Scott Bissinger

Occupation: Former sheriff’s deputy, law enforcement instructor
Website: scottbissinger.com
Top endorsements: Sheriff Van Duncan; C. Max Queen, Board of Education; Chief Jeff Justice, Reems Creek Fire Department

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

We consider ourselves Fairviewians, but I have a Fletcher address. I’ve been out north, east and southeast, and the concerns are pretty much the same: taxes and what they get for them. Most people want to pay less taxes, but they want to feel safe and want their
property protected.

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

As of a year ago, we had a higher percentage of mentally ill people in our jail than most counties in the state. These are good people, but they can’t get the medicines and care they need. How much are we spending to keep them in jail? Could we divert some of that money to treatment? Health and human services is the biggest part of the budget, and it’s fixing to get bigger, because state government has transferred that stuff down to the county level. Meanwhile, people are having to choose between buying groceries and medicines.

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

I think the current commissioners have brought in some some good companies and jobs. But we have these old buildings that are sitting empty and we should be hunting for somebody to fill them. It can’t be all service jobs.

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?

You have to look at the whole issue. What about existing companies? Are you bringing in a competitor and giving them a bunch of breaks? I support some incentives. I’m a big believer in small business, and I’d like to look at things we can streamline to help them grow. If a good company doesn’t come, you’re getting zero tax dollars, so giving them a break for a few years is an excellent idea. We need living-wage companies; we’ve got an affordable housing problem. But if some company is 90 percent living wage, I’d have to look at it.

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?

Raising taxes just doesn’t work. When you look at all the growth we’re experiencing, we shouldn’t need to raise taxes. We’ll have to add some resources, but we’re in a productive time. People are coming here; we’re increasing the tax base. We should be looking at duplicated services, working with the municipalities, looking for ways to reduce costs. DSS is huge: We have to look at what we can contract out, what’s most effective.

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

That’s a perfect example of duplication of services. They should be combined: not overnight, but there should be some savings there. It also gets abused: Kids go back and forth between the systems. We need one system that makes sure it treats everybody fairly.

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

We have such a diverse community, and there’s too much minority representation in arrests and in jail. The facts are there: There’s some unconscious bias. We should try to make county employees represent the entire population we serve. The county has done a good job of protecting employees from discrimination, but we’ve got to do a better job of setting an example and hoping the city and other big employers follow suit.

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

I’ve spent quite a few years working with the county to make things happen: building this domestic violence center, some youth programs, our summer programs. I bring insight into how county government operates: I understand the entire budget, and I believe in getting stuff done collaboratively. Bring the stakeholders to the table and you can have an impact on things you don’t control. I’ve used that principle effectively in the sheriff’s office: You partner with people.

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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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