Government Accountability Project Asheville

GAP Report for 3/7/22

Mar 7, 2022

URGENT

  • 0 items

PROBLEMATIC

  • 0 items

CONCERNS

  • 2 items

POSITIVE

  • 1 items

The Asheville City Council meets this Tuesday (3/8/22) at 2:30 pm for an Open Space Standards Worksession, and then at 5 pm for their regular meeting. You can access the Powerpoint for the worksession here, and watch it remotely here. You can read the full City Council agenda here, and watch the regular meeting remotely here. You can also attend both meetings in person at the Banquet Hall at Harrah’s Cherokee Center, located at 87 Haywood Street in Asheville.

Here are the items that the GAP Strategy Team identified as relevant to racial justice this week.

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YELLOW:

Things of concern, more information needed

City Council Agenda – New Business B – Boards and Commissions – Reparations Commission

The Asheville City Council will announce the final list of members for the new Reparations Commission.

We made several recommendations for this Commission (which you can read about here), and are curious to see what choices City Council will make in setting up this very important and historic Commission.

Things to do

We encourage you to attend or tune into the City Council at 5 pm on Tuesday, March 8. You can watch the meeting remotely here or in person at the Banquet Hall at Harrah’s Cherokee Center, located at 87 Haywood Street in Asheville.

We will be following the Reparations Commission process closely, and will keep you informed on opportunities for advocacy as it unfolds.

Asheville Public Safety Commission Meeting (February 25, 2022) with presentation by Asheville Police Department Chief Zack

Chief Zack attempted to explain the racial disparities that exist in APD traffic stops, with Black people accounting for 29% of the stops despite representing only 11% of the population. “Asheville Police Department does not intentionally target a specific race or gender of people for traffic enforcement,” Zack said at the meeting.

We are concerned that Chief Zack is not taking into account the well-documented impact of implicit bias in his defense of the department. We are also concerned that the only analysis offered for these disparities is that performed by the APD itself, rather than by qualified analysts who can offer an independent perspective (this Citizen-Times article offers some of their views). At the same Public Safety meeting where Chief Zack presented the APD analysis of traffic stops, an independent – and very different – analysis of the City’s crime data related to homeless encampments was also presented. (Because it was not included in the regular agenda, it had to be squeezed into a three-minute public comment slot. You can read that presentation here, as well as a summary of its findings from the Asheville Free Press here.) It is essential that the Public Safety Committee hear these kinds of independent investigations. An independent analysis of APD’s traffic stop data would provide an invaluable counterpoint to the APD’s own internal analysis, and the Public Safety Committee should ask for one to be performed and presented.

Things to do

Contact the three City Council members who sit on the Public Safety Committee and ask them to request an independent analysis of the Asheville Police Department’s traffic stop data. You can email them separately – Vice Mayor Sheneika Smith, Councilmember Sandra Kilgore, and Councilmember Kim Roney – or click on this link to email all three of them together.

GREEN:

Things that sound like a step in the right direction

This was a rezoning request originally rejected by City Council at their February 22nd meeting. It has been revised as follows:

  • 10% (increased from 5%) of the housing units will be designated affordable to those earning at or below 80% AMI for at least twenty years from the date the CO is issued; and,
  • 9 (changed from 5) of the affordable units will accept housing choice vouchers, if they are available, and
  • The applicant has also proposed an additional project condition that the project will comply with any additional traffic mitigation requirements mandated by the N.C. Dept. of Transportation.

With some hesitancy, we support this project as a very small step in the direction of housing affordability in Asheville. We are concerned that many loopholes remain that could easily curtail the affordability concessions being offered. We’d also prefer to see the units have an affordable housing designation that doesn’t expire.

Things to do

Contact the Asheville City Council and ask them to approve this rezoning request, with the additional requirement that the affordable housing units not lose that status after 20 years.