western north carolina

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. 

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.

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.  

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. 

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.

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.

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.

wunc.org, Michel Tronchetti

A common frustration for residents throughout the mountains of Western North Carolina is the lack of high speed internet access.   They now have a place where they can vent. BPRs Davin Eldridge has more…

Author's Note: a link to the survey is provided at the bottom of the article.

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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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.

Mountain Towns Split On How They Will 'Do Brunch'

Oct 26, 2017
NPR.org

North Carolina’s so-called ‘Brunch Bill’ gives local governments the option of allowing alcohol sales as early as 10 a.m. on Sundays, instead of the usual time of noon.  Hendersonville and Asheville quickly adopted the law. But to the west, there’s still plenty of debate about the bill in some communities. BPR’s Davin Eldridge reports on the contentious new bill and it's status within the region--examining which side of the issue each town is now on--and how a period of only two hours each week can differ so much between them as a result.

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.   

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

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