Asheville City Council

“To ensure that all citizens are involved in the economic progress of Asheville during this time of growth and prosperity, this Council declares Sept. 27 through Oct. 1 as Minority Enterprise Development Week,” announced Council member O.T. Tomes during Council’s Sept. 14 formal session, urging all city residents to work together with minority enterprises.

Mayor Leni Sitnick then announced that Buncombe County’s Hispanic population has quadrupled since the last census. “Nationally,” she continued, Hispanics are “the fastest-growing minority group,” projected to account for one-quarter of the U.S. population by the year 2050.

Co-chair Edna Campos was on hand, representing the Asheville Latin Americans for Advancement Society, which serves as a clearinghouse for professional development and a “bridge [on] issues of discrimination.” Also in attendance was Cultural Arts Program Supervisor Oralene Simmons of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. The mayor proclaimed Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to be Hispanic Heritage Month and presented the two women with commendations, praising their community-development efforts.

Campos then gave a short address, in Spanish, to the local Hispanic community, via cable television. Council member Chuck Cloninger quipped, “I think she said this City Council is the greatest ever,” and the meeting erupted in laughter.

Council then recognized Urban Trail volunteers Grace Gordon Pless and Harriette Gradman Winner for the countless hours they’ve devoted to bettering city residents’ and visitors’ understanding of Asheville’s history. The Urban Trail combines public art (including, most recently, the bronze sculptures outside the Civic Center) with local-history lessons. Vice Mayor Ed Hay joined the volunteers at the lectern, stressing that their work “came from the heart” and that the project is funded by private donors, not by the city.

“It’s really a place where people can go back in time and enjoy the present,” said Mayor Sitnick, referring to the Trail, “and we are all grateful to you for keeping the history of Asheville alive.”

Cell towers again …

The mayor then announced the only public-hearing item on the agenda — a proposed amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance, revising the standards for wireless-telecommunications facilities.

“But I believe I will not even open that,” said Sitnick, proposing that the hearing be deferred to Council’s Oct. 15 work session. Council members unanimously agreed (Council member Tommy Sellers was absent) — at which point most of the people in attendance at the meeting got up and left, apparently having come to register their concerns about cell-phone towers.

A slippery floor

Council quickly, and without comment, voted to adopt the consent agenda, before moving on to discuss the city’s proposed purchase of the Civic Center ice floor from the local hockey team, the Asheville Smoke. The city’s lease with the Smoke gives the city the option of buying the floor, which is custom-fitted to the Civic Center.

After Mayor Sitnick and several other Council members asked if the deal seemed feasible, they were told that things are moving forward. The city has been negotiating with the Smoke about buying the floor on slightly different terms than those in the lease.

Sitnick called the purchase “a win/win situation,” telling the hockey team’s representative, “The feet of this community thank you.”

By unanimous vote, Council approved both the resolution to buy the Civic Center ice floor and the requisite amendments to the Smoke’s lease.

Eyeing the spiky hairdo of Civic Center Director David Pisha, Council member Barbara Field said, “I wonder if that new hair is because of all the people sleeping in front of the Civic Center” [waiting to buy concert tickets].

More room for the West Asheville Library

The West Asheville Library, completed in December 1997, recently lost its public-meeting space, which now houses the new Asheville Police Department substation adjacent to the Fire Department on Clinton Avenue. In recent months, residents have decried the loss of the facility, which also served as a community center and children’s play space. To address those concerns, City Council approved the transfer of 5,400 sq. ft. of city property adjoining the library (estimated value, $27,000) to Buncombe County, to allow for expansion of the facility to replace the lost space. The county plans to build an addition to the library, but does not yet have the funds in hand to go forward with the project.

The only speaker during the abbreviated public-comment period — West Asheville resident (and City Council candidate) June Lamb — praised Council members for agreeing to transfer the land for the library. Lamb also asked Council to make the consent agenda as accessible to the public as possible.

After Vice Mayor Ed Hay noted that the consent agenda is available on-line, Lamb replied, “Some of us are still computer illiterate.” Sitnick promised that Council would look into the matter. The meeting then adjourned — at 35 minutes, one of the shortest in recent memory (though one city staffer recalled a 26-minute meeting).

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