Those requesting money for social services told of a community requiring hundreds of thousands of pounds of donated food and tens of thousands of dollars for emergency services. It included a family without food, a disabled vet living without electricity or healthcare, a nursing student living without electricity, people with a “very desperate need … for food,” people without swim equity, pregnant teens and teen mothers unable to graduate from high school, a special-needs child thrown out of his home, a tenant harassed by her landlord, unemployed people, a homeless lady who broke her hip and left the hospital before surgery because she couldn’t afford it, people making unhealthy food choices that lead to obesity and diabetes, an 86-year-old woman taken in by a scam, a woman needing to get her truck from her abuser so she could get to work, a woman receiving a death threat at the Drum Circle, and two incidents unsuitable for general audiences. Individuals complained about racism, poverty, and violence.
One agency assisted 2500 victims of violence last year; one screened 5000 cases of child abuse and neglect. One has treated 15,000 persons with mental health and estimated over 38,000 in Buncombe County will be uninsured this year with more paying for useless policies. 15,000 people needed legal counsel but were unable to pay for it.
Most who spoke told of hooking people up with government services. Several requested funding for “navigators,” who, in the big-government tradition of changing names, are now called “connectors.” In response, citizen Don Yelton suggested the county quit giving the United Way $100,000 a year. The umbrella organization with its 411 was obviously, “doing a lousy job.”
Sheriff Van Duncan came to offer a brief counterargument to anti-police rhetoric that goes unchallenged at Asheville City Council meetings. He wanted to stand up for the character of his deputies and support the work they do. He explained bad things happen when law enforcement is removed from communities, as its role is to prevent bad-actors from disrupting the peace. Duncan said if anybody doubted that, they should listen to kids when they’re debriefed after witnessing shootings.
Those advocating for increasing the tax rate to prevent climate change spoke of matters like the Holocene extinction and the Antarctic ice sheet about to “dive into the ocean.” Tyler Garrison implored the commissioners, “Please do something, because nobody else is able to.”
One tried shaping policy with positive energy. “Hi, my name is Suzannah Park,” she said, “and I live here in Asheville, and I was born here in Asheville, and I love Asheville, and, who here likes swimming? Tubing? Climbing our mountains? That’s not all y’all. C’mon. Hands in the air. Really? You guys don’t want to – Who lives here in Asheville and loves living here? All right. C’mon, yeah. All right. So, there’s a bunch of work that’s been done to think about energy in our town and so that gets a full thank you, and it’s just not enough, and, so yes, please? For proposals yes, yes, yes fabulous. And thank you for all that good attention and energy task force thinking that has already occurred. And there’s a lot more we can do and it’s just gonna have to look very creative and spontaneous. And this town is good at that. It’s really a creative, energetic, wild, playful place to live and be, and so our energy could reflect some new thinking and some fresh approaches. And for all y’all who have been sitting for a long time, what happens is we all get stagnant, so anyone who wants to stretch, who hasn’t been stretching? Like stand up and wiggle. Like we all start getting really rngh-rngh-rngh-rngh-rngh and then making a change in any way, shape, or form feels more challenging. So, it’s important to me to think about not being numb, about trying to do different things. …” She closed singing “Sweet Sunny South.”
The singing inspired regular public commentator Jerry Rice to sing a couple songs himself. One, on behalf of taxpayers, was “She Got the Goldmine, I got the Shaft.” The other, a commentary on County Manager Dr. Wanda Greene’s announced retirement, in light of all the aforementioned needs, was “You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille.”