The Beat: Head to head

a href=”“The city of Asheville has named two finalists in its search for a new community-media project: Ponderwell, a Web-development firm, and Mountain Xpress. Both are based in Asheville.

Ponderwell was founded by Michael Tracey and Martin Haywood. Xpress is an independent media outlet owned by Green Line Media Inc.

The winning project, which will receive $120,000 over three years, will: involve some form or forms of media to achieve its goals, partner with other organizations, and be self-sustaining within three years. To view the city’s request for proposals, go to

City staff rated both proposals, giving Ponderwell 78.9 out of 100, and Xpress 66.8. Both companies will get to pitch their ideas to an evaluation panel Sept. 22.

Ponderwell proposes building a "Web-based, community-driven local news outlet to showcase events and news as presented by local writers, photographers and videographers." The proposal also includes partnerships with local schools, a tutoring program for inexperienced contributors and a linked community guide. Ponderwell has put up more information about the idea on its website (

Xpress proposes using the grant funds to create a central resource enabling everyone in the community to share materials and content online. "Our project will allow users to: follow, post and curate breaking news about a fire in Kenilworth; search restaurants' lunch specials within a few hundred yards of their current location and recommend today's dish to their community; and post a video résumé in reply to a want ad for a job in Montford," the proposal states. (To view the full proposal, go to — David Forbes and Margaret Williams

Forrester stands by “cesspool” comment; Gaston mayor apologizes

State Sen. James Forrester, one of the main sponsors of a proposed anti-same-sex-marriage amendment to the North Carolina constitution, is standing by his remarks calling Asheville "a cesspool of sin," according to a report from M2M Radio. Forrester also dubbed Asheville, Chapel Hill and Wilmington as competitors for "the worst place in the state."

Forrester made the original remarks at a church rally in support of the marriage amendment.

“It was kind of brought up in a church meeting we had, and I don’t know what prompted me to say that, but I distinctly remember a couple of weeks ago they were all out baring their breasts and everything up in Asheville,” Forrester says in the report. “They have a lot of very liberal people. They have a lot of homosexuals that live in the Asheville area.”

He added: “It used to be you think of Wilmington, with all the movie people down there, would be the worst place in the state, or Chapel Hill, where they have a lot of liberal people and so forth. But Asheville is just doing a lot of things that I don’t like, and I don’t think a lot of people in the Asheville area like.”

Forrester's remarks triggered an apology from the mayor of Gastonia — and also T-shirts designed by local Asheville artists.

Conversely, in the Sept. 15 edition of The Asheville Tribune, a letter by former Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower and former Buncombe County Republican Party Chair Chad Nesbitt thanked the senator for his comments. “Thank you … for being a voice of reason in suggesting that morality, the rule of law and accountability matters,” the letter says. “And for refusing to pretend that chicken manure is chicken salad.” Nesbitt organized the Aug. 28 counterprotest to the Aug. 21 GoTopless Rally.

The proposed constitutional amendment, which would also prohibit civil unions and domestic-partner benefits, will be on the statewide primary ballot in May 2012. — David Forbes

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