Lindsey Simerly

Lindsey Simerly

  • Website:
  • Employment: Manager, WE DO campaign, Campaign for Southern Equality
  • Party affiliation: Democrat
  • Previous candidacy: Ran for Asheville City Council in 2007
  • NEW! Notable endorsements: Sierra Club, AFL-CIO WNC Central Labor Council, N.C. Police Benevolent Association, Equality NC, Commissioner Brownie Newman, Commissioner Holly Jones, Commissioner Ellen Frost, Sheriff Van Duncan, District Attorney Todd Williams, Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger, Council member Chris Pelly, Council member Gordon Smith, former Mayor Terry Bellamy, child advocate Bill McGuire and equality advocate Carmen Ramos-Kennedy.
  • NEW! Campaign contributions: $23,480.25
  • NEW! Campaign expenditures: $19,204.55

NEW! You’re running for office in the midst of a growth spurt in Asheville. What infrastructure needs will you prioritize if elected?

My priority is protecting our neighborhoods from degradation and gentrification, improving them to be even better places to live and raise a family, and making them truly and permanently affordable. I will prioritize our least-served neighborhoods for sidewalks, greenways, bike paths and parks. The Walton Street pool is my top Parks & Rec priority. I will vote to implement inclusionary zoning — making all developers include truly affordable housing in new developments. These policies will increase safety, quality of life, connectivity and affordability while reducing transportation costs for the residents. Downtown is a neighborhood, and it also has unique infrastructure needs and stresses as a destination, especially around parking, cleaning and homelessness. I support: a review of the UDO’s parking requirements, cost-saving partnerships on new parking, and rededication to and retooling of our plan to end homelessness. Increasing truly affordable housing throughout the city will prevent struggling people from falling into homelessness.

NEW! How do you think City Council should proceed in regard to short-term rentals and homestays?

To protect neighborhoods from degradation, gentrification and to make them truly and permanently affordable, I support the nearly 10-year-old ban on STRs. I will fight to keep neighborhoods for residents — not playgrounds for tourists. I support expanding homestays, which allow homeowners to share space with visitors for income.

NEW! What can and will you do to address inequality in Asheville?

I have worked the last five years to tackle one of the greatest inequality issues of our time — the freedom to marry for gays and lesbians. We have won this issue, and thousands of people’s lives are better for it, and our country is more fair.

I bring this experience to my community service. When we look at our priorities and our budget, we must use a lens of equity. We must prioritize spending to least-served neighbors. We must listen to all voices — not just those that are the loudest or have the most money to spend.

Concrete tactics to address inequality are: implement inclusionary zoning, making all developers include truly affordable housing in new developments. Add routes and increase frequency for our transit system, so working people can have greater access to work, school, necessities and civic engagement. Fix the Walton Street pool. Support expanding pre-K and after-school programs to address the achievement gap.

NEW! What can you bring to City Council that other candidates can’t or don’t?

I am the only candidate who is an East Asheville resident, a mom, an authority on affordable housing, the chair of the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee since its inception, and I would be the first openly LGBT person elected in Asheville. I have also dedicated my adult life to social and environmental justice — professionally and as as a volunteer, and am a trusted leader and collaborator.

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

Fully fund the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. Then work toward mandating the inclusion of an affordable housing component in new projects by developers. Three cities in North Carolina have such requirements: Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Davidson. If they can implement this policy, which has proven the most effective way to create new affordable housing units nationwide, so can we. Finally, I would support after-school programming in targeted communities and seek ways to use community development block grants to pay for it.

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

We need to address this problem now rather than waiting for it to become even more daunting years down the road. First, fully fund the Affordable Housing Trust Fund at the original level: 1 cent per $100 of taxation. Second, increase density citywide by tweaking ordinances such as the one making it easier for people to build accessory dwelling units. Third, get developers to include affordable units in new development. As the chair of the Affordable Housing Committee, I’ve been glad to see affordable housing receiving more attention recently: We are now moving toward solutions.

What is one recent City Council decision you don’t agree with, and how would you have handled it differently?simerly2

I would have voted to fully fund the Affordable Housing Trust Fund this year.

What makes Asheville home for you?

I moved here as a homeless gay teenager, because I heard Asheville was a more accepting community. I first found work at Waffle House and in construction. I finally saved enough for a deposit on a crappy small apartment. I wondered how it could be that I was working so hard and yet still found it difficult to meet my basic needs. That led me to get involved in politics. Now I’ve gone from homeless to homeowner. I plan to get married and raise children here. I bring a different perspective of lived experience, and that’s why I want to serve as Asheville’s first openly gay elected official.

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?

Tourism has always been a part of Asheville and WNC, and it’s an important piece of our economic puzzle. But the industry pays many in it less than a living wage. The economic balance is off right now. The city and county get very little back from the hotel occupancy tax to help us meet the increased demands tourism places on our fire and police services, roads and parking. We need to attract and grow truly living-wage jobs for the long haul, and we need to keep our money in this community.

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?

The city needs to find ways to provide concierge-style service for entrepreneurs. We should focus on growing the economy by supporting businesses already here, especially minority-owned businesses. We can look at increasing our partnerships with Mountain BizWorks and Self-Help Credit Union.

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?

The best way of dealing with traffic is encouraging multimodal transportation and alternate forms of transit. Surveys show that 85 percent of our current bus riders are people who have no other choice. Only 15 percent of our ridership is actively choosing that form of transportation The better our bus system is, the more people will ride it. We also need to look at increasing parking fees downtown to incentivize ride-sharing and transit use, generate revenue for the city and reduce traffic.

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About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

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