The Community Reparations Commission meets TONIGHT, Monday, January 22 from 5:45 pm to 8:00 pm. The meeting will be held at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Banquet Hall at 87 Haywood Street in Asheville. The public is welcome to attend. Meeting materials are available here. You can watch the meeting live (or a recording of it later) online here.
The Asheville City Council meets this Tuesday, January 23, 2023 at 5 pm. You can attend the meeting on the 2nd Floor of City Hall, 70 Court Plaza in downtown Asheville. You can watch the meeting online at this link.The full agenda for the formal meeting is here.
Use our prepared email template to take action on this week’s item.
Things of concern, more information needed
The City currently contracts with Parker Technology for parking garage call center services and with Passports Labs for mobile parking payment services. These resolutions would extend those contracts through June 30, 2024 without engaging in the normal City bidding and outreach requirements.
We are flagging this out of concerns around the proposed bypass of the “normal City bidding and outreach requirements,” which include the work of the Office of Business Inclusion that is tasked with (among other things) increasing the City’s contracts with Black and Latine businesses. In all of these resolutions, staff declare that they plan to set up a “competitive bidding and outreach process” for the next contract period, which begins in July 2024. We would presume that such a process would include engagement by the Office of Business Inclusion, but think it important that this be explicitly named. The staff memos suggest that the City must bypass the standard procedure of seeking bids for these services in order to enable a continuation of service so City staff can prepare to seek bids for the *next* cycle.. This makes us wonder why the City didn’t prepare for *this* cycle, so these contracts could have followed the normal process and not needed a bypass of protocol. This feels problematic as it could set a precedent resulting in the continued exclusion of Black and Latine businesses from City contracts.
Things to do
Write to the Asheville City Council and the City Manager to ask why the bidding and outreach process for these contracts wasn’t started earlier, so the Office of Business Inclusion could have had an opportunity to do outreach to Black and Latine firms.
We have prepared an email template that you can use to contact the Asheville City Council and City Manager. You can (a) use this City Council template link to open up an email to adapt, (b) copy and paste the content below, or (c) write your own message to AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Updates on previous items
From the report: “In February 2022, City of Asheville staff presented a proposal to City Council to reorganize Council committees, align citizen advisory Boards and Commissions with Council committees, and consider reducing the number of Boards from 20 currently (plus two sub-committees) to only four. Between February and April, staff conducted two focus groups, one with current Board officers and a second with invited stakeholders, as well as four workshops with community members, and a Council work session. Based on feedback received at those meetings, the proposal was revised. A Restructure Work Group was formed to gather input on the proposed Board restructure.” This Restructure Work Group, made up of “concerned citizens” who volunteered their time, prepared, distributed, and analyzed a survey to better understand the experience of current and former board members. This group is now presenting their findings to City Council.
We appreciate the work that this volunteer group has done, and are curious to see what the City’s next steps are in addressing the many challenging layers of reorganizing their Boards and Commissions. One challenge we’re especially interested in is the disproportionate representation of white people on these boards. We don’t have any recommended course of action for community members right now, but encourage everyone to read the report and continue following this issue.
Things to do
We are not recommending any action at this time, but encourage folks to stay informed about this issue.
EMAIL TEMPLATE TEXT
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 the addresses listed. Please consider making edits that reflect your personal interests and concerns on this issue.
Send to: AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov, email@example.com
Subject: Bypassing the normal City bidding and outreach process for contracts
Dear City Council Members and City Manager Campbell,
I read that City staff are recommending that the normal process of soliciting bids be bypassed for three contracts relating to parking services in order to ensure a continuity of service for the next contract year. This means bypassing the role of the Office of Business Inclusion, which was put in place to increase contracted work by Black and Latine firms (among other considerations). I understand that there is a plan to have a competitive process later this year before these contracts are renewed again. I’m writing today to verify that the Business Inclusion Office will be involved in that later process, and to ask why a bidding and outreach process wasn’t started earlier so that the “normal,” more-inclusive process could have been followed rather than bypassed.
Thanks for your leadership,