From my latest newsletter

My first three months on Council have proven to be fun, time consuming and educational. I’ve made at least one serious mistake (viz: a Planning & Zoning Commission appointment oversight) and learned a lot about the City, the community and Council procedure.

This week I announced a new sidewalk initiative I’ve dubbed Z-Link (more info below). In brief, it is a volunteer effort to reconnect existing sidewalks throughout the City.

I’ve begun to advance the Civil Liberties Resolution I first announced in my February newsletter. In order to create an effective resolution with broad-based support, I’ve sought feedback from the Asheville Buncombe Community Relations Council, Police Chief Bill Hogan, Sheriff Van Duncan, City Attorney Bob Oast, several lawyers, civil liberties organizations including the WNC ACLU, UNCA ACLU, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (Washington, DC), Nuestro Centro, Coalición de Latino-Organizaciones Americanas and others.

While the goal of the proposal is broad protection of everyone’s Constitutional rights, with particular emphasis on ensuring that law enforcement officers do not preferentially target anyone for arrest, surveillance or record keeping based on race, ethnicity, gender or gender-orientation, religious beliefs or practice, political affiliation or immigration status, it is the latter which has drawn right-wing outrage. (An entirely predictable reaction.)

My two reasons for specifying that Asheville law enforcement not participate in federal immigration enforcement have not been successfully challenged by any of the numerous naysayers on talk radio, in the blogosphere or in print.

1. A 2010 Police Foundation study established that cities where local police do not participate in federal immigration enforcement (the 287(g) program) are SAFER than cities which have joined the program. Furthermore, a new study by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security has identified multiple serious problems with its 287(g) program, and concurs that non-participating cities are safer. Both results uphold conclusions in a 2009 study by the NC ACLU which showed that the law was having unintended and detrimental effects in North Carolina communities.

2. An Immigration Policy Roundtable formed by the Kenan Institute at Duke University and the Brookings Institution, consisting of a bipartisan group with widely divergent ideas about immigration, agreed on some basic policy ideas which are being advanced at the national level. These include better workplace identification and verification as well as speeded up naturalization for workers who have been in the U.S. for five years or more. The key point of agreement among the 20 participants was that immigrant labor is absolutely essential to the North Carolina economy. Managing immigration and finding ways to smooth the rapidly changing cultural reality in our communities must be a priority. Putting up barriers between the immigrant community and our law enforcement agencies is counterproductive and works against our collective economic interest.

I have advocated Council endorsement of a civil liberties resolution since passage of the USAPATRIOT Act in 2001. The Act threatened severe encroachment on rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and resulted in widespread domestic spying. I am hardly alone in my concern. The illegality of some of that surveillance was affirmed in the March 31 decision of Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker which ruled that the Bush administration had engaged in illegal wiretapping of a charitable organization.

Three of the six bullet points in my draft resolution directly address such illegal spying on legal activities.

I hope you will join me in working to protect all of the rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, as I affirmed I would do when I was sworn into office.
I delivered a kick-off presentation of Z-Link, a new volunteer sidewalk restoration project on Monday, April 12 at the regular meeting of the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods.

Asheville has two sidewalk problems. The big, expensive problem involves too few sidewalks in too many places. Extending our sidewalk system is urgent and will take time and money. The other problem involves existing sidewalks that have been neglected for years, and fixing those sidewalks is a matter we can literally take into our own hands. Sidewalks are an essential piece of a sustainable transit system, the piece which enables everyone to access transit routes.

The Z-Link initiative is a coordinated volunteer effort that will launch in coming weeks. The goal is to reconnect existing sidewalks that have been obstructed by eroded dirt, weeds and encroaching shrubs. A perfectly useful sidewalk that runs for ten blocks can be rendered impassable to those in wheel chairs or with mobility issues simply because dirt has eroded and mounded up in front of one vacant lot. We have the X portion and the Y portion but a real problem with the Z. Volunteers can step up to reclaim the Z-Link.

I’ve teamed up with People Advocating Real Conservancy with our campaign fund providing trash bags and PARC providing tools. Z-Link will enable citizens, neighborhood by neighborhood to reclaim their sidewalks through weekend work parties. At the same time, volunteers will be encouraged to take note of more serious problems such as broken pavement, missing bricks and other repairs which require attention from the City’s Public Works Department.


One Response

  1. Hi—-a great idea. Am a big walker and see many sidwalks that need attention. However, this Saturday, will be helping with Patsy’s campaign. Keep me on the list.

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