When it comes to making important decisions that affect the general public, there is only one way that the government should operate, and that’s in public. When you view the organizational chart for the City of Asheville, it’s you – the citizens of this community – who are ultimately in charge. Our city is full of extraordinarily talented people, and that’s why I would strive to put policies in place that would increase public participation instead of shutting out important voices.
They say sunshine is the best disinfectant and I want to throw open the curtains to the back rooms of power and let the light shine in.
We need to have a City Council that operates by turning transparency into trust. That’s why I’m running on a platform that includes this essential component of a healthy democracy. Unfortunately, the majority of our current council has ignored this fundamental tenet of governance, thus making it essential that candidates renew this commitment to the public. A majority of council has created a “check-in” process that walks a very thin legal line, allows decision making behind closed doors, and violates the spirit of open meetings law. I would make these conversations publicly accessible like Buncombe County does with their open work sessions prior to formal meetings. And I’d ask the City Manager to dedicate an office for council members to meet with citizens in city hall for regular open office hours.
I will work to put in place an Open Meetings Policy that would empower constituents – not consultants – to help craft accessibility programs and be more involved in decision making. While there are times when expert advice is required, we must stop paying high-dollar consultants when we can look to our own community for guidance. The ongoing attempt to dismantle 20 of our specialized advisory boards is a perfect example of this current council’s movement away from community and toward consolidation of behind-the-scenes power.
Instead of putting up barriers to public comment and participation, we need to be actively dismantling obstacles to accessing meetings and information. I would ensure that all public meetings are recorded / live-streamed, materials are available in advance of meetings, and remote participation by the public is allowed whenever feasible. Additionally, charging fees to taxpayers to access documents and information that was created with taxpayer money must also end. Any and all public records requests should be promptly and thoroughly fulfilled. Also we currently have an arcane budget process that leaves neighbors out in the cold while all the big decisions are made behind closed doors. We should allow residents to have a greater say in the future of their neighborhoods, which should include participatory budgeting. For all these reasons and many more not mentioned here, I have made transparency an important part of my campaign.