By party lines, Buncombe County bans the box

Nonprofit agencies will make their case for funding from Buncombe County's upcoming budget for Fiscal Year 2018. A total of 46 nonprofits are asking for an aggregate of almost $11 million.

Candidates looking for work with Buncombe County will have one less question to answer on their application. During its Tuesday, April 19 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution, effective immediately, to remove a question about past criminal offenses on the county’s preliminary employment applications. The movement, known as Ban the Box, specifically bars the question that asks,

“Have you ever been convicted of an offense against the law other than a minor traffic violation? (A conviction does not mean you cannot be hired. The offense and how recently you were convicted will be evaluated in relation to the job for which you are applying): If yes please explain fully.

The resolution was approved 4-3 down party lines. Republican Commissioners Mike Fryar, Joe Belcher and Miranda DeBruhl voted against it. Those voting against the measure did not state reasons why they opposed it before voting.

Buncombe County still has due diligence procedures in place, chiefly a criminal background check that is mandatory before actually offering employment to an applicant. In addition, there are criminal convictions that disqualify an individual from working in specific occupational roles, such as law enforcement and social services caring for vulnerable populations.

Nonetheless, Curt Euler, the county’s human resources director, stated this change will give a larger pool of potential employees access to employment with the county. “This will basically take the focus off whether someone’s been convicted and let hiring managers focus on the applicant itself. I think one of the dangers of having [the box] on an application is it’s quite possible that a hiring manager could see that and just discard that application without really considering the applicant.”

Mark Siler, a former prison chaplain speaking in favor of banning the box, said, “It really recognizes that felonies that are typically committed between the age of 18-25 can dramatically, disproportionately impact the African-American community, and should not be a life sentence when it comes to employment.”

Buncombe County joins Memorial Mission Hospital, the county’s largest employer, and the city of Asheville in banning the box.

Then turning from a resolution about offering second chances to a court-mandated need for a second primary election, commissioners unanimously approved a budget amendment to pay for a delayed Congressional primary. The delay stems from a lawsuit brought by voters in Mecklenburg and Durham counties that caused the 10th and 11th Congressional districts to be redrawn, and, in turn, required all North Carolina districts to be redrawn in order to ensure the state is evenly divided. The county’s cost for holding the primary is $154,600 and it’s set to take place on Tuesday, June 7.

Six students from Reynolds High School waited in the wings while commissioners heard a presentation regarding a proposed bus route that proponents claim will boost student success at the school. The presenters asserted that a 1.9-mile route on Highway 74A, between the River Ridge Shopping Center and the school’s campus, is key to increasing graduation rates.

After the presentation, students came forward to read pre-written quotes from their classmates detailing various reasons students have difficulty getting to school and, in particular, attending pre- and post-school activities. The difficulty of arranging a ride with working parents was a common theme among the quotes the students presented to the commissioners. Furthermore, students asserted, not having access to transportation makes it difficult to have a thriving scholastic experience, which includes participation in extracurricular activities, attending sporting events and receiving tutorial help.

The agenda item was for information purposes only and did not require to a vote.

At this point, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners has not pledged money to the effort. However, presenters stated, the proposed bus route would cost about $200,000 to run five days a week, eight hours a day, for one year.

Commissioners then heard an update on a project slated to install a kinetic sculpture outside the Courthouse. Requests for artist proposals will be issued and staff will make recommendations to commissioners, who will then select a design and artist.

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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 dhesse@mountainx.com.

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4 thoughts on “By party lines, Buncombe County bans the box

  1. Lulz

    LOL, and the insanity continues lulz. I wonder how many of these loons that voted for it would allow these same people they want to stack in government to work in their own homes? Surely Newman in white bread Montford, which ironically was a slum 30 years ago and gentrified blacks out of it, would be all for it LOL. Hey Brownie, when do the prostitutes and crack dealers make their return there? After all, they only want to make a living and their lifestyles and choices shouldn’t be a reason to prevent it. if you only want to ban the box for government employment yet make sure to ban non-violent MISDEMEANOR activity in your neighborhood, well what’s the difference? Oh I get it, where you live is different than who you want to employ and you don’t want your own kids exposed to it. But never mind others, especially taxpayers, who are increasingly watching their money used for everything but what it’s supposed to.

    • hauntedheadnc

      Good to know that the conservative “up by your bootstraps” mantra only goes so far, and that nobody ever reforms or can change for the better.

      So, short of wholesale execution of anyone who breaks the law, what do you suggest for those who have committed a crime and done their time, and come out with the audacity to still exist as if they have some right to walk among decent people?

  2. Yep

    silly Reynolds high screwlers wanting daily bus service to ‘increase graduation rates’… and most of them have cars !

  3. Bobby

    Sure, let’s waste everyone’s time first by interviewing a bunch of people and then deciding on a candidate that can’t pass the background check. Not to mention that background checks aren’t free. I’m an employer and I make applicants check the box. I’m also willing to give people second chances and, in some cases, third chances but they need to be honest about their past transgressions first.

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