LaVonda Payne

LaVonda Payne

  • Employment: Long-haul truck driver
  • Party affiliation: Registered unaffiliated

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

Increasing the quality of our urban communities, educating the people and organizing some type of community center [to teach people how to remove themselves from bad situations]. I feel like that would be the base of what could grow from that. The quality of life of these people is so low. We’re not educating them to get out of the projects: That’s where we’re falling short. It’s causing drug use, causing babies to be born into families that can’t afford them, so generation after generation is falling back into this trend. That needs to stop. There might be a lot that we can’t do, but as a community we need to educate and empower both older and younger generations.

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

Affordable to who? We need to distinguish where we’re allowing our tourists to stay on vacation and where we’re going to have affordable apartments. That’s something that can’t really be a direct answer. Compared to what you make, what I make, what she makes: What’s affordable? Raising the minimum wage just makes rents go up, and it’ll be the same issue. I don’t know much on what City Council can do, but I just want to have, if possible, certain sections of Asheville where City Council can say, “Hey, look, this is a community, and this is how far up prices can go.” The only solution is to put your foot down and say, “You can’t keep doing this.”

What is one recent City Council decision you don’t agree with, and how would you have handled it differently?payne2

[City Council] just irritates me because it’s cyclical. I don’t feel like we’ve gotten anywhere, and I don’t feel like anything’s really being done.

What makes Asheville home for you?

Growing up here, [seeing how hard it was] for people to make it. People that I knew ended up on drugs, single parents having kids, not in good situations. I had to leave Asheville to get somewhere to come back. And the only reason I came back is because I see so much potential. That’s why I came back; that’s why I’m running for City Council. My love is for the people, for the future generations.

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?

We need to focus on Asheville. Tourism will always be here, as long as we have the mountains. But we need to focus on ourselves to make Asheville an even greater community where people would actually enjoy it more. Yeah, people come here for the mountains, but I can go to Black Mountain for that. People come to Asheville because it’s such a high-publicity place. But when they get here, they talk about the homeless and the druggies and the prostitutes. If we fix that, people would have no reason to not want to come back and spread even greater news about Asheville.

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?

[Asheville is full of] doctors and lawyers and minimum-wage jobs; we don’t really have a variety [of careers]. If you get your bachelor’s degree in something and you move to a city that doesn’t have the opportunity for that, that’s your fault. I’m a trucker, and I know I can’t move somewhere where there’s no resources. I wasn’t handed a job: I had to to fight for it. If you get that degree, don’t settle for that minimum-wage job. The city can’t give it to you: You’ve got to push. If you want it, you’ve got to say, “You don’t tell me no.” It’s just what we’ve come to in this generation.

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?

You can’t. If they widen [roads], that’s just going to move people out of their homes — and we’re having a housing crisis. So we’re creating still another problem. You just can’t, unless you put a restriction on what roads can be used for tourism, or divert Asheville tourism traffic, and this would probably never happen. But I’m a truck driver, and trust me, cars are going to do what cars want to do. Maybe if these hotels put [alternate routes] on their directions, it might help a little bit.

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About Hayley Benton
Current freelance journalist and artist. Former culture/entertainment reporter at the Asheville Citizen-Times and former news reporter at Mountain Xpress. Also a coffee drinker, bad photographer, teller of stupid jokes and maker-upper of words. I can be reached at hayleyebenton [at] Follow me @HayleyTweeet

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