Name: Martin Ramsey
Profession: Service industry worker
In up to two words, describe your political affiliation: independent/socialist
In one brief sentence, describe yourself and why you’re running: I’m running for office because working people make Asheville run and we need working people in Asheville’s government. I pledge to stand for cooperative economics, justice, and care for the environment. The present situation demands a movement, not management, and I want to contribute to that effort.
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?
I believe that the city attorney needs to be replaced and am open to replacing the city manager. Categorically, I think that the city attorney is too conservative in legal philosophy as evidenced by the issue of HB2 and issues surrounding transparency with the press and open government. While I have my political disagreements with the city manager, especially the view of city government as business, the city manager serves at the pleasure of council. Were I to be elected, presumably with a majority of progressive council members, I would begin to put forward the agenda I’ve outlined. I would demand that it be diligently executed by the city manager. If it were not, I would ask for his resignation and replace him without hesitation.
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?
Driving much of the decision making about downtown development into the Planning and Zoning Commission was done years ago and since that time we’ve seen no shortage of building. That was the point: to streamline development and encourage it. That time is over, and much of that power over conditional zoning again requires council review, which is as it should be. Now, as Asheville is booming and becoming more and more elite and exclusive, is the time to curb unchecked development and be clear about our people’s desires for their city before they are priced out of it.
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?
I would direct staff to create a clear line of communication for tenants who have complaints regarding their housing safety. There is no reason that the city shouldn’t be sending inspectors when informed about substandard housing. Placing the onus on tenants to negotiate with their landlords regarding repairs to rentals is both unrealistic, given the precarious housing situation for renters, and absolutely not part of a strong health, safety, and fire code for housing. So basically, set clear standards, inform tenants of their rights unambiguously, prompt inspections, and consequences for substandard or unsafe properties. I believe the barriers to standing up for renters, more than 50% of Asheville’s population, are fundamentally political. For too long our city has prioritized and emphasized the place of property holders. Renters are members of our community, regardless of how much they own. They deserve protection.
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 supported the Million Dollars for the People campaign against expanding the police budget. Generally speaking, I believe that policing in America has resulted in unaccountable, unrepresentative, ever expanding, and militarized approaches to public safety. Those models of policing have resulted in the largest prison population in the history of humankind and are a blot on any society that presumes to call itself free. The disintegration of the economic health and social wellbeing of our communities, doubly so black and brown peoples, cannot be solved by police, guns, and incarceration. I support moving funds from that system towards programs of social uplift to the greatest extent possible. Investment in education, childcare, reintegration programs for people released from jails, gun buybacks, cooperative economic development, community land trusts are all worthy efforts. There is far more need than the city has money for unfortunately and I am open to possibilities that emphasize compassion and cooperation rather than cells.
5. What course of action do you favor in dealing with Asheville’s Confederate regime and segregation era monuments?
While the city government is forbidden by state law to remove or alter monuments, I would like to see their removal by community demonstration and the city police stand down. Let the state replace those monuments to the confederacy with their money and their workers. They were erected as specific symbols of white power in the face of rising black political fortunes in Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Era. They aren’t ‘historic’ monuments, they are cheap reproduced affirmations of racism with no place on public land.
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.
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?
Yes, with the caveat that we should coordinate with LGBT legal groups on best strategies for challenging HB142 and follow their lead.
10. Should the city of Asheville declare itself a sanctuary city, as some social justice and immigrants rights’ advocates have called for?