Asheville City Council members unveiled their 2015 strategic operating plan Jan. 30, collecting data on three focus areas: economic growth and sustainability, affordability and economic mobility and high quality of life.
Affordability in Asheville was high on the topic list.
“Affordability is definitely a trigger word. We’re struggling with that in this community,” said Mayor Esther Manheimer. “The finite space definitely pushes the prices up in Asheville.”
Council members and a half-dozen members of the public split into discussion groups during the morning session and brainstormed on what was most effective in 2014 and how to improve this year. The ideas flowed onto paper, with input into which ones made the most sense. (Stay tuned for the afternoon report later today.)
Council’s highlights of pride were an increase in affordable housing trust dollars, Sunday bus service, more sidewalks, housing growth and the funding of traffic-calming speed humps.
Some of the public’s criticisms were the availability of local food, the relationship between police and the community, a need for more greenery and multimodal paths, more open city government data, mental health care, pedestrian safety issue, and improving the city website.
“I’d like to see an increase in the community land trust,” said Asheville citizen Brendee Boggs, attending her third Council retreat. “In general, the main struggle here is with tourism. A lot of folks come in, utilize the services, but they aren’t giving back. We also need to continue following the food action plan. This is a foodtopia, but it’s one of the most food-insecure areas of the nation.”
Resident Joe Fioccola attended the retreat last year and praised the process for its openness of city government.
“I’d like to see an improvement to the city website. Reports come out, but I can’t find them on there. Overall, I feel the Council is receptive to suggestions, and certainly open to them,” he said.