Omitted email: City staffer believed Bele Chere head would consult with APD about hip-hop act

Sandra Travis, program director for Asheville’s festivals, has denied consulting with the Asheville Police Department before deciding not to book a hip-hop act for the Bele Chere festival. However, a new email reveals that one of Travis’ staff believed otherwise, asserting her boss would consult with the APD “about community temperament.” The city omitted the email from an earlier release to Xpress.

“I have had multiple conversations with Sandra about DJ Kool after she spoke with him and I believe she is going to speak with APD about community temperament as per DJ Kool’s request,” Event specialist Cristin Corder Lee wrote in the April 12 email, to Emmy Parker, music chair of the festival board. “I will ask her if she has talked to them so that we can move forward.”

When asked, Travis has denied that she ever consulted with the APD about DJ Kool or any other hip-hop act. She claimed that when she stated “I’ve got a few feelers out in the neighborhoods” in a March 30 e-mail, she didn’t mean police. This April 12 email reveals that Lee, as Travis’ direct subordinate, believed otherwise.

“It wasn’t talking to the APD; it was more just talking to people, getting a feel for what they wanted to see,” Travis told Xpress earlier. “If there’s anything that might impact the festival, regardless of what it is, we need to know.”

DJ Kool has denied requesting that city staff consult with law enforcement.

Despite fitting the criteria in Xpress’ June 20 open records request for emails pertaining to the discussion of hip-hop on the festival line-up — including DJ Kool — the e-mail was not in the batch released on July 20. This is the third email so far that the city is known to have omitted from the request. The two other emails left out include Travis’ March 30 take on her conversation with DJ Kool and an April 28 e-mail from Bill Clarke, contracted by the city as a production manager for the festival, stating that he doesn’t want to endanger Travis’ position. Xpress’ request specified e-mails from both city staff and volunteers dealing with the festival selection process.

— David Forbes, senior news reporter


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16 thoughts on “Omitted email: City staffer believed Bele Chere head would consult with APD about hip-hop act

  1. Jason Gardner

    I didn’t see any heavy metal acts in the music lineup. Whats everyone making a big deal out of this for.

  2. Adam DuBose

    This article is a good example of the Xpress reaching for controversy where there isn’t any. Personally, I’ve never heard of any complaints anywhere else about the absence of hip-hop acts. There just doesn’t seem to be a desire for it. End of story.

  3. Question

    Would Tim Smith have pocketed a booking (or any other kind of) fee from DJ Kool if his efforts to get him on Bele Chere succeeded? Just wondering. I think Tim’s an asset to our city and community, but his efforts to bring hip hop to Bele Chere seemed entirely based around DJ Kool, who has been booked/promoted by Tim (I think) a couple times in AVL preceding Bele Chere.

  4. Thomas Dodd

    Way to go Xpress! Your Senior News Reporter is on top of his game. Clearly, reporting on this Bele Chere brouhaha is a good use of your editorial budget. A Pulitzer is soon to follow. That’s some cracker-jack investigative reporting. Any chance you can look into why there wasn’t any opera or Tejano music this year? I smell a conspiracy to discriminate against our Germanic-Mexican population. Our annual funnel-cake Bacchanalia should be all inclusive. It’s not like there’s any REAL news worthy of your time. It’s not like a firefighter lost his life this week as a result of arson. And it’s not like you just ran an opinion piece from the president of the firefighter’s union calling for the dismissal of the airport director because he objects to having UNION firefighter’s on site. God forbid we have professional firefighter’s stationed at our regional airport. His anti-union stance could cost Asheville taxpayers $5 million dollars (and possibly lives). Yet, the Xpress hasn’t bothered to even interview the airport director to find out if these claims are true. Has the Xpress even bothered to do a records request for emails between the airport director and city staff about these failed negotiations? If Xpress is going to run a scathing opinion piece about something as newsworthy as this, don’t you think you owe it to your readers to do some original reporting? And I’ll end this on a positive note: Brent Brown is the shining star of your paper. His cartoons rock. And he has never once dissed the burgeoning underground Opera-Tejano fusion scene we have here, so at least I know he’s not part of the conspiracy. Danke, amigo.

  5. bill smith

    This is some hard-hitting news here, i’ll tell you what.

    It’s true, though. White folks hear that boom, boom, clack and they start actin’ the fool.

  6. Viking

    COA staffers, whether its public works or APD, have a very defensive attitude. The number of scandals and the scope of the COA scandals under Jackson are significant for such a small city.

    If COA doesn’t trust the citizenry, that’s an even bigger problem. This DJ Kool thing isn’t a felony, but it’s one more indicator of a crappy culture inside COA. This is 19th century stuff. We’re in the 21st.

  7. city volunteer

    Since when do volunteers have to hand over their e-mails? I occasionally volunteer with the city and I never knew this, I find it highly concerning.

  8. @ City Volunteer…any time you utilize a email, you are subject to open record laws. NC makes attempts at transparency and it would behoove you to do a ibt of research on this important issue. When correspondence is withheld that is required by law to be a matter of open record, then we the citizens get antsy. While it may not be significant to many about the present subject, the fact that records were withheld points to a bigger issue….and that is City Government’s willingness to follow the law in regards to open records.

  9. Jon Elliston

    Thanks David and Xpress for this look behind the veil of Bele Chere music planning. A quick question or two:

    The article references a “new” email, but evidently this one’s from back in April? By “new,” do you mean “newly obtained”?

    Also, will you be asking the city why relevant emails about the situation weren’t provided in response to the records request?

    Also, will Xpress be publishing these city emails so that we can all have a look at them? If so, when? If not, why not?

    Thanks again.

  10. Big Al

    “…quick look behind the veil…”

    Really? I doubt this process is half the secret that this implies.

    And since when did discussing questionable lyrics and their effects on public safety become a crime? Oh, I forgot, anyone who questions the artistic value and content of rap is automatically a racist. Who needs police when we have self-appointed Thought Police.

    This is a non-story made into a “controversy” by shameless media pandering to the chronically self-absorbed. Get over yourselves.

  11. bill smith

    [b]questionable lyrics and their effects on public safety [/b]

    What sort of ‘lyrics’ could effect public safety?

  12. for what it’s worth, DJ Kool’s biggest headline of the last 10 years is that he wasn’t booked to play at Bele Chere. This is ridiculous.

  13. Big Al

    Lyrics that could effect public safety include the celebration rape, criminal activity, gang violence, and disrespect of law enforcement, all of which are found in too much of the rap and hip-hop genre and have the potential to heighten tensions between crowds, whose inhibitions have been loosened by alcohol, and law enforcement.

    But MY POINT is that DISCUSSING such concerns are VALID, and that city officials and event planners should be able to address their concerns to peers, community leaders, AND the police without fear of reprisal.

    I fully support Director Travis for having the guts to ask well-intended questions in order to enhance public safety, rather than remain cowed into silence in the name of self-righteous Politcal Correctness.

  14. bill smith

    [b]all of which are found in too much of the rap and hip-hop genre and have the potential to heighten tensions between crowds[/b]

    Funny, I think all those themes can be found in rock and roll, blues and country, as well. Perhaps Bele Cher should book nothing but polka music in the future.

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