The City of Asheville has been selected as a finalist in the 2021 NC Tech Awards in the Public Sector Project category.
Advanced geographic information systems technology and use of data are key ways that the City is starting to improve racial equity in our community in a measurable and tangible way.
The application submitted summarized six projects initiated by staff over 18 months that have had tremendous impact on enhancing cultural diversity and social and economic equity.
All of these projects were a collaboration with IT Services across many City departments. The projects on the application included:
- Minority Business Procurement Improvements – This project brought together Asheville’s minority business leaders and City staff to identify issues with procurement process and technology that negatively affected minority business ability to do business with the City. This project also provided equity procurement training for City staff through the Johns Hopkins Center for Government Excellence.
- Racial Equity Data: Prioritizing Sidewalk Improvements – The team created a neighborhood-oriented weighted analysis for sidewalk prioritization in Asheville to explicitly include equity data. The analysis used Census/American Community Survey Block Group data, City of Asheville infrastructure data and Asheville Police Dept. accident data. The team decided on three themes for the approach of the analysis: Equity, Connectivity & Safety, and Built Environment. Streamlining the approach and using dynamic data makes this analysis easier to replicate every few years, assuring the best information for both Council and staff decisions.
- Broadband Equity Project – Asheville led a five city partnership to analyze broadband deficits. In particular, Asheville City staff completed a weighted analysis of where there were broadband gaps in Asheville and specifically where children did not have access to broadband. The weighted analysis included: percent of households without broadband access, percent of households below the Federal poverty level, and percentage of BIPOC population (Black Indigenous People of Color.) The aim was to identify and prioritize vulnerable communities with racial and socioeconomic disparities that would be most impacted by a lack of broadband access. The analysis results showed that seven of the top ten Census Block Groups with the highest index contained Asheville Housing Authority properties or Public Housing. Using location-based data policy makers were able to identify where the highest needs for broadband services were. The City concluded this process by partnering in a successful effort to bring free broadband to Asheville Housing Authority properties.
- COVID Meal Finder – In March of 2020, within the first two weeks of the pandemic lockdown, City of Asheville ITS partnered with the United Way and Buncombe County in developing an online resource to connect people with meal services in Buncombe County. Food insecurity is always an issue for our community, but the COVID-19 pandemic compounded and expanded the problem, particularly for the most vulnerable in our community. The Emergency Operation Center’s Food Workgroup acted quickly to determine food gaps, find distribution partners, and identify ways to connect residents to meals.
- Urban Renewal Data Collection, Analysis and Mapping – With assistance from UNC- Asheville faculty, Asheville City staff researched, identified, and mapped existing City-owned properties acquired through three Urban Renewal projects in Asheville. The team created a story map which shows which City-owned properties came from the Urban Renewal projects and provides the context for how the City came to own them. The current uses of these properties are also highlighted in this map. On October 27, 2020, Asheville City Council passed Resolution 20-184 that put a hold on selling any City-owned properties that came from Urban Renewal until a Reparations Commission is formed and policies are put in place. The information in these maps will help guide future planning initiatives and decision making in these areas as well as inform other policies especially related to disposition of City-owned real estate.
- Climate Justice Index Analysis and Mapping – The Climate Justice Data Map identifies communities most vulnerable to climate threats alongside compounding social and economic stressors. The analysis for this map included the creation of an index score using indicators for Climate Justice by US Census Block Group. (A census block group is a geographic boundary containing about 1500 people and is roughly the size of a small neighborhood.) The indicators used in the analysis include percent BIPOC population, heat vulnerability, energy burden, Center for Disease Control (CDC) social vulnerability, and climate resiliency threats. The individual data scores combine to create an overall score (on a scale of 1-25) that indicates the risk of that geographic area. Using the index and map we can quickly compare neighborhoods, look for hot spots or areas with the highest vulnerability.
”Our City partnerships made these impactful projects possible,” said Jonathan Feldman, Chief Information Officer for the City. “We are really fortunate to have such strong partners who are interested in using technology to improve equity and quality of life for our community.”
Community partners included:
- Center for Government Excellence
- Harvard-Kennedy School of Government Performance Lab
- Land of Sky
- Asheville Housing Authority
- Buncombe County Government
- Dogwood Trust
- United Way
- Asheville City Schools
- Buncombe County Schools
- Manna Food Bank
- Tepeyec Consulting
Winners will be announced at the Awards Gala event on November 3 in Raleigh.