Buzzworm news briefs

A community report card

An upcoming State of Our Community Meeting, co-hosted by the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and VISION, will give area residents a chance to check in with local leaders on how things are going, explains Betz Bigelow, director of the nonprofit Asheville-Buncombe VISION.

This free community event takes place Thursday, May 27 in A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium. A reception from 6-7 p.m. will feature light refreshments and entertainment by the YMI Youth Jazz Band. That’s your chance to get up close and personal with the featured speakers: Asheville Mayor Charles Worley and Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chairman Nathan Ramsey. From 7-8 p.m., Worley and Ramsey will speak on the state of the city and county, respectively.

The annual meeting, now in its third year, is “sort of a report card,” says Bigelow. It gives city and county representatives a chance to talk about where they are: “the accomplishments made, the challenges still to be faced, and how each plans to face those challenges.”

In addition, VISION will release preview copies of its “2004 Community Progress Report,” described on the organization’s Web site (www.abvision.org) as “an honest scorecard of where we want to go and how we are doing in Asheville and Buncombe County.”

For more information or directions, contact Bigelow at 254-0333 (e-mail: betz@abvision.org).

— Lisa Watters

The butt stops here

If you were on Wall Street in downtown Asheville on a recent afternoon, you might have observed a scene reminiscent of the Wild West. A tourist (kind of smarmy looking, according to witnesses) tossed his cigarette to the ground as passers-by looked on, appalled. One brave local guy faced off with the tourist, cocking his own cigarette butt as if about to toss it but then, with some last-minute sleight of hand, stubbing it out in the portable ashtray slung at his hip — showing this uncouth stranger how things are done around here. The crowd cheered, and a little kid threw a portable ashtray to the tourist so he too could dispose of his butts properly.

Filming on Wall Street of public service announcement
photo courtesy of Quality Forward
What are you doing with that butt, mister? Actors feign outrage when a faux tourist throws his cigarette butt to the ground — all part of a staged scene in a public service announcement being produced by Quality Forward with the help of Ironwood Media and students from Asheville High School.

If all this sounds “kind of cheesy-funny,” as Quality Forward’s Leslie Huntley puts it, well, that’s because it was actually a staged scene in a public-service announcement being filmed that day — one of two PSAs Quality Forward is producing (in collaboration with Kurt Mann of Ironwood Media and students from Asheville High School) as part of their “Don’t Ash on Asheville” campaign.

This is not an anti-smoking campaign, stresses Huntley, but an effort to educate smokers on the negative environmental effects of cigarette-butt litter.

“Obviously we don’t want people to smoke — but if you do smoke, do the right thing,” she urges. “So many people who [toss butts] consider themselves environmentally conscious. They just don’t think about the effects for water quality, fish, birds or things like that.”

The campaign was largely inspired when Douglas Madaras (who’s been running his own “Butt Ugly” campaign) approached Quality Forward about this issue a year ago. The nonprofit got a grant from the Gannett Foundation to develop two PSAs. They’ve also hooked up with the Media Arts Project to produce an educational video (to be shown in schools) about the environmental effects of cigarette-butt litter.

WASV-TV in Spartanburg has already contacted Quality Forward about running the PSAs, Huntley reports, and the Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company has agreed to screen them in its theater. Once the PSAs are actually finished, she adds, the group plans to approach WLOS-TV and some of the other local movie theaters as well.

For more information, visit www.qualityforward.org or www.buttugly.org.

— Lisa Watters

Someone to lead us …

Where do community leaders come from? How can a community foster the development of leaders who encourage local grassroots activism and work toward creative solutions?

Vaughn Grisham has made it his life’s work to study community, change and leadership. He’ll offer his insights at Asheville’s Pack Library at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 1. Author of four books and more than 100 articles (as well as director of two films), he has stressed in recent talks the shift of responsibility from national and state governments to the local level. Grisham is director of the McLean Institute for Community Development and professor of sociology at the University of Mississippi.

The talk is part of the Downtown Speakers Series presented by the Asheville Downtown Association in partnership with the N.C. Division of Community Assistance, Appalachian State University, AdvantageWest, Quality Forward and HandMade in America.

For more information, contact David Quinn (251-6914) or Kim MacQueen (252-7153).

— Cecil Bothwell

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