Things that seem problematic
Asheville Governance Committee (February 8, 2022)
The Committee heard an operational update from staff about some changes to the City’s accessibility to the public.
There were many positive things in the update, things that the City is currently doing (or planning to do) to improve its capacity to communicate with the public: resources for deaf, blind, and other disabled folks; consolidating written resources like agendas, etc.
However, we are troubled that Patrick Conant and the folks who have developed the Open Meetings Policy proposal were not allowed to make a presentation during the formal agenda (as opposed to having to squeeze into a 3-minute public comment slot). A lot of hard work has gone into developing this comprehensive and visionary approach to reimagining public participation in government, and it should get proper consideration. It was unclear what objection Mayor Esther Mannheimer and Councilwoman Gwen Wisler had to the proposed presentation being included in the formal agenda, and we would urge them to reconsider for the next scheduled meeting in March.
Things to do
Contact Mayor Esther Mannheimer (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Councilwoman Gwen Wisler (email@example.com) and encourage them to put the Open Meetings Policy proposal on the formal agenda for the March Governance Committee Meeting.
Sign the petition in support of the Open Meetings Policy.
Things of concern, more information needed
Asheville Boards and Commissions Committee (February 8, 2022)
The committee heard an update from Debra Clark-Jones (Reparations Program Manager) about the application process for the neighborhood representative and impact focus group representative positions. (You can also read about this process in this Citizen-Times article.) City Council will be interviewing candidates at 1:30 pm on Tuesday, February 15, 2022. You can watch the interviews here.
There are many strong candidates for these Commission seats, but we want to lift up several in particular that we strongly encourage City Council to select:
- There are two scholars among the list of applicants that we feel would be indispensable to the Commission’s work: Dr. Tamarie Macon, who has extensive expertise in public health research and who is studying the impact of local reparations here in Asheville; and Dr. Dwight Mullen, whose extensive knowledge and wisdom about racial inequity in this region is rightfully legendary.
- There are two community leaders who we also want to endorse: Ms. Tiffany Flunory-De’Bellott and Ms. Dewana Little. Ms. Flunory-De’Bellott is well-connected to many overlapping communities through her leadership at the Center for Participatory Change and Hood Huggers International, not to mention her participation in the GAP Strategy Team. She is very proximate to marginalized and disenfranchised community members and works to inspire connection and healing. Ms. Little is the Executive Director of the YMI Cultural Center, the central cultural hub for Asheville’s Black community. She worked hard throughout the summer of 2020 and beyond to educate community members about the need for reparations, especially within the education system, inspiring community activation.
Things to do
Contact the Asheville City Council (AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov) and encourage them to select Dr. Tamarie Macon, Dr. Dwight Mullen, Ms. Tiffany Flunory-DE’Bellott, and Ms. Dewana Little to the Reparations Commission.
Asheville City Schools may push for desegregation order to change or end
According to this article in the Mountain Xpress, the Asheville City School Board is considering asking a federal court to reconsider a decades-old desegregation order. From the article: “The most recent language, approved in 1991, says the minority enrollment rate at any individual school should not exceed or fall below the system’s overall minority enrollment rate by more than 15%… Speaking on Jan. 28, board member Shaunda Sandford… argued that such goals disproportionately impact Black students by restricting their freedom to attend the school of their choice.”
We would like to see more clarity from the School Board members and the Superintendent on this proposed course of action, so that the community can better understand their intentions and weigh in on the wisdom of this shift.
Things to do
Contact the Asheville City School Board and Superintendent and ask them to clarify their position on pushing for the desegregation order to change or end. Click here to start an email to all of the School Board members and the Superintendent.
- School Board (James Carter 828-301-2894, George Sieburg 828-279-7649, Shaunda Sanford 828- 273-9445, Peyton O’Conner 828-713-2083, Martha Geitner 828-279-1197). Here are all of their email addresses if you want to copy and paste into an email to all of them: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Superintendent Gene Freeman (email@example.com 828-350-6145)
Follow Up: County Policy on the Houseless Crisis
Two weeks ago we expressed the concern that the County didn’t appear to be collaborating with the City of Asheville or to have a clear comprehensive plan for addressing houselessness as a public health crisis. We still haven’t seen any evidence of these things.
Things to do
Contact the Buncombe County Commissioners and ask them how they plan to collaborate with the City of Asheville in developing a comprehensive plan for addressing houselessness.