2017 Council primary guide — Gwen Wisler

by David Forbes October 1, 2017

Name: Gwen Wisler

Profession: Vice Mayor of Asheville, Owner of Asheville Profits LLC, a consulting firm that asks clients to pay for services by donating time to a local non-profit

In up to two words, describe your political affiliation: Democrat

In one brief sentence, describe yourself and why you’re running: I’m running to continue my work in making Asheville safe, vibrant, healthy and accessible.

General questions

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 will retain all of them. They consistently strive to meet Council’s goals within the legal framework.

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 have been supportive of more developments coming before Council for review and using Conditional Zoning.

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?

The Housing and Community Development Committee of which I am a member has asked staff to coordinate with Pisgah Legal Services to address these concerns. I look forward to hearing from staff on this issue.

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?

The City does not have any control over the jail system; this is a County function. APD works closely with the Housing Authority, HACA Residents’ Council, My Daddy Taught Me That, Afterschool Programs, Getting Back to the Basics camp, Mission Health and Changing Together. I am supportive of any efforts to reduce crime, reduce incarceration and reduce recidivism.

5. What course of action do you favor in dealing with Asheville’s Confederate regime and segregation-era monuments?

At a minimum, these monuments should be contextualized. Preferably if the monuments glorify war or slavery, they should be removed.

Yes/No questions 

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.

[Reply from Vice Mayor Wisler “I did not provide answers to your “yes” or “no” questions. The responses are more nuanced than that.”]

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?