Voter guide to District 2 Buncombe County Commissioner candidates

Voter guide to District 2 Buncombe County Commissioner candidates-attachment0

This post features responses to the Xpress questionnaire from the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners candidates in District 2. (Pictured here from left to right: Ellen Frost, Mike Fryar, Christina Merrill, Carol Peterson).

The district includes much of the eastern part of the county, including Fairview, Black Mountain, and Weaverville. For a basic guide to the new district election system, scroll to the bottom of this page. See the responses to our questionnaire from other local candidates on Xpress’ Politics & Election page.

Ellen Frost

Slogan: “Ellen Frost for Buncombe”
Website: http://EllenFrostforbuncombe.com
Occupation: Owner/operator of Bed & Biscuit Pet Spa
Residence: Black Mountain
Top three donors: Ken Brame, Don Collins, Tom Sobol
Total raised as of Sept. 1: $13,000
Endorsements: Sierra Club, NCAE, labor unions

1. Do you support raising, maintaining or decreasing the commissioners’ total compensation, including all stipends and allowances? Why?

I support maintaining the current rate. The current board of commissioners adjusted the salary, stipends and compensation and with this adjustment, I believe it is a fair salary.

2. Do you support or oppose holding a bond referendum next year to fund implementation of the county’s Greenways and Trails Master Plan? Why?

I fully support completion of our greenways, and if the public wanted to vote on it, I would support a referendum.

3. Should sexual orientation/gender identity be added to the list of protected classes in the county’s personnel ordinance? Why or why not?

Yes, absolutely.

4. Should the county adjust the tax rate to keep property-tax revenues neutral? Why or why not?

I would support a revenue-neutral tax rate as long as it includes the growth.

5. Do you support requiring residents in unincorporated parts of the county to pay for trash and recycling pickup? Why or why not?

I fully support and would hope to exhaust every option to increase the amount of recycling in the county. However, before we impose this requirement, we must have citizens’ input and obviously make sure the rate was fair.

Christina Kelley G. Merrill

Slogan: “Your Voice that’s Missing on the Commission”
Website: www.christinagmerrill.com
Occupation: Marketing, production and PR exec
Residence: Fairview
Top three donors: Alan Sheppard, J. Loyd Kirk, John Teeter
Total raised as of Sept. 1: About $7,000
Endorsements: Buncombe Forward, Board of Education member Lisa Baldwin, iCaucus

1. Do you support raising, maintaining or decreasing the commissioners’ total compensation, including all stipends and allowances? Why?

The Buncombe County commissioners’ pay should be in line with other [boards of commissioners] in the state that have the same constituent population, as well as the same work hours and job criteria. If the pay is higher, then it should be adjusted along with other county employee salaries.

2. Do you support or oppose holding a bond referendum next year to fund implementation of the county’s Greenways and Trails Master Plan? Why?

Opposed: Our county needs to focus on reducing debt and the tax burden on our citizens instead of incurring more! All of our county citizens should have been given the opportunity to have a vote in the cycling/jogging pathway plan that will cost us over $30 million!

3. Should sexual orientation/gender identity be added to the list of protected classes in the county’s personnel ordinance? Why or why not?

I do not believe that anyone should be discriminated against or “bullied” for any reason. Sexual orientation/gender identity is currently protected under our county’s personnel ordinance, in which it states, “Buncombe County is committed to a work environment that is free from harassment and discrimination.”

4. Should the county adjust the tax rate to keep property-tax revenues neutral? Why or why not?

The county has been diligent about increasing property taxes as values rose; when the real estate market collapsed, the established four-year assessment was “skipped.” If there is a precedent to re-evaluate every four years, then that’s what should happen, in the best interest of our citizens vs. budget.

5. Do you support requiring residents in unincorporated parts of the county to pay for trash and recycling pickup? Why or why not?

No, I support a free-market economy, and I support the people controlling the government vs. the government controlling the people.

Mike Fryar

Slogan: “Working for the taxpayers of Buncombe County.”
Website: http://mikefryar.com
Occupation: Wholesale auto dealer
Residence: Fairview
Top three donors: James Young, Paul Young, Bart Ramsey
Total raised as of Sept. 1: Approximately $11,600.
Endorsements: Nathan Ramsey

1. Do you support raising, maintaining or decreasing the commissioners’ total compensation, including all stipends and allowances? Why?

Decreasing these allowances due to their compensation/stipends were in excess of other commissioners throughout the state. This should be to serve the citizens of Buncombe County and not for personal financial gain.

2. Do you support or oppose holding a bond referendum next year to fund implementation of the county’s Greenways and Trails Master Plan? Why?

I am not in favor of a bond referendum because presently, we are holding almost $400 million in bonds for current projects. With the slow economy, we should not be taking on more debt at this time.

3. Should sexual orientation/gender identity be added to the list of protected classes in the county’s personnel ordinance? Why or why not?

No. Buncombe County already has a nondiscrimination policy in place. I am not aware of any discrimination in the county based on sexual orientation/gender identity.

4. Should the county adjust the tax rate to keep property-tax revenues neutral? Why or why not?

No. If the property values are less, the rate should not increase to make the property-tax revenues neutral. Revenue-neutral means that rates could increase from 52.5 cents to 60 cents per $100. If the property values increase, 60 cents per $100 would increase the tax for property owners.

5. Do you support requiring residents in unincorporated parts of the county to pay for trash and recycling pickup? Why or why not?

No. Some residents in areas do not have trash and recycling services available. Unless this becomes a problem, I see no reason to require this service.

• Editor’s note: Democratic incumbent commissioner Carol Peterson declined to respond to the Xpress questionnaire.

A basic guide to the new Buncombe County district election system

Last year, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law changing the system used to elect members of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners.

Previously, voters throughout the entire county elected four members and a chair to four-year terms on the board. The top-five vote-getters won.

But for this year, voters have been divided in to three districts, which correspond to the county’s three Statehouse districts. District 1 (corresponding to House District 114) roughly follows the borders of Asheville. District 2 (corresponding to House District 115) includes much of the eastern part of the county, from Fairview and Black Mountain to Weaverville. And District 3 (corresponding to House District 116) lies mostly to the west of town, stretching from Arden in the south to Sandymush in the northwest.

Each voter will be asked to choose two commissioners (who must live within that district), plus the board chair, who’ll still be elected countywide. This will expand the board to include six members and a chair.

In each district, the candidate receiving the most votes in 2012 will serve a four-year term; the other winner will be up for re-election in 2014. After that, all commissioners will serve four-year terms, and each district will elect one commissioner every two years.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning writer and reporter who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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