Campbell calls racial disparities Asheville’s biggest challenge

GAME PLAN: Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell emphasized the need for the city to address equitable housing and other opportunities for Asheville's minority residents during her presentation at the Building Our City series on May 7. Photo courtesy of the City of Asheville.

Providing equitable opportunities and affordable housing for Asheville’s minority residents is the biggest challenge facing the city, Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell told a packed house during a May 8 event hosted by the Asheville Downtown Association at The Collider. Campbell was the latest speaker for the Building Our City series, which taps city planning and urban design experts to offer insight into building communities and strategic growth.

Using census data and information from the State of Black Asheville, a local research and analysis group that examines racial inequalities, Campbell highlighted disparities between Asheville’s black and white residents in education, economic status, housing and policing. The unemployment rate for the city’s black residents is twice that for white residents, she said, and black residents are also less likely to own homes. Household incomes for black residents hover at $30,000, compared to the city’s average of $42,000. Xpress also reported in January that the achievement gap between black and white students, the worst in the state, has grown larger despite a 2017 equity initiative meant to address the disparity.

The numbers paint a stark picture for Asheville’s shrinking minority population. Campbell said both the city and the private sector need to pitch in to make progress on the issue.

“What that says to me is collectively, not individually, we gotta work on this. We need tons of resources to address this issue,” Campbell said.

Campbell also outlined other priorities for the city, including expanding public transit, increasing affordable housing options and building a diverse economy that leverages sectors in addition to tourism.

“I don’t know if we can put all of our eggs in the consumer basket of tourism,” Campbell said to enthusiastic applause from the audience, which numbered about 180 attendees.

Drawing on 26 years of experience as Charlotte’s city planner, Campbell illustrated strategies implemented there with   the potential to address the issues Asheville faces, such as providing density bonuses and other incentives to builders that offer affordable housing options. And while she acknowledged that Asheville and Charlotte are distinct cities with drastically different economies, Campbell recommended that the city should aim for a cohesive and intentional planning approach.

“When we’re talking about building our city or when we’re talking about planning in general, or community development, it’s about intentionality. In Charlotte and I think also in Asheville, we have a legacy of intentionality,” Campbell said. “We have to be intentional. We have to be determined and decide who we’re going to be when we grow up and once we get there, who are we going to be as we evolve. One of the most important parts of the planning process is creating the vision.”


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9 thoughts on “Campbell calls racial disparities Asheville’s biggest challenge

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    Struggling city residents should be encouraged to find better paying employment in other cities where opportunities are greater!

    • Lulz

      Cambell can’t see past her own race.

      City has grown up. Problem is that it’s been sold out for fame and notoriety by the same group of frauds who claim to care about the people they’re pushing out. Long time ago when Walmart was being floated on the river, its most vocal opponents were the likes of Bothwell and his fellow left wingers who viewed it as a gathering place for white trash. Not as a place where low income people could shop. That’s why I look at these “progressives” through the lens of what they really are. A bunch of lying scum who only say things to gain power or score points. Not because they really believe it. Or even care.

      • luther blissett

        “its most vocal opponents were the likes of Bothwell and his fellow left wingers who viewed it as a gathering place for white trash.”

        That’s just a lie. It’s a projection of your own fixations. Stop lying.

      • Lou

        That “low income” place to shop is fixing to raise their prices due to all the tariffs the great orange conman is slapping about. Thanks Twittler…SO MUCH WINNING.

  2. C-Law

    Reparations Now!

    Seriously, I call on Asheville to fund bonds to pay for reparations to all “people of color” or who identify as such with reparations of no less than $1,500,000 per head. Anything less just proves the despicable racist hypocrisy of the 1%er “progressive” crowd that runs Asheville! They run the city, they are the majority of voters in the city…do they ever actually do anything or is it only and ever narcissistic virtue signaling that they get off on? I call on them to put other peoples’ money where their mouths are!

  3. jonathan wainscott

    Racial Disparities in the Asheville press:
    No African-Americans at the Citizen-Times, WCQS/WBPR, and one African-American woman at the Mountain Xpress. But that story will never see print.

    • OzarksRazor

      Seems that topic is avoided as much as the exorbitant rise in homelessness, addiction and the damaging effects of force-fed tourism/gentrification are.
      But at least we have more breweries, hotels and Whole Foods type grocers that most folks here can’t afford to frequent. Yay!

  4. Sara Coplai

    This is a helpful recap. Is the referenced research on Asheville available in a central location? Ms. Campbell is an amazing leader for our community and I look forward to supporting the intentional vision she is developing with City stakeholders and leaders. These disparities are disgusting.

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