For Asheville City Council
1. What else should the City do to meet Strategic Focus Area 2, Goal 2: "Improve citizen equity by reducing disparity gaps with an emphasis on education and socio-economic mobility?"
1) Advocate fiercely for a return to meaningful investments in public education; 2) Invest in public safety and neighborhood infrastructure before any more new tourist-related development; 3) Distribute economic development incentives to spur the growth of living-wage local businesses and neighborhood-based affordable housing; 4) Create a local seed fund for innovative solutions to reduce socio-economic disparity; 5) Diversify the local economy in order to increase career-based opportunities to retain local talent; 6) Increase government transparency to allow more citizen input.
2. What goals should the City set for improving transit and other modes of transportation?
I would promote 1) expanded hours to accommodate service workers; 2) more frequent, convenient scheduling to also lure ‘choice’ riders to raise revenue and reduce pollution/congestion; 3) create transit partnerships (park & rides, shuttles) with towns bordering the City limits to streamline public transportation for those who commute from outlying areas in the County – where housing tends to be more affordable -- where potential transit riders are living.
3. What role can the City play in promoting access to healthy food and ending hunger?
The City should encourage collaboration and innovation with neighborhood partners. The Grace Presbyterian Church uses a portion of its property for a community garden. Can other tax-exempt religious organizations be convinced to do the same? A local organization, Food Connection, raises funds to pay for taxi’s to transport leftover food from restaurants and catered events to local shelters and group homes. Can the City’s public transit system participate to help feed riders, or take food to targeted destinations?
4. What, if any, new ideas should the City pursue to increase affordable housing and prevent homelessness?
The City invests in large, multi-family apartment complexes because they are more cost efficient. We have other options to increase the supply of affordable housing through property tax relief for landlords who commit to reducing rents, as well as the Habitat volunteer-based, consumer- participant model. Engaging more citizens in the solution raises awareness and promotes a deeper commitment to shared responsibility. I would also partner with adjacent towns like Woodfin, which is only minutes from the downtown center, to meet the need.
5. What can the city council do to help improve race relations in the community and between government service employees/agencies and the community?
Lately, the City has done a good job with minority recruitment as well as soliciting input from leaders in the community who represent minority views. Programs like “Building Bridges” and community policing have strengthened and sustained good race relations. However, the City should not become complacent, and should continue to acknowledge that it’s an ongoing quest that can always be made better through vigilant outreach and advocacy. A minority advisory council of citizens and city staff might help fulfill this purpose.
6. How can the City support the health and well-being of residents and address racial health disparities?
While public health is primarily a County responsibility, the City should support efforts to provide accessible, affordable health care programs such as the Minnie Jones Health Center, and should loudly advocate for Medicaid expansion in North Carolina.
7. What can the City do to close education achievement gaps and promote school readiness?
The quality of early childhood education is the strongest predictor of school success and life opportunities. Facilitating and promoting a variety of options – making sites available for play & learn groups, partnering with Smart Start and Children First/CIS for community education, providing incentives for the development of additional high quality, affordable child care programs in under-served areas, continuing to invest in the City School’s preschool initiatives, and raising awareness through advocacy – are all realistic measures the City can and should endorse.
8. What is the role of City Council in addressing the affordability of Asheville for those that live and work here?
My emphasis is on local investments. Economic incentives are not just to attract outside-owned corporations; we should take stock of what it here and help it thrive. We have enough new development that has created a tourist economy. We need a strong, diverse economy that rewards and serves local interests. Council directs incentives and awards funds, and establishes its priorities through those decisions. At this juncture, the choice is more growth or better quality of life. I would choose the latter.