At 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 19, a public hearing will take place in Room B of the Mission Health/A-B Tech Conference Center at 340 Victoria Road in Asheville regarding Duke Energy’s plans to build a 12.5-acre landfill on its property beside Lake Julian.
As world leaders met in Spain for a United Nations conference on climate change, Western North Carolina residents converged on Pack Square for their own environmental action on the morning of Dec. 6. Organized by Sunrise Movement Asheville in conjunction with six other area nonprofits, the Asheville Climate Strike for a Green New Deal called for government leaders “to take bold action and treat this like the climate emergency that it is.”
After months of haranguing City Council over the wording of a climate emergency resolution, over 40 protesters with Sunrise Movement Asheville occupied the government building on Dec. 6 to demand that Mayor Esther Manheimer and her colleagues pass the document as written by the climate justice group.
The North Carolina General Assembly voted to award Montreat College $20 million towards the establishment of an independent cybersecurity training center in October, but Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the money. The private, Christian liberal arts college’s boosters, however, say they won’t be discouraged in filling what they see as an urgent need for ethically responsible cyber operatives.
While 12.7 African American babies die during the first year of life per 1,000 live births on average in North Carolina, that number is 19.6 per 1,000 in Buncombe County. Moreover, the county’s rate has doubled since 2012, when it was 9.8 per 1,000.
Commissioned by the French Broad River Partnership with $56,000 in grant funding from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, Ecology Wildlife Foundation and Duke Energy, the research effectively seeks to fill out the river’s books. A team led by economist Steve Ha of Western Carolina University will analyze the monetary value of a healthy river to its eight-county watershed.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners must whittle down 25 applicants to fill nine available slots on the new advisory group. According to the resolution establishing the group, members must be selected evenly from each commission district and should represent the community’s gender, age and racial diversity; notably, all of the current applicants are white.
After former Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones finished her questions about an allegedly improper $20,000 allocation of county money to build an animal barn at Charles D. Owen High School, her colleague Ellen Frost messaged then-County Manager Wanda Greene: “Like you said earlier, silence is a beautiful sound.”
During a Nov. 19 meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, attorney Ron Payne said the settlement would bring the suit to an end, “hopefully in somewhat of an expeditious manner.” All six commissioners present were in favor of accepting the settlement, with Vice Chair Jasmine Beach-Ferrara absent for the vote.
As outlined in a presentation available before the meeting, Buncombe’s 26 county-owned buildings have an average age of nearly 50 years, with total maintenance costs running over $789,000 in each of the past two fiscal cycles. The county hopes to hire an outside firm to evaluate those buildings against Buncombe’s needs.
Roughly 22 million fewer people claimed a tax benefit from their charitable giving in 2018 than in 2017, thanks primarily to the higher standard deduction threshold established under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. According to a study by Giving USA, inflation-adjusted individual charitable contributions decreased by 3.4% from 2017 to 2018.
Climate Change and Asheville’s Urban Forest, a symposium organized by Asheville GreenWorks for Thursday, Nov. 14, 5-7:30 p.m., brings together a broad coalition around the results of the city’s recently released canopy study. Urban forest advocates emphasize that trees are critical to help Asheville avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
Less than 0.1% of all small woodlands are currently certified as responsibly managed, despite making up over 75% of all privately owned Southeast forests. The SAP pilot, a collaboration of forest product companies, the Forest Stewardship Council and Rainforest Alliance, is exploring how to bring those previously overlooked parcels into certified status.
Roughly 75 people, including Asheville City Council member Brian Haynes and Council candidate Shane McCarthy, took part in demanding that local government take stronger action in response to climate change. Extinction Rebellion chose the date of the march to coincide with the time local elections would have been held before they were moved to 2020 through the passage of Senate Bill 813.
Many public commenters urged the commissioners to act even more decisively on transitioning away from fossil fuels in the context of climate change. Chloe Moore with the Sunrise Movement referenced a scientific paper, published earlier that day, in which over 11,000 scientists from 153 countries declared a “climate emergency” and warned of “untold suffering due to the climate crisis” if stronger measures were not taken.
Incumbents were vulnerable in all five of the races in which they were challenged, with Democrats ousting Republicans in the city governments of Hendersonville and Saluda (which also lies partially in Polk County). Henderson County turnout was 18.4%, with 4,766 of 25,897 eligible voters casting their ballots.
The longest economic party in U.S. history isn’t quite over yet, economist Bernard Baumohl told a capacity crowd at the Metro Economy Outlook hosted by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 24. But fears of recession and “acts of human folly” clouded his assessment of otherwise strong market fundamentals.
On Oct. 31 — over nine months after N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein announced his conditions of approval for the sale of Mission Health to HCA Healthcare — one of those key conditions was met by the naming of Gibbins Advisors as the independent monitor of HCA’s compliance with the deal.
Buncombe County has identified over $2.9 million in solar energy projects that could be installed at government-owned facilities. The projects are estimated to generate more than $4.7 million in energy savings over their estimated 30-year operational lifespan and help the county reach its goal of powering all government operations with 100% renewable energy by 2030.
“As law enforcement, our mission is to protect the public and to seek to provide justice to victims of crime. Sheriff Miller’s current policy serves neither [purpose],” said Andrew Murray, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, after Miller refused to honor an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer request. “It also breeds mistrust among law enforcement agencies and puts in danger the very communities it purports to protect.”
Xpress reached out to candidates across the two counties to understand their motivations for participating in the municipal elections. Many of the topics the hopeful elected officials raised — diversity, transportation planning and preservation of small-town character — may give WNC politicos a sneak peak at what will be important to area voters in 2020.