The more things change …

Back in 1971, North Carolina’s public-university system faced a record surge in enrollments as the Baby Boom generation came of age, leading state legislators to add 10 campuses to the existing six-school system. Now, those Boomers’ kids are starting to hit college age, and they’re expected to flood the state’s universities in the coming years, creating a situation that’s oddly similar to what happened 30 years ago. That leaves state legislators facing a projected record increase in enrollment, prompting them to consider a $2.7 billion bond issue to fund an ambitious, multiyear building plan. But before they start spending money, a local public-policy think tank urges the General Assembly to take a good look back, before moving ahead.

“It’s been said that our only real crystal ball is a rear-view mirror,” observed Carolyn Waller, policy analyst at the North Carolina Center for Public Policy Research (NCCPPR), in a recent press release. “The 1971 legislation that restructured the university system tells us a lot about higher education’s future.”

Among the questions facing N.C.’s public-university system are: how to equitably distribute long-term funding among the 16 institutions, which vary significantly in size and orientation; how to improve access to higher education for minorities, particularly at the state’s five historically black universities; how to help individual universities function best as units within the greater system; and how to keep a university education affordable, while maintaining academic excellence.

While the 1999 General Assembly is expected to set aside $19.5 million this year as a first step toward addressing the many non-brick-and-mortar costs associated with the estimated 48,000 students expected to enroll by 2008, when the new student boom should peak, the NCCPPR believes lawmakers should adequately revisit the issues that faced the 1971 General Assembly. Back then, 10 campuses were added to the system, local campus boards of trustees were retained, and a new 32-member UNC Board of Governors was created to govern the system. Most importantly, this board was granted the power to submit a unified budget for all 16 campuses, approve academic programming, and even elect the system president and the 16 campus chancellors.

That 1971 legislation marked a defining moment — not only for North Carolina, but for the entire nation’s educational system. According to Aims McGuiness of the National Council for Higher Education Management Systems, back then, “everyone wanted to ‘do a North Carolina.'”

To encourage state lawmakers to rise to the occasion once again, the NCCPPR has released a report called “Reorganizing Higher Education: What History Tells Us About Our Future.” They’re hoping state legislators will take the time to read it before the 1999 General Assembly session ends — and seize the opportunity to make history repeat. The NCCPPR’s report is available for $20, including sales tax, postage and handling.

To order, write the N.C. Center for Public Policy Research at P.O. Box 430, Raleigh, NC 27602, or call (919) 832-2839. You can also order the report from the center’s Web site (

Love and money

Alzheimer’s Disease is one of the most difficult conditions that can strike older people. Not only do their memories — and, sometimes, their personalities as well — deteriorate, but the caretaking costs for these individuals (who are often healthy, otherwise) can prove overwhelming to their families.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Black Mountain Center Foundation recently received a $40,000 private grant to support the center’s Alzheimer’s Respite Service.

The Respite Service provides up to 30 days a year of on-campus care to Alzheimer’s sufferers, allowing their families to take a needed break, conduct some family business, or even focus on their own health problems. By helping the primary caregivers avoid certain emotional and physical problems, such assistance can postpone or prevent the need to place Alzheimer’s patients into far-more-costly nursing homes. Over the past four years, more than 100 families have used this service.

This grant is particularly meaningful, because the donors have used the Respite Service themselves for five years. The wife, a longtime Alzheimer’s sufferer, has been cared for at home by her husband (who describes himself as “a very blessed man”). The gift — made in honor of the wife’s birthday — will benefit both the Alzheimer’s Respite Service and the Black Mountain Center’s full-time Alzheimer’s program.

To learn more about the Black Mountain Center Foundation, call 669-3320.

History revealed

The South Asheville Cemetery, a historic African-American burial ground in Kenilworth, is a real treasure — not only for Asheville, but for North Carolina, as well. For decades, the cemetery lay neglected; the weeds and trees grew higher, while the gravestones (and even the graves themselves) sank into the earth. Since last year, however, the South Asheville Cemetery Association, headed by George Gibson and Eula Shaw, has been organizing volunteer cleanup sessions to clear brush, chop trees and help reclaim a bit of Asheville’s all-but-forgotten past.

Another series of clearings is coming up, and they’d love to have your help. The dates are: July 24, Aug. 7 and Aug. 21, from 9 a.m. to noon. Truckloads of oak, cherry and locust wood cut from trees in the cemetery will also be on sale, with the proceeds going to benefit the cemetery.

For more information, call Gibson at 254-4654 or Shaw at 684-3119.

Let freedom ring

Having just celebrated Independence Day, it’s a perfect time to reflect upon the people, the values and the sacrifices that have marked this country’s continuing journey toward realizing the founders’ vision of freedom and democracy.

Now, we have an opportunity to honor a local individual who’s made personal sacrifices in the name of free speech. Nominations are being accepted for the Dr. Marketta Laurila Free Speech Award, which recognizes area residents who have defended free speech in ways that promote social justice, racial harmony, community betterment and self-determination. The award, established in 1988, was named for former UNCA Spanish Professor Marketta Laurila, who was denied reappointment after becoming an outspoken opponent of U.S. policy in Central America.

Nominees should be Western North Carolina residents who have, within the last three years, taken action to defend their own or others’ right to free speech, and who have persisted despite personal risk. All nominations are due on or before July 21. List the nominee’s name, address, telephone number and all other pertinent information; include a brief but comprehensive statement describing the activities that qualify this person for the award. Newspaper clippings or other supporting documents are also helpful.

Send your nomination to: Free Speech Award Committee, c/o Interfaith Alliance for Justice, P.O. Box 6468, Asheville, NC 28816.To learn more, call the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council at 252-4713.

Charlotte mayor tackles urban sprawl

The economic futures of Asheville and Charlotte have much in common, and closer cooperation will enhance the prospects for both. That was the word from Queen City Mayor Patrick McCrory, speaking to the Asheville Civitan Club at Trinity Episcopal Church on June 29.

He compared attractions of these two cities and quipped that “When we promote attractions for visitors, we say, ‘Come to Charlotte … and behold the beauties of Biltmore’ … and when your people talk up Asheville, you may mention our fine professional sports teams. So we’re closer than some might think. And we need to capitalize on all of that.”

Passenger rail service, said McCrory, would provide a basic structural link to support business development. He urged North Carolina cities to join forces on transportation issues to gain needed legislation: “When we and the other major cities of our state work together as a group, we have more influence. And urban transit is vital.”

Frequent transit service, he noted, is important not only to less-affluent citizens but also to the business community. In Charlotte, civic leadership is working to implement a $50 million to $85 million transportation system that would optimize efficiency by linking bus and rail service. The vision includes using existing rail lines through outlying suburbs, where urban sprawl is becoming as great a problem as gridlock is in the city center.

Expansion at Douglas International Airport (already the 16th largest in the U.S.) is another priority of interest to WNC residents. Additional runways are planned, and negotiations are under way with US Airways to establish direct flights to more foreign destinations (such as Paris and Frankfurt). Tying airport traffic into the expanded transit system would reduce dependence on airport limousines.

Meanwhile, Charlotte-area workers are increasingly concerned about lengthy commuting times. Many of these people came to Charlotte, said McCrory, expecting traffic conditions to be better than in cities above the Mason-Dixon Line. More and more employees, he noted, are looking at commute times when considering job offers.

— David C. Bailey

Letting off some steam

Self-expression often accomplishes more than just getting a point across; it can relieve tension, defuse uneasy situations, and create an important bond among the parties involved. And, in the wake of the tragedy at Denver’s Columbine High School, the United Way’s Volunteer Center has partnered with AmeriCorps’ “Project Power Team” to organize Stand Against Violence Day. The day-long project, happening Friday, July 16, will feature a series of youth activities designed to promote self-expression and nonviolence.

“We’re trying to have a variety of different activities that encourage young people to express their voice,” explains Kirstie Fischer OF the Volunteer Center, adding, “A lot of the activities themselves are organized by young people.”

The day’s doings will include poetry workshops (taught by local poet par excellence Glenis Redmond), as well as music mixed by youth DJs and performed by young bands. The crowning event, however, will be a performance of William Mastrosimone’s play Bang Bang You’re Dead, featuring a cast of 11 teens from Asheville and Buncombe County middle and high schools. The play encourages young people to consider the roots and consequences of youth violence. Former Asheville High School drama teacher Chris Mathews and A.C. Reynolds High School drama teacher Lori Hilliard are co-directing the production, which will be presented to the community, free of charge, at the Stephens-Lee Center from 3-4 p.m.

For more about Stand Against Violence Day, call Fischer at the Volunteer Center at 255-0696.

— cowardly compiled by Paul Schattel

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