Buzzworm news briefs

We’re gonna have a TV party

URTV

Immediately after first episode of Biker Billy Cooks with Fire airs — when dozens of men who once thought themselves macho are holding ice cubes to their tongues in a vain attempt to stave off the inferno of a meat loaf made with peppers ranking around 90,000 Scoville units — maybe the public will finally understand why having our own public-access station, URTV (Charter Cable channel 20) is so important. You just can’t get this stuff anywhere else.

Scorched mouths aside, the basic idea behind the station is to give Buncombe County’s citizens access to the powerful communication tool that is the tube. And getting that tool into local hands hasn’t been easy. It’s taken six years of planning, negotiations, fund-raising and the not-insignificant feat of bringing the community together to make URTV a reality.

All that hard work is about to pay off: URTV goes on the air Monday, July 31.

There will be a party, of course. Mayor Terry Bellamy will cut the requisite ribbon, singer/songwriter Kat Williams will perform, and URTV celebrity-in-waiting Laura Morton (of the soon-to-air comedy/cooking show Laura Can’t Cook) will host. The URTV staff, directed by local media guru Kurt Mann, will tape the event, which will be shown as one of the station’s first broadcasts. And other local bigwig and attention-grabbers will be there, too, hoping to snag a few minutes of screen time.

But forget those people. The really exciting thing will be the dozens — maybe even hundreds — of citizens who will show up to support the station created just for them.

So when the big buttons are finally pushed, what exactly will viewers see?

“It’s really varied,” says URTV Programming Director Jen Mass, looking over a list of homegrown shows that have been submitted in recent weeks. She reads off titles like The Anti-Show, Videobot, Blue Ridge Jammin’ and Camelot Reawakened. Mass hasn’t had time to watch all of the shows yet — she’s been too busy getting the station ready for the launch — but she says that so far, music and cooking shows predominate the lineup.

The programming schedule is still being ironed out, and there’s plenty more work to be done before URTV is fully operational. Questions abound: How will the all-digital facility fare in a town with an analog mindset? How will the community react to the programming? How will URTV promote itself: With access to pre-existing cable TV channels, satellite and regular radio, broadband Internet and books, magazines and newspapers galore, why watch URTV at all?

Mass doesn’t even flinch at that one.

“The majority of people who have submitted their programming are not doing it for the dollar,” she says. “They’re doing it for the love of what they do, and that pretty much says it all.”

The URTV grand opening celebration, which is free and open to the public, starts at 4:30 p.m. at the station studios in Suite 20A of the Asheville Office Park (31 College Place). For more information, visit www.urtv.org.

— Steve Shanafelt

Game on

For lovers of old-style, down-home politicking, all the ingredients are here: A cramped meeting hall with red, white and blue bunting garlanding the walls; people chomping away on taters and meatloaf, washing it down with sweaty glasses of sweet iced tea; hand-shaking and back-slapping; and a young, ambitious candidate intent on shaking up the status quo.

It’s the sultry evening of July 20, and the man of the hour at the Buncombe County Democratic Women’s monthly dinner is Heath Shuler, a political neophyte who is seeking a seat in the U.S. Congress this November. To win it, he’ll have to unseat eight-term Rep. Charles Taylor — a fellow that many a man (and one woman) has tried but failed to beat.

Despite the fact that Taylor has previously brushed away his opponents like pesky little gnats, the sense in this room is one of unfettered optimism. With a tan that would make George Hamilton sulk and a build you wouldn’t want to encounter on a dark street corner, Shuler is no gnat. A successful real-estate developer who was formerly an honor student and then a big-time football star, Shuler — if the candidate’s polls and fund-raising totals are to be believed — is not the Democrats’ latest sacrificial lamb, Bubba. No, he’s a great new hope, at least in this room, where the men all want to shake his hand and the women all want to hug him.

“Heath’s not just lived the American dream, he has lived the life of an American hero,” gushes Doug Jones, a Buncombe Democrat running for the N.C. House in District 116. “He’s earned my profound respect,” Jones adds — not so much for what he did on the field, but for what he did after his injury-shortened football career. Then, Jones says, Shuler came back to the mountains, started a business, created jobs and started giving back to the community that had embraced and nurtured him.

Eschewing a microphone (after all, he used to bark signals over the din of 80,000 screaming football fans), Shuler jumps right into his speech before more than 100 partisans at the dinner. He calls for common sense in Iraq, better health care and education, more jobs and political accountability. And of course, he attacks Taylor — attacks him like he might a rookie cornerback, relentlessly targeting the incumbent’s vulnerabilities.

For this crowd, hungry for a winner at last, Shuler ladles out the red meat. “We’re going to win this race,” he says to boisterous applause and hosannas. “Democrats will take back the House!”

Near the end, his cadence assuming a pace between that of coach and a preacher, he says: “We can do it. We can start by going out this door. Tonight. Put the bumper stickers on your car. Put the yard signs in your yard — for all of our candidates … . Let’s get the people elected who have always taken care of the people — and that’s the Democrats! Thank you.”

And, poof, within seconds he’s gone, even as the applause continues. Shuler’s off to Haywood County, running late for another meeting where he’ll stoke another crowd.

The game, as they say, is most definitely on.

— Hal Millard

Getting to second base

Second base
photo by Jodi Ford

Why is this man smiling? Because the restaurant he manages, Hannah Flanagan’s Irish Pub of Asheville, will soon become a mini-museum to one of minor league baseball’s most notorious bad boys.

Mark Sternal, the pub’s general manager (pictured), bid with others for the second base that Asheville Tourists Manager Joe Mikulik uprooted during his now-famous June 25 tirade at a game in Lexington, Ky. The silent auction benefited the Asheville Tourists Children’s Fund, which buys shoes for the city’s underprivileged young. Sternal and Asheville resident Craig Boyce didn’t have the winning bid — the base went instead to Tom McGowan of Philadelphia — but McGowan paid his money and gave the base back for resale to the No. 2 bidder. The base will be enshrined, brass plaque and all, inside the Biltmore Avenue tavern. Best of all, the one-off auction netted a considerable $4,050 for the charity.

— Kent Priestley

Time to take your seats

Time’s running out to become a candidate for the Buncombe County School Board. Potential representatives from the Enka, Erwin and Reynolds school districts have until noon on Friday, Aug. 4, to file with the Buncombe County Board of Elections.

Filing for the seats began on July 7, and as of July 21, the following candidates had signed up: Enka District — Bob Rhinehart of Candler; Erwin District — Pat Bryant; Reynolds District — Sam Banks and Richard Greene.

Meanwhile, filing for the county’s Soil and Water Conservation District ended July 7, with four candidates now in the running: James H. Coman of Leicester, Alan Ditmore of Marshall, Jeff Turner of Asheville and Elise Israel of Candler.

The last day for write-in candidates in the various Nov. 7 races to file their declarations of intent and petitions is Wednesday, Aug. 9.

The filing fee for the school board race is $5, and filing takes place at the Board of Elections (189 College St. in Asheville). The office is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.<*S>

— Nelda Holder

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