Government Accountability Project Asheville

LATEST UPDATE

GAP Report for 5/13/24

Thanks to those who joined our special GAP Community Gathering Zoom meeting Wednesday, May 15th, at 5 pm. For those that missed it, you can watch the video here.

The Community Reparations Commission met Monday, May 13th at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Banquet Hall at 87 Haywood Street in Asheville. Meeting materials are available here. This meeting was recorded and can be streamed at the City’s YouTube page.

The Asheville City Council met on Tuesday, May 14th, at 5 pm on the 2nd Floor of City Hall, 70 Court Plaza in downtown Asheville. You can watch a recording of the meeting online at this link.The full agenda for the meeting is here.

URGENT

  • 0 Items

PROBLEMATIC

  • 2 Items

CONCERNS

  • 0 Items

POSITIVE

  • 0 Items

EMAIL TEMPLATES

Use our prepared email templates to take action on this week’s items.

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RED:

Things that seem problematic

Asheville Housing Authority planning to shut down Lonnie D. Burton, Hillcrest, and Pisgah View Head Start programs

The Housing Authority of the City of Asheville (HACA) has terminated the lease for the operators of these Head Start programs and instructed them to vacate by June 17th, 2024. HACA has released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for childcare operators to bid on the spaces. The existing Head Start programs are free for low income families, which make up 90% of those currently being served. In contrast, the RFP for future operators suggests that 50% of their spaces be reserved for children with families eligible for childcare subsidy vouchers.

We find this move alarming, and the lack of any public explanation disturbing. Just like with the proposal to evict the Southside Community Farm last month (see our April 15th GAP Report), programs with community support and offering tangible community benefits are being targeted without a publicly shared rationale. We wonder:

  • Why are the Head Start programs being terminated?
  • Why does the RFP for replacement programs only reserve 50% of its spaces for families that receive childcare subsidy vouchers?
  • What does HACA plan to do to support those families that may now be excluded from future programs?

We think HACA’s President and Board need to address these questions, and also want to hear from the Mayor, who is solely responsible for appointing the members of that Board, as well as other members of the Asheville City Council, whose constituents will be impacted.

Things to do

Write to the Asheville Housing Authority President and Board, as well as the Asheville City Council, to ask why they are ending these three Head Start programs, why their Request For Proposals for replacement programs only suggests a 50% subsidized percentage, and what provisions they are making to accommodate the impacted families.

We have prepared an email template below that you can use to contact the Asheville Housing Authority and City Council.

Outcomes

Unresolved, but with new information. Read the report back here.

Asheville City Council Agenda: Presentation of the Fiscal Year 2025 Annual Operating & Capital Budget. (Draft Budget Document)

City Staff will present the draft 2025 budget, which includes funding for the Community & Economic Development Department. One of the priorities for that department, as described on page 64 of the document, is to “implement recommendations from the 2023 Disparity Study to improve the City’s utilization of minority and women-owned businesses.” The budget does not include any proposed increase in the size of the Business Inclusion Office, which currently has one staff member.

We raised this issue last month in our April 8th GAP Report, and have yet to get a response from the City. We were glad to see the implementation of the 2023 Disparity Study recommendations listed as a priority, but remain skeptical that all 27 of them can be achieved by a one-person office. The Cease The Harm Audit also included a set of recommendations around how the City procures Black-owned businesses that should be implemented. If increasing the percentage of City contracts that go to Black firms is truly a priority, we think the City needs to invest accordingly in the staff resources to make that happen – or explain how they think current staff can meet those goals.

Things to do

Write to the Asheville City Council and City Manager and ask them whether they think a one-person department is sufficient to accomplish these critical equity goals.

We have prepared an email template below that you can use to contact the Asheville City Council.

Outcomes

Unresolved, but with new information. Read the report back here.

GREY:

Updates on previous items

Community Reparations Commission passes four new recommendations

At the May 6th meeting of the Community Reparations Commission (CRC), four new recommendations were voted on and approved:

  • The establishment of an Economic Development Center (description)
  • A Guaranteed Income Pilot Program (description)
  • Supporting Existing Community Initiatives and Infrastructure (description)
  • The Creation of a Reparations Accountability Council (description)

You can read media accounts of the meetings in the Citizen-Times and Asheville Watchdog.

Things to do

There is no advocacy we’re recommending at this time, but we wanted to keep you updated on the progress of the Community Reparations Commission.

HEAD START EMAIL TEMPLATE TEXT

​You can send an email to the Housing Authority President and Board, as well as the Asheville City Council, by filling out the form below. Our email tool will send an individually addressed email to each recipient, and enable us to track how many emails were sent overall in the campaign. If you prefer to write your own email, you can copy and paste (and adapt) our template text. We ask that you send us a copy (cc or bcc, your choice) at info@gapavl.org so we can better track how many emails were sent.

To: mpierre@haca.org, tjackson@haca.org, rerobinson@haca.org, sfarkas@haca.org, rharris@haca.org, kwynn@haca.org, ssimpson@haca.org, drobinson@haca.org,

CC or BCC: info@gapavl.org, AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov

Subject: Why is HACA terminating the lease for Head Start programs?

Dear Madam President and Members of the Housing Authority of Asheville Board,

I’m writing out of concern for the children currently enrolled in Head Start programs in the Lonnie D. Burton, Hillcrest, and Pisgah View Centers. I understand that you have terminated the lease for these programs, and I wonder if you could explain your reasons for this decision. I also understand that you have published a Request for Proposals for other childcare providers to bid to occupy these spaces, and that those programs would only need to offer 50% of their spots to children from households eligible for childcare subsidy vouchers. As I’m sure you know, 90% of Head Start participants meet this criteria. What provision do you plan to make for the families that may lose access to childcare?

Thanks for your leadership,

BUSINESS INCLUSION EMAIL TEMPLATE TEXT

You can send an email to the Asheville City Council and City Manager by filling out the form below. Our email tool will send an individually addressed email to each recipient, and enable us to track how many emails were sent overall in the campaign. If you prefer to write your own email, you can copy and paste (and adapt) our template text. We ask that you send us a copy (cc or bcc, your choice) at info@gapavl.org so we can better track how many emails were sent.

To: AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov, dcampbell@ashevillenc.gov
CC or BCC: info@gapavl.org
Subject: Addressing disparities in business inclusion in this year’s budget

Dear City Council Members and City Manager Campbell,

In the draft budget you will be reviewing this week, I was glad to learn that implementing the 27 recommendations from the 2023 Disparity Study has been named as a priority. However, I was curious why there is no proposed expansion of the Business Inclusion Office, which would be tasked with implementing all of these recommendations, and which currently consists of a single person. I hope you will ask staff whether they need more resources to be able to implement all of these important recommendations, and will incorporate their needs into your ongoing budget deliberations.

Thanks for your leadership,

LAST WEEK’S UPDATE

GAP Report for 5/6/24

The Community Reparations Commission meets online TONIGHT, Monday, May 6th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Meeting materials are available here. The meeting will be recorded and streamed at the City’s YouTube page. They will also meet next Monday, May 13th at the Harrah's...

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