A taxing season

Being freshly in the wake of tax time, most of us are in no mood to ponder how much it costs to keep governments at all levels up and running. But consider this: A report by the Center for Local Innovation, a project of The John Locke Foundation (a nonpartisan think tank), places Asheville roughly in the middle, in terms of how much local government costs North Carolina residents.

The report, called By the Numbers 2000: What Government Costs in North Carolina Cities and Counties, was released April 12 in a ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel Asheville. With local taxes and fees totaling $1,555 per person in 1998, Asheville ranked ninth among 22 North Carolina cities with populations of at least 25,000. Durham ($1,810), Charlotte ($1,801) and Hickory ($1,745) topped the list, while Kannapolis ($972), Goldsboro ($863) and Jacksonville ($782) were among the cities costing their residents the least.

Among the 83 medium-sized municipalities examined, Hendersonville ($2,166), Brevard ($1,519) and Morganton ($1,465) all ranked high — being number two, number 17 and number 21, respectively. Waynesville ($1,260) and Black Mountain ($1,213) were found to have an average local-tax-and-fee burden. Overall, such charges cost North Carolinians about 4.44 percent of their income in 1998, up from 4.39 percent the year before. And taken together, federal, state and local governments cost North Carolinians about 35 percent of personal income in 1998. That’s down slightly from 1997, but still up dramatically since 1992.

For more information, call The John Locke Foundation at (919) 828-3876.

Future perfect

In only a few years, the Internet has begun radically reconfiguring the way we all live. Many credit the Internet’s explosive growth with fueling the U.S. economy in this time of unparalleled expansion, and the rapid communication of ideas and information that’s now possible on-line is also having massive impacts. Among other things, you can now support some of your favorite charities with just a click of your mouse.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is one local organization that’s taking advantage of these new possibilities. They recently announced an on-line fund-raising initiative, in which supporters can help the foundation simply by purchasing goods and services on-line.

In partnership with, which bills itself as a “cause-related e-commerce company dedicated to turning on-line shopping into a significant new fund-raising tool for not-for-profit organizations,” the BRPF will receive 5 to 15 percent of each purchase made at their “on-line shopping village,” located at With the on-line shopping industry estimated to grow to a whopping $920 billion by 2002, virtual shopping centers are poised to become the markets of the future. And savvy nonprofits are learning how to tap that motherlode, to find needed funds.

The project features brand-name retailers selling high-quality goods at the same prices you’d find if you went directly to the merchants’ own sites. How does it work? According to’s Web site, if you buy an item at one of the merchants’ “shopping villages,” the company is paid an “affiliate’s fee” by the retailer. splits that fee 50-50 with the appropriate nonprofit, which usually ends up with something like 5 to 15 percent of the purchase price. And if it works out to less than 5 percent, will actually make up the difference, counting on future profits to even things out.

For more information, call (336) 721-0260, or go to on the Web.

A study in horror

With its tree-lined suburbs and quaint, quiet downtown, Hendersonville is probably the last place one would think of in connection with the Holocaust. But for the second straight year, Hendersonville Middle School’s sixth-grade language-arts and social-studies classes are studying the causes and effects of that tragedy, and they’re inviting you to learn along with them. On Thursday, April 27 at 6:30 p.m., they’ll hold a Holocaust Remembrance Evening at the school as part of their H.E.A.R.T. (Holocaust Ecumenically Acting and Remembering Together) Project.

Between 1933 and 1945, more than 11 million European Jews, Gypsies and other people are believed to have been murdered by the Nazi regime in Germany, simply because of who they were. Anti-Semitism, of course, was not invented by Adolph Hitler, but the Holocaust was the first concerted attempt to utterly exterminate the Jewish people. They were first sent to ghettos, then to concentration camps; families were separated, and according to a H.E.A.R.T. Project media release, only one in 150 children survived.

“Since we are one of the last generations to meet Holocaust survivors, we must learn as much as we can, so we can share with future generations what really happened during the terrible time of this tragic event in history,” states the release.

To learn more about the H.E.A.R.T. Project’s Holocaust Remembrance Evening, call Will McDowell at 697-4800.

Think globally, watch locally

Despite the enormous impact broadcast media have in America, most of us don’t think much about who owns the airwaves. But a recently released report by the Benton Foundation — a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit devoted to communications policy and public-interest education — charges that commercial broadcasters are systematically ignoring local public affairs. That has some local media activists seeing red.

The report, titled Market Conditions and Public Affairs Programming, maintains that during a typical two-week period, less than 0.5 percent of the total commercial broadcast time is devoted to local public-affairs programming.

“These broadcasters have received free licenses to use the public airwaves, which are owned by the people of the United States, and in return, they’re supposed to serve the public interest, according to the federal law,” said Wally Bowen, executive director of the Mountain Area Information Network, in a recent telephone interview. “Obviously, they’re not doing that when it comes to making and broadcasting local public-affairs programs. We need to hold them to that obligation.”

Bowen cites the Reagan Administration’s repeal of the Fairness Doctrine in the mid-’80s as the most serious blow to local public-interest programming. “The Fairness Doctrine was designed to address this problem,” he explains. “It required broadcasters to keep a detailed public file on how they had served the local community, and part of that was documenting their public-affairs programming.”

The doctrine was originally adopted by the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that broadcasters operated in the public interest, covering important public issues and fairly reflecting differing viewpoints. But in 1987, says Bowen, FCC Chair Mark Fowler argued that deregulating the broadcasters would actually create more public-affairs programming. “They saw that the Fairness Doctrine was an impediment to higher profitability, and that’s the bottom line. They repealed it, and sure enough, it was a disaster, when it comes to local programming,” Bowen maintains.

According to the Benton report, neither competitive conditions, market demographics nor station characteristics significantly affected the amount of local public-affairs programming provided. Accordingly, the foundation is urging the FCC to define the public-interest obligations of television broadcasters.

“Broadcasters’ abysmal performance providing coverage of issues of local concern exemplifies the need for a rulemaking to clearly define their obligations,” said foundation Chair Charles Benton, in comments filed with the Commission. Benton, who served on the President’s Advisory Committee on the Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters. “The Commission should begin that proceeding now and base the next generation of public-interest obligations on a collection of principles that recognize the rights of viewers in American broadcasting.”

For his part, Bowen has some pretty specific ideas on what’s missing. Local broadcasters, he says, “not only need to beef up the local-news segments, they should also do special reports, town meetings, call-in shows, that type of thing. The point is that broadcasters have free public licenses to make a lot of money, broadcasting primarily ads into our homes; and, in return for having those free licenses, they’re supposed to be serving the public interest. And they’re not doing it.”

At press time, WLOS-TV — contacted in connection with this story — had not returned repeated phone calls.

Benton’s filing is available on-line at; the new report will be available shortly at (

— circumvallatedly compiled by Paul Schattel

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