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.
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.
“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.”
“Families of color have unfairly limited elementary school options for their children because the district is mandated to maintain antiquated racial quotas that were put into place 30 years ago,” writes Asheville City Schools Superintendent Gene Freeman.
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.
The new regulations allow hotels with 115 rooms or fewer to avoid a Council vote if they meet a series of design requirements, are located in a newly approved overlay district and contribute to equity-related public benefits.
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.
Members will discuss the final proposed guidelines to streamline future lodging development — and residents will have one last chance to weigh in — before the city’s hotel moratorium expires on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
Currently, the body reviews promotional criteria for Asheville police and fire staff and hears certain employee grievances. If adopted, the rules would outline a two-part test to determine if a dispute rises to the level of a CSB hearing.
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.
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.
Environmental advocates urged Asheville City Council to adopt a series of proposals to strengthen protections for Asheville’s urban forests.
Asheville made national headlines the night of June 2, when Asheville Police Department officers destroyed medical supplies and forcibly handled volunteer medics during international protests for racial justice. Xpress spoke with several people present at the medic station; they say the reasons for their outrage go far beyond the damage to supplies.
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.
After a contentious public hearing earlier in the week, Asheville City Council voted 5-2 to pass a 2020-21 fiscal year budget with three months of funding allocated for essential department spending at its July 30 meeting.
Local elected officials say they want Asheville and Buncombe County to be considered a breastfeeding-friendly community to boost lifelong health for residents, but does that intention line up with today’s reality for nursing moms?
Incumbent Asheville City Board of Education members Shaunda Sandford and Martha Geitner faced tough questions from Asheville City Council at an interview session on March 26. But at Council’s regular meeting that same evening, the two were unanimously reappointed to four-year terms on the board. James Carter was selected to fill a two-year vacancy created by the resignation of board member James Lee.
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.
Mayor Esther Manheimer pointed to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s recent commitment to long-term planning around hotel occupancy taxes as a key factor in her support for the project. “That is the kind of change that I needed to see personally before I would move forward with considering another hotel,” she said, joining Council members Vijay Kapoor, Julie Mayfield and Sheneika Smith in the approval vote.
“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.”