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.