Asheville City Council hosted a brief community meeting Tuesday, April 29, at Charles T. Koontz Intermediate School to hear public comment on the city’s Strategic Operating Plan for the 2013-14 fiscal year.
The public was invited to make comments and bring up any concerns to City Council and city staffers regarding the SOP’s three focus areas which Council will discuss before formally adopting the plan.
The three focus areas of the proposed plan are:
Economic Growth and Financial Stability, which includes sustainable revenue sources, community infrastructure and better public/private partnerships.
Affordable Housing and Community Development, which includes increasing the number of affordable housing units and initiatives to end the chronically homeless problem in the city.
High Quality of Life, which includes factors to improve public safety, healthy living and cultural diversity, as well as a goal to “make Asheville one of the safest cities in America” when compared to similarly sized cities.
Meeting attendees were separated into three groups corresponding to the focus areas and invited to give their own ideas on how to improve the draft.
The needs of low-income residents, including more affordable housing, were hot topics in the community development discussion.
“There’s a huge leap from folks who are in public housing, or in a trailer park community, to what is being built as affordable housing,” Greg Borom, from Children First, said. “There’s this kind of big pit there that we would like to see the city address. How can we bridge that gap?”
Public transportation was also a big issue. Several people expressed concern with the bus system and the challenges faced by low-income residents who need to easily get around the city, especially on Sundays when there is no bus service available.
Council plans to add limited Sunday bus service with the adoption of the SOP, at a cost of around $300,000, to help alleviate such public transportation concerns.
“There were some other requests from transit riders, too, like increasing frequency of routes, but it’s really expensive any time we do something like that,” Mayor Esther Manheimer said. “So we really had to understand the priority from the community on what should be next, and I think Sunday service has risen to the top every time.”
City Council member’s next meeting will be Tuesday, May 13, when they are expected to vote on adoption of the Strategic Operating Plan.