Kenilworth Forum: Questions cut for time

The Kenilworth Residents' Association solicited questions from residents, but most went unasked due to time constraints. Here are all the questions asked, with my answers.

Kenilworth Candidate forum Oct. 16th, 7 pm Kenilworth Center

Questions that did not get asked @ forum:

1. How do we balance the needs of our neighborhoods with the need for more affordable housing?

I favor letting neighborhoods come together and generate their own ideas, which could be adopted into zoning via zoning overlays. One neighborhood might be better suited for basement and backyard apartments, another for small infill, and yet another for high-density multiuse buildings on commercial corridors. Neighborhoods themselves have the best sense of where the best fit is, and I genuinely believe they can be trusted to come up with come up with solutions that address the crisis-level shortage of affordable housing in innovative and individual ways, rather than a blanket, one-size-fits-all approach to zoning that ignores different areas’ infrastructure needs or historic characters.

2. What would council be willing to do to elevate or politicize the room tax issue enabling Avl to have a definite part of the funds to take care of increased expenses due to tourism ie. police, fire, emergency services etc.?

Given the current makeup of the state legislature, that’s a tough haul. I see two approaches: First, we can already access room tax funds for local needs under the state law, as long as it’s for projects that also have tourism benefits. Examples are downtown sidewalks, affordable art studios, or small-business incubators. This can be helped by appointing friendlier board members to the TDA, or leaving seats vacant if applicants won’t commit to using the grant process as much for local goals as is currently legal. The second, thermonuclear option is to pressure the county commission to reduce or eliminate the room tax unless the state commits to a more favorable cut for the city. I don’t think we have to go there yet, and I’m not sure a majority of commissioners would go along. But that should be the sword hanging over all discussions with the board.

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Interview: Asheville FM News Hour, Oct. 20, 2017

Rich stopped by the Asheville FM New Hour for an interview the other day. Listen to the full recording at Asheville FM. Lightly edited transcript below:

Trevon Dunn: You're listening to Asheville FM at WSFM LP 103.3 Asheville. My name is Trevon Dunn and I'm here with the Asheville FM News Hour. Speaking with Rich Lee.

Rich: I'm Rich Lee. I have been a resident of this area for just about 20 years now. I am a financial planner who specializes in green investments. So I do a lot of budgeting and financial planning for our local artists and teachers and nonprofit workers and people like that. I was a West Asheville resident for many years, and helped form our [East] West Asheville Neighborhood Association here. Now I live in Haw Creek.

Trevon: And you are running for city council and we'd like to ask you a few questions?

Rich: Ok.

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Primary result & Steps ahead

Well, that was... wow.

I am truly honored and humbled by the support that pushed me through the primary, more than 800 votes ahead of my 2015 result. Volunteers worked polls before sunrise and through the muggy October day as record droves turned out for a city primary. At the end of it all, I was in fifth place, ahead of a record fund-raiser, a council incumbent, and a half-dozen other dedicated and qualified candidates. If there is one message coming loud and clear this election, it's that grassroots beats money in city elections, and we're all better off for it.

Now the real work begins. The city general is only 27 days away. The gap between the 3rd place finisher and my result is only 432 votes. I've been in this position before. Worse, in fact. In the 2015 primary, a first-time candidate with little name recognition, I squeaked through in 6th place, 545 votes behind the Top 3. Then, as now, a slate closed ranks against me, tying up donations and endorsements. But by the general four weeks later, I had passed an incumbent vice-mayor and his running-mate to land in the 4th spot.  From my current position to a seat on council, it's actually shorter haul now than in 2015.

Make no mistake: the work will be hard. There is little time and, due to the high primary turnout, few new votes to unearth. Mailers need to go out this week to reach voters in time, while canvasses, phone banks and events have to be crammed into a packed schedule of debates and forums. It's the last mile of a marathon, but one I have run before. You know me: I'll go the distance every time.

What kind of help can I use?

  1. Contributions. Flatly put, if you have been holding off on donating, I could use your support now. Printing and postage has a high price tag in the thousands of dollars. Help us reach more people as soon as possible with a contribution at
  2. Write a letter to the paper today. Letters have a long lead time. If you want to share your perspective before early voting begins again, submit one now. Citizen-Times and Mountain Xpress forms here and here.
  3. Talk to neighbors. Grassroots, one-on-one contact had a bigger effect on the result than any other factor. Volunteer to phone bank at Democratic HQ Thursdays, any time 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Email manager Lindsay at to host a get-together any weekday in October. Help with solo or group canvassing: sign up at

Most of all, keep your spirits and enthusiasm up. We've been here before. Candidates in this position post-primary have finished in the Top 3 in two out of the last three elections. I've been here before, and with fewer advantages, came within a hair's breadth. We can do it.

Starting... now.



Candidate Questionnaire: Libertarian Party

General Questions – Candidate Rich Lee

1. What city departments would you consider reducing or cutting, and which ones do you think are doing a great job?

I’m not aware of any city department that is overstaffed. There is, of course, inefficient allocation of human resources throughout city government. The number of top-paid assistant city managers and interim department head positions are a good place to start for that. My vote would be for the same number of people, but used more efficiently. Council has also been sold on the idea that outsourcing work to contractors is a more efficient use of funds than doing it in-house, but I’m skeptical. Especially since much of the resulting work is error-prone “master plans” that are quickly abandoned or obsolete, and consumes a lot of staff time anyway.


2. Are you committed to transparency in government and if so, what specific ideas do you have to make the city more transparent?

Yes. I started the Asheville Politics Facebook group, now over 6,200 local members, to shine a light on local politics in a way that wasn’t happening before. With Code for Asheville and others, I helped push for a city Open Data policy that puts all city databases online for public access (with a few exceptions for privacy.) The city has the tools to be a model of transparency. What needs to change is more attitudinal.


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New Video: Decide Your City


Candidate Questionnaire: Equality NC

1. Equal Rights

I believe that all citizens, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people, are deserving of equal treatment under the law, access to the same opportunities and subject to the same responsibilities, regardless of their age, race, nationality, immigration status, ability, gender, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or other inherent characteristics.


Please explain your answer:

Hard to believe this is a controversial opinion, but it clearly still is one, given the national debate over transgender service in the military, rights to use the bathroom corresponding to gender identity, and broader assaults on protections for minority groups and on the right of citizens to seek legal redress for discrimination. Asheville isn’t immune in this regard. I believe city government has a critical role to play in modeling appropriate protections for LGBTQ, immigrant, differently-abled and minority citizens, and in pushing back against state laws curbing those protections (some would say, explicitly endorsing discrimination,) including in court. Count me in on the fight for full equality for all.

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Volunteer Opportunities!

Every Thursday

Buncombe County Democratic Headquarters (951 Old Fairview Rd) phone banking with Bridget McCurry. To sign up, contact or Facebook Message.

Saturday Sept. 16

Group Canvass in West Asheville. Meet at Izzy's West next to the library at 12:00. Come prepared to walk Asheville neighborhoods. Talking or non-talking routes available. Bring a friend, expect 2-3 hours. Easy way to help out.

Sunday Sept. 24

Kenilworth Canvass. Same as above, except we meet at Bebette's Beignets on Tunnel Rd. at 2:00 pm. 

Solo Canvass

Any time. Hang door hangers in your neighborhood. Contact us for info.

Poll Greeting on Primary Day

Super-important volunteer opportunity! City Primary Day is October 10, 2017. One of the most effective ways to support your candidate is to volunteer as a poll greeter, handing out information about Rich to undecided voters. (Remember, voters can choose three candidates, but some may be arriving with only one or two in mind.) In 2015, Rich outperformed by hundreds of votes in precincts where he had poll volunteers, helping him clear the primary and almost win in the general.

This election, we're looking for total coverage: 31 locations from open to close. We're asking for volunteers to choose shifts throughout the day or let us know when you are able to work. If you have a difficult schedule but still want to help, there's a place to tell us that, too. Fill in this easy form so we can get in touch. Thank you!

Click here to sign up, then share this form with friends to help us reach our goal of total coverage on Primary Day!


Candidate Focus: Experience

What kind of experience are you looking for in city leadership? We've got four weeks to let people know there's an important city election and what the candidates stand for. Here's mine: I've been neighborhood advocate, pushing improvements through the system, for years. I'm a fiduciary and transportation commission member. I think that's sort of important. Don't you?


Candidate Questionnaire: Sierra Club

Office you are seeking: Asheville City Council

1)  Would you like your candidacy to be endorsed by the Sierra Club and why? 

Yes. I believe the City of Asheville can be a leader in environmental advocacy, and I would like to work with the Club to advance those efforts.

2)  Are you a member of the Sierra Club or any other environmental group?


3)  What environmental issues have you been involved with?  Did you achieve any success?

As a financial advisor, I run a 100% socially- and environmentally-responsible investment practice. I have been involved in successful efforts by the City of Asheville Greenway Committee and Multimodal Commission to preserve land along the Swannanoa River and French Broad, helping to complete the Wilma Dykeman Riverway Plan. I am part of a working group on city policy to protect easements on future greenway corridors, as well as giving input as a city commission member on the transportation and environmental aspects of the draft Comprehensive Plan. I was past chair of the Bountiful Cities project, which helped create many of the city’s community gardens.

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Issue Focus: City-Owned Land

Land controlled by the City of Asheville is one of our most valuable public assets. Yet conversations about affordable housing and other concerns still mostly rely on market-based responses: selling or giving away public land, for example, to incentivize a developer. What if we kept some of the 1300+ acres owned by the city, instead of giving them up? What could we do for artists, business startups, low-income residents, and the community as a whole? This video focuses on four properties owned or controlled by the city:

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