Would you like your candidacy to be endorsed by the Sierra Club and why?
Yes, I would like to receive the Sierra Club’s endorsement. I share the Sierra Club’s values of protecting our wilderness and public lands, transitioning as a matter of urgency from fossil fuel power to renewable energy sources, ensuring that our air and water are clean and healthy, as well as reducing and eventually eliminating the casual use of plastic that damages our ecosystem. As a City Councilmember, an important policy goal will be working to mitigate the impacts of climate change and grow the resiliency of our community in the face of extreme weather events.
The French Broad River is about to be named an “impaired river”. Would you support enhanced storm water regulations to protect the river and its tributaries?
Asheville’s infrastructure for the management of storm water needs updating and improving. I hope that the City will have the opportunity to dedicate some funds from the Federal infrastructure bill, enabling us to repair or replace aging storm drains and develop systems that minimize stress on the health of the French Broad.
Should the city minimize storm water runoff by requiring/incentivizing more green infrastructure, retention or detention basins, rain gardens, or other methods to reduce surface water runoff and flooding?
It’s in the City’s best interest to incentivize better water runoff practices in new development and renovation projects. There’s always someone downstream (human or wildlife), and it’s our responsibility as a community to anticipate and avoid negative environmental impacts from construction and development.
Single use plastics are a contributor to global warming and a major contributor to water pollution including micro-plastics found in water samples in the French Broad River. They clog storm drains, the recycling center, and our landfill. Would you vote to adopt a single use plastic bag and Styrofoam ban for restaurants, grocery stores, and retail establishments in the city?
Yes. The average plastic shopping bag has a twelve-minute functional lifespan, after which it becomes pollution. After a brief period of adjustment, bringing a reusable bag for shopping quickly becomes a habit for consumers and businesses alike.
How would you protect open space in Asheville?
Every neighborhood in Asheville deserves to have access to green space — whether in the form of a public park, a community garden, or a greenway. New development that comes before City Council should be evaluated for its contribution to managing open space in a way that fits in with the character of its surroundings, how it contributes to preserving or enhancing the tree canopy, and how it mitigates storm water damage. With proper design, infill and increased residential density do not have to mean a reduction in environment-enhancing open spaces.
Perhaps the City could consider incentives for people to deed relevant property (even small lots) into public land conservancies that would preserve them as open spaces.
Asheville City Council has adopted a plan to expand public transportation, including routes, frequency, and hours of operation. Even before COVID, the city did not have the revenue to fund this expansion. How would you propose funding this plan short term? Longer term?
The City budget is an expression of priorities, and the allocation of funds is the realization of those priorities. As a City, Asheville has not committed to investing in and promoting public transportation as a primary means of transportation for residents and visitors alike, and our topography and infrastructure make it a challenging proposition.
I don’t have a pat answer to this question. But I believe that a more usable and convenient public transportation system, combined with disincentives for short car-trips (especially in downtown), could increase ridership, decrease car traffic, and make the ART more financially viable.
The city has a multi-modal commission to better address the mix of transportation modes in the city including bicycles and pedestrians. Where do you think that city should focus its efforts?
I’d like to see more bicycle lanes and sidewalks both downtown and in our neighborhoods. Sidewalks are, unfortunately, wickedly expensive — and as current debates over reconfiguring Merrimon show, incorporating bike lanes can be controversial too.
For much of the population, unfortunately, bicycle transport is not really practical: our hilly topography makes it hard for anyone who is less physically fit or has longer distances to travel to use bicycles routinely for commuting or errands. (E-bikes are a step in the right direction, but they are also expensive.)
The City should look at zoning changes that could encourage the development local shops within walking distance of dense residential neighborhoods.
I think investing in more agile and convenient public transportation will likely prove the most cost-effective use of tax dollars and it will do more to reduce fossil-fuel use overall.
Given that global climate change is with us, Asheville City council has adopted a 100% Renewable Energy Goal by 2030 for all city government operations including adoption of LEED Gold Standard for green buildings and installing solar panels on some city owned buildings and property. The city is missing its target of reducing carbon emissions of a 4% reduction per year.
Do you support the continuation of these programs? Are you willing to continue to reinvest the savings from these programs into the Green CIP, the nation’s first municipal energy savings capital improvement fund, to continue to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy?
I’d like to understand in more detail why the annual target reduction of 4% has not been met. A report last August reported a 2.3% reduction, and indicated that increased fossil- fuel emissions were the result of new lighting at parks & greenways, an unreliable supply of biofuels, and aging City facilities.
It’s encouraging, however, that the Green CIP has shown success with the LED streetlight program. On City Council, I would strongly support innovative approaches to replacing inefficient and carbon-based facilities with more efficient buildings and renewably-sourced energy.
Would you support putting more Solar Panels on city buildings and/or putting solar farms on city owned or leased property?
Would you support replacing fossil fuel powered city vehicles and buses with electric powered vehicles as they need to be replaced?
What other measures would you propose to reduce our carbon footprint and to get the city back on track to meet its goals?
City Council could explore incentivizing the creation of community-owned solar farms. It should also strive to ensure that residential solar panels remain an economically feasible prospect for homeowners — changes that Duke Energy is proposing could severely undermine the economic incentives for solar energy, thereby reducing the resilience of the power grid for our whole community.
Sierra Club members and City residents are gravely concerned about climate change. While we are waiting for Washington to act to curb carbon pollution, communities all over the country are working with their electric utilities to transition off their dependence on coal and natural gas– a primary contributor to climate disruption. As a member of council, will you use your leadership position to call on Duke Energy to invest more heavily in clean energy, battery storage and energy efficiency?
Yes, as mentioned above, the economic viability of residential solar installations is now at risk.
Would you be willing to lobby the Tourism Development Authority to help fund Greenways and Parks in Asheville?
Yes. After all, those are capital-intensive amenities that benefit tourists as well as residents. The percentage allocation of TDA funds to the City needs to be renegotiated as well.
The city is facing an affordable housing shortage and gentrification. What would you do if elected to address these critical issues?
Asheville must make increasing residential density through smart infill a priority. Sprawl is bad for the environment; well-considered infill development reduces carbon emissions and relieves market pressure on rental prices.
To encourage the development of affordable ADUs, perhaps the City could provide a tax abatement for homeowners that build affordable rental units on their property.
Truly rigorous monitoring and enforcement of short-term homestay regulations would ensure that more long-term rental units are available to residents.
The city has passed a Resolution Supporting “Community Reparations for Black Asheville.” If elected, will you support this? If yes, how would you propose funding it?
Yes, I support reparations for the Black Community in Asheville. The City has already allocated $2.1 million, of which $1.9 remains as yet unspent. I’d like to see the “point system” for proposed new hotels provide even more incentive for developers to contribute substantially to the Reparations fund. There will also likely be further opportunities for the sale of City property to generate capital for the Reparations fund.
As a Council Member, I will be guided by the recommendations of the newly seated Reparations Commission.
What are the major challenges facing the city of Asheville and what will be your top priorities if elected?
Asheville faces a host of substantial challenges: affordable housing (including the crisis of homelessness), climate resilience, public safety, and the need for a sustainable, diversified economy beyond tourism that provides a genuine livelihood for our residents.
None of these challenges can be meaningfully addressed without a City government that is responsive, inclusive, transparent, and accountable. These bedrock principles of democracy ensure that citizen participation in the public’s business is welcomed, facilitated, and respected.
Good outcomes require a good process. As residents, we need to see City Council doing the public’s business in public. We need to know with whom Councilmembers are talking, what they’re discussing, and how their views are being shaped.
Community members must be welcomed into policy decisions from the beginning — not just given token “comment time” when the votes are already in place. A commitment to true community outreach should be evident and effective. As community advocates rightly say: “no decisions about us without us.”
What do you anticipate will be the most important environmental and environmental justice issues you will face if elected? What actions do you plan to take to address these issues?
This questionnaire has highlighted the most important issues: remediation of environmental degradation, promotion of resilience in the face of climate change, bolstering of public transportation and infrastructure, and incentivizing of more rapid transition to renewable energy sources and green development.
As a Councilmember, I will look at decisions through three fundamental lenses:
- Is the proposal environmentally sound?
- Does the proposal serve the well-being of our neighbors in a just manner, promoting the well-being of the most vulnerable among us?
- Was the proposal developed with input from all the parties who will be affected by it? Were the citizens of Asheville able to witness every step of the process and participate in ways that affected the outcome?
I pledge that as a Councilmember I will spend substantial time every week in conversation with our community: in neighborhoods, where people gather. I will make materials supplied to me for decision-making accessible to the public. I will keep a calendar showing meetings I have with the people and interests who have business before City Council. I will take notes and make a weekly report about my interactions: what we’ve talked about, what I’ve learned, and how my thinking is evolving. Becausethis is Our City, and people deserve to see public business being done by public servantsin public, with the public, and for the public.