Buncombe board to vote on Vance removal recommendation

Buncombe County seal

The first endorsement by elected officials of plans to remove the Vance Monument from downtown Asheville could come on Monday, Dec. 7. The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will vote on whether to accept the recommendation of the Vance Monument Task Force, a body jointly appointed by the county and city of Asheville, to take down the obelisk that memorializes Confederate Gov. Zebulon Vance.

The commissioners had voted on June 16 to remove two other Confederate memorials from downtown. That resolution also established a citizen task force to determine if the Vance Monument should be removed, repurposed or relocated. Task force members spent 12 weeks gathering information and evaluating over 600 public comments before voting 11-1 in favor of removal on Nov. 19.

Previous discussion about Confederate monuments has divided the commission along partisan lines, with Republicans Joe Belcher, Anthony Penland and Robert Pressley voting against the June 16 resolution. Both Belcher and Penland were defeated in the November election; Pressley will be the board’s sole Republican following the swearing in of Democrats Parker Sloan and Terri Wells earlier on Dec. 7.

If the board votes to accept the task force’s recommendation, members will direct County Manager Avril Pinder to work with Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell on developing next steps for removal of the monument. Asheville City Council is expected to vote on the recommendation on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

State law prohibits the removal of a public “object of remembrance” unless a government official deems it a threat to public safety. However, Asheville City Attorney Brad Branham has suggested that the resolution establishing the task force, which declared that “the legacy of slavery, institutional segregation and ongoing systemic racism directly harm public safety and public health,” already meets that requirement.

In other news

The only public hearing on the commission’s agenda concerns a request to rezone roughly 10 acres along Long Shoals Road from residential and neighborhood service to commercial service. The applicant, James Keith, has plans to establish an impound lot on the property. Both the Buncombe County Planning Board and county planning staff recommend approval of the change.

Commissioners will also vote to select a new vice chair. Pressley, the current holder of that position, unsuccessfully campaigned to unseat Chair Brownie Newman in this year’s election.

Consent agenda and public comment

The board’s consent agenda for the meeting contains 11 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:

The commission will also hold a briefing at 3 p.m. to discuss enforcement of COVID-19 emergency orders, county input on Duke Energy’s Integrated Resource Plan, work toward racial equity and other matters. The full agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link.

Public comment will only be permitted through live telephone calls at the start of the meeting; no in-person comments, emails or voicemails will be accepted. Those planning to comment must sign up online or call 828-250-4001 by Friday, Dec. 4, at 3 p.m. All commenters will receive three minutes to address the board.

Both the briefing and regular meeting will be livestreamed on the county’s Facebook page and will subsequently be available via YouTube.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the Assistant Editor of Mountain Xpress, regularly contributing to coverage of Western North Carolina's government, environment and health care. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville, and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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7 thoughts on “Buncombe board to vote on Vance removal recommendation

  1. Dopamina

    What really changed my mind about this monument was the date / time period during which it was built.

    Southerners were implementing Jim Crow laws all across the South that coincided with the erecting of these kinds of monuments.

    Perhaps if this monument were not built during the Jim Crow era (in my mind it was part of the South giving the metaphorical finger to the rest of the country) and were built during another era, it may not be so controversial.

    But the timing of it’s arrival seems to indicate what was probably a very nasty bigoted purpose for building this statue.

    Often, you hear folks reference “heritage” as a reason for leaving a monument like this in place. But if your heritage involved evil (slavery is hell on earth for slaves, the personification of evil), does it really makes sense to put up a monument like this and pretend these were amazing and moral people? Slavery is a stain on Southern culture, it is a nasty sin and many in the South seem to want to whitewash history and pretend it never happened, that their ancestors in some cases weren’t evil people…

    • C-Law

      “Dopeamina” in a nutshell—

      “The principal feature of American liberalism is sanctimoniousness. By loudly denouncing all bad things — war and hunger and evil Confederate statues — liberals testify to their own terrific goodness. More important, they promote themselves to membership in a self-selecting elite of those who care deeply about such things…. It’s a kind of natural aristocracy, and the wonderful thing about this aristocracy is that you don’t have to be brave, smart, strong or even lucky to join it, you just have to be liberal.”

      paraphrase from P.J. O’Rourke

  2. Mike

    How is the proposed action legal without the express approval of the state legislature???

    “North Carolina’s law doesn’t allow cities and counties to remove Confederate monuments, according to Rick Su, a professor at the UNC School of Law.”

    “In fact, the law … was specifically targeted at cities and counties, and followed a wave of other states passing similar laws in response to local efforts to remove statues,” Su told The News & Observer. “It applies to all statues owned by the state, and this includes those owned by subdivisions of the state like cities, counties, and other public institutions.”

    • The city’s legal argument centers around the public safety exemption in that law, as explained in previous Xpress reporting (see https://mountainx.com/news/vance-monument-task-force-gets-to-work/). See the relevant section copied below:

      “Asheville City Attorney Brad Branham noted that the task force’s final recommendation must fall within the legal framework of North Carolina’s Cultural History Artifact Management and Patriotism Act, approved by the General Assembly in 2015. He said the law placed strict limits on what could be done with publicly owned “objects of remembrance” such as the Vance Monument. (No such limits applied to two other downtown Confederate monuments, owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, that were removed in July.)

      The group essentially has three options, Branham continued. The monument could be relocated, but only to a “place of similar prominence” within the same jurisdiction, likely to be interpreted as Asheville city limits. “[Pack Square] sets a pretty high bar for relocation,” he said. “You can’t move it to Montana.”

      State law also allows monuments to be altered through renaming or the addition of contextual plaques. But permanent removal can only occur if a government official deems the monument a threat to public safety — a condition, Branham suggested, that may already have been satisfied through the very resolutions that established the task force.”

      • Nicholas Case

        Listen, I’ve lived here my entire life. My mother taught me to be open minded always. And I live by that creed. America is changing as is asheville. I remember when downtown had tumble weeds running through it. Then it became the “hip” zone. Trust me, i was one of them! But… There is always a but… isn’t there…. ? But I want that hip asheville back. Not the homeless, drunk, begging for money and a smoke Asheville! This should not be a haven for drug addicts and bums. I wl help anyone, thats willing to help themselves. Let’s do better asheville!

  3. Zebulon Manheimer

    Vance Monument is not a threat to public safety. It’s a historic landmark that is part of the city’s history. Just because Democrats don’t want people to know they were and continue to be the party of slavery is not enough reason to remove a great piece of work as is Vance Monument. How about spending tax money on matters of importance? Now THAT would be monumental.

  4. Michael Cooney

    This “monument” issue is a farce, more likely a political farce!
    Tear it down, leave it up. Just how will that help the African-Americans here in Asheville ?
    Will they have better housing, less crime, more money? NO!
    Leave it there and dedicate it to: Understanding, Good Will, Thurgood Marshall, The Guy/Gal Next Door, Snoopy.

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