This is it the fifth 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 APD Officer Mike Lanning.
1) Do you have confidence in City Manager Gary Jackson and the overall city administration? Why or why not? What would you change?
For starters I have no confidence in our city’s elected officials, which actually delegate the policy and direction to our city manager, who initiates them.
I believe in government accountability and transparency and I don’t think we have that now.
If elected, I would work with our legislature to try to get the personnel laws in North Carolina amended or changed, just for government employees so there would be transparency and files would be open. The public, the citizens, would be able to review actions by our elected officials and our government officials. As far as the private sector, I don’t think those rules should be changed, but since taxpayer money would be paying for my salary and that of the other elected officials, I think we should have that transparency.
As for Gary Jackson, I’m the only candidate who’s worked for Mr. Jackson, and he’s a very soft-spoken, decent man who I personally like. While serving as the Asheville chapter president of the PBA [Police Benevolent Association], I met with Mr. Jackson on many occasions, and he always had an open-door policy with me, he always listened to my concerns. I’m not saying that he would always take my side on issues, but he listened.
That said, the Asheville City Manager — any of them — will tell you this: they only count to four. What that really means is that the city manager will follow the instructions or implement whatever the majority of Council wants done.
When elected, he [Jackson] would also implement the changes that a new Council wants, so I do have confidence in him.
2) What’s the city’s most underserved population? What would you do to help them?
The poor and the elderly. There’s a large population of eldelry out there that probably require and need city services, but they never call. It’s just the way they were brought up, to be self-sufficient, and a lot of them are too proud to ask for any help. The problem is, to help them first you have to be notified, and in most cases, that doesn’t occur.
You could implement programs like the community watch the police department initiates. The police or the city could implement a community watch that’s more involved in the elderly community or the community centers where a lot of these people go and spend their time.
3) Are the city’s development policies too loose, too restrictive, or just right? What would you change?
With small business development, if you talk to anyone that’s built a building and a business here in Asheville, the first thing they’ll tell you is that the ordinances and the policies are restrictive. The building codes, the sign ordinances in Asheville are probably some of the most restrictive in the state.
To try to solve those problems, I would try to receive input from those who know best, which is the small business owners. The community and I would discuss those issues and I would have Council members and city staff review them.
The big issue coming up is neighborhood development. I’m concerned about the future of development efforts in the coming years. If we must build to build our tax base, and build densely, I’m afraid of what Asheville will look like in the future, and I’m afraid if we continue to do that, it will hurt people relocating to Asheville, and it will hurt the beauty of Asheville.
I’m for recruiting more business, larger companies to locate here, which will help take the tax burden off homeowners in Asheville, who right now bear that burden.
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?
Before there’s any increase in funding for mass transportation, I’d have to have staff review and look at the numbers of people who are actually using it to see if it’s cost-effective.
I’m not in favor of raising any taxes or any tax increase, and I really don’t agree with the spending priorities of the current Council. I think a full budget review would need to be completed and priorities set to keep taxes as low as we can for our citizens.
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 do not currently support any bond referendum. I think first we should review and change our spending habits, for example: the $2 million that were spent for the Art Museum.
I think Asheville’s infrastructure is deeply in need of repair, and I think the priorities of Council should be addressing that in the future and providing those basic services we should be providing as a city.