Asheville City Council Candidate Q&A: Doug Brown
Editor's note: BPR's candidate questionnaire was created after asking community members to share their questions and what issues matter most to them and their communities. The candidates' responses have not been edited or fact checked by BPR. Share your questions and ideas for future elections coverage by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or record a voice mail at 828-253-6700.
Doug Brown Bio:
Whether running an international sales territory or a business with crews, I needed these qualities: honesty, delivering on promises, healthy rapport with customers and team members. Business has honed my ability to listen and to get things done efficiently and economically. I will find the truth; speak the truth; and stick to the truth. Once a printing plant delayed shipment of 600 yearbooks. I tracked the shipment down at a post office, loaded them in a van, flew them to Okinawa, and delivered the day school got out. I will serve Asheville the way I served my customers. We will have a safe, clean city. We need a leader in our city with a new playbook, new skill sets and better rapport with its police department and citizens. And how about being accessible to the public? In sales, I found the greatest reward is in being in touch with one's customers. Drop by, email, town halls, podcast updates and explanations of issues...I'm a concerned resident like you.
Arrived in beautiful Asheville in 2017. My wife has a retail store. Our son and daughter live here and take classes at AB Tech. I connected with the tennis community and volunteered with Journeymen and National Leadership Council as a teen mentor. After attending a couple school board and council meetings, I was inspired to run for city council.
Contact and campaign info:
1. If elected, what is your top priority as an Asheville City Council member and what steps would you take to achieve that goal?
1) Restore the Police Department. Goal - to reduce crime downtown and in neighborhoods. Why? Morale and staffing are low since the 2020 riots. How? Show up every day when officers are changing shifts to build rapport and trust until the APD feels supported and the city and APD have a close working relation.
2) Homeless Intervention. Goal - Shelter, recovery, accountability, live a purposeful life. Why? 75-80% of the homeless suffer from substance abuse or mental illness. How? Letting these disabled folks to wander the streets or live in tents is not compassionate. Intervention is needed with a program for recovery; Asheville has excellent, experienced shelters. If they don't want that, there is a family reunite program where we contact a family member willing to reunite and then provide a ticket home. No vagrancy or panhandling allowed.
3) Wise stewardship of tax-payer money. Goal - fiscal responsibility and service oriented staffing. Why? To fully fund the city's storm water, affordable housing and rainy day funds, and reduce taxes and fees where possible; to stream line costly permitting and building fees. How? Build efficiencies through a robust service oriented city staff working culture. Be transparent in all transactions. Review staffing and programs from the standpoint that this is taxpayer money. "
2. The 2036 strategic plan calls for Asheville to be “a city with abundant housing choices for people at all economic levels and stages of life. Chronic homelessness is a thing of the past and rapid rehousing strategies abound thanks to an effective network of service providers.” What action is needed today to reach these outcomes?
No matter how good a program or political policy looks on paper, the ultimate test is if it actually works in real life. This plan was created in 2016. Six years later, we have growing housing shortages and homelessness. Why wait? Make changes now.
1) Developers can't build housing affordably in Asheville because of prohibitive regulations. Responsible developments and streamlined building fees and procedures will increase development and supply which eases rent and purchase prices. Partnering with businesses to repurpose buildings for worker housing offers flexible rent and wage options. Inviting hi-tech businesses to Asheville creates better paying jobs that can afford housing. Development must be in balance with traffic and our mountain views.
2) Rapid rehousing is effective for the suddenly unemployed or women fleeing abusive relationships who are willing and able to get back on their feet. For the 75-80% struggling with addiction or mental health, we need to fully utilize our community faith-based shelters that offer a supportive community, stability, rehab, then education or job training. In ABCCM's July 2021 "The Open Door" report a plan outlines how the city's existing homeless can be sheltered with the given providers and beds available. Follow the yellow brick road.
3. As a City Council member, what is your role in building an equitable and diverse community in Asheville?
There is rarely a level playing field for all the players. But why do we assume that the concept of equity regardless of merit is healthy or helpful for the individual?
I would not advance equity so much as I would advance possibilities and empowerment.
Tennis star, Novak Djokovic learned to play tennis during a civil war. Basketball star Dennis Rodman hardly had a home. Top motivational speaker, Les Brown, was called “the dumb one” growing up. When we advance an idea of possibility and empowerment, we can see limitations overcome.
Let’s ask yourselves rather, “What opportunities are available to advance awareness, training, mentoring, internships for all races so they can experience and learn what it takes to run a business, the challenges, the rewards?” YMI, Venture Asheville are some organizations available. My neighbor took in a 19-year-old Afghan refugee who is attending AB Tech and working two jobs. Let’s train our youth in possibilities and an empowerment mind-set rather than drain our youth by suggesting a victim mind-set.
4. How should the City fund reparations efforts?
Is the 1980’s urbanization of Asheville that displaced many Blacks downtown the “reparations” needing to be addressed? A clearer statement of what is meant by reparations to the Black community would be helpful to provide a clearer answer to this question and give light on what needs to be addressed and what an agreeable solution might look like and cost.
Reparations in society will improve when we stop seeing color as the defining character of a person rather than the quality of thought and one's action as one’s defining character. Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, neurologist and psychiatrist learned that an individual could overcome the harshest environment and repression (Nazi concentration camps) by cultivating: 1) a meaningful goal to live towards, 2) an optimistic outlook, and 3) be in a supportive community.
The question then is, how can an individual, Black, White or Brown find a purposeful goal, develop an optimistic outlook, and create or become embraced by a supportive community? What I would like to see repaired in the Black community is the destructive consequences caused when 7 out of 10 Black households’ children are raised by single a mother, without a father. *(“No Child Without a Dad,” by Paul Benjamin Sr., a Black minister).
5. What role should the City play in helping residents respond to extreme weather and climate change?
The city's government role is to provide safety, cleanliness, good infrastructure, road maintenance, flood water control. Residents should think for themselves, be curious, and educated.
6. What development priorities would best serve Asheville moving forward?
Responsible housing development; traffic and road infrastructure; attracting new businesses to Asheville.
7. How do you respond to voters who feel the City is prioritizing tourism over investments in public services?
Which specific public services are not being prioritized? Bus transportation receives $12.7M; homeless related shelters are budgeted for $10.2M (2021); Eight housing developments are slated or in the works which provide 500 affordable housing units. Road maintenance, traffic flow and downtown parking need improvement if those are considered "public services".
How would Asheville restaurants, breweries, arts and crafts, entertainment survive without visitors? 75% of the dollars visitors spend are spent outside of their hotels. Without the tourism related jobs, opportunities and revenue for Asheville, where would the city get its funds to invest in public services?
8. How will you approach policing and public safety in Asheville?
Social workers can be an effective response at times. But do they want to step in as first responders? No. Often the police have to be present anyways. The APD is trained already by social workers in crisis intervention, de-escalation tactics, and how to work with the homeless. The fraternal order of police officers will tell you of time and time again when officers have bought a meal, presented a pair of gloves, comforted a homeless person. They ask that this image of officers and the recognition of their compassionate side be allowed to be exemplified to the public when they help the homeless, substance abusers and mentally ill. I would prioritize letting the police department make the rules of when they or an alternative such as a social worker (or dog-catcher, or noise abatement person) could or should be called upon.
9. What is your position on the proposal to restructure City boards and commissions?
Boards directly voicing their information to the City ensures that the correct message is given and received. Filtering information through once or twice removed lenses cannot be constructive.
10. How do you plan to engage community members in the Council's decision-making process?
The Council job is to serve the community. Be available. City Council is my job -- even now: researching, interviewing, meeting residents, studying housing, homelessness, budgets. Council should have press conferences regularly; meet with neighborhoods; do a weekly podcast with current events and information sharing. The 20+ advisory commissions are essential. If I am informed and engaged openly with the public, my actions will reflect the community's best interests. Then rather than worrying about what the council is doing, residents can focus on their families, careers, and hobbies.