Celebrating Black History Month
In celebrating Black History Month, we honor the brilliance, leadership, and contributions of Black Americans in the United States. In Asheville, examples of resilience in historic Black neighborhoods through devastating impacts of urban renewal, redlining, and gentrification are heard in the stories told through efforts like the Montford & Stumptown Fund. Listen to the stories and contribute to community healing through the Montford & Stumptown land trust here.
On Pruning, Connecting, and Growing Together
Friends & Neighbors,
I recently checked “pruning” off my gardening list this season in the Roney Kitchen Garden. It’s got to be done for the sunlight, airflow, and space needed for growth. Though I don’t look forward to the process of pruning, I desire the outcome, so I strategize, stretch, and dress for the challenge. As I wrestled with strong vines and reached through prickly berry bushes, I held tension that kept me from being flexible, so I landed on the ground a few times, a different lesson than anticipated.
As the world revved its engines into 2023, I found myself wanting to move with more intention and care. I know the work to get in right relationship with each other and the planet can’t be done alone, and that systems of oppression are designed to isolate us. Now in my 3rd year on Council, I took time in January to reflect on the season of change in myself and my civic work so I could try some new approaches, including collaborative governance models designed to stay in coalition. Here are some notes on pruning, connection, and growing together:
Reviewing data from the report on my first year office hours, I was grateful to stay connected with constituents via email through the pandemic, to meet people where they were. As much as possible, I hoped to move from the desk into community while maintaining COVID protocols like masking indoors. The shift in time spent from emails to community engagement meetings shows up in my 2nd year report, but I also noticed many were not able to participate because of protocols, accessibility, transportation, and the time it takes to attend meetings. This year I hope to maintain a balance of in-person and virtual options for inreach and outreach.
I also pruned the types of meetings I engaged in so I could participate in more coalition building. Statewide, I engaged more fully as an Organizing Committee member of Local Progress NC and broadened my multimodal transportation advocacy through the NCDOT Vehicle Miles Traveled Reduction Task Force. Locally, I worked with fellow community organizers to get impacted people to the table around repaving projects that will make our roads safer for all users, and I showed up at every opportunity to advocate alongside students, educators, nurses, and organized labor workers demanding prioritization of people and planet over profit.
In 2022, Council work included: a process to allocate $26-million in ARPA/COVID-relief spending; challenging conversations around affordability and public safety; facing accountability about our homelessness response; and struggling through a water system outage. From my office, I drafted resolutions advancing access to reproductive rights and in support of Eastern Band of Cherokee members working to restore the name of Kuwohi, and supported the Human Relations Commission’s recommendation to protect against Source of Income discrimination that threatens access to housing. Last year’s stats from my office hours are presented in a pie chart with this information:
- Email: 226 hours (2,716 unique response, about 5 minutes each)
- Phone calls: 412 hours (853 phone calls, 24720+ minutes)
- Community Engagement: 402 hours
- Attending/Listening: 314
- Participating/Speaking: 98
- Civic Meetings: 428 hours
- Advisory board liaison: 214
- Council Sub-Committees: 68
- Council meetings: 196
- Training, Research & Development: 205 hours
Following up on the collaborative legislative agenda for 2023, we had a small yet mighty start that resulted in these top issues:
- 24 responses, Reimagine Public Safety: Partner for expansion of Buncombe Community Paramedic programming to ensure deployment of responders trained in mental health, opioid poisoning, and homeless services.
- 22 responses, Homelessness: Ensure housing-first strategies prioritized with aim of housing as a human right.
- 20 responses, Core Services: Pursue new, untapped revenue streams and get more of our hotel occupancy taxes funding infrastructure.
- 20 responses, Reparations: Support and follow through on recommendations of the Community Reparations Commission.
- 19 responses, Reparations: Listen. Include grassroots, community groups and impacted individuals.
- 19 responses, Equitable & Affordable Housing: Partner in anti-displacement efforts: affordability, food security, education/economic opportunities, equitable access to transportation, etc.
- 19 responses, Neighborhood Resilience: Ensure Urban Forester is hired and advance Urban Forestry Master Plan.
- 17 responses, Equitable & Affordable Housing: Continue eviction protection and home repair partnerships to keep people from becoming unhoused.
- 17 responses, Neighborhood Resiliency: Improve water quality: stormwater mitigation, plastic reduction policy, etc,
- 16 responses, Equitable & Affordable Housing: Lean into property tax mitigation with County to address disproportionate impact on historic Black neighborhoods and vulnerable populations.
- 15 responses, Homelessness: Secure partnership and funding for emergency shelter.
Next steps include: Scheduling follow up inreach/outreach with participants; identifying gaps in participation; strengthening coalition to get the work done; and strategizing calls to action!
On Growing Together:
When I landed on the ground floor of the Roney Kitchen Garden while pruning, I gained the perspective of the growth happening under the sleeping leaves. Change isn’t just coming, it’s here! As we come out of the season of hibernation and anticipate growth–as we live, love, and learn while dwelling in ᏙᎩᏯᏍᏗ (Asheville) on the ancestral land of the ᏣᎳᎩ (Cherokee)–may we stay flexible and connected with each other at the ground level so healing might be our focus, resiliency our goal, and equity our demand for how to get there.
I’m committed to sharing work to Be ‘Bout it Being Better, to sharing information on decisions being made in City Hall and how we can participate. Thank you for your trust, engagement, and support!
With gratitude, Kim