Occupation: Retired Asheville city housing and subsidized housing manager,
Top endorsements: Keith Young, Asheville City Council; Dr. Gene Rainey, former commission chair; Jerry Vehaun, Woodfin Mayor
Xpress: What are your top concerns regarding county residents’ health? What would you support to fix those problems?
The county is doing great work in this area. We must continue to advocate for expanding Medicaid, and we should support nonprofits working on health equity and access to health services. The Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement program is a good example of the kinds of nonprofits we need to partner with to support better community health.
What neighborhood/area do you live in? What are those residents’ concerns?
I live in Woodfin. Mayor Jerry Vehaun and Town Administrator Jason Young have endorsed me, because our area isn’t represented at the county level. People in Woodfin were upset when the commissioners recently zoned previously unzoned areas as R-3, allowing mobile homes. Of course, we share the same concerns as other county residents when it comes to affordable housing, jobs, education and the environment.
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?
The county has a AAA bond rating, and it is in pretty good shape. Given the struggles people face today, raising property taxes would only be an option if it were critical to the county’s survival. I’d leave the budget alone. We’re doing very well with the money we have, and cuts always disproportionately affect low-income people. I want us to look at a sales tax to support the development of affordable rental housing.
What can and will you do to address inequality in Buncombe County?
Education is the key to addressing inequality. There are a lot of opportunities in this community, but many African-Americans have become so beaten down that they’ve given up. We need to give them hope again through a concentrated outreach effort. African-Americans have also historically been dehumanized. Even when white people want to help, they still have a hard time seeing African-Americans as fully human. The term “minority” itself implies something less than. So I’m against that term. I’m a human being. I’m an African-American. But I’m not a minority.
What do you bring to the table that your opponents can’t?
My platform is focused on affordable housing, living wages, education and the environment — clean water and clean air. I’m working to become a nonprofit affordable housing developer. We are also creating our own workforce through the Youth Build program. We will help young people get trained in the building trades so they can earn a good wage or start their own businesses. I am a co-founder of Just Economics, which promotes living wages in low-wage industries like restaurants, tourism and hotels. I founded Read2Succeed, which helps low-income students learn to read through one-to-one tutoring with volunteers. I have served on the board of Clean Water for NC for 10 years, and I’m proud of the work I’ve done to end early childhood lead poisoning.
What’s your solution for growing living-wage jobs in Buncombe County?
I support growing Just Economics to help businesses that aren’t yet paying a living wage get there. The state’s refusal to allow us to require contractors to pay a living wage makes it harder, but it can be done. We succeeded in convincing the city to pay its part-time employees a living wage. Living wages benefit groups of people who typically vote in lower numbers. But whether you vote or not, I will fight for you. That’s my history.