Where goes Walton Street

by David Forbes January 31, 2017

For years Southside community members pushed for the renovation of a long-neglected historic pool. But city government might go forward with other plans. Behind the debate about who decides the fate of a local landmark.

The Walton Street pool isn’t in good shape, on that everyone agrees. Built in 1938, for generations it has served as a center of recreation for a whole community, even as the neighborhood around it faced devastation and exclusion on many other fronts. But it has fallen into disrepair, long neglected.

While that was obvious, a report last year detailed in harsh technical terms the extent of the issues. The pool was losing “a tremendous amount of water,” while “the fiberglass topping is failing and the edges pose a cut and abrasion hazard to bathers.” The main pipe is “most likely corroded and failing” and “the facility around “faces many ADA challenges and is in a state of disrepair,” including “the floor drains all have rusted cover plates; some are missing.”

But the history and concerns with the Walton Street pool and recreation complex go farther than simply a lack of maintenance. Its relevance as a community gathering place dates back to the era of segregation, and it remains a key part of fights over de facto segregation today.

The primarily African-American Southside neighborhood the pool sits in the middle of is an area hit hard by redlining, the widespread demolition of homes and businesses during “urban renewal” and by poverty ever since. Considered “blighted” for decades, despite the presence of local businesses and long-established residential communities, it and other majority black neighborhoods in Asheville saw massive demolitions carried out under “urban renewal” programs and infrastructure construction while their needs and services were often ignored by every level of government.

Its economy devastated and many of its residents pushed out during urban renewal, the census tract that includes Southside is considered distressed by the federal government, meaning its poverty and unemployment rates are at least 50 percent higher than the state average and per-capita household income over a third less. It is the only such tract in Buncombe County.

Yet decades after the end of urban renewal and after repeated city governments claimed they were committed to addressing long-neglected community facilities in black neighborhoods, Walton Street remains in disrepair.

For years, Southside residents sought to change that and since 2015 their push gained momentum, with a petition, public calls for renovation and Asheville City Council candidates declaring their support. Following a campaign season where the state of the pool became an election issue, city staff and elected official seemed to agree. Early 2016 saw both bureaucrats and Council members promise at community meetings and from the City Hall dais that the pool wouldn’t close down.

But as 2016 wore on, questions still remained. The opening of the facility was delayed that year due to maintenance issues. By the end of summer, locals were again wondering when, exactly, the Walton Street renovations would go forward and inquiries (at least from this journalist) to top city officials went unanswered. While the city’s budget, finalized in late June, laid out $2 million for pool repair, it did not specify which of the three city pools would receive it.

An assessment of all city pools by Mathews Architecture and Aquatics H20 was completed in August (though city officials didn’t release it until December). In Walton Street’s case the report weighed two options: $1.3 million to renovate the existing Walton Street facility or $1.5 million to build an all new pool.

While the study did not indicate that a new pool had to be on a different site, city officials then broached the option of not just building a new pool but doing so at a different community center. They asserted they wanted to seek public input to gauge community interest in doing that instead, claiming it would be a larger facility that might have some additional amenities. While staff have repeatedly claimed they don’t have a preference, at one meeting a senior staffer contradicted that, admit that Parks and Rec’s leadership preferred this option and introduced it because they believed shuttering the Walton Street pool would be a better way to “leverage assets.”

While staff also claim that any final decision will follow the public’s will, this change prompted a reaction from community members who’ve pushed for the renovation of the current site. In an area that even many city staff acknowledge has often been poorly treated by local government, some residents fear that despite promises to listen to their input, city officials will, once again, simply do what they want.

The latest chapter is set to play out at a community town hall tonight, 5:30 p.m. at the Edington Center, part of the “input process” staff have designed.

The lay of the land

Walton Street pool wasn’t alone. In the years when Asheville languished economically, its pools fell into relative disrepair and the city’s been slow to repair them since, especially as Parks and Rec facilities bore a major part of the brunt of recession-era budget cuts. Last year’s assessments found that of the city’s other two pools — Malvern Hills and the Recreation Park in East Asheville — the former also needed to be replaced and the latter was not ADA compliant. Both are over four decades old and the Malvern Hills pool dates all the way back to 1921. But in Southside the situation was compounded by years of governmental neglect and structural racism. Decades of blatantly bigoted government policies, reaching back to the days when the pool was new, devastated the area’s economy and community structures, contributing to disparities documented in reports like the State of Black Asheville.

Also, while the need for improved pools and community facilities is a general one, the city of Asheville spent far less on Walton Street than others over the past half decade. From 2012-2015, the city spent $270,175 on the Recreation Park pool, $218,201 on Malvern Hills and $106,779 on Walton Street. In city emails, Parks and Recreation Director Roderick Simmons later clarified that none of this went for overhauls or major renovations. The other two pools are larger facilities with more features, bring in more revenue and, notably, are in comparably well-off, whiter neighborhoods.

It’s no secret that the impacts of the tourism boom fell unevenly and while Ashevillians of all races faced the crunch of low wages and skyrocketing housing costs, these hit communities that had historically borne the brunt of the city’s prejudices the hardest. This was the time when, as UNCA professor Dwight Mullen revealed late last year in discussing the latest round of State of Black Asheville research, median black household wealth across the city tumbled. In Southside specifically, gentrification started to become such an issue that both the city and the federal government felt the need to issue specific studies on the matter.

That history meant that many changes pushed by local institutions are viewed with a deep skepticism. Already, locals have seen that play out in debates about a major change in the management of Asheville’s public housing or the proposal to overhaul Lee Walker Heights, which is also located in the area.

In those cases, as with Walton Street, city and public housing officials have claimed that they’re actually trying to finally deal with many of the long-running issues of neglect and structural racism. They point to the construction of the Grant Center and the renovation of the housing authority-run Edington Center as evidence that they’re willing to take a different approach than institutions in previous decades. But locals have raised problems with everything from the potential for privatization and management changes to unexplained eviction surges. Instead of a serious reform, they worry that it’s just the latest phase of government-backed gentrification.

In addition to the area’s fraught history with local institutions, part of the skepticism stems from the fact that the same pressures driving gentrification in the area mean that the real estate both aging public housing complexes and neglected community centers sit upon is now many, many times more valuable than in the years of Asheville’s economic stagnation.

Though in both cases public housing and city officials have repeatedly claimed they have no intention of selling off or privatizing the now-valuable property, the prospect is regularly raised by community members in discussions over the past few years. After all, when privatizations have occurred in gentrifying neighborhoods around the country, they’re rarely announced as such well in advance.

Whatever one thinks of that fear, its existence is vital to understanding the debates around Walton Street and other proposals, especially as in the former’s case A-B Tech did express interest in the property earlier in the decade. Combined with the long history of mistrust, it means that any proposal to move a facility away gets a pretty skeptical reception that this is just the latest push to strip away something else from a hard hit community.

The push

Just as the problems at the pool weren’t new, neither was the push to save it. A 2010 open letter to the Urban News from some members of the Southside community succinctly summed up the ongoing fears of the community and their frustration at the pool’s state and the actions of local government. It concluded:

It is the opinion of the black community that we were sold out by
our black leaders, starting with the Asheville City Council, Model
Cities, and Urban Renewal projects. The only people who will be
emotionally disheartened and affected by the destruction of Walton Pool
is the black community, a community that continues to be
underrepresented, silenced, and squeezed out of what we consider to be
our history. Soon there will be nothing of that history that we can
share with the current and next generation of black children.

We urge the City of Asheville to reconsider the development of
its traffic plans, so that the Walton Street Pool and Park can remain in
existence. Within the past five years the community has held a
SouthSide Family Reunion to commemorate our relatives and friends that
have passed. We have attempted to revitalize the spirit and unity of the
community that was instilled in us as children.

To erase such a landmark will be a slap in the face to the many
generations for whom the historic Walton Street Pool has come to
symbolize strength, endurance, pride, and respect.

As conditions at the pool worsened going into 2015, community members worried that the city would simply shut it down or sell it off. In 2012, after all, A-B Tech broached purchasing part of the property to facilitate its expansion. Though the city didn’t take them up, it had increased suspicion in an already-skeptical community. In a late 2015 Blade column on the topic Priscilla Ndiaye, chair of the Southside Advisory Board, recalled that city staff’s lack of clear answers fueled skepticism and speculation in the local community about the fate of the local landmark.

Again and again the feeling she encountered, Ndiaye wrote, was that “it doesn’t matter what we think or what we say, they have already made plans and are going to do exactly what they want to do.”

Ndiaye’s extensively documented the history of redlining in the area (her family’s home was demolished during urban renewal) and, with other locals, formed the advisory group to try and represent local interests were represented in the face of any changes proposed by the city, the housing authority or other institutions. Now, they saw the issues at the facility mount and worried about its future. In the same piece Ndiaye remembers a fellow local reporting that bathrooms weren’t even in working order during part of that summer.

So in the Fall of 2015 she started an online petition as part of a larger campaign to save the pool. It drew significant local response and eventually nearly 900 people signed it. That included Ashevillians who lived nearby to those who’d moved away from the area but remembered Walton Street as the place they learned to swim or those that felt the restoration a long-overdue step towards equity. Former city parks board members and local history preservationists added their support too.

Tapping into concerns both about gentrification and segregation, the Walton Street issue became a key part of the local elections in a year when both were major concerns. Candidate Lindsey Simerly endorsed prioritizing a renovation. Then-Council candidate Keith Young signed the petition and paid to boost its online presence. While Simerly was not elected, Young was and as 2016 began with a new Council in place, the advocates of renovating Walton Street kept up the pressure.


As 2016 started, the issue quickly emerged at the Council dais. On Jan. 26, Ndiaye called upon Council to follow through with the pool’s repair and clarify its status, remembering the key role it played in the community.

“I remember, as a young girl, the fair being held there, going over to the park, learning how to swim, taking life-saving courses,” Ndiaye recalled. “That swimming pool, that area even now serves a lot of community members, community members who don’t have the transportation to go to a recreation center.”

She noted the state of its disrepair and the level of community concern.

“There are no plans to remove the pool,” Mayor Esther Manheimer replied to Ndiaye, clarifying that the A-B Tech proposal never seriously advanced and “that, from the Council’s perspective, was abandoned.”

City manager Gary Jackson noted that all the city’s pools were being assessed, and that following that staff would assemble plans to potentially repair them. Ndiaye thanked Council for the clarification and said she looked forward to working together, though she also noted that the state of the pool and the years of rumors had left locals angry.

Less than a week later, city officials gathered with locals at the Edington Center.

Ndiaye was there, as were many other Southside residents and members of the advisory board. She introduced the meeting and emphasized the need to put long-lasting grievances aside and work together.

“We’ve come here today to enter into critical conversation surrounding topics that have greatly impacted the black community,” Ndiaye told the crowd, referencing the gap between King’s “I have a dream” and what many community members saw on the ground.

“We need to wake up: we didn’t have the dream, we need to take action. In order for us to take action we have to come together.”

Ndiaye also emphasized the purpose was to encourage collaboration; not to criticize city officials or staff for problems in the past but to look for ways to solve them now. She encouraged the attendees to embrace that “teamwork makes the dream work” and proceed accordingly.

“We’re here to express concerns, express needs to gain understanding and come together as a team,” she noted, alluding to the diverse signatories to the petition and reading some of their notes about the Walton Street park as playing a major role in keeping the community together during tough times.

Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler and Young were in attendance as well. He said that it was time to turn the city’s attention towards goals like renovating Walton Street.

“Over the years, but specifically during the recession, we have come to realize that Parks and Rec has taken a hit, budget-wise,” Young said. “We have decided to specifically highlight parks and rec to possibly increase funding for the budget, whatever we can do to bolster our parks and rec system which goes directly, in turn to deferred maintenance on the Walton Street pool.”

“There’s nothing that’s going to happen to the pool as far as it going away,” Young continued. “Have reassurance that all Council members, including the mayor, are making it a top priority to revitalize our parks and rec system in some way, shape or form that will bring it back up to where it needs to be and possibly better than it’s ever been before. That would be my hope.”

“As far as what’s going to happen to the pool, I’m not necessarily sure what the upgrades are going to look like, what’s that going to look like period,” Young added. “But we’ve decided that parks and rec is going to be a big deal.”

Staff were there, Simmons said, to put old fears to rest. Following the city’s 2009 parks master plan, he said, “three of the top five projects were in this neighborhood.” Work on two phases of the Edington Center were complete and another phase in progress. The third project was Walton Street.

“The facilities in this area are very, very important and the community has come to realize that they’re very important,” Simmons said. He noted that the same plan made renovating existing facilities a priority before the city built any new ones.

“The history of Walton Street park is very important to this community; it was created by African-American farmers,” he continued. “In eight years we’ve never had a conversation about closing the pool or the park. At the Council level, there was never a conversation about ‘hey, we need to divest this park.’ The city has never divested a park in our entire system and we have 68 facilities.”

“Council can make policy decisions, but as a professional I just don’t see that happening, there’s no reason to take that facility offline,” he concluded. “For this community it’s very important to have open space and greenspace and to take it offline, there’d be no justification for it.”

He felt that the A-B Tech proposal was where “things went sideways with the community” but emphasized that the city didn’t control A-B Tech’s plans and that its push to buy part of the Walton Street property had not gone forward.

“As long as I’m director, I don’t see us closing the pool.”

After the pool assessment was completed he promised that the process would be different than before “the community, not staff” would decide questions of “do we invest and how much we invest” in any redesign of the park and pool, along with any other facilities in the community.

“The community conversations that need to happen will happen,” Young promised.

Dee Williams, a local activist and business owner, asked the city to pursue partnerships with organizations like Mission Hospitals to see about additional funding and improvements to the site. Simmons said that could be part of the plan.

Neighborhood coordinator Marsha Stickford asked the attendees to help the city by suggesting people to help determine the process for encouraging the public’s involvement on the shape of the eventual renovation and improvements as “you know your neighborhood better.”

Shuvonda Harper, a member of the Resident’s Council for Public Housing, thanked the staff members for clearing the situation up. Ndiaye promised to take the information there out into the community and said that given the city’s promises she looked forward to working together.

A different process

Given those promises, it might have looked like the pool’s renovation then remained a matter of funding and timing. Indeed, last year the city did allocate $2 million for pool repair, though it didn’t specify which one.

But in the months that followed things were less clear. In summer the Walton pool’s opening was delayed for half a month due to a broken pump and motor (the other pools opened as normal). In June, following multiple questions from community members about the overall situation, the Blade emailed Simmons directly requesting a response about where the process was and when (or if) the funds for the pool’s renovation would be forthcoming. The request was repeated on Aug. 16. Neither time did we receive a response.

According to city emails later obtained through an open records request, Stickford first emailed the group of stakeholders who would start to map out how the city would determine the fate of Southside public space on July 7 and arranged the first meeting for Aug. 2. Over the coming months more meetings would follow, and they also included ways to get input about the second phase of the Grant Center and the remaining needs of the Edington Center as well as the possible plans for Walton Street.

The notes for the Aug. 23 meeting noted a number of factors, and clearly indicated that those involved felt the community’s desire for a pool was high and that skepticism still ran deep.

“Residents have felt betrayed and disappointed in the past. Concern and suspicion at the city will ‘pull the rug,'” the summary noted as one factor. By November the informal working group was deliberating about the best format for a town hall to gather community input.

On Aug. 29, the pool assessment was finished, though it wouldn’t be made public until Dec. 8.

The assessment determined that after years of neglect the Walton Street pool is finally in such disrepair that it’s unlikely it can open again this year. That report notes that “our professional conclusion is that the Walton Street Pool has seen its life use” and a new pool would be a better option.

Images from the 2016 report documenting the state of the Walton Street pool’s disrepair.

Notably, however, the report doesn’t recommend that a new pool has to be at another site entirely, though that’s the option city staff introduced after its completion. Instead the report contains two options: $1.3 million for renovation of the existing pool and $1.5 million for building a new one, it doesn’t specify a different location. Indeed, the budget breakdown of the latter option notes that a new building still might build off renovating some of the existing sitework, so it could conceivably be on the same site, though with somewhat more expensive costs.

On Nov. 16, as the working group talked about setting up a town hall, Stickford noted that there would be “a survey to gather information on what services and programs are a priority for Parks and Recreation to include in the process to develop the designs for Walton Park and Phase 2 of the Grant Center.”

At least in those notes, closing the Walton Street pool is not mentioned as an option. It’s also not mentioned in a Dec. 5 email from Stickford to the group mentioning sample survey questions for the group to discuss in its meeting the next day. A group member later informed the Blade the issue had been briefly discussed before, though it’s not reflected in the notes until early December and was not a topic the working group ever reached agreement about.

In a Dec. 8 email from Stickford, the same day the August report was made public, the draft of the survey prepared by Grant Center manager Kim Zygmant mentioned the prospect of shuttering the Walton Street pool before converting the site another use. Staff would repeatedly claim they weren’t necessarily endorsing the prospect, just seeking community input.

The Grant Center is set to receive $4.5 million in city funding out of a $17 million referendum passed last year for improving parks and rec projects through the city. A new pool, they noted in ensuing discussions, could go there.

It’s important to note that bond funds aren’t legally required to go to a specific place; they can go to any project involved with parks and rec facilities, so the city could conceivably move some of those funds, or other bond funds, to renovating Walton Street if policy-makers wished.

Rather than breaking their earlier promise that the Walton Street pool would remain open, staff claimed they were just exploring possibilities and that any final decision is still up to the community.

‘Not listening to the community’

Not everyone believes that and indeed, a senior city staffer would later contradict staff’s declaration of neutrality themselves and indicate that Simmons clearly favored shutting the Walton Street pool down and opening a new one at the Grant Center. Matters have occasionally become tense, as evidenced by a discussion between locals and city staff at the Jan. 3 working group meeting. Gathered around tables at the housing authority offices, matters came to a head about the way city staff were trying to gather public input, and what answers they might push for.

The group was finalizing the details for the Jan. 31 town hall and the format of a survey that would be handed out there (and online). The fourth question on the survey asked: “Saving and/or renovating the Walton Park pool was the original option. The other would be to move the location of the pool to the Grant Southside Center. Which option would you prefer?”

But rather than simply asking locals to then pick which location they preferred, which the first draft of the survey in December did, each option had an addendum in parentheses.

The Grant Center option, listed first, had, “larger size and play features” noted after it while the Walton Street option, listed second emphasized that any renovation would only be the same size as the current pool. The survey also included general questions about the two centers. Four of the questions focused on both centers, while two others just asked about what residents would like to see at the Grant Center.

Stickford noted that the current structure of the questions was at Simmons’ direction (the parks and rec director was ill that night and couldn’t attend the meeting) but “what he’s really trying to do is not ask leading questions and not put words into people’s mouths.” She also confessed that if the pool moves, “we don’t really know what will happen” to the Walton Street site, though staff would later assert that any future plans would be up to the community.

That provoked a response, as Southside residents at the table felt that the survey was tilted towards moving the pool by emphasizing the supposedly positive aspects of such a move while emphasizing the limitations of Walton Street. They also felt it muddied the waters of the discussion by asking for input on the Grant Center as well, which they considered a separate matter.

“We’re going to have to look at the way this question is posed, there’s confusion” Ndiaye said. “We have one group that came, talking specifically about saving Walton Street park. But you have it blended in now where we’re also talking about the completion of the Grant Southside Center. There’s already a lot of talk in the community that they [the city] are going to get rid of the Walton Street pool.”

“I think the information Roderick wants is: they’ve only got money for one pool, so where do people want it?'” Stickford asked. “The money’s there, solid, to do a really great pool wherever the community wants it.”

“Let me put to you the perception the community has: the money is now there for a pool at the Grant Center and that’s going to happen either way it goes,” Ndiaye said. “The pool is already at Walton and the money’s allocated to do whatever needed to be done there.” According to the assessment, she noted both renovation or replacement of the pool at the current spot were well within the cash the city had set aside.

“The perception is: the city made a plan, wasn’t transparent about what they wanted to do down at the Grant Center, wasn’t transparent with the community and thought for whatever reason thought the Walton Street pool would just go away but it backfired.”

Ndiaye said staff had to understand the skepticism of community members. That after such a long push for the renovation of the Walton Street site and commitments from the city to move ahead, the latest process change felt like city officials were changing the goal posts and trying to phrase the survey in a way that would produce the answers they already wanted.

“As before, plans were made for a community and those impacted most were not considered,” she concluded.

“But are there people in the community who would feel good about a bigger pool at the Grant Center with Walton Street still being active in some way but not being a pool?” Michelle Smith, another member of the working group and part of the Grant Center’s board, asked. “Or do people really want this to be the pool for this part of town, even if it’s smaller?”

Stickford claimed that Simmons was generally trying to avoid cityspeak and get direct input from the public instead of just having staff relay their talking points. Smith suggested rephrasing the question to emphasize that if the pool moves to the Grant Center the Walton Park could be redesigned.

“We’ve got a problem here,” Robert Hardy, a member of the Southside Board, said in reply. “A pool was never part of Grant Center’s plan.”

Hardy, angered, tied what he saw as the latest sudden change by the city to a history of infrastructural neglect in the area, especially the crumbling state of the pool.

“We’ve heard this history before, no one’s arguing with you,” Stickford said.

“What’s the difference if it’s at the Grant Center or not?” Smith replied to Hardy’s points. But he replied to city staff by recounting the history of the petition push and the promises from city officials to save the Walton Street pool.

“The fact that this keeps coming up over and over again means that somehow we still haven’t gotten down to answering the question,” Stickford replied, feeling that there was still unresolved history.

“That’s not it,” Ndiaye said. “We have a pool that’s already there that we asked to be renovated before we got into this discussion. That’s where the breakdown is, then you act like you’re doing us a favor by removing the pool.”

“Nobody in the city has a preference,” Stickford claimed. “The whole idea behind doing a survey is to find out what the preference of the community is.”

“I beg to differ,” Hardy said. “I just want to clear the air.”

“I don’t feel like I’m getting clear at all, I feel like I’m getting the same old, same old,” Smith shot back. Hardy replied that he felt that Simmons clearly wanted the pool at Walton Street shut down because he felt the site was too small for a more modern one.

Heather Dillashaw, the city’s community development director, then spoke up, briefly going back and forth with Hardy and asserting that she’d met with Simmons that day and that he’d only been talking about the site’s limitations.

“We can replace it with a similar-sized pool if that’s what the community wants to do,” Dillashaw said, but if the community wanted a bigger pool, it would have to be at the Grant Center. She later claimed the passage of the bonds had changed the opportunities on Southside (though as noted before, where those funds go isn’t yet set in stone).

During a sometimes-heated back-and-forth, Hardy accused staff of “double talk,” an accusation they denied. But they then agreed with the push by Ndiaye and the other Southside representatives to remove the statements in parentheses and just confine the survey question simply to which site the pool should be at. They also agreed to change the wording of the survey to acknowledge the community push to renovate Walton Street.

While those concessions were made, advocates of the Walton pool renovation around the table that night saw the city’s recent moves as opening the possibility of shutting down a community site with a long history, despite what they saw as years of activism calling on them to do the exact opposite and promises by city officials that it would not come to pass.

While city staff repeatedly said over the course of the discussion that they would only move the pool to the Grant Center if Southside residents preferred that option and that they would keep the Walton Street site a community space and leave its fate up to the community, the skepticism remained.

“People feel like this is invalidating their signature on that petition,” Hardy said at one point, recalling how Ndiaye had presented the signatures to Council.

Indeed, while Dillashaw started out by saying that the city didn’t have a preference, she later directly contradicted that. In the course of the lengthy back-and-forth with Southside residents that Simmons preferred moving the pool to the Grant Center.

“There’s two different ways to come at this,” Dillashaw said. “The community can say ‘we want to take care of Walton Street the way we said we originally wanted to do it, and the Grant Center is something different. The way Roderick has brought it to you is the way he think can leverage assets better to have a better place in both locations.”

“That’s the thing,” Ndiaye said. “He’s looking at how he can leverage assets, but he’s not listening to the community.”

“That you can do a survey after that petition, you’re trying to manipulate the process,” Hardy added.

“I hear that and if I were not in the role I am I might feel the same way,” Dillashaw replied. The back and forth continued and Hardy, at one point, accused Dillashaw and Stickford of “not giving a shit” about the community’s input (“that’s uncalled for,” Dillashaw replied).

Dillashaw also claimed that the survey was developed with the working group’s assistance, and staff didn’t understand the sudden anger.

Ndiaye emphasized to the staff that while the conversation may be uncomfortable, they needed to understand the feelings of the community about what they perceived a sudden push to move the pool.

“Community members are looking at it as: they took businesses, they took homes, now they’re coming to take the pool.”

Dillashaw and Stickford later acknowledged that they were struggling against a longer history of broken government promises in the area.

“This meeting is really important: it’s going to either break trust down even further or really make a connection,” Ndiaye said, and doing the latter required tackling the history, including acknowledging the recent petition push.

Social justice organizer Tyrone Greenlee, who had volunteered to be facilitator of the town hall, agreed that acknowledging that history is key and encouraged city official to take that seriously.

“We get that what happened before has not been good and we really want this to be different,” Dillashaw said.

In an email to the working group the next day, Stickford summed up the whole hour-plus exchange simply as “a challenging and good conversation on the survey and wording.”

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