There are no meetings for either the Asheville City Council or the Buncombe County Commission this week.
Use our prepared email templates to take action on this week’s items.
Things that seem problematic
Asheville City Public Safety Committee Meeting, November 17th, 2022: Asheville Police Department seeking three-year contract with a “transparency engagement” consultant, Cole Pro Media. (Staff Report)
The City hired a consultant in 2018 “to review the arrest, the tactics, policies, and procedures involved in an excessive force incident” (the assault on Johnny Rush). One of the recommendations offered was for the City to “consider retaining a firm to provide crisis response services to the APD and the City of Asheville in the future.” Cole Pro Media is the company that the Asheville Police Department (APD) is proposing for this role.
This is a highly problematic request from APD. The company they want to hire for a three-year $162,000 contract does not engage in transparency, as the staff report implies and the firm claims. Instead, this company encourages police departments to bury bad news and excuse bad behavior, as detailed in this article that reviews their work with dozens of municipalities. Investing in a company with this track record would be counter to the City’s commitment to “reimagining public safety,” which would be better served if they encouraged APD to prioritize rebuilding trust with the community through substantive change in policies and behavior, rather than seeking assistance from a firm that specializes in hiding or obscuring the truth.
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Asheville City Council and ask them to reject this proposed contract with Cole Pro Media when it comes before them in December. Click here for an email template or see below for a list of email addresses and a sample email you can adapt and send them.
Things of concern, more information needed
City of Asheville Pack Square Plaza Visioning Project Community Engagement Plan (Schedule of December events)
In the aftermath of the removal of the Vance Monument in 2021, the City is seeking community input on how to reimagine and rebuild Pack Square as “a more equitable, accessible and inclusive space in the heart of Asheville’s downtown.” (City Pack Square Engagement Hub)
We appreciate the City’s intent to engage community members in this process, but have some concerns about the way they are going about it. This visioning process was initiated with the removal of the Vance Monument, which happened because the City recognized that it was a source of harm to Asheville’s Black population. As a result, we think it’s essential that the City get considerable input from Black community members about how Pack Square should be redesigned. We are encouraged to see one event being held at PennyCup in the historic YMI building. However, there are no events being held in locations proximate to Asheville’s Black communities, such as the Arthur Edington Center. The current plan doesn’t include arranging for discussions at regularly scheduled Black neighborhood community meetings. In addition, many of the events listed unfold over many hours, which will create challenges for working people to attend. In sum, the currently proposed process seems likely to draw disproportionate input from affluent white people, and we’d like to see the City amend the plan to specifically target Asheville’s Black community.
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to Asheville’s Urban Design & Place Strategies Manager Stephanie Monson Dahl and ask her to consider expanding the calendar of community engagement events to include some at community centers in Black neighborhoods. Click here for an email template or see below for her email address and a sample email you can adapt and send her.
Asheville Housing and Community Development Meeting, November 15th, 2022: Update on upcoming CDBG and HOME funding cycle
About $1.3 million in CDBG/HOME funds (federal funds available for affordable housing, economic development, public service and more) remain unallocated. The application for funds will be published in December and due on February 3rd.
Historically, CDBG funding tends to go to white-owned companies and/or white-led nonprofits. We wonder what the plan is for soliciting proposals for this funding opportunity from Black-owned public service and development corporations.
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to Asheville’s Business Inclusion Coordinator Francia LaGuerre and ask her what plans she has for reaching out to Black-led companies around this funding. Click here for an email template or see below for her email address and a sample email you can adapt and send her.
CITY COUNCIL EMAIL TEMPLATE TEXT
You can open this email in your own email program by clicking here. To proceed manually, you can address it to them by using this email address: AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov
Subject: Why does APD want to hire PR firm infamous for spin?
Dear City Council Members,
At the most recent Public Safety Committee meeting, APD asked for $162,000 to hire the PR firm Cole Pro Media. This company is supposed to provide “transparency engagement,” but their track record indicates no real commitment to transparency. Instead, their advice to dozens of other cities has consistently been to hide and obscure the truth from the media and the public whenever there are police officer transgressions controversies. I appreciate your stated commitment to “reimagining public safety,” and approval of funds to hire this firm feels as though it is contradictory to that commitment. How will the City demonstrate a substantive drive for true accountability and transparency in policing?
PACK SQUARE EMAIL TEMPLATE TEXT
You can open this email in your own email program by clicking here. To proceed manually, you can address it to Urban Design & Place Strategies Manager Stephanie Monson Dahl: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: More engagement of the Black community around Pack Square visioning
Dear Ms. Dahl,
I appreciate your intent to engage community members in the Pack Square visioning process. This process was initiated with the removal of the Vance Monument, which happened because the City recognized that it was a source of harm to Asheville’s Black population. As a result, and in the interests of building relationship and repairing harm, I think it’s essential that the City get considerable input from Black community members about how Pack Square should be redesigned. I’m glad to see one event being held at PennyCup in the historic YMI building and I’d like to see events added to the calendar that more specifically target Black community members. What about holding an event at the Edington Center, or joining one of the regularly scheduled Black neighborhood community meetings? Please make including Black community members’ input a priority in this process.
CDBG EMAIL TEMPLATE TEXT
You can open this email in your own email program by clicking here. To proceed manually, you can address it to Business Inclusion Coordinator Francia LaGuerre: ABI@ashevillenc.gov
Subject: Engaging Black businesses around CDBG/HOME opportunities
Dear Ms. LaGuerre,
At the most recent Housing and Community Development Committee meeting, a plan for publicizing CDBG/HOME funding opportunities was discussed. I was wondering what plans your office had for ensuring that Black-owned public service and development corporations were made aware of these opportunities. What plans does your office have for ensuring that Black-owned public service and development corporations are made aware of these opportunities so that they may participate?