Group calls for local election reform

While media attention focuses on campaign-finance reform at the national and state level, Asheville Citizens for Campaign Finance Reform believes the time is ripe for our community to tackle this difficult issue here and now. To that end, CCFR will hold a 4 p.m. rally on Tuesday, Feb. 26 in front of City Hall.

The grassroots group is calling on City Council to form a citizen task force with broad-based representation to formulate proposals for retooling the local election process to ensure that all city residents can participate in local government, regardless of their financial resources. The group contends that the excessive amounts of money spent in the recent mayoral race, the disparity between the amounts spent by the winning and losing candidates, and the undue influence of the political-action committee Citizens for New Leadership have jeopardized the integrity of the democratic process. The Asheville community, CCFR contends, deserves much better.

The rally is co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and the Council of Independent Peacemakers.

Redwood defender to speak

Environmental activist Julia “Butterfly” Hill made news around the world a few years ago when she racked up the longest tree-sit in history. Perched 180 feet above the ground in a 1,000-year-old redwood tree named Luna from Dec. 10, 1997 to Dec. 18, 1999, Hill fought to keep Luna and nearby trees from being felled by The Pacific Lumber Company.

At the time, Hill said, “Here, I can be the voice and face of this tree and [speak] for the whole forest that can’t speak for itself.”

After a staggering 738 days, Hill returned to earth after the landowner agreed to save the area from destruction. Hill now works for environmental justice throughout the world; she’ll be in Asheville to give a talk on Wednesday, Feb. 27 in UNCA’s Lipinsky Auditorium (7 p.m.). Donations will be taken at the door.

For more information, call Candice Carr at 236-3834 (e-mail:

City’s Water Efficiency Division honored

Local conservationists, take note: The Asheville Water Resources Department’s Water Efficiency Division was recently named Water Conservationist of the Year as part of the 2001 Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards. Sponsored by the N.C. Wildlife Federation and the National Wildlife Federation, the award spotlights individuals and organizations that exemplify conservation activism across the state.

The Water Efficiency Division serves the 44,500 customers of the Regional Water Authorit. The division was honored for its aggressive conservation program, which includes: public-education projects; distributing water-conservation kits; a toilet-rebate program; a grant-funded, traveling water library; conservation audits performed by retired engineers; developing a drought-response plan; and other efforts.

“The Water Efficiency Program is of tremendous benefit to the entire Buncombe County community,” says interim Water Resources Director David Hanks. “The recognition of this program is well deserved and highlights the importance of conservation throughout the region.”

Making forests pay

There’s growing interest in the region in ways to meet communities’ economic needs while conserving forests, watersheds and biodiversity. A three-day, regional conference at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville (Feb. 28-March 2) will consider such nontimber forest crops as ginseng, ramps, moss, galax and many others.

Private landholders, land managers, community-development staffers working in rural areas, natural-resource agencies and others interested in forest-based entrepreneurial development are encouraged to attend. Among the topics to be addressed are forest farming, wildcrafting, mushroom cultivation, marketing and industry sustainability. The presenters will include Dr. Tom Hammett, Virginia Tech.; Dr. Jeanine Davis, N.C. State University; Robert McCaleb and Maureen Decoursey of the Herb Research Foundation; and many others.

The conference, organized by the Yellow Creek Botanical Institute, is made possible through the support of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

For more information, contact Rob Jordon (828-479-3099 or

Honoring African-Americans

Black History Month was established in 1976 to honor the contributions of African-Americans to this culture. A local celebration, titled “I Won’t Take Nothin’ For My Journey,” happens Friday, Feb. 22 at the YWCA of Asheville (185 South French Broad Ave., 6 p.m.) The event will include a spaghetti dinner, African dancers, youth skits and more; donations will be accepted. The YWCA’s Equality Advocacy Program and after-school program are sponsoring the event.

For more information, call Selina Sullivan at 281-0174.

Help keep Henderson County streams clean

Biological testing and stream monitoring can play an important role in protecting and restoring the health of local waterways. Henderson County’s Environmental & Conservation Organization needs roughly two dozen volunteers to work in teams testing streams in Henderson County this spring and fall. All volunteers must attend a training session on Saturday, Feb. 23 (9 a.m.-2 p.m.). Certified Wildlife Biologist Dave Dudek will teach the class to identify organisms whose presence reflects stream health.

A grant from the Helen Tarasov Reed Fund will fund the testing of 20 steam sites in Henderson County in 2002, with more sites to be added during the three-year grant period. Each team of four or five people will be assigned several sites to monitor during the months of April and October each year.

The biological monitoring will support and expand the data provided through the Volunteer Water Information Network, a multicounty stream-monitoring program that ECO has coordinated in Henderson County for 12 years. Each month, water samples from 33 sites on 28 streams are analyzed for 13 parameters, including turbidity, pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, conductivity, copper, lead and zinc.

To volunteer or for more information, call the ECO office at 692-0385.

Linking the local and the global

The World Affairs Council of WNC seeks to promote international understanding and help area residents become more aware of the relationship between local concerns and global issues. The three remaining presentations in this year’s Great Decisions Lecture Series all take place in UNCA’s Owen Conference Center, Mondays at 7:30 p.m.

Dr. Greg Clemons will speak on “Colombia and Drug Trafficking” on Feb. 25. An associate professor of Spanish, Clemons teaches language, literature and culture at Mars Hill College. Every year, he takes students to Mexico for intensive language-and-culture study in Asheville’s sister city, San Cristobal de Las Casas.

On March 4, Dr. David Knisley will present “Russia Re-examined.” A World Affairs Council board member, Knisley is retired from Mars Hill College, where he taught European history with a focus on Russia and the Soviet Union. A frequent Great Decisions participant, Knisley also teaches courses at the College for Seniors.

The final lecture, “Energy and the Environment,” will be presented March 11 by Dr. Rick Maas. The chair of UNCA’s environmental-studies department and director of the Environmental Quality Institute, Maas has served on the boards of the Asheville-Buncombe Water Authority and the Metropolitan Sewerage District.

Admission is $5 per person, per lecture.

To learn more about the series or particular lectures, call the World Affairs Council at 250-3828.

Cookies without guilt

Want to feel virtuous while chowing down? Just make sure you’re gobbling Girl Scout cookies. Brownie Troop 527 has set a goal of selling 1,500 boxes of cookies, with one-third of the proceeds to benefit Meals on Wheels. Catch these eager troopers, mainly first- and second-graders at Ira B. Jones Primary School, at the following times and locations:

• Ingles on Merrimon Ave., Saturday, Feb. 23, 1-5 p.m.
• Blockbuster Video on Merrimon, Saturday, March 3, 3-5 p.m.
• Pack Square, Saturday, March 9, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Meals on Wheels collected more than $7,000 during its Pennies With A Purpose campaign in November and December at the Asheville Mall. Local churches (notably Trinity Episcopal) raised a total of $700 in coins; and Oakley Elementary, one of the most actively participating schools, collected more than $450.

All funds raised will go directly to buy food for the elderly and homebound recipients served by Meals On Wheels. It’s not too late to bring your coins to MOW’s office (146 Victoria Road) and drop them in the penny bin.

For more information, call 253-5286.

Walking the labyrinth

A labyrinth is an archetype, a divine imprint, found in religious traditions around the world. Used as a tool for centering and meditation for thousands of years, the labyrinth — which combines the imagery of a circle and a spiral — is a metaphor for the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are.

The nonprofit retreat ministry Holy Ground will sponsor a meditative labyrinth walk for women on Thursday, Feb. 28 at Groce United Methodist Church. There are two time slots: 4-5:30 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. A potluck dinner is sandwiched in between (6-6:45 p.m.) so participants can enjoyed a meal either after or before their walk. The event costs $12, and the registration deadline is Tuesday Feb. 26.

The labyrinth to be used is a 40-foot-by-40-foot replica of the one laid set into the floor of Chartres Cathedral in 1220. It has been created on canvas by the Rev. Jeanette Stokes, director of Durham’s Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South. Stokes, a Presbyterian minister, will share her knowledge of the labyrinth and lead the meditative walk.

Participants are asked to walk the labyrinth without shoes and to bring heavy socks with them to make walking more comfortable. Some people enjoy walking with a scarf over their head or in their hands. Participants may also want to bring pen and paper or a journal so they can write about their experience and record any insights they receive. Participants who don’t wish to leave after walking may continue their meditation outside the labyrinth as others walk.

For more information or to register, call Holy Ground at 236-0222.


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