News

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Chelsea LaBate has two voices. In song, you hear the tone and vibrato of Fiona Apple, maybe even a little Billie Holiday. Then there’s LaBate’s inner voice, of resilience and sunny determination, to live and work as an artist.

“I think I have waves of feeling like I’m getting there, and then we all have whammies,” LaBate said. “For me this past year, it was my father died and I tool in my teenage brother, and I’m just now pulling out of that.”

Associated Press

Multiple news agencies report Tennessee Senator Bob Corker has sent a letter to Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch asking how and why a provision was included in the GOP tax bill that could benefit Corker and President Donald Trump.  The International Business Times first reported the provision that would reduce taxes on income from real-estate LLCs.  Corker and President Trump own a large amount of real estate.  

UNC-Asheville

UNC-Asheville's winter graduation ceremony will be held Friday on campus.  It will be the last event for chancellor Dr. Mary Grant, who earlier this year announced she would be leaving the school to become the president of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S.

The federal investigation into former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene has been one of if not the biggest local government story in the region in 2017.  Greene retired at the end of June after nearly 20 years on the job.  Shortly after, federal authorities confirmed she was being investigated, but did not specify for what.  Through dribs and drabs information about the final months of Greene's tenure came out, including the awarding of hefty bonus packages to high-sa

Cory Vaillancourt

Many small towns sponsor holiday parades, complete with everything one might expect to see – sidewalks crammed with people, garland-draped lampposts and high school marching bands keeping the beat on the street.  But at the town of Cantons two most recent parades – including last night’s Christmas parade – some were also greeted with the sight of the Confederate flag.

Matt Bush BPR

Few neighborhoods in Asheville are iconic as the South Slope.  Few have also changed as much in recent years.  But even with all the growth there, there are still plenty of empty lots in that neighborhood waiting to be developed.  The city is beginning to plan what will come to the South Slope in the next decade, and residents can weigh in this weekend on what they want to see happen.

(UPDATE - Saturday morning's meeting has been canceled because of the weather.  It will be rescheduled for a future date)

Cory Vaillancourt Smoky Mountain News

8 out of 10 Americans live 'paycheck to paycheck' according to the employment website Career Builder.  That's just one of the factors contributing to homelessness that Smoky Mountain News reporter Cory Vaillancourt studied before he decided to voluntarily go 'homeless' for three days late last month.  He sat down with BPR's Matt Bush to discuss his experiences and the resources for the homeless he encountered in Haywood County.  Vaillancourt's travels took him from his home i

Asheville Citizen-Times

Senators meeting to discuss whether to retool how judges are chosen in North Carolina are now collecting information from some professors and a national judicial reform group.

The Senate Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting holds its second meeting today at 1pm, with representatives from the University of North Carolina law school and Brennan Center for Justice making presentations.

Mission Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina announced they have reached an agreement, allowing patients covered by the North Carolina's largest insurer will be 'in-network' at facilities operated by Western North Carolina's largest healthcare provider.  The announcement comes exactly two months after Mission officially terminated its contract with Blue Cross.  Their new agreement takes affect on December 15th.

Both sides released a joint statement announcing the agreement -

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

The Washington Post published an article this week looking at North Carolina's moves on taxes in recent years for clues to how the GOP tax plan making its way through Congress could impact the country.  BPR's Jeremy Loeb was joined by WUNC capitol reporter Jeff Tiberii and Western Carolina Univeristy political scientist Chris Cooper for a discussion of North Carolina's example with regards to taxes.

BPR News

The holiday season is in full swing, and for many, that means it’s time to find a  Christmas tree.    Here in Western North Carolina, the experience is a bit like shopping for toys in Santa’s workshop.  The region produces the majority of Christmas trees for the state and is the second biggest producer in the country. 

EPA

The long awaited cleanup of a Superfund site in South Asheville will start in earnest this month.  The site of a former CTS plant on Mills Gap Road contains a chemical common at Superfund sites according to Craig Zeller of the Environmental Protection Agency.  That chemical is abbreviated TCE, and it was a common ‘de-greaser’ used in the 1950’s.  He estimates it's found at 80% of Superfund sites.  “In this particular case what CTS was doing at this facili

Matt Peiken

In a land of Americana music and art imbued with the mountains, you can forget you’re in Asheville while you’re inside Revolve.

It’s a gallery and performance space in the RAMP Studios, an unmarked industrial building near UNC-Asheville. Revolve is dedicated to contemporary, experimental work -- meaning, it’s 180 degrees from the music and art you’ll generally find along the region’s paths of tourism.

One of the big issues in the GOP tax reform bill is the elimination of the health insurance mandate  - the requirement, under the Affordable Health Care Act, that all Americans get coverage or pay a fine.  ACA open enrollment is underway through December 15, and the impact of the tax bill is just one of many questions and concerns.   BPR’s Helen Chickering spoke with Jackie Kiger, managing attorney with Pisgah Legal Services

Smoky Mountain News

The so-called 'Haywood 5' are a group of Republicans in that county that were brought up on official party disloyalty charges.  The faced a trial of sorts this month before state GOP officials in Cary, which ruled four of the five are banned from the Republican party for differing amounts of time.  The charges against the five included social media posts that indicated support for candidates who were not Republicans.  The battle goes back further than that, to when the five started the Haywood Republican Alliance and challenged the party establishment in the county.  Smoky Mountain News re

YouTube

Senate Republicans in Congress could vote on their version of tax reform as soon as this week.  If the Senate bill passes, it would need to be reconciled with the House version and then voted on again.  There are still a number of Senate Republicans who have expressed reservations.  They can only lose two votes for the bill to still pass without any Democratic support.  BPR's Jeremy Loeb discusses its impact in Western North Carolina with NC State University economist Dr. Michael Walden.

Ashley T. Evans Wesern Carolina University

Western Carolina University chancellor David Belcher will go on medical leave at the end of the year.  Belcher is battling brain cancer, and in a statement released by the school Monday morning, he said he does not expect to resume his duties at the end of his leave.

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

The country’s largest electric company heads into a fight for a rate hike with regulators in its top market now focused on setting a precedent on whether consumers should pay the full cost of cleaning up coal ash pits loaded with toxic metals.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission opens hearings today into whether Duke Energy Corp. will be allowed to charge consumers nearly $200 million a year for the cleanup.

Smoky Mountain News

Parades are a holiday season staple.  The town of Canton's Christmas parade is scheduled for December 7th.  It will be the first parade in the Haywood County town since the Labor Day parade, where several marchers showed up carrying Confederate flags.  Town officials have been trying to decide how to prevent similar displays in the future.  Canton Alderman Dr.

WRAL

North Carolina’s Republican-dominated General Assembly has made a number of changes to the way judges are elected in the state, with many more proposals under current consideration.  They include making races partisan and changes to district lines and term lengths, even eliminating some vacancies and proposals to do away with elections for judges altogether.  Former state Supreme Court justice Robert Orr, a Republican, is no fan of the changes.  He spoke with BPR’s Jeremy Loeb about the proposals and about the state of the Republican party under President Donald Trump.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The nation's largest electric company has agreed to seek a lower rate increase on more than a million North Carolina customers and charge a lower potential profit margin, but still wants nearly $200 million a year to clean up the toxic byproducts of burning coal.

Matt Peiken | BPR

City government, tax and planning commissions and nonprofit board meetings. Those settings naturally conjure ... mystery and romance?

They do if you’re Renee Kumor.

“I’ve been on nonprofit boards for years. I’ve dealt with staff members who’ve embezzled -- that happens constantly,” Kumor said. “The issues of conflict of interest. Just having a crisis of direction on the board, and I just decided those crisis discussions can end in murder, what the heck?”

Buncombe County released documents Friday afternoon regarding former county manager Wanda Greene, who is currently under federal investigation.  Among the documents released confirms an internal county audit uncovered 'questionable' financial transactions around the time Greene retired in June.  Other documents showed Greene provided the media with inaccurate information regarding payments made to the Tryon Equestrian Center.

City of Asheville

Short term rentals were easily the most discussed issue on the campaign trail ahead of this month's city elections in Asheville.  Even after the votes have been counted, the future and prevalence of AirBnB-style lodgings remains a political flashpoint in the city.  The Planning and Zoning Commission has received requests from outside developers to allow units be set aside for short term rentals in planned townhouse and condominium projects, like McCormick Place (pictured above) which is slated to be built near McCormick Field.  Meanwhile, the Asheville city council took steps to

unfccc.int

Nearly 200 countries are wrapping up the annual United Nations Climate Summit in Bonn, Germany this week. Notably absent is the United States. This summer, President Trump declared he is pulling the U.S. out of the landmark Paris Climate Accord, which aims to reduce carbon emissions and holds countries accountable for limiting the rise in global temperatures.   But the move hasn’t stopped hundreds of climate scientists and researchers from participating, including Western Carolina University’s Rob Young, a geologist who directs The Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines.  Young spoke with BPR’s Helen Chickering shortly after he returned from Bonn.

CULLOWHEE -- Picture in your mind a traditional Cherokee Indian basket. You can see its shape, the bands of bundled pine needles or rivercane wicker, the painted patterns drawn from tribal imagery.

 

But when you these baskets, do you reflect on treaty violations, the appropriation of Native names and imagery or forced removal from ancestral homelands?

Just over a month after Mission Health’s contract with Blue Cross expired, the two organizations have gone back to the negotiating  table.  A Blue Cross spokesman confirmed by email that talks are underway, saying, “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Mission Health have entered into discussions regarding a future network participation agreement and will refrain from public comment until those talks are completed.”

Matt Bush BPR

Buncombe County is suing five manufacturers and three wholesale distributors of opioids, as the number of overdoses in the county on those drugs has sharply risen again this year.  It’s an approach other governments at all levels across the U.S. have tried.

Pages