Buzzworm news briefs

WCU set to grow

Western Carolina University recently announced plans for its ambitiously titled Millennial Initiative, a comprehensive regional economic-development strategy that Chancellor John W. Bardo has called “a defining moment in the university’s 115-year history.”

In a nutshell, WCU has purchased 344 acres adjacent to its Cullowhee campus; the Millennial Initiative calls for that land to be developed via public/private partnerships. According to university officials, the goal is to develop a “knowledge enterprise zone” that will expand educational opportunities for students in high-tech programs and enhance faculty members’ ability to conduct cutting-edge research — while simultaneously promoting economic development.

The newly acquired property will more than double the size of Western’s campus, notes Director of News Services Bill Studenc. The property, he explains, will be developed as “a multiple-use neighborhood that will be the home to a mix of academic buildings, research facilities, businesses, industry and housing.”

And the Millennial Initiative, notes Bardo, is the university’s attempt “to fulfill a promise we made to the people of Western North Carolina. We want to keep the best and brightest of the region’s young people from having no choice but to leave home to find the type of high-paying jobs available elsewhere. We want the children of the mountains to be able to remain in the mountains and to be participants in the high-tech, knowledge-based, global economy of the 21st century.”

— Brian Sarzynski

Pause for the cause

Two local groups supporting very different educational causes are holding benefits this weekend.

• The second annual Caring Artists for Evergreen Arts Benefit takes place from 6:30-10:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 5, at the YMI Cultural Center in downtown Asheville. The event aims to raise money for educational programs at Evergreen Community Charter School, a nonprofit public charter school in Haw Creek.

The evening — a blend of visual, music and culinary arts — will feature sounds by Cool Project, the Firecracker Jazz Band, Chuck Beattie and Blues By Design. A silent auction and food from various local restaurants will add to the festivities.

Adults-only tickets ($15) include admission and food and are available at the Pack Place box office (257-4500) and at the school (298-2173).

• WNC’s Returned Peace Corps Volunteers will host Africa Night, a benefit dinner at 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 6, at Grace Episcopal Church (871 Merrimon Ave.) in Asheville. The event will feature West African cuisine (including vegetarian fare) by Chef Oso, plus a silent auction.

All proceeds will support scholarships for young women in Senegal who lost loved ones in a 2002 ferry accident. One of Africa’s worst maritime disasters, it claimed nearly 1,900 lives, many of them young people traveling to attend school in the country’s capital. Returned Peace Corps Volunteers hope to help educate a new generation of leaders and raise awareness of the importance of education in developing countries.

Tickets ($20/adults, $10/children 12 and younger) are available at Malaprop’s Bookstore & Cafe. For more info, call 236-3741 (e-mail: info@wncrpcv.org).

— Tracy Rose

Needmore needs less drugs, sex and rock and roll

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has laid down the law at the Needmore Game Land. As of Jan. 21, it has banned unauthorized activities on the 4,400-acre tract located in Macon and Swain counties.

“The restrictions, effective immediately, bring management of the Needmore Game Land in line with management of other Commission-owned game lands,” according to the NCWRC.

Prohibitions include a ban on all-terrain vehicles and closing access to ATV roads; limiting dog training; banning the gathering of native plant materials; allowing firewood collection by permit only; enforcing already-established prohibitions against camping in non-designated areas; and implementing all other statewide game lands regulations.

The Commission indicated that it will continue to lease land within Needmore for limited crop farming where this practice is compatible with fish and wildlife habitat protection.

In implementing the regulations, the Commission cited problems associated with unrestricted camping practices, lack of sanitation facilities and reports of alcohol and drug abuse at Needmore.

“Now that this land is in public ownership, we’ve received complaints about drinking, drugs, sanitation problems and harassment of locals. We’ve even had complaints about public nudity,” observes Joffrey Brooks, a Commission wildlife biologist.

Streambank erosion from irresponsible campers and ATV riders damages habitat and threatens endangered species living in the Needmore property, Brooks notes.

“We’ve seen folks pulling ATVs into the river for washing and folks having ‘mud-slinging contests’ with large, four-wheel drive vehicles in the river’s shallows and pools,” Brooks says. “Many people probably don’t realize how they’re damaging habitat and harming fish and wildlife, but we simply cannot allow this to continue due to conservation requirements on both a federal and state level.”

The Nature Conservancy has characterized Needmore as “one of the last remaining pristine wild places in western North Carolina.”

Before the Commission acquired the Needmore property, outdoors enthusiasts took advantage of an unrestricted user policy that allowed the public to set up camp anywhere along Needmore Road and other roads along the Little Tennessee River.

Some campers established extended-season or year-round campsites with camping trailers and outhouses. Because the property is now in public ownership, the Wildlife Commission will remove these campsites.

The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee and Mountain Friends of Needmore are working with the Commission to locate a suitable area for a well-managed campground on Needmore.

“These restrictions are not about eliminating camping on the Needmore Game Land,” Brooks says. “They’re about our responsibility to conserve North Carolina’s fish, wildlife and natural resources. The Wildlife Commission will support a well-managed campground on this property.”

— Cecil Bothwell

Pioneering state fund helps finance judicial elections

“It’s working.”

That’s Adam Sotak‘s positive analysis of North Carolina’s recent groundbreaking venture into campaign-finance reform: the $3 checkoff on state tax returns that’s designed to help fund statewide judicial campaigns.

In its 2004 debut, the new voluntary public-financing system — the first of its kind in the nation — attracted 12 of the 16 candidates for the N.C. Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, including four of the five eventual winners.

“That means these folks completely owe their jobs to the voters and not to the funders,” says Sotak, an organizer for Democracy North Carolina, one of a number of organizations that formed North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, a coalition that pushed for establishing the public-funding mechanism.

Now supporters are encouraging more state residents to participate when filing this year’s state forms, reminding people that marking the $3 checkoff won’t reduce the amount of any refund they might receive.

Instead, $3 of the taxes they owe to the state will be diverted to the Public Campaign Fund to aid candidates who agree to strict spending and fund-raising limits.

“The other cool thing,” notes Sotak, “is that the fund provided the Voter Guide that was sent to 4 million households across the state.” The nonpartisan publication — another first — was distributed by the State Board of Elections to give every North Carolina resident a chance to learn about the judicial candidates.

According to Sotak, legislators have been hearing positive comments about the guide, and election officials have reported that many voters arrived at their polling places last fall with guide in hand.

And with tax time upon us, Sotak hopes state residents will build on these initial successes. “We want people to say yes to the $3 checkoff on N.C. state tax forms, in order to ensure that we have fair courts and fair elections,” he says.

Taxpayers wishing to participate should look for the checkoff box when they fill out their tax forms, or remember to tell their tax consultant to check the donation box for them.

For more information, call (888) OUR-VOTE (or go to www.ncjudges.org).

— Nelda Holder

Local filmmakers spotlight health-care woes

When Filmmakers, Inc. was asked to produce the keynote video for the 20th Annual Emerging Issues Forum that was held last month in Raleigh, partners Thomas Oliver and Paul Schattel found they had quite a challenge on their hands.

This year’s topic was “My Health is Your Business: Making Health Care Work in North Carolina,” and one of the major issues is the system’s labyrinthine complexity.

“In order to challenge these policy-makers to focus on solving these problems, we had to figure out the system and break it down into a 12-minute production,” explains Oliver, who produced the video.

Shot in various locations through the fall and winter of 2004-05, the video (also titled My Health is Your Business) gave the local film-and-video production company a workout.

“Since the subject is North Carolina’s health care, we tried to take a snapshot of the entire state, from Medicaid issues in poor, rural Bertie County in the state’s northeast corner to rural access issues — [a segment] which features centenarian Juanita Stackhouse — in Marshall,” notes Schattel, who directed the project.

Presented by the Raleigh-based Institute for Emerging Issues, which describes itself as a “think and do” tank, the forum annually attracts nearly 1,000 corporate chiefs, legislators, university presidents, journalists, scientists and educators from local, regional, national and international backgrounds. This year’s event hosted such political luminaries as Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, and former Gov. Jim Hunt, who chairs the institute.

“We feel very lucky to have been part of this event,” says Schattel. “The issues being covered are extremely important, and the forum will hopefully provide some solutions to what amounts to one of our country’s greatest problems.”

To watch the video, visit the company’s Web site (www.filmmakersinc.com/iei). For more information about the forum, visit the institute’s Web site (www.ncsu.edu/iei).

— Lisa Watters

Love, anarchy and women’s history

Emma Goldman may not be a household name, but scholars consider her a major figure in the history of American feminism and radicalism.

“An influential and well-known anarchist of her day, Goldman was an early advocate of free speech, birth control, women’s equality and independence, and union organization,” notes an online biography at the Berkeley Digital Library SunSITE (http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Goldman/).

An upcoming free lecture by author Candace Falk will offer a chance to learn more about this remarkable woman, who lived from 1869-1940. Falk, who wrote Love, Anarchy and Emma Goldman: A Biography (Rutgers University Press), is the editor/director of The Emma Goldman Papers Project of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission National Archives. The local event takes place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8, in Blue Ridge Community College’s Bo Thomas Auditorium (on the Flat Rock campus).

The college will also host The Emma Goldman Papers: A Traveling Exhibition. The free, 38-piece exhibit chronicles Goldman’s life and activities, reproducing rare historical photographs, personal letters, newspaper clippings, government documents and other memorabilia.

For more info, contact Patricia Furnish (694-1866; e-mail: patf@blueridge.edu).

— Tracy Rose

NAMI offers help for families of the mentally ill

NAMI Family-to-Family Education — a free 12-week class for families and friends of individuals with a severe mental illness — will be offered in Asheville starting March 17.

Sponsored by NAMI Western Carolina, a National Alliance for the Mentally Ill affiliate, the course gives current facts about schizophrenia, major depression, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, borderline personality, and co-occurring brain and addictive disorders.

The curriculum, now being taught in 44 states, includes coping skills and the power of advocacy. The Thursday classes run from 6:30-9 p.m. from March 17 through June 2.

Since the class size is limited, early registration is required. Call 299-9596.

— Tracy Rose

Doula like you used to do

Unless you’re an expectant parent, the word doula may not mean much to you. For the uninitiated, doulas are women trained to assist other women before, during and just after childbirth, providing physical, emotional and informational support.

And according to a host of studies, the benefits of having a doula’s support include shorter labor, fewer complications, less need for medical intervention to speed up labor, and fewer requests for pain medication and epidurals, according to the Buncombe County Health Center.

An upcoming 18-hour course sponsored by the Health Center aims to train a new group of doulas. The course fulfills one of the requirements for certification by Doulas of North America, an international organization.

Since local hospitals don’t offer doula services, women hire doulas privately (for around $200-$400); many doulas offer reduced fees for women who qualify for Medicaid.

The registration deadline for the course is Friday, March 4. For more info, call Cheryl Orengo — a public-health educator at the Buncombe County Health Center who specializes in maternal health — at 250-5290. To learn more about doulas in WNC, call 258-4873 (or visit www.wnc.doulas.com).

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