Drug commish field trip
Asheville’s Pisgah View Apartments public-housing complex is a quiet place in the afternoon when school’s in session. But as members of the Asheville-Buncombe Drug Commission took a short walking tour of the place following their brief Sept. 26 meeting at the complex’s community center, the beautiful autumn day belied the dangers lurking in a place where poverty is a given and drugs are not uncommon.
Pisgah View’s 262 units are often full. More than 100 renters there have all their rent subsidized. When a vacancy opens up, drug dealers and users sometimes swoop in. Commission members were led inside one such newly vacant unit; it was dirty, dusty and strewn here and there with the detritus of the drug trade.
“Somebody moves out in the morning and [the drug dealers and users] are in by five o’clock,” said Building Manager Allison Smith.
However, City Council member Carl Mumpower, a Drug Commission organizer, noted that things “are a lot better than two years ago … shootings have calmed down.” Open-air drug activity seems to be down as well, though the hard stuff can still be had easily along nearby Shorter Michigan Avenue, known in the complex by its more common name, “Drug Boulevard.”
There are signs of hope within Pisgah View. A private project called “I Have a Dream” is housed in another unit. Inside, pictures of smiling children festoon the walls. The children, all members of the mentoring and tutoring project, will look forward to free college or other post-secondary-school tuition once they grow up and successfully graduate, said Coleman.
And there is “Dealer Down,” the citywide cash-reward program Mumpower instituted last year. It took eight months, but Dealer Down scored its first hit in August when a reportedly “top-level” dealer was nabbed with a half-pound of cocaine after a sting arranged by an informant. Though he wouldn’t divulge details on the reward amount, Mumpower personally paid between $500 and $2,000 to the informant for his efforts. He pledged to continue paying for it himself until Dealer Down can secure independent funding.
Mumpower later told Xpress he met with the informant to hand over the money and talk with him.
“What he simply said is … ‘I’m just tired about what these people do to my people. This is my way of fighting back.”
“I’Il tell you, the look on that guy’s face — it was worth every cent,” Mumpower added.
— Hal Millard
One (callused) hand washes the other
We smug urban types — with our hair product and daily ration of lattes — have always, whether we know it or not, been propped up by our rural neighbors. All that steamed milk had to come from somewhere, right? And that gel? Who knows — it’s probably made from some kind of bean or nut growing just over the barbed-wire-and-manure horizon.
In Hendersonville, the links between country and concrete jungle have been plain since 1955, when the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and Kiwanis International teamed to create Farm City Day. The event returns for its 51st year on Saturday, Oct. 7, and will feature live music, a menagerie of contented farm animals (cuds!), antique and modern farm equipment (loud and sort of dangerous!), wagon rides, crafts, games and other staples of rural life, including clogging, square dancing and a “kids’ fishing hole.” As if all that weren’t inducement enough, the event is free.
If you missed last year’s golden anniversary Farm City Day, this is your chance to return to the fold. The event takes place, as it has since 1986, at Hendersonville’s Jackson Park, located at 801 Glover St.
Farm City Day runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call the Henderson County Parks & Recreation Department at 697-4884.
— Kent Priestley
Put down the dulcimer, sir
Historian Anne Mitchell Whisnant’s new book, Super-scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History (University of North Carolina Press, 2006), began as many writing projects do: with a revelation. Fifteen years ago, the author was busy at UNC’s Wilson Library researching another topic, when, thumbing through the card catalog, her fingers came to rest on an entry that read BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY — CHEROKEE OPPOSITION.
“Whoa,” she may have thought. Whisnant had grown up near and along the scenic road, spending summers with family at Lake Junaluska and later working there. But her knowledge was — as most of ours is — colored by romantic notions of what the 469-mile mountain corridor is.
The possibility that there may have been political opposition at the time of the construction of a road so beloved had never occurred to her.
The parkway’s full story remains little-known, a whopping surprise given the fact that the road is the National Park Service’s most-visited stretch of territory. (18.6 million people traveled it last year, for reasons as elevated as picnicking and as quotidian as the daily commute.) Until Whisnant’s book rolled off the presses, the definitive guide was Harley Jolley’s 1969 book, The Blue Ridge Parkway, which, for all its good intentions, indulged many of the myths surrounding the road.
The parkway was in part a make-work project for thousands rendered jobless by the Great Depression, but it also, in ways less understood, served the private ambitions of the powerful and moneyed in cities like Raleigh, Roanoke and our own Asheville. As a constructed environment, it also helped calcify images of the region’s mountain folk — many of whose lives were forever changed by it — as barefoot homesteaders churning butter and strumming dulcimers in a land untouched by time.
While it’s inarguably a national treasure and a gem of landscape engineering, Whisnant notes, the Blue Ridge Parkway is also a linear metaphor for the coercive power of the “public good.” The road is living evidence of the battle between historic accuracy and wishful thinking, and a persistent environmental question mark.
The coda to Whisnant’s 440-page study is the litany of troubles facing the parkway now, which include, but are hardly limited to: anemic federal funding, overuse, crumbling infrastructure and a loss of vistas to peripheral development. In other words, the fate of “The Scenic,” as people took to calling it in the 1930s, is more than ever before in our hands. As someone seduced early and often by the parkway, Whisnant has a thing or two to say about how we — including our trusted public officials — ought to treat America’s favorite road from here on out.
The deliberate, scholarly work promises, in the author’s words, to “take us from a place many think they understand to one few would recognize, along a Blue Ridge Parkway almost no one knows.” Strap in and hold on tight.
Whisnant will discuss and sign copies of her book at the Blue Ridge Parkway Folk Arts Center at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 8.
— Kent Priestley
MoveOn moves in
Aiming to take back Congress from Republicans, the progressive-minded national political organization MoveOn.org has opened a field office at 12 Battery Park Ave. in downtown Asheville and is burning up the phone lines in a massive get-out-the-vote campaign for the Nov. 7 midterm elections.
The Asheville office, which opened Sept. 11, is one of 40 operating in 30 congressional districts nationwide that are seen as having the most competitive races, says Asheville field organizer Peter Elgie. The 11th District race pits challenger Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, against incumbent Rep. Charles Taylor, R-Brevard.
Two other paid organizers, Laura Mitchell and John Ramsburg, are helping Elgie coordinate the volunteer-based GOTV effort. MoveOn.org boasts more than 6,000 members in the Asheville area and a total of about 11,000 in the district, says Elgie. Statewide, the group claims 63,480 members. So far, he says, hundreds of local members have signed up to call other members in the Carolinas, Tennessee and Virginia. Beyond unseating Taylor, the plan is to have MoveOn’s 3.3 million members nationally make 5 million calls before Election Day, Elgie explains, hoping to get identified progressive voters to the polls in the 29 other districts where Republican incumbents are deemed most vulnerable.
“In midterm elections, voter turnout is typically around 33 percent,” he notes. “So we feel that our 5 million phone calls will make the difference in races that will likely be decided by only thousands of votes.”
And though some more left-leaning Democrats have been less than thrilled with Shuler, Elgie says his group is focusing first on achieving a Democratic majority in Congress. If more conservative Democrats such as Shuler fail to live up to MoveOn’s ideals, “then next time we’ll find somebody who will,” he says.
MoveOn.org was created nearly eight years ago to urge Congress to censure rather than impeach President Bill Clinton and, literally, “move on” to what the group maintained were more important matters. Since then, it has become a significant political player and a frequent target of right-wing criticism.
However, the reaction to the local office has been nothing but positive so far, Elgie says. “MoveOn, as far as I’m concerned, is the most important and positive political force in America today,” he says, referring to the group’s grassroots approach to politics. “All our initiatives are generated by our members and their wants. They’re surveyed. And right now they’ve said they want universal health care, maternity leave, environmental protections; they want us out of the Iraq War. And they want electoral reform. They want to feel that their votes are counted and that they matter.”
The office is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and weekends from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Locals can drop by to sign up as members and volunteer if they wish, or they can sign up online at www.moveon.org and make calls from home. The Web site also enables people to donate funds directly to individual candidates, or up to $5,000 per person for the group’s own various political initiatives.
— Hal Millard
Calling all disc golfers
Disc golfers, forest frequenters and the general public can get a firsthand look at the nearly complete Richmond Hill disc-golf course and have a chance to get a word in concerning its final form.
The new course, according to the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department and the WNC Disc Golf Club, was 90 percent complete when erosion violations on the city’s parking-lot project caused a halt to all work in the park and ramped up City Council scrutiny.
Tee boxes and baskets have yet to be installed, and during the Sept. 12 City Council meeting, concerns were raised about the location of some fairways and the potential for erosion due to heavy foot traffic.
Seeking to avoid both further damage to the property and additional public outcry, the Parks and Recreation Department is planning two public-input sessions, beginning with a tour of the new course led by club members.
A posting on the club’s Web site invites the disc-golf community to turn out in force but asks everyone to leave their discs at home.
The tour will take place Sunday, Oct. 8, beginning at 2 p.m.; a public-input session will follow. Particpants will gather at a tent at the park entrance, at the end of Richmond Hill Drive. Drivers are asked to park on the street, taking care not to block driveways.
A second public-input session will be held Monday, Oct. 16, at 6 p.m. in the Public Works Building (161 S. Charlotte St.), and the final design will be submitted to City Council on Nov. 14.
For more information, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 259-5804. Updates on Richmond Hill Park are posted on both the city’s Web site (www.ci.asheville.nc.us) and the WNC Disc Golf Club’s site (www.wncdiscgolf.com).
— Brian Postelle
• Fri, Oct. 13: The League of Women Voters and the 28th Judicial District Bar will hold a forum for judicial candidates at 4 p.m in the 5th floor courtroom of the Buncombe County Courthouse. The nonpartisan judicial races covered are associate justice, Supreme Court: Judge Robin Hudson versus Judge Ann Marie Calabria, and Judge Mark Martin versus Rachel Hunter; and district court judge (District 28): Judge Sharon Barrett versus Susan E. Wilson. Moderator for the forum is retired Judge Earl Fowler. The event is co-sponsored by the N.C. Center for Creative Retirement at UNCA and the Leadership Asheville Forum. For more information, call 258-8223 or visit www.abc.nc.lwvnet.org.
• Fri, Oct. 13: Last day to register to be eligible to vote on Nov. 7; also, last day to change party status before the general election. Contact the Board of Elections at 250-4200 for further information.
• Mon, Oct. 16: The League of Women Voters will hold a public forum for candidates for N.C. Senate District 48 and N.C. House districts 114, 115 and 116 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Randolph Learning Center in Asheville’s Montford neighborhood.
• Wed, Oct. 18: The public is invited to witness the testing of the Buncombe County voting machines by the Board of Elections. The testing takes place on the fifth floor of the Allport Building, 44 Valley St., at 5:30 p.m. (enter through the Valley Street entrance of the Purchasing Department). For more information, contact the BOE, 250-4200.
• Wed, Oct. 18: The two candidates for Buncombe sheriff, incumbent Bobby Medford and challenger Van Duncan, will be the guests at the 11:30 a.m. Asheville Leadership Forum. The event takes place at the Country Club of Asheville and is open to the public. Reservations are required; contact Terry Wooten at email@example.com or 683-0910. There is a $16 fee (covers lunch) — and no jeans, please.
• Thu, Oct. 19: One-stop voting begins and runs through Nov. 4 at 10 locations around Buncombe County. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday (exception: Buncombe County Training Center opens at 8:30 a.m.). The last day for early voting is Saturday, Nov. 4, ending at 1 p.m. Locations are as follows:
Buncombe County Training Center, 199 College St., Asheville
Black Mountain Library, 105 N. Dougherty St., Black Mountain
Enka/Candler Library, 1404 Sandhill Road, Candler
Fairview Library, 1 Taylor Road, Fairview
Leicester Library, 1561 Alexander Road, Leicester
South Buncombe Library, 260 Overlook Road, Asheville.
Weaverville Library, 41 N. Main St., Weaverville
North Asheville Library, 1030 Merrimon Ave., Asheville
West Asheville Library, 942 Haywood Road, Asheville
Asheville Opportunity Center, 36 Grove St., Asheville
For additional information, call the Board of Elections at 250-4200.
• Mon, Oct. 23: Buncombe County School Board candidates (representing Erwin and Reynolds districts) and candidates for Buncombe County sheriff will be featured in a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, beginning at 7 p.m. (location to be announced).
Candidates, organizations and citizens: Send your campaign-event news — as far in advance as possible — by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org; by fax to 251-1311; or by mail to Campaign Calendar, Mountain Xpress, P.O. Box 144, Asheville, NC 28802. If you have questions, call 251-1333, ext. 107.