2017 year in review

Graphic by Scott Southwick

Our passion at Mountain Xpress is highlighting what’s important locally, including local government and politics, happenings, the environment, wellness, food, arts and entertainment. While we remained true to that focus throughout 2017, national issues often shaped local events, and our coverage reflected readers’ engagement with big-picture themes.

From the Women’s March on Asheville attended by thousands the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration in January to our report in November on the tactics of emboldened radical protesters, we’ve grappled with the local impact of forces that originate far from home. Stories in our Wellness, Green Scene, Food and Arts and Entertainment sections likewise considered the local ramifications of national conversations on race, climate change, social justice, health care and more.

At the same time, we never want to stop showcasing what makes our area unique, from our vibrant arts scene to the nuts and bolts of local government to the colorful personalities found only in Asheville. We balance the increasingly polarized terrain of the national media landscape with stories that appeal to different points of view and empower us all to be more active and engaged participants in our community.

We’re proud to remain a locally owned, independent media company supported by the hundreds of dynamic businesses that advertise in our pages. And we’re proud to serve this community with a free weekly issue and the best and easiest-to-navigate local news website. Thank you for reading!

January

Short-term rentals debated

Jan. 4 — A commentary by accessory dwelling unit owners John Farquhar and Jackson Tierney sparked an avalanche of online comments on short-term rentals, an issue that continues to generate plenty of discussion in the face of tourism and the shortage of affordable housing.

Restaurant scene booms

01.11.17 Mountain Xpress CoverJan. 11 — With more than 100 downtown eateries filled to capacity on many nights, we investigated whether Asheville’s restaurant market is oversaturated or still has room to grow.

Artists stand up

Jan. 18 — Recognizing in advance that its 15th annual event would take place a week after Trump’s inauguration, the local fringe arts festival sought to “promote a respectful and open and affirming creative space.”

Jan. 20: Donald Trump sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Massive march in Asheville

Womans March Asheville, NC
Jan. 21 — Asheville’s Women’s March drew thousands to downtown. Xpress’ online coverage included photo galleries from several local photographers.

Thriving from the start

Jan. 25 — A story in the first of our double Wellness issues highlighted efforts to ensure infants receive the attention and affection they need in the first year of life.

Opioid abuse a matter of public health

Jan. 25 — As part of our ongoing coverage of the opioid abuse crisis, Xpress showed how county officials, law enforcement personnel and health care providers increasingly are framing addiction as a public health issue rather than a crime.  

February

Plant-based diets

02.01.17 Mountain Xpress Cover Feb. 1 — In our second Wellness special issue, a story on the health benefits of plant-based diets generated extensive discussion, with over 70 comments debating the pros and cons of diets free of animal products.

Affordable housing a hard nut to crack

Feb. 8 — Housing for those of modest means is in short supply in Asheville. Xpress looked at steps local government, organizations and individuals are taking to ease the crunch, and whether those measures are equal to the challenge of housing the city’s workforce.

Taking on toxic waste

Feb. 22 — New methods for removing toxic waste are being rolled out at the CTS Superfund site and elsewhere in the Asheville area. Xpress explained how the methods work, what they can do and what remains unknown about the effectiveness of the new “in situ” approaches.

Enough to eat

Feb. 24 — For Asheville residents who depend on public transit for shopping or errands, improved bus service could help alleviate food insecurity.

March

Labor down but not out

March 1 — Local labor advocates aren’t giving up the fight to keep unions alive. Xpress highlighted the history of unions in WNC, along with new strategies organizers say are aimed at assuring workers a fair piece of the pie.

Amadeus, Amadeus

March 8 — “Mozart is just an entry point,” said David Whitehill of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra about the Asheville Amadeus festival, which returned for its second year and a longer run in March.

Kids these days

03.15.17 Mountain Xpress Cover
Tree ArtMarch 15 — The two-part 2017 Kids Issue focused on the theme “What Matters to Me?” We received about 450 entries from students who attend more than 30 local public, charter, private and home schools, along with an after-school arts program. In a heartfelt essay, fifth-grader Oliver Henry Perez wrote, “I am a proud black boy who is confused. I am confused why people with different skin colors don’t have equal rights. Black people have their rights, and white people have their rights, but why are they not equal?”

Black students left behind

03.22.17 Mountain Xpress CoverMarch 22 — The achievement gap between black and white students isn’t unique to Asheville, but it’s worse here than in any other school district in the state. Xpress investigated why that is — and what the Asheville City Schools are doing about it.

Art and social justice

March 29 — The Arts and Entertainment section’s focus on the intersection of art and social justice included “Mobilization through art.” Local artist Nicole Townsend introduced her one-woman spoken-word show “Existing While Black” in April, with a second installment in November.

Time to get growing

March 29 — Our Farm & Garden section sprouted in this issue. Features on agriculture and gardening run weekly throughout the growing season.

April

theSustainabilitySeriesEnvironmental sustainability was a big focus of our month-long Sustainability Series in April, but it was by no means the only lens we used to examine this critical concept. Stories in our Food, Wellness, Arts and Entertainment and News sections took on the theme across many topics and disciplines.

Smarter charters

April 5 — Buncombe’s five charter schools stand out compared with statewide peers for their community-directed approaches to education. But do all racial groups benefit equally from charters? With the exception of the Francine Delaney New School for Children, Xpress found, not necessarily.

Monoculture wars

April 5 — We checked in on the bold claim that wild nuts could be WNC’s food of the future, reducing the region’s reliance on big agriculture.

Costs hamper composting

April 12 — Xpress found that progress toward a city composting program has stalled in the face of high costs.04.12.17 Mountain Xpress Cover

Short but sweet

April 19 — An annual moviemaking festival asks students to pick a John Newbery Medal winner or Honor book and figure out how to tell the story as a movie in roughly a minute and a half. Asheville’s festival launched in April.

Tricky transitions

April 26 — The imminent retirement of baby boomers could have an outsized impact on Asheville’s many small businesses. Local groups and service providers are encouraging business owners to start planning for their company’s next chapter.

May

Every year, Xpress compiles a wealth of information to create the definitive guide to the Asheville area’s eating and drinking scene. We print 85,000 copies of our 100-page pocket guide, which includes a listing of readers’ favorites from our Best of WNC poll.

Weed to succeed

05.10.17 Mountain Xpress CoverMay 10 — Some say it will never happen, but Xpress took a look at how legal marijuana might play a role in combating opioid abuse and increasing teacher salary supplements.

Active aging

May 17 — As part of our Older Americans issue, Xpress presented profiles of four active senior residents who reveal the potential of aging as a gateway to a dynamic stage of life.05.17.17 Mountain Xpress Cover

Making a joyful noise

May 17 — Supported by a national grant, many of Asheville’s Jewish musicians came together to record Jewish songs of all genres, from traditional folk songs to modern pieces.

Asheville’s cup runneth over

05.24.17 Mountain Xpress CoverMay 24 — In the cover story for the 2017 Asheville Beer Week issue, writer Edwin Arnaudin explored how the success of Western North Carolina’s craft beer industry is spurring growth in other sectors of the economy.

Light show

May 31 — In one of the Opinion section’s most popular pieces, Burnsville resident and naturalist Tal Galton wrote an appreciation for two of our native firefly species: the synchronous firefly and the “Blue Ghost” firefly.

When it rains, it pours

May 31 — Spending millions to fix stormwater problems is a hard sell. But a changing climate, aging infrastructure and rapid development mean Asheville’s stormwater woes are likely to get worse before they get better.

June

Bees here now

06.07.17 Mountain Xpress CoverJune 7 — Over 150 local volunteers aren’t waiting on the scientific establishment to crack the case of honeybee population decline. They’re collecting data to help researchers solve mysteries that could mean life or death for the bees.

Funky fruit

June 14 — Have you ever eaten a paw paw fruit? Boosters say the taste is nothing like its stinky smell. Xpress highlighted efforts to increase interest in the native fruit-bearing tree, which is valuable to pollinators.

Talking taxes

June 21 — Xpress reports on every formal meeting of Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. As the city set its property tax rate, issues of policing, transit and affordable housing dominated discussions that saw a big increase in the amount of citizen participation compared to previous years.

Portable pleasures

June 28 — With the Fourth of July on the horizon, our cover story tapped Asheville chefs and cookbook writers for tips on crafting the perfect picnic.

Celebrating the makers

June 28 — The Center for Craft, Creativity and Design teamed up with Blue Spiral 1 on the 10th anniversary of the first survey of studio craft in the region. Forging Futures was an exhibition of 24 makers.06.28.17 Mountain Xpress Cover

July

Monumental controversy

July 5 — Staff writer Max Hunt’s thoughtful and inclusive reporting went beyond polarized positions on the issues surrounding Asheville’s three Confederate monuments.07.05.17 Mountain Xpress Cover

Death and burial come home

motherChildJuly 12 — Local mother Catherine Ashe penned a moving commentary about the decision to have a home burial for her infant son, James, who passed away last January. “We had cared for him in life; now we would care for him in death,” she wrote. “It seemed only natural to bring him home to the place he’d known his whole life, to give us time to adjust to losing him, to give his sisters (ages 3 and 5) time to see him, say goodbye and understand that he was gone.”

Dairy renaissance

07.12.17 Mountain Xpress CoverJuly 12 — Mills River farmer Bradley Johnston developed a more natural product that is unique in the local market. His grass-fed Jersey cows carry a gene that makes their milk more digestible for many people.

Underserved community

July 19 — Readers hungry for context about the issues facing marginalized residents gobbled up a deeply researched two-part series that examined food access issues in Asheville’s predominantly black Southside community.

Happy anniversaries

07.19.17 Mountain Xpress CoverJuly 19 — Over the past year, Xpress highlighted important art and craft anniversaries, such as when the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands celebrated its 70th year.

Translation situation

July 26 — Progress toward providing non-English-speaking community members greater access to Asheville-area government services varies by agency, our reporter found.

August

Rapids success

Aug. 2 — At a time when many planned greenway projects stalled due to funding shortfalls, we highlighted the Woodfin Greenway and Blueway’s early fundraising successes. Additional stories in the issues of Aug. 16, 23 and 30 also focused on the key role the French Broad River plays in WNC’s environment and economy.08.02.17 Mountain Xpress Cover

Best of WNC

bestOf2017XThe time had come. The votes had been cast and counted. Xpress published the winners of our wildly popular “Best of WNC” awards in our Aug. 9 and Aug. 16 issues.

Mariachi magic

Aug. 9 — Mariachi bands are popular at WNC quinceañeras, the celebration for the transition from childhood to adulthood for teenage Latinas. “The mariachi interpretation is all about happiness,” said musician Acencion Inestroza.

Tending the tiny

Aug. 9 — Readers enjoyed “Nurses in Mission’s NICU go above and beyond,” a good-news wellness story that gained thousands of online views. The piece highlighted the devotion of nurses who go the extra mile in caring for the hospital’s youngest and most fragile patients.

Eclipse mania strikes WNC

eclipsedByCrowdsAug. 21 — The path of a total solar eclipse passed over parts of WNC, prompting myriad events and their ensuing traffic jams. Xpress’ coverage of the astronomical rarity included this cartoon by local artist Brent Brown.

Xpress first with Wanda Greene story

On Aug. 16, Xpress broke the news that multiple anonymous sources reported former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene was under investigation by the FBI. On Aug. 18, we confirmed that story. Our news team continues to follow developments as they unfold.

Can’t get good help

Aug. 23 — One restaurant owner described the search for labor over the past half year as “six months of hell.” All 10 restaurants Xpress contacted for this story on a food service worker shortage complained of the same problem.

Hitting the books

08.30.17 Mountain Xpress CoverAug. 30 — Xpress significantly increased our coverage of the local education scene in 2017, including this special back-to-school issue.

September

The combined wisdom of thousands of local residents is gathered in our guide to the winners of the 2017 Best of WNC reader poll. We print 55,000 copies of the biggest, most exhaustive and most participated-in survey about WNC (short of the U.S. census).

Pocketbook pincher

Sept. 6 — What’s behind Duke Energy’s rate hike request? We crunched the numbers to find out how the utility is justifying its proposal to raise electric bills for residential and commercial customers.

New feature launched

AVLTrolleySept. 6 — Our new history feature Asheville Archives made its first appearance in this issue. Drawing on sources from the period, the article highlighted Asheville’s final trolley ride in 1934.

Clash of the titans

Sept. 6 — With Mission Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield locked in a contract dispute, Xpress explored the impact of the impasse on patients and other local health care providers, as well as the likely outcomes.

Shining a light on Beacon plans

Sept. 13 — Xpress alerted local residents to a public comment period for the redevelopment of the contaminated site of the former Beacon manufacturing plant in Swannanoa. Prior to our coverage, public notification of the opportunity to weigh in had been decidedly low-key.

Pride and Joy

Sept. 27 — Since taking the title, Ginger Von Snap, Miss Blue Ridge Pride 2016, has raised awareness of underrepresented subdivisions on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, like transgender youths and those who are gender-fluid.

Cider surges

Sept. 27 — Xpress marked the fifth annual CiderFest NC with an update on the local cider industry. New business models and specialty stores are emerging alongside national and state associations, helping established and new producers better educate consumers and grow their brands.09.27.17 Mountain Xpress Cover

October

Passion for craft

10.04.17 Mountain Xpress CoverOct. 4 — In WNC, craft — from heritage traditions to edge-pushing studio work — is more than just a pastime. It’s an observance of regional culture, a dedication to the integrity of handmade goods, a link between form and function, and, in the end, a passion. Xpress highlighted this vital part of the local art scene with a special pullout guide to American Craft Week.

Keeping it real

Oct. 11 — In “Place, Race and Poverty: Solutions Start with Valuing Cultural Realities,” Joseph Jamison delved into the issue of food insecurity facing both WNC’s urban minority residents as well as rural whites. “Just like geography, understanding and valuing the unique landscapes of cultural realities is necessary to develop effective solutions that tackle problems as they are and at their origin,” he wrote.

Secrets of success

10.11.17 Mountain Xpress Cover

Oct. 11 — Among the articles accompanying our annual focus on women in business, a story highlighting networking opportunities for area women also included tips from local female business leaders for connecting with others in business and life.

Stuck in traffic

Oct. 18 — Buncombe County’s population grew 7 percent over the past five years, adding new residents and new housing developments throughout the county. Increased traffic had some residents experiencing road rage and speaking out about infrastructure they see as overburdened.

Food matters

Oct. 18 — Our in-depth look at proposed updates to the city’s 2013 Food Action Plan preceded Asheville City Council’s Nov. 28 decision to revamp the plan.

For the love of animals

10.25.17 Mountain Xpress CoverOct. 25 — “It’s almost incomprehensible how many insects they actually eat,” said Katherine Caldwell, a biologist with the state Wildlife Resources Commission, of the role of bats in the WNC ecosystem. In addition to bats, our annual animal issue included stories on exotic birds, cats and livestock, as well as a historical account of what surely must have been the first ostriches to live in Asheville.

 

November

Accompanying our campaign to raise funds and awareness for worthy nonprofits, this year’s Give!Local guide showcases 37 organizations that make a big difference where we live. We distribute 40,000 copies of this guide in support of the giving project. Special shoutout to Ingles Markets, which underwrote the printing of this year’s guide!

Election section

11.01.17 Mountain Xpress CoverNov. 1 — Folks tell us they depend on Xpress’ guide to local elections as the best resource for making voting decisions, and who are we to argue?

Antifascist in Asheville

11.08.17 Mountain Xpress CoverNov. 8 — Homegrown activists of all stripes are working to effect change among an increasingly divided populace. At times, their controversial tactics receive more attention than the social shifts they advocate.

Land at risk

Nov. 15 — Once conservation nonprofits have protected a special piece of land from development, their work has just begun. In our fall nonprofit special issue, we showed how land conservation groups deal with invasive species, pests, the effects of climate change and other threats.

Facing off

11.15.17 Mountain Xpress CoverNov. 15 — MCs Larry Williams, aka Po’folk, and Davaion Bristol, aka Spaceman Jones, jousted in a rap battle at New Mountain’s Sol Bar.

Flavorful mix of traditions

11.22.17 Mountain Xpress CoverNov. 25 — In our Thanksgiving issue, Xpress’ Food section explored Cherokee food traditions on the Qualla Boundary.

goLocal2017With more than 400 local independent businesses participating in an incentive program that raises funds for the Asheville City Schools, the Go Local program is a project of the Asheville Grown Business Alliance. Xpress prints 40,000 copies of this 48-page directory, which helps cardholders find the great rewards associated with the program.

December

Shop (local) till you drop

herbsAndSupplementsDec. 6 — Among the many retailers featured in our annual specialty shops issue, local businesses specializing in herbs and supplements shared the spotlight.

Mission creep?

12.13.17 Mountain Xpress CoverDec. 13 — In a multimonth investigation, Xpress followed Brother Wolf’s plans to relocate to a yet-to-be-built animal sanctuary outside Asheville. Those plans have prompted questions about shifts in the organization’s mission.

Slaughter shortfall

Dec. 13 — The pre-Thanksgiving closure of the area’s only poultry processing plant took many of WNC’s small farming operations by surprise. Our reporter found that the shutdown raised uncertainty about the future of pastured poultry in WNC.

Sins of omission

Dec. 13 and 27 — The first two installments in a three-part series on Asheville and WNC’s nonwhite literary scene explore why authors of color have long been missing from the local canon.

 

See also:

Xpress writers pick top stories of 2017

Who’s counting? Xpress by the numbers in 2017

SHARE
About Virginia Daffron
Managing editor, lover of mountains, native of WNC. Follow me @virginiadaffron

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.