Another leap in funding will help make officer compensation more competitive with that of places like Buncombe County. “Attrition is still high,” she said, and the city continues to struggle to recruit sufficient people of color to mirror local demographics.
The police department is seeing more calls for service. The city is experiencing more traffic, accidents, and traffic fatalities; “particularly, around some of our beer tourism and also with opioid issues,” she said.
Councilor Vijay Kapoor estimated calls for service were increasing 5% each year. He asked what was driving those rates, and Hooper said there is a “big increase” in property crimes, like robbery. A “substantial increase” in aggravated assaults – things like shootings and stabbings – is starting to level off with enhanced, intentional interdiction.
Members of council were unmoved.
More worthy of discussion was a potential loss of trees; after all, members of council were elected to give voice to the voiceless, and trees can’t make noise like people on the receiving end of a blunt object can.
Council had to approve a revised site plan for the Hominy Creek transfer station during their regular meeting. It turned out the subterranean trash was more spread-out than had previously been suspected, and the state’s Division of Environmental Quality would not allow trees to be planted over a buried landfill.
Incredulous, Councilor Julie Mayfield asked if state authorities did not suppose trees could grow on top of trash. The county’s planning director, Nate Pennington, explained they were concerned about the absorption and release of dangerous gases by deep-rooted vegetation, a threat not wanting for rebuttals in the scientific community.
People mocked when Pennington said the state at first wanted all trees and riparian vegetation cleared from the site, which borders a greenway.
Pennington walked through a lot of poison ivy to identify places to plant trees. He even came up with an idea for a floating island with trees, which the state loved.
Still, 54 trees required by the site plan would not be able to be planted. Viable locations had to receive sufficient sunlight without encumbering utility rights-of-way, and Pennington found room for only sixteen trees. The county would donate five more trees for planting elsewhere in the city.
When Mayfield asked, “Why should we let you out of forty-some trees?” Pennington assured her there were enough offsetting tree credits in the thickets of poison ivy. But he would prefer to wait until winter to go back and count them.
The big thing on the agenda, though, was a resolution committing city government to combust its last fossil fuel before 2030. Mayfield said a report just released by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded all the “bad” indicators of climate change are accelerating for the worse.
She acknowledged concerns raised about how the city would pay for the transition. The city and county are now collaborating on a study to assess costs, but it won’t be completed for a year. Meanwhile, the city’s new manager assures sustainability will permeate everything the city does.
Councilor Keith Young thought the city would have to take out some form of bonds. Trump had gotten rid of renewable energy bonds, so Young recommended lobbying legislators. The supply side was going to have to catch up to the city’s ambitious demands.
A stream of public comment included students presenting hundreds of petition signatures. One asked consideration for the generation that would be “raising children in the aftermath of what’s going to happen in 2030.”
Several speakers suggested funding the ambitious goal with money private citizens might use for private-sector green energy solutions and excusing the rest with carbon credits.
Mayor Esther Manheimer, in light of “energy poverty,” said ideally the federal government would cover costs through income tax receipts; that failing, the state should pay with sale tax collections. But since neither scenario was going to happen, she hoped the cost burden would be shifted, progressively, to utility ratepayers.
Evidence of progress council is achieving in greening the planet was shared in a presentation of the results of the city’s latest citizen survey. The top-three aggravations were variations on the theme of trying to get around by car.