Keith Thomson

Keith Thomson

Age: 45
Residence: near UNCA
Occupation: Computer-network-systems engineer, small-business owner
Years in Asheville: Since 1981, except to attend school in Chapel Hill
Education: B.A. (UNCA), M.A. (UNC-Chapel Hill)
Political party: Democrat
Political experience: Asheville City Schools (Budget Advisory Committee, Innovation Task Force, PTO president); Children First of Buncombe County; Asheville-Buncombe Clean Air Community Trust; YMI Cultural Center; Citizens for Safe Drinking Water and Air; 2025 City Plan Advisory Committee; many others.

1. Should the city or a regional authority own the water system?

“The city should own the system. … Whether ultimately the city or a regional authority manages the system, it should be bound by a charter to protect the watershed and quality of the water, invest in infrastructure improvements, and participate in comprehensive planning of water, sewer and other public improvements.”

2. Do you agree with the decision to hold closed meetings concerning the Water Agreement, such as last April’s city/county mediation session?

“No, nor do I think that it was an effective strategy to reach an agreement that needs to resolve the issue completely and fairly.”

3. Is the Asheville Police Department’s current citizen-complaint process adequate?

“Yes. I think that we need to uphold high professional standards for our law-enforcement officials, and we need to practice ways to honor and reward their service to the community.”

4. Would you ever support using eminent domain other than for public-works projects? Under what circumstances?

“I do not support condemnation of private property to be transferred to a private developer. There are, of course, instances where public works require the use of eminent domain for legitimate purposes, in which case fair compensation should be provided.”

5. City staff have documented several recent cases of developers violating the Unified Development Ordinance or conditions of their permits, but no fines have been issued. Should these rules be more strictly enforced?

“We need … to enforce them. … [Some] developers have flouted rules and practically dared the city to enforce them. That contributes to a climate in which some promises have failed to be honored. We should require a performance bond to ensure fulfillment of permit conditions to protect neighboring citizens.”

6. What, specifically, would you recommend doing with the Asheville Civic Center?

“Renovate and upgrade the existing location as a performing-arts and entertainment venue. Enlist N.C. legislative delegation to create revenue sources (including room, food and beverage taxes) so [non-city residents pay their share]. Keeping it in the heart of the city saves public infrastructure expenses and supports existing and new businesses.”

7. Name one thing the current City Council should be proud of, and one thing it should be ashamed of.

“I think they made a good choice of Gary Jackson as the new city manager. The lack of focus and consistency of decisions resulting from the current mix of personalities and agendas of Council members is unfortunate. I hope we can change that with a new Council … in November.”

8. An N.C. DOT study indicates that six lanes can accommodate the projected traffic on the I-26 connector. What, if anything, would you do to prevent the DOT from building an eight-lane connector?

“Our federal budget mess will prevent the construction of an eight-lane connector. [Asheville] must … provide leadership and staff support to hasten the DOT fixing the I-40 and I-26 interchange, and push for construction of bridges and interchanges to remove interstate traffic from the Smokey Park bridges.”

9. Name one positive trend downtown, and one negative trend.

“Healthy growth of locally owned small businesses supported by local citizens and visitors from throughout the country and world is a positive trend. Bele Chere has grown too large and needs to be reviewed to assure that it upholds the needs of our community and our healthy growth.”

10. What can Asheville do to cope with high energy prices and projected energy shortages in the coming years?

“Methodically invest in energy-efficient technologies and local renewable fuels for lighting, heating and cooling, transportation and other energy uses that will save money, reduce pollution and set an example for citizens, business owners and consumers. … The resulting increase in employment and security make this all the more needed.”

11. Would you support increasing the local hotel/motel room tax? Why or why not?

“I support seeking the Legislature to pass it. … With investments in infrastructure and public amenities like a Civic Center with an adequate performing-arts and entertainment venue, and conference and exhibition facilities, we will be an even greater attraction to visitors. City … taxpayers should not bear the cost alone.”

12. What political figure from the past or present do you most wish to emulate?

“Former Gov. Terry Sanford … led North Carolina to aspire to a ‘good-neighbor policy’ in dealing with conflict. … I think we need a good-neighbor policy … in our city, Buncombe County and [beyond]. We ignore [our] broad, common ground … at our mutual peril and expense.”

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