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2017 Asheville Election Calendar

Oct. 13 : Voter registration deadline

Oct. 19-Nov. 4 : Early voting & same-day registration

Oct. 31 : Last day to request absentee ballot

TUESDAY, NOV. 7: ELECTION DAY
(polls open 6:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.)

2017 Asheville Races

Mayor

City Council

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asheville City Council
Vote for 3 candidates in this race

Vijay Kapoor

campaign website

Background:
(submitted by candidate)

Grew up in Asheville; Own a small business that provides financial/budget analysis to municipalities across the country; Worked in state government; Have economics and public policy degrees from University of Chicago and law degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

Click to see question responses from Vijay Kapoor

What qualifications or approaches to city government make you the best candidate for this position?

I help municipalities with their finances for a living, so I have a strong budget background. I have spent my career helping governments as a public servant, an attorney and consultant. I understand local government and can ensure strong oversight.

How should the city measure progress on its Vision 2036 goals using “a racial equity lens to review and achieve our City’s strategic goals in health, education, housing and economic mobility?”

Having worked in and with local governments, good data and metrics are key to evaluating progress.  The Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) publishes a Racial Equity Scorecard that includes both outcomes and measureable indicators for these areas. We should be looking at this regionally in partnership with Buncombe County and non-profits.  

How important is affordable housing to Asheville’s future and how do you propose ensuring that the city maintains an adequate stock of affordable housing?

If Asheville wants to maintain its character, it must be a place that people of all means can afford to live. This means incentivizing affordable housing development near places of employment. It’s also important to work with neighborhoods to ensure that infrastructure (roads, sidewalks, transit) is there to support the new development to minimize opposition.

What is your vision for Asheville’s transit system in 10 years and what immediate steps should be taken to achieve your vision?

Because of rapid development without corresponding infrastructure improvement, traffic is a major problem throughout Asheville.  Improving the transit system so that people use it more will reduce traffic, improve access and be more environmentally friendly.  My vision is more frequent bus service throughout Asheville and I would support dedicated funding to pay for it.

What issue is NOT getting the attention it deserves from city government; how would you address it?

City government needs to be laser-focused on the needs of its residents and neighborhoods. Many of them are struggling and the City is not doing a good enough job of engaging them or listening to their needs. City Council needs to ensure that community input is taken seriously by staff in policy planning and execution.

Do you support or oppose the referendum to have six single-member districts for electing council members?

Oppose. Every voter should be able to vote for every Council member because that ensures accountability to the entire City.

Rich Lee

campaign website

Background:
(submitted by candidate)

I’m a financial planner, returned Peace Corps Volunteer, and 20-year WNC resident. My work as a community member and frequent board member has focused on improving transportation infrastructure, greenway planning, and elder advocacy.

Click to see question responses from Rich Lee

What qualifications or approaches to city government make you the best candidate for this position?

I’m known as a hard-working activist; a patient, honest broker who believes the best decisions are made with the participation of an informed and engaged electorate. People know they can trust me to give good information and explain my thinking.

How should the city measure progress on its Vision 2036 goals using “a racial equity lens to review and achieve our City’s strategic goals in health, education, housing and economic mobility?”

The only metric that matters on this goal, as far as I’m concerned, is if Asheville’s black population begins to grow again after decades of decline, and that growth is centered on middle and upper incomes. Job growth is a key aspect of that, but we also need to change our image.

How important is affordable housing to Asheville’s future and how do you propose ensuring that the city maintains an adequate stock of affordable housing?

Very. It’s how we stay ahead on traffic and, as importantly, growing inequality. One different approach I would take is incentivizing our existing, aging rental stock (~25% of city housing) managed by small landlords to keep rents down. I would look closely at whether incentivizing large developers to include affordable units is a viable strategy.

What is your vision for Asheville’s transit system in 10 years and what immediate steps should be taken to achieve your vision?

I see our system used by more locals, including those who could afford cars, and looking more like an large urban system in terms of frequency and convenience. For first steps, I’d partner with the county to extend routes outside city limits, and rezone along corridors like Patton and Tunnel for “transit-ready” development nodes.

What issue is NOT getting the attention it deserves from city government; how would you address it?

The city still struggles with transparency and engagement. They’re improving, but it’s clearly led to a growing mistrust (e.g., around budget and bonds, calls for police reform.) There’s no simple fix. You just have to be patient, straightforward, engaged, slow to anger, willing to explain, particularly to the overlooked parts of the city.

Do you support or oppose the referendum to have six single-member districts for electing council members?

I do not support the districts being imposed on the city by Senate Bill 285. I will be voting no to Raleigh meddling with our elections.

Kim Roney

campaign website

Background:
(submitted by candidate)

As a musician, server, activist and teacher with experience in the hotel industry, I understand what it means to live on stagnant, unreliable wages in a tourist economy. I have attended every City Council meeting except two since January 2015.

Click to see question responses from Kim Roney

What qualifications or approaches to city government make you the best candidate for this position?

I serve on Asheville's MMTC and Transit Committees, advocating for everyday people. We must courageously address affordability and public input while addressing racial equity and social justice concerns. My engagement has reflected these values when voting on Boards and Commissions.

How should the city measure progress on its Vision 2036 goals using “a racial equity lens to review and achieve our City’s strategic goals in health, education, housing and economic mobility?”

The current draft of the Comprehensive Plan that would lead us to these goals lacks real measurables, which are necessary if we are to address racial equity in regards to increased home ownership, increased graduation rates, lower infant mortality rates, increased representation on Boards & Commissions, and the growing wage gap. This must be addressed.

How important is affordable housing to Asheville’s future and how do you propose ensuring that the city maintains an adequate stock of affordable housing?

Asheville is at a critical turning point, with many people struggling to make ends meet. Until we stand firm on inclusionary zoning, we will continue to permit housing that isn’t affordable for the people of Asheville, which means we’ll continue to see a migration to the County, increasing parking and traffic issues.

What is your vision for Asheville’s transit system in 10 years and what immediate steps should be taken to achieve your vision?

A fare-free system will put much-needed transportation dollars back into the budgets of necessity riders. It is possible this will save the city operational costs by eliminating pending investment in new fare boxes. Anticipated increase in ridership will have a positive impact on traffic and parking, reflecting our goals for energy independence.

What issue is NOT getting the attention it deserves from city government; how would you address it?

The City needs to take a lead in exploration of the collaborative use of land trusts with limited-equity cooperatives to develop deeply affordable and mixed-use housing for renters and owners.

Do you support or oppose the referendum to have six single-member districts for electing council members?

No. It will lead to gerrymandering, especially in regards to race, and will pit neighborhoods against each other.

Sheneika E. Smith

campaign website

Background:
(submitted by candidate)

I’ve served on several boards; Parks and Recreation, YWCA, Center for Participatory Change, and Positive Changes. I also have notable leadership in this city through my organization Date My City, which can be leveraged to strengthen community-council relations.

Click to see question responses from Sheneika E. Smith

What qualifications or approaches to city government make you the best candidate for this position?

Our City is facing some major growing pains. As an Asheville native and an African-American woman dedicated to social and racial justice, I bring my lived experience and other unique perspectives to this position to help ensure that every citizen can benefit from the development of our community.

How should the city measure progress on its Vision 2036 goals using “a racial equity lens to review and achieve our City’s strategic goals in health, education, housing and economic mobility?”

Numbers don’t lie, and the work that Dr. Mullen has done at UNCA to detail the “State of Black Asheville” paints a stark picture of the disparity at work in our community. Progress towards racial equity should be measured tangibly by the improvement in such metrics as high school graduation rate and home ownership.

How important is affordable housing to Asheville’s future and how do you propose ensuring that the city maintains an adequate stock of affordable housing?

Affordable housing is essential to the livability of our City. As a member of Council, I would utilize bond money to increase the stock of affordable housing. I would grow the affordable housing trust fund, and prioritize public and private partnerships with key housing organizations and institutions.

What is your vision for Asheville’s transit system in 10 years and what immediate steps should be taken to achieve your vision?

I want to see a robust fare free transit system that operates nights and weekends in a timely fashion so that those citizens who keep our tourist industry running can rely on its services. To make this happen, I envision a dedicated funding stream tied as a percentage to the general fund.

What issue is NOT getting the attention it deserves from city government; how would you address it?

Transparency… City staff need to work harder to include citizen input and to open up the bureaucratic process to all voices. Decisions about the challenges we face in our community need to come from the bottom-up and not the top-down. I would strive hard to diversify the selection process for Boards and Commissions.

Do you support or oppose the referendum to have six single-member districts for electing council members?

No. Asheville is too small a City with too many concerns that effect all of us equally, to fall prey to gerrymandering could possibly pit neighborhoods against neighborhoods.

Dee Williams

campaign website

Background:
(submitted by candidate)

Degrees in Accounting, Business Administration, and Political Economics, respectively. Successful Ban the Box Campaigns which removed employment barriers from ex-felons and paid all employees living wages at Mission Health, followed by " box removal" by City of Asheville/Buncombe County.

Click to see question responses from Dee Williams

What qualifications or approaches to city government make you the best candidate for this position?

I listen to people to understand a problem, then use data to define problems, best practices, and to find solutions which can positively impact public policy and use " feed-back" loops to track tangible outcomes, then get public feedback.

How should the city measure progress on its Vision 2036 goals using “a racial equity lens to review and achieve our City’s strategic goals in health, education, housing and economic mobility?”

Data must be used with performance goals and measures for each category with milestones and periodic milestones to be reported back to the people for accountability.

How important is affordable housing to Asheville’s future and how do you propose ensuring that the city maintains an adequate stock of affordable housing?

It is critical, but there is already a huge deficiency. Establish community Land Trusts for permanent affordability, with various kinds of housing on city-owned land, HUD/public housing/land, and use CRA to get bank foreclosed property. I am leading an initiative right now in Southside Community of Asheville.

What is your vision for Asheville’s transit system in 10 years and what immediate steps should be taken to achieve your vision?

Provides maximum connectivity for Asheville's citizens who ride by choice and necessity and conveys them safely, efficiently, and on time to economic, social, and cultural activities. A transit/infrastructure fund which dedicates funds for transit, sidewalks, greenways, bike lanes, which are critical to transit use.

What issue is NOT getting the attention it deserves from city government; how would you address it?

Over-proliferation of low wage service sector jobs. Before permitting, negotiate Community Benefits Agreements with multi-national hoteliers/developers to pay a living wage, pay into infrastructure and affordable Housing Trust Funds, respectively.

Do you support or oppose the referendum to have six single-member districts for electing council members?

Support. Current at-large system produces weak minority candidates who have disregarded the needs of the black community, according to data.

Gwen Wisler

Background:
(submitted by candidate)

I’ve served on Asheville City Council since 2013 and as Vice Mayor since 2015. Prior to Council, I was an executive in consumer products companies; I was the CEO of The Coleman Company, an outdoor recreation product company.

Click to see question responses from Gwen Wisler

What qualifications or approaches to city government make you the best candidate for this position?

I am cooperative and thoughtful. I try to understand all points of view and withhold decisions until I’ve listened to all parties. My background in business enables me to guide a large organization such as the City of Asheville.

How should the city measure progress on its Vision 2036 goals using “a racial equity lens to review and achieve our City’s strategic goals in health, education, housing and economic mobility?”

Ultimately our residents will tell us how we’ve made progress. We’ve hired an Equity and Inclusion Manager; we’re in process of the Disparity Study and we will form a citizen committee, the Human Relations Committee by the end of 2017. These are good starts in a new-ending process.

How important is affordable housing to Asheville’s future and how do you propose ensuring that the city maintains an adequate stock of affordable housing?

This is a top priority. We are using many tools, the Housing Trust Fund, the LUIGI, density bonuses, changing our zoning to allow more density. The $25 million for affordable housing from our bond program will help. Government is only one part; we as a community must also encourage living wage jobs.

What is your vision for Asheville’s transit system in 10 years and what immediate steps should be taken to achieve your vision?

During my tenure, we have consistently increased our funding for transit and we’ve changed our transit management process. Before making any immediate changes, I want to allow the new transit management company and system (in effect in Fall 2017) to have a chance to get established.

What issue is NOT getting the attention it deserves from city government; how would you address it?

While it is getting some attention, we must continue to improve our communication with our residents and improve transparency. During my watch, we’ve adopted Open Data which helps people to use information. This has not only improved communication, it has saved the City money. A win-win!

Do you support or oppose the referendum to have six single-member districts for electing council members?

I will personally not be voting for the referendum. Asheville voters should decide this issue, not Raleigh.

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