Photo by Max Cooper.
This is it the third in a series of interviews with this year’s Asheville City Council candidates. Xpress will both run the interviews here and use them for our upcoming voter guide, and all candidates were asked the same five questions. This interview is with former Coleman CEO and business owner Gwen Wisler
1) Do you have confidence in City Manager Gary Jackson and the overall city administration? Why or why not? What would you change?
In general yes, I would say I have confidence in Gary Jackson. What I’m hearig out in the community is that the city could be a lot more customer service-oriented, that we’re still sort of reliant on the squaeky wheel management philosophy. I would try to push Gary to improve on that, responding to the first call as opposed to requiring citizens to call three and four times.
I think [staff needs to] allow citizens to have access to the decision-making process, maybe by putting that online. I know we’ve got priorities relative to what streets and sidewalks are taken care of, and in what order. I think that could be published so citizens could see where their street or sidewalk is on the list, just making information and the decision-making process a little more easily accessible.
2) What’s the city’s most underserved population? What would you do to help them?
I’d have to say that it’s the African-American community. I think continuing to work with the housing authority to make sure the living conditions in some of the housing projects are improved and even potentially looking at how we could eliminated some of those housing projects and move folks into more traditional housing.
Also, I think continuing to work on bringing higher-paying, living wage jobs to Asheville and encouraging those employers to focus on that population [would help].
3) Are the city’s development policies too loose, too restrictive, or just right? What would you change?
I think as written the policies are about right. I don’t think that they’re applied consistently, and I don’t think they’re as easily understood as they could be. I would push toward looking at the language and helping people navigate, so they don’t have to read through so much to even figure out if a particular ordinance even applies to them.
What I’ve heard that what can happen is that two different people within the planning department have two different interpretations of the same rule. So when I’ve talked to developers, they say they’ve gotten it approved by one person and then one person looks at it and then they have a different opinion.
I’m really interested in the work on form-based zoning that’s going on in West Asheville. If that’s a success, then I’d like to see that implemented throughout Asheville.
4) Do you favor increasing funding for mass transit? If so, what other expenditures would you cut, or what taxes and fees would you increase, to raise the money?
I think the current budget for mass transit will help. Right now I’m looking at making sure we hold on to those dollars and don’t get those dollars taken away by other projects.
5) Do you favor a bond referendum to address Asheville’s infrastructure needs? If so, what specific projects should the money be used for?
I don’t currently have an opinon on that. I’d like to study it.
If there were a bond referendum I’d like to spend more money on mass transit; that would be what I’d go for. But I’d really to see how that works and really look at it in comparison to the rest of the city’s debt. I would just really need to study it more.