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Give peace a chance: People rallied against war in downtown Asheville as the nation contemplated military action in Syria. photos by Jake Frankel

WNC congressmen come out against military action in Syria

Facing a fluid and complex foreign policy situation, Western North Carolina's congressional representatives opposed military action against Syria, as initially proposed by President Barack Obama.

As the president prepared to address the nation Sept. 10, Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry, whose 10th District includes most of Asheville, announced that he'd vote against a military strike. "After reviewing the evidence and plan presented by the administration, I do not believe there is a compelling national interest or clear mission for our engagement in the Syrian civil war," he said in a press release. "Coupled with the overwhelming and near-unanimous feedback from my constituents opposing military involvement, I cannot support U.S. military action in Syria."

That evening, about 15 people from the local Veterans for Peace group gathered at the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville, brandishing banners that called for peace. A few days later, the leftist ANSWER Coalition organized a march of about 15 people through downtown streets protesting any war against Syria.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, whose 11th District includes parts of southern and western Buncombe County, agreed that military involvement is the wrong course.

“After carefully reviewing the facts and participating in multiple hearings and briefings, I will be voting against the authorization of U.S. military intervention in Syria,” said Meadows, who sits on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Obama subsequently asked Congress to delay a vote authorizing military action, pending diplomatic negotiations over a plan to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control. The president also appointed Meadows to a leadership position, nominating him to serve as a congressional delegate to the United Nations. — Jake Frankel

Four local colleges recognized in national 'Best Colleges' guide

Four WNC liberal arts colleges made the grade in this year's “Best Colleges” guide by U.S. News & World Report.

Published Sept. 10, the annual report showed that UNCA maintained its position as the seventh best public liberal arts college in the nation, while private schools Brevard College and Mars Hill University received recognition as one of the best national liberal arts colleges and one of the South's best colleges, respectively. Warren Wilson College was also recognized as a top national liberal arts college, and was specifically recognized — for the seventh time — for having one of the nation’s leading service programs.

This year's Best Colleges Rankings from U.S. News & World Report offers data on nearly 1,800 colleges and universities, including tuition, acceptance rates, class sizes, graduation rates, average debt of graduates and more. Eligible schools are ranked on up to 16 different factors, each weighted for importance. — Caitlin Byrd

American Civil Liberties Union of NC flunks Ramsey, Moffitt; Fisher earns perfect score

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina released its annual legislative report card Sept. 5, giving Buncombe County's delegation vastly different scores.

Statehouse Reps. Nathan Ramsey and Tim Moffitt received scores of 0, while Rep. Susan Fisher earned a perfect score of 100.

The report rates members of the North Carolina General Assembly based on their votes on various pieces of legislation the ACLU-NC supported or opposed in the most recent session. This year’s report card rates legislators based on how they voted in five key areas: voting rights, reproductive rights, racial justice, privacy rights and religious liberty.

Ramsey and Moffitt, both Republicans, each voted against the ACLU-NC's positions on all of the issues involved in the ratings. They joined 55 of their House colleagues in earning a score of 0.

In contrast, Fisher, a Democrat, voted in line with the ACLU-NC's recommendations all of the time. She was one of only 15 North Carolina legislators to do so.

The mission of the nonprofit ACLU-NC is "to preserve and defend the guarantees of individual liberty found in the North Carolina Constitution and the U.S. Constitution, with particular emphasis on freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, equal protection under law for all people, the right to privacy, the right to due process of law and the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure." — Jake Frankel

Hoteliers drop lawsuit against city property sale (for now)

Representatives for several local hotel chains dropped a lawsuit Sept. 11 blocking the city of Asheville's sale of property near the Basilica of St. Lawrence to the McKibbon Hotel Group. According to interim City Attorney Martha Walker-McGlohon, the plaintiffs gave no reason for dropping the suit, and retained the right to sue over the matter again in the future.

There are no other legal challenges to McKibbon if the company wants to proceed with its plans to buy the property from the city and build a high-end hotel on the site, says Walker-McGlohon.

The plaintiffs — including the owners of Four Points, Hotel Indigo and the Renaissance — claimed that the city’s deal amounted to subsidizing their competition, and they sued in March. Asheville City Council's approval of the sale last September was controversial, with a split vote and critics asserting the city should instead sell the land to the Basilica or convert it into a park. — David Forbes

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