City Chief Financial Officer Barbara Whitehorn proposed that Asheville institute a program of regularly issued general obligation bonds to support capital improvement projects, while Council member Julie Mayfield discussed a property tax increase to boost Asheville’s operating budget.
Over the next few days, said Water Resources Director David Melton, customers may need to flush their water lines and hot water heaters to clear residual sediment. He said that city staff would work to make billing adjustments for customers who used additional water for this purpose.
At a budget work session on March 26, city CFO Barbara Whitehorn reported that Asheville can expect to receive $2.5 million in property and sales taxes from the health system in fiscal year 2019-20 — only half of the $5 million initially estimated by the Buncombe County tax office — then $5 million instead of $8 million for every year to follow.
A group representing government, education, business and nonprofit organizations is coalescing to form a community response to a severe racial achievement gap in Asheville City Schools. But it’s not yet clear how the initiative will define its goals and approach — and what resources it can attract to fund the effort.
“This may hurt some feelings, but you can no longer operate the city of Asheville like it’s the Oprah Winfrey talk show, where you get a car and you get a car,” said Council member Keith Young, referencing the daytime TV host’s famous giveaways. “As much as we love all these programs and trying to help the public good… this is the time to close the bank.”
Since beginning her new job as Asheville’s city manager in December, Debra Campbell — the first woman and person of color to permanently occupy the position — has inspired appreciation, as well as sky-high expectations. In our Q&A, learn about Campbell’s priorities and principles.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners doled out a $2.2 million loan for an affordable housing complex in Swannanoa and over $200,000 in economic development incentives at its Feb. 5 meeting. The city of Asheville held two public sessions seeking input on the selection of a new police chief. Residents can also weigh in via an online survey through March 1.
City Manager Debra Campbell called the Feb. 12 capital budget briefing “food for thought” as she encouraged Council members to focus and prioritize their objectives. “This is why we’re presenting this information,” she said. “We’ve got some tough decisions that we need to make over the next several years.”
“I’m shocked, and I’m disappointed,” said one commenter who identified himself as a Southside resident about the lack of attendance from his community. “If you’re not going to show up and voice your opinion, and then when something does happen, you get in a little group and then you voice your opinion, that’s not fair. That’s not right.”
Since leaving her previous role as Charlotte’s assistant city manager to take the Asheville job in December, Campbell said, she has focused on meeting as many community stakeholders as possible. Those discussions, she explained, have led to a slate of priorities with the common theme of making the city “the best partner that we can be.”
“Our data tells us that we are doing a disservice to our black students, and you can’t say it any plainer than that,” said Shaunda Sandford, chair of the Asheville City Board of Education.
“Don’t just think that this is going to be somebody calling on the phone about a bar down the street or their neighbor next door,” said Council member Keith Young. “This opens up a larger door. I am totally not comfortable opening up a new pathway into our criminal justice system.”
Council members will consider whether to authorize City Manager Debra Campbell to pursue funding for a final site plan at 68-76 Haywood St. and 33-39 Page Ave. The estimated cost of such a design is $340,000, including $16,000 for an updated survey of the property.
Asheville has gotten whiter over the past two decades. The proportion of African-American residents in the city dropped from 17.6 percent in 2000 to 12.3 percent in 2016, a change city officials attribute to a combination of white influx and black exodus. For the people of color who remained in Asheville, 2018 proved a mixed bag.
According to news reports, Debra Campbell could have had her pick of city or county manager positions in the Southeast. Xpress asked why she chose Asheville.
Change proved the only constant among staff members in Asheville city government during 2018. Firings, resignations, reassignments and new hires left the city’s bureaucracy radically changed from its makeup at the start of the year.
Two lodging projects will be up for debate: a 56-room hotel spread across four buildings on Biltmore Avenue downtown and a 170-room project on Fairview Road in Biltmore Village. The first proposes to convert three historic houses into accommodations and construct a new five-story structure with a restaurant, while the second would build a new six-story building.
In a Nov. 7 press release, interim City Manager Cathy Ball announced that Chief Hooper would be resigning effective Wednesday, Jan. 2 — as well as that Hooper had previously attempted to resign in February. As part of her resignation agreement, Hooper will be paid $118,000 and will provide 75 hours of consulting services “to assist with the transition” of police leadership.
“Oh happy day,” proclaimed Council member Sheneika Smith after the unanimous appointment vote for the city’s most powerful unelected official. “As an organization, as a city, and even the county is rejoicing today.”