Dee Williams

Dee Williams

  • Website: dee4asheville.org
  • Employment: Small business consultant, real estate broker
  • Party affiliation: Registered unaffiliated, has voted in both democrat and republican primaries
  • Previous candidacy: Several unsuccessful bids for City Council, one for Buncombe County Board of Commissioners

What are three achievable goals that you would champion in the next two years?

No. 1, make transit more efficient, to run on time. Two, institute “Ban the Box” with city jobs. [Criminal records] are a barrier to a lot of folks who need to work, or they’ll go back to prison. I am the western regional coordinator for Ban the Box. We’ve gotten the largest employers around here to drop that box, and the city can do it too. And three, put city land to use growing food, and work on some policies and procedures to enable that.

All three of those are low-hanging fruit and don’t cost a whole lot.

What are the best strategies for increasing affordable housing in Asheville?

Things need to be brought to scale. One strategy I would use is social impact bonds: Bring in investment from companies like Goldman-Sachs that would offer marketable securities. Then get somebody like a project manager who can take the various nonprofits and for-profits, give them performance metrics and let them go at it. Also, community land trusts: Take land the city already owns, put affordable housing on it and keep that housing affordable in perpetuity. Don’t let it sunset after we invest public dollars in it.

What is one recent City Council decision you don’t agree with, and how would you have handled it differently?williams2

Raising taxes. The 1.5 cent tax increase. I would have cut the budget in other ways. Whether we cut toilet tissue or toner, there’s other ways to keep from raising taxes on folks who can least afford it.

What makes Asheville home for you?

I was born here. I grew up here, and it made me who I am. Because of some of the situations I was in when I was younger, and I guess everybody has a story, it truly made me who I am today. And I could do almost anything I want to do and I know it, and it’s because of the way I had to grow up here.

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?

Government should absolutely play a role. Diversity is always very good: It gives you strength. There are other areas that are higher-paying, and we need to grow and support our local businesses in doing that. We’re always looking to the outside for somebody to bring us something, but we need to grow our own and support that. Develop our own supply chains, and that will cut costs and our carbon footprint as well.

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?

The city can learn how to grow and invest in small, local businesses to grow those jobs. We always look to the outside, but we need to look inside, because government doesn’t create jobs: Small businesses do. We buy stuff from all over the country. We need to gear these businesses toward our supply chain. Develop that supply chain, keep the money here, and keep all those trucks off the highway. We can do this. We just have to have the political will.

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?

Add shuttle buses to park-and-ride lots to get some of these tourists into town. Traffic is a safety issue and causes a lot of pollution. I guess we’re going to have to build parking decks at some point, but not right now. I think the hotels are building plenty of those, and if they’re not, then they don’t need to come to town. Another thing we have to learn to do is negotiate with DOT. There are pedestrian things that we can get out of I-26.

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About Able Allen
Able studied political science and history at Warren Wilson College. He enjoys travel, dance, games, theater, blacksmithing and the great outdoors. Follow me @AbleLAllen

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