Government Accountability Project Asheville

The Buncombe County Commission meets this Thursday, March 7th, 2024 at 5 pm. (These meetings are typically on Tuesdays, but this one is happening later this week in order not to conflict with the Primary Election on Tuesday.) 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

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PROBLEMATIC

  • 1 Item

CONCERNS

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POSITIVE

  • 1 Item

EMAIL TEMPLATES

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

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Things that seem problematic

Buncombe County Commission – Public Hearing – Recovery Housing Program Grant – CDBG (Presentation, Citizen Participation Plan)

This is a proposal to use Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding from the federal government to provide housing for individuals in recovery from a substance use disorder. Included within the larger Recovery Housing Plan (RHP) is a Citizen Participation Plan that will “involve citizens in the planning, implementation, and assessment” of the program.

This program seeks to address two important and intersecting problems: addiction and homelessness. National data suggest that Black, Indigenous, and Latine folks are more likely to suffer from addiction, and local data documents that Black Buncombe County residents make up 24% of the people experiencing homelessness while only representing 6% of the population. Given that, we are troubled by the complete omission of any racial equity considerations in all the planning documents for this program. There is no indication that Buncombe County, or Land of Sky who will administer the program, have any intention of ensuring that these resources will be distributed in a racially equitable manner. We wonder:

  • Will there be any attempt to do targeted outreach to Black and Latine organizations and individuals so that they have an opportunity to qualify for this funding?
  • Will the “Citizen Participation Program,” which is supposed to ensure that the program is accountable to local residents, be specifically promoted in Black and Latine neighborhoods and community centers?

Given the well-known racial equity gaps that exist in the county, programs that don’t deliberately seek to remedy those gaps will inevitably continue to perpetuate them. Unless the planning around this program is amended with a racial equity lens, we fear that it will fail those who may need it the most.

Things to do

We encourage you to reach out to the Buncombe County Manager and Commissioners and ask them to amend the plans for the Recovery Health Plan so that it can specifically address issues of racial equity.

We have prepared an email template that addresses this issue. You can (a) use our Recovery Housing Plan 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, avril.pinder@buncombecounty.org.

GREEN:

Things that sound like a step in the right direction

Asheville City Council allocates $501,384 in grant funding to PEAK Academy

City Council voted unanimously to direct over $500,000 in funding to PEAK Academy, a local charter school that was opened in 2021. The funding represents the remainder of the American Rescue Plan Act dollars given to the City by the federal government.

PEAK Academy has made significant progress toward addressing long standing disparities in education between Black and white students. While only 13.8% of Black students in Asheville City Schools scored above grade-level proficiency in math (compared to 80.1% of white students), PEAK’s third-graders (80% of whom are Black) scored 72.2%. The school was facing a financial shortfall this year, brought on in large part by a big uptick in enrollment. (You can read more about PEAK and CIty Council’s action in this Citizen-Times article.)

We applaud this important step by the Asheville City Council. PEAK has made tremendous impact in a short time, and must be supported to continue to grow and thrive in their essential work. We hope the City will work with PEAK to identify and obtain a building that will enable them to serve even more students.

Things to do

We encourage you to reach out to the Asheville City Council and thank them for supporting PEAK Academy with this important funding.

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.

RECOVERY HOUSING PROGRAM 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 the addresses listed.

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, avril.pinder@buncombecounty.org.

Subject: Will the Recovery Housing Program be racially equitable?

Dear County Commissioners and County Manager Pinder,

Your agenda for this Thursday’s meeting includes a public hearing for the proposed Recovery Housing Program (RHP), which seeks to address two important problems: addiction and homelessness. I am concerned that none of the publicly shared documents about this program give any indication that its resources will be distributed in a racially equitable manner. What steps will Buncombe County take to ensure that the “Citizen Participation Program,” which is supposed to ensure that the program is accountable to local residents, will reach Black and Latine community members? I trust that you agree that this program should be administered with a robust racial equity lens, and I would ask that you instruct your staff to amend the program with that in mind.

Thanks for your leadership,

PEAK ACADEMY 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 the address listed.

Send to: AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov

Subject: Thank you for supporting PEAK Academy

Dear City Council Members,

I was very pleased to read that you had allocated the remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to the very worthy PEAK Academy. They have made such impressive progress toward eliminating the racial opportunity gap in such a short time. Thank you for stepping forward to give them the support they need and deserve. I hope you will also be open to helping them in their attempts to secure a permanent space so they can accommodate more students.

Thanks for your leadership,