Roney, left off oversight committee, questions APD spending

Kim Roney at Dec. 13 Council meeting
FRESH FACES: City Council member Kim Roney, pictured, will not serve another term on the Council committee that oversees the Asheville Police Department after Mayor Esther Manheimer denied her reappointment request. Newly elected Council member Maggie Ullman was appointed to the Environment and Safety Committee instead. Screen capture courtesy of the city of Asheville

Asheville City Council’s consent agenda typically consists of noncontroversial business that is approved with little discussion. That wasn’t the case Dec. 13.

At the request of Council member Kim Roney, six consent agenda items pertaining to the Asheville Police Department were singled out for discussion and separate votes. Over an hour of deliberation and public comment followed, with 23 residents speaking during the normally swift portion of the meeting.

Those items included four resolutions that would authorize City Manager Debra Campbell to seek over $100,000 in federal grant funding for bulletproof vests and crime investigation technology; a renewal of a more than $111,000 contract with data analytics company LexisNexis; and a three-year contract renewal for $54,000 annually with Cole Pro Media for “police transparency engagement advising services.” Roney voted no on each item, citing transparency issues within the APD’s budget; the only other Council member to oppose any item was Sheneika Smith, who voted with Roney against the Cole Pro Media contract.

“Bulletproof vests are an absolutely necessary tool for the role we assigned to our APD staff, and there is funding in the budget for this resource,” Roney said. “Until we have updates on our budget, my ‘no’ vote is directed not at approving an increase to the budgets that lack transparency because these items would otherwise and are literally named as being funded in our existing budget, of which 47% of our general fund balance is allocated to public safety.”

Simmering beneath the discussion was Mayor Esther Manheimer’s decision earlier in the month not to reappoint Roney to the Council committee that oversees the APD. In a Dec. 9 Facebook post, Roney said the mayor had denied her request to sit on the city’s Environment and Safety Committee “at request of APD ‘command staff.’”

According to a Dec. 13 report from the Asheville Citizen Times, Asheville Police Chief David Zack acknowledged that he and other department leaders had expressed concern over Roney being on the committee. But during the Council meeting, Manheimer pushed back against the notion that her choice had been determined by Zack. 

“I’ve got to say, I am a little ruffled at the idea that I need a chief of police telling me what to do because that’s not how this works,” Manheimer said. “I can make my own decisions and I do make my own decisions.”

The Environment and Safety Committee, which also handles climate change, climate justice and other environmental issues, will now be chaired by newly elected Council member Maggie Ullman. (Ullman, who works as a climate change consultant and was Asheville’s first sustainability officer, also donated $150 to Manheimer’s reelection campaign; Roney was Manheimer’s electoral opponent.) Rounding out the group are Council members Sandra Kilgore and Smith; both served on the committee with Roney last term. 

“When we look at the data of who is most impacted by violence, and by climate change, we see that women of color are our most vulnerable,” Ullman said of her appointment. “To me, the proposed committee centers two of our three women of color, and in my case, [someone] with the most professional experience on the environment, to serve for the next two years. I think this is a good makeup.”

Roney added that she respected Manheimer’s decision but that she planned to continue asking questions regarding APD’s budget requests.

“In addition to my moral and social obligations as a taxpayer and a neighbor, my fiscal obligations and duty to ensure human and civil rights of the people of Asheville as a Council member compel me to continue to ask hard questions,” she said. “Though I may not be seated on the Environment and Safety Committee, I am committed to the work of oversight and ensuring quality equitable service outcomes.”

Black residents want Juneteenth celebration to remain “in community”

Community members Paul Howell and Daniel Suber raised concern during public comment about the city’s efforts to host a celebration for Juneteenth, the June 19 holiday that commemorates the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans. Both men, who are Black, said that since Asheville held its first city-funded Juneteenth observance in 2021, celebrations have been taken out of the hands of local community organizers who have managed a Juneteenth event for over a decade.

In October, the city released a request for proposals to identify “qualified nonprofit organizations” to manage the 2023 Juneteenth event in partnership with the city, potentially excluding community members with more informal leadership backgrounds. 

“We’ve been celebrating this on and off since 2011 in the Hillcrest community,” Suber said. “It’s something that’s really, really important to the Black community here, and we want to make sure that it stays in the community. We always appreciate city efforts to make things equitable and include people and things like that. I think it’s important to look at those processes very carefully and well and think long term about how we can engage in that.”


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9 thoughts on “Roney, left off oversight committee, questions APD spending

  1. SpareChange

    One of the most obvious elements of Kim Roney’s tenure on the City Council has been her adherence to the doctrine of maximalism, where acceptance of anything less than the most idealistic position is considered a betrayal of one’s principles or of a greater cause. Nowhere is this stridency more evident than in her reflexive rejection of any appropriation which might be considered supportive of the APD and its personnel.

    The bulletproof vest program she has voted against would provide 50% federal matching funds for something she has repeatedly acknowledged is needed. Her statements that her votes against participating in the grant program has to do with issues of budget transparency seems disingenuous, and belies the fact that from her earliest days as a candidate she has said that, “We… need to end policing as we know it,” and has advocated cutting the APD budget by 50%. Given such a commitment, clearly no appropriation, no matter how benign its purpose, is likely to meet her requirements.

    She has now had two years on the Council, and a failed campaign for Mayor, to learn what is needed to build governing coalitions and move policy in a given direction. Showing the ability to work with others toward some shared goals, even if it means occasional compromise, and to demonstrate that apart from wanting to “reimagine” public safety in Asheville, that she is not hostile to all funding requests for APD, is simply prudent and effective leadership. However, she has thus far failed to show any inclination to move from a consistent position of refusing to approve any appropriations favored by the department.

    Part of what separates governance from straight issue advocacy, is the ability to see where and when flexibility, and willingness to work with one’s colleagues, or with various staff and departments, is part of what ultimately makes things work, and also potentially wins support for one’s own positions. Kim Roney’s Joan of Arc like posturing is a big reason she is a lone vote on so many measures, and why none of her colleagues on the Council supported her bid for Mayor.

    She and some of her supporters may view this intransigence as a sign of principled conviction. However, it is also the hallmark of her ineffectiveness.

    • NFB

      This just may win the prize for the single most spot on comment ever posted at MX.

      Roney may have the incessant need to be the center of attention that Cecil Bothwell and Carl Mumpower did, but her rigid absolutism puts her in their category (even if her ideology puts her and Bothwell at polar opposite of Mumpower.)

  2. Grant Millin

    Don’t use anonymity. However important your commentary, if unsigned it’s a pointless venture.

    • Shultz!

      Mr. Millin – not everyone is in a place like yours. Some folks hold positions in the public space that do not afford them the luxury of openness you possess. Besides, what matters are the words, not the name – the discussion is more purely intellectual that way.

      Spare Change – excellent post. Ms. Roney’s idealist passion is without question, she’s just impatient & inexperienced. I like her spark & feel her energy well represents a good portion of this city’s population, but hope she will come to realize that when dealing with diverse interests, temperance and small steps in the right direction will get you where you want to go far more often than an all-or-nothing guns-a-blazin’ approach.

      • Grant Millin

        Well, people living in anonymity can say and do whatever:

        “Mr. Millin – not everyone is in a place like yours. Some folks hold positions in the public space that do not afford them the luxury of openness you possess. Besides, what matters are the words, not the name – the discussion is more purely intellectual that way.“


      • indy499

        Roney is a thug. She brow beats fellow council members and is beholden to special interests like her special interest in the noise machine Rabbit Rabbit private interest project.

  3. Gordon

    Spare Change. You took the words right out of my mouth. Absolutely spot on reply to this article. Well done.

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