Asheville

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.

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."

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.

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

Federal judges have ruled that North Carolina's congressional district map drawn by legislative Republicans is illegally gerrymandered because of excessive partisanship that gave the GOP a rock-solid advantage for most seats and must quickly be redone.

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.  

The post-holiday purge is underway as  people rid their homes of boxes, wrapping paper and trimmings.    Many of those items can go in the recycling bin, but not everything.   BPR’s Helen Chickering got some tips from Nancy Lawson, with Asheville’s Curbside Management.  

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

BPR News

The TV show Shark Tank matches charismatic investors with fledgling entrepreneurs who are hoping to snag a business deal.   Earlier this month, some students at UNC- Asheville got a taste of the reality show experience.  Blue Ridge Public Radio’s Helen Chickering has details.

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

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)

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 -

BPR News

The holiday season is in full swing, and for many, that means it’s time to find a  Christmas tree.    Here in Western North Carolina, the experience is a bit like shopping for toys in Santa’s workshop.  The region produces the majority of Christmas trees for the state and is the second biggest producer in the country. 

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

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.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The nation's largest electric company has agreed to seek a lower rate increase on more than a million North Carolina customers and charge a lower potential profit margin, but still wants nearly $200 million a year to clean up the toxic byproducts of burning coal.

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. 

ashvegas.com

Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer got a resounding vote of confidence earlier this month, winning re-election with more than 80% of the vote.  She stopped by BPR to speak with Jeremy Loeb about the election results and to look forward to her second four-year term.  She also discussed possible actions the city might take in response to a legislative effort to force districts for council members, something Asheville voters overwhelmingly rejected.

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

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.  

Funny Business In The Mountains Sees Growth

Nov 6, 2017
NPR.org

As long as there’s a stage, there’s really no telling where a comic can be found—even in areas like Western North Carolina—where local talent has flourishes, and local business captures part of a $300 million industry. BPR'S Davin Eldridge takes a look at the comedy scene of the mountains. 

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