The Beat

The end-of-year lists and reflections have begun.

Asheville Citizen-Times staffer (and former Xpress multimedia editor) Jason Sandford has been posting an entertaining series of lists on his popular Ashvegas blog. In the "Big Asheville Media Moves" category, he celebrated the return of television anchor and reporter Frank Kracher to WLOS.

After a five-year absence from the local airwaves, during which he worked for an ABC affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y., Kracher moved back to Asheville about two years ago and got re-hired by WLOS in June, according to Sandford.

"Kracher and WLOS probably reach more people with their news than any other outlet in town, so this was a big move," Sandford explained. "It's great to see Kracher talking to me on the TV box again."

Sandford also reviewed staffing changes at a number of other local outlets, including WCQS (Jody Evans took over as executive director in July), WNC Magazine (Rita Larkin took over for Eric Seeger as managing editor) and Xpress (former reporter Michael Muller, Sandford declared, established himself as "one of the most unique, controversial and compelling media figures in Asheville" during his six-month stint at the paper).

Local Edge Radio hosts Blake Butler and Lesley Groetsch also got a well-deserved shout-out for recently guest-hosting liberal talk-radio host Norman Goldman’s nationally syndicated show. They were heard in more than 30 markets around the U.S. and plans are in the works for the Local Edge hosts to fill in for Goldman again, they told Xpress.

Also making waves in the local blogosphere were posts by Asheville City Council members Gordon Smith and Cecil Bothwell in which they reflected on their first year in office.

In the Scrutiny Hooligans post "One Year In — The Wins," Smith highlighted actions he says he took to fulfill his campaign promises. He called the Oct. 12 approval of a sustainability-bonus ordinance "the most important thing we accomplished all year," arguing that it will help "reduce development battles, increase the stock of affordable housing and increase sustainable-building practices on our transit corridors."

In "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Year on Council," Bothwell also cited the sustainability bonus, listing it as one of the two hardest votes he cast all year (the other concerned annexation). The ordinance, wrote Bothwell, "pitted my overall green agenda against my insistence on transparency and accountability in government." In the end, Bothwell said he decided to vote for it because, in his mind, "Increasing density along transit routes and incentivizing green projects won out over the public-input argument."

Both Council members also confessed that serving on Council is proving to be a big challenge.

"It's been a learning curve like no other in my life," Smith revealed. Bothwell, meanwhile, called his first year in office "educational, surprising, torturous and fun."

"Perhaps the hardest lesson has been the discovery that, when push comes to shove and a vote must be cast up or down, two strongly held beliefs can be in direct conflict," he continued.

Let it snow?

In other news, unusually cold and snowy weather continued in WNC this week. Temperatures in Asheville have been hovering far below normal, and the higher elevations northwest of downtown received sizable amounts of early-season snow. It's made for a great start to the local ski season, with all five of North Carolina's biggest resorts now open and reporting great conditions for this time of year, according to SkiNC.

And in the cover story "Road Crews Ready for Winter," the Smoky Mountain News highlighted how "The region is tentatively gearing up for another season of icy assault." According to the article, the N.C. Department of Transportation is expanding its snow-and-ice-removal operations, and some school systems have added options to their bad-weather-response plans. For example, Haywood County added a three-hour-delay schedule option to the existing two-hour-delay and full-day-closure options.

Other counties in the region may follow the example of Jackson and Macon counties by splitting themselves into districts more in sync with the local topography. That would allow students who are "truly affected by weather to stay safe and stay home, while those at lower altitudes who may see nary a flake on the ground can enjoy a normal school day," the article reported.


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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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