Only one thing is certain in this year’s Asheville City Council contest: A change is going to come. Of the three incumbents whose terms expire at the end of 2020, Keith Young alone is running to keep his seat. Julie Mayfield instead filed for the N.C. Senate District 49 race, while Brian Haynes is stepping down to focus on social and environmental justice activism, paving the way for at least two newcomers to join the council.
The nine candidates running in the primary field offer voters a range of choices regarding just how much change they’d like to see. Several hopefuls from activist backgrounds are calling for big shifts to city business — Shane McCarthy would commit to communitywide carbon neutrality by 2030, Kim Roney includes participatory budgeting in her campaign platform, and Nicole Townsend advocates reparations for community members harmed by the city’s history of redlining.
Others, including the three candidates endorsed by Mayor Esther Manheimer, look to refine rather than disrupt city systems. Sandra Kilgore, Rich Lee and Sage Turner all plan to address Asheville’s affordable housing problems through better use of existing tools such as a revamped Unified Development Ordinance, public-private partnerships and the city’s community land trust.
Two political newcomers round out the field: Kristin Goldsmith and Larry Ray Baker. The former was the first candidate to declare her run, announcing in May 2019, while the latter is both the youngest candidate (at 23) and the only registered Republican in the nonpartisan race.
Xpress hosted a forum for all nine candidates at A-B Tech on Feb. 5, when each got the chance to share their positions more deeply. (See “Hot seat,” Feb. 12, Xpress.) The full event is available online thanks to Sunshine Request at avl.mx/6xg.
The name of each candidate is linked to their responses in the post:
- Larry Ray Baker
- Kristen Goldsmith
- Sandra Kilgore
- Rich Lee
- Shane McCarthy
- Kim Roney
- Nicole Townsend
- Sage Turner
- Keith Young
Website: N/A at this moment
Occupation: Security officer
Key endorsements: Did not respond
Amount of money raised: Did not respond
Top three donors: Did not respond
What makes Asheville home to you? Being born and raised in the amazing city of Asheville, I have seen the city in many lights, but at the same time, it has always been here for me. While the city and people might change, the atmosphere is here to stay. What really makes Asheville home are the people and the sense of community you can feel in a lot of the city.
Name three achievable goals you would champion in the next two years. Transparency in government, addressing the numerous infrastructure needs, seeking more moderate growth and, most importantly, affordable housing.
Which recent City Council budget decision(s) do you disagree with, and what would you have done differently? I disagree with most things that have happened in the past year, with Wanda Greene and many more taking taxpayers’ dollars. Their model for constantly increasing density to meet tax revenues to meet infrastructure growth is flawed and not working. There seems to be a constant “fuzzy math” over our budget and the bond issue moneys.
How will you as a City Council member help Ashevilleans cope with the rising cost of living? Fund Asheville’s 100% Renewable Energy Resolution and Transit Master Plan starting in next year’s city budget. Shut down the Asheville coal plant and encourage Duke Energy to invest in energy efficiency programs. Buncombe County’s energy usage continues to increase, and energy demand is highest on the coldest days of winter. If this pattern continues at the current rate, a new natural gas plant would need to be built to serve Buncombe County to meet the highest peak demand in winter.
How will you balance Asheville’s growth while protecting the quality of life for current residents and the city’s unique identity? We must renew what is already special in Asheville and add quality in new ways. This is especially true in regard to infrastructure: our parks, streets and sidewalks. We must reinforce the integrity of our residential neighborhoods, continue to attract employers and great jobs that value community and continue to elevate our commitment to the environment and to sustainability.
What actions would you support for Asheville to fight climate change and meet its 100% renewable energy goal by the established deadline of 2030? Hopefully I can help with assisted living and Section 8 in Asheville. Right now, the wait times are so high that people have to wait months on a waitlist and possibly never get called or notified in time that a place of residence has opened up for them. But I personally hope to meet up with HUD one day and see if they have any plans to help moderate the current oppressive living rate in Asheville at this time.
Occupation: Retail manager
Previous candidacy or offices held: Democratic Party Precinct 15.1 Chair
Key endorsements: Equality North Carolina, Run for Something
Amount of money raised: Did not answer
Top three donors: Virginia Behrens, Matthew Cole, Sherry Goldsmith*
What makes Asheville home to you? The creativity and warmth of our people. I believe in our aspirational values of equity and inclusion and I want to see us build a city that lives up to those values.
Name three achievable goals you would champion in the next two years. I’ll call for a fundamental overhaul of our Unified Development Ordinance in order to achieve more equity and sustainability in our community and to help us achieve our goals for affordable housing. I’ll direct the city manager to issue RFPs for city-owned land for the development of permanently affordable housing. I’ll establish a partnership with Buncombe County to develop fare-free public transit.
Which recent City Council budget decision(s) do you disagree with, and what would you have done differently? I disagree with the decision to delay full implementation of Year 1 of the Transit Master Plan. I would have aggressively lobbied the TDA to provide funding to help implement Year 1 by demonstrating the benefits of transit for not only our residents, but also our visitors. City Council needs to be more assertive in advocating for TDA funding of projects that serve our community’s needs.
How will you as a City Council member help Ashevilleans cope with the rising cost of living? By rewriting our zoning policies, we can bring more equity to our neighborhoods with the inclusion of multifamily housing in our single-family neighborhoods. A mixture of incomes is the best tool to increase supply, bring down overall costs and fight gentrification. I’ll also advocate for a program to incentivize property owners to build ADUs [accessory dwelling units] specifically for long-term renters with housing choice vouchers, and I’ll encourage the use of city-owned land for the development of permanently affordable housing.
How will you balance Asheville’s growth while protecting the quality of life for current residents and the city’s unique identity? As a former architect, I not only understand the importance of responsible and sustainable development, but I’m uniquely capable of ensuring that those who wish to develop here do so with the interests of the community in mind. As someone who knows firsthand what it’s like to struggle to make a living in Asheville, I’ll prioritize policies and development that put our people first, bringing equity to our neighborhoods and building more affordable housing.
What actions would you support for Asheville to fight climate change and meet its 100% renewable energy goal by the established deadline of 2030? I support installing solar panels on all city-owned buildings to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. I’ll partner with Buncombe County to develop fare-free public transit and park and ride facilities to reduce the numbers of cars on the road. I’ll support funding for more bike lanes and greenways and I’ll prioritize projects that integrate transit with large-scale development. Finally, I support creating an urban forest master plan and hiring an urban forester to protect and increase our tree canopy.
*Editor’s note: Top donors added at 12:52 p.m. on Feb. 27 at Kristin Goldsmith’s request.
Occupation: Broker/owner, Kilgore & Associates Real Estate
Previous candidacy or offices held: No
Key endorsements: Mayor Esther Manheimer; City Council member Vijay Kapoor; Gene Bell, former director of the Asheville Housing Authority; Matthew Bacoate
Amount of money raised: Did not respond
Top three donors: Did not respond
What makes Asheville home to you? I was fortunate to be born and raised in Asheville. I grew up in Southside and attended Livingston Elementary (Arthur Edington Educational Center). I graduated Asheville School and attended UNCA. I have many fond memories of Asheville, and most of my immediate family stills resides here. I own a boutique real estate office blocks from where I grew up as a child. This is my home.
Name three achievable goals you would champion in the next two years? One solution to affordable housing I would explore is a co-op relationship among the city, county and private investors to make it a win-win for all involved. I would promote the tax advantages of investing in Qualified Opportunity Zones to increase development in economically disadvantaged areas. I would do outreach to attract and retain businesses that are a good fit with the synergy of Asheville and provide living wages to increase the city’s tax base and reduce unemployment.
Which recent City Council budget decision(s) do you disagree with, and what would you have done differently? I am in agreement with many of the budget decisions; however, I feel more funds should be allocated to combat homelessness in the city. I feel that it is growing problem we need to address and get under control to keep it from spreading.
How will you as a City Council member help Ashevilleans cope with the rising cost of living? This is a good time to look at renewable energy companies as possible partners and incentivize startups that are paying living wages. I also feel the need to bring in larger and more diverse companies and businesses paying living wages. An increase in income would give many residents a pathway to homeownership. This would not only add to the economic growth of the community but would also increase the overall tax base, which would provide more funds for social needs.
How will you balance Asheville’s growth while protecting the quality of life for current residents and the city’s unique identity? I feel that Council is on the right track in seeking outside consultants like the Urban Land Institute to come in and provide additional information before making many decisions concerning growth. I would like to have access to that information before offering my opinion as to balancing the growth while protecting the life for current residents and retaining the city’s unique identity.
What actions would you support for Asheville to fight climate change and meet its 100% renewable energy goal by the established deadline of 2030? Education is paramount for ensuring the community understands how the little things we can do reduce the carbon footprint. Adding thousands of canopy trees throughout the community would help immensely. Increasing the number of electric buses in our transit system would reduce stress on our infrastructure and play a huge role in reducing the carbon footprint in the city. The city could also invest in bringing in more solar farms and promoting solar alternatives for residents.
Occupation: Financial adviser
Previous candidacy or offices held: Ran for Asheville City Council in 2015 and 2017
Key endorsements: N.C. District 115 Rep. John Ager; Mayor Esther Manheimer; Teamsters International; Karen Cragnolin, RiverLink founder
Amount of money raised: $5,700
Top three donors: Sandra Lee, Teamsters, Bernard Arghiere
What makes Asheville home to you? This has been home my whole adult life. I met my wife here and built my career here. My children were born here and go to city schools. I love the architecture, the mountain scenery and the small-town vibe, but it’s the neighborhoods and people that make it feel like home. The creative, close-knit people and the communities we build here, the ways we engage and chip in. If all else changed, that’s what I’d want to protect.
Name three achievable goals you would champion in the next two years. 1.) Launch Asheville’s long-overdue zoning overhaul. Much of what we experience as the worsening of life here — poorly planned development overtaxing our infrastructure, the lack of affordable housing, the concentration of our economy in hotels and tourism, the loss of tree canopy — comes down to zoning that hasn’t been updated this century. 2.) Invest in our sidewalks, roads, bus and water systems until they work. 3.) Work to get hotel taxes directed to local needs instead of only promoting tourism.
Which recent City Council budget decision(s) do you disagree with, and what would you have done differently? City Council chose not to prioritize our development policies; I would have funded an overhaul of our Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) to prioritize affordable housing on transit corridors, protect and plant trees and keep neighborhoods walkable and climate resilient. City Council also chose not to fully fund operations of our community’s first land trust. With adequate staff and resources, this could be a critical tool in fighting gentrification and creating permanent affordability. I support it, and so should Council.
How will you as a City Council member help Ashevilleans cope with the rising cost of living? In my profession, we say rising incomes are the best way to counter rising costs. On Council, I will focus on increasing higher-wage job opportunities and giving more Asheville residents an equity stake in the city’s growth, whether that’s through down-payment assistance, diversified housing, land banks or land trusts. I’ll continue to improve the transit system, our sidewalks and bike lanes, and I’ll work to close food deserts so we can offset our higher housing costs with lower transportation costs.
How will you balance Asheville’s growth while protecting the quality of life for current residents and the city’s unique identity? Look at what feels like home here. It’s not the number of buildings. It’s people. It’s the physical and cultural fabric of the city. Asheville will continue attracting people. But it can still feel like Asheville if we make it possible for all our residents to thrive here. That requires attracting high-wage jobs, planning for affordable housing and improving student outcomes, in addition to managing our budget to take care of the basics: water, roads, transportation and city services.
What actions would you support for Asheville to fight climate change and meet its 100% renewable energy goal by the established deadline of 2030? Reduce urban sprawl with smart zoning and thoughtful development where the city can handle it. Make our infrastructure climate resilient to handle more frequent flooding and limit heedless construction that contributes to stormwater runoff and overburdens our systems. Convert city buildings and vehicles to renewable power. Reduce car dependency with reliable transit and comprehensive sidewalks and greenways. Lobby our local energy monopoly for more renewables and alternatives like home solar. Grow and protect trees to reduce the heat-island effect.
Occupation: Construction manager
Previous candidacy or offices held: Elected secretary of East End/Valley Street Neighborhood Association for 2019
Key endorsements: Ponkho Bermejo, co-director of Beloved Asheville; Brad Rouse, executive director of Energy Savers Network; Daniel Suber, youth coordinator at Asheville Writers in the Schools and Community; Cathy Walsh, member of the Asheville Tree Protection Task Force, Blue Ridge Naturalist Society and Elisha Mitchell Audubon Society
Amount of money raised:$2,923.00
Top three donors: Myself, Janet Price, Dan Collins
What makes Asheville home to you? I was born and raised here, but I left for a few years to attend N.C. State University for civil engineering. Raleigh was all right, but it just didn’t feel like home. After graduation, I was drawn back to Asheville by our mountains and natural beauty, by our arts and culture. Most of all, I couldn’t stay away from family, lifelong friends and the deeply connected community networks that make up our city.
Name three achievable goals you would champion in the next two years. Raise minimum city employee pay to $15 per hour. It is absurd that we have firefighters who are putting their lives on the line for less than a living wage. Change the fact that Asheville is ranked as one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians, drivers and cyclists. Implement a tree protection ordinance to stop the rapid decline of our tree canopy.
Which recent City Council budget decision(s) do you disagree with, and what would you have done differently? Last year, City Council declined to fund extended hours for transit. Our bus system is vital for the workers who keep our city running. However, the bus often doesn’t run late enough to get our service and retail workers home at night. A functioning transit system is essential — without it, we can’t compete with other cities for good-paying jobs. When I’m on City Council, I will fully fund our transit system to bring it into the 21st century.
How will you as a City Council member help Ashevilleans cope with the rising cost of living? Remove barriers to homeownership by expanding the down-payment assistance program and the community land trust program. Build housing that’s affordable to those who need it most: people who have low incomes or are at risk of homelessness. If private developers won’t build affordable housing, the city can build it ourselves. Allow alternative methods of affordable housing, such as new manufactured homes that are built to modern energy standards.
How will you balance Asheville’s growth while protecting the quality of life for current residents and the city’s unique identity? I’ve talked to so many locals who have lived here their whole lives and feel like we are becoming a tourist town. We’ve seen a huge boom of hotels and tourist spots. We need to steer new growth in a different direction. Asheville can do this by attracting good-paying jobs from other industries. On City Council, I will lead this effort by investing in our community: affordable housing, our water system, our environment and our transportation systems.
What actions would you support for Asheville to fight climate change and meet its 100% renewable energy goal by the established deadline of 2030? This “100% goal” is currently for municipal buildings only — just 1% of total energy use. We need to act much more aggressively to match the scale of the climate crisis. I will commit Asheville to a goal of citywide carbon neutrality by 2030. We will start by retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency, building local renewable power which creates green, good-paying jobs, lobbying the state to break Duke Energy’s monopoly on electricity and protecting our tree canopy.
Occupation: Piano teacher, server
Previous candidacy or offices held: Ran for Asheville City Council in 2017
Key endorsements: City Council members Shenika Smith and Brian Haynes; Rev. Amy Cantrell, co-director of Beloved Asheville; Chef Gene Ettison; Julio Torodya; Magaly Urdialis, sustainability coordinator for the Center for Participatory Change
Amount of money raised: $7,336
Top three donors: Kendall Oliver, Esther Cartwright, Dr. Lisabeth Medlock
What makes Asheville home to you? The community of Asheville: my family, friends and neighbors. After 13 years here, I better understand what community means. I recently knocked on the door of the home where my great-grandmother was born in Kenilworth in 1910, and as I think about long-term accountability, I consider my now-adult students I’ve known since they were in elementary school. I’m already being held accountable, which is why I’m inviting community to join in this work to Be ‘Bout it Being Better.
Name three achievable goals you would champion in the next two years. With courageous leadership and collaboration, we are capable of moving toward a fare-free, regional transit system, which is at the intersection of equitable access, economic mobility and environmental sustainability; deeply affordable housing through creative, cooperative solutions; and a participatory democracy and budgeting process that ensures the people are heard in our budget and policy decisions.
How will you as a City Council member help Ashevilleans cope with the rising cost of living? I’ll hold a higher standard through example for city employees, advocating for a $15 base rate and paid family leave while maintaining our living wage policy. We must address equity in our schools and community so we can attract quality jobs and retain our people being gentrified out. Saying no gives value to yes, so I won’t waver on affordability requirements for new development and will join in guiding processes, policies and UDO updates to ensure alignment with community values.
How will you balance Asheville’s growth while protecting the quality of life for current residents and the city’s unique identity? We must tackle the spending of our tax dollars on tourism marketing, coordinating with the county and state to change our occupancy tax allocation and use. Our neighbors serving on the Tourism Development Authority need to join us in drastically changing, or the TDA must be abolished. We need these resources for infrastructure, deeply affordable housing, a downtown shuttle and park and ride service to get ourselves and visitors around without cars and a leap forward in accessibility and sidewalks.
What actions would you support for Asheville to fight climate change and meet its 100% renewable energy goal by the established deadline of 2030? Since climate change is our biggest public safety issue, we’ll update our Comprehensive Plan so budget, policy and planning decisions address resiliency with an equity lens and thorough public engagement. We’ll coordinate with the county on renewables and transit corridor density planning and ensure our future city bonds are leveraged to partner on neighborhood resiliency, ending food deserts and getting our entire community to 100%, which will increase quality jobs for our community in a Green New Deal for Asheville.
Previous candidacy or offices held: N/A
Key endorsements: City Council members Shenika Smith and Brian Haynes; Rev. Amy Cantrell, co-director of Beloved Asheville; Cortina Jenelle, poet, speaker and facilitator; Chef Gene Ettison; Equality North Carolina
Amount of money raised: $15,824.04
Top three donors: Nicole Townsend (Self), Katheryn Shem, Amy Mandel
What makes Asheville home to you? The people. There is a feeling of deep love and deep community here in Asheville. Hundreds of community members have seen me during the moments when I couldn’t see myself. The people here are fighters and deep lovers. Due to white supremacy and the need to flee from home, my family has a complicated relationship with home as a geographic location. Asheville is home to me because it is where my people are.
Name three achievable goals you would champion in the next two years. Expanding upon the written consent policy so that it includes pedestrians and bicyclists. Work in collaboration with educators and Buncombe County commissioners to pass a resolution in support of the public school budget request that has been put before the North Carolina legislature. Increase Asheville’s tree canopy and reduce our environmental impact by implementing a Green New Deal for Asheville that has a race and class analysis.
Which recent City Council budget decision(s) do you disagree with, and what would you have done differently? Property taxes were raised in 2017. A proposal has been put forth that would once again raise property taxes. We shouldn’t raise property taxes each time there is a deficit. We must analyze the things we can divest from so we can invest in what we need. We need to push back against the state so that we can implement a food and beverage tax, allowing for people who visit our city to contribute to funding things such as transit.
How will you balance Asheville’s growth while protecting the quality of life for current residents and the city’s unique identity? Our “Keep Asheville Weird” slogan is being erased and replaced by a “Keep Asheville Gentrified” slogan. That is not acceptable. Balance means using the creativity and scrappiness that we are known and loved for to ensure that no more lives are lost because people have to sleep outside while we watch the number of million-dollar homes increase. Balance means saying no to the things that will not serve our people in the long run.
How will you as a City Council member help Ashevilleans cope with the rising cost of living? I am a renter because I can’t afford a home within the city limits that will give me everything I need. I will work in collaboration with the community to invest in the community land trust and housing cooperatives, as well as say no to developers who prioritize pockets over people.
What actions would you support for Asheville to fight climate change and meet its 100% renewable energy goal by the established deadline of 2030? We must take the lead of grassroots organizers and scientists who have been pushing our city for years to invest in climate justice. We must implement a Green New Deal for Asheville that includes a race and class analysis.
Occupation: Finance and project manager, French Broad Food Co-op
Previous candidacy or offices held: None
Key endorsements: Mayor Esther Manheimer; City Council member Julie Mayfield; Alan Glines, former Asheville city planner; Jeff Staudinger, Asheville Community Land Trust consultant; Franzi Charen, founder of Asheville Grown Business Alliance
Amount of money raised: $8,600
Top three donors: Bernard Arghiere, environmental advocate; Drew Smith, West Asheville business owner; Barry Bialik, affordable housing builder
What makes Asheville home to you? It’s a feeling, a sense of belonging, of connection to community and the ways our community lives and breathes and how we care for each other. My family has lived here for 20 years. It’s the only home my son (18) has ever known. It’s where extended family have had their roots for generations. It’s walking down streets and knowing the neighbors, the store owners and their children. It’s volunteering at events and organizations that work for a better Asheville.
Name three achievable goals you would champion in the next two years. Establish a path to and create 1,000 affordable homes/units by 2025. Lift city employee full-time minimum wage to $31,200 ($15/hr, 40 hours/wk). Leverage my role as a community leader and city councilor to deepen collaboration between nonprofits, businesses, local governments and community members to achieve goals around climate resiliency, the opportunity gap and responsible planning.
Which recent City Council budget decision(s) do you disagree with, and what would you have done differently? Council did not fund needed updates to the UDO, Downtown and Riverfront Design Guidelines. These documents define how we grow, what can be built, what it looks like, what we prioritize (trees, art) and how we protect our culture. I would have. Council voted to spend $290,000 on multiple designs for 68 Haywood. I would have requested limiting plans to two designs and a cap of $150,000, allocating the remaining $140,000 to an urban forester and forestry plan.
How will you as a City Council member help Ashevilleans cope with the rising cost of living? Use my knowledge and experience as the chair of the Affordable Housing Committee and my master’s in urban planning to plan and create 1,000 affordable units by 2025. I will strategize responsible locations to preserve green space, limit new infrastructure and reduce transportation costs, which can cost 25% of income. I will prioritize a wage floor of $31,200, work on solutions for wage compression and retention and increase efforts for renewables and home weatherization.
How will you balance Asheville’s growth while protecting the quality of life for current residents and the city’s unique identity? Update the UDO to ensure we are building a fiscally, socially and environmentally sustainable community, which requires identifying strategic growth areas, including downtown, urban centers and along transit corridors, to help protect neighborhoods against demand. Expand infill options to produce incremental growth without overwhelm. Require major projects to provide ground-floor activation, ensuring locals don’t lose access and local storefronts. Invest in infrastructure and cultural programs, including functional public art, roads, transit, multimodal upgrades and repairs to our water systems.
What actions would you support for Asheville to fight climate change and meet its 100% renewable energy goal by the established deadline of 2030? I support updating the UDO, which governs all development, ensuring we are zoned for strategic, fiscally and environmentally sound growth along transit, downtown, urban centers and major corridors. I support restoring our tree canopy. I support investing in renewables in ways that exempt low-income residents and affordable rents from increased costs. I support aligning green jobs and weatherization with economic opportunity for marginalized residents. I support implementing the transit master plan and modifying fares to increase ridership.
Occupation: Deputy clerk of Superior Court
Previous candidacy or offices held: Asheville City Council
Key endorsements: WNC Sierra Club
Amount of money raised: Under threshold
Top three donors: N/A
What makes Asheville home to you? I was born and raised in Asheville from elementary school to high school. So many memories simply just makes it my home.
Name three achievable goals you would champion in the next two years. Turning the city into an affordable housing developer for deeply affordable units. Implementing fare-free transit and expanding service hours. Begin making preparations for a new bond program that will continue funding for needed city initiatives, including infrastructure improvements.
Which recent City Council budget decision(s) do you disagree with, and what would you have done differently? I could second-guess any budget, and I’m sure others will; however, in the wake of climate change, I should have made a more concerted effort toward allocating funds to go toward climate-resilient programs. I believe I am making up for that now with my Green New Deal proposal.
How will you as a City Council member help Ashevilleans cope with the rising cost of living? I will be pushing for the city to become its own affordable housing developer to build deeply affordable units, as well as working with the Chamber of Commerce on a jobs program that is currently in the works.
How will you balance Asheville’s growth while protecting the quality of life for current residents and the city’s unique identity? I will balance Asheville’s growth through an equity lens. Quality of life begins on different levels, and every resident has different needs. Growth itself may be affecting one person, while someone else may be dealing with basic functions of life such as transportation. Being a good Council member means understanding the different needs of our city’s residents and balancing those needs with each other. A rising tide may lift all boats, but all boats aren’t built to ride the wave.
What actions would you support for Asheville to fight climate change and meet its 100% renewable energy goal by the established deadline of 2030? I will follow up on the climate emergency resolution the city just passed with the help of the Sunrise Movement and others. We are also the first city in the state of North Carolina to declare a climate emergency. I would also pass a local Green New Deal and I am the only candidate that has proposed an actual package of initiatives.