Things that seem problematic
Public Safety Committee Meeting November 17th – Traffic Stop Data
Chief Zak presented data on traffic stops, which continue to show a pattern of racially disproportionate enforcement despite a 2018 measure deemphasizing stops not needed to support public safety. The chief described a new “Lights On” initiative, a non-punitive grant-based program to address equipment malfunctions that is intended to improve relationships between police and communities. However, no plan was presented by Chief Zack for how the Asheville Police Department is going to address the clear racial bias in their traffic stops. We applaud the Council members on this Committee, and in particular Councilwoman Kilgore, for flagging this problem. APD must do more than just limit traffic stops; they must address the persistent racial disparities in these stops. (Here is an article that summarizes this meeting and another that focuses on the new program.)
Things to do
Reach out to Councilwomen Sheneika Smith, Sandra Kilgore, and Kim Roney and thank them for questioning Chief Zack about the ongoing evidence of racial profiling in traffic stops. Encourage them to keep asking these questions and requiring accountability for this discrimination from the Asheville Police Department.
Housing and Community Development Meeting October 19th & November 16th – Racial equity data
Councilwoman Antanette Moseley asked in October for data about race related to affordable housing, insisting that we need to know more about who benefits from affordable housing projects before approving more of them. At this month’s meeting, Councilwoman Moseley asked about the plan to address racial equity in the proposal to rehabilitate the Days Inn for supportive housing. We applaud Councilwoman Moseley’s leadership here, and agree with her that there should be a moratorium on new housing initiatives until City staff is able to answer these questions in a data-driven manner.
Things to do
Reach out to Councilwomen Sage Turner, Sheneika Smith, and Antanette Moseley. Thank Councilwoman Moseley for her leadership in pushing for more data on how new affordable or supportive housing initiatives will address racial inequities. Encourage Councilwomen Turner and Smith to support Councilwoman Moseley’s call for a moratorium on new funding until City staff provide answers to these important questions.
Things that sound like a step in the right direction
Buncombe County Commission Meeting breakdown with links to video segments
There is a powerful tool on the Buncombe County website that lists all of the agenda items from the most recent County Commission Meeting, along with links to video clips of that portion of the meeting. This makes it immeasurably easier to zero in on and learn about the agenda items you are most interested in tracking. We salute the Communications Team for Buncombe County for offering this high level of transparency.
Things to do
Reach out to the Buncombe County Communications Team to thank them for developing this powerful transparency tool.
Reach out to Dawa Hitch, Asheville’s Director of Communication & Public Engagement
828-259-5981) and ask her if she’s seen this tool, and whether the City of Asheville will follow the County’s lead and create something similar for City Council meetings.
Human Relations Committee Meeting November 18th – Staff Update from Brenda Mills, Director of Equity and Inclusion
Director Mills reported to the HRC that she has done outreach specifically related to the Reparations Commission in the Southside, Stumptown, and East End/Valley Street communities, and is meeting with Burton Street on Monday. She will be posting on “Village Round Table” to help reach more people. She is also encouraging neighborhoods to become legal “associations,” which is a positive step. We hope that as these neighborhoods take that step, they will be encouraged to take the additional step of formulating a neighborhood “plan on a page.” We appreciate the efforts of Ms. Mills and the City to broaden the outreach process, especially to those Community members who aren’t able or likely to access the application online.
Things to do
Reach out to Brenda Mills, Director of Equity and Inclusion (email@example.com
828-232-4517), to thank her for the steps she has taken to broaden the City’s outreach around the Reparations Commission, and encourage her to keep expanding the circle of engagement.
Spread the word to Black community members you know that the Reparations Commission application process is now open.
Housing and Community Development Meeting November 16th – Strategic Partnership Funds Update
There are substantial ($400,000) Strategic Partnership Funds available for programs designed to help close the opportunity gap for students. Staff recommended doing a Request for Proposals to solicit one; Vice Mayor Sheneika Smith suggested soliciting multiple proposals instead from community organizations who could receive at least $25,000 each for their work. Two years worth of funds are consolidated, and this appears to be a real opportunity for the city to invest. This seems like an important step in the right direction. We wonder: in evaluating proposals, how will the City evaluate whether organizations have a demonstrated approach to shrinking the opportunity gap? What is the City doing to try to get these funds into the hands of organizations led by People of Color? Can these funds be used to help such groups build capacity?
Things to do
Reach out to Alex Mitchiner, Workforce Development Programs Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org 828-259-5735) and Paul D’Angelo, Community Development Program Director (email@example.com 828-251-4098) to thank them for their work advancing this initiative. You might ask them: in evaluating proposals, how will the City evaluate whether organizations have a demonstrated approach to shrinking the opportunity gap? What is the City doing to try to get these funds into the hands of organizations led by People of Color? Can these funds be used to help such groups build capacity?