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Asheville City Council Approves Police Budget Cuts

(UPDATE 10:45 p.m.) Asheville City Council Tuesday night approved a roughly 3% cut to the city police department’s budget.  The plan was crafted after council members delayed approving a full city budget after a group of Black activists sought cuts in police spending, with money being reinvested in Asheville's Black community.  

Black AVL Demands called for a 50% cut following a week of protests after the death of George Floyd.  Rob Thomas, a part of that group and the head of the Racial Justice Coalition, called the budget plan a ‘slap in the face’.

"I am on the other hand happy that movement is happening, although it will never happen at the pace I want it to," Thomas said during a public comment portion of Tuesday's meeting.  "I'm still happy that we are having these tough conversations, and that individuals are becoming open-minded to solutions."

The plan passed by a 5 to 2 vote.  Councilman Keith Young joined mayor Esther Manheimer, vice mayor Gwen Wisler, and council members Antanette Mosley and Julie Mayfield in voting for the plan.  Young called it just a start, and expects much more to come in the future, which Young wants focused on police training and culture.  "We can't have armed individuals with guns and weapons who claim they are scared of the citizens they are sworn to protect, when nothing is even happening," Young said prior to the vote.  "This is a breeding ground for calamity and deadly consequences, and speaks to the misguided perceptions society has of people of color in this country."

Councilwoman Shaneika Smith joined Brian Haynes in voting no.  She felt the public engagement meetings the city held ahead of the vote were lacking, and the message of the Black community did not get through.  "The pathway forward is not a reform.  Reform is deferred maintenance, reform is what we should already have for basic protection," Smith said during the meeting.  "What we are looking for is soemthing totally different."

The $770-thousand in cuts approved by council is achieved mostly through job transfers and attrition.  That includes shifting animal control and noise ordinance enforcement from police to the development services department. The cost savings outside of those transfers would be spent on positions in parks and IT, as well as a one-time payment to 'a collaborative effort' between city government, Asheville City schools, and the Asheville Housing Authority to improve broadband access for students and residents. 

Earlier version of story below

Asheville City Council meets Tuesday evening, and a plan that includes cuts to the police department budget is on the agenda.  The plan however falls far short of the spending reductions sought by a group of Black activists following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

The group called for the Asheville police department’s budget to be cut by 50%, with that money then invested into the city’s Black community.  The plan city council will vote on Tuesday only cuts the police department budget by about 3%.  The roughly $770-thousand in savings would be achieved mostly through job transfers and attrition.  That includes moving animal control and noise ordinance enforcement out of the police department and into the development services department.  The cost savings outside of that transfer would be spent on positions in parks and IT, as well as a one-time payment to 'a collaborative effort' between city government, Asheville City schools, and the Asheville Housing Authority to improve broadband access for students and residents.

Lawmakers delayed approving a full budget over the summer so that spending on the police department could be re-examined.  That came following a week of protests in May and June, which culminated with Black AVL Demands public call for the 50% cut.

Tuesday night’s meeting will also be the first for new council member Antanette Mosley.  She was appointed earlier this month to serve the remainder of the term of Vijay Kapoor, who resigned over the summer.  Council members Tuesday will also vote on extending the moratorium on new hotel development in Asheville another five months.

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