Name: Lael Gray
Occupation: Program development/marketing director, Asheville JCC
Party affiliation, if any: Unaffiliated
Political experience: Activist, community organizer; board member: Building Bridges of Asheville, Smart Start of Buncombe County, Congregation Beth Israel (past); Evergreen Charter School Development Committee, Montford Neighborhood Association I-26 Task Force.
Endorsements: Sierra Club, PARC, Cecil Bothwell, Esther Manheimer, Ken Brame, Michael Carter, Robert Deutsch, Alan Escovitz, Katherine Fisher, Angie Flynn-McIver, Rebecca Gholson, Ben Gillum, Heather Goldstein, Althea Gonzalez, Tyrone Greenlee, Valerie Hoh, Janet Hurley, Leah Karpen, Judy Mattox, Deborah Miles, David Patterson, Heather Rayburn, David Roat, Yetta Williams, John Wood
1) How much money have you raised for your campaign?
Who are your top three donors, and how much has each contributed?
Melody and Leon Kramer – $1,000
Drs. Meryl and Jonas Goldstein – $900
Ken Brame – $500
2) What most distinguishes you from your opponents?
I have spent my life advocating for environmental protection, improved race relations, access to quality education and equal rights for all. I will bring my experience in business, education and nonprofit management, community activism, consensus-building, and creative problem solving to Asheville City Council.
3) Who else are you voting for and why?
I am not yet ready to make any endorsements. But I will say that I plan to vote for the other two candidates who most support the issues that are important to me: environment, equality and education.
4) What specific steps will you take to address Asheville's lack of affordable housing?
I will support well-planned, neighborhood-sensitive, affordable housing. And I want to continue the Asheville-Buncombe Homeless Initiative to provide long-term housing solutions for homeless people. I also will vote for clear and well-enforced rules for real estate development to facilitate more affordable housing.
5) Do you favor the use of tax exemptions and incentives to promote job growth (e.g., the recent Linamar deal)?
I will look at each incentive package individually to ensure that we are getting the most for our money. I also want to be sure that we provide supports for local businesses and work to attract companies that will be vested partners in our community’s vision for a sustainable future.
6) Do you support the changes implemented by the Downtown Master Plan, such as raising the threshold for direct Council review of proposed developments?
The DMP is an important step in identifying the specific goals and wishes of our community around downtown development. My concern is that these goals must be very clearly outlined in any ordinance that removes Council’s review from the process in order to ensure that we get the right outcome.
7) What’s your position on proposed legislation in Raleigh to study the possible seizure of Asheville's water system?
I am frustrated by the many ways that the state continues to thwart Asheville’s ability to move forward and become a model for progress. The water issue is no exception. I am concerned that this represents another attempt to cripple Asheville’s right to govern ourselves and fund our own interests.
8) Does Asheville require more infrastructure? If so, what are your priorities and how do you propose to fund them?
We need to expand our transportation system beyond the automobile, both within the city and to provide connectivity to surrounding areas. Funding transit is going to take a shifting of priorities that will start with educating voters and policymakers about how alternative transportation infrastructure creates wealth.
9) A recent study named the Asheville metro area the seventh worst in the nation in terms of food hardship. How do you propose to tackle poverty in the city of Asheville?
We need better transit. We need more affordable housing. We need to provide better access to education. We need jobs that provide higher wages. And to get there, our city needs to be allowed to keep more of the tax revenue that we generate.
10) In light of the controversies surrounding the APD and the Human Resources Department, do you believe city government operations require closer scrutiny? If so, what steps do you favor?
I think that we have a good city manager in Gary Jackson, and I would consider plans for additional oversight from Council in support of his efforts. Additionally, the APD must maintain the highest level of integrity and transparency to ensure cooperation and establish trust in our community.