After heated discussion, Buncombe commissioners approve anti-bias resolution

The seven new members of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners held their first meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 6. Photo by Dan Hesse

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners had its first meeting with new members Tuesday, Dec. 6, but displayed old patterns of voting along party lines while tapping a vice chair and during a heated discussion about a resolution against discrimination. Commissioners ended the meeting in a closed session about a potential economic development project that county staff tells Xpress could bring 500 jobs the the county.

A new vice

New Chair Brownie Newman and Commissioners Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Robert Pressley and Al Whitesides, who was appointed Tuesday night to finish the remaining two years on Newman’s District 1 seat that he vacated to chair the board, tackled the issue of appointing a new vice chair.

Commissioner Ellen Frost won the post by a 4-3 vote with Republicans Joe Belcher, Mike Fryar and Pressley voting for Fryar and Democrats Beach-Ferrara, Frost, Newman and Whitesides voting for Frost.

Habitat help

Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to donate two parcels of land in the Avery’s Park subdivision to Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity. County Manager Wanda Greene said staff has been unable to sell those parcels, totaling just under 3 acres and that they are costing the county upward of $5,000 a year to keep. She also noted that commissioners previously directed staff to work with affordable housing partners to see if they had a purpose for the land. With that in mind, the land will be taken over by Habitat for Humanity with the stipulation that it be used for affordable housing. You can read more about that resolution here.

Discrimination resolution

Next, commissioners sounded off over a resolution against discrimination and intimidation. Language in the resolution states: “Hate crimes, threats or intimidation of any kind or manner will not be tolerated.” The Democratic bloc had the item added to agenda due to what it perceives as an openly hostile post-presidential election landscape.

Pressley and Fryar asked the resolution be tabled until the next meeting, stating it would give them more time to look it over and perhaps make language changes.

Whitesides responded, “When I look at it, I can see why we might want to put it off. But when we look at the environment we are in, especially after this election and especially when I hear my grandson talk about how kids talk about it, when it comes to hate speech … I know it’s not law, but we need to set an example for the community,” he said. “We can’t sit back and bury our heads in the sand. When you look at what’s out there, I have some problems. I went through this in the ’60s and I’ll be darned if I go through it again today.”

“I want to share context about its intent. It begins with acknowledging Weaverville approved a resolution with this text and we are following their leadership,” said Beach-Ferrara. “It’s a tool for expression. Specifically, the intent is to express to residents of Buncombe County our core commitment to being inclusive. It’s not a partisan issue; it’s about decency and fairness.”

At that point Fryar stated he would like to add language to the resolution and alluded to past county hiring practices that he insinuated favored members of the Democratic party. He went on to say he would like language about having public school teachers remain apolitical. “We have had complaints. … If we are going to spend the money on schools, then these teachers need to leave political views at the front door. Both sides. It doesn’t matter to me,” said Fryar.

Frost then retorted, “It’s important to remember we don’t have jurisdiction over the school.”

To which Fryar responded, “We don’t have jurisdiction over the people of Buncombe County, either.”

Beach-Ferrara then asked Fryar if adding the language “political party” to the third section, listing those the resolution admonishes discrimination against, would help.

The resolution that sparked debate among commissioners but was ultimately approved unanimously.
The resolution that sparked debate among commissioners but was ultimately approved unanimously.

Fryar responded, “That helps. But there have been three incidents I know of. … All I’m asking is let the students make the decision, as they grow in life, what party they want to be in. I don’t want to see anyone harmed in any way.” He went on to detail attending a rally at a school auditorium and hearing the F-word directed at him and other Republicans multiple times.

“We just keep piling on ordinances on top of ordinances. We have a new governor, a new president. So be it. We all have to figure out where we’re at. [Whitesides] and I know we don’t want to go back to where we were,” continued Fryar. “I want everyone on an equal playing field. We might not agree, but we can work together.”

Whitesides then stressed his rationale for having this ordinance before the board despite previous, similar measures. “We keep pushing race under the table. We’ve got to talk about it. Until we do, we won’t solve the problem,” he said. “We are dealing with same problem today that I dealt with as a college student. This resolution is good. We need to keep it in front of us. If we don’t lead, we will have the same problems of the last 50 years over and over again. … We’ve got to deal with it. This resolution keeps it before us.”

Belcher then weighed in, stating he appreciated the conversation commissioners were having on the topic but took issue with the resolution’s tone. “I don’t agree with all the language in this. I think once elections are over, they are over. I’m not really OK with the overall way it’s written and would like some time to tweak it,” he said. “But I want to send a signal to the people of Buncombe County that they should treat each other with dignity. So I’m going to vote for it.”

Commissioners then approved the resolution unanimously. You can read it here.

Conference call

Commissioners then unanimously approved sending Belcher to the Legislative Goals Conference where the North Carolina County Commission Association approves its agenda for the upcoming legislative session.

Board games

Commissioners made the following board appointments:

Adult Care Home Community Advisory Committee
Susan Stuart, Laura Wagenknecht — unanimous

Audit Committee
Whitesides — unanimous

Metropolitan Planning Organization
Newman — unanimous
Beach-Ferrara — appointed 4-3 over Pressley

Tourism Development Authority
Belcher — unanimous

Crimestoppers Board of Directors
Fryar — unanimous

Health and Human Services Board
Frost — unanimous

Riverfront Development Board
Whitesides — unanimous

Economic Development Coalition
Whitesides — appointed 4-3 over Pressley

Land of Sky Regional Council
Pressley — unanimous

Juvenile Crime Prevention Council
Beach-Ferrara — unanimous

MSD Board
Frost, Pressley — unanimous

Closed session

Commissioners ended the meeting with a closed session about a potential economic development project. State law allows commissioners to privately discuss such opportunities and few details are available as of now. However, county staff tells Xpress the project might bring 500 jobs to the county.

Commissioners don’t meet again until next year, on Tuesday, Jan. 3.


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About Dan Hesse
I grew up outside of Atlanta and moved to WNC in 2001 to attend Montreat College. After college, I worked at NewsRadio 570 WWNC as an anchor/reporter and covered Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners starting in 2004. During that time I also completed WCU's Master of Public Administration program. You can reach me at

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10 thoughts on “After heated discussion, Buncombe commissioners approve anti-bias resolution

  1. boatrocker

    My impression of Twitter

    New gov’nr in NC. McCrory finally conceded post crybaby snowflake puppy/hot chocolate therapy meltdown after losing fair n square! Only took Pat a month to admit it! What a loser! Ladies call Cooper a 10, McCrory not even a 4 glasses r 4 losers! 10,000 + vote rule, no voter fraud was proven for 50 county recounts! Maybe new gov can help us gain back millions in income lost for passing hate laws! Make NC great again! Scary minorities celebrating in the streets! Women too! McCrory having meltdown. So sad. New sane gov of NC are going to win so bigly we will get tired of winning. Pack yr bags Pepe!

    Hey, this addiction to Twitter impressions feels pretty good. Double plus bigly good!

    And bias is bad, and yes, when you point out bias and you are called biased, so bad. So badly. Not winningly.

  2. The Real World

    Regarding the Discrimination Resolution — there are alot of problems with this. Not the least of which is restricting the First Amendment.
    1 – Hate crimes, threats or intimidation of any kind or manner will not be tolerated; — What is the definition of a hate crime? It isn’t provided. And what constitutes threats and intimidation? We all know what an overt degree of all of those look like but we now live in world of supposed “micro-aggressions” and people feeling “threatened” because someone writes on the sidewalk, ‘Hillary is a criminal’ or whatever. Are we trying to create a city of Stepford robots?

    2 – Anyone who feels that they are being or have been discriminated against, harassed or intimidated or have witnessed such acts, should make note of any information that may be helpful in identifying the perpetrator(s) of the discriminatory actions and contact the appropriate law enforcement official. — And what is law enforcement going to do about it? That wasn’t defined either. What a ridiculous waste of police time. So, here we go: “Officer, I need you to arrest Boatrocker because he assaulted me with words and I feel violated.”

    What planet am I on?

    • Peter Robbins

      As I understand it, Real World, the term “hate crime” refers to an ordinary crime for which the perpetrator is liable for more severe penalties because particular motives (e.g., racism) are present. I don’t think that part of the resolution is problematic (although it adds nothing to any existing criminal law). The rest appears to need work.

      • The Real World

        So, there are crimes where it’s obvious that hate against a particular category of people occurs but, otherwise, the definition is quite amorphous. I find that problematic and it leaves open a wide window for manipulation by those so inclined.

        The resolution is so vague and wishy-washy, I do not comprehend their intent with it other than intimidation or political posturing.

        Peter, why do you suppose they just could not do the wise, pragmatic thing and table it for a few months for further consideration and discussion? Particularly since it has no real teeth anyhow? Seems as if they’re being knee-jerk reactionary.

        • Peter Robbins

          Well, it’s just a resolution, even if it does impinge somewhat thoughtlessly on free-speech values. Probably isn’t worth a whole lot of effort to fix it, and we don’t want the commissioners starting out their new terms unable to agree on being nice. Still, I do worry that we will be sending an unwelcoming message to the hapless Kannapolis Intimidators when they come to town for their drubbing next spring. Bad sportsmanship cannot be tolerated.

  3. The Real World

    In fact, given the vagueness of the Resolution and the fact that it implies a restriction on free speech, I can make a solid argument that this Resolution constitutes both a threat and intimidation. Oh, the very irony!!

  4. Lulz

    It’s typical FEELZ bs. They know better to let it get to the point that some dipwad is ordered to arrest someone for words and the county takes their property and earnings.

    • luther blissett

      God forbid that people might want to live in a world where that kind of abuse isn’t considered acceptable.

      (btw, the clock’s ticking on your decision whether to run for office next year on a campaign of sour-faced hatred. Let us know when you’ve made a decision.)

  5. The resolution against hat and intimidation is itself hateful and intimidating as they clearly hate haters and intimidate indimidators. As such it is self contradictory and hypocritical. Also if hatred is a mental disability, then haters are members listed as a protected class; protected from the very intolerance stated in the resolution.

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