises, workers, and residents. We should be able to enjoy our city and preserve its amenities, while growing a local economy that provides a sustainable livelihood for ourselves and generations to come.

2. Reduce the City of Asheville’s carbon footprint and incentivize sustainable initiatives for residents. This covers a broad range of initiatives: from accelerating the transition to solar power and other renewables for city facilities (including improving conservation measures) to making public transportation more convenient, reliable, and electric and preserving and  restoring tree canopy (as well as hiring an Urban Forester) and more.

3. Improving public safety through collaborative initiatives between the APD and community organizations and health services providers. This includes rebuilding the police department by actively recruiting personnel who demonstrate an understanding of community history, prioritize communication and non-violent approaches, and respect the civil rights and individual worth of every member of the public. Restoring faith in law enforcement’s mission to serve and protect depends on hiring and retaining officers who consistently demonstrate personal integrity and an ego-free, servant’s heart even in the most difficult of interactions.

There is a growing housing shortage in North Carolina, particularly for low income households. What will you do to help make housing more affordable for those most in need? Is this an issue in your area?

Asheville is the most expensive housing market in the state. Both home-buying and renting are unaffordable for way too many.

It’s time to dig deep and come up with creative solutions. We need to use every tool available: land trusts, LUIGI grants, perhaps even tax rebates for property owners who build and use ADUs for long-term rentals.

The model put forward in the recently-approved collaboration between the Haywood St. Congregation, Dogwood Trust, and the City of Asheville, which will bring 45 units of deeply affordable housing to the city, is a good start. I’d like to see the City consider similar projects on city-owned property and even consider building directly city-owned residential units so that a profit motive doesn’t put a tighter cap on affordability.

If elected, how will you ensure that the progressive voice is heard, and progressive policies get real consideration?

In Asheville, a City Councilmember is one of 7 (six plus the Mayor) voices on city policy and ordinances. You can be sure that I will use that platform to press for outcomes that serve the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors, and that I’ll be listening to and amplifying the voices of those who’ve gone unheard in the public conversation.

As mentioned earlier, I’ll be publishing a weekly report of my views on the issues facing Council, and I won’t be shy about taking my progressive views to the media either.

Tell us about how you are funding your campaign. What portion of your contributions are from PACs, large donors vs small donors, etc? If you could change campaign finance rules, what would that look like?

My campaign is all small donors, so far, and I expect it to stay that way.

The most important change needed in campaign finance is true transparency. The original individual human source of every dollar donated must be identified — no more dark money!

You lovely readers of this questionnaire, won’t you donate? 😀

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