Government Accountability Project Asheville

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

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Updates on previous items

Community Reparations Commission – Cease The Harm Audit Presentation – (Slideshow, Video)

The Community Reparations Commission (CRC) received a preliminary presentation from the Carter Group, the firm hired by the City of Asheville to perform the Cease The Harm Audit this past year. This audit, recommended by the CRC in late 2022 and approved by the City and County in early 2023, calls for a full accounting of where both governments are continuing to cause harm to Black people in our region. In the presentation, Carter Group team members presented some of their findings and recommendations, which span each of the Impact Focus Areas being addressed by the CRC (criminal justice, economic development, education, health and wellness, and housing), as well as two additional areas of concern (workforce development and the performance of equity departments). The preliminary presentation previewed 26 of the 70 recommendations the Carter Group plans to submit. 

Watching the presentation, we were struck by how closely the Audit’s findings track with the issues we highlight here at GAP. The Audit listed five major findings, and four of them are issues we frequently raise in our reports. Here are the five top findings:

  • Insufficient data-driven practices to determine the level of Black and African-American participation/representation in County and City opportunities.
    • In our 2023 year-end report, we wrote: “Throughout the year, there were various presentations and report-backs in both City and County meetings on the impact of a range of programs. Especially in County presentations, racial demographic data was frequently absent, making it impossible to evaluate how programs impacted different racial groups.”
  • Insufficient data-driven evaluation of the equitable use of funds allocated to Partnership Programs.
    • We addressed this issue most recently in our May 15 GAP Report, and it was a frequent theme in 2022: “In multiple reports throughout the year we noted the lack of grants and contracts going to organizations led by people of color (see our reports on 5/23, 6/13, 8/15, 9/19, 10/3, 11/14, and 11/21), despite the stated intention of both governments to support those kinds of entities.” (From our 2022 end-of-year report.)
  • County and City governments lack wide-scale racial equity training to create baseline knowledge of equitable practices.
    • We raised questions about the City’s equity training program a lot last year. From our 2023 year-end report: “At issue is what ‘racial equity training’ actually means, and how it is implemented. The City of Asheville’s Office of Equity and Inclusion has a program for training City staff, but it’s unclear how often these trainings are conducted or what’s covered in them. The City used to track this work on their Equity Dashboard, but it is no longer being updated, so it’s unclear how many trainings were conducted in 2023.”
    • The Audit actually answered one of our questions: only 1.6% of the Asheville City workforce has received any racial equity training.
  • There is a limited affordable housing supply for purchase or rent throughout the County and City.
  • Subjective interpretation of Human Resources’ hiring and promotion processes has enabled covert, latent, and explicit biases.
    • This was the only audit finding that was not a pre-existing GAP theme. It was not surprising to us, and we look forward to reading the Carter Group’s further analysis in the full report, which will arrive sometime in February.

Things to do

We are not recommending any action at this time, but encourage folks to look at the slides and the presentation.