Buzzworm news briefs

Filing period open for two county boards

Two avenues for hands-on, nonpartisan governmental service at the local level are open to candidates who are ready to sign on the dotted line: the Buncombe County Soil & Water Conservation Board of Supervisors (two positions) and Board of Education (three open seats). The filing schedules for both of these elective offices don’t fit the recently concluded primary-election cycle, so interested county residents can still get in on the action in time for the Nov. 7 general election.

Candidates for the Soil and Water Board have until noon on Friday, July 7, to file. To get on the ballot, visit the Board of Elections (189 College St. in Asheville) and pay the $5 filing fee. Board members serve four-year terms overseeing the conservation district’s mission, which their Web site notes is to “conserve the soil, water, and related natural resources of Buncombe County.” The district office provides technical assistance and education on erosion-control and water-quality issues; it also administers other federal, state and local conservation programs.

The filing period for the Board of Education (same filing fee and term length) begins at noon on July 7 and ends at noon on Friday, Aug. 4. The open seats are for representatives from the Enka, Erwin and Reynolds school districts. Candidates must live in the district they seek to represent, although all registered voters in the county are allowed to cast votes in all three races. This board sets policy for the eighth-largest school system in the state, with an annual budget of some $188 million and more than 25,100 students.

Other upcoming dates for the 2006 election cycle include:

Friday, June 30: Last day to file a petition to become an unaffiliated candidate for office on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Wednesday, Aug. 9: Deadline for write-in candidates to file declarations of intent and petitions.

Monday, Sept. 18: First day to request an absentee ballot by mail.

Friday, Oct. 13: Voter-registration deadline for Nov. 7 general election. Forms must be postmarked or delivered in person by 5 p.m.

Additional information on candidacy or voting issues is available from the Board of Elections, 250-4200 or www.buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/Election.

— Nelda Holder

FCC invites citizens to weigh in on media consolidation

“With the FCC just recently proposing new media-ownership rules, the national spotlight will be on Asheville,” says local media activist Wally Bowen, executive director of the Mountain Area Information Network. He’s talking about the Federal Communications Commission’s upcoming “Town Meeting on the Future of Media,” scheduled for Wednesday, June 28, in A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium, starting at 6 p.m.

In recent years, control of major media outlets has become more and more concentrated in fewer and fewer hands as federal regulators have gradually loosened restrictions on media ownership. There are still some legal limits in place, however: a prohibition on owning newspapers and television stations in the same market, and a limit on the number of TV stations owned in any one market. But media conglomerates are pushing hard to get rid of that rule, which would make it possible for one company to control all of the broadcast and print outlets in a given city, and the FCC appears poised to make changes. The upcoming forum is your chance to weigh in on this issue.

According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the largest media company in the world, Time-Warner (formerly AOL-Time-Warner), owns Time-Warner Book Group, Time, Inc. (more than 60 magazine titles), more than 20 cable networks, Warner Brothers films (and other film-production companies), AOL, Netscape and a big chunk of Amazon.com. Newspaper giant Gannett Co. Inc. owns more than 100 U.S. newspapers (including the Asheville Citizen-Times) and 16 TV stations. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation not only owns nearly 40 broadcast and 20 cable-TV stations, it owns the huge HarperMorrow publishers, 20th Century Fox films, dozens of papers overseas and the New York Post.

Then there’s Clear Channel, the biggest radio-station conglomerate in America with nearly 1,200 outlets (including six in Asheville) and 40 or more TV stations — not to mention an advertising division that includes billboards, airports and malls, taxicabs and TV ad production.

“This is an historic opportunity for citizens of Western North Carolina to have their voices heard and to affect U.S. media policy for years to come,” says Bowen.

Two FCC commissioners will be on hand for a presentation on how media concentration affects local access to news and information and to hear from members of the public. Admission is free.

For more info, visit www.freepress.net/future/=asheville.

— Cecil Bothwell

Is nothing sacred?

“This is what happens when a book gets wet,” says Carla Hollar, who works at Pack Library in downtown Asheville. A copy of the Motown Anthology is in her hand, so warped and rumpled that it’s easy to believe it went down with the ship. Hollar sets the songbook down. The pages fall open to “Let’s Get it On” by Marvin Gaye.

“I don’t know,” she says with a shrug of the shoulders. “Maybe they brought it into the bathtub with them.”

Hollar sees a lot of hard cases. There was the audiocassette version of The Mists of Avalon that came back with a paper-wasp nest clinging to it. (“Thank goodness, no wasps.”) There was the book on Chinese cooking that came back “absolutely redolent of soy sauce.” There are the routine indignities: the spritzes of cat urine and dog chew-marks, the Crisco stains on baking guides, and the WD-40 on do-it-yourself manuals.

And then there are the damages that seem to defy categorization: the book on goat raising, for instance, that came back bristling with stiff hairs. “It must have been out in the barnyard,” guesses Hollar. Another book was returned with a slice of bacon nestled between the pages — a sort of fleshy, makeshift bookmark.

“You have to wonder sometimes what brings them to this?” she asks.

All such damaged items find their way to a hefty plastic bin with an airtight lid, known to library employees as The Box of Shame. And while it’s tempting to snicker, the Asheville-Buncombe Library System loses hundreds of dollars in holdings this way every year. Beyond the unpleasantness of having to handle damaged goods, the staff must of course extract payment from the offending patron — often a losing proposition — and then spend loads of time reordering materials and cataloging them.

A stray nose hair, a poppy seed, the odd crumb — these are acceptable introductions to borrowed materials. But mold, no. A single moldy book can infect a whole shelf with its spores. In The Box of Shame, mildewed books are quarantined inside plastic shopping bags.

“I have allergies,” Hollar says, rubbing her nose.

Compact discs are especially vulnerable to damage. More than you’d believe, it’s done by Asheville’s ubiquitous potters reaching for a borrowed CD with clay-splattered hands. “Clay just tears through CDs. It’s as abrasive as jeweler’s sand,” notes Hollar.

Well-meaning patrons will often clean CDs with solvent or window cleaner, which sets in motion a condition known as “CD rot,” insidious as cancer.

The answer? Common sense. Responsibility. Decorum. Honesty. The sort of things the world could always use a little more of.

Not so long ago, Hollar says, a patron returned a book hatched with teeth marks. She made the call.

“Oh no, we don’t have a dog or a cat,” the patron said. “It must’ve been the rats.”

Hollar rolls her eyes in an unmistakable “what-a-world” way.

For information about the proper care and feeding of library materials, contact your local branch.

— Kent Priestley

The Voice of France — from Asheville

“Bonsoir, I’m your host Francois, and ze accent is part of it.”

Francois Manavit is sitting behind a microphone in Asheville, hosting a radio show he’s wanted to do ever since he was a young boy living in northern France, near Paris.

As a kid, he would stay up late after everyone else was sleeping to listen to his favorite show, “Les Treteaux de la Nuit” (The Stage of the Night). The program brought plays and stories to life, and he would listen to the tales in bed as if they were being acted out right there in his bedroom.

Such childhood memories drove Francois to start his own show here. The French consulate in Atlanta helped him connect with Radio France International in Paris, the same outfit that long ago put out “The Stage of the Night.” And a local low-power broadcaster, WPVM (103.5 FM), agreed to host “The Paris of the South,” an hour-long show that airs every Saturday night at 7 p.m.

The show brings France –and Manavit — to life in Asheville. He talks with his hands, eyes, expressions and laugh. Listening to the program, you hear far more than his voice.

Manavit says that his purpose in life is to make himself “available” for whatever he feels is important, and he’s always ready to serve as an ambassador of France. “It is impossible not to love France after meeting me,” he boasts. His business, Ze Oven, makes French bread that he sells at the Grove Corner Market every Friday, and he used to have a small restaurant in downtown Asheville that served homemade crepes, a commodity he still serves up at various functions.

The radio show is his latest French offering to his American neighbors. Each installment has a theme. Under the general format (which is not always adhered to), he begins with older songs and French history. The news and culture segment, courtesy of RFI, follows, and the show ends on a contemporary note with newer songs. He also sometimes plays American songs, if they fit with his theme.

Eventually, Manavit says, he’d like to create a Web site to bring all of this country’s Francophile shows together — there are four or five of them — “to let the American people know how much we love this country … [because] we’re representing the Franco-American relationship.”

It’s a relationship that offers a bounty of potential themes. Currently Francois is preparing a show on Dadaism. He recently did a show on D-Day, which included songs by Sydney Bechet, Yves Montands, Charles Trenet, Juliette Greco, and Mouloudji. He started the program in January, and has produced more than 20 episodes so far.

“The Paris of the South” airs Saturday nights at 7 p.m., and episodes can also be heard online at www.wpvm.org.

— Mannie Dalton

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