Buzzworm news briefs

No progress reported at regional water forum

At last week’s public forum on regional water issues, Asheville Mayor Charles Worley and Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chairman Nathan Ramsey took pains to downplay the animosity that has characterized the public exchanges between the two entities of late. But those protestations did little to convince those in attendance that the city and county are actually making any headway in negotiations on the rapidly unraveling Water Agreement.

Referring to bitter e-mails between elected officials that have been made public, Kathleen Balogh of the Asheville/Buncombe League of Women Voters said there appears to be “a high degree of acrimony” between Asheville and Buncombe, asserting that if progress is being made, “the public [is] not aware of it.” She recommended that there be “some way to notify the public of a regular negotiation schedule.”

The April 6 event featured a panel of local officials and concerned area residents: Worley, Ramsey, Balogh, Henderson County Board of Commissioners Chairman William Moyer, Hendersonville Mayor Fred Niehoff, Mills River Mayor Roger Snyder, Black Mountain Mayor Michael Begley, Dale Carroll of AdvantageWest, Barber Melton of the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods, and Hazel Fobes of Citizens for Safe Drinking Water and Air. The forum, held at the Holiday Inn Asheville Airport, was sponsored by the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods, the Asheville Citizen-Times, the Times-News of Hendersonville and Mountain Xpress.

The panelists’ opening statements generally varied little from the positions reported in the jointly produced guide to water issues all three papers published last week (see the April 6 Xpress). But once the panel began fielding questions, the focus shifted to the negotiation process itself, and for most of the evening, the microphones were parked in front of two men: Worley and Ramsey.

For his part, Worley disputed the notion that the city and county are “at war.” Maintaining that the negotiations are “not at an impasse,” he added that he would “consider mediation.”

And though Ramsey noted that “feelings have been hurt” on both sides and conceded that leaking e-mails to the media is “not the best way to negotiate,” he stressed that it “wasn’t for lack of trying” that an agreement hadn’t yet been reached. In recent years, he noted, the city and county have successfully worked together to create a joint 911 answering service and have compromised in developing a “joint planning area” with controls that are weaker than what the city had wanted but stronger than what the county had desired.

One thing the two did agree on was what they don’t agree on. Asked what the main sticking points are, Worley cited the question of an independent authority vs. a city-run department, the issue of rate differentials, and line-extension policy. And Ramsey noted that Worley “said it well.”

Ramsey also argued that the pace of negotiations was being hindered because Mountain Xpress had challenged the legality of private meetings between City Council members and county commissioners, citing the state’s open-meetings law.

— Jonathan Barnard

Forum spotlights local jail conditions

Allegations of overcrowding, inhumane disciplinary measures, poor hygiene and serious lapses in medical care at the Buncombe County Detention Center have garnered attention from the Western North Carolina branch of the American Civil Liberties Union. The group also says it has received numerous complaints from inmates who have spent more than one year in jail while awaiting trial, because they’re unable to post bond.

On Monday, April 18, the group is sponsoring a public forum to address these issues. The goal, according to ACLU board member and forum organizer Alex Cury, “is to spark an open discussion between the public, Buncombe County commissioners and Buncombe County officials.”

WCQS News Director David Hurand will moderate the forum. Panelists include District Court Judge Gary Cash; Buncombe County Jail Administrator William Stafford; attorney Letitia Echols of the Safe and Humane Jails Project; and Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Tonya Maxwell.

The forum is co-sponsored by WRES-LP 100.7FM, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, the UNCA Student Chapter of the ACLU, and the WNC Chapter of the ACLU.

Among the cases to be discussed is that of Marvis Gail Davidson, a 42-year-old inmate who died in the corrections center last July. According to an autopsy report obtained by Xpress, Davidson died of an intestinal problem very likely caused by diabetes. According to witnesses who spoke to ACLU representatives, Davidson had complained of severe stomach pains for four days before she died. A jail guard filed two complaints with the administration for failure to provide medical care (see “Things That Go ‘Thump’ in the Night” elsewhere in this issue).

“We believe that it is our responsibility to ensure that our legal system treats every American with dignity and respect,” said ACLU member Michael Figura, adding, “We hope that this forum will allow us to ask badly needed questions to our officials and elected representatives.”

The forum will be held in UNCA’s Highsmith Center, starting at 7 p.m. For more information, contact Alex Cury via e-mail (acury@juno.com) or phone (232-1608).

— Cecil Bothwell

Standing up for kids

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and an ongoing series of related events continues this week with a Blue Ribbon Night at the April 15 Asheville Tourists baseball game. Child Abuse Prevention Services staff and volunteers will hand out blue ribbons at the gate and pin a large blue ribbon on Tourists mascot Ted E.

One week later, the organization will hold its Blue Ribbon Reception and Award Ceremony. Leslie Boyd will be honored with the CAPS Media Award for increasing awareness of the issue.

According to statistics released by the organization, more than 3,000 Buncombe County children were abused or neglected last year and more than 100,000 statewide. The “Children’s Index” and “Child Health Report Card” prepared by the Raleigh-based North Carolina Advocacy Institute in conjunction with the North Carolina Institute of Medicine give the state D’s and F’s in the areas of child abuse and neglect.

For more information, contact Child Abuse Prevention Services at 254-2000.

— Cecil Bothwell

Remembering the victims

April 10-16 marks the 25th anniversary of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week — a time when victims of crime, their families and friends, as well as the those who work to help them ask the public to reflect on this year’s theme: “Justice isn’t served until crime victims are.” And to commemorate the week, the Western North Carolina Crime Victims’ Coalition has invited the public to attend a memorial at City County Plaza at 2:30 p.m. on April 14 when family members of homicide victims will plant flowers in the Victims of Crime Memorial Garden across from the Public Safety Building next to City Hall.

“It’s a chance for everyone to come together to contemplate and remember the crime victims in our community,” notes Ivy Schoff, Victim Services Coordinator for the Asheville Police Department.

In addition, on April 15, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville (1 Edwin Place) will host a public forum and information program from 7 to 9 p.m. on restorative justice. The event will include presentations, discussions, videos and a Q&A session where people can learn more about how restorative justice aims to help heal the victim.

“Restorative Justice is an effort to bring offenders face-to-face with their victims of their crimes with the assistance of a trained mediator,” according to a press release issued by the event’s sponsors. “Offenders take meaningful responsibility for their actions by mediating a restitution agreement with the victim, to restore the victim’s losses in whatever way possible — creating a sense of justice between crime victims and offenders.”

The forum is being sponsored by the Healers of Conflicts Law and Conflict Resolution Center, Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program Information and Resource Center, The Mediation Center, The Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville and the Western North Carolina Crime Victims’ Coalition.

For more information on these events, contact Emily McLain at 252-0562.

— Brian Sarzynski

Get moving for the nonprofit of your choice

If you want to get some exercise and help out one of 40 local charities, then you might want to join in United Way’s Human Race. The 5K run-walk-or-roll event takes place 9 a.m.-noon on Saturday, April 16, at UNCA’s Karl Straus Track. Wheelchairs, strollers and wagons are welcome — but no bikes, scooters or in-line skates.

Participants are asked to collect sponsorship money from friends, family, neighbors and coworkers for the participating nonprofits, which include CARING for Children, Helpmate, Mountain Housing Opportunities and Paws with a Purpose.

There is a $25 registration fee for competitive runners only (they will receive a number and a T-shirt), and prizes will be awarded to the top three winners in each age group by gender and the top three finishers overall.

Peggy Ratusz and the Daddy Longlegs Band will provide entertainment, and a Kids Corner will offer activities including Flowers the Clown, face painting, bubble wands, balloon animals, an inflatable obstacle course and much more.

For more information, call United Way’s Volunteer Center at 255-0696 or visit its Web site at www.unitedwayabc.org.

— Lisa Watters

Chance for local filmmakers to strut their stuff

Ever since it began in the fall of 2001, the Cinema in the Park series has given locals a chance to gather together in downtown Pritchard Park, sit back on a cushion or lawn chair under the open sky and watch a great movie. Up till now, those movies have all been silent-film classics with accompaniment by talented local musicians. However, during the series this spring, the audience also will get a chance to check out movies made by local filmmakers.

“We recognize that there are a lot of talented and skilled filmmakers in Western North Carolina,” explains Rupa Vickers, director of the series. “And this is an opportunity for them … to get their vision and artistic accomplishments out there.”

Local filmmakers are invited to submit a DVD or video copy of their film (“Shorts are encouraged, features are accepted,” says Vickers) to P.O. Box 897, Asheville, NC, 28801, in care of the Cinema in the Park Experimental Filmmakers Search. The due date for submissions is Friday, April 22.

For more information, call Vickers at 225-3278.

— Lisa Watters

Earth as Art

Dr. Story Musgrave will return to the Colburn Earth Science Museum in Pack Place for a new presentation, “Earth as Art.” The performance is slated for 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 17 at the Diana Wortham Theatre.

Musgrave, a former shuttle astronaut, brings a wide diversity of experience and interests to this multimedia work, which will include 160 slides he shot while in space. In addition to holding advanced degrees in medicine, physiology and literature, he counts chess, flying, gardening, literary criticism, microcomputers, parachuting, photography, reading, running, scuba diving and soaring among his hobbies. His work with NASA, which selected him as a scientist-astronaut in 1967, included not only six shuttle flights, but design of the suits worn for all shuttle space walks, life support systems, airlocks and manned maneuvering units.

The astronaut offered a similar presentation at Colburn one planetary cycle back, on April 18, 2004 — which was well-received and led to this return visit. Musgrave will be available to sign copies of a new biography about him, Story: The Way of Water, written by Anne Lenehan, along with copies of his DVD, A Space Story. Copies of each will be available at the museum.

Admission is free for Colburn Museum members; $10 for non-members. For more info, phone 254-7162 or visit colburnmuseum.org

— Cecil Bothwell

Celebrating the earth

“You’ll learn a lot, but you’ll be having so much fun, you won’t even know you’re learning,” promises Karen Austin of the WNC Alliance, a grassroots environmental organization.

The Alliance is one of many local groups and businesses that have come together to bring the third annual Asheville Earth Day Celebration to City/County Plaza on April 16. From 1-10 p.m. (and into the wee hours at other locations), the green grass in front of City Hall will be packed with everything from a children’s play area to a musical stage featuring local and national bands to a bevy of information booths representing local nonprofits.

Headlining this year’s event is the legendary Col. Bruce Hampton and the Codetalkers, who’ll be joined on stage by the Colonel’s former lieutenant, guitarist Jimmy Herring (formerly of Hampton’s Aquarium Rescue Unit and lately of a little outfit known simply as The Dead).

Other musical acts include Charlotte darlings the Avett Brothers, Raleigh-based Vaughn Penn, Nashville natives Foggy Bottom and local acts Menage, Fifth House and the Chris Cates Band.

In addition, starting at noon, downtown businesses Climbmax, Mast General Store and Bio-Wheels will be holding demonstrations and workshops at the top of each hour on topics such as practicing “Leave No Trace” interactions with nature. And the folks from RiverLink will be distributing digital thermometers to anyone who brings in a mercury thermometer (they’ll also be able to collect large amounts of mercury). Another earth-conscious program will be offered by Verizon Wireless, which will be collecting old cell phones to rehab and donate to domestic-abuse victims.

The organizers stress that Asheville Earth Day is a nonprofit event that raises money for local environmental groups and awareness of their programs. “The only way many of these nonprofits can function year in and out is through donations from groups and individuals,” noted David Dean of Deano Productions (Asheville Earth Day’s promoter and musician wrangler) in a recent press release. The event will be donating the proceeds from ticket sales, a silent auction and beer sales to two of the attending environmental groups (whose names will drawn from a hat before the Codetalkers take the stage). “Coming out to Asheville Earth Day is a great way to help them out,” notes Dean.

Advance ticket prices are $8/students and $10/adults (seniors and children under 12 will be admitted free). Tickets can be purchased at Good Music and Other Stuff, Indo, the Over Easy Cafe, Sounds Familiar, Backcountry Outdoors, In Your Ear Music or online (at www.AshevilleEarthDay.org). Buying $50 worth of groceries at Greenlife Grocery entitles customers to purchase a half-price ticket. For more information (including package deals offering admission to after-event parties at Stella Blue and the Emerald Lounge), check the Web site.

— Brian Sarzynski

Ready to roll with solar

Black Mountain inventor and self-described “Ohmsteader” Mike Whitney is planning a photovoltaic power workshop with a twist. Participants will assemble several 5,000-watt solar power wagons. Such mobile solar-electric plants can provide power for tools (saws, drills, lights, etc.) in remote areas where electric power isn’t available and can even power most small appliances in a home in times of grid power failure.

The Long Branch Environmental Education Center will host a hands-on assembly workshop at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 16. There is a suggested donation of $25 for the workshop, and a few scholarships are available. And for a materials fee of $1,500 apiece, participants can take a solar wagon home at the end of the day. LBEEC is located in the Big Sandy Mush Creek community in northwest Buncombe County.

The impetus for this workshop springs from center’s work developing a solar power-wagon donation project to help earthquake and tsunami survivors in Southeast Asia.

“These solar power wagons will give disaster-stricken communities a non-polluting, renewable source of energy to help rebuild their shelters and their lives,” suggests Paul Gallimore, the center’s director.

To register for the workshop or for more information, contact Gallimore via e-mail (paulg@main.nc.us) or phone at 683-3662.

— Cecil Bothwell

Celluloid vision

“‘Spiritual Cinema’ asks two eternal questions: Who are we? And, why are we here?” proclaims veteran film producer Stephen Simon on the Web site for one of his movies (www.indigothemovie.com). “Films such as It’s A Wonderful Life, The Matrix series, Field of Dreams and Ghost illuminate the landscape of our evolution as … humanity and stir us to remember who we can be when we reach beyond the seen into a realm where we engage the magical aspects of our human potential.”

A leading spokesman for what he calls a new genre, Simon will speak on “Mystical Movie Messages that Inspire Our Lives” on Saturday, April 16, at Blue Ridge Motion Pictures Studios, starting at 6:30 p.m. Tickets cost $20 ($15 for students) in advance and $25 at the door.

Simon has developed and produced many well-known films, including Smokey and the Bandit, The Goodbye Girl, The Electric Horseman, Somewhere in Time, the Academy Award-winning What Dreams May Come and Indigo (the surprise hit of the 2003 Santa Fe Film Festival). He’s also the author of The Force is With You: Mystical Movie Messages that Inspire Our Lives (Hampton Roads Publishing Company, 2002), in which he writes, “I believe that the universe is sending us messages through movies — or, maybe, we are sending those messages to ourselves.”

In addition, Simon co-founded The Spiritual Cinema Circle (www.spiritualcinemacircle.com), a subscription DVD service that has grown rapidly since its launch a year ago. The Circle, recently featured in both Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly, distributes three to five spiritually themed DVDs a month to a worldwide audience in more than 60 countries.

For reservations to the local event, call Mystic Journeys at 253-4272.

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