Candidate questions and answers

On Tuesday, Nov. 4, Asheville voters will choose three of the six people vying for a seat on City Council. Xpress asked each candidate the questions listed below. Their answers appear in the grid on the following pages. We first asked the six how much each plans to spend on the campaign.

Terry M. Bellamy
Will spend: $10,000 to $15,000

Jan Davis
Will spend: $13,000 – $14,000

Jim Ellis
Will spend: $13,000

Brownie Newman
Will spend: about $40,000

Chris Pelley
Will spend: $12,000

Rod A. Whiteside
Will spend: $6,000

Because readers responded favorably to the grid format employed for the Council primary, we’ve used that format again in the print version — even though it requires condensing sometimes-lengthy answers. This Web text comprises the same condensed answers.

1) The city of Greensborough and city of Durham recently chose new police chiefs. Both of them solicited public input — a process that both cities agree was successful. The coming Council will probably appoint a new police chief. Do you support public input on this matter?

Terry M. Bellamy: Yes. “I’ve already expressed that to the City manager.” Also: Include police input.

Jan Davis: “I do, and I’d also recommend that the Police Benevolent Association be involved in that.”

Jim Ellis: “Yes, I do.”

Brownie Newman: Yes. Open community process.

Chris Pelley: “Absolutely. I received the endorsement of the Police Benevolent Association. I not only support public input but also rank-and-file input from within the Police Department.”

Rod A. Whiteside: Yes. “Make sure the police chief represents all people.”

2) All the candidates except Jan Davis and Jim Ellis have stated their opposition to the new complaint-based housing-inspection system, which Council approved on Oct. 14. If elected, will you actively seek to overturn that decision?

Terry M. Bellamy: Yes. “We need to come more in the middle to balance the needs of the landlords and tenants.”

Jan Davis: “I’d like to revisit it just to make sure that it’s working.”

Jim Ellis: “We’ve asked staff to give Council a report about complaints received.” Also: ensure that every tenant has the phone number for the housing inspection office.

Brownie Newman: Yes. Advocate for some type of regular inspection process for rental properties.

Chris Pelley: “Yes, if there are four votes in support of doing that, I certainly will.”

Rod A. Whiteside: Yes. It should be mandatory for rental units.

3. USA Today recently declared Asheville “High Country Hip” in an in-depth profile that emphasized the city’s music, arts and diversity. In part, the article credited Asheville’s tourism-based economy to its artists, musicians, gay/lesbian tolerance — all the things that make this town unique. It didn’t say that tourism is increasing because of development and revising the UDO. A current Council member has repeatedly bemoaned the strange people who walk the streets of Asheville; at the same time, the nation’s largest newspaper gives that community credit for our success. As a Council member, what will you do to foster or support this culturally creative community?

Terry M. Bellamy: “The success of Asheville is not predicated on the things they named. It is also people who have invested in downtown.” Support of YMI Cultural Center, Pack Place, Arts Alliance, River Link, Asheville/Buncombe County Vision. Make sure that at least half of public art money goes to local artists.

Jan Davis: “I am supportive of the community’s diversity, and I’m supportive of the arts and I’ll continue to be so.”

Jim Ellis: “I like the diversity in Asheville, I think it’s wonderful. …The arts have helped the tourism industry. I also think that our room-tax rate has contributed — we’re spending over $3 million per year marketing Asheville and that has helped greatly.” Also: celebrate arts community; have a friendlier Police Department.

Brownie Newman: “We need to respect and encourage diversity any way we can. It’s what makes Asheville special.”

Chris Pelley: “I embrace the cultural diversity of our community, I think it’s an asset. I’ll try to make us an inviting, welcoming community.”

Rod A. Whiteside: “The bottom line is: We need to make sure that everybody in Asheville is heard and respected. Everybody needs to be at the table.”

4. Looking at Council decisions over the past two years, which decision would you change if you were given the power to do so?

Terry M. Bellamy: The last minimum housing code vote; Flynn Home vote.

Jan Davis: “The decision I would change was the move to increase taxes.”

Jim Ellis: “I wouldn’t change any of them.”

Brownie Newman: The Council’s refusal to take any position on the I-26 connector through Asheville city limits.

Chris Pelley: “The minimum-housing-code decision — I’d change that.”

Rod A. Whiteside: Minimum Housing Code.

5. What decision would you not change?

Terry M. Bellamy: Urban Village; Gerber Site; allocations for Housing Trust Fund; Neighborhood Corridor; alternative budget.

Jan Davis: “The Council’s best decision was a byproduct of its worst decision: the move to take some of the revenue from the tax increase and increase the funding for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.”

Jim Ellis: “I’m proud of the improvements we’ve made to the UDO. We’ve now made 16 major changes to it — like the Broadway Corridor Plan. These changes can make an impact on affordable housing.”

Brownie Newman: Approval of neighborhood-corridor zoning policy for Broadway.

Chris Pelley: “The Broadway corridor plan.”

Rod A. Whiteside: Would have voted with the majority to let the GPI process continue, but will not necessarily vote to sell.

6. If elected, what’s the first legislative action you will initiate on your own?

Terry M. Bellamy: Increase funds to the victim services of the Police Department.

Jan Davis: “To streamline the permitting and inspection process that people go through for business locating.”

Jim Ellis: “Tax equalization. Over 50 percent of all construction development in the city in the past four years has been for non-profits. We have to make sure we’re being fair to all the citizens with our taxation policies.”

Brownie Newman: “I will push for the expeditious completion of the I-26 connector while minimizing its impact on West Asheville neighborhoods and the environment.”

Chris Pelley: “Promote the Pedestrian Thoroughfare Plan. We have a need for pedestrian safety.”

Rod A. Whiteside: “Review budget to make sure that expenses are priorities that make sense and let residents know that we are not looking to gouge them with property taxes.”

7. In advocating the sale of public land to the Grove Park Inn, city staff asserted that the move would add one-third of an acre of green space to City/County Plaza. But that sale is not contingent on redeveloping the park — which means we could get the building but not the increased green space (in fact, the building will reduce public park area). If you vote to approve the sale of the land, what will you do to ensure that the redesign of the plaza and the increased green space actually happen?

Terry M. Bellamy: Meetings between developers and public to hear issues. “Make sure dialog occurs before I even consider anything. My mind is not made up.”

Jan Davis: “The sale would have to be contingent upon it. They have to have a plan that betters the area. I would not be in favor of it if it does not do that.”

Jim Ellis: “Work as hard as I can to help the Conservancy raise whatever additional funds they need. I have great faith that they are going to be able to complete those plans.”

Brownie Newman: “I will not vote ‘yes’ for the GPI on that property.”

Chris Pelley: “My vote yes would be conditioned upon GPI participating financially in the redevelopment of the park.”

Rod A. Whiteside: “You can’t sell the land without hashing out the issue. It must be addressed before you sell the land.”

8. The Metropolitan Planning Organization’s decision in 2001 to support eight lanes for the I-26 connector stipulates that the decision must be revisited if traffic estimates are revised. The current traffic model indicates that previous estimates were inflated by 35-50 percent. Given this new evidence, what will you do to ensure that DOT builds six instead of eight lanes?

Terry M. Bellamy: “Go to the MPO, Council and state legislature to move forward on six lanes.”

Jan Davis: “If the traffic model is correct, then I would be supportive of six lanes. But it just needs to be done, we need to get on with this.”

Jim Ellis: “DOT is revisiting the issue. I’ve always indicated that I support six lanes. However, my priority is to make sure we return Patton Avenue and the Smokey Park Bridge to a local street and divert interstate traffic to a new bridge.”

Brownie Newman: “Council should take official position for six lanes rather than eight.”

Chris Pelley: “I’d use their criteria to determine what’s needed there. If six lanes are satisfactory, then that’s what I’ll support.”

Rod A. Whiteside: “Whatever is within the power of the Council. Six lanes are in the best interest of the citizens.”

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