Candidate: Dwight Butner

Occupation: Restaurateur (Vincenzo’s Ristorante)
Education: B.A. history, Eckerd College; trained paralegal
Political experience: Asheville Downtown Commission, Downtown Social Issues Task Force
Donors (top 3): Carl Ricker, $4,000; Chris Petersen, $4,000; Joe Kimmel, $3,000
Endorsements: Mountain Council for Accountable Development
If he were an animal, what would it be?: “A mountain goat. Mountain goats have to be smart and nimble to negotiate the terrain, yet their character is determined and strong. I’ll need all those qualities to be effective as the first-ever independent on Council.”

1) What are the best and worst steps City Council has taken in the past two years, and why?
Best: “Public forums on issues facing the city. … To unite as a community … we must get everyone to the table and speak honestly about our concerns.”
Worst: “Some [Council] members’ failure to support a sales-tax initiative providing funds for parks and greenways, affordable housing, public transportation and the Civic Center.”

2) What plan(s) do you support for the I-26 Connector project, and why?
“[If] the Asheville Design Center proposal is feasible and cost-effective, I support it. [It] offers a design that the community has united around, it is stronger from a land-use-planning standpoint, and it will be much more beautiful. My fallback would be 4-a, because it separates local and thru traffic.

3) What, if anything, should the city do to improve mass transit?
“You cannot have good mass transit without masses. The city’s population has only grown about 7 percent over the last six years, primarily because of the lack of [affordable] rentals and starter homes. The best [way] to improve ridership is make Asheville a better place to build those type structures.”

4) What specific measures, if any, should the city take to address environmental concerns?
“See [mass-transit] answer. Asheville is the No. 1 commuter city in North Carolina by population. People live in Old Fort (et al.) and drive here to work because of the lack of affordable rentals and starter homes. People living here will reduce the use of automobiles and help the environment.”

5) What’s your position on partisan elections?
“I believe that … voting for the person outweighs party affiliation. … People [offering] themselves for public service should all be [under] the same rules. … Democracy is best served when citizens [choose] how they want to elect their leaders. For these reasons, I support the referendum and nonpartisan elections.”

6) As a member of City Council, what would be your top three priorities?
“My top three priorities will be affordably priced rental- and starter-home construction; honoring and protecting neighborhood concerns and goals; and uniting the community through dialogue and a common vision for our collective future.”

7) What living national political figure do you most admire, and why?
“I admire Ross Perot because of his candor, energy and accurate vision of the consequences of NAFTA’s impact on manufacturing, jobs and the middle class.”

8) Under what circumstances, if any, would you support forced annexation?
“I support responsible annexation because I believe that people should not be allowed to inordinately benefit from the city’s prosperity and services without shouldering the responsibility for paying for the privilege.”

9) What steps, if any, do you support to promote affordable housing in Asheville?
“Implement a streamlined, comprehensible, enforceable UDO to attract local builders back inside the city limits. Increase funding of our local Housing Trust Fund. Raise the pricing thresholds on starter homes financed by the trust fund. And expand the use of participatory or ‘soft’ second mortgages to facilitate starter-home purchases.”

10) What most distinguishes you from your opponents?
“The fact that I am the only remaining independent/unaffiliated candidate. Because I was born Republican and lived 30 years as a Democrat, I think I can understand both groups’ concerns. On the other hand, I will be able to address Asheville’s challenges without the burden of party doctrine or dogma.

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