BPR News

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.

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

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. 

surfchex.com

It's not often that you see snow at the beach.  Check out live shots of NC beaches at http://www.surfchex.com/

Governor Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon for all eastern and several central North Carolina counties as the state braces for snow and sleet along with bitter cold.

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.  

WRAL

Friday update:

(Associated Press) The North Carolina House leader predicts redrawn election districts for trial court judges can be finalized with Senate Republicans by the end of January. But he's unsure what his colleagues think about a Senate proposal eliminating head-to-head judicial elections.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger appointed Thursday members of a special bipartisan joint committee tasked with recommending judicial changes to the General Assembly.

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

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — New Census estimates show that North Carolina and South Carolina are among states with the biggest population increases in 2017.

The Census data released in late December shows that North Carolina held onto its spot as the ninth most populous state in the U.S. with nearly 10.3 million people. It ranks just behind Georgia and just ahead of Michigan. It also ranks fifth in terms of numeric growth, picking up about 117,000 residents between 2016 and 2017.

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. 

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.

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.

plasticsoupfoundation.org

Updated 6:00am 12/21:  The Metropolitan Sewerage District has voted down a proposal to expand its board with 3 seats for Henderson County.  The 10-1 vote reflected the belief of board members that giving Henderson the same number of seats as Asheville would create an imbalance because Asheville customers make up a majority of those served.  There's also lingering mistrust after the state legislature tried to take over the Asheville water system and turn it over to MSD. 

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 -

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

One of the big issues in the GOP tax reform bill is the elimination of the health insurance mandate  - the requirement, under the Affordable Health Care Act, that all Americans get coverage or pay a fine.  ACA open enrollment is underway through December 15, and the impact of the tax bill is just one of many questions and concerns.   BPR’s Helen Chickering spoke with Jackie Kiger, managing attorney with Pisgah Legal Services

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.

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