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Asheville City Council Accepts Recommendation To Remove Vance Monument, But Questions Remain

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Matt Bush
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Blue Ridge Public Radio
Protesters around the Vance Monument in early June 2020 following the killing of George Floyd

Asheville City Council voted Tuesday night to accept the recommendation from a task force to remove the Vance Monument from downtown Asheville's Pack Square.  But many questions remain before the 65-foot obelisk is taken away.A task force created by city council and Buncombe County commissioners voted 11-1 last month to remove the monument, which is named for North Carolina's Civil War Governor and U.S. Senator during Reconstruction.  Zebulon Vance fought against full civil rights for Black Americans while in office, and he and his family owned enslaved people prior to the Civil War.  The monument was completed in 1898, four years after Vance's death.  

City council accepted the recommendation by a 6-1 vote, one day after Buncombe County commissioners did the same unanimously.  But even with the acceptance of the task force's plan, plenty of questions remain about the Vance Monument's future, seemingly meaning it will be a matter of months not weeks before its final fate is revealed.  Council member Gwen Wisler had concerns about how the cost of the removal, while council member Sage Turner wondered what will happen to the monument itself once it is taken away - whether it would be relocated or destroyed.  A 2015 state law mandates any monument displayed on public property can only be removed unless it is relocated to a place of 'similar prominence.'  Mayor Esther Manheimer said during Tuesday's meeting Asheville city manager Debra Campbell will work with her Buncombe County counterpart in coming up with the logistics for what will happen to the monument once it is removed, and that city council will take up the matter again 'in the coming months.'

Council member Sandra Kilgore was the lone member to vote no against accepting the task force's recommendation.  In remarks prior to the vote, she voiced hope that monument could be repurposed in some way without Vance's name attached to it.  That was one of the options the task force considered but ultimately rejected.  Tuesday night's meeting was the first for Kilgore, Turner, and Kim Roney after the won last month's election, giving Asheville and all-woman city council.

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016. Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C. For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor. Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis. Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.
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