Your name: Kevan Frazier

Why are you running for Asheville City Council?

Folks want to get along with their neighbors and be part of a community they feel has their back. That’s the community I want us to build. A community in which ALL residents feel welcome, safe, and know they belong. A community in which our neighbors feel heard, seen, and respected. A community in which all residents find meaningful work, better wages, a reasonable cost of living, and benefit from environmental stewardship. At present, residents aren’t feeling heard or supported when we experience water fiascos, barriers to building affordable housing, and hindrances to operating small businesses. We’ve got work to do.

If elected, what are your top three priorities for Asheville?

Let’s build a community in which all residents 1. find meaningful work at better wages, 2. enjoy a reasonable cost of living and access to affordable housing, and 3. benefit from careful environmental stewardship.

Fair market rate for rental housing increased 78% in five years in the Asheville area (according to a recent article in the Citizen-Times). Most independent restaurant employees don’t meet the eligibility requirements for affordable housing, what strategies and incentives will you use to increase the stock of workforce housing?

For residents, including so many hospitality industry employees, the biggest issue is housing inventory, which is very low in Buncombe County. The lack of inventory has continued to enable landlords to raise rents and enabled homeowners to ask higher and higher sales prices, which increases the cost of housing. City council can create policies that expand affordable high-quality housing such as a revision of the city’s development ordinances to enable what is known as “missing middle housing” in neighborhoods, which is a variety of house-scale buildings with multiple units including stacked fourplexes, townhomes, side-by-side and stacked duplexes, and live-work complexes; they aesthetically and practically bridge the gaps between single-family homes and apartment complexes.

The cost of and availability of housing, coupled with Asheville/Buncombe County’s high cost of living in other areas, is making it difficult for food and beverage employees to live in the City of Asheville and/or Buncombe County. Aside from increased workforce housing, how will you assist workers with cost of living affordability? 

Increasing our standard of living equitably is a challenge that requires a community-wide effort at all levels. Seeking collaboration and working well with others to the benefit of our residents will be one of my responsibilities. People need housing they can afford, accessible childcare and schools for children and adult education options, accessible grocery stores with high-quality fresh foods, affordable transportation choices, accessible recreation facilities and outdoor spaces, safe streets and neighborhoods–when we begin to list them it is easy to understand why it takes a community effort involving all our neighbors as well as local, state, and federal government and community partners (organizations, businesses). That kind of respectful collaboration is what I have done for years as an educator and small business owner and a skill set that I would bring to city council.

Safety for employees has been a top concern for businesses in recent years. What approach would you take to ensure safety of employees and all citizens? What characteristics and experience are you looking for in a new Chief for the Asheville Police Department? 

I support having a fully staffed and well-trained police department. I support getting the right professionals to the right situation. Sometimes armed officers are who is needed. Sometimes addiction specialists or mental health professionals are needed. The Community Paramedic Program, which activates firefighters and other non-LEO first responders, is a great example of both better serving the community and best utilizing resources. Interim Chief Michael Lamb has excellent characteristics and experience: He has 25 years of service in Asheville, he oversaw Community Engagement, he’s served as a Patrol Division Executive Officer and District Commander, he’s served as sergeant over the Public Housing Unit, APD’s Gang Unit, and the downtown district. 

Do you support a Business Improvement District (BID) for the downtown Asheville area? Why or why not? 

I do. I have lived in different parts of our city and also in the county, and what I have seen is that different neighborhoods have different needs. For the past several years, I’ve lived downtown and for several years now I am a downtown business owner. I’ve also traveled and seen a BID in action in cities including Chattanooga, TN, and Portland, MN, to great success. One of the key elements of a well-run business improvement district is having staff on the ground to address needs and develop relationships with the people who are our residents and our workers. I don’t want us to be afraid to try. I’d like to see us use a BID as a tool for increasing safety and cleanliness downtown. 

In what other ways can Asheville City Council support the local independent restaurant community?

The success of most any small business, especially restaurants, hinges on tight margins, and we need the city to do all that it can to make doing responsible business in Asheville and calling Asheville home as easy as possible. It appears that our city services are provided by good people operating within outdated and outmoded systems. For example, I am in the process of adding a second dishwasher to my own restaurant, Well Played Board Game Café, and am surprised by the steps and time it has taken. So many permits and inspections for one additional small commercial dishwasher. As a member of city council my work would be to fully understand the current state of our city operations and work closely with the rest of council and the city manager to make sure that our processes are streamlined, modernized, customer-centered, and thus easy for residents and business to access and use. 

Anything you’d like to share with our local restaurant workforce?

I am one of the co-owners of Well Played Board Game Café on Coxe Avenue and a member of AIR since 2017. I started my work life as a server and housekeeper for a bed and breakfast which taught me a great deal about the powerful human to human connection cultivated by the hospitality industry. I have also spent more than 25 years as an educator and work for Western Carolina University as well as working for Well Played. Those lessons and experiences in both hospitality and education are what led me to open Well Played with my partners. We wanted to create a space, where everyone felt welcome, safe, and able to have fun, whether as grown ups or kids. While the customer experience is paramount at Well Played we do not achieve that at the expense of our team’s well being and do so through a culture of mutual respect between each other. I would bring to the Asheville City Council the perspective of the tens of thousands of folks who make possible one of Asheville’s most economically significant and impactful industries.