Al Whitesides, the sole Black member of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, and his three Democratic colleagues approved the resolution over the opposition of the board’s three Republicans. The county government is now aligned with Asheville City Council, which unanimously passed a similar measure on July 14.
After the city of Asheville enjoyed widespread national and international press for adopting a resolution in support of reparations for the Black community on July 14, Buncombe County may be next in line.
Democrats Amanda Edwards and Al Whitesides joined the board’s three Republicans in a 5-2 vote approving a proposal to hire three new detectives, which would match a $375,000 federal grant with $734,000 in county funds through fiscal year 2025.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners remained divided along partisan lines. Chair Brownie Newman and his three Democratic colleagues voted for the removal of Confederate monuments at Pack Square Park and the county courthouse, as well as establishing a task force on the Vance Monument, while Republicans Joe Belcher, Anthony Penland and Robert Pressley voted against those moves.
As they also had argued during an April 16 special meeting, Republicans Joe Belcher, Anthony Penland and Robert Pressley said they continued to be left out of key decisions about how to restrict business and social activity in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The commission’s Democratic members passed direction for expanded community testing and contact tracing over the objections of its Republican contingent. Joe Belcher, Anthony Penland and Robert Pressley stressed their commitment to ensuring the county’s safety but expressed concern over the process by which the resolution was introduced and some of its terms.
According to the formal agreement, up for a Board of Commissioners vote on Tuesday, April 21, both city and county staffers would remain employees of and still be paid by their respective governments while carrying out their new duties. Asheville and Buncombe County would be required to cover the expense of all personal protective equipment for workers from the other government.
Due to the county’s heavy reliance on tourism — an industry especially vulnerable to travel and business restrictions imposed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 — Budget Director Jennifer Barnette estimated that April, May and June would all see sales tax receipts 35% less than in 2019.
The county is now more than halfway through year one of a $3.6 million annual commitment for its Early Childhood Education and Development Fund. Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, who chairs the committee that oversees the fund, says the initial investment is already paying dividends.
More Buncombe County voters — 81,887, or 41.79% of all eligible residents — took part in the primary elections that wrapped up March 3 than in any previous primary in the county’s history. Xpress outlines the winners and losers for levels of elected office from president to Asheville City Council.
At the recommendation of the Buncombe County Republican Party, the board is scheduled to appoint Anthony Penland to fill the District 2 vacancy left by the late Commissioner Mike Fryar during its regular meeting. Penland will face Democrat Jasmine Beach-Ferrara in November’s general election.
During their Dec. 3 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners were told that while corrective measures to right years of financial mishandling are beginning to take hold, the county’s most recent audit still reflects the previous mismanagement.
Board chair Brownie Newman, Vice Chair Jasmine Beach-Ferarra and member Amanda Edwards have placed a resolution endorsing the Sheriff’s Office’s use of MAT on the commission’s agenda for Tuesday, Aug. 20. The treatment is currently offered to the jail’s pregnant female inmates, but Buncombe officials hope to expand its availability to all incarcerated individuals.
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?
Republican members of the board argued that their Democratic colleagues were out of place in issuing official letters against pending state HB 370, which would require Buncombe County Sheriff Quentin Miller and other sheriffs throughout North Carolina to comply with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer requests on penalty of removal from office.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved the proposal — including over $334.5 million in general fund spending, the portion primarily funded by property taxes — in a 6-1 vote at its June 18 regular meeting. Only Commissioner Mike Fryar cast his vote in opposition to the plan.
The county’s strategic thinking on tourism, explained Director of Intergovernmental Projects Tim Love, has focused on “the circulation of tourists to our unique, eclectic and vibrant community destinations.” That mission is driving Buncombe’s current input on the Tourism Development Authority’s Tourism Management & Investment Plan.
Through medication-assisted treatment, inmates with opioid addiction could receive drugs such as naltrexone or buprenorphine, in conjunction with counseling and therapy, to help them avoid returning to dangerous substances such as heroin or fentanyl.
Politicos of all stripes have begun gearing up for a 2020 election that looks to be a broad moment of opportunity. In Asheville, ballots will include offices from president on down to City Council. Experienced campaign runners and elected officials are teaming up to try to recruit new candidates or train and encourage those already considering a run.
Over the protests of Republicans, who felt the allotment was too large and would put a burden on taxpayers, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved a multimillion dollar investment in early childhood education on Oct. 30.