2017 Council primary guide — Kim Roney

by David Forbes October 1, 2017

Name: Kim Roney

Profession: Piano Teacher / Service Industry Worker

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

In one brief sentence, describe yourself and why you’re running: Asheville is at a critical turning point and needs courageous leaders as brave as the people they serve to address serious issues around affordability, community engagement, racial equity, the budget, and environmental policy.

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?

Performance reviews for our highest-level city staff, with measurables, will allow us to amplify a job well-done and to address areas for improvement. The last performance reviews were completed almost 2 years ago.

From my experience writing and receiving corporate performance reviews, Maggie Burleson would receive the highest marks on every issue regarding professionalism, customer service, and attention to detail. Ms. Burleson has set the standard high and I would love to see the City retain her.

I have watched as our City Attorney, Robin Curran, has repeatedly, over-cautiously advised Council. We missed an opportunity to stand for civil rights in advance of HB2 and again in regards to following suit with other cities in NC that are adopting policies to address racial biases in traffic stops. Our legal staff has also successfully won the battle for our water system. That said, I want a City Attorney that’s prepared to defend us, not one that quickly advises against our best interest.

As City Manager, Gary Jackson oversees the budget and the day-to-day operations through Department Directors. His office is the consistent end to all the conversations our community has around Asheville government and how it does or doesn’t work. Surely the recent issues around the RADTIP should be a deciding factor in his retention: staff received the bids in May, a controversial budget was passed in June, and City Council doesn’t get notice of the bids until July. This is an example of deceitful mismanagement of our resources. The challenges around transparency in the APD and the evidence room in the past decade also happened under his watch. These are serious issues that point to a need for a new City Manager, one that will be held accountable to the people of Asheville by a courageous City Council.

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?

City Council’s decision to pull smaller development based on room numbers and size back under the review of City Council was a wise one.  This zoning decision provides a greater level of accountability for developers who are seeking to impact the landscape of our town by setting a standard around hiring and environmental policies. A courageous council will prioritize people and our planet before profit, by putting the community’s voice in front of decisions around development, especially when supporting land trust efforts and living wage requirements. We have an opportunity to recognize that this issue is not just about hotels, but also for housing, affordability and equity. All of this can be done while recognizing the state requirements regarding the Planning & Zoning Commission, especially considering these members are appointed by Council.

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?

We need to reinforce tenant protections and enforcement. Though I am not aware of these specific criticisms from representatives of Pisgah Legal, I will look into the issues that came up and ways that we can address them.

I am fully aware of the restrictions we have at a state level when it comes to protecting housing and resources for the most vulnerable people in our community. We have a lot of work to do in continually advocating for renter’s rights and solutions around increasing property taxes. We need to leverage our standing as a city, working with an alliance of municipal leaders, to address these same issues that we have across all cities in North Carolina.

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?

Yes. As we look at the criminal justice system, and the way that systemic racism continually criminalizes people of color, we need to continue to reform and seek resources for a collaborate diversion program that will work with both City and County, using trauma-informed care for people convicted of crimes. Pre-trial resources that work to divert people from the jail system into programs that designed to keep people out of the prison system, which addresses the cash-bail system and works as a re-entry program on the front end.

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

I support the removal of confederate monuments as well as renaming streets named after confederate officers and slave owners.

It’s important to acknowledge the historical context and intent of white supremacy within the symbols of confederate statues, and as we work to reconcile the hate and trauma many of these statues cause, we must continue to focus our attention on addressing institutional and structural racism in policies, schools, workplaces, and within our criminal justice system. It is time for gatekeepers to use their power and privilege to take the door off the hinges.

We need courageous leadership by our elected officials in Asheville to engage the public through community input, work with volunteers on City boards such as the African-American Heritage Commission, and invite POC leaders to speak to the long legacy of racism in Asheville and in our country. Recognizing my privilege as a white person, part of my role as an ally is to work with communities of color, allowing their perspectives and lived experiences to guide our work in dismantling systemic racism and systems of oppression.

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.

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, the study presented to Council by Ian Mance was compiled by the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and shows that Asheville is not exempt from racial disparities that show up within traffic stops. The data and policy solutions have proven effective immediately in cities across the state, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t adopt them to positively impact the people of Asheville too. I was present in the council chamber during the original and follow-up presentations, and saw our current city council deliberate on whether or not to adopt these policy. We missed an opportunity to stand up for human and civil rights and need to adopt these reforms immediately.

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, which means we need to reform our entire permitting process and bring all STR’s into compliance so we can immediately and fairly implement enforcement, which isn’t happening now.

It is absolutely inappropriate that any one or few neighborhoods would be held to a different standard regarding STRs, which is currently the case Downtown. The conversation about removing the ban in the River Arts District is opening the door for commercial corridors along Haywood Rd, which will lead to commercial corridors in every part of the city. No one neighborhood should have different standards of regulations, especially since it means it’s incredibly difficult to keep our Downtown apartments full of Ashevillians.

My suggestion for the permitting process timeline:
– Open a 30-day window for all ADU’s to apply for a conditional zoning permit.
– Hire temporary staff from the community of Asheville, not a consultant company, to quickly and thoroughly inspect the properties the way our homestay process has done to ensure compliance.
– Schedule a series of special meetings for Council to open hearings for these permits.
Issue non-transferable permits for compliant ADUs for 2 years.
– Require permits to be included in the online listings.
– Follow lead from cities like New Orleans that work with STR sites to compare data with our permits, removing all properties from their sites that aren’t permitted.

If we can develop a one-per-person/address permitting solution with a point system that prioritizes folks living in Asheville more than 5-10 years for their primary residence, providing off-street parking, with a bonus point for those who have letters of support from their neighbors, I’m in. This permitting process could be precedent-setting, something better that we could be really proud of in Asheville, and other cities would take our lead.

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, the rising cost of living is amplified by the increase in property taxes, which affects homeowners and renters alike. A crisis fund would allow us to keep people in their homes while we courageously address truly affordable housing within city limits.

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. Council missed an opportunity to stand with Charlotte in advance of HB2, which could’ve united the cities of NC in a stand for the rights of LBGTQIA people. At that time, a white-paper document was presented to Council by the Campaign for Southern Equality, including an offer for legal support, which we took no action on. That can’t happen again. We still have a chance to stand up against HB 142, and we have the people-power and the resources to do it through a non-discrimination ordinance.

As an elected official, my job will be to protect and advocate for the people I serve, including students and people who can’t vote. Students like the ones I see in my piano studio each week that are standing outside of their school bathrooms to ensure their friends’ safety. This is a shame on our state,  and represents only the beginning of the conversation for what our community members are facing regarding civil and human rights. Additionally, representatives in the community have shared their personal stories, so I fully understand that the rights of transgendered people are being checked off one by one at a federal level. If we can do something at the city level here in Asheville, we absolutely should.

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

Yes, when it comes to questions about sanctuary, we are talking about a human rights issue. Security of our families and future means standing up in the face of federal legislation, hateful rhetoric, and policies that will tear families and our community apart. Facing the threat of loss of federal funding, our Council needs to sift through our city budget and prepare for action.