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. The scandal surrounding the actions of former County manager Wanda Greene have spurred a public debate about the level of accountability elected officials enforce on high-ranking local officials and the budgets they oversee. What’s your assessment of the city’s current processes for ensuring scrutiny of the budget and senior city staff? Are they sufficient? If not, how would you favor changing them?
The oversight powers of the city differ in significant ways than the situation which allowed Wanda Greene to allegedly misappropriate funds. While I would be open to written policies surrounding whistleblower anonymity and clear uncompromised channels for reporting of malfeasance, I think the major problem is not structural in the case of the city. We need council members who will demand transparency from staff. In this last budget cycle, council criticized the non-publication of changes in the budget between hearings and yet voted the budget in anyway. Major controversial budget changes like police expansion and the police chief skipping the committee meetings were not meaningfully addressed. In order to hold staff accountable, the elected officials need to desire to do so.
2. What role do you believe the city of Asheville should play in dealing with the current opioid epidemic and assisting local harm reduction efforts? What, if any, of the city’s current policies on this front would you push to change?
I support harm reduction as a strategy over policing and incarceration. While the city has limited funds, I believe a purity testing/safe injection facility would reduce the number of addicts dying from overdoses related to fentanyl and reduce the number of people contracting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C from unclean or shared needles.
3. Local public housing is home to over 3,000 Ashevillians. While the housing authority is an independent agency, the city plays a major role in its operations, from the mayor’s power to appoint its governing board to partnering on the Lee Walker Heights overhaul and the controversial APD public housing unit. What changes would you propose in the city’s policies and approach towards public housing?
The APD needs to repudiate the practice of carrying semi automatic assault weapons in public housing. These neighborhoods showcase the intimidating and militarized nature of modern police forces. The practice of lurking nearby public housing and being a constant presence is unnecessarily antagonistic to black ashevillians. Efforts should be made to respond to calls rather than being posted up constantly. The equity manager should review the work of the APD’s public housing unit and give recommendation up to and including it’s abolition.
4. This summer saw a major controversy concerning cost overruns, transparency concerns and prioritization in the city’s massive infrastructure overhaul in the River Arts District. What’s your assessment of that situation and what approach do you favor going forward?
The BCTDA has ponied up to make up some of the budgetary shortfall that was associated with the RAD development and greenway projects. While that money is welcome, it is also applied at the discretion of private interests(deeply problematic) for the encouragement of tourism(also problematic). The fact that the improvements to the Livingstone area were not bid on at all should give up pause, it seems that the private sector simply doesn’t see profit in improving black communities over building subdivisions of 300k homes. While that may make sense from the narrow perspective of short term profit, it utterly fails black Asheville, again. Chopping up the projects into smaller bids may be a solution, but perhaps not and if not, we should consider publicly funding those improvements with city workers and employees. The market fails, the public sector must step up.
5. What rules do you favor for short-term rentals (Airbnb-style vacation rentals of a whole home or apartment) and homestays (permitted vacation rentals of a room or part of a home by its occupant)?
Homestays with owner occupancy should be permitted and inspected for building safety and compliance and fraud in this category, so as to rent whole home, should be severely punished.
Whole home STR shouldn’t be allowed to expand up the commercial corridors of the city. That’s were it makes the most sense to build dense housing along transit lines. Renters simply cannot compete with 8,000 dollars a month. It likewise makes no sense to invest heavily in the transit system if the thoroughfares are lined with tourists who’ve driven personal autos into our city to visit. Why develop a public good for visitors who won’t use it? I would like to see STR curtailed in the central business district as well and brought into compliance with the rules for the rest of the city. A district by district, street by street approach is inviting a lawsuit.
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. Would you vote to repeal the controversial $1 million expansion of the APD’s downtown policing efforts initiated earlier this year?
7. Following years of pressure from local residents and activists, funds have been allocated to renovate the Walton Street pool, but city staff have pushed to use those to build a new pool at the Grant Center. Members of the Southside Advisory Board object, favoring a renovation or rebuilding on the current site, and a city survey of the area’s residents saw 64 percent of respondents back this approach. Do you favor renovating or rebuilding the Walton Street pool on its current site?
8. Do you favor the city passing a fair housing ordinance based on that enacted by Greensboro’s local government?
9. Are you voting “Yes” or “No” on the current ballot referendum to divide future Council member elections into six districts?
No. To hell with Raleigh’s meddling.
10. Should Council revise the city charter to make the new equity manager position an independent office directly accountable to elected officials instead of the city manager?