Matt Kern

Occupation: Homebuilder, organizer of French Broad Music Festival
Website: mattkernforcommission.com
Endorsements: “I have the support of many current and former elected officials who are choosing to stay neutral out of respect for my primary opponents.”

Xpress: What neighborhood/area do you live in? What are those residents’ concerns?

I live in Riceville. People are concerned about education and good jobs, the amount of sprawl and traffic we have now, the loss of farmland.

What are your top concerns regarding county residents’ health? What would you support to fix those problems?

Education is the key to good health; I would like to see more pre-K education available in Buncombe County. I served on the board of the Verner Center, a pre-K facility, and they had a nutrition program called “rainbow in my tummy” that teaches children to eat fruits and vegetables, as well as things that especially the lower-income children would never eat at home. We also need more community parks and greenways.

Would you support measures to encourage job growth outside the city center? If so, what measures?

Absolutely. There could be incentives for using vacant industrial property. There’s the old Balcrank plant in Reems Creek; the Beacon property in Swannanoa; another big manufacturing plant on Bee Tree Road. Abandoning these facilities has increased traffic and pollution, because most people are now coming to the city center for their jobs, versus working in their communities.

Do you support giving companies economic incentives to relocate/expand in Buncombe County? Should companies receive economic incentives even if not all the jobs they provide are living-wage?

If we don’t do it, everybody else is doing it, and they’ll get the people we want. I think Buncombe County can be somewhat selective: We don’t need to have awful polluting industries come in. With housing prices so high, I don’t think it’s too much to ask a company to pay $12 an hour, which is only about $24,000 per year. The biggest thing we can do to get people off public assistance is recruit good-paying jobs.

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?

I have no intention of raising property taxes. The county just went through a tax increase, and we don’t need another one. I’ve looked at the budget, about 75 or 80 percent of it is federal and state mandates. Just police protection and health and human services is 50 percent of the budget. We have a AAA bond rating, we have a fund balance. So we’re in pretty good health, and apparently the county is getting ready to do a property reassessment. I don’t see anything right now that looks like it needs to be cut, but I will definitely be looking for any ways to do things more efficiently.

Should we consolidate the Asheville and Buncombe County school systems? Why or why not?

I don’t know. There’s obviously a human component there that we should all be respectful of. But if it makes sense to do so after I study the facts, I would definitely consider it.

What can and will you do to address inequality in Buncombe County?

When I think of inequality, I think of economic inequality. It’s unbelievable how great the separation between the haves and the have nots has become in this county. But education lifts all boats: We’ve got to push for more pre-K for county residents. Kids who attend pre-K have much higher graduation rates and are less dependent on government services.

What do you bring to the table that your opponents can’t?

Experience. I’m the only one of the four candidates that’s a small-business owner, and I have been for over 15 years. I know what it’s like to make payroll and adhere to budgets. I’ve also worked for an affordable housing nonprofit, spent five years at the Verner Center and seven years on greenway boards and commissions. I have an MPA from Western Carolina. My resume sets me apart.

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About Able Allen
Able studied political science and history at Warren Wilson College. He enjoys travel, dance, games, theater, blacksmithing and the great outdoors. Follow me @AbleLAllen

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