Following a week of protests against police brutality and racial injustice, the declaration of a citywide curfew and multiple deployments of tear gas by the Asheville Police Department, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer has scheduled a portion of City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, June 9, to be dedicated for an update on city policing. The move comes days after Asheville police officers made national headlines for destroying protesters’ medical supplies during a June 2 demonstration, a move widely criticized by public officials and activists.
“I want to understand more about the different aspects of how we’ve handled these demonstrations and how we can do this better,” Manheimer said during the Prayer in Action: A Gathering of Solidarity for Peace and Justice event on June 4. “I don’t know if this will happen again, at least in my term. I don’t know, but I think we at least need to be better prepared and have a plan for how we can best do it.”
Manheimer expressed an interest in revisiting how police interact with the public, as well as hearing where policing policy currently stands. Asheville Police Chief David Zack, who began working for the city in February, will give a formal update to Council; as of press time, Zack’s presentation was not available through the online meeting agenda.
According to City Manager Debra Campbell’s proposed budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, the APD is slated to receive $30,057,325 — an increase of $457,621, or 1.5%, from the department’s current budget.
If the proposal stands, the APD will receive over 22% of the city’s total general fund budget, the fund’s highest line-item expense. The budget also proposes keeping APD staffing steady at 301 full-time equivalent positions.
Other business and consent agenda
Council will vote to approve two Land Use Incentive Grants for affordable housing projects at 2 Restaurant Court and 11 Collier Avenue. Both proposals were met with criticism from commenters at Council’s May 26 meeting.
The consent agenda for the meeting contains 17 items, which will be approved as a package unless singled out for separate discussion. Highlights include the following resolutions:
- A resolution authorizing Campbell to enter into a contract with Ashewell Medical Group to provide COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody testing for up to 850 city employees. Support for the testing, which could cost up to $148,750, will come from the existing fiscal year 2019-2020 Health Fund budget and may be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- Resolutions to extend contracts with Red Roof Inn and Homeward Bound of Western North Carolina to continue COVID-19 noncongregate shelter operations for individuals experiencing homeslessness. The emergency shelter at the Red Roof Inn currently houses 65 people, who will continue to receive assistance if the existing contracts are extended. The new cost, which is eligible for FEMA reimbursement, is estimated at $283,000.
- A resolution authorizing Campbell to temporarily waive, suspend or defer rent, loan payments and capital contributions to the city on a case-by-case basis to address financial harms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the city has only received two such requests.
The full meeting agenda and supporting documents for the regular meeting can be found at this link. Due to COVID-19, Council will meet remotely, and the meeting will be livestreamed through the City of Asheville’s Public Engagement Hub.
Members of the public may comment in three ways:
- Leave a voicemail at 828-925-2801, meeting code 8914, before 5 p.m. on June 8
- Email AshevilleCityCouncilJune92020@PublicInput.com; emails will be accepted for up to 24 hours after each public hearing
- Call in to the meeting live at 828-925-2801, meeting code 8914, and press “*” to listen live, leave a comment or join the speaker queue.
All comments must abide by the city’s guidelines for decorum, listed under section 7 of City Council’s rules of procedure.