Your Name: Kim Roney

Why are you running for Asheville City Council?

So many of us in Asheville are struggling to make ends meet as the cost of living rises while unchecked tourism strains our natural resources, burdens our infrastructure, and displaces our most vulnerable neighbors. It’s a matter of priorities: if we ensure this is a great place to live and work, it will be a great place to visit too.

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

I’m committed to advancing: Affordability, Public Safety, and Climate & Neighborhood Resiliency which means:

● Affordability: ○ Investing in creative and cooperative solutions for deeply-affordable housing and keeping neighbors from becoming unhoused; ○ Advocating with fellow transit riders and advocates for a more reliable and effective transit system at the intersection of equitable access, economic mobility, and environmental sustainability; ○ Securing our food and water systems; and ○ Pressing the City to regain our living wage certification so our staff that provides core services can afford to live in the communities they serve.

● Public Safety – Everyone in Asheville deserves to be safe! True safety identifies community needs and utilizes the correct tools. A narrow definition of public safety limits results and creates new problems–and it’s really expensive. Instead, we need a public safety response that works to keep everyone safe, which means: ○ Implementing an Office of Community Safety and HEART Program as outlined in my opinion piece in the ACT, deploying first responders with the right tools and training to calls for service around the opioid/overdose crisis, homelessness response, intimate partner violence, and mental health; and prioritizing living wages and safe working conditions for first responders; ○ Acting on recommendations in the National Alliance to End Homelessness report to reduce homelessness by 50%; ○ Advancing Complete Streets Policy so all commuters get to their destination safely; ○ Engaging the Community Health Workers organizing to prevent gun violence and intimate partner violence, facilitating healing for residents, families and their communities.

● Climate & Neighborhood Resiliency: ○ Responding appropriately to our stated Climate Emergency; ○ Implementing adopted neighborhood plans; aligning Neighborhood Grants to implement our Climate Justice Initiative, including tree canopy maintenance and restoration; ○ Demanding water rate parity for residents instead of the steep, bulk discounts for the largest commercial water users as a matter of public health and because keeping the water on is good for business too; ○ Holding the standard for renewable energy in all new residential development; and ○ Following through with our commitments to Reparations.

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?

We need to set and hold the standard for housing development that’s in the best interest of our community. With enough Council support, strategies could include: a community benefits table applied to conditional zoning processes for dense residential and mixed-use development on transit corridors so people don’t have to buy, maintain, and park a car; learning from the County’s experience with sector-based housing for workers; adopting and implementing the Missing Missing Housing Study & Displacement Risk Assessment Study recommendations, including reducing parking minimums, to ensure that creative, cooperative solutions like duplexes and tiny home villages are allowed in our zoning. I’m deeply concerned that the housing we are building is being used for short term rentals. In 2021, I worked with another Council member and legal staff to develop a path to tools like City Portal, which would have allowed permitted homestays but immediately removed illegal short term rentals from major listing sights like AirBnB and Expedia/VRBO. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough Council support to bring it forward, and now we have even less leverage and options for enforcement. I’m watching the County’s process unfold and hope we can work with local governments across WNC on common-sense solutions to make sure houses and apartments are truly for the people who live and work here and not just speculative property that is avoiding transparency of lodging taxes while extracting our natural resources, burdening our infrastructure, and displacing neighbors.

While on this topic, serious concerns need to be addressed regarding disparate outcomes of the City’s affordable housing efforts, most recently shown in Thrive Asheville’s Opening Doors report. To secure stronger renter rights, we should implement Source of Income discrimination protections so renters have a process to demand fair housing and aren’t excluded from signing a lease based on how they pay their rent, and voucher set-asides should be included as a minimum expectation in conditional zoning. Council is currently pausing our Land Use Incentive Grant to look at disparities of race and class, and I’m eager to get this tool to align with our strategic goal of Equitable, Affordable Housing because it’s the closest thing we have to rent control.

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?

The rent is too high, but so is the rising cost of transportation and utilities. Tackling affordability looks like: Incentivizing and investing in deeply-affordable housing; keeping neighbors from becoming unhoused through partnership for home repairs and eviction protection so one emergency doesn’t result in homelessness; following through on recommendations in the National Alliance to End Homelessness report to reduce homelessness by 50%; expanding transit, bikeability, walkability, and accessibility so having a car isn’t a prerequisite to accessing housing; securing our food and water systems, including fair water rates to keep our water on instead of steep discounts for the largest commercial accounts; demanding renewable energy options in new development to secure our energy grid and keep utilities down; and setting an example by regaining living wage certification for City staff so our employees can live in the communities they serve.

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?

Everyone in Asheville deserves to be safe! True safety identifies community needs and utilizes the correct tools. A narrow definition of public safety limits results and creates new problems–and it’s really expensive. Instead, we need a public safety response that works to keep everyone safe, which means:

● Implementing an Office of Community Safety and HEART Program as outlined here, deploying first responders with the right tools and training to calls for service around the opioid/overdose crisis, homelessness response, intimate partner violence, and mental health; prioritizing living wages so staff can afford housing and provide quality, equitable service outcomes while living in the communities they serve; ● Acting on recommendations in the National Alliance to End Homelessness report to reduce homelessness by 50%;
● Advancing Complete Streets Policy so all commuters get to their destination safely;
● Partnering with the County for a 24-7 Community Paramedicine program starting in Downtown with plans to grow city-wide;
● Tripling the Strategic Partnership Funds for youth advocacy groups because our kids matter to us and we’re invested in a hopeful future; and
● Engaging the Community Health Workers organizing to prevent gun violence and intimate partner violence, facilitating healing for residents, families and their communities.

Hiring department heads including the Chief of Police is the responsibility of the City Manager. As a Councilmember, resident, and taxpayer, I value commitment to: transparency in City budgets, plans, and policies; implementation of equity; support for community-led solutions; and ownership of failures. I believe our community deserves leadership committed to embracing and following through on these values. Some overdue areas for leadership in APD might include: a budget transparency dashboard; deprioritizing non-violent crimes associated with poverty; adoption of the NAACP-backed reforms adopted by Council in 2019, including written consent to search expansion to protect the rights of pedestrians and cyclists; reinstating the Citizen Police Advisory Committee; and welcoming a Community Safety Department that reports directly to the City Manager to oversee prevention of violence and crime.

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

I am currently in a position of listening and learning, both to new voices in the conversation and to those who participated in previous engagements around a BID, centering most-impacted people. When engaging business owners and residents during the Chamber’s recent stakeholder meetings, some of the concerns I heard included: accountability for an unelected board overseeing tax dollars, realistic service boundaries and expectations, impact of potential for multiple property tax raises at the same time, and a lack of base level services currently provided by the City and County in Downtown. As a dedicated advocate for true public safety, I believe that everyone in Asheville deserves to be safe, but a narrow definition of public safety limits successes and creates new problems. True public safety identifies needs and utilizes correct tools. A BID is required to serve above and beyond base level services, but the City and County are not yet providing the base-level services our community deserves during crises of behavioral health and opioid overdose. While our community considers a new property tax to fund a BID Downtown, in large part to fund ambassador staffing, I hope my neighbors will also consider advocating for improved base-level services and my suggestions outlined in my recent opinion piece in the Citizen Times. Otherwise, we will still be sending the wrong person with the wrong tools during times of crisis, but with a new problem as our community will have less resources to support the services our community deserves.

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

1. As liaison to the Asheville Beverage Control (ABC) Board, I’ve learned a great deal about the costs and benefits of selling alcohol in Asheville. We have one of the most effective and productive boards in the state, and a dedication to customer service. I know that reopening our location on Cherry Street will benefit our independent restaurants, and am curious to hear feedback as AIR is regularly attending and participating in our meetings.

2. Connecting local businesses to customers and employees means providing effective, efficient public transit as a core service. The Transit Master Plan has several recommendations that can benefit restaurant owners, workers, and customers. Right now, 30% of our bus routes end at or before 7:30pm, so workers have difficulty getting home–we need to get all bus routes running until at least 10pm and major corridors until midnight. Another recommendation is for a Downtown Circulator, which could connect to park and ride locations and car/van pool services at a regional level.

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

Asheville is my home, I love our city! I know we’re capable of better because I know I live in a community full of caring people. I’m a former service-industry worker who was laid off due to business closure in 2020. I’m committed to representing working, poor, and compassionate people who are critical to our economy and make our city special. We’ve lost the plot: If we make sure Asheville is a great place to live and work, then it will also be a great place to visit. It’s a matter of priorities. We’re having hard conversations in City Hall because our community is facing difficult challenges. I started showing up to Council meetings in 2014 to advocate for affordable housing, and it means the world to me when friends and neighbors show up to watch and listen, to speak up in public comment, to spread the word for accountability in the decisions we’re making, and to share dreams of what is possible if we work to take better care of each other. I know that not everyone can be in the room when decisions are made about us without us, so I encourage workers to organize with Asheville Food & Beverage United and I applaud the owners and managers who support workers rights to organize as we share the work on challenging issues together. With gratitude, Kim