The Beat

City looks into regulating street preachers

The presence of street preachers (and people opposing or arguing with them) is a fixture at the annual Bele Chere festival. Now, after complaints, the city of Asheville is looking into ways to regulate or curb the activity.

A statement from City Attorney Bob Oast reveals that the city is looking into the legalities of such a move.

“The issue of street preachers and other activities with first amendment implications (including distribution of leaflets, etc.) arises every year at Bele Chere,” Oast’s statement reads. “There are many competing interests, including individual rights, and we try hard to balance these interests for all festival attendees, and to ensure that the festival is enjoyable for all.” — David Forbes

ACLU: Asheville must protect street preachers’ free-speech rights

The city of Asheville needs to be careful in any attempts to regulate street preachers at the Bele Chere festival, and any rules must apply to all groups, Katie Parker, executive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, says. She adds that the current situation, with vocal showdowns between preachers and their opponents “sounds like it’s already working the way it ought to work.”

Bele Chere’s status as a city-run festival affects the city’s options, she notes.

“If an outside organization gets an exclusive permit for a festival, they can keep out people who aren’t advocating for their position, but if the city runs it, it’s different,” Parker says. “If they’re trying to keep out certain people based on their viewpoints, that’s unconstitutional.” Though she adds some permitting process is possible “as long as they’re being equal to everyone who wants to express their views.”

The city is currently examining possible restrictions on amplification, time and place after receiving complaints about the street preachers. — David Forbes

The U.S. Department of Labor’s “strike force” investigates WNC working conditions on farms

On Aug. 18, the U. S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division sent notice that it’s “conducting an enforcement initiative focusing on agricultural employers in western North Carolina, where the division found violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act during last year’s tomato harvest. The initiative is focusing on compliance with laws regulating child labor, workers’ wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and record keeping by farms in Buncombe, Henderson and Haywood counties.”

Richard Blaylock, the Wage and Hour Division’s district director in Raleigh, said, “The Labor Department is committed to ensuring that agricultural employers understand their responsibilities and agricultural workers – especially the low-wage and vulnerable workers in this industry who are often denied the pay legally guaranteed to them by federal law – understand their rights.” — Mountainx.com/blogwire

A-B Tech sees record-breaking enrollment for fall

A-B Tech opened the 2011 fall semester Wednesday with a record-breaking 7,767 students enrolled in classes. Compared to the first day of the fall 2010 semester, enrollment was up 2 percent, and full-time equivalency increased by 4 percent.

“With the addition of [our new] minimesters, we expect enrollment to be up about 5 percent over last year by the end of the semester,” said President Hank Dunn. “As these figures indicate, people are continuing to turn to A-B Tech in record numbers to make better lives for themselves and their families.” — Mountainx.com/blogwire

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