Matt Bush

News Director

Matt Bush joined Blue Ridge Public Radio as news director in August 2016.  Excited at the opportunity the build up the news service for both stations as well as help launch BPR News, Matt made the jump to Western North Carolina from Washington D.C.  For the 8 years prior to coming to Asheville, he worked at the NPR member station in the nation's capital as a reporter and anchor.  Matt primarily covered the state of Maryland, including 6 years of covering the statehouse in Annapolis.  Prior to that, he worked at WMAL in Washington and Metro Networks in Pittsburgh, the city he was born and raised in.

Matt has a B.A. in broadcasting from Point Park College in Pittsburgh.  His M.A. is in media entrepreneurship from American University in D.C.  In May 2017, he will graduate from the 35th class of Leadership Asheville at UNC-Asheville.

Ways to Connect

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's mayor has been a woman 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.

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."

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

Matt Bush BPR

There will be no wind chill advisory overnight Saturday into Sunday morning for Western North Carolina, but bitterly cold temperatures are hanging around. Because of the continued cold snap, the city of Asheville has extended a ‘Code Purple’ alert through January 10th.  That means homeless shelters will extend hours and allow more people to stay at them. 

The Worldwide Baptist Tabernacle Church will host the new job training program

Asheville’s Southside neighborhood is believed to have the highest unemployment rate in the city.  Another effort to reverse that is getting underway at a church in that community.  

Pexels

The Buncombe County Tax Office says it's experiencing long lines this week as residents try to pre-pay their 2018 property tax bills.  This is in response to the tax bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump.  That bill imposes a $10-thousand combined limit on the deduction of state and local income and property taxes.  There is no limit for this year.  The Buncombe County Tax Office says while residents can prepay to avoid that deduction limit for next year, it's likely that it won't qualify for a deduction since the county does not generate official 2018 prope

Western Carolina University

Western Carolina University has announced a 21-member committee will search for the school's next chancellor.  Current chancellor David Belcher will go on medical leave at the end of this year.  Belcher is fighting a recurrence of brain cancer, and says he does not expect to resume his duties when his medical leave is done.  He has been chancellor since 2011. 

Firefighters have completely contained a wildfire in McDowell County that started earlier this week, but not until it grew to 200 acres in size.  The fire was first reported Monday afternoon north of Marion in the Turkey Cove community just off of route 226A north.  Initially, it was only 30 acres in size, but that grew quickly Tuesday.  But thanks to rain that started falling overnight, firefighters were able to quickly able to extinguish most of the flames.  No homes or other structures were damaged by the fire according to the U.S.

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

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 -

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

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

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.

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.

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

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.

Matt Bush BPR

The highest level of women’s professional tennis is coming to Asheville early next year. 

This week's election in Asheville will produce the most ethnically diverse city council in its history.  Vijay Kapoor, Sheneika Smith, and incumbent vice mayor Gwen Wisler were all elected to city council.  Kapoor is the first Asian-American ever elected to the body (he and Pratik Bhakta, who lost in this year's primary election, were the first Asian-American candidates ever for Asheville city council).  Smith's election means for the first time in 26 years, there will be two African-Americans on city council.  Citizen-Times reporter

Wikicommons

The sponsor of the bill that mandated Asheville draw districts for future city council elections says ‘it isn’t optional’ for the city to follow the law – even though Asheville residents rejected districts by a 3 to 1 margin in this week’s election.  Henderson County Republican Chuck Edwards district includes parts of South Asheville – a supposedly more politically moderate and conservative part of Asheville that rarely has been represented on city council, whose six members are currently elected at-large.  The bill Edwards sponsored which his colleagues in the General Assembly OK’d earlie

Meg Kelly NPR

Voters in Virginia and New Jersey are choosing new governors. Both races began with an emphasis on statewide issues such as property taxes and education policy. Now, in the closing weeks of the campaigns, both have morphed into the latest test of President Trump's influence down the ballot. We're updating election results as they come in.

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In September, the U.S. attorney for southern New York announced indictments against several assistant basketball coaches at some of the most prestigious programs in the country, as well as against representatives for Adidas.  The announcement rocked the sport, but the Shoops say what's alleged has been going on in college sports for decades, and should not come as a surprise.  Their guest is current Bloomberg View and former New York Times writer Joe Nocera.

(music featured includes Real One and Offset by Fleslit)  

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