It wasn’t the ending Keith Young wanted.
At its meeting of Nov. 10, Asheville City Council said its goodbyes to three outgoing members: Young, Brian Haynes and Julie Mayfield. But the bittersweet moment left a bitter taste for many residents — the farewells came after Mayor Esther Manheimer abruptly announced that Council would not discuss the creation of a $1 million reparations fund, a move Young had championed as his last act on Council.
Manheimer explained that she had been asked by “more than a majority” of Council to pull the funding resolution from the agenda until incoming members Sandra Kilgore, Sage Turner and Kim Roney could attend a work session to “develop a roadmap” for reparations funding.
“Frankly, we haven’t had time yet to discuss in-depth in terms of how to move forward,” Manheimer said. “So let me reiterate: Council remains unanimously supportive of the reparations resolution already adopted.”
The unanimously adopted July reparations agreement — also spearheaded by Young — directs City Manager Debra Campbell to develop recommendations to “address the creation of generational wealth” in the Black community and establish a commission to “make significant progress toward repairing the damage caused by public and private systemic racism.” At Council’s meeting of Oct. 27, members supported a resolution to halt the sale of city-owned property acquired through urban renewal.
But in a Facebook post shared after the meeting, Young, who unofficial results show will lose his seat after a fourth-place finish in this year’s City Council race, said that Haynes was the only other member who supported immediate funding for reparations. As of press time, the post had been deleted.
“There was a legitimate proposal on the table that didn’t require politi-speak,” Young wrote, adding that he had only been informed that his resolution would be off the agenda about an hour before the meeting. “$4 million was the proposal. Then it was shaved down to $1 million. It was doable. The current Council tonight turned their backs on the Black community.”
Community members, also frustrated that hadn’t been informed of the agenda change until they called into the virtual speaker queue at the start of the meeting, urged Council to invest far more than Young’s original proposal into an eventual reparations fund.
“$4 million is frankly laughable when you consider the unbelievable harm that has been done to the Black community over the years,” said Paul Schulman of West Asheville. “For that to be removed at the last minute is really disheartening and sad.”
Taking reparations funding off the table is the equivalent of being at a football game on a fourth down at the one-yard line and deciding to take a knee instead of finishing the play, said Rob Thomas of the Racial Justice Coalition.
“I see this as political maneuvering,” Thomas said. “But maybe this isn’t a bad thing. Maybe you’re planning to put a lot more money into reparations for the Black community than the $4 million. Maybe you will do better. We’ll be watching.”
In other news
Other highlights from Council’s meeting of Nov. 10 include:
- Changes to Asheville’s Land Use Incentive Grant policy. The newly amended policy will require at least 20% of a developer’s units to meet affordability standards for households earning 80% or less of the area median income, up from a previous requirement of 10%, to receive a city subsidy.
- Budget amendments to accept $889,456 from the third round of federal Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus relief funds to offset costs of the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A resolution to help fund free internet services for residents in the Southside community, Hillcrest Apartments, Pisgah View Apartments, Klondyke Homes and Deaverview Apartments. The city is responsible for $50,000 of the project’s $520,000 overall cost.
- A $560,000 contract extension with Young Transportation to continue supplemental transit services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Resolutions of appreciation for Haynes, Mayfield and Young.