Al Whitesides, the sole Black member of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, and his three Democratic colleagues approved the resolution over the opposition of the board’s three Republicans. The county government is now aligned with Asheville City Council, which unanimously passed a similar measure on July 14.
According to a factual basis document filed on July 30 with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Ellen Frost will likely admit to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program fraud, for which the maximum prison term is five years. Frost’s court date is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 17.
After the city of Asheville enjoyed widespread national and international press for adopting a resolution in support of reparations for the Black community on July 14, Buncombe County may be next in line.
The Buncombe County Board of Education was strongly divided on the move, approving it by only one vote. Chair Ann Franklin, along with members Amy Churchill, Max Queen and Peggy Buchanan, voted in favor of the plan, with Vice-Chair Cindy McMahon and members Pat Bryant and Donna Pate in opposition.
In a July 27 email, Asheville City Attorney Brad Branham said that the city’s charter, which directs all Council vacancies to be filled by appointment, took precedence over a state law that called for an election under certain circumstances.
Desiree Delbert, who works as an American Sign Language teacher at Asheville’s Franklin School of Innovation, normally runs her classroom with lots of student-to-student conversation and feedback — an experience that proved hard to replicate online.
According to state law, if a Council vacancy occurs more than 90 days before the next city election, voters get to choose who fills the remainder of the absent member’s term. Asheville City Council member Vijay Kapoor says his resignation will be effective Saturday, Aug. 8 — within 90 days of the election on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Instead of bringing students back to the classroom under the Plan B model outlined by Gov. Roy Cooper, as had been announced on July 14, the Asheville City Board of Education voted unanimously to follow the remote-only Plan C for at least nine weeks at a July 23 special called meeting.
Democrats Amanda Edwards and Al Whitesides joined the board’s three Republicans in a 5-2 vote approving a proposal to hire three new detectives, which would match a $375,000 federal grant with $734,000 in county funds through fiscal year 2025.
As outlined in a presentation available before the meeting by Jeremiah LeRoy, the county’s sustainability officer, the projects could save Buncombe County, A-B Tech, Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools roughly $27.2 million in total electricity costs over the next 30 years.
Restaurants, brewers, hoteliers, tour companies and retailers were all among the 449 named Paycheck Protection Program beneficiaries with headquarters in Asheville. At least 46 of those entities also received help from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to fill needs unmet by the federal loan effort.
Based on antibody tests from six areas of the U.S., the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are an additional 10 coronavirus infections for each reported case of COVID-19. Xpress sought to determine if a similar pattern of hidden cases might hold true for the area’s coronavirus infections.
Commission Chair Laura Hudson argued that the rules placed too much emphasis on tree protection and could become an untenable burden for developers. “If you jam too many requirements onto one small parcel, I think you’re going to kill the development altogether,” she said.
According to the Economic Development Coalition for Asheville-Buncombe County’s most recent annual report, the coalition attracted just $20 million in capital investment to Buncombe County in fiscal year 2019-20. That figure is down nearly 40% compared to the $33 million invested in fiscal 2018-19.
New research, published in the journal Science of The Total Environment, suggests that humidity plays a greater role than does the temperature in the spread of the novel coronavirus. “Weather is just another factor that we need to be incorporating in our infectious disease modeling,” says lead author Jennifer Runkle, an environmental epidemiologist with the Asheville-based North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies at N.C. State University.
“We’ve taken to the streets to tell you what we need,” said North Asheville resident Katie Hudson. “It smacks of irony and disrespect to come forward with a proposal that you’re going to listen to people when we are actively telling you what we want right now.”
During a June 24 meeting, the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority board heard a presentation from marketing firm 360i about a new advertising campaign, scheduled to start in July, designed to attract a “responsible tourist audience” to the region. Ads will target visitors whose behaviors agree with “psychographic statements” about “willingness to conform.”
Henderson County real estate investor Madison Cawthorn took nearly 66% of the vote in a June 23 second primary against Madison County real estate agent Lynda Bennett, thereby securing the nomination to run in November’s general election. His 30,444 votes in the second primary exceeded the total ballots cast in the 2012 runoff between former Rep. Mark Meadows and Vance Patterson by over 7,400.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners remained divided along partisan lines. Chair Brownie Newman and his three Democratic colleagues voted for the removal of Confederate monuments at Pack Square Park and the county courthouse, as well as establishing a task force on the Vance Monument, while Republicans Joe Belcher, Anthony Penland and Robert Pressley voted against those moves.
As confirmed by Mission spokesperson Nancy Lindell on June 11, the health system’s legal representatives have chosen not to file an objection regarding how a pre-election hearing was conducted. The National Labor Relations Board will now consider testimony to determine what nurses would be represented by the union, when the vote will take place and how employees will be allowed to cast ballots.
Over a dozen speakers ventured out on June 16 to share their thoughts during the COVID-19 era’s first county public hearing. The commissioners subsequently gave unanimous approval to a spending plan little modified from that recommended by County Manager Avril Pinder.