The Asheville City Council meets this Tuesday (2/8/22) at 5 pm. Here is the full agenda.
Here are the items that the GAP Strategy Team identified as relevant to racial justice this week.
Things of concern, more information needed
City Council Meeting Consent Agenda E – Changes to Fiscal Year 2022-2023 Budget Calendar
The City is proposing some shifts in the budget calendar:
- Canceling a previously planned Council Budget Work Session on March 8 and scheduling an additional Work Session on April 26.
- Presenting the City Manager’s Proposed Budget to City Council on May 24.
- Holding a Public Hearing on the Proposed Budget on June 14.
- Adopting the FY23 budget on June 28.
We want to make sure that folks know about these shifts in the schedule, especially the Council Work Sessions, since it is so important that we advocate for community needs while the budget is being drafted.
Things to do
Follow the link to the revised schedule and look at the dates listed on page 2. Plan to attend as many of these budget-related meetings as you are able to. We will notify you as more information becomes available.
City Council Meeting City Manager Report – Neighborhood Grant Program
The Neighborhood Grant Program is a grant-matching process, which is already underway, to support neighborhood-based organizations in funding improvement projects.
We are concerned that this presentation doesn’t reference any kind of racial equity lens in the administration of this program. We wonder whether one has been applied or if there is any collaboration between the Community and Public Engagement (CAPE) department that is overseeing this program and the Office of Equity and Inclusion (OEI). In previous years, OEI ran a similar project, the Racial Healing Mini Grant program, which we are disappointed that the City decided to discontinue. The Racial Healing Mini Grant program had a very explicit racial equity lens, and we would encourage this new program to adopt some of those same parameters.
Things to do
Reach out to Brenda Mills, Director of Equity and Inclusion (firstname.lastname@example.org, 828-232-4517) and Dawa Hitch, Asheville’s Director of Communication & Public Engagement (email@example.com, 828-259-5981). Ask them if they are collaborating on this program, and if they aren’t, encourage them to do so. Ask them how they plan to apply a racial equity lens in deciding who to offer these grants to.
Things that sound like a step in the right direction
American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) Work sessions
Council and City staff met this past Tuesday and Wednesday to hear presentations from 24 community groups petitioning the city for funds from the ARPA, also known as the COVID-19 stimulus bill. The process for distributing the significant remaining funds (about $10 million) is outlined here. The meeting was covered in the press here.
While not included in the list of proposals that went through the process described above, Councilwoman Antanette Mosley and Vice Mayor Sheneika Smith are advocating for ARPA funds to be used for a track at McCormick Field, in the East End/Valley Street Community. This initiative is covered in the press here.
We appreciate the leadership of Councilwoman Mosley and Vice Mayor Smith on this issue, lifting up the racial equity aspects of this situation, and urging the City to honor promises made to this community.
Things to do
Reach out to Councilwoman Mosley (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Vice Mayor Sheneika Smith (email@example.com) and thank them for their leadership. Reach out to other members of City Council (AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov), especially Councilwomen Kilgore (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Roney (email@example.com), and urge them to support this use of ARPA funds.
Follow Up: County Commission Meeting (2/1/22) – New Business: Budget Amendment for Additional Funding for Low-Income Energy Assistance
Last week, we expressed the concern that there was no demographic data for this program, and so no way to evaluate whether it was being handled in a racially equitable manner. We have since learned that racial demographic data was collected and reported on at a Buncombe County Department of Health and Human Services Board Meeting in June of last year. According to this report, 19% of the 8300 households that were approved for assistance at that time were Black households. 41% of eligible Black households that applied were approved (in contrast to 14% of eligible white households).
We appreciate that the County is collecting this data, and that it appears to show that the program is being administered in a racially equitable manner.
Things to do
Contact Avril Pinder, the Buncombe County Manager (call her at 828-250-4100 or use this contact form) and thank her for collecting racial demographic data, so that it is possible to analyze who is (and isn’t) receiving this benefit. Ask her if there is data on the program for the second half of 2021 that her office could publicly share.