Wheeling and dealing

As every parent knows, having a kid is expensive. There’s food, clothing, insurance and childcare, not to mention the transportation to and from the child-care provider. But while many low-income parents work — often relying on the city’s bus system to get there — delivering their kids to the daycare center can be a challenge. To help out, Smart Start of Buncombe County — in tandem with Work First Employment Services — has begun funding a transportation (and transportation-reimbursement) project for families with kids under four years of age. Smart Start, a public/private initiative launched by Gov. Hunt, helps ensure that the state’s preschoolers can get a good education.

Work First matches welfare recipients with jobs, which they must keep in order to remain eligible for welfare. The agency contacted Smart Start seeking help for clients who had gotten off the cash assistance program but couldn’t afford their own transportation. “We have a lot of single parents who are working at or near the poverty line,” says Sybil Wheeler of Work First. “Most of these are single parents who don’t have cars. It’s very difficult to get [to work] with no vehicle, and it’s difficult to arrange transportation on minimum wage.”

Work First is providing several different forms of transportation. The Mountain Mobility transportation service — which uses vans and cars to ferry parents and children back and forth to work and child care — bills Work First at the end of each month. The project also gives participants prepaid passes and tickets for Asheville buses (and, occasionally, even pays for taxi rides). Since the program began last February, it has expanded to collaborate with other local agencies, such as Buncombe County Child Care Services, Eliada Homes, the Buncombe County Health Department and even certain private daycare centers.

“There’s more demand right now than we can meet,” explains Work First Transportation Coordinator Deborah Boggess. “Transportation and child care are the two main problems that keep people out of the work force. That’s what keeps so many people out there in the welfare system.”

To learn more about Work First’s transportation system, call Boggess at 232-4420. To find out about other programs funded by Smart Start, call 285-9333.

Buncombe’s bright future …

Got a dream for the future? Bring it to the upcoming Sustainable Development Forum, sponsored by the Buncombe County chapter of the Western North Carolina Alliance. The free, day-long forum will be held at UNCA’s Owen Conference Center on Wednesday, Feb. 17. The event will bring together various county organizations and agencies working to address development issues — such as zoning, and attracting positive industries — with a long-term vision.

Although individual Buncombe County citizens may have vastly different priorities for their communities, the Alliance believes that efforts such as this one can encourage community members to work together toward a better, more unified future, helping forge a comprehensive vision. Forum participants will have a chance to network with different local groups, to learn about community resources they can use, and to identify issues not being addressed. Preregistration is strongly recommended.

For more information, call Alyx Perry at 258-8737.

A star is born

Asheville’s a jumpin’ little town, and our high-flying music scene is one of the primary reasons. If you’re a local music-maker with big dreams, listen up: The second annual Atlantis Music Conference — a regional showcase of unsigned bands — is now accepting applications for the more than 150 showcase slots available.

Scheduled for Aug. 11-14 in Atlanta’s bohemian Little Five Points area, the conference will feature three days of panels, showcases, a roundtable mentor program and more. Six bands featured in last year’s Atlantis Conference have already signed with high-profile labels, including Billionaire (London), Hobex (also London), Marvelous 3 (Elektra), MK Ultra (MCA), Gary Steer (Universal), and the Vigilantes of Love (Pioneer). Several other bands have deals pending.

There’s a $15 processing fee on all submissions before March 1, and a $20 fee between March 1 and April 1, the final deadline.

To get an application, call the conference at (770) 499-8600, or go to on the Web.

All aboard!

Who hasn’t experienced a thrill, hearing a distant train whistle split the night? Trains have long been a symbol of our nation’s sepia-toned glory days, and western North Carolina has had a special relationship with railroads — especially the Norfolk Southern and Norfolk and Western lines, which roared through the mountain passes, bringing needed goods to isolated towns and rural communities.

In honor of that vanished time, the Asheville Art Museum is planning an exhibit showcasing the photography of O. Winston Link — who traveled our region from 1957-60, staging lush spectacles of period scenes — and they need your help.

The show will feature local individuals who were connected with the railroad industry. “There are lots of people in this area who worked for the two railroads,” says the Art Museum’s Elizabeth Davis. “We need people who were involved with railroad society, or whose lives were affected by the railroad, to tell stories and be on hand as guides.” That includes folks who worked as porters, conductors, engineers, dining staff, car attendants, and anyone else who might have an authentic perspective on the glory days of the great train lines.

The exhibit will run from March 25 through mid-May.

For more information, or to find out how you can help, call Davis at 253-3227.

This revolution might be televised

Nothing empowers a community like allowing its citizens to discuss what matters to them most. That’s why you need to see the new video, “Public Access TV: A Community Voice,” locally produced by Citizens for Media Literacy, and funded by grants from the the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina’s Dogwood Fund and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

The 25-minute video features footage of public-access programming produced by communities elsewhere in the nation, plus the comments of a few of Asheville’s own community activists, such as Beth Maczka, executive director of the Affordable Housing Coalition, and Bob Smith, executive director of the Asheville-Buncombe Human Relations Council.

The video will premiere at Pack Library’s Lord Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 18., at 7 p.m.

“Public-access TV is like an electronic public square,” says Wally Bowen, founder of Citizens for Media Literacy. “Enabling citizens and nonprofit groups to make and broadcast TV programming has proven to be a valuable democratic and community-building tool in hundreds of towns and cities across America,” he says.

Both the city of Asheville and Buncombe County recently explored including public-access channels in their respective cable-franchise agreements.

Meanwhile, the city has already launched its government-access channel. The county also has a designated government-access channel, but so far, its programming has been limited to pointing a camera at a fish tank 24 hours a day. (Intermedia has its own “local-origination” channel — not to be confused with public- or government- or education-access channels — on which commissioners’ meetings are broadcast.) The city plans to launch its education-access channel later this month.

However, no announcements regarding a public-access channel have been made, Bowen says.

“We’re concerned that the [city’s cable-franchise] access money could be used primarily for the government and education channels, leaving the public-access channel with little or no funding,” Bowen says.

The video will be made available to civic groups at no charge. To learn more, or to borrow the video for your organization, call CML at 255-0182.

— chiaroscurically compiled by Paul Schattel

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