Commissioner Al Whitesides

Kim Roney

Asheville Mayor

Q 1: What is your personal background and experience in the arts?

Instrumental, Vocal | My name is Kim Roney. I’m a small business owner, music educator, community organizer, and current Council member who’s running for Mayor.

In my business, I am a music educator with 36 students and their families across 12 schools in Asheville and Buncombe County. As an artist and musician household with a home studio, I mostly use piano and keyboard instruments, and I have 23 years experience teaching piano. I have played with a number of local artists and bands, and have had the privilege of playing multiple times with a group of Asheville musicians as the backing band for Rodrguez, whose story was portrayed in the Oscar-winning documentary Searching for Sugarman. With my partner Nathanael, who is a graphic designer and mural artist, I perform collaborative pieces of spoken word with a music element in the production. We have performed on a variety of formal and DIY stages, including the BMCM+AC’s {Re}HAPPENING.

As a community organizer, I’ve worked with Just Economics, Asheville Music School, ART-C Coalition, Better Buses Together, and I was a founding member of Friends of Community Radio, the parent organization of 103.3-AshevilleFM. My fourth station in 22 years of volunteering with community radio, I applied my passion for amplifying community voices, music, and culture as a DJ, Producer of the AFM News Hour, and Station Manager from 2012-2015, overseeing operations with 100+ all-volunteer staff.

Now, in my second year on Council, plus seven years as an active participant in City hall, I bring a fresh perspective with experience, and I’m working to amplify local voices. For example, in 2021 the City of Asheville updated the Noise Ordinance. I did not vote to approve as drafted because of concerns around equitable enforcement and because it left both neighborhood and music industry concerns unsatisfied, with potential impacts on our cultural identity including concerns that the decibel limits effectively require a permit to play some instruments at an unamplified, acoustic level. I responded individually to engagement from hundreds of residents, advocated for compromises that would better address neighborhood concerns while mitigating impact on the performing arts, and led appointment of industry professionals and neighbors to the new Noise Advisory Committee. Next steps will include review of outcomes, which will be up to this and future Council members. 

Q 2: What arts activities have you attended, participated in, or supported in the last year?

Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, Dance, Literary Arts | Pre-pandemic, I attended and worked multiple events every week, ranging from open mic nights to concerts by national touring artists, from poetry readings to gallery openings, from Fringe Fest to the Symphony. Through the pandemic, I have supported fellow artists and musicians by attending virtual concerts, purchasing recordings and art, and attending events that are outdoor and/or honoring requirements of safety protocols such as masks/vaccinations.

This year I saw my first performance of the Nutcracker at the Wortham Center, enjoyed the Symphony in the park and their Roaring Rhapsody concert, caught a couple sessions of Jazz brunch at Burial Beer, supported events at the Burton Street Peace Garden, attended art openings at the YMI, and saw multiple local artists at small venues across town. I’m currently working with Asheville Music School to move to the new location in West Asheville and to expand the scholarship program. The scholarship is intended to remove tuition as a barrier to participation in music education for students in our community. I look forward to continuing to show up with and for each other, learning from the past couple years the importance of being intentional in our work and maintaining a culture of genuine care.

Q 3: Would you support a plan to increase local government funding to the Asheville Area Arts Council to at least match the state arts funding awarded to Buncombe County ($61,447 or $.23 per capita) to support community arts programs for all Buncombe County residents? This would bring the combined state and local arts investment up to $.46 per capita.

Background: Americans for the Arts reports Buncombe County nonprofit arts organizations generate $3.5 M in local government support annually. However, the NC Arts Council’s 2019-20 report shows Buncombe County ranks last among tier 3 counties for local government funding for local arts councils at just $.02 per capita. Average for tier 3 counties is $.73 per capita.

Agree | Yes, I support additional arts funding as key to our community health and well-being through the healing power of art and music. We are members of a dynamic arts community, and we have a responsibility to make cultural shifts, to deepen relationships that will be a cause for celebration that our community needs!

I appreciate the intentionality of the AAAC to evaluate funding processes to ensure more equitable outcomes, including programming with BIPOC and LGBTQ+ artists in our community. Many artists like myself are concerned that Asheville is marketed to tourists for our art and beer culture, but the attention and resources mostly benefit a few while the extractive impact of tourism is deeply felt by those most vulnerable to displacement from places to live and work. I invite neighbors and organizations to join, continue, and deepen the work of listening, identifying barriers to participation, and committing to participation in an organizational equity audit just as I remain committed to pushing for this kind of operationalized equity in the City of Asheville.

Q 4: Would you support additional relief aid for arts businesses to support recovery and revitalization of the creative sector?

Background: Buncombe County’s 74 creative industries were responsible for over 14,000 jobs and $1.6 B in industry sales in 2019. By 2020, over 1,300 jobs were lost in the Arts & Entertainment industry alone– the greatest % of job loss from any industry in Buncombe County as reported by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. Many arts businesses experienced up to 14 months of closure, and artists/arts organizations are still facing significant pandemic related expenses and revenue losses.

Agree | Yes, and I support the Council’s legislative agenda that includes advocacy for additional relief funding for affordable housing as introduced by my colleagues.

Q 5: Do you support using this funding to support the maintenance and creation of local arts projects?

Background: Legislation changing the county’s occupancy tax is likely to be introduced in the NC Senate this session. It would potentially reduce the funding dedicated to marketing from 75% to 67%, increasing funding available for community projects to 33%. Expanded funding flexibility included non-capital projects, option for bonding funding, administration and maintenance of TPDF approved projects, and funding for local arts projects.

Strongly Agree | Absolutely, and it should go beyond the percentage allowed because we are so far behind mitigating the impact of over-reliance on the tourism industry. This year, the revenue from occupancy taxes is projected to jump to more than $40 million, up from last year’s at upwards of $26 million. As a member of the Governance Committee, I advocated for our legislative agenda to explicitly state that the City of Asheville request a split to 50/50% to address issues with equity and infrastructure. That draft legislative agenda includes a request to expand representation on the Tourism Development Authority, which might include entertainment industry professionals. The draft legislative agenda is scheduled to be on our Council agenda for approval at our 2nd meeting in April, and if passed by a majority of Council, will go to our state legislative delegation. I hope our arts community will join in a courageous stance on accountability for how our occupancy taxes are distributed.

Q 6: Would you support an initiative to create affordable artist housing and/or studio space within Buncombe County?

Background: Affordable Housing is the primary reason for Buncombe County’s rising cost of living index (now 106). This is having a large impact on the local creative community, forcing more artists to move their residence and business outside of the county. The 2018 Keep AVL Creative survey, taken by 1,265 individuals and 170 organizations, found that a majority of artists (86%) and arts organizations (78%) need affordable artist housing and/or studio space. 424 responded that they have considered leaving Asheville due to cost of living.

Strongly Agree | Yes. A key tenet of my campaign is affordability, which means: Investing in deeply-affordable housing and keeping neighbors from becoming unhoused through cooperative and creative solutions; coordinating with the County on a fare-free Buncombe-Asheville Transit System; securing our food and water systems; and supporting local businesses focused on living wages. An opportunity to advance this work could include a community benefits table applied to conditional zoning processes for residential and mixed-use development. 

Q 7: Would you support the creation of Asheville- Buncombe County’s first Cultural Plan to support the preservation of our cultural assets, and the equitable recovery and sustainable growth of the creative sector?

Background: According to a 2019 report by NeighborWorks America, 80% of individuals’ health is determined by the social and environmental conditions in which they live, work and play. We need a shared vision for Asheville- Buncombe County’s cultural future that improves the lives of all residents with arts education, neighborhood revitalization, art in public spaces, economic development, and more.

Strongly Agree