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Asheville City Council OK's $2.1 Million For Reparations Fund

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Matt Bush
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Blue Ridge Public Radio

Asheville City Council Tuesday approved $2.1 million for the reparations fund for the city's Black community.  But what the money will be spent on is still unknown, as the 'truth telling' sessions the city is holding to determine what form reparations will take continue throughout June.

The $2.1 million council members approved comes from proceeds of the sale of city-owned land on Charlotte Street to White Labs Inc.  The approximately $3.7 million sale involved land Asheville acquired through its Urban Renewal program in the late 1960's and early 1970's which devastated Black communities in the city.   The other $1.6 million was already appropriated into Community Block Development Grants earlier this year.  

The funds are the first definitive deposit of money into the reparations fund after City Council last July signaled its intent by approving a resolution supporting reparations for Black Asheville.  In the past year, Council made changes to new hotel development that will allow developers an easier path to getting their projects the necessary approval by the city if they pay into the reparations fund. 

Money for the reparations fund will not be coming from cuts to the Asheville Police Department, something activists called for at the end of last year's racial justice protests following the police murder of George Floyd.  The group Black AVL Demands called for a 50% cut to the police department budget, with the money saved then invested into Asheville's Black community.  The budget proposal from City Manager Debra Campbell that City Council will vote on at its next meeting does not do that.  It includes millions for raises for existing police officers, but does not appear to include money for new hires.  Dozens of Asheville officers have left the police force following last year's racial justice protests.

Second Truth Telling Session Thursday

Thursday evening, the second 'truth telling' session that will help Asheville officials determine how reparations funds are spent will be held at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium at 6 p.m.  This week's session will focus on present trends and disparities.  Dr. Darin Waters of UNC Asheville will moderate, and the panel will include his co-host of BPR's Waters & Harvey Show, Dr. Marcus Harvey.  Dr. Dwight Mullen, the creator of the State Of Black Asheville report, Assistant Buncombe County District Attorney Jorge Redmond, and Narrative Initiative Executive Director Rinku Sen will also be on the panel.   The first session last week focused on historic disparities, and next week's will look at future initiatives.  The sessions are open to the public, and can also be watched live or anytime on Asheville's YouTube channel.

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.