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.