Divest / Invest

Tell Asheville City Council: Keep your word and pass an interim budget plan

City Council is going to hold a budget vote on Thursday, July 30 at 5 pm. There will be no opportunity for public comment. It’s essential that they hear from us today:

  • Contact City Council (see instructions below)
  • Invite them to be steady with their word and demonstrate commitment to action
  • Ask them to pass an interim budget that freezes APD hiring or abide by their earlier pledge to fund APD only through September, so that the public engagement process isn’t seriously undermined. 

Here’s some context:

After an uprising of public involvement in June, City Council unanimously voted to delay passing a 2020-2021 budget so that the city and community could partner together to address the Black Asheville Demands with budget line items.

Yesterday was the public hearing for the interim 3-month budget. Late last night, after public comment closed, Council members discussed reversing their commitment to an interim budget and proceeding with the budget that was set to pass in May. Council must pass a budget by August 1st for debt financing and property tax rate purposes.  

On Thursday, Council will consider several possibilities: a full budget, including full funding for the police department; a budget with interim funding for the police, and all funding for other areas locked in; or the item that was discussed at public hearing, an interim 3-month budget for all departments.

This budget is an opportunity to reallocate how City dollars are spent, investing in the Black community and divesting from the oversized Police budget. It is also an opportunity to factor in financial investments to begin the process of reparations. Discerning the process to implement the Reparations Resolution will require its own funding. There are too many new things unfolding to pass an annual budget right now. Too many opportunities to cut corners. Too little transparency. Council needs to stop this unnecessary rush, and let the community be heard.

Here are instructions for reaching out to City Council. Some suggested talking points are below.

Some things to say in your communication with Council:

Back on June 9th, after the release of the Black Asheville Demand to divest from the police and invest in the Black community, and an uprising of popular support for that demand, you voted for a revised budget process. Rather than making full-year allocations for the police and other departments, you and the rest of Council asked for time and promised to only allocate funds for three months (through the end of September). During that time, the City Manager would oversee a process of intense public engagement around the future of the Asheville Police Department, with the promise that a new budget would be passed in September that addressed the public’s deep concerns about the way this city is policed. Many of us were skeptical about whether this public engagement process would be as deep as it needed to be, and whether the city’s new budget in September would actually put us on course for divesting from APD and investing in new institutions that would keep all of our people safe and address decades of oppression and harm. One of the few encouraging aspects of this plan was that passing an interim budget meant that City Council would have to pass a new one in September, which offered a concerned community at least a strand of promised accountability.

How can you consider reversing your earlier vote? Don’t you realize that this will completely destroy the tenuous faith that the community has in you and in the process? I urge you to pass an interim budget that freezes APD hiring through September. If you’re not willing to do that, at the very least abide by your earlier pledge to fund APD only through September, so that the public engagement process isn’t a complete sham. And if your staff can handle the workload, pass a complete interim budget and let’s collaborate to use this budget as a moral document.[If they suggest the compromise of fully funding all of the departments except the police] Two weeks ago, you voted for a Reparations Resolution that called for a robust process of public engagement. There is nothing in the current budget that begins to set aside funds for reparations, or for the process that needs to unfold to make sure the resolution isn’t an empty promise. Are you prepared to promise that you will be cutting enough funds from the police in September to pay for that, as well as for the other services that will be needed? If not, then City Council needs to look at the full budget picture in September, and not just one part of it.

For more information about the Divest / Invest campaign, click here.