I am both a resident and a downtown business owner in the city of Asheville, and overpolicing, use of force and the targeting of black and brown community members are the issues that I most care about in our county sheriff and district attorney races. I care because the safety and comfort of my customers is important to me. My customers include both tourists and members of the local community.
When our city officials and Asheville Police Department use concerns over maintaining an influx of tourism dollars as an excuse for upping police budgets and increasing numbers of downtown officers, we should all be alarmed. Asheville is one of the fastest-gentrifying cities in the nation and is also, for a city of its size, one of our nation’s most overpoliced. When the experience of affluent outsiders is put above the safety and basic rights of local community members, something is very wrong.
I am not against tourism. My business wouldn’t survive without it. But clearly, our city’s present growth rate is unsustainable. Too little thought and investment have gone into infrastructure to support this growth and respect the needs of our hardworking local taxpayers. Buncombe County’s seal reads “People to Match Our Mountains.” And it is the beautiful mountains and the strong, creative, resilient people who make Asheville what it is.
We need leaders who believe in putting people before profit. We need people who especially recognize the disparity within the “State of Black Asheville,” people who seek tangible, equitable solutions. We need leaders like DA candidate Ben Scales and Buncombe County sheriff candidate Quentin Miller. Both of these men have shown a commitment to all our great people. Both have shown they are not afraid to speak up and bring much-needed change to our criminal justice system.
— Elizabeth Schell
Editor’s note: Schell reports that she did some canvassing for Miller earlier in the campaign season.