In light of recent events, how are we to address the accountability and responsibility police officers have in our community?
I think the City of Asheville missed a huge opportunity around “Justice for Jerry.” As you recall, Jerry Williams was killed by a local police officer. His murder was the first of a series of murders at the hands of police that spanned throughout the summer of 2016. Because law enforcement thought that his murder was justifiable because he was armed, I think we kind of skated it out of the accountability that the entire nation was going through under the leadership of Black Lives Matter and other similar movements. So we were pigeonholed again in this “status-quo” type of culture.
But on the back end of that there is still local movement around police accountability and reform. From the State of Black Asheville we found out that there is a lot of profiling and targeting during traffic stops that disproportionately affected black males. So out of that came four reforms that were presented to city council members. They were comprehensive reforms that were definitely doable……city council could have impressed upon our chief of police. Instead they skated out of the opportunity to utilize their authority and put it before the city attorney. Now, when you put reform bills and policy recommendations before the city attorney, the reforms that they present have to be defensible by law or its totally disregarded. Needless to say, this puts a huge burden on ordinary people who do have the mind of reform and evaluation. Those who should be assisted by the city attorney to translate reforms into workable law.
So I think we’re going to have to re-evaluate the way we process recommendations coming from community leaders, especially when they have the backing of a lot of research and results from other sister cities….. so that we can model reforms towards transformative policing.
Affordable housing has long been a hot topic of discussion but not something that has been addressed with action. How will approach this issue?
Well, we live in a community that’s being heavily gentrified and its following a tourism trend, where we are spend millions of dollars to advertise Asheville as the “place to be.” We are one of the hottest destinations right now in the world. Tourists come to Asheville, they love the culture that’s been presented or sold to them and they convert into residents; residents with a lot of cash. With this cash they bring a lot of influence and the ability to snatch houses off the market. And often times they make big improvements these homes making the land value and property taxes go up. This trend, among others, adversely affect historic residence and the elderly.
As I’ve been on the campaign trail I’ve heard a lot of different options to help rectify our housing crisis; options that are doable. You have your proponents for land trusting. Different people who are researching inclusionary zoning. Then some people are researching rent control. Then you have your mixed-use development. All of these are at play and honestly I don’t think that there is one that rises above the other. I think a cocktail of strategies will be necessary to the curb housing affordability issue in Asheville.
Asheville is represented as one of the greenest cities in the country, even though we are not even close to being one of the movement’s leaders. Are there active talks in implementing these green technologies? Where do you stand on this? Would you be in favor of initiatives?
Asheville is supposed to be an innovator in this region. We’re known as economic leaders in Western North Carolina. However, there are a lot of things going on in the surrounding counties that I’d like to see happen here. Haywood County is doing a good job at that. They have solar farms. I also just learned that Buncombe County put some seed money into possibly cultivating some type of solar farms here. I would like to see county and city partner to advance this interest.
Asheville is surrounded by beautiful natural spaces. However, in light of this sudden influx of growth, these spaces are in danger of being trampled on? New developments are not slowing down so do you propose to strike the right balance?
We have to be very careful because Asheville is known for our local foods which comes from our farm land area bordering the city/county. We have to be careful how we grow. And again, I think it all goes back to who we attract, if this is a destination spot for them or will they actually convert over into residents. But along with that there are other things happening in Asheville that would create sprawl. Not only the tourist/transplant aspect but policy-induced sprawl. Like the affordability issue, the transit issue, people’s access to good education and even our policing system. Take the low-wealth community in general, a set of individuals who live in the housing authority right now. Housing authority has transitioned to to a different federal program called RAD. Each family after a year of residency in housing gets a section 8 voucher. This would seems like a step up, but we have a number of families with vouchers, an opportunity in hand, but no where to use it in the city because of lack of vacancy, affordable housing and the stigma that’s placed on individuals who receive Section 8. Automatically we’re seeing those individuals being pushed out to the the county in high volumes. If this problem persist, alongside our untamed growth, we’ll see the loss of more of our green space. When you’re out of the city limits there is no regulation on how large or fast you develop…. threatening our open spaces and natural resource even more.
Where is the conversation on extending our public transit to a 24 hour public service? Are you in favor of extending hours?
Well my 9 to 5 is at Green Opportunities. We are a workforce development organization. We train individuals in the community who are unemployed or underemployed to enter different industries in the workforce. But having the skill and having the zeal to work is met with the obstacle of having adequate transit. Right here in front of this building near A&B Tech and Mission Hospital, the bus route in proximity to Mission Hospital stops around 8 o’clock. A number of opportunities, access to healthcare, jobs, food and family supports are cut off just because we have poor transit solutions. Yes, I definitely will be in favor of a 24 hour transit.
Nevertheless, we’ll need ridership programs to support our strategies in perpetuity, but it require a citywide community effort. At this juncture, I think the biggest problem with increasing our ridership is the general mindset of individual wealth and individual success instead of collective freedom. People who have vehicles would not give up their right and convenience to go and come as they please by way of their own car….to opt to jump on the bus for the greater good and for environmental benefits. We need to improve our ridership; choice riders denying their privilege in order to help greater needs of others. Once we improve our ridership then we can go after federal grants to support any type of transportation initiative that our neighbors need.
The service industry is the backbone to Asheville’s success. However the disparity between wages and costs of living has ranked 4th in the country as one of the top worse places to achieve the “American Dream.” Can we count on your support to alleviate this issue with increased wages?
I think it sounds good to increase the wages but honestly I think some smaller family businesses just can’t. I would like to see more community owned co-ops in this city. Where individuals might work a regular job in the service industry, but then they can come in plug, time and their talent, into more community-oriented businesses that will be supported by a collective. It’s the beginning of building community assets and economic independence.
There was a public access channel that permitted our community to have an outlet for expression, protest and celebration within our locality. Are you in favor in bringing proper funding for this program?
Well I’m a Mass Communication Major and I have worked in a television station for some time so I am definitely into finding support for our local broadcasting and production needs. I think it is very beneficial for our different communities not only to tell stories but to celebrate our histories and accomplishments. Giving children an outlet to be able to express themselves.
Asheville is surrounded by large academic and educational institutions. We have UNCA, Warren Wilson, Western Carolina and our Community College, even Asheville High, who has for a long time had a really strong television production department. I think using all of these different educational institutions in tandem with the artist and business sector as partners for this broadcast medium places us in the running for federal funding. That is something I can support.