“If you take one thing away from this rally, let it be this: You are not as small as you think you are,” said Asheville High School freshman Clay Swan-Davis. The event, part of a global strike involving over 1.4 million young activists, called for “radical legislative action to combat climate change.”
Mayor Esther Manheimer pointed to the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s recent commitment to long-term planning around hotel occupancy taxes as a key factor in her support for the project. “That is the kind of change that I needed to see personally before I would move forward with considering another hotel,” she said, joining Council members Vijay Kapoor, Julie Mayfield and Sheneika Smith in the approval vote.
“This may hurt some feelings, but you can no longer operate the city of Asheville like it’s the Oprah Winfrey talk show, where you get a car and you get a car,” said Council member Keith Young, referencing the daytime TV host’s famous giveaways. “As much as we love all these programs and trying to help the public good… this is the time to close the bank.”
By adding a dedicated urban forester, crafting an urban forest master plan and strengthening the current municipal tree ordinance, say members of Asheville’s Tree Commission, the city can manage its growth in a greener and more climate-resilient way. “The more hard surface we have, the more green we need to balance it out,” says commission chair Stephen Hendricks.
While Mayor Esther Manheimer recommended in October that local hoteliers Pratik Bhakta and Monark Patel resubmit their proposal to Asheville City Council in at least “a year’s time,” the two aren’t waiting. Their hotel is back on the agenda for Council’s meeting of Tuesday, March 12, less than five months after its first consideration.
On March 1, city spokesperson Ashley Traynum-Carson said in a press release the needle exchange would now be considered a medical clinic after it formalized a commitment to have a medical professional on-site during operation. The process by which Asheville arrived at its new position, however, remains unclear.
As of late January, Equity and Inclusion Manager Kimberlee Archie’s office is fully staffed. Its four employees are together charged with advancing equity, which the city defines as “just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper and reach their full potential,” and promoting inclusion, defined as “authentic and empowered participation with a true sense of belonging.”
The $1.4 million program, unanimously approved by Council members at their Feb. 26 meeting, offers no-interest loans of up to $40,000 for low- and moderate-income borrowers to make down payments on single-family residences within Asheville city limits.
Jason Carter’s creative instructional attitude recently earned him the honor of being named a Teacher Ambassador by the California-based National Center for Science Education. Along with nine colleagues from across the country, he will help develop, test and deploy a curriculum that addresses climate change denial.
Funded by a $60,000 grant from Duke Energy’s Water Resources Fund and developed by city staff in conjunction with Asheville GreenWorks and RiverLink, the plan lays out environmental and aesthetic projects such as stormwater control, invasive species removal, wildlife habitat construction and an ecological mural.
Even accounting for the fossil fuels needed to generate the electricity they will use, said Council member Julie Mayfield, each vehicle will produce 54 fewer tons of annual carbon emissions than one of Asheville’s current buses. Once all five buses hit the streets, the total emissions savings of 270 tons will make up a third of the city’s annual carbon reduction target.
Four items on Council’s consent agenda aimed to improve how Asheville residents move about the city — and, thanks to a resolution supporting a statewide initiative for passenger rail in Western North Carolina, potentially across the country. The N.C. General Assembly could provide $890,000 to fund a bus connection between Asheville and Amtrak’s terminal in Salisbury.
City Manager Debra Campbell called the Feb. 12 capital budget briefing “food for thought” as she encouraged Council members to focus and prioritize their objectives. “This is why we’re presenting this information,” she said. “We’ve got some tough decisions that we need to make over the next several years.”
“We’re just learning that the microbiome has a central role in many of our chronic degenerative diseases, autoimmune conditions and mental illnesses,” says Asheville-area functional medicine practitioner Dr. Cynthia Libert. The complex gut ecosystem of bacteria, fungi and other microorganisms, she explains, may influence matters far beyond digestion.
The Down Payment Assistance Policy could provide $1.4 million, in no-interest loans of up to $40,000 each, toward mortgages on single-family residences within Asheville city limits. The policy is meant to promote homeownership opportunities among “moderate- and lower-income families” making up to 120 percent of the area median income.
Nearly 67 percent of surveyed businesses expected to grow their workforce over the next three years, representing up to 26,700 new jobs for the region. The manufacturing and hospitality industries anticipated the largest hiring booms — up to 7,556 and 6,618 jobs, respectively — but all sectors planned for at least some expansion.
“I’m shocked, and I’m disappointed,” said one commenter who identified himself as a Southside resident about the lack of attendance from his community. “If you’re not going to show up and voice your opinion, and then when something does happen, you get in a little group and then you voice your opinion, that’s not fair. That’s not right.”
At Asheville City Council’s Jan. 22 meeting, Mayor Esther Manheimer said the city would re-advertise its vacant city attorney position — after she and her colleagues unanimously approved an additional $300,000 for outside legal services. The role has been filled on an interim basis by Sabrina Rockoff since the departure of Robin Currin in September.
Since leaving her previous role as Charlotte’s assistant city manager to take the Asheville job in December, Campbell said, she has focused on meeting as many community stakeholders as possible. Those discussions, she explained, have led to a slate of priorities with the common theme of making the city “the best partner that we can be.”
Located at 252 Patton Ave. and 28 Knoxville Place, the new facility will feature a gas-insulated design that gives it a smaller footprint than a conventional, air-insulated substation. Duke representatives estimate that substation construction will be completed by the end of 2020.
Passenger numbers increased by 18.6 percent compared to 2017, assisted by new nonstop routes to destinations such as Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa, Fla. A recent economic impact study found that the airport contributes nearly $1.5 billion per year to the local economy.