Government Accountability Project Asheville

GAP Report for 1/10/22

Jan 10, 2022

The Asheville City Council meets Tuesday, January 11th at 5 pm. Click here for the agenda.

Here are the items that the GAP Strategy Team identified as relevant to racial justice this week.

URGENT

  • 1 item

PROBLEMATIC

  • 2 items

CONCERNS

  • 3 items

POSITIVE

  • 1 item
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URGENT:

Things that are top priority

Manager’s Report. The City Manager plans to give a report on the American Rescue Plan Act, the Reparations process, and Homelessness Initiatives.

This report has not been made public. We continue to be alarmed by the City Manager’s repeated refusal to share her reports in advance. These issues are of vital importance to many people in our community. Every other agenda item is accompanied by documentation. This practice by the City Manager makes it impossible for the public to anticipate and adequately respond to her reports.

Things to do

Reach out to the City Manager’s office (phone: 828-259-5604, email: dcampbell@ashevillenc.gov) and ask them to share the City Manager reports two business days before the City Council meeting, like other City staff members do.

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RED:

Things that seem problematic

Consent Agenda B Resolution authorizing the City Manager to submit an application to the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization to prepare a transportation connectivity and land use study for east Patton Avenue in relation to the I-26 Interstate Connector Project, and if awarded, accept the funds and execute the necessary agreements.

This is a request for retroactive approval of a $350,000 grant application for the Eastern Patton Avenue Corridor study which requires a 20% match from the City (up to $70,000). It’s a half-mile corridor from Captain Bowen Bridge to Pritchard Park. The Planning and Economic Development Committee did not review it due to the short timeframe to apply. This project will involve land use and transportation analyses, which are very likely to impact neighborhoods that are economically marginalized and occupied by community members of color. This item should be pulled from the Consent Agenda. Rather than rushing it through, Council should discuss it fully and find out whether there was any public engagement of the neighborhoods that will be impacted.

Things to do

Contact the Asheville City Council and ask how the impacted communities will be affected and whether they were consulted.

The City’s contract with EPIC Recruiting to recruit police applicants.

This was an item we flagged in December, when this item appeared on the Consent Agenda. We appreciate Councilwoman Roney voting to remove it from the consent agenda and initiating some necessary dialogue, before the item passed 6-1. Questions remain about how this firm will conduct its candidate recruitment: How will they appeal to Black and Brown candidates with a track record of prioritizing community connections? How will this recruitment effort align with the City’s commitment to reimagine public safety? What kind of psychological evaluation will be done with prospective candidates? We think these are questions that the City’s Office of Equity and Inclusion need to be asking, in order to ensure that the Asheville Police Department prioritizes racial equity and racial justice as it fills these positions. These questions could also be taken up by the City’s Human Relations Commission.

Things to do

Reach out to Brenda Mills, Director of Equity and Inclusion (Email her at bmills@ashevillenc.gov or call her at 828-232-4517). Ask her what steps she or her office are taking to ensure that EPIC Recruiting is conducting its candidate outreach with racial equity and justice in mind.

Attend the next Human Relations Commission meeting on Thursday, January 20th, at 5:30 pm

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YELLOW:

Things of concern, more information needed

Consent Agenda C Resolution authorizing the City Manager to enter into a contract with Harper Corp. General Contractors for the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Center Expansion Project.

This is the latest step in the expansion of this community center, which includes the construction of a new pool facility to replace the Walton Street Pool. We suggest that this item be pulled from the Consent Agenda so that Council can discuss it publicly. While it is very likely a positive step, this project has a long and controversial history, and community members are entitled to some explanation of where things stand, and what kind of public engagement there has been along the way.

Things to do

Contact the Asheville City Council. Ask them whether impacted community members have been consulted.

Public Hearing A Public hearing to rezone approximately 128 acres of property along South Tunnel Road.

This is a request to rezone approximately 128 acres from various zoning districts to the Urban Place Form district. According to the Planning and Urban Design staff report, this rezoning will lead to a more efficient use of land that encourages housing and incentivizes affordable housing along transit routes. Step 4, Question 1. (page 25) of the Equity Toolkit document indicates that affordable housing units will only be required to be considered affordable for a minimum of 20 years. See attachment.  We wonder why these affordable housing units aren’t being so designated into perpetuity rather than expiring after a set time period. The bonus densities and heights will not expire so why should the affordable housing units?

Things to do

Contact the Asheville City Council and ask them to push for this rezoning to include an affordable housing designation that doesn’t expire.

Public Hearing B Public hearing to conditionally zone 235 Sardis Road from Commercial Industrial District to Residential Expansion/Conditional Zone

The applicant is proposing 297 new multi-family residential units of which 10% of the units (30 units total) be set aside as affordable to those earning at or below 80% AMI for a minimum period of 20 years. Once again, we wonder why the 30 affordable housing units aren’t being designated as such into perpetuity, rather than expiring in 20 years and potentially displacing those residents.

Things to do

Contact the Asheville City Council and ask them to push for this rezoning to include an affordable housing designation that doesn’t expire.

GREEN:

Things that sound like a step in the right direction

Councilwoman Antanette Moseley’s recent leadership on racial justice.

At recent Asheville Affordable Housing Advisory Committee (AHAC) meetings and the December 14th City Council meeting, Councilwoman Antanette Moseley raised important questions around racial equity. At several AHAC meetings, she has been asking for racial equity data, raising the possibility that these projects don’t serve people of color. At the most recent City Council meeting, she expressed concerns about the City’s plan to set up a supportive housing facility at the former Ramada Inn, pointing out the lack of transparency in the process, insufficient opportunities for local organizations to take this on, and a lack of diversity within the Step Up organization that was offered the contract. We appreciate Councilwoman Moseley lifting up these essential questions.

Things to do

Email Councilwoman Moseley, thanking her for her leadership in raising important racial equity issues in these important settings, and encouraging her to keep it up.