Welcome to “& More This Week,” The Asheville Free Press’ weekly(ish) newsletter, where I round up a few headlines that stood out to me over the week and share them with some opinion and context. If you’re not already, sign up to get these and all of our articles straight to your inbox.
Vance Removal Lurches Forward
Over a year after City Council voted 6-1 (Kilgore Opposed) to remove the 75-foot tall monument to white supremacist Zebulon Vance from Downtown Asheville, the process again lurched forward this week.
The monument's removal has been entangled in a lawsuit filed by a Confederate preservationist group since the vote in March of 2021, though only the monument's base remains in Pack Square at this point.
The stones that made up the bulk of the obelisk have been held in a "secure" location throughout the process. The future of those stones—and the base, once removed—remain unclear. City Spokesperson Christy Edwards did not respond to a request for comment on what would become of the monument once it was fully removed.
26th North Carolina Troops, the Confederate preservationist group, has fifteen days from the ruling (ten days as of this newsletter) to file an appeal.
Sly Grog's Parking Lot Prom
On December 2, 2021, West Asheville bar and music venue Sly Grog suffered a devastating fire. With estimated damage totaling in the hundreds of thousands, the future of the building itself is uncertain. But its proprietors have assured the community that the venue, beloved by many in the local music scene for its willingness to host a wide variety of unconventional artists, will be back.
Next Saturday, April 16th, the venue will host its first on-site event since the fire. The event will take place in the parking lot and is appropriately dubbed "Parking Lot Prom."
The event is a fundraiser, and the venue is requesting a $20 donation for entry, but "No One [will be] Turned Away For Lack Of Funds" (NOTAFLOF), according to the promotional materials.
City Council Barrels Ahead with Unpopular Board Restructuring
At their April 12th meeting, City Council will hear a City Manager's Report which includes an update on the proposed "restructuring" of the City's Boards and Commissions. The City's proposal would eliminate the vast majority of the boards and commissions, a move which has been widely criticized.
Despite this criticism, the City appears to be barreling ahead. While the public input page for the project indicates the City will "Make adjustments to staff proposal," it also indicates that they are preparing for a "City Council work seession[sic] to review and consider a Pilot."
According to the Manager's Report, that Work Session is scheduled for May 10, less than a month from the report. Advocates fear this is not enough time for the City to properly hear and consider appropriate revisions to the project.
Downtown Asheville Starbucks Files for Unionization
Workers at Downtown Asheville's Charlotte St Starbucks location have filed for unionization with Starbucks Workers United, citing "reduction of working hours [...], understaffing [.. and], lack of wage increases."
According to Councilmember Kim Roney, the organizers are requesting support in the form of placing orders under the name "Union Yes."
More than 200 Starbucks locations have announced their intent to unionize with Starbucks Workers United, and so far 16 of them have voted to do just that. Six of those happened this week.This fits within a larger, promising pattern of unionization across the country.
Corporations aren't taking this pattern lightly, and seem to be growing more frantic to stop it. On Friday, Amazon filed to appeal the historic union victory at their Staten Island warehouse. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz called unionization a "threat," and announced that Starbucks will be entering "the NFT business" in an effort to stop it (can you hear me rolling my eyes?). This is, of course, amid the typical union-busting tactics like targeted firings and capitve audience meetings.
Here's to the Asheville Starbucks workers, and I hope their effort is successful.
Well, that does it for this entry.
As always, please let me know if you have feedback, tips, or see a headline you’d like me to add to next week’s newsletter: Editor@AshevilleFreePress.com.
Ursula Wren, Editor
The Asheville Free Press