Use our prepared email template to take action on this week’s items.
Things that seem problematic
Asheville City Council Agenda – Consent J. Resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a contract with Cole Pro Media LLC. for police transparency engagement advising services
As we reported to you a few weeks ago, 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 problematic behavior, as detailed in this article that reviews their work with dozens of municipalities and this recent article in the Asheville Citizen-Times. 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
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Asheville City Council and ask them to remove this item from the consent agenda and discuss it in their meeting. Hiring a company with this track record seems to completely contradict the City’s commitment to “Reimagining Public Safety.” You can use our template link to open up an email to adapt, copy and paste the content below, or write your own message to AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.
Asheville City Council Agenda – Public Hearing C. Public hearing to consider amending the conditional zoning ordinance (Ordinance No. 4625) for property located at 175 Lyman Street from Mixed-Use Expansion/Conditional Zone to Commercial Expansion/ Conditional Zone.
This is a rezoning request for a project in the River Arts District. According to the staff report, “The project consists of a new six-story mixed-use building with a total of 263 residential units and approximately 4,500 square feet of retail and artist studio space. 13 units (five percent) will be affordable at 80% Area Median Income (AMI) for a minimum of 10 years.”
We have raised concerns about so-called affordable housing initiatives in the past that either don’t offer sufficient affordability or only offer them for a limited time. This proposal represents a new low in both categories. Only offering 5% of available units at 80% Area Median Income is deeply insufficient; having even that meager offering sunset after just ten years makes this proposal untenable.
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Asheville City Council and ask them to push back on this proposal, encouraging the developer to return with an offering that includes more affordable units that are truly affordable and with no sunset provision. You can use our template link to open up an email to adapt, copy and paste the content below, or write your own message to AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.
Things of concern, more information needed
Asheville City Council Agenda – Consent Q. Motion adopting assignment of City Council board and commission members/liaisons for 2023-24
The Mayor is proposing which City Council Members will chair various Committees in 2023.
We share the concern raised by the Racial Justice Coalition, which reports that the reason that Council Member Kim Roney is not being appointed to the new Environment and Safety Committee is that the Command Staff of the Asheville Police Department is pushing for that. If that’s true, it’s a dangerous precedent. However, we have heard some differing accounts on what the factors are that are driving this decision. For that reason, we are encouraging folks to ask questions about this assignment, rather than advocating against it at this time.
Things to do
We encourage you to look at the stance taken on this issue by the Racial Justice Coalition (which sponsors and supports our work.) You can see their call to action here.
We encourage you to reach out to the Asheville City Council and ask them to discuss this issue at their December 13th meeting, explaining in a public forum what the reasons are for this committee assignment. You can email them at AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov.
Things that sound like a step in the right direction
Community Reparations Commission Meeting December 5th, 2022 – Unanimous passage of Immediate Recommendation “Stop the Harm.”
The Community Reparations Commission has asked the City of Asheville and Buncombe County to formally commit to stop harming Black people in this region. You can read their draft “Recommendation for Immediate Action” here. (They made several small revisions at their meeting on December 5th, 2022, including asking for a timeline for the completion of the audit.)
We salute the Commission for passing this important recommendation, and encourage both the City and County to respond swiftly. You can read more about the recommendation at the Racial Justice Coalition website.
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Asheville City Council and Buncombe County Commission and encourage them to respond to this request from the Reparations Commission. You can use the template offered at the Racial Justice Coalition website.
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 City Council.
Subject: Why does the APD need to hire this notorious PR firm?
Dear City Council Members,
I’m concerned about several items on your agenda for this week. The first is a request from the Asheville Police Department for $162,000 to hire a PR firm called Cole Pro Media. This company has worked with dozens of other cities, encouraging them to hide and obscure the truth from the media and the public whenever there are police officer transgressions. How does this square with your commitment to “reimagine public safety” here in Asheville?
I’m also troubled by the zoning request for a proposed real estate development in the River Arts District. The developers are only offering 5% of the projected units as “affordable,” and only minimally so. Even those units would no longer have to be “affordable” after ten years. How does this project make Asheville more affordable, another City goal?
Thanks for your leadership,