Council to consider reparations for Asheville’s Black community

Asheville city seal

As calls continue for Asheville City Council to defund the police, adopt the policies suggested by community group Black AVL Demands and provide additional resources for Black residents, Council members are poised to take the next step: At their meeting of Tuesday, July 14, members will vote on a resolution supporting community reparations for Black Asheville. 

In the resolution, Council “apologizes and makes amends for its participation” in the enslavement of Black people, enforcement of segregation and urban renewal program that destroyed several of Asheville’s successful Black communities. The document also recognizes that the Black community has been denied housing, experienced disproportionate unemployment rates and received inadequate health care. 

If approved, the resolution directs City Manager Debra Campbell to establish short-, medium- and long-term recommendations to “address the creation of generational wealth and to boost economic mobility in the Black community.” The resolution also calls for a new commission to be established within the next year to make recommendations that will begin to repair “damage caused by public and private sector racism.”

No staff report regarding the development and perceived pros and cons of the resolution, a standard accompaniment to city proposals, was available through Council’s online agenda as of press time. 

In other news

Council will also consider a contract with Chicago-based risk management firm Hilliard Heintze to evaluate the Asheville Police Department’s response to late May and early June protests for racial justice sparked by the police killing of Black Minneapolis resident George Floyd

The APD responded to the demonstrations by employing “crowd control measures such as tear gas and the arrests of some protestors,” according to a staff report available before the meeting. In the aftermath of the protests, Council asked that City Attorney Brad Branham oversee the selection of an independent firm to investigate APD’s response. 

The contract, which is not to exceed $82,550, will be funded from the APD’s budget. However, full funding won’t be available until Council adopts the city’s final 2020-21 fiscal budget on Tuesday, July 28. 

Hilliard Heintze’s investigation would be separate from another effort, announced by APD Chief David Zack to Council on June 9, by “transparency engagement advisors” from California-based Cole Pro Media to provide a better understanding of what occurred during the protests. The status of that work is uncertain, as subsequent public records requests revealed Asheville “does not have any contracts with Cole Pro Media,” according to Teresa White with the city clerk’s office. 

However, the city did provide a contract with California-based Critical Incident Videos, LLC, that was signed on March 30. A public records request for all videos and communication between the City of Asheville and Critical Incident Videos remains outstanding. 

Consent agenda and public comment

The consent agenda for the meeting contains three items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions: 

  • A resolution authorizing the installation of a “Black Lives Matter” mural at Pack Square Plaza. The Asheville Area Arts Council has raised the majority of funds needed for the project, to be completed by 19 African American artists, and no additional city spending will be required. An accompanying staff report notes that “some community members may not agree with the city’s expression” through the public art piece.
  • A resolution to allow Campbell to enter a $272,469.50 contract with Patton Construction Group for utility cut concrete repair. Funding for the contract is contingent upon Council’s adoption of the 2020-21 fiscal year budget on Tuesday, July 28. 

The full meeting agenda and supporting documents can be found at this link. Due to COVID-19, Council will meet remotely, and the meeting will be livestreamed through the Asheville’s Public Engagement Hub

Members of the public may comment in three ways: 

  • Leave a voicemail at 855-925-2801, meeting code 9553, before 5 p.m. on Monday, July 13.
  • Email AshevilleCityCouncilJuly142020@publicinput.com; emails will be accepted for up to 24 hours after each public hearing.
  • Call in to the meeting live at 855-925-2801, meeting code 9553, and press “*” to listen live, leave a comment or join the speaker queue.
SHARE

Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Molly Horak
Molly is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and writer for Mountain Xpress. Her work has appeared in the Citizen-Times, News and Observer and Charlotte Observer. Follow me @molly_horak

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

10 thoughts on “Council to consider reparations for Asheville’s Black community

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    So WHO will determine which actual city citizens will receive what amounts? What is the formula ? Total insanity from NON leaders.

  2. Liam

    We have lived in Asheville for eight years and, other than paying increasingly high taxes to a government that appears to focus all their time finding ways to spend, have done nothing to warrant our apology to blacks. Perhaps you’re referring to governments of the past, but why should we (current day citizens) have to pay for issues not of our doing? I’d like to know how much of our tax dollars paid to the city and county have gone to the black community. Who will pay for all the damages done to the city, businesses and property owners that resulted from the BLM protests? Who will pay for the impacts on revenue from the protests? An apology from the current Asheville government seems odd since they appear to give in to every concern expressed by the black community.
    If we’re talking about reparations from slavery, perhaps we should take a few things into account. How many white people actually had ancestors living in the United States during that time and, if such ancestors were living in the United States, how many had anything to do with slavery? I bet the number is incredibly small. Since a monetary settlement is being demanded, shouldn’t we consider what has been given to blacks since that time? Perhaps the government can tally up all the costs paid for from tax dollars, such as housing, utilities, food (including school breakfasts and lunches), medical, etc. I’m willing to be working, tax-paying people have paid more than their fair share of reparations. Especially if they had nothing to do with the issue at hand.

    • Jason Williams

      You’ve lived here for eight years, so you know the entire history of Asheville?
      Slavery is only a small part of the racial inequity problem of Asheville. Most of it has to do with years of Jim Crow segregation, and the effects of Red Line urban renewal projects of the 70’s which decimated black neighborhoods. Many of those affected people are alive, and live in the community.
      Here is an Xpress article about it: https://mountainx.com/news/uprooted-urban-renewal-in-asheville/

      Also I’m pretty sure that wherever you relocated from has a history of racial injustice. This is an American problem.

      Additionally nothing in the article said anything about monetary reparations. The group asks that the city address the racial inequities between the white and minority populations of Asheville.

      The following is quoted from the group’s website: (https://www.blackavldemands.org/)
      INVEST-DIVEST
      We Demand a Divestment from the Police and Investment in Black Communities
      50% of the APD’s budget should be invested in long-term safety strategies including supporting Black startups/business, eliminating the racial opportunity gap in Asheville City Schools, and funding an all-civilian oversight committee with the power to hold the APD and individual officers accountable

      REPARATIONS
      We Demand Repair for the Past and Continuing Harms Inflicted on Asheville’s Black Community.
      We demand that Asheville City Government remove the Vance and Robert E Lee monuments and replace them with monuments that honor the many Black Ashevillians who have built this city.

      We demand that streets named after former slave owners also be replaced with names of historic local black leaders.

      End the War on Black People
      We demand not just individual accountability for officers after lethal or violent use of force, but for accountability for the entire Asheville Police Department.
      We demand an end to the systemic harms inflicted on all Black people (including Black trans, queer and gender-nonconforming people)

    • A. Hall

      The US Supreme Court has already ruled against reparations. Richmond v. J.A. Croson Co., 488 US 469,497(1995)
      Brunet v. City of Columbus, 1F.3d 390 (6th Circuit 1993) Court rules gender discrimination occurring 17 yrs. earlier does not support affirmative action.
      Hammon v Barry, 813 F.2d 412 (D.C. Circuit 1987) Court rules racial discrimination that occurred 14 yrs. earlier does not support affirmative action. So slavery, which ended over 150 yrs. ago is not a basis for giving special treatment to black people today. Nor is Jim Crow. The Supreme Court declared segregation unconstitutional in 1954-over 60 yrs. ago. ( Brown v Board of Education-1954). Jim Crow is further in the past to support special treatment. (See court rulings in Hammon v. Barry and Brunet v. City of Columbus) Blacks being underrepresented in various occupations is not proof of discrimination. (See Police Association v. City of New Orleans,100 F. 3d 1159,1169 (5th Circuit 1996). In other words the city could not promote blacks based on race alone to give better reflection of racial composition of the city, or remedy racial imbalances in the police department. What forced reparations will do is only cause more racial tension . It amounts to finding whites today guilty of the crimes of the whites of yesteryear, who may or may not have been slave owners or even pro Jim Crow . The term is ancestral blood crime. As someone born well after the abolition of slavery and Jim Crow, who has never owned a slave, I will not pay a penny to anyone who has never been a slave. America is a country of equal opportunity, not equal outcome. Everyone, without exception, has equal opportunity. The outcome is up to the individual. I predict some lawsuits against Asheville City Council over their “historic” decision. My apologies for the novel. A nice day to all!

  3. Limousine liberal

    This should help since this is the same city that can’t teach children of color to be proficient in reading and math .

  4. Barry C Jolly

    Dear Asheville,
    Are you going to provide reparations to the 360,000 men who shed their blood to free the slaves? Just wondering!
    B C Jolly

  5. G Man

    Here is a great explanation of “white privilege” http://newsreel.org/guides/race/whiteadv.htm

    The problem is, I have a hard time seeing how I have benefited from these things. There was no accumulated wealth in my family for me to inherit. There was no family property. My family couldn’t even afford to help me pay for 2 years of tech school. I distinctly remember that there were several forms of aid I could have received if I were something other than a white male, but nope, nothing for me.

    I’ve watched, for many years, government contracts doled out to businesses based on the amount of woman and/or minority ownership rather than ability to do the job.

    I’ve paid plenty into the Social Security / Medicare pool for decades and I know better than to think I will ever get back what I have put in.

    “Government subsidies for municipal services” are called TAXES in the real world. People who pay taxes should have the right to expect something in return. It isn’t by the good grace of those superior beings who call themselves “our leaders” that we have cities and towns and communities. Why is it so common for folks to forget that it is OUR MONEY that our politicians fritter away and steal from us, not their own. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of our mayors, councils, commissioners, and governors thinking they are doing us a favor by robbing us blind and lecturing us about how we should think and feel. Those are the people who owe us all reparations, out of their pockets, not ours.

    Saying “we need to open up discussions” and following up with a list of “demands” are things that conflict with each other.

    Burning buildings, destroying personal property, stealing merchandise, and tearing down statues and monuments that are publicly owned are all criminal acts, plain and simple. These things are not justified by circumstance.

    Spending public money on anything, renaming streets or parks or facilities, covering up and/or removing public monuments, and lots of other things (like nullifying those parts of the US Constitution you don’t agree with) are things that should go to public referendum, not be dictated to us by ego-inflated elitists who pretend to know what is best for us.

    I would agree that many of the crooks who have (self-)served in Asheville, Buncombe, and NC government certainly owe reparations to the free citizens (of all colors) of our great state, but I say they pay out of their own pockets, not ours. Also, we certainly should not be paying for their safety and security when those #@%&!*s want to take ours away while still collecting all of our taxes.

    • Liam

      Thank you, G. Man. Well said but I fear your voice is no longer being heard.

  6. Alan mcduffie

    I lived in Asheville for 50 years and have never been so glad to leave communism when I left .This city went from one of the nicest in the country to San Francisco of the East.I wonder how long it will be before they have needles and human feces on the sidewalks.I had 3 businesses here over the years and now one that I am closing soon because of the higher and higher taxes and the crazies in government.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.