Council to vote on switch to public ‘work sessions’ Tuesday, Feb. 14.
For at least five years, Asheville City Council members have debated and grappled with some of the most pressing issues facing Asheville in regularly scheduled private meetings with city staff — meetings that are outside of public view.
In February, Asheville unveiled a plan to reduce the number of advisory groups from 20 to four. Each of those boards would be capped at 11 members, meaning the number of residents who serve in a regular advisory role would be cut by roughly 80%.
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.
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.
Established based on recommendations from a special Council-appointed Blue Ribbon Committee, the new group will be charged with improving human relations and equity throughout Asheville’s government — including the Asheville Police Department, which has drawn fierce criticism in recent months from Council and the public over its response to the beating of a black Asheville resident by a white former APD officer last year.
Amid calls for increased public access to policing data, Asheville City Council left the city’s volunteer board dedicated to hearing residents’ concerns about law enforcement in place for now. At the same time, the elected officials noted many vacancies on the Citizens Police Advisory Committee and signaled their longterm intent to dissolve the body once the newly forming Human Relations Commission has gotten up and running.
Two finalists for the newly created Equity and Inclusion Manager position with the city of Asheville mingled with community members at a meet-and-greet on July 10. Kimberlee Archie and Alaysia Black Hackett shared their backgrounds, their visions of how the position can serve the city and some of the issues they see as most pressing for the new role.
Data reported to the State Bureau of Investigation by the Asheville Police Department reveal significant racial disparities in traffic stops, an attorney for the Southern Coalition of Social Justice told Asheville City Council on April 24. And even though the data are disturbing, they may not tell the full story: An analysis revealed an apparent failure to report data for 58 percent of audited traffic stops, despite a state law requires police departments to provide demographic data for all stops.