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

GreatAmericanEclipse.com

The solar eclipse is less than a month away.  Thousands will come to Western North Carolina to see it, but there is one scenario that could ruin everyone’s fun – what if it rains that day?

Ron Cogswell/Flickr

Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, told lawmakers in a statement on Monday that he "did not collude... with any foreign government."

Kushner is meeting behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Monday and the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. Both panels are investigating Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and whether any members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A revised lawsuit says transgender people in North Carolina are still effectively prevented from using restrooms matching their gender identity under a law that replaced the state's notorious "bathroom bill."

The amended complaint filed Friday in federal court says the replacement law continues the harms of its predecessor by leaving restroom policies in the hands of state lawmakers and preventing local governments or school systems from setting rules or offering guidance.

Wikicommons

The filing deadline is noon on Friday July 21st for candidates wishing to run for offices in this fall's municipal elections in Buncombe County.  Asheville, Black Mountain, Montreat, Weaverville, and Woodfin will all be holding elections this fall for mayor, city council, town council, or board of alderman seats (Woodfin will also hold an election for its Sanitary Water & Sewer District Board of Trustees).

The 34th annual Folkmoot Festival gets underway Thursday in Waynesville and runs until July 30th.  What started more than three decades ago as a showcase for folk dancing has transformed into a 'meeting of people' designed 'to build global relationships, foster cultural understanding and develop community prosperity.'  Smoky Mountain News reporter Corey Vaillancourt joined BPR's Matt Bush to discuss the festival's history and evolving mission, as well as what to expect at this year's gathering.

Matt Bush BPR

Matt Coffay, a Democrat who earlier this year announced he would seek the party's nomination for North Carolina's 11th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, has announced he is dropping out of the race.

UNC-Asheville

UNC-Asheville will hold an emergency drill on campus Wednesday.  An active shooter scenario will be played out.  David Weldon is the emergency management director for the university.  He says they evaluate all responses during the drill, but there are a few things in particular he and his team will put some extra focus on this time around.  “Can we set up a call center to take in information from family and friends that may be coming into the university?  We will show that and our ability to do it", Weldon says.

Pexels

Beer and babies – they may sound mutually exclusive at first but many breweries and other establishments that serve alcohol in and around Asheville are trying to cater to both.  Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Mackensy Lunsford took a look at how beer and babies have been mixing in the area - in particular, how br

Western North Carolina Republican Congressman Mark Meadows says he’d like to see GOP leadership in the House follow that of the Senate and delay their scheduled August recess.  The reason – Congress has passed very little of President Trump or the Republican Party’s legislative priorities.  That includes repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.  Meadows says he doesn’t understand why the Senate cannot pass a bill, even if it’s one

Amazon.com

The North Carolina General Assembly has been adjourned for almost two weeks.  Dozens of bills passed by lawmakers in the final days of this year’s session await a signature from Governor Roy Cooper before becoming law.  Some affect drivers in the state.

IvoShandor

The head of Buncombe County’s Republican Party wants to debate.  He’ll even put some money up for it.  Dr. Carl Mumpower says he’ll debate anyone, as long as there’s some kind of structure and rules for the discourse.  And to sweeten the pot, he’ll make a $100 contribution to charity for each debate that happens.

Pexels

This week, Republicans in Congress will try to rally votes behind a bill that proposes major changes to the way Americans get health care and how much they pay. In North Carolina, well over 1-million people could be affected. Use this Q&A to explore how the bill would affect you.

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Infighting in political parties is nothing new.  But Haywood County Republicans have taken it to a new level with a so-called 'disloyalty' resolution targeting certain members of the party.  Smoky Mountain News reporter Corey Vaillancourt joined BPR's Matt Bush in studio to discuss the latest.

Pexels

Mission Health says it may stop accepting Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance later this year, a major decision that would affect thousands throughout Western North Carolina.  Mission said in a statement that if no agreement is reached by October 4th, Blue Cross Blue Shield members would not have ‘in-network’ access to its facilities.  That means patients would have to seek care elsewhere, or pay more out of pocket. 

TRIP

A national study shows deaths on rural roads in North Carolina are among the highest in the nation.

City of Asheville

Affordable housing may be the single biggest issue facing the city of Asheville at this time, as rents around the city to continue to rise while wages for workers do not.  Voters last fall okayed bonds to help the city start building more affordable housing.  But the first project Asheville lawmakers approved since then has been in the works for some time before that.

Wikicommons

The Asheville City Council this week approved a $175-million budget for the coming fiscal year which starts on July 1st.  The city police department was seeking an additional $1-million to hire more officers to patrol the downtown area which has seen a spike in crime.

Architect of the Capitol

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee at 2:30pm ET today, as the investigation continues into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election. Sessions is expected to take questions about his recusal from the Russia investigation, his own meetings with Russian officials, and what if anything he knew about a private Oval Office meeting between President Trump and fired FBI Director James Comey. Here is Sessions' prepared opening statement to the committee, annotated by NPR journalists.

Smoky Mountain News

Joey's Pancake House in Maggie Valley, which first opened in 1966, will serve it's last breakfast this coming Tuesday June 13th.  Owner Brenda O'Keefe lists many reasons for why she's closing, including her health and increasing difficulty in keeping enough employees to ensure the restaurant runs to her high standards.  Joey's is an institution in Maggie Valley, regularly seeing lines of up to 50 people waiting for a table on the weekends.

Matt Bush BPR

Bars were opening early all across the U.S. this morning to show former FBI director James Comey’s testimony to a U.S. Senate panel.  Asheville was no different.  Asheville Brewing Company’s Merrimon Avenue location includes a movie theater with its own bar, and when it opened at 10 a.m., around 30 people filed into it to watch the proceedings in D.C.  Others slowly trickled in as the political theater unfolded in the nation’s capital.  “I think there is some drama and excitement to be able to watch this with other people”, says Anne Fitten Glenn, Asheville Brewing Company’s spokesperson.

Eric Thayer/Getty Images

Former FBI Director James Comey is testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence this week, speaking publicly for the first time since he was fired by President Trump nearly a month ago. On Thursday, June 8, Senators are expected to press Comey on the circumstances surrounding his dismissal as well as the investigation into Russian interference in the U.S. election. The White House has given conflicting messages about the reasons for Comey's firing. Sources close to Comey say the President told Comey to shut down the Russia investigation.

Matt Bush BPR

Asheville no longer has a 'Pit of Despair' but instead 68 Haywood Street.  That's the name city lawmakers gave the prominent piece of unused real estate downtown after surveying residents.  Other name suggestions included 'Site 68' and 'The Pit' (had the latter won the references from the NBC sitcom "Parks And Recreation" could have been endless).

Matt Bush BPR

Asheville is Beer City USA, with more craft breweries per capita than anywhere else in the U.S.  Other towns in North Carolina have become hot spots for beer, but oat sodas are getting some competition in the craft alcoholic beverage market - in the form of spirits.

Matt Bush BPR

The Asheville City schools have a new superintendent.  Dr. Denise Patterson was appointed by the city school board Thursday night.  She takes office on July 1st.  Patterson is currently the assistant superintendent of Hickory City schools, a post she's had since 2012.  Prior to that, she worked in both the Union County and Lincoln County school systems, and taught as an adjunct professor at Gardner-Webb and Wingate Universities.  She told reporters her first priority upon taking office is to talk and listen to staff to see what changes have already been done before making any of her own.

ANDREW HARNIK / AP

President Trump has announced that the U.S. will be withdrawing from the Paris accord — the historic global agreement reached by 195 countries in 2015 to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and limiting the rise in average global temperatures.

Much has been written about its demise, but until it is actually repealed, the Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land.  The next enrollment period comes later this year.  The only insurer offering plans under the ACA in Western North Carolina, Blue Cross Blue Shield, announced premiums during the timeframe will rise on average almost 23%.  Jackie Kiger of Pisgah Legal Services spoke with BPR's Matt Bush and says while that premium rise is alarming, it doesn't mean many who buy their insurance through the ACA exchange will be paying more.

The Asheville city council is scheduled to adopt a budget for the coming fiscal year at its next meeting on June 13th.  Among the many spending requests lawmakers received is one from the Asheville Police Department, which is seeking $1-million to hire 15 new officers.  Police chief Tammy Hooper says it's needed to address a surge in crime in the downtown area, most likely caused by increases in tourists visiting the city.

This week the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians Tribal Council voted to remove principal chief Patrick Lambert from office.  It’s only the second time in tribe history this has occurred.  Lambert was brought up on 12 impeachment charges, and has been a controversial figure since he was first elected principal chief in 2015.

Matt Bush BPR

Asheville’s ‘Americana Burlesque & Sideshow Festival’ takes place this weekend.  Its theme this year is empowerment, as organizers say dancing, juggling, and politics are all connected.

Wikicommons

Few would argue the polarization of politics isn’t causing some kind of problem.  One of the reasons for that polarization is redistricting – how individual Congressional districts are drawn.  Western North Carolina saw the immediate effect of partisan redistricting more than anywhere else in the state.  But reforms are unlikely to occur.

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