Government Accountability Project Asheville

The Community Reparations Commission meets TONIGHT, Monday, March 18th from 6 pm to 8:00 pm. The meeting will be held at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Banquet Hall at 87 Haywood Street in Asheville. The public is welcome to attend. Meeting materials are available here. You can watch the meeting live (or a recording of it later) online here.

The Buncombe County Commission meets this Thursday, March 19th, 2024 at 5 pm. You can attend the meeting at 200 College Street, Room 326 in downtown Asheville. You can watch the meeting online via Buncombe County’s Facebook page. The full agenda is here.

URGENT

  • 0 Items

PROBLEMATIC

  • 0 Items

CONCERNS

  • 1 Item

POSITIVE

  • 1 Item

EMAIL TEMPLATES

Use our prepared email templates to take action on this week’s items.

s

YELLOW:

Things of concern, more information needed

Buncombe County Commission Agenda – New Business: Employee Policy Update (Overview Document, Supplemental Pay Policy)

The County is considering a range of policy amendments, including clearer guidance on overtime and leave policies. They are also creating a revised Supplemental Pay Policy that adds a bilingual stipend, which would add extra compensation to County employees who are fluent in languages other than English and who use that skill in the course of their work.

We are in favor of compensating County employees appropriately who utilize their bilingual skills to better communicate with folks in languages other than English. However, we have a few questions and concerns about how this policy fits into the larger landscape of language access in the County, and with the possibility of unintended consequences.

The new policy document states: “The stipend is not intended to add or change duties and responsibilities as stated in an employee’s job description, instead it is to compensate individuals for completing the level of work of their position or class in more than one language. However, employees receiving the Bilingual Stipend may be asked to use their language skills in case of emergency outside of their regular work assignment.”

We wonder what constitutes an “emergency” in this context. For example, does the County foresee scenarios where bilingual staff are called upon to fill in when a trained and credentialed interpreter is unavailable. What other “emergency” situations are anticipated? More broadly, we wonder what safeguards the County will put in place to ensure that these “emergency” scenarios don’t become the new normal, with bilingual staff overextended with work outside their job description.

Things to do

We encourage you to reach out to the Buncombe County Commissioners and encourage them to ask their staff how they plan to safeguard bilingual staff from being inadvertently pulled into extra work that’s outside their job description.

We have prepared an email template that addresses this issue. You can (a) use our County Commission template to open up an email to adapt, (b) copy and paste the content below, or (c) write your own message to: brownie.newman@buncombecounty.org, jasmine.beach-ferrara@buncombecounty.org, alfred.whitesides@buncombecounty.org, amanda.edwards@buncombecounty.org, terri.wells@buncombecounty.org, martin.moore@buncombecounty.org, parker.sloan@buncombecounty.org.

GREEN:

Things that sound like a step in the right direction

Asheville City Council restarts Boosting the Block Facilitator selection process

This relates to our lead item from last week, which you can read about in more depth here. City staff were recommending that a Durham-based firm be hired to fulfill the Community Facilitator role for a grant-funded project called Boosting the Block. After hearing concerns from stakeholders on The Block, Asheville’s original Black business district, CIty Council directed their staff to develop a new process for selecting a Community Facilitator.

In lifting up this matter last week, we encouraged City Council to dig into this matter more deeply, in order to better understand the challenges in the original selection process and identify the best path forward. That’s what they did, and we think they deserve some recognition for it.

Things to do

Write to the Asheville City Council to thank them for identifying a way forward that better incorporates the concerns of the Block community.

We have prepared an email template that you can use to contact the Asheville City Council. You can (a) use this 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.

COUNTY COMMISSION 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 send it to the addresses listed. Please consider making edits that reflect your personal interests and concerns on this issue.

Send to: brownie.newman@buncombecounty.org, jasmine.beach-ferrara@buncombecounty.org, alfred.whitesides@buncombecounty.org, amanda.edwards@buncombecounty.org, terri.wells@buncombecounty.org, martin.moore@buncombecounty.org, parker.sloan@buncombecounty.org

Subject: Ensuring that bilingual staff aren’t overextended

Dear County Commissioners,

I read that you will be considering several changes to your employee policies, including the creation of a bilingual stipend for staff members who can communicate in languages other than English. This sounds like a positive development. My only concern is that bilingual staff might find themselves pulled into additional work beyond their current job descriptions. What safeguards will you instruct staff to put in place to ensure that bilingual staff don’t end up doing work that should be done by trained interpreters?

Thanks for your leadership,

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 send it to the addresses listed. Please consider making edits that reflect your personal interests and concerns on this issue.

Send to: AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov

Subject: Thank you for listening to the Block community

Dear City Council Members,

I appreciate your efforts last week to prioritize the needs and preferences of The Block community in considering the next steps in moving the Boosting the Block project forward. I’m sure that your decision to pull the Community Facilitator contract from consideration was not easily arrived at, as it will introduce some new challenges for all involved. Because of your actions, I am hopeful that the stakeholders on The Block will get the kind of representation and support that we can all agree they are entitled to.

Thanks for your leadership,