Growing up in Asheville during the 1980s, Asheville City Council candidate Vijay Kapoor can remember people asking his mother what country she adopted him from. Turns out, he was not adopted. Vijay’s father was born in India, his mother in Poland, and Vijay himself in Chicago, Illinois.
A South Asheville resident, Vijay is used to being asking about his ethnicity, and he doesn’t mind talking about it. He’s been mistaken as Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Native American, and even Italian. “I’ve found that people are genuinely curious about the origins of others, and my ethnicity is just part of who I am. In most of the places I’ve lived, I have stuck out, so it’s not easy to put me into a simple box,” says Vijay.
Vijay earned a double degree in Economics and Public Policy at the University of Chicago in 1999, and received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1999. He fondly remembers a popular Chicago U. law professor who decided, in 1996, to run for public office for the first time. That law professor was Barack Obama, who won his Illinois State Senate seat that year, before joining the U.S. Senate in 2004 and moving into the White House in 2009.
In 2008, after several years of practice as an attorney and then as Senior Policy Manager and Executive Director of the Office of Management and Productivity for Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Vijay founded a company that provides economic analysis and budget consulting to cities across the country. At the time he was living in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania capitol.
“I started this company right before the recession hit, and paying clients were very hard to find. I had to make payroll using my savings. My wife Anne, whom I met in law school, supported us with her salary and healthcare benefits. Rather than just sit around and hope that clients would call, I worked at a non-profit law firm to volunteer my company’s help. At that time, thousands of people across the country were losing their homes to foreclosure, and the non-profit set up a hotline to help homeowners protect their homes. Homes that had been in families for generations were being lost—particularly in the city’s black communities,” said Vijay.
Through this work, Vijay noticed many homeowners who didn’t have attorneys, and consequently couldn’t defend themselves against the banks even though they had valid legal defenses. “Many of these homeowners and their experiences convinced me to start a law practice helping homeowners for free who were losing their homes to foreclosure,” stated Vijay.
“One case was that of Mrs. Jones, a single mother who had worked very hard to buy a home which she intended to pass on to her children. Mrs. Jones got a call from a loan agent who told her that she was behind in her gas bills and the city could foreclose on her home unless she paid the amount back immediately. He told her to take out a loan from him with a high interest rate backed up by a mortgage on her house. She was scared of losing her home so she agreed to the loan. Mrs. Jones immediately fell behind on the payments, and the company began threats of foreclosure.
Mrs. Jones’s case was referred to me and it was a long shot. I filed defenses with the court, and threatened to sue the company. The company backed down and Mrs. Jones kept her home. That case left a lasting impression on me about the importance of getting involved to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Vijay.
When asked why he decided to run for City Council, Vijay said, “I’m running for Asheville City Council to make sure that all residents go to sleep each night feeling safe, fed, healthy and valued. And, the best way to ensure that is to listen, engage and empower all of our neighborhoods.”
Vijay leaves these words of wisdom from a quote by Robert F. Kennedy: “All of us might wish at times that we lived in a more tranquil world, but we don’t. And if our times are difficult and perplexing, so are they challenging and filled with opportunity.”