For those closely following local government, Asheville City Council’s upcoming agenda may feel familiar. On Tuesday, April 27, members will discuss two topics debated by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners last week.
The first is a nondiscrimination ordinance to prohibit discriminatory practices in private employment and public accommodations based on 16 personal characteristics and lifestyles, including natural hairstyles, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious belief or non-belief and national origin or ancestry. The document is nearly identical to that passed 6-0 by the county board on April 20, which prompted extensive public comment from residents in both support and disagreement.
If approved, the city ordinance would go into effect on Thursday, July 1, the same date as Buncombe County’s policy. Discrimination complaints would be filed through Asheville’s Office of Equity and Inclusion; those found in violation could be issued a civil fine of $100 per day.
Until last December, a state legislative provision had prevented counties and municipalities from passing local nondiscrimination ordinances. Since that provision expired, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Hillsborough, Durham, Greensboro, Orange County and Buncombe County have all adopted such policies.
In other news
If adopted, the city will continue to provide Positive Opportunities to Develop Success (PODS) or other community learning programs at recreation centers; expand Asheville Parks & Recreation programs; prioritize the Asheville City School system’s worst-in-the-state opportunity gap through the Strategic Partnership Fund; grow the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy; and evaluate affordable housing needs to align with the partnership.
Buncombe County joined the partnership on April 20. Coordinated by the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, other community partners include the Racial Justice Coalition, YMCA of WNC, YWCA of Asheville, A-B Tech, UNC Asheville and Asheville City Schools Foundation.
Consent agenda and public comment
The consent agenda for the meeting contains 13 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:
- A budget amendment to allocate $468,407 from federal American Rescue Plan funding to pay for a non-congregate homeless shelter at the Ramada Inn on River Ford Parkway. The city entered an emergency contract with the facility to provide 42 rooms to unhoused residents following the removal of an encampment at Riverbend Park. Roughly $87,407 of that funding will reimburse Sunrise Community for Recovery and Wellness for onsite services at the hotel.
- A resolution to apply for and accept a $275,416 grant from the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy for the 2021 Asheville High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas branch. The HIDTA program, which involves the Asheville Police Department, local sheriffs’ offices and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, works to reduce drug trafficking and production.
- A contract with CIGNA Health and Life Insurance Company and Express Scripts, Inc. for city employee health insurance. Asheville has previously used Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina for health insurance; the new contracts will provide access to “more robust medical coverage,” according to a staff report.
Prior to the regular meeting, Council members will attend a 2:30 p.m. work session to discuss the city’s fiscal year 2021-22 operating budget. The meeting will be livestreamed at this link; no public comment will be accepted.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link. Due to COVID-19, Council will meet remotely, and the meeting will be livestreamed through Asheville’s Public Engagement Hub.
Members of the public who wish to speak during the meeting must sign up in advance at this link or call 828-259-5900 no later than 9 a.m. Tuesday, April 27. City staff will then use the list of registered speakers to manage the speaker queue during the meeting.
Prerecorded voicemail messages can also be left at 855-925-2801, meeting code 2776; written comments can be sent to AshevilleCityCouncilApril272021@PublicInput.com. Emails will be accepted for 24 hours after each public hearing.