News

BEN GRAUMANN, EQUALITY NC

A column last year in the News & Observer of Raleigh declared "North Carolina is no longer classified as a democracy."  The article went viral and prompted a range of heated reactions, even death threats.  The writer, Andrew Reynolds, a professor of political science at UNC Chapel Hill, recently updated us to say things had only gotten worse.  He joined BPR's Jeremy Loeb and WUNC's Jeff Tiberii to discuss.  

Jason Sandford | AshVegas.com with permission

What started with a question about the future of a parking structure has led to a dynamic effort to develop affordable spaces in the city for creatives to live and work.

ncleg.net

(CORRECTION - This story has been updated to reflect other WNC legislators who sponsored medicinal marijuana legislation) 

Opioid abuse claims almost four lives per day in the state of North Carolina – leaving some patients to shun the post-surgical benefits of these powerful painkillers altogether.  Recent comments from a Western North Carolina legislator suggest there may be a renewed effort to fill that gap by putting some medical marijuana laws on the books.

Pexels

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina law that cancels primaries this year for judicial seats has been partially halted.

A federal judge on Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction directing state election officials to hold primaries for appellate court judgeships in May. But U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles refused to restore primary elections for local trial court seats.

Democrats sued to overturn the law and asked Eagles to step in, with candidate filing for other races starting Feb. 12.

Matt Bush BPR

Buncombe County commissioners have been holding town hall meetings in recent months regarding opioids.  Those gatherings have touched on several topics, but have had one common goal – educating people on how powerful the painkillers are and how easy it is to become addicted to them.

UNC-Asheville

Dan Pierce is UNC-Asheville's National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Professor in the Humanities.  He's written several books on the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Pierce attributes his love of the park to first passing through it on Highway 441 when his family moved to Asheville from Arkansas in the 1950's.  His book Hazel Creek: The Life and Death of an Iconic Mountain Community, will be the subject of a

Caren Harris

If there were a convenient way to do so, Constance Humphries would invite all her audiences inside her Asheville townhome to watch her perform.

“A gallery situation or small venue or even a house is ideal because I can be very close to my audience,” Humphries said. “I like to look at them, look in their eyes. I like to get in their space -- not in an aggressive way, but in a supportive way.”

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) —  North Carolina state officials are asking for input from residents about a plan to relocate three Confederate monuments away from state Capitol grounds.  Officials have established an online page to collect comments from the public about the relocation proposal. To comment on the plan: Click here.  

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

President Trump is delivering his State of the Union address to Congress, which will be followed by a response from the Democratic Party. Journalists across the NPR newsroom will be annotating those remarks, adding fact-checks and analysis in real time. The live video stream and annotation will start at 9 p.m. this evening.

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Liam James Doyle/NPR

Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III, seen as a rising political star with a famous last name, will deliver the Democratic response to President Trump's State of the Union. In announcing their decision, Democratic leaders in Congress called Kennedy a "relentless fighter for working Americans." Kennedy is the grandson of the late Robert Kennedy, the former U.S. attorney general and New York senator who was assassinated in 1968. He is also the great nephew of both the late Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy and the late president John F.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Few things are certain about North Carolina's 2018 elections, except that voters ultimately will choose members of Congress and the General Assembly and those for county positons.

A tangled web of legislation and litigation stretching to the state's highest court and nation's highest court has made it unclear how this year's elections will be administered, even though candidate filing for some seats begins in two weeks.

There are several court cases and proposals that make murky the election calendar and its management.

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Chris Seward; News & Observer of Raleigh

A likely Republican candidate for governor in 2020 accepted a campaign contribution from the leader of the controversial Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, the News & Observer reports.  The paper says campaign finance reports show Lt. Governor Dan Forest accepted $100 contributions from six Word of Faith pastors, including leader Jane Whaley.

City of Asheville

Asheville has changed quite a bit in recent years thanks to a surge in new development.  But some even bigger changes are on the horizon, thanks to some recent real estate sales and newly announced development plans.  Jason Sandford of AshVegas has been writing about many of them and he joined BPR's Matt Bush in studio to discuss the latest developments - including one at the Asheville Mall that would bring one of the most famous events in city history full circle.  

Cory Vaillancourt

Through a unique regional partnership, Haywood County recently outsourced much of its economic development activity to the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce.  More than simply a marketing deal, the partnership has the Asheville Chamber touting development opportunities in Haywood County alongside its own, citing mutual benefit to the region as a whole.

flyavl.com

Late last year a new parking garage was completed at Asheville Regional Airport.  Ongoing runway work has also been happening, but in the coming years something bigger could be in the works - an expansion of the terminal.  AshVegas.com has been looking at what's been going on at the airport in recent months.  Jason Sandford of AshVegas joined BPR's Matt Bush in studio to discuss where the airport could be headed in future years - as the number of passengers going in and out of the facility has greatly exceeded airport officials expectations.  Sandford reports the number of passengers in 20

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

North Carolina ranked in the middle nationally when it comes to auto safety laws according to a report released this week by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.  The group is an "alliance of consumer, medical, public health, and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America’s roads safer."

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

It’s a new year, and for many people, that means new fitness goals.  BPR’s Jeremy Loeb checked in at the local YMCA to see how things were going.

BEN GRAUMANN, EQUALITY NC

The Joint Select Committee on Judicial Reform and Redistricting met again Monday to discuss changes to the courts.  Possible changes include redistricting for judges and a "merit-selection" process that could bypass voters altogether.  Democrats argue Republicans are trying to rig the courts in their favor after seeing a number of decisions go against them.  Republicans say the changes are long overdue.  

BPR recorded the meeting in full.  

Isaac Harrel

There are t-shirts and bumper stickers, and no doubt city politicians have run on the campaign slogan -- Keep Asheville Weird.

“Asheville walks that fine line of being proud to be weird, but some people are also like ‘But I don’t want weird,’ you know?” said Jocelyn Reese, talking about the city’s annual bow to unabashed weirdness called the Asheville Fringe Arts Festival. Reese and her partner Jim Julien are co-directors.

Matt Bush BPR

The 2nd annual Asheville Women's March took place Saturday.  Thousands filled Memorial Stadium before marching up Biltmore Avenue to Pack Square, the site of last year's women's march.  Around 10-thousand attended last year, and thousands showed up for this year's march which featured many female elected officials from around the region.  Asheville has had a woman as mayor since 2005, and the city council is now majority female following last year's election.  The women's march in Asheville wasn't only one held Saturday in Buncombe County, as a similar event took place in Black Mountain.

The News & Observer of Raleigh

Federal judges on Friday approved changes a court-appointed expert made to two dozen North Carolina legislative districts, agreeing that maps approved by Republican lawmakers last summer didn’t fully remove previous illegal racial bias.

Black Star Line Brewing, the first black-owned brewery in Western North Carolina, closed its Hendersonville location.  A post on the brewery's Facebook page on Thursday said "Thanks for the love Hendersonville.  At this time we will no longer be operating on 131 3rd Ave W.  We'll let you know updates as soon as they are available.  Thank you."

Corey Lowenstein/The News & Observer, via Associated Press

 The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday delayed a lower-court order that would have forced North Carolina Republican lawmakers to redraw the state’s congressional districts by next week because of excessive partisan bias in current lines.

There are likely enough singer-songwriters in Asheville to fill every coffeeshop and street corner in the city. But amid the region’s bluegrass, Americana and jam music, there’s a new effort to turn people onto the Asheville’s indie rock and punk scene.

 

Cory Vaillancourt

With a polarizing President in the White House and gerrymandered districts in the courthouse, disillusionment with the two-party system in American politics seems to be at an all time high.  A recently passed North Carolina law will make it easier for third parties to get on the ballot this year – but only if a partisan fight between Republicans and Democrats in Raleigh gets resolved. 

Matt Bush BPR

Asheville City schools Superintendent Dr. Denise Patterson says she’s learned a lot during her first six months on the job – not just about the school system but the city itself.

Pexels

Mission Health has reached a settlement with three former employees who claimed they were fired because they refused to get flu shots on religious grounds.  Christine Bolella and Titus Robinson were terminated in 2013, while Melody Mitchell was fired in 2014.  All three filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against Mission, alleging the hospital system failed to accommodate their religious beliefs.  Mission Health has a policy making yearly flu shots mandatory for employees.  All three sought a religious exemption, but claimed they were each denied and eventually termin

Asheville Police

Michael Christoper Estes, the man accused of leaving an explosive device near the entrance to the baggage claim of Asheville Regional Airport last October, plead guilty Friday morning in federal court to one count of unlawful possession of explosive material.  A sentencing date for Estes has not been announced.  He faces up to five years in prison and a $250-thousand fine.

Leaders for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are moving forward with a voter referendum on whether to allow expanded alcohol sales on the Qualla Boundary.  When it might happen is still unclear.  Smoky Mountain News reporter Holly Kays joined BPR’s Matt Bush to discuss the latest, as well as the history of the ban on alcohol sales in Cherokee - which had been totally dry until 2009, when alcohol sales were finally permitted at the Harrah's Casino there, which first op

Matt Bush BPR

Tuesday’s ruling by federal judges that North Carolina’s Congressional district maps are illegal could have wide ranging implications for politics at the local, state and national level.  The court ruled the maps were illegal because they were gerrymandered specifically to benefit Republicans – the first time a court cited partisanship as a reason to throw out Congressional maps created through redistricting.  The city of Asheville saw the biggest change during the redistricting the court just rejected.  The new lines cut the city from one district into two – leading it from being represent

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