Government Accountability Project Asheville

The Community Reparations Commission will hold their next meeting TONIGHT, Monday, June 12th from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. The meeting is being held at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Banquet Hall at 87 Haywood Street in Asheville. The public is welcome to attend the entire session. Meeting materials are available here. The meeting will be recorded and streamed here.

The Asheville City Council meets this Tuesday 6/13/23 at 2 pm for a Retreat Follow-Up Worksession and then at 5 pm for their formal meeting. You can attend both meetings on the 2nd Floor of City Hall, 70 Court Plaza in downtown Asheville. You can watch the worksession online at this link. You can watch the formal meeting online at this link. The full agenda for the formal meeting is here.


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Updates on previous items

Another Followup: Community Responder Pilot Program

We’ve been tracking this issue since April (see GAP Reports from 4/3/23, 4/10/23, 5/8/23, 5/15/23, and 5/22/23). Originally, we raised questions about the Community Responder program based on a presentation by Asheville Fire Department Assistant Chief Captain Patrick Crudup at an Environment and Public Safety meeting. The stated goal of the program is “to focus collective efforts to assist persons that are unsheltered and/or experiencing addiction or experiencing behavioral health issues.” We asked whether the folks being placed in these new positions were going to receive any racial equity training, and if so, how that training would be implemented.

In the weeks that followed, we learned that the Community Responders received the same racial equity training that all City of Asheville employees receive. We wondered whether they received any more specialized training, and more broadly what structures had been set up to support them around issues of race.

Since then, we’ve followed up with Public Records Officer Allison Byers, Equity and Inclusion Director Brenda Mills, and Assistant Fire Chief Patrick Crudup on this question of more specialized racial equity training and support for Community Responders. The short answer is that it appears no such training has been offered or is being developed.

We continue to think that it’s important that Community Responders receive specialized training and support around issues of race. Their work as first responders would seem to put them in very unique circumstances as they interface with community members of color who are navigating addiction and/or homelessness. Implicit biases are likely to color these interactions, which could lead to escalating situations that might harm the populations this program is seeking to support.

We will be reaching out to City Manager Debra Campbell to find out if she agrees with us, and if so, how she plans to address this need. Assistant Chief Patrick Crudup has also requested a meeting with the GAP Strategy Team, and we are looking for dates to sit down with him.

Things to do

We are not recommending that community members take action on this item at this time. We’re still gathering information and will report back soon on what action is needed.