Patrick Conant

February 8, 2022

Shining a light on an opaque process - City Council Check-Ins


Patrick Conant Public Comment to Asheville City Council, 02/08/2022

Tonight I want to shine a light on an opaque process - the City Council Check Ins


What are Council Check Ins? 

They’re a process to prepare for meetings, though it’s not the only model that exists. 

An alternative, used by Buncombe County, is to conduct all this preparation in public work sessions. 

Council conducts these check ins the week before every formal Council meeting. 

The City does NOT proactively publish agendas or meeting documents that describe these check ins. 

Recently, public records have revealed more about this process


Let’s take a look at a Check In Agenda - this one is from November 4th.

As you can see, Staff present the same information to three different groups. Each group consists of the Mayor plus two other members. 

While these groups do not contain a quorum of our seven member Council - they often contain quorums of our 3 member Council Committees. 

These meetings are quite structured and include a formal agenda and supporting materials. 

They review the Agendas of Council and Committee meetings, and discuss confidential matters and other concerns. 

I would draw your attention to one item in the particular - the Follow Up Items.  


The Follow Up Items allow Council members to ask questions or submit requests to Staff, who then provide written feedback. 

Shown here is a section of the Follow Up items from the November 4th Check Ins. 

We see Council providing significant direction to staff: 

“Continue to discuss plans on how we can enforce against downtown violations / homelessness situations.”

This is just one example - everything from an ordinance restricting food distribution in parks to the plan to restructure Boards and Commissions has been discussed during these meetings. 


What is the end result of this Council Check In Process? 

It creates a troubling lack of transparency in the work of Council and Staff on significant issues. 

The materials presented in these check-ins have directly contradicted the City’s public statements. 

We’re asking Staff to present the same information three times, wasting hundreds of hours of staff time compared to a single, public work session. 

Most importantly, these opaque, inefficient meetings damage public trust in the City of Asheville. 


The City needs to build a brighter future.

Lets replace Check Ins with a process that brings all seven Council members together with Staff in a single, public work session. 

The City should proactively publish all public records pertaining to decision-making - make these records “public by default”.

Finally, Council can make a real commitment to participatory government. The Open Meetings Policy is a community proposal that gives residents the power to decide how our public meetings operate. Please allow a presentation of this proposal at the next Governance Committee meeting.