An e-mail exchange released by Asheville City Council member Bill Russell reveals new details about how a proclamation recognizing the Oct. 1 Blue Ridge Pride festival made it onto Council’s agenda for its Sept. 27 meeting. In the exchange, Mayor Terry Bellamy, who has not given the festival a standard mayoral proclamation, notes that she will place it on the new business portion of the agenda. Russell says he hoped for a standard proclamation instead of a contentious vote.
Normally, proclamations are requested by local groups, approved by the mayor and (if the group desires) read early in the meeting before the rest of Council’s business. There are three such proclamations on the agenda for the Sept. 27 meeting.
The first e-mail, on Sept. 14 is from Russell to Phil Kleisler, the city’s business services manager, it reads:
Phil, I know the mayor is Busy…but could you please pass on my support for her adding the “Blue Ridge Pride day” proclamation to be added to the next agenda? I know that’s her discretion, but I’m pretty proud of what the group accomplished, they are joining the chamber and really working on bringing a greater awareness of good things, good communication, and positive economic impact to the City.
You are welcome to simply just forward this to her. My computer can’t find her email for some reason.
Kleisler passes the request on to the mayor the same day, who later that day replies to Russell:
Per your request, I will put the proclamation on the agenda for council to vote on under New Business.
The next day, Russell replies:
Mayor, i am not requesting it be put on the agenda for a council vote. I was simply expressing my support and sharing that many council members (if not 5) would like to see what I see as a harmless proclamation being read at the next meeting. Doesn’t need to be politicized. Just some good folks who many feel could use some recognition.
Again, it’s your call on how and where it goes on the agenda. I want nothing to do with setting the agenda.
Earlier today, the city clerk’s office told Xpress that Russell had proposed placing the proclamation on the agenda. However, Russell says that when he expressed his support, he simply wanted the proclamation read with the other proclamations, not a separate vote.
“Any time any type of issue like the [domestic partner] benefits or the [equality] resolution come up, you have swarms of people coming out both for and against it,” Russell tells Xpress. “This is just a proclamation. To do something that might bring people out over this just seems kind of silly.”
Russell donated money earlier this year to help pay Blue Ridge Pride’s entry into the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, and notes that “I’m pretty proud of what they’re doing, they’re looking at it from an economic and business standpoint.”
When Bellamy replied to his support by placing the proclamation under new business instead of with the other proclamations, he says, “she twisted my words. I didn’t say ‘put this under new business’ it was just my support for a proclamation. So I corrected her, saying that was her call.”
“We need to keep the wedges out of politics, in my opinion,” Russell adds. “This is what I did not want to happen, for it to become some media thing.”