Reach out to elected officials today to thank them for this important step
Update #4: This past Tuesday, the Buncombe County Commission voted to include an ongoing budget line item for Reparations in their yearly budget. The City of Asheville took a similar step last month.
Let’s take a moment to feel some appropriate pride and satisfaction for the part we played in securing $2.5 million for Reparations this year, with a commitment by the City of Asheville and Buncombe County for a baseline of $1 million each year going forward. It’s very possible that significantly less would have been allocated or promised if we hadn’t taken action together.
We also encourage you to reach out to City Council and County Commission members and thank them for taking this important step toward racial justice. There are more steps that will be needed – we’d like to see both bodies approve the request from the Reparations Commission for that yearly funding to be based on a fixed percentage of the budget, so it increases as the budget increases – but it’s important that we acknowledge these folks for the leadership they’ve taken to this point. Below is an email template you can personalize and send.
Subject: Thank you for committing to Reparations funding
Dear City Council and County Commission Members,
I’m writing to express appreciation for the steps you’ve taken this year to support the work of the Community Reparations Commission. It was important to include Reparations funding in this year’s budget, and also important to approve the Commission’s request for an ongoing funding commitment. I thank you for hearing and responding to the Commission members, and also to all the community members like myself who have been advocating for this important commitment.
Thank you for your important leadership on this issue,
Update # 3: The Buncombe County Commission will be discussing their future financial commitment to Reparations at their meeting this Tuesday, July 19th, at 5 pm. In a formal request shared with County leaders, the Community Reparations Commission has asked both the City of Asheville and Buncombe County to “include a line item in their budget for reparations for Black people in Buncombe County as a percentage of the overall budget in perpetuity.”
As of right now, the County has made no commitment. In passing their most recent budget, which included a one-time allocation of $2 million to Reparations, they said: “(The) Board of Commissioners (will) consider subsequent appropriations annually as appropriate as part of (the) annual budget cycle.” In other words, no ongoing commitment, no percentage of the budget into perpetuity.
The Community Reparations Commission has a monumental task: coming up with short, medium, and long-term recommendations for addressing centuries of harm and vast inequities. This task is made even more challenging without any indication of what kinds of funds will be available. Will it be a few million dollars every now and then? Will it be tens of millions or more? Without more clarity on what level of funding local governments are prepared to deliver, it will be very difficult to set realistic priorities.
We invite you to join us in speaking out on this issue. If you are able to, please come to 200 College Street at 5 pm on Tuesday, July 19th, to show support for this cause and (if you are willing) to make a public comment. If you aren’t able to come in person, we encourage you to email the County Commissioners – even if you have done so before – to let them know that you support the request from the Community Reparations Commission and urge Buncombe County to do the same. There is a template below you can adapt and use.
Update #2: Last week, Buncombe County Commission Chair Brownie Newman gave an update to the Citizen-Times on the County’s plans for funding Reparations into the future: “We plan to discuss the proposal around longer term investments at our next Commission meeting… My expectation is that the Commission will support a long-term commitment to invest in community reparations such as increasing minority homeownership and helping grow more minority owned businesses in Asheville and Buncombe County.”
It’s important that the other County Commissioners join Chairman Newman in this stance.
Update 1: The Community Reparations Commission unanimously passed their first motion on May 23rd and then confirmed it on June 6, requesting that both Asheville and Buncombe County allocate money to a Reparations Fund in their budgets this year, and declare the intention for this to continue in future budgets. The Asheville City Manager has responded to this request and will propose at the Tuesday, June 14th City Council meeting that the Reparations allocation for this year increase by $135,000, for a total of $500,000. In addition, she will suggest that the City plan to continue that level of funding with future budgets.
We think the City can afford more for Reparations (see below), but what’s even more urgent right now is for the Buncombe County Commission to make their future budgetary intentions known. Will they follow the example of the City and designate Reparations as an ongoing funding priority, perhaps with an annual goal that matches their planned allocation this year of $2 million?
The RJC did an analysis of the past ten years of City Council and Buncombe County budgets, and found that the City and County could have set aside $42 million during that time for Reparations, without pulling money from other priorities or draining their reserve funds. Going forward, assuming that both budgets grow at a similar pace, they could pledge $321 million to Reparations over the next 13 years, once again without having to sacrifice other programs or dropping below the required fund balance. These numbers are speculative and approximate, but the point is that both the City and County have money they could be setting aside for Reparations right now and into the future. Doing so would send a powerful message to both the Community Reparations Commission and the communities they serve: that Asheville and Buncombe County are serious about paying their Reparations debt.
For more information on the Community Reparations Commission, check out their webpage.