Sen. Chuck Edwards, who represents Henderson, Transylvania and eastern Buncombe counties in N.C. Senate District 48, said he remained firm in his desire to see the city of Asheville take a different approach to electing its council members. “I get constant feedback from constituents in Asheville that they can’t get City Council folks to pick up the phone, let alone to listen to a specific concern that they might have in their neighborhood,” he said.
Asheville City Council members clashed over whether a state-imposed district election system would negatively impact black voters during Sept. 24 meeting.
Community activists Sheneika Smith and Nicole Townsend are the recipients of the pilot Tzedek Brilliance Awards, individual grants of $200,000 paid over two years. The Amy Mandel and Katina Rodis Fund created the awards to reflect a shift toward community-directed, no-strings-attached philanthropy that aims to harness the insights and creativity within oppressed groups.
As of June 23, the Asheville Police Department has responded to 360 gun calls, said Deputy Chief James Baumstark. He noted that the top three locations from which police have received calls are in and around the public housing communities of Pisgah View, Deaverview and Hillcrest apartments.
“I don’t know how to stretch $230,000 into three-quarters of a million. I just don’t know how to do it. Maybe if I had Jesus here with the fish, and he was feeding everybody, maybe we could do that,” said committee member Keith Young to laughter from the audience. “That’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek response, but it is tough.”
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.
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.
“Don’t just think that this is going to be somebody calling on the phone about a bar down the street or their neighbor next door,” said Council member Keith Young. “This opens up a larger door. I am totally not comfortable opening up a new pathway into our criminal justice system.”
Asheville has gotten whiter over the past two decades. The proportion of African-American residents in the city dropped from 17.6 percent in 2000 to 12.3 percent in 2016, a change city officials attribute to a combination of white influx and black exodus. For the people of color who remained in Asheville, 2018 proved a mixed bag.
A quarter-cent sales tax on all purchases in Buncombe County would be earmarked for transit improvements, as required by state law, while a 1 percent tax on prepared foods and beverages bought in the city could be used as general funds. Both taxes would require approval by voter referendum, projected to take place in 2020.
After Mayor Esther Manheimer and Council members Keith Young and Brian Haynes shared their intent to reject the project, attorney Wyatt Stevens pulled the building from consideration on behalf of his clients, local hoteliers Pratik Bhakta and Monark Patel.
“Oh happy day,” proclaimed Council member Sheneika Smith after the unanimous appointment vote for the city’s most powerful unelected official. “As an organization, as a city, and even the county is rejoicing today.”
Reid Thompson, the owner of 28 and 32 Maxwell St., seeks to rezone those properties from residential to lodging expansion, thereby allowing their short-term vacation rental use — because the activity of Greenlife Grocery, he says, has made it impossible for him to keep long-term tenants.
No additional changes made their way into this year’s budget as Council decided to adopt the ordinance in a 4-3 vote. Mayor Esther Manheimer, Vice-Mayor Gwen Wisler, and Council members Vijay Kapoor and Julie Mayfield all voted in support of the budget. Members Brian Haynes, Sheneika Smith and Keith Young voted against the plan; all three had shown hesitation about a police funding increase during previous work sessions.
The words City Council adopted on May 22 could land the five members who supported them in hot water, according to lawyers from the N.C. Police Benevolent Association. Language in the city’s charter suggests that the consequences could be serious, possibly even including loss of office if convicted of giving an order to a city […]
By the end of a six-hour session, Council had approved multiple items showing an unprecedented level of urgency for policing reform. Multiple split votes, however, showed the concern of some members over the process of making those changes.
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.
On Wednesday, March 21, Esther Manheimer and Sheneika Smith will be the featured speakers at The Eclectic Lives of Two Asheville Women. The free community forum will take place in the Lord Auditorium at Pack Memorial Library, in celebration of Women’s History Month.
With two newly elected members and an evolving political landscape, Asheville City Council’s annual retreat at The Collider Feb. 15-16 reflected a shifting mindset about what issues the city should tackle in the coming years.
Thousands turned out for the second Women’s March on Asheville on Jan. 20. Organized this year by four high school students, the event featured speakers including Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, Asheville City Council member Sheneika Smith and Our Voice Executive Director Angelica Wind.