Mark Cates Primary Answers
1. Are you planning to attend “The Step Right Up” on Sept. 22nd?
Yes, I am looking forward to attending “The Step Right Up” on September 22nd.
2. Tell us something about your transportation habits. How do you get around Asheville?
I’m very fortunate to work out of my home, which eliminates any work commute and drastically reduces my overall carbon footprint. I also chose my home based on its walking proximity to local restaurants, a grocery store and the school my son attends. For the times when I drive, I make sure to plan my routes and my errands so that I minimize my time in the car. I also drive a 17 year old vehicle that gets nearly 30 mpg around the city.
3. What recent advancement in Asheville’s transportation infrastructure do you think has had the greatest impact on our community? Why?
The newly completed interchange at the intersection of Woodfin and College streets provides a great example of how vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and public transportation can utilize the route with ease and safety. This “complete street” should be looked to as an example when we consider future infrastructure upgrades.
4. Even if you haven’t held elected office, you’ve likely been an active member of Asheville’s community. Please describe one thing you’ve done to make our city friendlier to pedestrians, cyclists and/or bus riders.
I live in North Asheville, and for those of you who know Merrimon Avenue, you know it can be an extremely dangerous place for pedestrians and cyclists (as acknowledged in the Comprehensive Bicycle Plan). While safety is a responsibility that everyone must take part in, the ultimate danger to pedestrians and cyclists comes from vehicle operators. I actively talk with the people in my neighborhood about these dangers and ask that anyone using our roads keep to the speed limit and drive responsibly—on Merrimon Avenue or anywhere in Asheville. Awareness of the dangers that persist, especially on poorly planned roads like Merrimon Avenue, is always the first step to making our city friendlier, and safer, for everyone.
5. As a council member, would you advocate for the implementation of the city’s Bicycle Master Plan? If so, in what specific ways? If not, why not?
I support the aim of the Bicycle Master Plan, with one caveat: it must be paid for so that we can maintain the sustainability of the plan. Debt (through bonds) only increases the cost, and isn’t sustainable. In order to responsibly move forward, the Asheville City Council must identify a means of paying for the plan. In my Economic and Environmental Development of Asheville vision, there’s a solution for funding that specifically highlights bike paths as one example of a funding area. The vision document is available at www.markcates.com.
6. As a council member, would you advocate for the implementation of theTransit Master Plan? If you’d advocate for the plan, how would you encourage increasing ridership? If you wouldn’t advocate for the plan, why not?
Yes, I would advocate for the Transit Master Plan as long as it can be responsibly, and sustainably, funded. Public transportation issues address different goals in our community. On one hand they address the desires of many of us, myself included, who would like to see a massive increase in ridership to address environmental issues facing our city, such as reducing our overall carbon footprint, building a stronger sense of community and making it easier for people to take advantage of Asheville’s local independent businesses. On the other hand, public transportation is often the only form of transportation for our neighbors with low incomes, and it is sometimes the only way that this economic segment can get to work, to the grocery store or to the hospital. Should these two transit goals be treated with the same level of priority? When we talk about overall desires, yes, but when we take an honest look at our situation, there’s no question we must prioritize economic hardship, unemployment and Asheville’s low-income population first. In sum, I am a huge supporter of the Transit Master Plan, but I have listened to the very real needs of this population and in my heart believe that their needs must be met before others who have more.
7. What role do you think greenways play in Asheville’s future?
Greenways are great! My personal connection with them aside, they increase property value, connect neighborhoods in an environmentally-responsible manner and help beautify our already gorgeous Asheville. Connecting our greenways, as Denver has done, increases community connections, provides an excellent and exciting way for residents to get and stay healthy, and even promotes commerce with our local independent businesses. Greenways also go a long way towards protecting, preserving and promoting Asheville’s unique culture, and I believe the Asheville City Council should take every responsible and sustainable approach to funding the completion of the greenway plan. In fact, I address this in my Economic and Environmental Development of Asheville plan. It is currently available for public viewing and comment at www.markcates.com.
8. Past City Councils invested in planning efforts. Our city has a Sustainability Management Plan, a Greenway Master Plan, a Bicycle Master Plan, a Transit Master Plan, and a Pedestrian Thoroughfare Plan. The next step is to fund the implementation of these plans. In these hard economic times, how would you propose to fund these plans? Or, do these plans need to be cut? If you think the plans need to be trimmed, what plans or pieces of plans should be cut?
One of my greatest concerns when it comes to all of our “master plans” is that our city council has invested in unfunded goals. Sustainable solutions require funding. Our city manager, Gary Jackson, has said that in order to implement all of our master plans, the city will need to find 200 million dollars. That’s a lot of money. Unfortunately, the amazing work that went into creating the master plans never included funding mechanisms. Again, let me state that I believe the work that went into creating the master plans was incredible. The thinking showed a great dedication to community needs and sustainability, with a focus on making Asheville a better place for everyone. So, in essence, I don’t think we need to cut the plans at all, but in order for no cuts to be made, and in order for us to make sure that we don’t increase this astronomical price tag through debt-bonds that our children will have to pay for, I have developed a responsible, and sustainable, strategy that will provide the funds for Asheville to implement these plans. Readers can view this strategy in the Economic and Environmental Development of Asheville on www.markcates.com.
9. What is the most compelling reason to improve transportation options in Asheville?
There is no greater compelling reason to improve Asheville’s transportation options than our neighbors in need. When the Asheville area is the seventh worst place in the nation for hunger, and when our area has more than 17,000 people out of work, and when we know that low-income minority populations carry the greatest amount of economic hardship (far greater than middle-income populations, minority or otherwise), how can anyone have any other ‘most compelling’ reason? If we know that our low-income neighbors need public transit to get to work (and we do), is there any question? If we know that our low-income neighbors depend on public transit to get food (and we do), again, is there any question? And if we know that our low-income neighbors rely on public transit to have access to health care (and again, we know this), how can there be any other motivation? We must accept our unity: we are all people of Asheville, together.