Occupation: Child and family therapist, Asheville City Council member
Top endorsements: WNC Sierra Club; WNC Central Labor Council
Xpress: What are your top concerns regarding county residents’ health? What would you support to fix those problems?
Poverty is my top concern. How much an individual or family makes is the best predictor of their health outcomes across the board. And Buncombe County is one of the most food-insecure places in the nation. It doesn’t have to be that way. I want to help to form an anti-poverty strategy. Our community has a lot of resources and a lot of partners doing great work, and it’s time we coordinated that and set some goals to cut poverty across Buncombe County.
What neighborhood/area do you live in? What are those residents’ concerns?
West Asheville. People are concerned about the environment. We want a clean energy future and a great quality of life. We want more parks, greenways and safe streets as well.
Given the county’s financial state, would you consider raising property taxes in the next two years? Would you try to cut the budget? If so, in what areas?
Working people and the middle class are struggling, and tax increases would only make that harder. We can better focus our existing financial resources on those things that give people a better shot at a good life. We can coordinate our partnerships better with nonprofits, employers and the municipalities to make all the county dollars stretch further.
What can and will you do to address inequality in Buncombe County?
There is something profoundly wrong when a quarter of our children in Buncombe County are living in poverty. Economic inequality is a national problem, and we are seeing it here too. I’ll push for more living-wage jobs, more support of locally owned businesses and increased access to early childhood health and school readiness.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents can’t?
I’m a child and family therapist. I graduated from Warren Wilson College and Western Carolina University. I have a substantial knowledge of how the city and the county can work together better, and I have a demonstrated record of bringing progressive policies to life. Sustainability, living wages, public transit, greenways, LGBT equality, racial equity and food security are all areas where I have successfully carried progressive policies forward from the community. I also have the support of community leaders like Franzi Charen, Jamie Ager, Dr. Eric Howard, Drew Jones, Jodi Rhoden, and I could go on.
What’s your solution for growing living-wage jobs in Buncombe County?
I’ll take the successful policies I’ve led at the city level to the Board of Commissioners: 1. Support locally owned minority businesses through Buncombe Community Capital, which will provide $1 million in loans; 2. Only living-wage jobs will be eligible to receive economic incentives; 3. Make sure Buncombe County is living up to its status as a living-wage employer; 4. I bring the understanding that housing and transportation costs are a critical part of what makes for a living wage.