Use our prepared email template to take action on this week’s item.
Things of concern, more information needed
Asheville City Council Agenda: New Business A. Public comment on Fiscal Year 2024 budget priorities. (presentation)
The City is collecting feedback via a survey that is available through Friday, March 3rd, and also inviting public comment at this Council meeting. In the survey, they ask folks to prioritize and comment on a series of potential budget areas.
We’re glad to see City Council asking for input into their budget priorities. We are concerned, however, about gaps in their process for public engagement that could have significant racial equity implications. The survey will be open for less than a week, which leaves very little time for it to reach anyone other than the well-connected. Similarly, the invitation to make a public comment on this issue went out just a few days before the meeting, leaving almost no time for those without the luxury of a flexible time schedule to be able to attend a meeting with a 4 pm start-time. We would suggest that the window for sending input on the budget be widened, allowing more time for responses, and more ways for community members to respond. For example, paper versions of the survey could be printed and collected from those without easy Internet access. Copies of the survey could be distributed to community centers in historically Black neighborhoods. The City’s Communication and Public Engagement (CAPE) Department and the Office for Equity and Inclusion could collaborate on a plan for ensuring that input was gathered from communities of color.
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Asheville City Council and ask them to expand their public engagement process to ensure that they receive input from communities of color.
We have prepared an email template that addresses this issue. You can (a) use our 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.
We also encourage you to fill out the City’s survey, which only takes a few minutes to complete.
CITY COUNCIL 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, Communications and Public Engagement Director Dawa Hitch, and Office of Equity and Inclusion Director Brenda Mills (email addresses below).
Send to: AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Subject: A Plan for More Equitable Budget Input
Dear City Council Members, Communications and Public Engagement Director Hitch, and Office of Equity and Inclusion Director Mills,
I was pleased to see that you are encouraging public input to your budget process. However, I’m concerned that the process you’ve announced will lead to disproportionate engagement from those with the greatest time and work flexibility,and leave out crucial input from community members of color. Will you consider extending the deadline of your online survey, so that there is time for more people to participate? Will you consider printing paper versions of the survey so that those without easy internet access can participate? Will you consider distributing the survey to community centers in historically Black neighborhoods? Finally, will the City’s Communication and Public Engagement (CAPE) Department and the Office for Equity and Inclusion collaborate on a plan for ensuring that input is gathered from communities of color?
Thanks for your leadership,