In Asheville and Buncombe County, the return to in-person government meetings has also meant a return to in-person public comment — and the end of live remote comment, despite there being no technological obstacle to continuing the practice. The decision has drawn concern from citizens who say it reduces their ability for civic participation.
Asheville City Council and the community will participate in city business face to face for the first time since April 2020. The meeting will take place in the Banquet Hall at Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville at 5 p.m.
Some additional revenue will be needed to fund a growing list of priorities for the 2021-22 annual operating budget, city staffers suggested at an April 27 Asheville City Council budget work session.
“The women of Asheville have made remarkable achievements in their city’s history.”
Asheville has issued removal orders for camps at Martin Luther King Jr. Park, Aston Park, along Cherry and Hill streets and at Riverbend Park near the Walmart Supercenter on Bleachery Boulevard in East Asheville.
As the sometimes contentious discussions unfolded, members grappled with ambitious priorities for the upcoming year, and, perhaps more importantly, what their working relationships would look like for the next 18 months.
In a change from previous City Council practice, and in opposition to advice provided by a UNC School of Government expert on open meetings, Asheville City Council plans to go ahead with a closed-door meeting devoted to “strengthening personal relationships, teamwork and communication required to do meaningful work together” on Wednesday, March 31.
“I’m looking forward to the day we can have a centerpiece in our city that reflects Asheville today,” said Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer. “And I’m proud to be part of the Council that will make this change.”
Asheville has contracted with consultants Shemekka Ebony and Christine Edwards to host six “equity-focused budget engagement” sessions for community members. The pair previously facilitated the city’s “Reimagining Public Safety” engagement efforts in the fall.
Following a pair of votes for different methods of picking the school board at Council’s meeting of March 9, the final say on its composition now rests with the N.C. General Assembly, which must pass legislation to enact any change.
Two proposals are up for consideration. One outlines a request for a fully elected school board; the other sets up a hybrid model in which Council would appoint two members and allow ACS district residents to elect the other three.
For months, residents have pressured elected leaders to fulfill their commitment to reparations for Asheville’s Black community. Plans are now in the works to form a joint city and county Reparations Commission by July, says Asheville City Manager Debra Campbell.
After months of discussion, two Council work sessions and multiple opportunities for public engagement, frustrated residents told Asheville City Council the final hotel proposals did little to advance equity or support employees working in the service industry.
“If it was truly perceived as an emergency, then I think we would be doing more and talking about it more,” says Asheville City Council member Kim Roney, who was elected in November on a platform that included a local Green New Deal and rapid renewable energy deployment.
Six months ago, as part of a reckoning on racial injustice, the city of Asheville and Buncombe County both passed resolutions to consider reparations to the Black community as a way to begin making amends for slavery and generations of systemic discrimination. Since then, local officials concede, little has been done.
If Asheville City Council wants to bring any legislation before the state General Assembly this year — including the creation of an elected board for Asheville City Schools or changes to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s room tax allocation — its members need to make those decisions in the coming weeks.
Asheville residents may have hunkered down for the holidays under a blanket of snow and ice, but across the region, the COVID-19 pandemic rages on. Here’s what you may have missed over the Christmas holiday.
On Dec. 8, Asheville City Council voted to move forward with the removal of the downtown obelisk, which memorializes Confederate Gov. Zebulon Vance. Sandra Kilgore was the only member in opposition.
Mayor Esther Manheimer emailed Xpress the evening of Dec. 7 to say that Council was moving the Vance item from reports to new business, allowing for both public comment and a vote. She did not immediately respond to a request for clarification regarding the rationale behind that change.
“I am so grateful to the people of Asheville who have been kind, gracious, patient and creative in the face of this pandemic.”