2017 Council primary guide — Sheneika Smith

by David Forbes October 1, 2017

Name: Sheneika Smith

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]

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 have concerns with the direction that our City has taken as of late and understand how the balance of power should work with a Council-Manager style of local government. City staff ultimately serve at the pleasure of Council. I support an audit of the entire City Manager’s office. After such an in-depth review, I would be open to working with my fellow members of Council to reach a majority decision about what members of City staff should remain.

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 was glad to see City Council take back the approval process for large hotels from the hands of Planning and Zoning, so that now those development decisions must be voted upon. The calls from some candidates to “depoliticize” the planning process is simply coded language for allowing the developers to get what they want when they want it. I support City Council acting as the final check and balance on how development will unfold in our community.

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 press for the City to enforce the Minimum Standards of the Housing Code as it is currently written, and would work with our local delegation to the General Assembly to see if what we could do to strengthen those standards from a legislative point-of-view. I support a greater effort to make renters aware of the complaint process and how it works. I would like to see an information campaign that advertises the phone number to the complaint line. I would press for sanctions against landlords who violated the standards.

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?

First off, I would not have voted for the extra million dollars in expanded funding that the Asheville Police Department received in the last budget cycle. I would have used those monies to further fund the City’s “Strategic Partnerships” with a emphasis on funding local grassroots nonprofit organizations that are doing the hard work of providing services that increase equity and opportunity for historically disenfranchised communities.

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

I would like to see all Confederate monuments removed in a placed in their proper historical context in a museum.

Yes/No questions 

These questions are about specific proposals Asheville City Council has or may consider, and how you would vote on them. 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?

Yes. I paid particularly close attention to these recommendations and the presentation given by attorney Ian Mance to City Council and saw in these policy reforms some very simple, no cost ways to help reduce the problem of racial profiling. I would support the full adoption of these policy proposals.

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?

Yes. I support the creation of ordinances that would regulate the practice of Short Term Rentals in these parts of the City to ensure that Asheville doesn’t become somewhere like Myrtle Beach where our neighborhoods, and downtown and the RAD are still certainly neighborhoods, don’t become hollowed-out with vacation rentals owned by out-of-town corporations.

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?

Yes. This seems like an effective way to help support those working people who help fuel our service industry economy.

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. Its high time for Asheville to truly live up to its reputation as a progressive city and if that means challenging discriminatory state law all the way to the Supreme Court, I am in favor of those efforts. We fought for several years in court to keep our water system, we should fight even harder to protect our people.

10. Should the city of Asheville declare itself a sanctuary city, as some social justice and immigrants rights’ advocates have called for?

Yes. I believe that our current Civil Liberties resolution that spells out the way undocumented individuals should be treated by police and local government should be strengthened to the point of explicitly defining Asheville as a sanctuary city that will not cooperate with Federal Immigration enforcement in the Trump era.