How will you use your office to advance and build support for a federal and local Green New Deal?
A first step will be to help educate the public about the platform of the Green New Deal so that we can have engaged, inclusive conversations -- the kind of buy-in, participation, and leadership at the heart of the Green New Deal so that it can be effective in its goals. As a Council Member I will host/sponsor/promote public educational sessions throughout Asheville in coordination with Sunrise and other GND supporters. Also, I will ask for council to adopt a policy that our decisions be viewed through a lens that focuses on the specific Green New Deal objectives: achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition for all communities and workers; create good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic security for all; invest in our infrastructure and industry so we can sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century; and promote justice and equity as we secure perpetual clean air and water, climate and community resiliency, healthy food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment for all. Asheville has pledged to convert its municipal operations to renewable energy by 2030 and the entire community by 2042. To do this, we’ll need strategic partnerships with industry leaders and startups, long term financial planning, increased partnership with the County, and leaders at a state level that will support increasing municipal controls. I can leverage my 20+ years of governance and service to drive those efforts. We need to ensure the implementation costs of moving to renewables does not fall on those in existing vulnerable and low-income situations. Moreso, new economic mobility opportunities need to assist those left out of past economic cycles.
Do you support a complete transition away from fossil fuels by 2030? Yes
Describe your vision for a just transition away from fossil fuels. Please include specifically what policies you would promote to achieve this and why doing so is important to you.
My son turned 18 last year and making this world a better place for him and all young people motivates me. One on one and through my service as a Council Member, I would call for personal change plus social change, social justice and ecological stewardship hand in hand, and political policy solutions combined with business solutions. Personally, I am a beekeeper, composter, drive an electric vehicle, choose to work for a living wage certified union organization, and chose as the first fundraiser through my campaign to raise money to plant 100 sourwood trees. We met the goal and will be planting this spring. I encourage everyone to make personal commitments, if they can, and also be part of the larger social and political process. My vision is for the 10-year national mobilization within the Green New Deal to effectively move us from, specifically, gas powered vehicles to electric vehicles, from dependence on coal, gas, and nuclear power plants to solar with battery backup and wind with battery backup. In doing so, I envision the mobilization creating good, well-paying jobs in what will be an expansive clean energy sector that offers career and leadership roles to people from front line and vulnerable communities, creating a diverse middle and upper class. I would advocate that any new taxes levied to raise monies for renewable infrastructure not be put on people experiencing poverty. Part of getting ourselves off fossil fuels will require breaking the monopoly of power sources, which is currently a state-level decision, which I support. Also at the state level, I support giving local governments the ability to take bigger steps, like the ability to impose $.25 transit tax and short term taxes to fund renewable infrastructure. Locally, I will advocate for responsible growth. Responsible growth is a tool we rarely hear discussed when speaking about long term climate solutions, despite it being one of our most powerful fiscal tools. Responsible growth means looking at the ways we design our city, our transit, our roadways, and policies to create a city that is dense, fiscally sound and able to grow strategically in ways that encourage mass transit use, reduce automotive use, increase walkability, increase density without increasing spending on infrastructure, and zone for infill that protects open and green spaces. I see the Green New Deal, combined with local action, as our best opportunity for taking responsibility for our historic actions, correcting our negative impacts on our earth, and giving those left out of past economic opportunities the chance to lead the way.
What will you do to protect communities, particularly communities of color, from fossil fuel projects?
This question immediately brings to mind our coal ash storage in South Asheville. This is the residue from a fossil fuel plant that served Asheville for decades. There has been conversation about moving that to a less-resourced community in another state -- to use their community as our dumping ground. I believe that we need to keep our coal ash in Asheville, out of the unprotected pit it is in now and instead into a new, appropriately lined pit on the same site. Relocating it elsewhere, where it will impact other communities both in transit and in its new home, is irresponsible. Also, leaving it on Duke’s site ensures Duke as property owners will bear the responsibility of the site, including ongoing maintenance. I know this position may not be popular with people who wish to have our coal ash be “out of sight, out of mind”. To me, it is a matter of protecting vulnerable communities from fossil fuel projects. In this way, a Green New Deal can help me, our city, and our entire nation ensure that all decisions are viewed through a lens that focuses on the specific Green New Deal objectives and that we are taking responsibility for our energy usage and habits.
Have you taken the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge? - http://nofossilfuelmoney.org/politician-signup/ Yes
How do you plan to support affordable housing in office?
Vigorously, strategically, and by using my deep experience in planning, finance, and affordable housing policy to commit to creating 1,000 new affordable units by 2025. I see that Asheville is at a tipping point on affordable housing and I am running for Council to step up to the challenge of making the policy and budget decisions necessary to avoid Asheville becoming permanently unaffordable. I have a Master’s in Urban Planning and a Master’s in Geographic Information Systems that combine to allow me to understand the bigger picture of building an equitable and balanced city, one that is built upon foundations of smart and responsible growth, of just and equitable opportunity. As chair of the Affordable Housing Committee, I have been at the table with fellow leaders and volunteers working on solutions. (Additionally, we updated incentive policies to include points for renewable and sustainable design.) I’ve seen us make partial progress on several initiatives, and I’ve seen how and where we stall. We have reviewed and rewritten policies to incentivize and create affordable solutions. We have done the hard work of reviewing projects, meeting with developers, designers, community leaders, and staff to better understand why our past policies haven’t delivered the results we desperately need. We have championed the Housing Bonds, the Community Land Trust, Down Payment Assistance, Land Banking Funds, and High Impact City Owned Land projects. We now need to put it all together. Having leaders in place that have been a part of this process is key. Housing touches all other parts of our lives, including mental health, access to jobs, access to healthcare, childhood education, and the time we have with our families doing the things that keep us healthy and sane. We have to get this right, now.
How do you plan to use your office to support voters rights?
I was recently asked what makes Asheville feel like home, and I answered that it’s a sense of belonging, of connection to community and the ways our community lives and breathes and how we care for each other. That is why, to me, one of the aspects of the Green New Deal that speaks to me deeply is its commitment to democracy and participation. Supporting voters rights is necessary to encourage and enable participation and ensure that we are a democracy -- where every vote counts. I support the efforts of the League of Women Voters, whose lawsuits have been successful in fighting gerrymandering and the court decision rescinding the voter ID requirement for this primary election. As a Council Member I will elevate conversation about voters rights by lobbying our board of elections to have the most convenient options for early voting, to have fare free transit days during voting, and to request updates and presentations to City Council and our community from the League of Women Voters, Democracy NC, and the NAACP, which are all respected nonpartisan organizations dedicated to voting rights, democracy, and public participation in government.
Firefighters are putting their lives on the line and don’t even make $15 an hour. How do you justify that?
No one can, in my opinion. We need to prioritize a $15 minimum wage for all city employees.
How do you plan to expand transit in light of the budget cuts?
By being strategic and leveraging our resources, which include our legislative delegation and our County Commissioners, all of whom have a responsibility to serve the people of Asheville. I am also the Chair of the Downtown Parking & Transportation Committee. We have recommended multiple policies to increase revenues so we can better fund transit. In the last two years, we have enacted strategies to grow parking incomes to support transit funding needs. Before, parking funded transit at $500,000 a year. More recently, we’ve been able to increase that support to $1,200,000. There is more work to be done. We executed a Parking Crawl, similar to a Walkability Study, but focused on finding new parking solutions and thereby new parking incomes to help build transit funding. We’ve increased parking deck fees and tested free parking vouchers for locals in downtown to support local businesses. We updated our parking meters to have better tools, including accepting card payments at the meter and demand based capabilities, each of which increases revenues to help increase revenues. These are incremental yet important solutions. (On Downtown Commission, I also help advise Council and developers on other impacts and community goals, including green roofing, additional trees and greenery, prioritizing multimodal infrastructure and walkability.) At a larger level, we need to elect state candidates that will help municipalities gain more local control, including the ability to leverage a municipal $.25 transit tax. Currently, only the County can add this tax. In lieu of Council being able to, we need to work with the County on this solution. The County is currently weighing contributing $1,000,000 to the City to create a fare free system. This would certainly increase ridership however, we have to be very careful to not impact necessity riders and to not face issues with new funding needed for paratransit services (currently 2x fares; 2 x 0 = 0)
What are you going to do to ensure that people who work in Asheville can afford to live here?
Champion affordable housing initiatives, including creating 1,000 new affordable housing units by 2025; championing living wages; and supporting the Green New Deal at the federal, state, and local level so that the 10-year mobilization plan is on-time and on-target for equitable job creation.
Do you support participatory budgeting? How will you help reshape our budgeting process to ensure that community needs are met?
Yes, I will look to models around the state and nation for how other communities have handled it, and how community members have voiced requests thus far. I will also look for leadership from our state NAACP and other partners who are respected voices for historically marginalized communities, and bring together a task force of locals to develop a path forward for our participatory budgeting process.
What other issues are important to you as a candidate? How does your concern about those issues relate to your concern about climate change and support for the Green New Deal?
Affordable Housing; Protecting and growing our local business economy; Smart and responsible growth for social, environmental, and fiscal health; Improving the opportunity gap in our elementary education; Working with area leaders to reduce silos and strengthen regional planning initiatives; Reforming tourism planning and taxation. All of these issues that concern me are about how we take care of our people and this place, and how we plan for a future where all can thrive. When you take it down to its foundation, that’s what the Green New Deal is all about, too.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I support the growing momentum of our youth on the issue of climate change and appreciate the ongoing, impressive efforts to force the long-overdue conversations on both what we must do now to mitigate or reverse climate change and what we must do to end inequity.