A civil sweep

Asheville City Council member Cecil Bothwell has proposed a sweeping civil-liberties resolution that includes clauses banning racial profiling, surveillance of political-advocacy groups and helping federal officials enforce immigration laws. It would also require businesses contracting with the city to provide things like janitorial services or lawn care to pay their workers a living wage.

Liberating Asheville? Council member Cecil Bothwell (pictured here during a recent meeting) proposes a sweeping civil-liberties resolution that would ban some surveillance and end cooperation with federal immigration laws. Photo by Jonathan Welch

The proposed resolution, made public in a Feb. 4 e-mail newsletter, would prohibit discrimination "on the basis of race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, religious or political opinion or activity, or immigration status."

Other provisions would bar city employees from engaging in racial profiling as well as conducting surveillance or gathering information about political or religious groups.

Perhaps the most controversial clause, however, is one that would forbid city employees, including police officers, to get involved in enforcing federal immigration laws.

"No department, agency, commission, officer or employee of the City of Asheville shall use City funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration laws, or to gather, use or disseminate the immigration status information of individuals in the City of Asheville," the draft resolution reads. The same clause also prohibits city personnel from participating in federal programs such as Operation TIPS, a controversial proposal that failed to make it through Congress in 2002, asserting that they "encourage members of the general public to spy on their neighbors, colleagues and customers."

In the same announcement, Bothwell also declares his support for a living-wage requirement for service firms contracting with the city, whose workers aren't covered by the same living-wage rules as full-time city employees. Council had discussed such a move during its Nov. 24 meeting but decided to delay any action for a year to further study its cost implications.

Bothwell, however, wants to proceed, saying: "I am advancing a plan that would require service contractors to pay all of their employees on city jobs a living wage, beginning with the next contract bids. Studies have shown that living-wage requirements adopted by other governments have had a very small effect on costs (1 percent), and it seems unreasonable to me for our tax money to bid down the value of labor in Asheville. That hurts everyone."

According to the group Just Economics of WNC, a living wage in Asheville is currently about $9.85 with benefits or $11.35 without.

Bothwell says he plans to gather support for the resolutions before seeking a vote. "I'm running the civil-liberties resolution by several community groups, including the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council, the ACLU, Nuestro Centro, COLA, NAMI, church groups, etc., to see if any of them have additions, corrections or suggestions to offer," he notes. "I'll take it to the next meeting of the Council Public Safety Committee, Feb. 16, to present to the chief of police and my fellow committee members.

"I hope to get support from that Committee, which will move it into the queue for Council consideration," he adds. "Putting it on the agenda will be up to Mayor Bellamy."

Bothwell plans to take a similar approach with the living-wage proposal, which differs from Council's previously considered measure in that it's limited to service workers and would not affect workers on construction contracts, for example.

But Bothwell isn't the only Council member proposing new rules. During their Feb. 9 meeting, Gordon Smith encouraged his colleagues to provide benefits for same-sex domestic partners. Unlike Bothwell, however, Smith urged City Council to embrace the move in principle, with staff to present a more detailed resolution next month. Council endorsed Smith's motion on a 4-2 vote (see "Same-Sex RX" elsewhere in this issue).

In his newsletter, Bothwell also expressed concern about the legal challenges Smith's initiative could face. At the Council meeting, however, he voted for the benefits proposal.

To view the full text of Bothwell's civil-liberties resolution, go to mountainx.com/xpressfiles.

 

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