The City Council agenda for December 8th has a number of items on it that RJC members can comment on. Our breakdown is below. To make a public comment, you need to sign up by Tuesday, December 8th at 9 a.m. and know which section of the agenda you are commenting on.
- To make a live public comment during the meeting you can sign up at ashevillenc.gov/comments or by calling the Clerk’s office at 828-259-5900. The meeting starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday and typically runs 1-3 hours. (Note: If you want to comment on more than 1 agenda item, you will need to fill out the form multiple times, indicating a different agenda item each time.)
- Leave a voicemail comment by calling 855-925-2801, then Enter Code 9119. Deadline for prerecorded voicemail comments is 9:00 a.m. on December 8.
- Email a written comment at AshevilleCityCouncilDec82020@PublicInput.com
You can read the agenda in its entirety here. Below you can find our breakdown of the agenda, with items in each section that you might want to publicly comment on:
When filling out the form to make a live public comment, choose “Consent” from the menu of agenda items to comment on.
Business Inclusion (Items C, I, & V)
- Relevance to Racial Justice: Resolution C updates the City’s Procurement, Surplus, Purchasing & Contracting Policy to reflect the Asheville Business Inclusion policy adopted by Council in October. Resolutions I and V award contracts to white-owned companies.
- What you might say about it: The commitment to equity in City contracts that is articulated in Resolution C is an admirable step in the right direction. However, inviting Black-owned businesses to compete for city contracts is not enough. In the case of Resolution I, no Black or Brown-owned businesses applied, and it’s worth asking the City what resources they are making available to the Office of Business Inclusion to aid them in their outreach processes for soliciting bids. In the case of Resolution V, a Black-owned business did apply but did not receive the contract. Because of historical inequities in our community, larger white-owned businesses are often more well-established and thus able to out-bid smaller Black-owned companies, as was the case here. How is the City planning to remedy this?
- Relevant Items and Documents
- C. Resolution adopting an update to the City’s Procurement, Surplus, Purchasing & Contracting Policy
- I. Resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a one-year contract extension with Diakin Applied Americas Inc. in order to complete the Harrah’s Cherokee Center Asheville Facility Renovation & HVAC Modernization Project.
- V. Resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a contract with WNC Landscaping, LLC for the Fiscal Year 2021 Downtown Cleaning contract.
Funding related to Policing (Items G, K, L.1., M.1., & U)
- Relevance to Racial Justice: Resolution G signs the city up for a 5-year contract with a company that provides Body Camera and Taser services for the city. Resolution K uses a private donation made to the City to pay for a de-escalation training for APD. Resolution L utilizes a federal grant to upgrade APD’s firearms. Resolution M also relies upon a federal grant, this time for bulletproof vests, and with the City required to match the grant amount (with funds already allocated in the budget). Resolution U increases funding for mental health services to Fire and Police employees.
- What you might say about it: It seems important to contrast these resolutions with the City’s commitment to reimagine policing.
- Regarding Resolution G: Does it make sense for the City to lock into a 5-year contract for bodycam and taser services if the size of the police force may substantially decrease during that time?
- Regarding Resolution K: It’s our understanding that the Office of Equity and Inclusion is no longer involved with business pertaining to the APD. Given that, what provisions will the City make to ensure that equity considerations are taken into account in selecting the trainers for the proposed de-escalation training?
- Regarding Resolution L: APD plans to use the funds from this grant to acquire firearms. What other ways can this grant money be used? What was the process for determining that APD would use these funds for rifles, while Buncombe County Sheriff’s department is using the funds for Networking and forensic supplies?
- Regarding Resolution M: What process did the City use (or will they use) in identifying bulletproof vest providers? Was the City’s new Business Inclusion policy referenced, to insure that Black and Brown-owned manufacturers were included?
- Regarding Resolution U: Increasing funding for mental health services to Fire and Police employees seems like an important step in the right direction.
- Overall: Noting that over $2 million is being allocated to APD through this consent agenda, the majority is going to firearms, tasers, bulletproof vests, and bodycams. Less than 10% of that amount is going into things like a de-escalation training and mental health services for officers.
- Relevant Items and Documents
- G. Resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a contract renewal with Axon for the Body Worn Camera/Taser Program.
- K. Budget amendment, in the amount of $20,000, from a private donation for Asheville Police Department tactical de-escalation training.
- L.1. Resolution authorizing the City Manager to apply for, and accept, grant funds from the Office of Justice Programs of the U.S. Dept. of Justice for the 2020 Edward Byrne Justice of Assistance Grant.
- M.1. Resolution authorizing the City Manager to apply for, and accept, grant funds from the U.S. Dept. of Justice for the 2020 Bulletproof Vest Partnership grant.
- U. Resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute a contract amendment with Responder Support Services Inc. to expand support for behavioral health services provided to Fire and Police employees.
Authorizing the City Manager to purchase land (Item X)
- Relevance to Racial Justice: Resolution X gives the City Manager the ability to purchase property (up to $90,000 in value) without coming to City Council.
- What you might say about it: It’s unclear why the City Manager needs this new power, and it seems worth asking for some further explanation. Why now? Are there specific acquisitions that the City anticipates?
- Relevant Items and Documents
New Business Agenda Item A – City loaning money for condo construction in West Asheville
When filling out the form to make a live public comment, choose “New Business A” from the menu of agenda items to comment on.
- Relevance to Racial Justice: This resolution would loan $1.2 million from the City’s Housing Trust Fund for the construction of 12 condominiums in West Asheville, which would be offered for sale at 80% of the Area Median Income.
- What you might say about it: This housing development represents a substantial loan and depletion of the Housing Trust Fund to a project with no reparations implications. At the Housing and Development Committee meeting, then Council Member and Committee Chair Julie Mayfield responded to this concern by stating that any movement on reparations was at least a year or 18 months away (even though the city has committed to movement within the next 8 months). The RJC believes that reparations funding cannot be postponed into the indefinite future, and that major outlays of City capital need to be re-evaluated in light of City Council’s commitment to reparations.
- This $1.2 million dollars going towards homes for people making 80% of the AMI does not really address the need for deeply affordable housing. See these charts for the amounts for different percents of AMI.
- Relevant Documents – A. Consideration of a resolution to approve a Housing Trust Fund Loan of $1.2 Million to The Bryson Group to construct 12 for sale condominiums in west Asheville.
New Business C – Vance Monument Taskforce
- Relevance to Racial Justice: It’s hard to say because there are no documents to review, but we’d suggest signing up to make a comment so that they have the opportunity to respond to these reports when they are presented.
- What you might say about it: The Vance Monument Task Force voted 11-1 for removal. Apparently, City Staff wants Council to wait to vote on this matter until they have a worked out plan. It’s not clear why City Council can’t vote now for removal, and work out the details on how as staff prepares its plan.
- When you can comment on this (if you’re signing up to comment live): New Business C
- Relevant Documents – none have been published.
General Discussion / Public Comment
When filling out the form to make a live public comment, choose “General Discussion / Public Comment” from the menu of agenda items to comment on.
- The period for registering a public comment has been extended from noon the day before the Council Meeting to 9 a.m. the day of.
- What you might say about it: This is a step in the right direction, and we want to acknowledge Council and staff for listening to public requests for greater accessibility. While this new policy is more equitable than the one it replaces, the RJC continues to assert that a truly equitable policy would enable members of the public to call in to join a queue of commenters during City Council meetings. It’s also important that this live call-in process continues even when Council returns to meeting in the Council Chamber.
- Three new members are joining City Council and this is an all-female council for the first time.
- What you might say about it: What are your hopes and dreams for this new council? What do you expect to see from this leadership? What are some of the reasons that you voted for these individuals to serve our community that you expect to see their continued investment in? How are you offering to support this new council?