Beat around town: Rounding up the local news

Of vandals and anarchy

The May 1 vandalism spree in downtown Asheville continues to spur coverage and conversation.

In its wake, local self-described anarchists recently submitted commentaries to the Xpress and Asheville Citizen-Times rebuking what they see as misinformed media coverage of the crimes. In both group-written commentaries, the authors take particular issue with John Boyle's May 4 AC-T column, "A Few Questions for the Anarchists in Asheville," in which he implores anarchists: "Are you starting to see that your movement is utterly impractical and self-indulgent? That you come across not as crusaders fighting injustice but as over-privileged brats throwing a tantrum?"

All clear: The Buncombe County Health Department recently issued a recall of Romaine lettuce distributed by Freshway Foods of Ohio. Fresh-produce lettuce (pictured here) was not affected by the recall. Photo by Jerry Nelson

In their response, "Anarchists Offer Answers to John Boyle's Cynical Questions," published May 12 in the AC-T and credited to Scott Evans, Emma Chandler, Lani Bouwer, Evan Edwards, Meg Hen and Dany Lee, the group asserts that Boyle "merely lists uncharitable and unresearched assertions concerning the arrested individuals while making a series of absurd and incorrect statements about anarchism in general." 

In the Xpress commentary, "Sound-Bite Vandalism," written by many of the same authors and also published May 12, the group further defends their political philosophy by saying "anarchism plays an important role in the culture of Asheville" and pointing out that "anarchists run a community-exchange network (Asheville LETS), started an adult-education program (Freeskool Asheville), serve food to the homeless (Food Not Bombs) and maintain multiple programs assisting the incarcerated."

Xpress' own David Forbes also jumps into the debate, writing in a May 7 online commentary, "The A Word: Anarchists, Hysteria and Vandalism in Asheville": "Now, anarchism isn't remotely my creed, and it probably isn't yours either, but there's a massive difference between someone whose beliefs drive them to such nefarious actions as running a community garden or free book exchange and the beliefs of the thug busting up a local business."

No doubt the community conversation and coverage will continue in coming days as the Asheville Police Department continues its investigation into the vandalism.

Greenlife, lettuce, chefs and beer

Other recent water-cooler conversations have hovered around the purchase of Greenlife Grocery by Texas-based multi-national Whole Foods Market. After months of rumors, the sale was confirmed on May 7. Xpress' Mackensy Lunsford chronicled the history of Greenlife and what the sale might mean for local shoppers and farmers in her May 6 online commentary, "The Greenlife Saga Continues." 

In other food news, Xpress' Margaret Williams reports in "Romaine Lettuce Recall Affects N.C., Product Pulled from Ingles," that Buncombe County's Health Department issued a recall on Romaine lettuce distributed by Freshway Foods of Ohio. North Carolina is one of 23 states included in the recall, announced on Friday, May 7, after the potentially deadly bacteria E. coli was found in a sample. Ingles CFO Ron Freeman confirmed to Xpress that all affected products were pulled from stores "as soon as we heard about the recall."

And in less scary food related news (unless you're one of the competing chefs), the WNC Chefs Challenge kicks off this week at the Flying Frog Cafe. The local Iron Chef-style competition pits some of the area's top chefs against each other in weekly cook-offs every Tuesday through July. See Lunsford's feature on p. 50 for more info.

While tickets still remain for that food and beverage bonanza, they're already gone for this fall's Brewgrass Festival. The AC-T's "Beer Guy," Tony Kiss, reports in "Amazing! Brewgrass Tickets Sell Out in Less Than a Day," that all 3,500 of them sold out the same day they went on sale. As usual, the annual fest will feature dozens of craft breweries and bluegrass bands, and will be held at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Asheville on September 18.

Living with ghosts and rockslides

A regional attraction not faring quite as well as Brewgrass is Maggie Valley's Ghost Town in the Sky. The May 12 edition of Smokey Mountain News has an in-depth story, "Ghost Town Owner Harper Daunted But Not Deterred," on whether the mountaintop amusement park will reopen this summer. The Smokey Mountain News also has an update on how residents of Maggie Valley's Rich Cove community are recovering in the wake of a devastating mudslide that struck the area last February. 
"Slide victims are still wondering when a cleanup will finally begin," reports Bibeka Shrestha in the article, "Maggie Slide Victims Still Living in Limbo. "Their properties are not much better off since the Feb. 5 landslide occurred, with enormous boulders, splintered trees and muddy debris still cluttering yards. Some residents with ruined drinking wells continue to suffer lack of access to water."

March but don't drive

Back in Asheville, mudslides aren't as much of a concern as the real estate market. On May 11, the New York Times included an Asheville home in its regular "What You Get for … $300,000" feature. The article compares what kind of home $300,000 will buy you in Asheville compared to San Antonio and Chicago. The verdict? The Times finds that square footage is more expensive in Asheville than San Antonio and less expensive than in Chicago.

Own a home or live in Montford? Well then you might have witnessed the hundreds of "We are not Bashful" marchers streaming down your streets on May 12. The demonstrators gathered in response to a series of alleged assaults on LGBT individuals in the north Asheville neighborhood. Xpress offers a rundown of the event and the alleged attacks on p. 15, with photos and a video up at

Look for a different kind of marching, biking and bus riding this week, as local multimodal activists have organized a number of Strive Not to Drive events that encourage transit alternatives to the single-occupant car. Xpress covered Strive Not to Drive Week extensively in last week's print feature, "Wheels on Fire," and will continue to have Web updates from the events as they unfold.

In other, more tragic news, Asheville Police blame text messaging for a May 10 collision on Long Shoals Road that took the life of teenager Ashley Johnson. According to Traffic Safety Unit investigators, Johnson was attempting to retrieve a text message from her cell phone seconds before crossing the center line and striking a Ford truck head-on. The driver of the Ford sustained injuries that were not life threatening. No charges have been filed.

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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