Government Accountability Project Asheville

The Buncombe County Commission meets this Tuesday, August 15th, 2023 at 5 pm, at 200 College Street, Room 326 in downtown Asheville. You can watch the meeting online (or a recording of it) via Buncombe County’s Facebook page. The full agenda is here.

The Community Reparations Commission will hold their next meeting Monday, August 21st from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. The meeting will be held at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Banquet Hall at 87 Haywood Street in Asheville. The public is welcome to attend. Meeting materials will be available here. The meeting will be recorded and streamed here.


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Use our prepared email template to take action on this week’s item.



Things that seem problematic

“Both/And Solutions for Public Safety Are Growing,” Open Letter from Five Members of the Asheville City Council

This letter was publicly shared on Thursday, August 10th, and was signed by Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, Vice Mayor Sandra Kilgore, and City Council Members Maggie Ullman, Sage Turner, and Sheneika E. Smith. It describes the various strategies that City Council is employing to address public safety concerns. These include hiring more police officers, facilitating more affordable housing, expanding healthcare access, and several “new approaches,” such as the Downtown Safety Initiative and Community Responder Program. The letter claims that the City is engaging in “a comprehensive and multifaceted approach” to public safety that will address the “root causes of human actions that put safety at risk and beget criminal activity.” You can read the full text of the letter here, as well as news reports on it from Yahoo news and WLOS.

We’re disturbed that the authors of this letter, while claiming to be “comprehensive” and to address “root causes,” chose to completely ignore the intersection of public safety with issues of race and racism. There are well-documented and deep racial inequities in how this City is policed, who is able to afford housing, and who has access to health care, but there is no reference to these issues in the letter, and therefore no mention of any strategy for addressing them. We would suggest that the effects of these strategies won’t be felt universally without recognizing and addressing how each is tied to systemic racism. We wonder (a) why these members of City Council chose to leave this important element of public safety out of their letter and (b) what thoughts they might share now about how a racial equity lens will be used in the strategies they describe.

Things to do

Please email the authors of the “open letter” and ask them why they chose not to address the intersection of racism and racial inequities with the public safety, housing, and health challenges described in their letter.

You can (a) use our Open Letter Response 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,,,, and


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:,,,, and

Subject: Your open letter doesn’t address racial inequities

Dear City Council Members

I’m writing in response to the open letter that you shared with the community last week, in which you summarized the City’s strategies for addressing challenges in public safety, housing, and health. I wonder why you chose not to address the well-documented racial inequities that exist in the City when it comes to all of these issues. It feels critical to me that any approach to improving community safety should involve improving racial equity in access and opportunity in these areas. Without that, it seems as though the “root causes” for criminal activity and community risk won’t really be addressed for all residents of our region.

Can you share how you are factoring in issues of race and racism in your approach to hiring new police officers, creating more affordable housing, expanding healthcare access, and implementing “new approaches” to public safety like the Downtown Safety Initiative and Community Responder Program?

Thank you for your leadership,