Ed Hay, Democrat
Place of residence: Asheville
Political experience: In addition to service on a number of boards and commissions, I served on Asheville City Council for six years, including a term as vice mayor.
Endorsements: Sierra Club; Buncombe County Association of Educators; WNC Central Labor Council
Amount of money raised: Approximately $15,000
Top three donors and amount contributed: Ken Brame, $1,000; Madelynn Leslie, $1,000; Richard Wasch, $750
Why are you running?
My experience on City Council taught me the important role local government plays in people’s lives. County government is faced with a historic turnover in leadership at the very time that the local government is facing new issues, such as keeping our schools strong, land-use planning and job creation. I believe it is more important than ever that we have experienced commissioners who will take a positive approach to addressing the serious challenges we face.
What is Buncombe County’s best path toward creating more jobs outside of the service and tourist industries? And how do you plan on making it happen?
I believe it is critically important that county government be purposeful in designing creative and thoughtful strategies for job creation. Recent studies suggest that while Buncombe County has a robust economy now, we’re running far behind in preparing ourselves for the job market of the future. We need to invest in attracting the types of industries that will sustain good-paying jobs as well as making a new investment in our community.
Are you in favor of using economic development incentives? If so, what kind? If not, why?
I do believe that investment by county government in economic development is appropriate and necessary. Recent history shows us several examples of successful partnerships between county government and other local entities which have created significant new investment in our county. We should continue those efforts.
North Carolina law states footage from the Sheriff’s Department body cameras is not part of the public record. Do you agree or disagree with this decision? Why or why not?
My strong predisposition is that body camera footage should be part of the public record, subject to reasonable and reviewable limitations designed to protect public safety.
As infrastructure needs grow, would you consider using bonds to fund projects? Why or why not? And, if so, what type of bond would you pursue?
County government has earned an extremely favorable credit rating, which means that the cost of borrowing money is very low. In light of that, issuing bonds now to pay for infrastructure improvements which will cost more in the future might make good business sense. I would want them to be general obligation bonds, requiring a public vote.
Does HB2 highlight the state overstepping its bounds in regard to legislating municipalities? Why or why not?
HB2 represents just one more step in the long history of efforts by Raleigh lawmakers to limit local government’s ability to govern itself. It deprives local citizens of the ability to make important decisions about their daily lives. The efforts to manage local government from Raleigh are contrary to democratic principles.
As development continues to boom, how can the county help ensure affordable housing for its residents?
County government has a number of tools available to address affordable housing issues, such as building incentives for developers in the zoning ordinance and direct financial assistance to the construction of new projects. Market conditions work against the creation of affordable housing in the private sector, so county government needs to find ways to make those efforts more financially feasible. A collateral issue is that the county, through its zoning ordinance, needs to protect the existing affordable housing stock which may be lost to new development.
Are the current zoning policies are adequate to deal with the pressures of increased development in the county?
The county’s current zoning ordinance is inadequate to deal with the exploding growth, much of which is spilling over from the city. We need to engage the community in a comprehensive review of the existing ordinance, with the goal of improving and expanding it. We should welcome growth, but we should also be able to direct growth where we want growth to be, while at the same time recognizing the rights of those who have an expectation that they will be protected.
What zoning designation that doesn’t currently exist would you like to see, or what is an existing, but underutilized zoning designation?
Use of open zoning as a classification needs to be revisited. It is a legacy of the imposition of a countywide zoning ordinance where one didn’t exist before. We need to undertake an effort to fill the open zoning portions of the county with appropriate, enforceable zoning.
What county-run service needs the most improvement and how would you address it?
Until I have had an opportunity to familiarize myself with daily operations, as any new commissioner should do, it would be unfair to identify any service or department as needing improvement. I do hope that we can provide resources and direction to the Planning Department to upgrade our zoning ordinance countywide, in order to effectively address issues resulting from explosive growth.
What is the most important issue facing Buncombe County, and how do you plan on addressing it?
The most important task is the broad issue of preparing county government for the future. If our schools are not going to be adequately supported from Raleigh, then we need to identify ways to keep them strong. If job creation efforts are not focused on the future, we need to develop new strategies. If our county faces explosive growth, we need land-use plans which can address it. Buncombe County citizens have the right to expect that they can trust their future to the county commission.
How do you represent a constituency with varied political ideologies?
District 3 runs from Sandy Mush to Skyland, which is as diverse constituency as I can imagine. The District 3 commissioner must listen carefully and be fair to everyone. There are common values which are shared throughout the district and which provide a touchstone for making difficult decisions. We all agree on certain principles: strong schools, environmental protection, working for sustainable jobs. What works best in Sandy Mush is different than what works best in Skyland, but the core values remain the same. All commissioners need to make sure that people feel they have been heard and their views respected.
What makes you the most qualified candidate for this position?
I’ve served on boards and commissions from Pisgah Legal Services to the ABC Board to the Economic Development Commission to Pack Place, and served six years on Asheville City Council. I understand local government and how to get things done, and I have a strong belief in the ability of local government to make a difference in people’s lives.