Name: TJ Thomasson
Occupation: Assistant innkeeper
Party affiliation, if any: None
Political experience: Volunteered in the successful campaigns of Patsy Keever, Susan Fisher, Barack Obama. Also volunteered for Hillary Clinton and the current campaign of Cecil Bothwell.
Endorsements: Michael Harney (aka "The Rubberman"), Michael Sheldon, Robert Gaston, Tim Geib, Chris Aupperle, Karen Into, Bill Bryant, Dewey Smith, Naomi Spitzer, Phil Burton and Michael McMurtrey
1) How much money have you raised for your campaign?
Who are your top three donors, and how much has each contributed?
Malcolm Parada – $500
Bill Bryant – $100
Richard Koeneman – $100
2) What most distinguishes you from your opponents?
As an openly gay male, I am the only open LGBT candidate in the field. I support sustainable, smart development that respects the environment and the community's opinions instead of just big developers pushing projects through. We need a safe and healthy Asheville with more sidewalks and bike lanes.
3) What other two Council candidates will you vote for? Why?
Lael Gray and Marc Hunt. I trust Lael and Marc when it comes to LGBT issues and the environment. They have been outspoken in both respects. Marc donated so that my LGBT running group, Asheville Front Runners, could have a table at the Blue Ridge Pride festival.
4) What specific steps will you take to address Asheville's lack of affordable housing?
We must require new housing developments to include at least 25 percent … low/affordable units, especially when we are giving out incentives. In addition, we need to apply for more grants like a recent one that has been applied for to totally redevelop Lee Walker Heights.
5) Do you favor the use of tax exemptions and incentives to promote job growth (e.g., the recent Linamar deal)?
I favor the use of some tax exemptions/incentives that are needed to win the bidding war for jobs, but I don't agree with giving up too much. I think the Linamar deal should have been cut by one year, especially during this economic period.
6) Do you support the changes implemented by the Downtown Master Plan, such as raising the threshold for direct Council review of proposed developments?
I do not agree with giving the Planning and Zoning Commission more power when they have ignored the concerns of the community in recent developments that have been approved. We elect a Council to govern development, and that shouldn't be [outsourced] to a committee.
7) What’s your position on proposed legislation in Raleigh to study the possible seizure of Asheville's water system?
I support an open approach, with open dialogue with the leaders in Raleigh. We must make it clear that we won't stand by and allow their power grab — perhaps reminding the GOP leadership of their party's platform of smaller government. Local government knows what is best.
8) Does Asheville require more infrastructure? If so, what are your priorities and how do you propose to fund them?
We need more and better-maintained sidewalks along with additional bike lanes. If we are to have a healthy city, these allow our citizens to walk/bike to where they need to go. I support a public/private partnership to get area businesses helping to raise funds to build more sidewalks/bike lanes.
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?
I support the Asheville Food Policy Council that has been formed to address this issue. The city must work to support our local organizations providing food to those who need it. We need to lift up these organizations by providing a hotline for people in need to call.
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?
Yes, we need to have transparent city government operations, so that the citizens will trust that their money is not being wasted and that they will be protected, and criminals will be where they belong — in jail.