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.”
Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Brownie Newman and Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer updated their own executive orders on Nov. 25, outlining local plans to enforce the face covering mandate and commercial capacity limits.
Callers expressed their frustration after Mayor Esther Manheimer announced Asheville City Council would not discuss the creation of a $1 million reparations fund at its Nov. 10 meeting.
Two work sessions have brought Asheville City Council members a little closer to agreement on an approach to hotels. And with the city’s hotel development moratorium set to expire on Tuesday, Feb. 23, time is running out to craft a plan.
Kimberlee Archie, the city’s first equity and inclusion manager, and Libby Kyles, CEO of the YWCA of Asheville, have left high-profile jobs with a mission of improving racial equity in the city within a month of each other.
With the area’s formerly booming tourism industry mostly on hold as COVID-19 infection rates in nearby markets remain high, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority faces an uncertain future. Add in a leadership transition, potential changes to the legislation that controls the distribution of local occupancy tax revenues and public hostility to the industry, and more questions than answers emerge.
More relaxed regulations mean food trucks can operate at apartment complexes, community centers, libraries and other locations as long as they are more than 50 feet from an occupied residence.
The Asheville Police Department is still fully funded — at least through September. On July 30, Asheville City Council voted 5-2 to adopt an annual operating budget that will allocate three months of funding for the operation of essential services, including the APD.
Saunders, who has served as the health director for Alamance County since 2014, will replace Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, Buncombe’s interim public health director since March 9. Mullendore will continue her duties as the county’s medical director.
Community members claim Asheville City Council tried to limit opportunities for public comment during its meeting of July 28 by introducing several new policies to regulate callers.
According to state law, if a Council vacancy occurs more than 90 days before the next city election, voters get to choose who fills the remainder of the absent member’s term. Asheville City Council member Vijay Kapoor says his resignation will be effective Saturday, Aug. 8 — within 90 days of the election on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
A bill that would have changed the distribution of Buncombe County’s controversial hotel tax to better benefit local government is likely dead until at least next year. The change would have reduced the share of room tax money to market and advertise Asheville as a tourist destination.
Vance, Patton, Woodfin, Henderson, Weaver, Chunn, Baird — their names are familiar to anyone living in Asheville and Buncombe County today. All were wealthy and influential civic leaders. They were also major slaveholders or slave traders and white supremacists.
African Americans in Asheville are three times more likely than white people to be searched by police in traffic stops and are disproportionately charged with common crimes such as marijuana possession in disparities that experts in police bias called shocking, an AVL Watchdog analysis of police data found.
Many of the commenters during Asheville City Council’s June 9 meeting called for the resignation of Asheville Police Chief David Zack and Mayor Esther Manheimer. Many more called for the immediate defunding of the APD. The comments came at the end of a five-hour meeting held virtually and fraught with technical difficulties.
A portion of City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, June 9 will be dedicated for an update on city policing. 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.
Police chief describes strike against medic station as preemptive because water bottles have been thrown on previous nights.