Buzzworm news briefs

Task force takes aim at downtown problems

The Downtown Social Issues Task Force will unveil its revised recommendations for dealing with graffiti, public drunkenness and panhandling at a public meeting on Wednesday June 30 at the Pack Place Forum (4:30-7 p.m.). After a series of presentations explaining its recommendations, the task force will hear public comment.

Among the recommendations are:

• Setting up a “graffiti hot line” that would dispatch volunteers to remove any reported graffiti within 48 hours.

• Requiring building owners to either remove all graffiti themselves within 48 hours of when it’s reported or allow volunteers to do so.

• Creating strict penalties for graffiti offenders: 100 hours of graffiti cleanup for first-time offenders and 500 hours for repeat offenders.

• Levying an additional sales tax on beer and wine to support local detox and treatment programs.

• Establishing “Inebriate Safety Zones” that would be off-limits to people with extensive histories of alcohol or substance abuse.

• Placing donations boxes in downtown businesses to encourage visitors to give money to local charities rather than to panhandlers.

For more information, call 232-4501.

— Jason Lauritzen

Ride them wheels on July Fourth

Skateboarders will want to hit the air flying at the 4th of July Skateboard Contest on Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Food Lion SkatePark (corner of Flint and Cherry streets) in downtown Asheville.

Hosted by the SkatePark and Asheville Parks and Recreation, the contest is open to all skateboarders and features three divisions: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Timed runs will be judged on such criteria as the number of tricks, style, use of course and the degree of difficulty. Prizes will go to the top three winners in each category.

The cost to participate is $5 and registration begins at 10 a.m. on event day. Spectators can watch for free.

The contest is installment number two of the Food Lion SkatePark Grand Prix series.

For more information, 225-7184 or visit www.foodlionskatepark.com

— Lisa Watters

The primary primer

Some 141,463 people are registered to vote in Buncombe County; on Tuesday July 20, they’ll have a chance to choose among a number of contenders for local, state and federal offices.

In Buncombe County, all five seats on the Board of Commissioners are up for grabs, including the chairmanship. Depending on their political affiliation, voters in the primary will find different races represented on the ballot, because some candidates are running unopposed.

Three Democrats — Ed Hay, Krishna Murphy and Don Yelton — are seeking to dethrone board Chairman Nathan Ramsey, a Republican. Five Democrats and five Republicans are competing for the remaining seats; the primaries will winnow each party’s field to four.

To give members of the public a chance to meet all the candidates for Board of Commissioners, the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County is sponsoring a forum on Monday, July 12. After voters spend an hour of one-on-one time with the candidates, the Democratic contenders for the chairmanship will square off in a debate. The forum kicks off at 7 p.m. at Beth Ha-Tephila Synagogue (43 N. Liberty St. in Asheville).

The Buncombe County Board of Elections “one-stop voting” program allows early voting July 1-17 at the board’s office (189 College St. in Asheville), 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on weekdays and until 1 p.m. on Saturday July 17.

To request an absentee ballot, call Debra Palmer at 250-4206 (e-mail: debra.palmer@buncombecounty.org). Completed absentee ballots must be received at the BOE office by Tuesday July 13.

Buncombe County voters will also be registering their preferences in these federal and state races:

Democratic primary: Congress (11th District); N.C. governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, commissioner of agriculture, and superintendent of public instruction.

Republican primary: U.S. Senate; N.C. governor, lieutenant governor, auditor, commissioner of insurance, commissioner of labor, attorney general and superintendent of public instruction.

Nonpartisan: Judge, N.C. Court of Appeals.

If any of the primary races require a runoff, a second primary will take place Tuesday, Aug. 17. The filing period for a seat on the Buncombe County Board of Education runs from Friday, July 2 (noon) to Friday, Aug. 6 (noon) for the Nov. 2 general election.

If you forgot to register in time for the primary races (the deadline was June 25), you have until Friday, Oct. 8 to get yourself on the list of those eligible to vote in the November election. And if you’d like to help out at the polls, contact Alice at the BOE office (250-4205).

Check the July 14 Xpress for information about the candidates. Voters should also be aware that their polling sites may have changed. There have been 12 changes in the county’s 71 polling places for this round of voting.

To get a look at the ballot as it will appear on the voting machines, visit the Board of Elections Web site (www.bcboe.org); for other voting questions, call the BOE at 250-4200.

— Nelda Holder

Lotus have fun at the festival

A lotus festival in Madison County? Those who merely skim the surface of what this rugged mountain county has to offer may be surprised at the very thought.

But Madison County native Jack Jarvis will be happy to open some eyes. Jarvis will host his first Lotus Festival at his family’s former tobacco farm near Mars Hill that he transformed into in a four-acre Japanese garden seven years ago.

The three-day festival will feature guided tours of the garden, which includes bonsai (one reportedly more than 500 years old), pagodas, statues, ponds filled with koi — and of course, lotus blossoms. The festivities will also include a Japanese tea ceremony, music, dance, arts and crafts, and food with an international flair.

The rest of the world has already gotten a peek at Jarvis’ gardens: They were featured on Home & Garden Television last October.

The festival will run 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Thursday, July 1, and Friday, July 2, and from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, July 3. Cost: on Thursday and Friday, $15/adult, $10/child (12 and older); and on Saturday, $20/adult, $15/child (12 and older).

Directions: Take U.S. 19/23 north to Mars Hill. At exit 9, turn right onto U.S. 19 North (Burnsville exit). Go about 1/2 mile, then turn right on Old Mill Road. For more information, call 689-3859, 255-8833 or 215-1855.

— Tracy Rose

Making a difference before the Fourth

There are many ways to make a contribution to the community — and the country, for that matter.

Close to home, the Asheville-Mountain Area Chapter of the American Red Cross will hold its 17th annual “Operation Blood Drive” on Thursday, July 1. The regional event (sponsored by WLOS-TV) is the largest blood and bone-marrow drive the nonprofit holds each year.

The drive will be held 7 a.m.-6 p.m. on Thursday, July 1 at the Asheville Blood Donation Center, 100 Edgewood Road (just off Merrimon Avenue).

Along with the satisfaction of giving, donors will receive a free T-shirt and snacks. Donors must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, and be in good health. Some form of identification is also necessary.

In Hendersonville, a volunteer effort of a different sort is underway. The Heritage Hills and Lodge (a retirement/assisted living community) is staging a “Treats for Troops” collection drive to gather care-package goodies for troops stationed overseas.

Suggested items include sunglasses, baby wipes, trail mix, powdered drink mix and small tins of pre-cooked food. Items must be nonperishable and not prone to melting; no pork products will be accepted.

Donations can be dropped off 9 a.m.-5 p.m. through Friday, July 2 at Heritage Hills and Lodge, 3200 Heritage Circle (off Highway 25) in Hendersonville.

To schedule an appointment with the Red Cross, call 258-3888, ext. 129 or 136. Walk-ins are also welcome.

For more info about the “Treats for Troops” collection — including a list of suggested donation items — call 693-8292.

— Tracy Rose

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