Council tells staff to find temporary spot for Occupy Asheville, scraps community-media contract

At its meeting tonight, Oct. 11, Asheville City Council:

• directed city staff to find a temporary location for the Occupy Asheville protesters to camp overnight.
The move followed lengthy public comment, when representatives and members of the demonstrations asked Council to allow them to use part of Pack Square Park. The speakers asserted that the move would respect their constitutional right to assemble and give the protests a peaceful outlet. Council members generally expressed sympathy for Occupy Asheville and praised the protesters’ conduct, but noted that they were considering the needs of other groups who had already reserved the area, and that they had concerns changing park rules without publishing notice on the printed agenda or having more time to deliberate. In the end, Council agreed to find a temporary space and consider the matter again at its next meeting Oct. 25 in hopes of finding a more lasting location.

• unanimously voted to not authorize a community media contract with web development company Ponderwell.
Council members voiced concern that Ponderwell’s proposal didn’t meet the criteria they had desired when the RFP was created. Xpress had also entered a proposal for the grant and was a finalist in the assessment made by a panel of city, county and business representatives. That panel gave Ponderwell a higher score, and staff recommended contracting with them for the project. Council member Gordon Smith expressed concern about government funding a news organization. Ponderwell staff and supporters defended their proposal, saying it would help citizens develop the skills to report and edit news, but Council remained unconvinced. The $120,000 set aside for the contract will return to the city general fund.

• voted 4-3 to approve a rezoning that would allow the subdivision of a lot on Waneta Street in Montford. Mayor Terry Bellamy joined Council members Jan Davis and Esther Manheimer in opposing the measure. Proponents called it a reasonable compromise that provided affordable housing, while critics, including the Montford Neighborhood Association, said the proposal opened the door to excessive density in their area.

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12 thoughts on “Council tells staff to find temporary spot for Occupy Asheville, scraps community-media contract

  1. Viking

    Well, aren’t the financing mechanisms behind URTV still in play? The basics involved are that cable companies and internet providers use public infrastructure and public trade policies to make money. There should be clear cut public inclusion and public designed options.

    CMDI is both video content and internet communications generally. That sophisticated ‘community development’ is the ‘grand strategy’ of CMDI and that ‘media’ is the general vehicle is a matter of semantics. The URTV funding mechanism is only being used for COA and BC government access channels.

    What is being done to replace URTV following tonight’s vote? CMDI needs to be resurrected and redesigned. What a great idea!

    OWS AVL issues are important, but the CMDI deserves attention too. It seems like this CDMI (Community Development Media Initiative) just needed more attention, modeling innovation, and public exposure over several months.

    There’s no way we should let this opportunity go away.

  2. D. Dial

    Frankly Staff dropped the ball on the RFP, and failed to make clear what the objective approved by the Finance Committee were. Staff should be asked to go back to square one and come up with an understandable RFP. People interested need to contact their Council representatives and ask that staff be instructed to do a better job in presenting another RFP.

    The below bullet list were the objectives that were stressed in the May finance meeting, but were not made clear in the RFP.

  3. luther blissett

    “Frankly Staff dropped the ball on the RFP”

    Frankly, Davyne’s problem is that she’s going to keep bitter-ending about URTV and undermining any community media project that isn’t the URTV 2.0 she wanted at the time when she was dismissed from the board.

    And frankly, Council’s ignorance of the proposals and the work done by Staff, as demonstrated in the chamber, and its disregard for the work put in by everyone who contributed a proposal, is an embarrassment. Whether it was a behind-the-scenes stitch-up or a collective decision to keep the money in the general fund, we’ll probably never know, but the fact that Mayor Bellamy had to remind Council that public comment was necessary before proceeding to a vote is pretty telling.

  4. TwoBears

    “Proponents called it a reasonable compromise that provided affordable housing, while critics, including the Montford Neighborhood Association, said the proposal opened the door to excessive density in their area.”

    Excessive density? In other words, I want to help those less fortunate, I just don’t want them living near me…

  5. D. Dial

    @ Luther Blissett

    Davyne didn’t have anything to do with staffs misguided RFP, and it’s defeat had nothing to do with the failed public access entity.

  6. mat catastrophe

    One major issue that I’ve noticed is that very few people are properly separating the Community Media Development Initiative from Public Access TV. I think the two are distinct ideas and projects and, while not mutually exclusive, are not necessarily joined at the hip.

    Hopefully, the City and/or the County will move forward, re-issue their RFP, and actually look for proposals that move the area forward instead of treading water.

    There’s room for both of these projects in Asheville but to put them in the same basket is just asking for trouble.

  7. Amie Tracey

    We at Ponderwell have hashed over our thoughts on the process and results for the CMDI, and have put them up here: http://ponderwell.net/2011/10/community-media-initiative-now-that-council-has-spoken/

    Essentially, while of course we’re disappointed, we also have a lot of folks who are really interested and would love to see our idea go forward. So we’ll be looking for other funding, and hopefully it won’t be too long before you can evaluate it for yourself.

    Excerpt:

    [...]This is the problem Ponderwell set out to solve with our Community Media Initiative. First, we believe that for the public to be aware of its own story, the stories its members are trying to tell about what matters to them, they must have a local, community based outlet. Second it must be visible, so there needs to be a central point where these stories can be found for the community. Third, and most important, there must be a consistently high quality of material at this location. That means there must be a system, as there is in the mainstream media, for training, for editing, and for pushing the most immediately relevant and interesting material to greater prominence. Ponderwell

  8. Barry Summers

    Hmmm. The door is still open for Orbit TV.

    So, to clarify: OrbitDVD is offering to open up to house the Occupy Asheville folks? Man, that is damn decent of you!

  9. D. Dial

    Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands in equipment, servers, software, computers, etc. sits in storage. (b>Hundreds of thousands paid by the public trust. Sitting. Unused. Only two councilmen seem even concerned with this fact.

  10. Orbit DVD

    So, to clarify: OrbitDVD is offering to open up to house the Occupy Asheville folks? Man, that is damn decent of you!

    Occupy Orbit will be this Saturday the 15th… the 1st Annual Video Store Day!

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