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

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.

Loading...

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.

Senator Thom Tillis Twitter account

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina collapsed during a Washington, D.C., race Wednesday morning and has been taken away by ambulance.

Tillis, 57, was seen on the ground being administered CPR by bystanders at about the two-mile mark in the three-mile race in Anacostia Park in the southeast part of the city.

Tillis at first appeared unconscious but was revived and breathing when taken away by ambulance from the ACLI Capital Challenge 3 Mile Team Race.

APD

A recent report showed Asheville police were pulling over far more African-American drivers than their white counterparts – even though the white population in the city dwarfs that of the black population.  Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Joel Burgess spoke with BPR’s Matt Bush about the

Wikicommons

Western North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows is criticizing National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster's comment at a White House press briefing regarding the Western Wall, which is located in the city of Jerusalem.  McMaster declined to tell reporters whether President Trump believes the wall is part of the state of Israel, calling it a "policy decision."  The Western Wall is one of the holiest sites in Judiasm, and is part of land Israel seized during the Six-Day War in 1967.  

Jeremy Loeb/BPR

Western Carolina University political scientist Dr. Chris Cooper is a frequent guest of Blue Ridge Public Radio.  In his most recent visit, Cooper spoke with BPR's Jeremy Loeb and Matt Bush about the latest in state politics.  The conversation touched on the recently-passed Senate budget, a big Supreme Court punt on voter ID, the brewing (pun intended) legal battle involving craft beer, possible campaign finance mischief, Senator Richard Burr's role in the national spotlight, and some high-profile resignations for the progressive left in North Carolina.  

Buncombe County's larger population gives it advantages in economic development its smaller neighbors in Western North Carolina don't have.  So what's there to do for those counties?  Smoky Mountain News reporter Corey Vaillancourt has been looking at what Haywood County has been doing.

Pexels

Homeowners in Buncombe County are receiving their property tax bills, which arrive with this paradox – tax rates are going down, but the amount each homeowner must pay is almost universally going up.  Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Emily Patrick joined BPR’s Matt Bush in studio to explain how that’s possible.  She also touched on how taxes may end up increasing because of the brewery that did not relocate to Asheville aka Beer City U.S.A - Deschutes Brewery, which decided to build it's East Coast location in Roanoke, Virginia.  It's scheduled to open in August of this year.

Matt Bush BPR

Asheville isn't alone when it comes to problems with providing enough affordable housing.  Citizen-Times reporter Emily Patrick found the struggle is often greater in areas well outside of the city in Western North Carolina.

Matt Bush BPR

Sometimes work doesn’t feel like work.  That was the case for an Asheville contractor and his employees last week as they rehabbed an historic cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Wicked Weed of Asheville announced this week it was being sold to brewing giant Anheuser-Busch InBev, which owns such brands as Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois.  The company has been purchasing small craft breweries in recent years, creating "The High End" business unit for such brands.  In a statement announcing the sale, Wicked Weed co-founder Walt Dickinson called it an "exciting time for the entire brewing team.

Warren Wilson College

Warren Wilson College has named its new president, and for the first time in the school's 123-year history, it will be lead by a woman.  Dr. Lynn Morton will take over as president on July 1st.  She comes from Queens University in Charlotte, where she has spent the last 26 years.  She's currently the school's provost and vice president for academic affairs.  She takes over at Warren Wilson from Steven Solnick, who is leaving Western North Carolina to become the head of the Calhoun School in New York City.  Dr.

Matt Bush BPR

Congressional mid-term elections are 18 months away, but one challenger is getting into the race for Western North Carolina’s seat in the House of Representatives very early.  Democrat Matt Coffay announced he will seek his party’s nomination for the 11th district seat at a rally in Waynesville last month.  Should Coffay win the nomination, he’d face three-term incumbent Republican Mark Meadows in the general election.  BPR’s Matt Bush spoke with Smoky Mountain News reporter Corey Vaillancourt about the Democratic challenger.

Pages