Starting next week, the city of Asheville will hold virtual public meetings to discuss what City Manager Debra Campbell preferred to call “reimagining” the Asheville Police Department.
President Donald Trump, accompanied by his daughter, Ivanka, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, toured Flavor 1st Growers and Packers in Mills River on Aug. 24 to see firsthand how local farmers are working to feed individuals in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a time when COVID-19 makes meeting up for in-person sports less safe, says Asheville Parks and Recreation staffer Maxime Pierre, virtual activities provide an outlet for competition and help to keep the department relevant. But he says video games also allow the city to engage with a larger group of residents than had been served through traditional sports.
Per the joint city and county resolution that established the group, a “recommendation regarding the removal and/or repurposing of the Vance Monument” must be delivered to Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners within three months of Aug. 4, when the final members were appointed.
Asheville City Council will take a brief respite from conversations about policing and budgets to consider new standards for tree canopy preservation at its meeting of Tuesday, Aug. 25. Three public hearings will address different parts of the proposed standards.
Nearly 1,050 households have received over $453,000 in emergency assistance from the fund for necessities such as housing, utilities and transportation. And roughly $853,000 has been loaned to 92 area businesses to help them weather the coronavirus’s economic impacts, contributing to the retention of 674 jobs.
Interventions by ‘strike teams’ help manage outbreaks at nursing homes; COVID-19 cases mount at Mission Health; St. Luke’s hastens test results through a partnership.
The COVID-19 health crisis created logistical challenges, but it didn’t change the state’s law requiring public access to government meetings. Some local governments have taken unlawful shortcuts.
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Richard Sneed, whose tribe owns two casinos in Western North Carolina, had lobbied the board to oppose the rival operation at an Aug. 4 briefing. He argued that the Catawba Indian Nation, members of which primarily reside in South Carolina, were not properly authorized to operate gaming across state lines.
“We’ve got an epidemic within a pandemic,” says Kevin Mahoney with the Mountain Area Health Education Center. Social distancing, job losses and drug contamination associated with COVID-19 have all complicated local efforts to manage the impacts of opioid use.
Christopher Hickman’s period of supervised probation for the 2017 assault of Johnnie Rush might have ended this month if not for delays in the community engagement portion of his restorative justice plea deal. COVID-19, as well as other obligations for the Raleigh-based program director, disrupted the yearlong schedule and will lead to an extension of Hickman’s probation.
Some kids have faced social isolation during the pandemic with schools closing and being unable to see their friends. Some youth camps opened their doors in the summer so kids could engage with peers and learn instead of having their eyes glued to a screen.
Together, the city of Asheville and Buncombe County approved over $11 million in funding to install roughly 7 megawatts of solar power at public facilities and area schools. The projects are anticipated to save the governments and local schools roughly $650,000 in electricity costs in the first year and more than $27 million over the installations’ 30-year operational life.
With the area’s formerly booming tourism industry mostly on hold as COVID-19 infection rates in nearby markets remain high, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority faces an uncertain future. Add in a leadership transition, potential changes to the legislation that controls the distribution of local occupancy tax revenues and public hostility to the industry, and more questions than answers emerge.
Asheville made national headlines the night of June 2, when Asheville Police Department officers destroyed medical supplies and forcibly handled volunteer medics during international protests for racial justice. Xpress spoke with several people present at the medic station; they say the reasons for their outrage go far beyond the damage to supplies.
Al Whitesides, the sole Black member of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, and his three Democratic colleagues approved the resolution over the opposition of the board’s three Republicans. The county government is now aligned with Asheville City Council, which unanimously passed a similar measure on July 14.
According to a factual basis document filed on July 30 with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Ellen Frost will likely admit to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program fraud, for which the maximum prison term is five years. Frost’s court date is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 17.
After the city of Asheville enjoyed widespread national and international press for adopting a resolution in support of reparations for the Black community on July 14, Buncombe County may be next in line.
The Asheville Police Department is still fully funded — at least through September. On July 30, Asheville City Council voted 5-2 to adopt an annual operating budget that will allocate three months of funding for the operation of essential services, including the APD.
Saunders, who has served as the health director for Alamance County since 2014, will replace Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, Buncombe’s interim public health director since March 9. Mullendore will continue her duties as the county’s medical director.
Community members claim Asheville City Council tried to limit opportunities for public comment during its meeting of July 28 by introducing several new policies to regulate callers.