Asheville Downtown Association Questionnaire


Rich Lee

Please tell us why you are running for City Council.

Asheville has a lot of work to catch up on – infrastructure and traffic, housing and wages, to name a few – but it’s clear we don’t have infinite resources or authority as a small, budget-constrained local government. I ran for this seat two years ago as a hard-working pragmatist, someone who knows how to see ideas through the process, a progressive, yes, but willing to be strategic about it. Since then I’ve only seen more need for that kind of leadership. I’m a financial planner. I’ve worked as a neighborhood advocate lobbying city government for changes and as a city commission member working items through the budget, notably the transportation items in the recent municipal bonds. I think the city is looking for leaders that set ambitious goals and have the knowledge and experience to carry them out. That’s why I’m running.

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Issue Focus: Jobs Incentives

Why do cities struggle to attract and create jobs? And what could Asheville do differently? Here's one of our periodic deep dives into how local governments pay to attract business from out of area (and why that's, often as not, a losing proposition.) Rich lays out 8 principles for driving sustainable, local, career-focused job growth in the area. 


Candidate Questionnaire: Asheville Chamber of Commerce

Rank these city priorities 1-5:

1.) Bringing in high-paying jobs, 2.) Affordable Housing, 3.) Improved Transportation, 4.) Public Safety, 5.) Creating more parks, bike lanes, and greenways

Briefly explain your reasons for your first priority choice in the previous question.

As much as we need to tackle the affordability crisis by growing the supply of affordable housing, it's more important to get Asheville workers better access to middle- and high-income, career-track jobs, so more can afford housing at the prices we have. We are not going to close the affordability gap only by controlling rents, but by boosting incomes at the other end, as well. That's a typically underutilized, reactive city function: city governments wait for a business (or outside EDC) to approach them with a proposal, usually one calculated to benefit the relocating business more than the government or local workforce. Ideally, I think, we would see the city proactively working to grow high-potential, career-track businesses that are native to the area, with an eye to growth we could achieve with less (in incentive terms) and sustain over the long term.

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New Video: Traffic + Housing

New video! "Asheville Issues: Traffic + Housing"

40,000 workers commute into Asheville every day, adding to our traffic problems. Affordable housing close to work is one of the ways we can ease the strain on our infrastructure. Learn more on our affordability policy page.


Rich Lee Files for 2017 Run

*For Immediate Release* 

Rich Lee Files for 2017 Council Election 

Asheville, NC (July 17, 2017) 

Pledging to keep working for the community’s interests “one pothole, one inequity, one problem at a time,” candidate Rich Lee officially filed for election on Monday, saying in an online video, “It’s not about politics, partisanship or personal ambition… It’s about pulling together and working things out.”  

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Can we talk about health care?

Can we talk about healthcare a moment? Can we? Last year around this time, as Lindsay and I were driving back to Asheville from the Midwest, she suddenly collapsed from a hemorrhaging abdominal cyst and nearly died. We were able to get to a hospital where emergency surgery and a week of intensive care saved her life. Because Lindsay is a public school teacher, we expected her state employee insurance plan to cover her care. But since (being unconscious) she didn't call the company to pre-approve it, they initially didn't.

This is actually the current, better-than-usual state of things for millions of Americans in the world's worst developed country for healthcare. Under Trumpcare, the AHCA, Lindsay's insurance could have been allowed to fight paying, to deny her coverage, even, for any number of cost-saving reasons. It could have applied her surgery and hospital stay, along with millions of other Americans' chronic treatments, to an annual or lifetime cap on insurance, with the hope of weeding the sick and unlucky (like Lindsay) out of the market forever. That's what we're fighting against, and why I'm so proud I'll be seeing Lindsay leading the charge as emcee at the Rally for 23 Million downtown on Monday. Come out and support her. Fight for people like her, like we all know, for ourselves. It was us last summer. It could be you and your loved ones next. This fight is for all of us, and it's dead serious.


Health Care Rally for 23 Million

Official description: "Join us for a nonpartisan rally speaking out against congress stealing health care away from 23 million Americans – our families, neighbors, ourselves. 

We'll hear from those directly affected by this legislation:

Jaclyn Kiger, Pigah Legal
Alia Tood, ASRW
Tyrone Greenlee
John Wingerter, Council on Aging
Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Campaign for Southern Equality
and music from David LaMotte 

The 23 million are workers, retirees, veterans, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, children, women, anyone with the audacity to have an emergency, and ME. And possibly you. Join us.

Co-sponors include: Campaign for Southern EqualityPisgah Legal ServicesWestern North Carolina AIDS ProjectACLU of NC - Western NC ChapterLeague of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County and Western North Carolina Community Health Services"


Jeff Messer Show March 21, 2017: Districting Bill


This interview has been edited lightly for clarity. Listen to the whole show (starting at the 42-minute mark) on iHeart Radio.


Jeff Messer: We're not here necessarily to talk about the 2017 Asheville City council race, but my next guest has declared and he is running. And let me just throw this out there for you: Campaign slogan for you, if you want it?

Rich Lee: "Rich Lee Works for Me." Best rhyming campaign slogan in Asheville City history, I'm going to go ahead and say it.

JM: Here's another one for you I'll throw out there: "The Candidate You Richlee Deserve."


JM: I don't know, whatever. Good to see you, man! How are you?

RL: I'm doing great. How are you? (cont. below)

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New Video: Asheville Districts

A state senator from Hendersonville has filed a bill forcing Asheville city elections into districts. Instead of getting to vote for everyone on council, voters would only be able to vote for (or against) their own member. Here's a video about why that's wrong. Share far and wide, and email your legislators using to say NO to district-only elections being imposed on the city. (Read Rich's coverage here.)


New Video: Asheville People