Things that are top priority
Buncombe County Commission continues to ignore the request of the Community Reparations Commission
It’s been three weeks since the Community Reparations Commission formally asked both the City of Asheville and Buncombe County to commit to Reparations. This week, the City finally responded, increasing their Reparations allocation for this year by $135,000, for a total of $500,000. More significantly, they plan to use that figure as a baseline for future budgets. “In future fiscal years staff will plan on budgeting Reparations similar to how the current annual funding is handled for the Housing Trust Fund (also $500,000). Specifically, staff will include at least $500,000 for Reparations in future base budgets, subject to financial feasibility and eventual final budget approval by City Council.”
A response from the Buncombe County Commission is long overdue. We wonder if they will follow the example of the City and designate Reparations as an ongoing funding priority, with an annual goal that matches their planned allocation this year of $2 million.
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Buncombe County Commission and ask them to respond to the Community Reparations Commission’s request for a funding commitment. You can personalize and send the email template available at the Racial Justice Coalition website.
Things that seem problematic
City of Asheville contracts with “Minority & Women-Owned Business Enterprises”
This week’s City Council agenda outlines a series of eight proposed contracts in the Consent Agenda (Items D, E, F, G, H, I, J, and K, all linked here). In each case, “staff performed outreach to minority and women owned businesses,” but in all but one, the primary contracts went to companies owned by white men.
We are concerned that this trend continues, years after the City’s public commitment to hire more “minority and women-owned” firms. When the City first targeted this problem, the plan was to engage the Office of Business Inclusion whenever the City was finding it difficult to identify “minority and women-owned” businesses. It’s unclear to us whether this practice continues. We notice that in the City’s latest budget proposal, the Office of Business Inclusion continues to be staffed by a single person, which seems insufficient to really address these issues.
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Asheville City Council via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Ask them how they are supporting the important work of the Office of Business Inclusion, and why their budget only funds one person for that department.
Things of concern, more information needed
Buncombe County Homeowner Grant Program
This program, first introduced last year, offers $500 to qualifying homeowners, an attempt by Buncombe County to offset the increase in property taxes that it passed last year. This year, the County is proposing to restrict the program to those homeowners with less than $5000 of “liquid assets” – those that can be turned into cash within five days. (You can read more about the program and proposed revisions to it here.)
We are concerned about this revision to the conditions to the program, and have many questions about the $5000 limit. What is the reasoning for that amount? Has the County done any analysis as to how many residents would be excluded from the program with this constraint in place? What qualifies as a “liquid asset?” (For example, one could consider a car a liquid asset – it can be converted to cash in less than five days – so it would seem that this program would eliminate most homeowners that also own cars. Is that the intention?)
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Buncombe County Commission via their contact page. Ask them to clarify their thinking behind excluding homeowners with more than $5000 in liquid assets.
Asheville Governance Committee Meeting 6/14/22 at 1 pm
Patrick Conant from Code for Asheville will be presenting the Open Meetings Policy proposal to the committee. This proposal seeks to eliminate unnecessary barriers to public participation in government.
This proposal is an important step in the direction of a more equitable and inclusive City, and we encourage City Council to adopt it.