Name: Esther Manheimer
Profession: [candidate did not reply]
In up to two words, describe your political affiliation: [candidate did not reply]
In one brief sentence, describe yourself and why you’re running: [candidate did not reply]
These questions are about problems, challenges or topics facing city government and how you will try to deal with them if elected.
1. Of the current top city officials that answer directly to City Council — City Attorney, City Manager and City Clerk — which ones would you favor retaining or firing? Why?
Workplace intimidation in the form of instilling fear or a sense of inadequacy in an employee, whether through a public forum such as a candidate survey or any other means, is unacceptable and I will refrain from engaging in it regardless of whether the worker is in government, private sector, or nonprofit sector, or under my direct supervision or not. I will share that I think it is reasonable to have performance expectations and one expectation I have is that all city employees through their work demonstrate alignment on transparency and commitment to public service, and demonstrate an ability to acknowledge and constructively respond to setbacks, redirection, and the like as we work toward community goals.
2. The powers granted to the planning and zoning commission are a key point of debate in how Asheville should deal with growth and how much of a direct role elected officials should play. Do you think those powers should change, If so, how?
I strongly support engaging the community, and one of those paths of engagement is through board and commission service by non-elected members of the public. We need even more people involved in constructive consideration of policy, review of compliance with policy, and engaged in how to equitably serve our community. In a broad sense, reducing the value of the efforts of boards and commissions is a means of devaluing public engagement. Specific to the Planning and Zoning commission, they do a lot of heavy lifting, following policy set in place by our city, and carrying out their required statutory duties, and I support continuing this model. If what we want is to change the policies that non-elected boards and commissions adhere to as they do they work, such as whether or not we will allow inclusionary zoning or higher density or restrictions that are allowed under the constraints of state laws that limit our autonomy, the council could specifically discuss those policies.
3. Some Pisgah Legal Services attorneys recently criticized city staff’s enforcement of tenant protections, asserting that they don’t sufficiently enforce the written ordinance and place additional burdens on tenants dealing with bad landlords. How would you change or reinforce the city’s tenant protections and their enforcement?
Through my volunteer work as an attorney with Pisgah Legal representing indigent clients, I learned directly from tenants about some of the harrowing experiences they have endured in this supply strapped housing market, which can put tenants at a disadvantage when it comes to advocating for their personal safety and their rights, and can force tenants to choose between homelessness or an unsafe or unfair living situation. Although state law changes may be needed to grant cities greater authority regarding tenant protections, I support review combined with a dialogue on potential changes or reinforcement of policies.
4. In response to a community push that cited the de facto segregation shown in reports like the State of Black Asheville, the Buncombe County Commissioners recently supported taking funds intended for a jail expansion and instead putting them towards community support and rehabilitation. Do you favor a similar shifting of Asheville’s law enforcement funds? If so, to what extent and to what kind of programs?
I am supportive of the county’s intention and action to divert people away from the criminal justice system and thereby reducing the jail population, and redirecting the reduced spending that would have paid for jail expansion, staffing, and operations. To be clear, the county is attempting to reduce the need for jail spending by reducing the number of people who would potentially be housed in the jail. The city plays no role in jail funding and therefore has no such money to redirect or reduce in the way that the county does, so this is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Looking at the city’s budget for the police department, it is conceivable that increased investment in one area (such as community policing) could result in a decrease in spending needs in another area (such as overtime pay for call responses). I use community policing as an example because that method has been shown to help officers develop better relationships with neighborhoods and help keep the community safer through crime prevention and quicker resolution of investigations thanks to community input.
5. What course of action do you favor in dealing with Asheville’s Confederate regime and segregation era monuments?
As I stated in August, Governor Cooper has called for the removal of Confederate monuments and for the state legislature to repeal the 2015 state law that bars removal of such monuments. I agree. Now is the time to stop glorifying those who supported the oppression and enslavement of people because of the color of their skin. This practice is a pillar of institutionalized racism that we have an opportunity to knock down. Moving beyond my personal opinion, specific to the Vance monument in downtown Asheville, the community has a variety of opinions about the Vance monument and council is eager to hear the community’s ideas about how to address the monument given the state law barring its removal, and ideas voiced thus far include contextualizing the memorial, renaming it, adding additional monuments to balance the truth of history, or making a plan for removing it or moving it in the event that the state law changes. We also have two other monuments downtown that are patently confederate monuments, and though they are smaller and less noticeable than the Vance monument, they would also be part of the conversation.
These questions are about specific proposals Asheville City Council has or may consider, and how you would vote on them. The first word of each answer must be Yes or No. An explanation of one’s position — or an alternative proposal — may follow. Answers in this section that do not begin with “Yes” or “No” will not be published.
[Mayor Manheimer refused to answer any of the Yes/No questions]
6. Earlier this year, the local NAACP — backed by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice — called for several reforms in an attempt to address racial disparities in the APD’s traffic stops. Those reforms included: ending regulatory stops for minor issues like expired registration or a busted headlight, written consent for a driver agreeing to allow a vehicle search and a transparent investigation into why full stop numbers may not have been reported to the SBI. Do you favor the full and immediate adoption of these reforms?
7. Do you favor extending the ban on whole home/apartment Airbnb-style rentals to areas where the practice is currently allowed, such as downtown and the River Arts District?
8. Do you favor the city establishing a rental crisis fund that would give direct monetary assistance to those in danger of being pushed out by rapidly rising rents, with priority given to those in the most marginalized and rapidly-gentrifying neighborhoods?
9. Lambda Legal and other civil rights groups have dubbed HB142 a “fake repeal” of the HB2 legislation that discriminates against LGBT (especially trans) people and sued to overturn it. Should the city of Asheville formally condemn HB142, pass a non-discrimination ordinance in defiance of it and prepare to defend that ordinance in court?
10. Should the city of Asheville declare itself a sanctuary city, as some social justice and immigrants rights’ advocates have called for?