Asheville could be the type of community where anyone with a little initiative and effort can easily better themselves, instead of a place where people work harder and harder only to fall farther and farther behind. The difference between where we are and where we should be boils down to one simple thing: Leadership. The establishment has forgotten about working people. The powers-that-be in our city have chosen to prioritize the wants of developers over the needs of our community. To make matters worse, there is a complete lack of vision and willingness to try anything new or innovative when it comes to creating the kind of economic growth that would most benefit locals. The Flatiron building fiasco is a perfect example of this. At its height it was home to some 70+ local businesses and small offices. Shoving small business out into the cold just to satisfy an out-of-town developer is not how I would do things. This is just one more in a long line of choices made by our current cohort of leaders that has failed to consider the needs of local workers. That’s why every decision I make as a member of City Council will be with these folks in mind – the ones left behind.
In 2018, the City published an astounding piece of data: Annual median earnings for an Asheville resident were $11,300 below median earnings for North Carolinians and $16,700 for Americans overall! Due to our reliance on tourism, we have a highly educated workforce that is largely deprived of opportunities for work outside low-paying service industry jobs. When we talk about opportunity, I don’t mean “more hotel jobs.” I mean creating more pathways for individual entrepreneurship and micro businesses to benefit from tourism in the short term, while we take the big steps to build a better economy for the long-term. One way to do that is by concentrating economic development efforts through the approach of “what’s best for workers?” instead of “what creates a ton of low-paying jobs?” To do that we must diversify our economy, and reevaluate the central focus on tourism, by fostering industries with better pay. From outdoor gear companies, high-end artists and handicrafters, to prepared food and beverage businesses, Asheville is full of small local businesses that could use help from the City to build their capacity. I support innovative grants and tax-credits to help stimulate these endeavors.
The city can also lead the way, by giving pay raises to rank and file city workers while pausing pay increases to the already bloated salaries of management.