Asheville City Council rescinds & re-approves policing policies
Asheville resident Peter Landis summed it up well last night. Speaking near the end of a two hour public comments at the City Council meeting, Landis said the Council was hearing what it should have heard last month before it voted to overhaul policing policy.
Landis said he supports the changes - but not the way it was done.
I documented the trainwreck of a process:
Police will also need to get written consent for searches during traffic stops. This was adopted in Fayetteville, and law enforcement groups fought it. This piece of information was not part of the presentation from the special interest activist group, and Council seemed surprised to learn about it, at the end of the meeting.
After the vote.
There was no staff review of the data. There was no examination of the proposal by experts. It was simply a rubber stamp of the recommendations from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
Indeed, the Council and the Mayor rushed to adopt the new rules without public input, as Councilman Keith Young "called the question" - which is a parliamentary rule that shuts off debate and forces a vote.
Councilman Vijay Kapoor called the process an embarrassment and apologized to the citizens of Asheville.
Mayor Esther Manheimer said she had no choice but to call for the vote.
But this really isn't true.
The agenda item was not listed as a vote. It's listed under "Presentations and Reports."
If Council is going to vote on major changes to policing strategies, it should have been listed as such on the agenda. The Mayor should have entertained a motion to put a vote on the next agenda. Or send it to committee for study.
Allowing the vote was inappropriate.
Even so, once she allowed the motion to be made, it should have been open to public comment.
"Calling the question" should not be operable until each council member has had at least one chance to weigh in. And no new policy like this should be adopted without staff review and public input.
Last night, Councilman Young rejected the idea that this process was improper, inappropriate, or legally suspect. The City staff disagrees - which is why the Council had to revisit the measure last night.
After advertising it as a vote.
After receiving public comment.
After receiving staff input.
From the Citizen-Times:
But even in unanimously passing three policy mandates, council members remained starkly divided over how strict one mandate should be that requires a Asheville Police Department officers to get written consent before performing some types of searches and if there should be exceptions.
"I prefer that our officers obtain written consent, but I know that in real life there will be situations where it is impractical or unnecessarily risky to do so," said Councilman Vijay Kapoor, on the mandate that officers go further than getting just verbal consent, which is the current policy.
The issue pertains to situations in which police don't have at least a reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed but still want to conduct a search. When officers have such reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe a crime is being committed, they don't need a person's consent, according to the courts.
Councilman Keith Young, one of two black council members, called for a more absolute policy where police must always get written permission for a consent search. Young strongly disagreed with an example that Kapoor gave saying the written requirement could hamper officers from stopping domestic abuse — or worse.
"I'm going to call B.S. on that," Young said.
"We were told written consent gives police no wiggle room — no wiggle room to play fishy with your rights," he said.
Asheville City Council also approved it's $120 million budget last night.
As did Buncombe County Commissioners.
Which highlights the questionable scheduling of local government bodies.
If you wanted to attend both the City and County meetings lat night, you were out of luck.
There is no reason for both bodies to meet on the same night, except to limit participation by the public.
Buncombe adopts budget - with changes
Given the cloud Buncombe County has been under since the former manager was indicted by a federal grand jury for money laundering and embezzlement, one would think the commissioners would run this year's budget process as cleanly as possible.
The Board set a property tax rate at one-cent lower than proposed by the manager's proposal. The money would reduce the fund balance. Board Chairman Brownie Newman and Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara opposed the move.
The County also reduced the funding allocated to the local school districts.
Before adopting the $319 million spending plan, commissioners rejected a move to reduce their own pay:
Chairman Brownie Newman said Buncombe is the seventh-largest county in the state but the commissioners are the second-highest paid.
He proposed reducing Commissioner pay to $21,098. Commissioners currently make $28,916
The Chairman would go from $37,650 to $24,300.
His attempt to bring salaries down to the seventh-highest in the state failed by a 5-to-2 vote.
Commissioners Mike Fryar, Robert Pressley, Al Whitesides, Ellen Frost, and Joe Belcher all opposed the pay reduction.
The Board also named George Wood as the interim County Manager, replacing Mandy Stone - who was Wanda Greene's assistant, before being named as her replacement, before quitting abruptly.
Wood, who most recently served as Wayne County manager, was selected among a handful of candidates and after a search process with which the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners assisted.
He's expected to begin work Wednesday and will begin meeting with staff for the next couple of weeks.
"I just want to put a face with the name," said Wood, who attended the meeting Tuesday. "(I'll) meet with them and some of their key staff and find out, 'What are the critical issues you're working on that I need to make sure we're driving?'"
Wood has some 35 years of municipal management experience throughout the Carolinas, Tennessee and Georgia, his resume shows. Before Wayne County, Wood was Lincoln County manager for about five years.
Wood will serve until the Board names a new Manager.