- Website: atkinsforasheville.com
- Employment: Defense attorney at Brazil & Burke, P.A.
- Party affiliation: Democrat
What are three achievable goals that you would champion in the next two years?
Sustainable economic development by way of small-business growth and bringing in a diverse group employers who pay a living wage. Passage of a citywide anti-discrimination policy that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which we do not currently have. Improving the relationship of the police force with the community.
What are the best strategies for increasing affordable housing in Asheville?
I support the current density bonus. I’m also for requiring new developments to set aside a portion for low-income earners in Asheville. We have to look at smart development as well. For instance, if we’re trying to take an old building and turn it into an apartment complex, like on Eagle Street, we have to make sure we’re not wasting resources. We could take a flat piece of land and develop it instead, inexpensively. Then we could offer incentives to a developer to keep some of the new development aside for affordable housing.
What is one recent City Council decision you don’t agree with, and how would you have handled it differently?
I disagree with the 2-cent tax increase. I think [if] we made enough efficiency cuts, that combined with the increase in solid waste fee would make up the difference in the projected budget shortfall. The sales tax redistribution from the state Legislature failed, which is what the increase was supposed to answer. I didn’t think the sales tax increase was necessary.
What makes Asheville home for you?
I’m a native of the mountains. My wife grew up here; her family has lived in Asheville for 100 years, and we’re raising our family here. I bought a home here, and I plan on my daughter growing up and calling this home. So I’m here to stay, and running for Council is my investment in what I consider my home now.
Do you support expanding the tourism industry, or should we focus on other areas of economic development? Or do you think government shouldn’t play a role?
I think there is a role for government to play, but it’s through quasi-governmental organizations like the TDA and the Chamber of Commerce. But while it’s important that we support them, we shouldn’t focus all our attention on tourism; we should do things like recruit a diverse group of employers to come here and pay living wages to our citizens. I think we spend a good amount of money and time on tourism, and we are obviously doing very well in that industry, so I’d like us to focus elsewhere.
A recent study showed that Buncombe County had lower growth in middle-class jobs than other areas. What can the city do to address this?
A main crux of my campaign is recruitment and incentivizing businesses that we know are vowing to pay a living wage and bring in good, high-paying jobs. In addition, I want to continue to encourage good entrepreneurship: The city can tie incentives to entrepreneurs we know are going to come in, set up a business that’s going to pay a living wage and provide a diverse range of jobs, not just tourism-related, that will help elevate the middle class. That’s a good start.
With Asheville growing so fast and several new hotels being built downtown, how do you plan to address the inevitable traffic problems on city streets and I-240?
We have to look at alternative modes of transportation and encourage people to use bus routes and bikes. Make it easier to access those things: Put in more bike lanes, and try to make sure our bus routes are on main thoroughfares where new development’s taking place. We’re not going to be able to keep developing the way we are with the infrastructure we currently have. We need to be smarter and look at more sustainable growth to prevent sprawl. That’ll help congestion a lot.