Use our prepared email templates to take action on this week’s items.
Things that seem problematic
Back in June, the Tourism Development Authority (TDA) made a presentation to the Buncombe County Commission. (The TDA is the public authority that oversees the collection and investment of lodging taxes paid by visitors to the region.) In the presentation, Vic Isley, the organization’s President and CEO, emphasized the favorable opinion that most Buncombe County residents have about tourism’s impact on the community, with 84% of recent poll respondents claiming that “tourism is beneficial to my community.” She also declared that a major priority for the TDA was to “extend a genuine invitation to Black travelers and other diverse audiences including LGBTQ visitors – connecting them with local neighborhoods, businesses and entrepreneurs – creating more opportunities for all to win.”
This report, while seeming favorable toward tourism for our region, neglected to provide the community with information on whether that favorable opinion was shared by Black and white residents alike. The survey included a racial identity question (7% of respondents identified as Black). However, when the GAP asked for more details, the TDA’s President and CEO Vic Isley reported that the TDA did not contract with the research firm doing the survey to conduct an analysis of differences based on race with these data (or for the TDA to even receive these data in their raw form).
If the TDA is sincere in its mission to support Black tourism and simultaneously support local Black residents and entrepreneurs, we wonder why they aren’t more interested in learning how those folks feel about local tourism and its impact on their communities. Are they concerned that the data would show that many Black community members don’t feel very positively about tourism? Might the data show that Black business owners feel that the TDA isn’t doing enough to support the local Black economy, despite public statements that they are “creating more opportunities for all to win?” The company they hired has the data about how Black people feel about tourism; the GAP Strategy Team has even offered to provide the analysis. for them. The TDA just has to ask for this data.
Things to do
Please email the President and CEO of the Tourism Development Authority Vic Isley and ask her to request all of the data collected by MMGY Travel Intelligence, so that an analysis can be done of how different racial groups feel about the impact of tourism on their communities.
You can (a) use our TDA template to open up an email you can adapt, (b) copy and paste the content below this chart into an email, or (c) write your own message to visley@ExploreAsheville.com.
Things of concern, more information needed
From the description: “Downpayment Assistance is a loan that helps qualified borrowers fund a downpayment for purchasing a home. Loans are fully deferred with no required monthly payments. Loans are repaid once the home sells or is refinanced. At present, Buncombe County holds $1,150,751 in DPA loans (in the form of notes and deeds of trust). This request seeks to transfer $300,000 of County DPA loans to MHO.”
This seems like a promising program. In looking through the presentation materials, we don’t see any data on who has historically benefitted from the assistance provided. These loans hold the potential to address the vast racial equity gaps that exist for homeownership in our region, by ensuring a sizable percentage of the funds be allotted to Black and Brown people. Has that been the case? It seems important to know how this funding is being used to enact racial equity before deciding how it is next allocated. We’re sure the County has this data, and hope they will readily share it.
Things to do
Please email the Buncombe County Commission and the presenters from the Planning Department, Matt Card and Matthew Cable, and ask them to share racial demographic data for the Down Payment Assistance program.
You can (a) use our Down Payment Assistance template to open up an email you can adapt, (b) copy and paste the content below this chart into an email, or (c) write your own message to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com
Updates on previous items
Update: Asheville and Buncombe County hire Carter Development Group to perform Stop the Harm Audit
Earlier this year, the Community Reparations Commission passed an immediate recommendation called Stop the Harm, which was focused on identifying and addressing ongoing damage being done to Black people in our region. This recommendation was accepted by both the City of Asheville (see January 23, 2023 GAP Report) and Buncombe County (see February 6, 2023 GAP Report). One key component of the recommendation was: “An official Audit must be completed by the City and County of where Asheville and Buncombe County are in compliance and out of compliance with federal and state laws, regulatory bodies, Codes of Conduct, Court Orders and Consent Decrees.”
Last week, it was announced that the firm hired by the City and County to perform this audit was the Florida-based company Carter Development Group. You can read more about this company here.
Things to do
There is no action we’re recommending at this time, but we will alert you if an opportunity arises.
TDA 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. Please consider making edits that reflect your personal interests and concerns on this issue.
Send to: visley@ExploreAsheville.com
Subject: How do Black residents feel about tourism?
Dear Ms. Isley,
I read about your presentation to the Buncombe County Commission on June 20th, in which you reported on a survey performed by MMGY Travel Intelligence on local attitudes toward tourism. This company collected and shared the racial identity of participants, but did not analyze how the various answers varied across racial lines, and did not share all of their data with you.
I understand that a racial analysis and sharing all the data were not included in the original scope of work. I’m writing to ask you to request all of the data from this company, so that you can share it, and an analysis can be done of how different racial demographics feel about tourism. I’m interested in learning more about how Black residents feel about tourism’s role in their community, and I hope you are, too.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request,
DOWN PAYMENT ASSISTANCE 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. Please consider making edits that reflect your personal interests and concerns on this issue.
Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Racial demographic data for Down Payment Assistance
Dear County Commissioners, Mr. Card, and Mr. Cable,
I read about the proposal to allocate $300,000 to Mountain Housing Opportunities for Down Payment Assistance. In the accompanying documents, there is no analysis of how this program has historically served Black and Brown people. These loans seem to hold the potential to address the vast racial equity gaps that exist for homeownership in our region, by ensuring a sizable percentage of the funds be allotted to Black and Brown people for down payment assistance. Has that been the case? It seems important to know how this funding is being used to enact racial equity before deciding how it is next allocated. Can you please share racial demographic information at the County Commission meeting, so that it can be taken into account in considering this new allocation to the program?
Thanks for your leadership,