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.
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?
As a concerned resident and former reporter for 103.3 AshevilleFM, transparency in government process and policy-making is very important to me, and I think we can do a lot better than the lip service we sometimes provide. First, our Council must adopt a schedule and process for annual personnel reviews that is consistent and measurable. From my experience receiving and writing corporate personnel reviews, they provide an opportunity to highlight work well-done as well as areas for improvement. It is my understanding that personnel reviews of top-level staff are overdue, so that schedule needs to be addressed and needs regular oversight from Council as within the scope of their position.
Second, there is a great deal of concern around transparency in our budget and bonds spending, especially after going over-budget in the RADTIP. Tools a courageous Council will use to address include: asking the right questions, demanding detailed revenue & spending reports, instructing the City Manager to provide public access to the budget process through a dashboard on the City’s website, and piloting a participatory budgeting program that prioritizes community needs and resiliency through participatory, democratic process.
I’ll close by noting that Asheville has a long history of institutional racism and a lot of work to do in building a truly inclusive community. In response to a following question, I will suggest bringing the Equity and Inclusion Manager into the direct management of Council.
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?
Our city is beloved because of its people, many of whom are struggling financially, mentally, and emotionally. The past few months have been heartbreaking, as several community members close to my family and friends have passed away due to struggles with opioid use and addiction. As we deal with the heartbreaking loss and impact on our community, I have to recognize that this crisis is getting national attention because of its threat to the white community, while lack of investment in communities of color have lead to decades of this same loss and threat due to drug abuse and addiction. We have a lot of work to do, and we have to do it together.
The City of Asheville should continue moving towards collaborative efforts with Buncombe County, expanding regional support systems instead of duplicating efforts and expenses, coordinating efforts with organizations like WNCAP and NEPA. This would include amplification of harm reduction efforts such as needle exchange, safe-use facilities, drug counseling, and access to NARCAN. The opportunity to even provide legal needle exchanges is fairly new, with NC passing legislation in the Summer of 2016. Another crucial tool in addressing this crisis is budgeting for overdose kits and training for our APD officers, an important point brought up by Hillary Brown in her Huffington Post article, “Why I Distribute Overdose Reversal Kits in Asheville.” I learned a great deal from that article, and I’m asking you to sign me up for the incredible amount of work participating in solutions for our community.
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?
First, the governing board should be appointed by the entire Council, just like the School Board and Planning and Zoning. There is too much at stake and too long a history of racism in our community for that responsibility to rest on the shoulders of one person.
When I hear a dad telling me his story living in public housing, and how much it costs, it is infuriating because it’s the same as a mortgage payment, but he doesn’t qualify for a loan. I would like to hear from the Residents Council on interest in converting one of our public housing communities into a land trust, moving towards a cooperative ownership model. Decades of redlining and urban renewal have shattered and dispersed vibrant communities, and this could be a move towards reparations. With voucher requests increasing, evictions on the rise, and a lack of housing stock, this would be a way for the City and residents to set an example for voluntary inclusionary zoning in future development city-wide.
Lastly, I hear from many of the residents that the increase in violence in their neighborhood is coming from outside of the community. As an ally, it will be my responsibility to invite members of the community, such as the Residents Council, to guide the process towards solutions from their lived experience.
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?
I am among the people of Asheville who are disappointed by the news about the RADTIP project, recognizing this same situation could happen with our listed bonds projects. We need to evaluate why Asheville is not getting multiple, competitive bids, which in addition to rising cost of property and construction, is leading to projects going over-budget.
As I stated in the Blade questionnaire for the primary election in regards to the City Manager’s responsibility: “Surely the recent issues around the RADTIP should be a deciding factor in [Jackson’s] 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.”
Moving forward, I appreciate or Council’s support of the dashboard being used for the bonds, hoping it will provide greater transparency for the Council and for the public.
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)?
First, I want to say that homestays are here to stay. The consequential extremes on both sides of either a complete ban or full deregulation of STRs are untenable.
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.
● 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.
This permitting process could make the STR process work for the people of Asheville while cracking down on outside investors that are buying up our housing stock and using the loopholes to capitalize on our would-be rental housing.
We need to see Downtown and the River Arts District abide by the same rules for STR regulation, as well as form-based code plans for commercial corridors along the spines of our neighborhoods. This includes the decision Council made on Oct. 3 not to allow 20-unit micro-hotels as use-by-right on Haywood because of the precedent it would set for Merrimon, Charlotte, and Hendersonville Rd.
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?
Yes, I would vote to repeal. During the last budget cycle, the request for doubling the number of officers specifically for Downtown was requested due to increased tourism and a 1% increase in crime in that region. Over 30 downtown business owners signed a letter requesting that the funding be denied, in support of the Million Dollars For The People campaign, which presented grassroots community efforts that would have a greater, lasting impact. This is in line with the priorities of Buncombe County Commissioners, who voted to invest in a Economic Community Investment Model and the Justice Resource Center instead of additional jail capacity.
I realize that systemic racism within the culture of police departments and the criminalization of people living in poverty is not among our community values, and I believe in our capacity to do better than the status quo here in Asheville. My proposal: If we have an additional million to spend, which I argue we do not, Council should prioritize partnerships within existing community & non-profit efforts to address poverty, homelessness, and increased training and partnerships to address the opioid epidemic. One community effort I would support is a community resource center, which has been proposed by BeLoved House.
Additionally, the major concerns I have for our officers as fellow residents include training, pay, and retention. Simply doubling their numbers limits our resources in addressing those needs.
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?
Yes, I favor renovation or rebuilding of the Walton Street pool at its current location. I attended a community input meeting in the Southside neighborhood, and heard from several elders and young
eople that they are concerned the City is interested in moving the historic landmark because it is in the middle of major infrastructure investments in the RAD and South Slope. This is an opportunity to address gentrification in the Southside neighborhood, recognizing the City’s long history of divestment in black neighborhoods, and inviting POC to guide the process towards solution. If we finally get this right, this is what meaningful action towards racial equity can look like as we strengthen community from within.
8. Do you favor the city passing a fair housing ordinance based on that enacted by Greensboro’s local government?
Yes, absolutely! HB142 was championed by many as the repeal of the notorious “bathroom bill,” HB2. It is not an acceptable repeal, and contains verbiage that still threatens the rights and safety of LGBTQIAA+ people across our state. While we build the case against HB142, I would champion an immediate adoption of a fair housing ordinance like the one in Greensboro, and hope it will be a positive step in building a coalition of cities that are prepared to stand together for human & civil rights.
9. Are you voting “Yes” or “No” on the current ballot referendum to divide future Council member elections into six districts?
No, I do not think we should district the City of Asheville because it will pit neighborhoods against each other. We know how good North Carolina is a gerrymandering, especially in regards to race. I’m voting against it, but also recognize this will not mean we won’t be districted. A strong, united voice on the matter will be a useful tool in the court battle that is sure to come.
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?
Yes, the Equity & Inclusion Manager position should be in-line with the City Manager, City Attorney, and City Clerk. Asheville has a long history of systemic racism, needs to address protection of human & civil rights, and still has many barriers to access for elderly and disabled persons. Top-level city offices should be held accountable as well.