The appointment could shape the outcome of the general Asheville City Council election on Tuesday, Nov. 3. And the very night that the appointee is expected to take their oath of office — Tuesday, Sept. 22 — they will also cast what may be the deciding vote on funding for the Asheville Police Department.
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.
In a July 27 email, Asheville City Attorney Brad Branham said that the city’s charter, which directs all Council vacancies to be filled by appointment, took precedence over a state law that called for an election under certain circumstances.
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.
After two months of community pleas to defund the police, Asheville City Council will hear even more comment on the city’s spending at a public hearing for the fiscal year 2020-21 budget on Tuesday, July 28. Members of the public who wish to speak at the meeting must now sign up in advance.
Asheville City Council unanimously adopted a resolution supporting reparations for Asheville’s Black community at its July 14 meeting. Members also moved to table a $83,000 contract with risk-management firm Hillard Heintze to investigate Asheville Police Department’s response to recent protests after listening to community concerns.
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.
Debra Campbell, Asheville’s city manager, said she was recommending no new spending for projects that Council had previously explored, such as renewable energy on city buildings. All departments have also been asked to cut their budgets as much as possible, “with a focus on minimizing operational impacts.”
Asheville City Council member Vijay Kapoor announced that he will resign his post to move to Pennsylvania this summer. Kapoor’s term was to have run through 2022.
At 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 19, a public hearing will take place in Room B of the Mission Health/A-B Tech Conference Center at 340 Victoria Road in Asheville regarding Duke Energy’s plans to build a 12.5-acre landfill on its property beside Lake Julian.
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.
Asheville City Council member Vijay Kapoor announced the naming of the playground, which will be built as a part of the Asheville Housing Authority’s renovation of Lee Walker Heights. Lee was shot and killed at Lee Walker Heights on July 1, 2018, and his murder remains unsolved.
“I realize that this is an intrusion on citizens’ privacy, but I believe that citizens would prefer giving up privacy to being shot.”
Around 100 people attended Asheville City Council’s nearly five-hour meeting on March 14, during which 27 speakers declared both resistance and support for the conversion of the Flatiron Building into a hotel.
City Chief Financial Officer Barbara Whitehorn proposed that Asheville institute a program of regularly issued general obligation bonds to support capital improvement projects, while Council member Julie Mayfield discussed a property tax increase to boost Asheville’s operating budget.
While Mayor Esther Manheimer recommended in October that local hoteliers Pratik Bhakta and Monark Patel resubmit their proposal to Asheville City Council in at least “a year’s time,” the two aren’t waiting. Their hotel is back on the agenda for Council’s meeting of Tuesday, March 12, less than five months after its first consideration.
City Manager Debra Campbell called the Feb. 12 capital budget briefing “food for thought” as she encouraged Council members to focus and prioritize their objectives. “This is why we’re presenting this information,” she said. “We’ve got some tough decisions that we need to make over the next several years.”
“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.”