Name: Cecil Bothwell
In up to two words, describe your political affiliation: Progressive Democrat
In one brief sentence, describe yourself and why you’re running: I’m an environmentalist and have successfully advanced green issues, advanced Civil Liberties, improved transit and helped increase housing affordability during two terms on Council and look forward to continuing the fight for a more progressive Asheville.
These questions are about problems, challenges or topics facing city government andhow 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 all three should be retained. City Attorney Robin Currin has steered the City through successful resolution of the state’s water grab, has settled numerous lesser suits in the City’s favor, has streamlined the Attorney’s office and reduced costs by bringing legal work formerly farmed-out to private firms “in house.” During City Manager Gary Jackson’s tenure we have achieved a Triple-A bond rating, made serious progress on environmental issues, re- organized management to make citizen interaction with Staff much easier, and boosted transparency and public communication. City Clerk Maggie Burleson is an amazing asset, and her relatively near-term retirement will represent a loss to the City. She is an in-depth source for City operations and history that no computer can replace, and has been recognized for her expertise as President of the NC organization of City Clerks.
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I voted against handing over excessive control to P and Z in 2010 and have been proved right—we rescinded that vote last March, lowering the definition of Level III projects so Council would review large developments and bringing all hotels over 21 rooms into Council oversight. While Council sometimes gets blamed for “all those new hotels” – the blame is really mostly with P and Z, and secondly with my fellow Council members who opened the flood- gates in 2010. After a candidate for P and Z misrepresented their involvement in development in order to obtain appointment several years ago, we adopted the current process of televised interviews of candidates which has hopefully permitted more public involvement (and therefore more likelihood that misrepresentation can be exposed.)
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?
Sorry, but I’m not familiar with the PLS criticism and I can’t find it with a Web search. More than a decade ago the City quit inspecting rentals, and soon thereafter the General Assembly banned the practice. I oppose both moves, and have helped a few constituents navigate the complaint or eviction process in my years on Council. I’d definitely like to learn more about the above-referenced matter, and am a staunch advocate of strengthening and enforcing tenant rights.
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?
As Chair of the Public Safety Committee (and a member of that committee for both of my terms on Council) I have consistently pushed back against disparate enforcement practices. I successfully pressed for a Civil Liberties Resolution (see more below in discussion of Sanctuary Cities), pressed for arrest statistics by race (and invited a presentation by Ian Mance when his study was available), advanced the use of body-cams, encouraged the creation of a “use of force” policy that is now deemed a national model, and quietly discouraged marijuana-use enforcement. With the committee’s encouragement Chief Tammy Hooper has implemented “implicit bias” training for all officers and a policy of directing the homeless and addicted to help rather than jail. The County runs our local Public Health programs, so rehabilitation is in their court. (But, lest we forget, all City taxpayers are also County taxpayers … so division of responsibility doesn’t mean the City isn’t being served.)
5. What course of action do you favor in dealing with Asheville’s Confederate regime andsegregation-era monuments?
I believe they should be removed, perhaps re-installed in other places. The Vance for example might be appropriate at the Vance homestead park. At present state law prohibits removal and apparently even re-dedication, but I feel sure that the culture has shifted and they will come down eventually. After all, the Vance replaced a mermaid. The Lee monument has no place in Asheville, installed during the rise of Jim Crow and lynchings as die-hard Confederates sought to terrorize the black population into submission. The Vance at least has local historical relevance, but as the plaque plainly states, honors his service for the Confederacy. My sense is that even rededication would not eliminate the association with white supremacy—given that Vance made the lecture circuit after the Civil War with a white supremacist speech. The association would not disappear if we rechiseled “AD-Vance into the base of the monument.
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.
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?
Yes. And have so-stated as Chair of the Public Safety Committee.
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?
No. But the question frames the issue oddly. I favor legalizing STR of accessory dwelling units city-wide, and banning whole home STRs. (ADUs are basement/attic/garage/tiny homes on the same property as the principal residential unit.)
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?
[Candidate’s answer did not have “yes” or “no” as first word.]
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. I have argued for this on Council.
10. Should the city of Asheville declare itself a sanctuary city, as some social justice andimmigrants rights’ advocates have called for?
Yes. I tried. So yes. But. But. But. I worked for four years to do this and the best I could get my fellow Council members to vote for was a Civil Liberties Resolution that admonished City employees not to discriminate based on race, gender, gender identification, ethnicity, place of national origin, etc. I joined with the national organization of Police Chiefs who don’t want local police pulled into immigration issues, since that keeps people from reporting local crime.
Of course, now, the General Assembly has banned “sanctuary cities”. So the question is, do we want to quietly encourage the APD to not participate in immigration enforcement, or take it to the mat and face another legal battle with the GOP in Raleigh? I don’t think the latter makes much sense.