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

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)  

The 'Take A Knee' protests have continued throughout the 2017 NFL season, becoming so widespread that President Donald Trump even weighed in on them.  The Shoops examine the history of protests by black athletes in the U.S. and find 'Take A Knee' is the latest in a long line of such demonstrations throughout the country's history.  Their guest - columnist and ESPN & NPR contributor Kevin Blackistone - says this is because sports are one of the few arenas where African-Americans are taken seriously in the U.S.

(Music featured includes Xanadont by Mystery Mammal)  

Incumbent Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer breezed to an easy re-election, while Vijay Kapoor, Sheneika Smith, and incumbent Gwen Wisler won city council seats.  Meanwhile, three-quarters of those who voted in Asheville said no to creating city council districts, even though a state law passed earlier this year by the Republican-dominated General Assembly mandated the Democratically-controlled city do so for the 2019 election.  

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

On the first anniversary of President Trump’s election, NPR is looking back at his victory speech. NPR reporters across the newsroom have annotated his election night remarks, providing context and analysis to his policy promises and noting who among the people he thanked are still in the inner circle a year later.

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Warren Wilson College

The president of Warren Wilson College says a plan to offer free tuition starting next year to incoming students from North Carolina is part of a push to diversify the student body on campus.  Dr.

Derek Blanks

Singer Gladys Knight will headline a benefit show Sunday night at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville.  Other performers include Little Big Town - and a host of 'surprise guests' that Knight is promising will be there.  All proceeds from the show will toward a proposed community center outside of Canton in Haywood County.  Knight's husband Billy McDowell is behind the plan to turn the former Reynolds School in an area known as Gibsontown into a community center by 2019.  McDow

BPR Tech

Blue Ridge Public Radio and the Asheville Citizen-Times partnered on a forum with the six candidates for the November 7th general election for Asheville city council.  It was recorded in the BPR studios on October 23rd.  All six candidates participated - Dee Williams, Kim Roney, Rich Lee, Vijay Kapoor, Gwen Wisler, and Sheneika Smith.  The topic of the forum was discrimination, and questions for the candidates related to issues around that.  Voters will elect three of the candidates to city council.

Matt Bush BPR

Of all the options for the future of the Vance Monument in Pack Square, putting it and its namesake into context might be the most difficult to imagine.  Not because it isn’t a viable solution, but because it’s such a broad yet vague idea.   A trip to Zebulon Vance’s birthplace north of Asheville shows what 'contextualizing' the monument could look like.   

Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce

Population and job growth continue to be strong in the Asheville region, but wages are lagging far behind.  That's according to a report released by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Coalition of Asheville-Buncombe County.  The report studied a six county area (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Madison, Transylvania) and found the average wage per job is $44,800.  The national average is $62,100.

Corey Vaillancourt Smoky Mountain News

Passenger rail service in Western North Carolina has been almost non-existent for more than 40 years.  There's still freight rail service throughout the region, and in the coming years we could see passenger service comeback, even in small forms.  Smoky Mountain News reporter Cory Vaillancourt has been looking at how rail service might return to the region.  He discussed the latest on the

BPR Tech

Blue Ridge Public Radio and the Asheville Citizen-Times partnered on the first of two forums with candidates for Asheville City Council Monday.  You can watch it on the BPR News Facebook page.  It will be aired this Friday October 27th at noon in place of The State of Things.  The second forum will be held Monday October 30th at noon and can be viewed live on the Citizen-Times website and

Wikicommons

This week's Asheville primary yielded a few surprising results, but the issues that were driving voters to the polls should come as no shock to anyone who follows city politics.  South Asheville businessman Vijay Kapoor was by far the top vote getter in the city council primary, which whittled the number of candidates from 12 to 6 for next month's general election.  Kapoor's showing is a sign the neighborhood he hails from is becoming a burgeoning force in Asheville politics according to Citizen-Times reporter Joel Burgess, who covers city government.  He says growth of Asheville was what

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