Asheville – On April 27th, the Leadership Asheville Forum held a luncheon at the Country Club of Asheville. Citizens congregated, gathering first-hand perspective and insights from the prospecting mayor candidates for the City of Asheville. Attending candidates were Dr. Cliff Feingold, Esther Manheimer, Kim Roney, and Jonathan Wainscott. Michael Hayes was unable to attend.
First-time candidate Dr. Cliff Feingold is a local dentist. His campaign focuses include: public safety, greater government transparency and contributing a conservative voice to a predominantly liberal city. Upon Feingold introducing himself, he spoke of his commitment to restore law and order. As a gesture, he deems to immediately draft a proclamation showing unwavering support for those laying down their lives daily to protect us. His outlook has that local government imposes too many rules, regulations, restrictions, taxes and fees.
“Our schools need to be more efficient and involve the parents in the curriculum. We need to fix our aging, crumbling infrastructure. We must prioritize the role of our government, as a gateway to what our city offers visitors: an unforgettable experience, and not the horror show it now is. Our city water system travels through hundred-year-old clay pipes that are deteriorated badly. These problems are fixable. The city government that we now have has NOT fixed these problems — in fact, they have caused some of them. I am running for mayor along with a team of 3 new city council candidates: Ledford, Cobb and Brown, who will work with me to fix these problems. We as a team will re-install fiscal responsibility, transparency, accountability and safety for all Asheville’s residents.”
Esther Manheimer, a lawyer, has been Asheville’s mayor since 2013. Among her top issues for the coming years are homelessness, affordable housing, cleanliness, as well as public and community safety.
“I was first elected to be on City Council in 2009 and served 4 years until 2013 when I became Mayor. I graduated from Asheville High, went off to college and came back to become a volunteer coordinator for Meals on Wheels. I became Chair of Jewish Community Board. I have received a Masters in Public Administration and a Law Degree from Chapel Hill. In 1998 I worked in the State Legislature, where I learned how cities work on the state level and made a lot of friends and connections. I have learned that “You cannot get much of anything done by yourself; you must collaborate and work with others, partnerships are the name of the game. It is my honor and pleasure to serve you as Mayor.”
Kim Roney is a city council member and community activist who advocates better affordability in housing, wages and transportation. She also favors improving the public meeting process.
“I am a small business owner, activist, community organizer, and music educator for 17 years. I have been on the City Council for 2 years and have served on a number of committees and been in City Hall for 7 years. So many people in our community are struggling to make ends meet. An over reliance on the tourism industry burdens our infrastructure, extracts our natural resources and displaces our vulnerable neighbors. I am seeing how the systems used in City Hall are designed to exclude people. I am committed to affordability, ending homelessness, economic insecurity, and climate change. I am committed to an open meeting policy and inviting more residents to participate in solutions. I am endorsed by NC Central Labor Council, and by former mayor Leni Sitnick. I am committed to working with you for solutions to these problems together.”
Jonathan Wainscott is a community activist, who often attends City Council meetings and offers alternatives to the Council for consideration. His platform seems most sweeping for broad stroke solutions on a social level: racial equity, community healing and improved government transparency.
After his introductions he continued, “I probably know very few of you here today, as I live in a community with broad discontent and dissatisfaction with the performance of the City. I have been challenging Asheville’s leadership and want action taken by them. They are not doing enough. I think strong, difficult conversations have to be taken to move forward, so one does not make the same historical mistakes as in the past. I look forward to any tough questions you have of me.
The Vice President of Leadership Asheville Forum, Ed Hay, then posed a series of questions to each candidate:
Why do you feel we need to make a change?
Feingold: Many long time residents have told me how unsatisfied they are. They are disgruntled about the opioid situation, the homelessness situation, the lack of cleanliness, the illegal activity downtown. Help is need for the Police Department, which has been depleted by 42%. I want to restore Law and Order downtown.
Wainscott: There is an abysmal lack of leadership by the Mayor and the rest of City Council and that needs to be corrected. I jumped into this race to make this correction.
Roney: People have deep concerns; yet many people are not included in the process. City Government comes to the public after the decision has been made, not before. I bring experience and a fresh perspective.
Manheimer. Obviously I am NOT look for a change in the Mayor’s office. The role of City government has changed considerably in the last few years. Once the City was only taking on traditional roles, like fixing the roads and taking away the trash. That is no longer true. City government is expected to take on much larger issues, systemic issues, like racial justice.
If only one issue were to be solved while in office, what would that be?
Feingold: Public Safety. The Police Department is the proper first responders for any emergency in the City. Sending a social worker into a potentially dangerous situation is not what social workers are trained for, but police officers are. We need to get the Police Department back to full strength and give them the proper respect.
Wainscott: Must get clarification of the Tourist Development Fund. The percentages available to us, 50% to 33% must be fixed. Even though this is a State law, the mayor’s office must do their job and fix the situation. This money is needed here in the City, and not to be totally used for advertising for more tourists. Something can and should be done about this. Our own TRA representative is an ex-officio member and cannot vote. This is a broken system that the Mayors office must fix.
Roney: For me it is public safely. We must do more to have equity outcomes and need the right person with the right tools and training for the task to respond. My ask is: Freeze the budget of the current many vacancies in City Hall in our Public Safety Department and use that space of the budget to add to our staffing, so we can send the appropriate response to the issue at hand.
Manheimer: I wish we could solve the challenge of poverty. We have people struggling to make ends meet. When you overlay poverty with education and employment, it drags us all down. That issue —poverty —would be my number one priority.
Additional questions were asked about: affordable housing, the role of the police and the homeless encampments. In addition, the luncheon attendees submitted questions on post cards to be answered. When joining the Leadership Asheville Forum as a member, you are able to get the full luncheon forum answers on video.
Become a member of Leadership Asheville