Transit, tree protection and city employee wages were among the issues that brought more than 100 people to the May 28 City Council meeting.
The event includes music by DJ Malinalli and light hors d’oeuvres at 5:30 p.m. followed the unveiling of the work “Rising of the Ancestors” by Harry Rivera, an artist talk by Ponkho Bermejo, a documentary film screening and a panel discussion featuring Rivera, Bermejo and Carmen Ramos-Kennedy.
Asheville is an activist’s town, and 2018 controversies in local government, including the ongoing fallout from the investigation into former County Manager Wanda Greene and the police beating of Asheville resident Johnnie Rush, gave local residents plenty of reasons to seek change.
No additional changes made their way into this year’s budget as Council decided to adopt the ordinance in a 4-3 vote. Mayor Esther Manheimer, Vice-Mayor Gwen Wisler, and Council members Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield all voted in support of the budget. Members Brian Haynes, Sheneika Smith and Keith Young voted against the plan; all three had shown hesitation about a police funding increase during previous work sessions.
Two weeks before the Fourth of July, the meeting’s agenda promises a grand finale of rhetorical explosions over two matters of unfinished business. The first is the Asheville city budget, which Council member Brian Haynes has said he will not support as long as it contains funding for additional officers to staff the Asheville Police Department’s downtown district. The second is a series of resolutions to rescind and replace the three motions on police policy previously proposed by Young and passed by Council on May 22.
Amid calls for increased public access to policing data, Asheville City Council left the city’s volunteer board dedicated to hearing residents’ concerns about law enforcement in place for now. At the same time, the elected officials noted many vacancies on the Citizens Police Advisory Committee and signaled their longterm intent to dissolve the body once the newly forming Human Relations Commission has gotten up and running.
Across the nation and in Western North Carolina, people are being held in jail for days, weeks, even months awaiting trial on misdemeanor charges, because they can’t raise the cash to get out. That, in turn, can lead to job loss and homelessness. Some attorneys now argue that this is tantamount to debtors prison, which is unconstitutional.
“Peace = justice = sharing. … But as Amy Cantrell asked me, ‘If we truly believe in peace and not war … what are we willing to risk to bring that about in the world?'”
While 2016 statistics show increasing availability in the area’s rental housing market, Asheville renters say their choices remain limited and prices steep. Several city initiatives — including a $25 million affordable housing bond referendum approved by voters in November — aim to bolster the supply of affordable housing, while some private-sector players are pursuing similar goals.
“I also believe it’s important to stress compassion regardless of the circumstances that lead someone to periods of homelessness.”
At a meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 18, city of Asheville staff and police officers met with homeless activists and local nonprofit representatives to discuss a new law enforcement approach that focuses on more arrests in the city’s downtown. Responses varied, ranging from concerns about the impacts of a failing system to criticisms of the Asheville Police Department’s new strategy.
This afternoon about a dozen homeless persons and their advocates staged a brief but impassioned rally in Asheville’s Pritchard Park to denounce a City Council member’s call for photos of “vagrant/addict misbehavior.”