Government Accountability Project Asheville

LATEST UPDATE

GAP Report for 11/28/22

There are no meetings for either the Asheville City Council or the Buncombe County Commission this week.

The Community Reparations Commission will hold their next meeting on Monday, December 5th, 2022, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. The meeting is being held at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Banquet Hall at 87 Haywood Street in Asheville. The public is welcome to attend the entire session. The meeting will be recorded and streamed here.

URGENT

  • 0 items

PROBLEMATIC

  • 0 items

CONCERNS

  • Reach out to Buncombe County Manager and ask about timeline for business inclusion

POSITIVE

  • Reach out to Buncombe County HHS Director to express appreciation

EMAIL TEMPLATES

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

s

YELLOW:

Things of concern, more information needed

Follow Up: Request for Information on Buncombe County Policy on Engaging BIPOC Businesses

In our 10/31/22 GAP Report (which you can see here), we asked what efforts the County made to solicit bids from companies owned by Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). We received a response from County Manager Avril Pinder, sent her some follow-up questions, and received an additional response. You can read the whole exchange below.

We appreciate the County Manager’s responsiveness on this issue, and the fact that the County has a multi-step plan for engaging more businesses owned by Black Indigenous and People of Color folks. We still have questions about the process for engaging these businesses, which seems complex to navigate. In response to a question we asked about public accountability for these efforts, the County Manager wrote: “We are currently working on the baseline data gathering and will be tracking the increase in invitations to bid. It is a logical leap that in the future we could also track what those efforts yield, but that would be downline.” We wonder what the timeline is for assembling that baseline data and then reporting the efficacy of these efforts.

Things to do

We encourage you to reach out to Buncombe County Manager Avril Pinder about this issue, thanking her for her responsiveness, and asking her what the timeline is for assembling baseline data and then reporting the efficacy of the County’s efforts to solicit more bids from Black Indigenous and People of Color-owned businesses. Click here for an email template or see below for her email address and a sample email you can adapt and send her.

GREEN:

Things that sound like a step in the right direction

Follow Up: Buncombe County Health and Human Services (HHS) Racial Equity Work

In our 11/7/22 GAP Report, we wondered about two revelations at a recent HHS Board Meeting: (a) the formation of a “Racial Equity Team” and a focus on improved demographic data collection by the Social Work Department, and (b) the fact that the entire HHS staff would be going through some sort of race-related training. (You can read our original report here.) We asked for more information, and received a response from HHS Director Stoney Blevins this past week. You can read the full email below.

We appreciate Director Blevins’ responsiveness, and are also impressed with the plans and processes he describes that are underway at HHS. This seems like an appropriately rich and multi-layered approach to addressing issues of racial equity within the department.

Things to do

We encourage you to reach out to Health and Human Services Director Stoney Blevins and thank him for sharing more specific information about HHS’ racial equity plans and processes. Click here for an email template or see below for his email address and a sample email you can adapt and send him.

COUNTY MANAGER EMAIL TEMPLATE

You can open this email in your own email program by clicking here. To proceed manually, you can copy and paste the text below into an email and then address it to County Manager Avril Pinder, cc’ing the County Commissioners.

To: Avril.Pinder@buncombecounty.org
cc: brownie.newman@buncombecounty.org, jasmine.beach-ferrara@buncombecounty.org, alfred.whitesides@buncombecounty.org, amanda.edwards@buncombecounty.org, terri.wells@buncombecounty.org, robert.pressley@buncombecounty.org, parker.sloan@buncombecounty.org

Subject: Buncombe County’s engagement of BIPOC businesses

Dear County Manager Pinder,

I appreciate your comprehensive response to the request from the Government Accountability Project (GAP) Team for more information on the County’s policies and processes for engaging Black Indigenous and People of Color-owned businesses. You wrote that your team was assembling baseline data and then planning to report on the efficacy of the County’s efforts to solicit more bids from these businesses. I was wondering about the timeline for this data collection and report back regarding your efforts boosting BIPOC bids for County work.

Thanks for your leadership,

HHS DIRECTOR EMAIL TEMPLATE

You can open this email in your own email program by clicking here. To proceed manually, you can copy and paste the the text below into an email and then address it to Health and Human Services Director Stoney Blevins, cc’ing other important County folks.

To: stoney.blevins@buncombecounty.org
Cc: rebecca.Smith@buncombecounty.org, brownie.newman@buncombecounty.org, jasmine.beach-ferrara@buncombecounty.org, alfred.whitesides@buncombecounty.org, amanda.edwards@buncombecounty.org, terri.wells@buncombecounty.org, robert.pressley@buncombecounty.org, parker.sloan@buncombecounty.org,Avril.Pinder@buncombecounty.org

Subject: Appreciation for HHS’ racial equity initiatives

Dear Mr. Blevins,

I appreciate your comprehensive response to the request from the Government Accountability Project (GAP) Team for more information on several racial equity-related initiatives at HHS. The work you describe seems like an appropriately rich and multi-layered approach to addressing issues of racial equity within the department.

Thanks for your listening leadership,

Email from Buncombe County Manager Avril Pinder (back to report)

GAP AVL Team, please see below for the County’s practice on historically underutilized businesses, minority and women owned businesses.

In response to some questions around our process for bidding as it relates to the BIPOC community and the C&T Paving award on tonight’s agenda, I wanted to share some information.
As part of the Finance Department Business Plan that supports the County’s Strategic Plan and REAP, we have established a goal to Increase the number of women-owned or minority-owned business enterprise (WMBE)/ historically underutilized businesses (HUB) invited to participate in the County’s bidding/RFP processes.

We are working on collecting data on the current number that are registered as WMBE/HUB with the State that are also setup as a supplier in our system to establish a baseline. At the same time we are building a way to track the information within our system to better identify WMBE/HUB entities. When our new vendor gateway in Cobblestone (contract management software) goes live, part of the registration process for vendors is to enter information that allows us to track WMBE/HUB that we can then use in future solicitations. Below is what one of the screens looks like in the system.

We are also working to expand supplier outreach by sending solicitations to businesses that are County registered vendors identified as WMBE and those registered with the State HUB. We are also asking departments if they know of any WMBE/HUB that may not be registered with the State, so we can include them as part of the solicitation and encourage them to get registered.

There is also a requirement in the “Policy on Prequalification of Bidders for Construction or Repair Projects” that was approved by the Board of Commissioners on September 7, 2021, that reads as follows:

3.1.3. The Bid Agent shall solicit directly for the prequalification vendors certified by the State Office of Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB), along with
those that have identified themselves as a Woman or Minority-Owned Business Enterprise (WMBE) with the County, and provide the services needed for the
project. This should be done in addition to any other processes or advertisements used to identify and solicit potential bidders.

We will be working to revise the County Procurement Policy to include similar language around county-registered WMBE/HUB in the bidding/RFP process when any competitive solicitations are required.

Thanks,

Avril Pinder

We responded (and then she replied in-line):

Thank you so much for all of this information. We discussed it in our meeting today and had a few follow-up questions.

GAP: Re: “The Bid Agent shall solicit directly for the prequalification vendors (emphasis added) certified by the State Office of Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB), along with those that have identified themselves as a Woman or Minority-Owned Business Enterprise (WMBE) with the County, and provide the services needed for the project.” We wonder if you could share more information (so we can do likewise) about what’s involved in becoming “prequalified” with one of these designations.

  • County Manager Pinder: We are not prequalifying if a vendor is HUB or WMBE, we are requiring the bid agent to invite HUB’s and WMBE’s to participate in a prequalification process. Click on the link to access the Prequalification for Construction Policy.

GAP: More broadly, we notice that City staff reports on contracts typically describe what efforts went into soliciting bids from Woman or Minority-Owned Business Enterprise (WMBE), including whether those efforts yielded any bids. This seems a good accountability practice. Is the County planning to do likewise? And if so, when would we be likely to see that kind of information in County staff reports on contracts?

  • County Manager Pinder: Our current goals is to increase the number of WMBEs and HUBs invited to participate in the bidding/RFP process. We are currently working on the baseline data gathering and will be tracking the increase in invitations to bid. It is a logical leap that in the future we could also track what those efforts yield, but that would be downline. As we build our processes, we will share that with you.

Back to report

Email from HHS Director Stoney Blevins (back to report)

Thanks for reaching out about this. Please forgive the lateness of my reply, I wanted to be sure I was comprehensive in my response.

All of our work connects to two guides: our Buncombe County strategic plan, which identifies equity as both a value and a focus area, and our County’s racial equity action plan. Currently, our equity county-wide trainings are conducted by our Buncombe County Meaningfully engaging, equity together (MEET) team, which is a cross-departmental group of staff trainers that includes representatives from Library Services, Justice Services, HHS, Communications & Public Engagement, HR, and more. Their work aligns with our Buncombe County Equity & Inclusion Workgroup, which is also a cross-departmental group that falls under the direction of the Equity & Human Rights Office. A list of those members can be found at www.buncombecounty.org/equity. HHS also offers extensions of that work through the lenses of specific HHS departments, like our training for social workers to support our LGBTQ clients.

Along those same lines, HHS offers an equity & inclusion workgroup to discuss issues specific to the unique work of HHS employees. A deeper dive on that is below.

HHS is in the beginning stages of work to impact disparities in our Child-Serving and Adult-Serving System.  We have been taking a multipronged approach:

  1. Educate and support staff in developing the skills needed to effectively work with individuals/families from diverse backgrounds recognizing the historical and community trauma that may impact some individuals/families
  2. Recognize and fully understand the scope of the disparities in our systems through varied data collection methods
  3. Develop ranking and strategies using the Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks (GDEIB) focusing on specific intervention based on service area and available data.

In order to support our staff in recognizing historical and community traumas, we offer the following:

  1. Our Identities Ourselves Training – see attached Power Point Training and references to Center for the Study of Social Policy https://cssp.org/our-work/focus/child-welfare/
  2. Trainings through the Racial Equity Institute
  3. Facilitated Dialogue and Book Groups
  4. Leadership-specific training and Accountability Model
  5. Racial and Language Equity Group:

With regard to your question about data collection, Social Work staff developed a training that highlights a trauma-informed and anti-oppressive approach to data collection. This training teaches social workers about the importance of addressing power, privilege, and fear when engaging with families. As of July 2022, all social workers had completed this training. Read more about this in our Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Report- page 7.

Data collection efforts include:

  1. Building reports for all aspects of services
    • Adult and Child Intake
    • Screening Rates
  2. Child Assessments and Investigations
    • Findings
    • Petitions filed
  3. Family In Home
    • Outcomes
    • Petitions filed
  4. Permanency Planning
    • Number of foster youth by race and age
    • Length of stay
    • Placement type and changes
    • Adoption rates
  5. Adult Protective Services
    • Findings
    • Services Offered and Accepted

We develop ranking and strategies using the Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks (GDEIB) focusing on specific intervention based on service area and available data. (https://centreforglobalinclusion.org/what-we-do/the-gdeib/). The Social Work Integrated Management Team meets multiple times per month to work through the GDEIB. Our goal is to use GDEIB guidance and the data from our data workgroup to develop intervention steps to improve our scores/ outputs/ outcomes with the hope to achieve 4 out of 5 in most Categories on the GDEIB by creating an intentional path to improvement and dedicating Social Work Leadership Team time, Supervisory Conference Time and training time to these efforts and continuing the work related to the Accountability Model developed by our RLEG.

BC HHS also supports language justice and access through our Language Access Team. The Language Access Team ensures a streamlined and consistent process for translation and interpretation related to BC HHS client interactions and immediate and long-term language access needs. Buncombe County, in partnership with Poder Emma, just received a grant to develop a county-wide language access plan, and that work begins next month. At the same time, the County is developing a language access policy.

Additionally, the Buncombe County budgeting process for Fiscal Year 2024 will utilize an Equity Analysis Tool that lays out a process and a set of questions to guide budgetary considerations, as well as the development, implementation and evaluation of significant policies, initiatives, and programs to address equity impacts. The goals behind implementing this tool are to continue to learn how to operationalize equity and inclusion and to create an intentional budget process that advances our equity and inclusion goals.

We know this is about growth and progress, and together with the County’s Equity & Human Rights Office, we’re growing our work in this area. I hope this response has been helpful and answers all of your questions. Please feel free to reach out if there’s anything more we can provide for you.

Best regards,

Stoney

 

Back to report

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LAST WEEK’S UPDATE

GAP Report for 11/21/22

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