Things that are top priority
Buncombe County Commission to decide on ongoing funding of Reparations
In late June, Buncombe County Commission Chair Brownie Newman announced that long-term funding for Reparations would be on the agenda for the July 19th meeting.
This is the most important racial justice issue right now in our region. The Community Reparations Commission has taken on the massive task of coming up with a plan for addressing centuries of harm that have been inflicted on Black people in this region. Having some idea of the scope of the financial resources local governments will provide going forward will help them determine what programs and solutions are possible. Their formal request, approved unanimously in May, was straightforward: Would the City and County commit to funding reparations beyond this year? The City said yes. It’s time for the County to answer that question.
Things to do
We encourage you to reach out to the Buncombe County Commission and ask them to support the Community Reparations Commission’s request for a funding commitment at their July 19th meeting. You can personalize and send the email template available at the Racial Justice Coalition website. We also encourage you to attend the County Commission meeting on July 19th and make a public comment.
Things of concern, more information needed
County Commission to hear report-back from ad-hoc Reappraisal Committee
This committee was formed last year for the purpose of investigating evidence of serious inequities in the county’s property tax appraisal process, leading to disproportionately higher property taxes (from both City and County) for lower-income homeowners (and especially Black homeowners).
The committee was convened and led by County staff, who consistently focused the spotlight on the few metrics that did not show clear inequity, and away from all the places that showed a lot. As a result, the committee’s final report is very tepid, with a primary focus on educating homeowners so they can better appeal their tax appraisal. The Appraiser’s office is taking no real accountability for the fact that their approach is skewed and inequitable.
Things to do
This process deeply underscores the importance of the Community Reparations Commission, and is yet another argument for why they need a funding commitment from the County. Black homeowners have likely been paying disproportionate taxes for decades, and that injustice continues to this day. Without a well-supported Reparations Commission and process, injustices like this are likely to continue. We encourage you to reach out to Buncombe County Commissioners and ask them to support the request from the Reparations Commission, as described in the first item above.
Asheville Police Department begins “Light’s On!” program
With this new program (described in this Citizen Times article), some motorists pulled over for lighting defects, like broken tail lights, would get a voucher to get the light replaced rather than a ticket.
We don’t know what kind of impact this program will have on the wide gap in traffic stops between white and Black motorists. Collecting and sharing data on the racial demographics of “Lights On!” beneficiaries will be crucial to evaluating whether it is being administered in an equitable manner.
Things to do
Once again, this highlights the importance of the Community Reparations Commission, and is yet another argument for why they need a funding commitment from the County. Programs such as these, which purport to shift the dynamics between the police and community, need to be scrutinized to succeed. One of the five issue areas that the Community Reparations Commission will address is the criminal justice system. We encourage you to reach out to Buncombe County Commissioners and ask them to support the request from the Reparations Commission, as described in the first item above.
Things that sound like a step in the right direction
Asheville steps back from initial plan to “restructure” Boards and Commissions
City staff had initially proposed to “consolidate the city’s various boards and commissions — including the Affordable Housing Advisory Board Committee, Urban Forestry Commission, African American Heritage Commission and more than a dozen others” back in February. After receiving lots of negative feedback, the City will now “slow down and… do a deeper assessment.” (You can read more about this issue in this Citizen Times article).
We are gratified that so many GAP subscribers joined community members and leaders in calling for the City to slow down its restructuring process, and that this effort has resulted in just that.
Things to do
Our success in impacting this issue points to the power of community advocacy. When enough of us make our voices heard, those in positions of influence inside the City and County governments must take heed. Once again, we encourage you to reach out to Buncombe County Commissioners and ask them to support the request from the Reparations Commission, as described in the first item above.