Friends & Neighbors,
As a gardener, this is the season I reflect on processes and lessons while dreaming and planning for what comes next: times of harvesting, planting, pruning, and composting energy. Wrapping up my first annual season on Council, I’m feeling the realness and relief that the urgent work we need to do to heal each other and the planet can’t be done alone. Here are some reflections I’m inspired and reminded to share, followed by an invitation to join, continue, or deepen in shared effort.
- The Talbert Lot: We leveraged bond funds for affordable housing and transit capacity while increasing the Reparation Fund. This stands out to me as an example of staff, Council, partners, and community members working together towards our aspirational goals!
- Paid Family Medical Leave: I appreciate the work of Just Economics and Moms Rising who advocated with impacted community members to get the new Paid Family Leave policy added to the budget, though I ultimately didn’t vote to support the budget as drafted based on the funding structure. This is a significant change and important example for the City of Asheville to set as an employer in the region.
- Firefighter Pay Equity: The support of the Compensation Study at our City Council retreat in the Spring of 2021 paved the way to ensuring our living wage policy included all of our staff, including more than 70 firefighters who had previously been paid less than $12-hour, a celebration after year of work by the IAFF Local 332 union.
Of Planting & Pruning
- Community Reparations Commission: Community organizing around Reparations in Asheville continues through grassroots movements, neighborhoods, faith communities, the State of Black Asheville study, and groups including the Racial Justice Coalition and the YMI Cultural Center. Acknowledging the City’s role in the ongoing harm that requires repair, and hearing concerns around the Reparations Commission appointment process, here are links to the City’s Reparations Resolution and the Community Reparations Commission for reference as we navigate next steps.
- Increased Transit Service: Additional service to South Asheville and getting all bus routes to run until 10pm was in the budget, but we haven’t had capacity to service it. Transit riders, our ATU Local 128 drivers union, and advocates are ready to get it done – #transitcantwait!
- Climate Justice Added to COVID Relief Categories: The next round of ARPA funds is coming to Council for approval through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process. By adding climate justice to the list of categories with Council’s retreat goal of an Equitable Recovery, applications addressing overlapping emergencies could be weighed for resilience. Read more about the City’s Climate Justice Initiative here.
Of Composting (while also celebrating a composting pilot program!)
- Emergency Shelter and Housing as a Human Right:Having fumbled the first opportunity to invest in an emergency shelter, coalitions are forming to expand emergency services for neighbors experiencing unsheltered homelessness during the pandemic and Code Purple designation when temperatures drop below freezing. I’m weary of paying rent through hotel rooms and am eager to invest in long-term community resources such as deeply-affordable and permanently-supportive housing as well as a necessary emergency shelter. Until those gaps are addressed, we have to get to the root cause of how our internal policies are resulting in displacement of campers, which goes against the CDC’s Interim Guidelines on People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness, and I support camping options with bathroom access and sanitation as a matter of public health.
- Asheville holds #1 in NC in bike and pedestrian accidents. Getting different outcomes will mean not compromising transportation equity, ensuring safe design for all modes, and enforcing ADA compliance so everyone can arrive at their destination safely.
- Noise Ordinance: Even with years of exemplary community engagement, we’ve risked our cultural identity and arts industry and still failed to fully address neighborhood and commercial noise issues. We also seated a capable Noise Ordinance Board, so reviewing outcomes is a crucial obligation.
An Invitation to Join, Continue, and Deepen the Work
- Volunteering professional and lived experience on Boards and Commissions is an opportunity to assist in addressing our urgent issues while also celebrating the progress we make together towards our aspirational goals.
- Office hours are a new intention for this year. Consider including a neighbor or group to join in conversation around an issue. Here are my calendar options for a call or virtual meeting:
- Through the pandemic, our staff gained skills necessary for virtual meetings that increased accessibility for participants and those making public comments. Improving public meetings and participatory democracy means maintaining these levels while increasing access to public documents. Join in support with groups in solidarity at openmeetingspolicy.com
In conclusion, I am grateful for: the friends and neighbors who carefully showed up for each other under pressure, through the thicket, and during times of celebration; for all those precious new additions to the human family who entered the world at this time of necessary change, bringing joy and hope and a reason to keep working towards truth telling, healing, and reconciliation; for witnessing, grieving, and remembering the dear ones leaving this sphere to join the ancestors; for our shared home on Mother Earth where we are woven together; and for the love that we are cultivating with each other in the house The Roneys take care of.
Sending blessings for health and well-being to you and yours in 2022. Thank you for sharing in the work to Be ‘Bout it Being Better.
With a Grateful Heart,
(* Full text from pie-chart representing my first 365 days on Council here:)
– Email: 393 hours (4,717 unique responses, Median: 5 minutes)
– Phone calls: 386 hours (682 calls, Median: 34 minutes)
– Community Engagement: 402 hours (Attending/Listening: 142, Participating/Speaking: 260)
– Civic Meetings: 416 hours (Liaison: 191, Sub-Committee: 52, Council: 173)
– Training, Research & Development: 248 hours