Dec 21, 2020

Thoughts from my first Council meeting, and how you can help!

Friends & Neighbors,
I’m so honored that my first vote on Asheville City Council was for Vice Mayor Sheneika Smith. Congratulations and thank you for your service, dear friend!

After 6 years in the audience, my first meeting as a Councilwoman was on a virtual platform. I empathize with all my fellow teachers connecting with students and communicating information, all my fellow artists sharing performances, and all my fellow organizers working through screens – it’s hard. So much planning and patience is required. When the time comes to return to the Council chambers, I hope the people of Asheville will notice that the old murals have been replaced with paintings of our Blue Ridge Mountains. How the space is staged matters when ensuring everyone can participate and feel included.

During the consent agenda, where a great deal of budget and policy decisions are finalized with the expectation of unanimous agreement, a few matters rose to the surface that are part of deeper, ongoing conversations happening in our community.

In October, the previous Council adopted the Asheville Business Inclusion Policy, which included guidance from the Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE). Adopting this policy is the next step after completing the required Disparity Study of 2018. These actions are a response to the diligent work of our community demanding reconciliation of the deep harm caused by lifetimes of systemic racism initiated and perpetuated by our local government. To shift the outcomes, data such as the research in Dr. Dwight Mullen’s founding work with the State of Black Asheville, which will need ongoing support and analysis, must be instrumental for necessary shifts of narrative and policy. The new policies go into effect January 1st, but we still have a long way to go in repairing damage done. Ensuring equitable outcomes will require accountability, and meaningful change will require that our community makes sure this work remains a priority.

To progress the goals of my campaign, I’m going to need sustained support, so I ask for your consideration:

  1. I didn’t get here by myself; I am on a learning journey! Please stay with me on the journey and in the learning. My work, my understanding, and my desire for collective liberation is informed by so many colleagues sharing in this work. I am particularly grateful to the brilliant Black women locally and nationally/regionally/globally leading the movement to get in right relationship with our history and each other in our community and region.Let’s stay eager to listen and learn so that we can wisely hold accountable all people making decisions.
  2. I need your help! In addition to responsibilities on Council, each member serves on sub-committees with other Council members. I’ve been appointed to Governance, Boards & Commissions, and Public Safety. We also serve as liaisons to the advisory groups seated by volunteer members of the public, which for me includes: the Human Relations Commission, the Multimodal Transportation Commission, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee, the Citizen Police Advisory Committee, the Soil Erosion/Stormwater Review Committee, the Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee, and the Urban Forestry Commission, as well as the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization.This is a next step from my work reporting back to the community over the years, and I’m looking forward to engaging with my neighbors in these meetings. I hope you’ll join the conversation. The schedule, descriptions, and application for appointment are herePlease consider lending your experience by attending and reviewing meetings. For an example, you could move from a regular conversation with a book club or parent circle to sending a representative, and applying to serve.Additionally, there are neighborhood associations all over the city, many with a Plan On A Pagethat are formally recognized by the City of Asheville. Engaging is a great way to get to know your neighbors and organize around street-level issues like land use, tree canopy repair, community gardens, and more.
  • Regarding Consent Agenda items KL, and M on the agenda of my first Council meetingthese items were previously budgeted expenditures for the Asheville Police Department that the prior council had voted on.

My vote “no” on item M regarding authorization for a grant that would double the available funds for bulletproof vests has gotten the most attention in the press and on social media. Here is my statement:

Bulletproof vests are an absolutely necessary tool for the current role we assign to our APD staff. There is funding in the budget for this expenditure, but I could not rubber stamp funding increases for the department while we’re reimagining what public safety looks like. As one of the new members who didn’t vote for this budget, it’s now all of our responsibility to make decisions with care.

I heard from a couple of my teenage students this week about the grief and trauma they and their peers are processing while finishing this virtual semester during the pandemic, including news of the sexual assault of Agnes Hill and the tragic murder of Teylyn McAlpin. Our next generation is shouldering tremendous burdens, they understand our systems are failing and hurting us, and they are demanding we do better.

The pandemic has brought to light the disparities and the trauma perpetuated by propping up capitalism, classism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. Climate change is here too. We’re not ready, and we can’t afford to return to the old way of doing things when we need a new normal. If we are going to get in right relationship with each other, if we’re going to address public health and safety issues including mental health, addiction, domestic violence, and homelessness, then we must make decisions to do things differently. Our budget funds our policies and plans, and is a documentation of what we value. Maintaining a status quo budget for policing as we know it is not going to make or keep us safe. I will continue to ask questions and will bring these issues to the table during our Council retreat as well as through the next budget cycle, which is already in process. I invite you to submit ideas and solutions to my Council email address: kimroney@avlcouncil.com.

As a community, we are woven together and are experiencing overlapping states of emergency. With healing as our focus, resiliency as our goal, and equity as our demand for how to get there, we need immediate action to take better care of the planet and each other. As we approach the time of setting intention for next year, thank you for taking time to consider the call to join, continue, or deepen this work with me.

A reminder: please wear a mask, stay six feet apart, and wash your hands.

Well wishes for you and your loved ones this holiday season,

Councilwoman Kim Roney