Opportunities for Racial Justice on the June 15, 2021 Buncombe County Commission agenda

The Buncombe County Commission meets this Tuesday, June 15, at 5 pm. They’ll be discussing a range of things. (You can review the full agenda here.) We encourage you to reach out to them to discuss several items before the meeting or to make a public comment at the meeting. 

Click here for an email template that highlights the budget priorities as we have analyzed them.

(If you have issues with the link above, scroll down the page for the email template that you can copy and paste)

We invite you to personalize this and add any particular questions or proposed solutions that you feel are important for the County Commission to consider. You can also use these points to communicate with them over the phone. Scroll down for a full breakdown of each of these budget elements.

To call county officials:

  • County Commission Chairperson Brownie Newman – (828) 243-0107
  • County Commission Vice-Chair Al Whitesides – (828) 250-4006
  • County Commissioner Jasmine Beach Ferrara – (828) 250-4004
  • County Commissioner Amanda Edwards – (828) 250-4005
  • County Commissioner Robert Pressley – (828) 215-2077
  • County Commissioner Parker Sloan – (828) 250-4007
  • County Commissioner Terri Wells – (828) 250-4008

To make a public comment: this meeting will take place at 200 College Street, Room 326, and attendees will be able to make public comments live at the meeting.

More information on some of these issues:

On the Racial Equity Action Plan (REAP): The Equity and Inclusion Workgroup has put in considerable time putting this plan together over the past sixteen months, and the time and energy spent, and the information they’ve collected, make this a commendable effort. (You can read the full report here.) We have some concern that the plan is lengthy and covers many areas of implementation that are mostly conceptual in their language. We wonder what the accountability mechanisms will be to ensure that this plan is implemented and lives up to the goals that are named. On balance, however, this feels like a legitimate step forward.

On Community Paramedicine: The County will be voting on funding for a community paramedicine program, which is a small but meaningful step toward developing alternatives to policing. It enables community paramedics to intervene when there are substance use or overdose issues, rather than law enforcement. You can read more about the program on the County website here.

On the Property Tax Hike: The current draft budget calls for a $9.6 million hike in property taxes.This comes on top of huge spikes in home appraisals in the past year and there is ample evidence that these appraisals were deeply inequitable. If the County insists on moving forward with this property tax hike, then it must take steps to ensure that it is an equitable one. The $300,000 being set aside to fund a property owner tax relief program is very likely not enough; we recommend twice that amount. A tax relief program that can actually move us toward equity must be available to a wide range of people, be easy to apply for, and take into account how renters and homeowners with low incomes will be affected. How will this program ensure that a tax hike won’t be devastating for many Black people in the county, and for all people who have limited means?

Property taxes are notoriously inequitable. As the New York Times put it in a recent analysis, “flat-rate property taxation is a sham… wealthy homeowners get a big tax break, while less affluent homeowners are paying a higher price for the same public services.” A recent analysis by the Citizen-Times of property tax appraisals here in Asheville reflects this: It found that property appraisals went up the most in historically Black Southside, and went up the least in far more affluent Biltmore Forest. This means that Southside residents are already facing a huge increase in their tax bill – and now the City is proposing to raise that bill even higher. (You can read more of the history of redlining here in Asheville here.)

Email Template

To: brownie.newman@buncombecounty.org, alfred.whitesides@buncombecounty.org, jasmine.beach-ferrara@buncombecounty.org, amanda.edwards@buncombecounty.org, robert.pressley@buncombecounty.org, parker.sloan@buncombecounty.org, terri.wells@buncombecounty.org, avril.pinder@buncombecounty.org

Dear County Commissioners,

I’m writing to you today in reference to several items on your June 15 agenda: 

  • I appreciate all the work that’s gone into the Racial Equity Action Plan. I’d like to know what the accountability plan will be to make sure the implementation of this vision matches the goals that are named. 
  • I appreciate the funding for the Community Paramedicine program. This seems like an important step toward addressing substance use issues as public health challenges rather than law enforcement ones. 
  • I am concerned that a tax hike will disproportionately harm Black people and people with lower incomes. It is an important step that the Commissioners have set aside $300,000 for a homeowner assistance program, and that you are planning to include information about this program in the same envelope as the tax bill. I urge you to double that allocation to $600,000, and to look for ways to further streamline participation, perhaps even making it automatic for many homeowners.