John Miall

John Miall

  • Website:
  • Employment: Retired former city risk manager
  • Party affiliation: Democrat
  • Previous candidacy: Ran for mayor in 2013

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

Get control of city spending. The fact that we can’t seem to get core services anymore without ever-increasing fees indicates that they’re not managing fiscal resources well. Second is re-examining Council’s priorities in terms of riverfronts and other things while our infrastructure is crumbling. [Long-standing] neighborhoods still don’t have sidewalks. Until we’ve got the basics, we don’t have to be developing anything new. Third is a master plan. … We want to turn [Pack Place] into a museum, redo the river, add bike lanes. Council has been all over the board; it’s like watching a pinball machine. We need a vision and a plan that all these other things can or cannot be a part of.

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

Affordable housing is a two-sided coin. How much rent gets charged is one side. Rents and mortgages are ridiculously high. But the one thing that can immediately be done is to get control of our spending. [In two years,] we’ve had two tax increases, and I can’t even count the fee increases. In my 30 years in city government, I never saw a Council raise taxes and fees that rapidly. If I’m a landlord and my taxes go up, I’m going to pass it on. But affordable housing is also a function of one’s income. Tourism defines Asheville and will continue to. But we’ve got to diversify our economic base, bringing better-paying, high-end tech and related jobs.

What is one recent City Council decision you don’t agree with, and how would you have handled it differently?miall2

I am still very put out over the way Pack Place was handled. Giving $2 million to an art museum is unprecedented when we don’t even have sidewalks, for heaven’s sake. We can all find some way to hobble up to the art museum and look at all the pretty pictures, I guess, but we can’t get there. Less than a year later, they gave public-property naming rights to a credit union so the art museum can raise even more money. I don’t understand the total fixation of spending public dollars on [this project]. Why not the Red Cross? Why not the United Way? I think it could have been done a hundred ways that would have been better.

What makes Asheville home for you?

To paraphrase an old bumper sticker, I’m an American by birth and an Ashevillean by the grace of God. I was born here, I went to Asheville public schools, I graduated from Montreat-Anderson and UNC-Asheville. After retirement, I had the opportunity through my consulting and public speaking to visit literally every place you could ever dream of in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean. I’ve been to places I liked, but this is where I want to be.

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?

I’m a free-marketer, but I also think cities and local governments can do some things to invigorate expansion. To that extent, I would say our efforts need to be in non-tourism. With the hotel tax just increased and all this money going to the Tourism Development Authority, they’ve got more money than they know what to do with. Frankly, not any public money for tourism, but other things, possibly yes.

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?

I don’t know what study that person was looking at or what they would consider middle-class, but assuming that’s it’s a $30,000 to $40,000 a year salary, those jobs are not going to be typical of the food-and-beverage industry and hotels. If you move beyond that, we’ve got a world-class hospital here: They have very good-paying jobs. We’ve been fortunate in the past few years to bring in a couple of small companies like GE Aviation. There are opportunities out there: We just don’t pursue them. We seem content to build another hotel and another brewery on every corner, and those jobs aren’t going to drive the middle class that we desperately need.

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?

People trying to avoid I-26 have jammed up the whole south end of town. The first priority is resolving that. The Bowen Bridge handles over 100,000 vehicles a day; I-26 must be much higher. Environmentalists have resisted expanding I-26. I contend that hundreds of thousands of trucks and cars sitting there idling put more carbon in the air than if we expeditiously moved that traffic to its destination. Meanwhile, Council is fixated on Charlotte Street. Why spend time and money doing something that three experts have advised you not to fool with, while doing nothing about things that are begging for attention? I think special interests are driving a lot of these traffic issues; that has to stop.

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About Max Hunt
Max Hunt grew up in South (New) Jersey and graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2011. History nerd; art geek; connoisseur of swimming holes, hot peppers, and plaid clothing. Follow me @J_MaxHunt

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