Buzzworm news briefs

Fueling the learning curve

The city of Knoxville will soon debut four hybrid propane/electric-powered trolleys to serve its downtown area. And within the next five years, the Tennessee city aims to replace most of its fleet of buses, trolleys and vans with alternative-fueled vehicles, according to Barry Greenberg of Knoxville Area Transit. “These [trolleys] are really just [a part of] the alternative-fuel plans KAT has that will … help East Tennessee improve air quality and reduce foreign-oil dependence,” said Greenberg.

Asheville has a long way to go to catch up with our neighbor across the mountains, but we are taking some baby steps toward reducing the amount of air pollution produced by city vehicles.

Asheville’s Parking Services Division has two electric GEM cars in which enforcement personnel scoot around town writing tickets, and the city plans to add two more to its fleet in the near future, reports Parking Services Manager Steve Thomas.

Meanwhile, Public Works Director Mark Combs reports that the city is in the process of applying for a Mobile Source Emissions Reduction Grant from the state Division of Air Quality to help fund the purchase of electric vehicles for the Police Department.

In addition, notes Combs, the city is installing a compressed-natural-gas station (adjacent to the current city refueling station across from McCormick Field) that will also be open to the public. “Honda, for instance, has a compressed-natural-gas Civic, and they’re about 97 percent pollution free,” he explains.

The city received a $400,000 grant to build the station as part of a broad state and federal effort to provide sources of compressed natural gas coast to coast.

“We plan on buying natural-gas vehicles when we get the station built,” says Combs. “It’s of course a classic case of chicken and egg: You have to have the infrastructure before you have the vehicle.”

And because compressed natural gas “is a very high-pressure system (3,600 psi), it requires some training and expertise by the folks that maintain those systems,” he adds.

That’s why the city will start with smaller vehicles before moving on to larger ones — to make sure that the infrastructure and mechanical expertise are fully in place, Combs explains.

“I know a lot of folks are feeling [this program] is nominal and a drop in the bucket, but we start somewhere,” notes Combs.

He also points out that “one of the key reasons for [implementing the program] is so that we can get our staff and our community to look at alternative sources. It’s more than just numbers — it’s a learning curve.”

— Lisa Watters

Free home-repair workshop

Been itching to get your hands around a jigsaw? Wondering what’s the best way to winterize your home? Or maybe you’d like to learn how to patch plaster or drywall. These and many other useful topics will be covered in “In The House,” a free, hands-on training happening Saturday, Nov. 8, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Shiloh Community Center (121 Shiloh Road) in south Asheville. The one-day event, sponsored by seven local organizations, is designed to help homeowners and others learn basic home-repair skills.

“We are encouraging people to bring their fix-it/maintain-it/repair-it questions and take this opportunity to talk with professionals in the field about what it takes to address specific repair needs,” explains Community Outreach Coordinator Marilyn Bass of Neighborhood Housing Services of Asheville, an event co-sponsor. “We also want to identify Shiloh youth interested in construction-related trades for training and further education.”

The inspiration for “In The House” came from Christiana Glenn Tugman, co-director of YouthBuild, which trains and educates at-risk youth. Tugman also serves on the NHS board of directors. In her work as a home-repair professional, says Tugman, she sees people every day who have let their homes seriously deteriorate before seeking help.

“It used to be there was someone in the family who kept up with the home’s maintenance,” she notes. “But the era of a parent or grandparent passing on that knowledge to the children is pretty much gone, and it’s not something that is taught in school. Building self-reliance in this area, especially for young people, brings self-confidence in other things they can do in life.”

“In The House” is open to the public, and people all ages are encouraged to attend. Anyone under age 18 who wants to be able to use power tools will need to have a parent present. Food sales will benefit the Shiloh Community Association. In addition, NHS and YouthBuild are donating one home repair and several home inspections. A free drawing will determine the winners, who must live in the Shiloh community.

For more information, call NHS at 251-5054 or the Shiloh Community Center at 274-7739.

— Lisa Watters

BE SAFE

For Elizabeth O’nan, the effects of chemical pollution are as close as the nearest mirror. Exposure to pesticides illegally applied to her former home in Texas by a certified pest-control agent left the entire O’nan family chemically sensitive.

After the exposure killed the family’s dogs, cat, canary and horse, the O’nans abandoned their home and most of their possessions. In 1987, O’nan founded Protect All Children’s Environment to educate lawmakers on the impacts of pesticides and offer support for families exposed to misapplied chemicals.

“It happens all over the country, and people don’t even realize it,” notes O’nan.

Her organization, and several others across the state, recently joined the BE SAFE (Blueprint Ensuring our Safety and Future Economy) Campaign, a national alliance of nearly 300 groups dedicated to protecting children’s health and safeguarding our air, water and workplaces.

Along with Lou Zeller of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and Linda Block of the Asheville office of Clean Water for North Carolina, O’nan spoke at a recent press conference in Asheville to outline the campaign’s objectives and strategies.

The groups say they favor a “better-safe-than-sorry approach,” because cleaning up environmental disasters costs far more than simple prevention. The groups are focusing on reducing emissions of hydrogen sulfide from asphalt plants, paper mills and other industries across the state by 98 percent, as recommended by the North Carolina Science Advisory Board.

“Other places, like California and parts of Canada, have reduced hydrogen-sulfide emissions by 99 percent,” noted Zeller.

Hydrogen, said Zeller, is a powerful neurotoxin that is one of North Carolina’s most toxic air pollutants. Exposure to low levels of hydrogen sulfide can cause symptoms such as headache, nausea and irritation of the eyes and throat, according to the N.C. Science Advisory Board. “In McDowell County, a grade school was built right next to an asphalt plant,” said Zeller, adding, “Minute quantities can cause devastation.”

During the conference, O’nan’s daughter’s face suddenly turned rosy red, which O’nan said was an allergic reaction to some chemical in the room.

The N.C. Environmental Management Commission will hold a public hearing on hydrogen-sulfide regulations on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 7 p.m. in the large conference room of the Haynes Conference Center at A-B Tech’s Enka campus, 1459 Sand Hill Road. (The EMC will hold a second public hearing near Greenville, N.C., in the eastern part of the state.)

— Rebecca DeRosa

The mountains at war

I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield,
Down by the riverside,
Study war no more.
I ain’t gonna study war no more,
Ain’t gonna study war no more…

So goes the traditional song performed by everyone from blues cats Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee to Peter, Paul & Mary. And while some may find it a moving response to the continuing tragedy of war, it could also be argued that studying war is essential if we are to understand — and learn from — our shared past.

That’s the approach taken by World War II Mountain Memories, on display at the Biltmore Square Mall through Tuesday, Nov. 11. The interactive exhibit, organized by the nonprofit Center for Diversity Education, carefully documents the scope and impact of World War II on the United States and the world, with careful attention to how the people and the social landscape of Western North Carolina were forever transformed by those events.

The CDE interviewed scores of local folks — civilians and veterans alike — compiling an amazing array of firsthand accounts and artifacts (including photographs, newspapers and other primary documents) that, collectively, bring those seemingly distant times to vivid life.

Presentations by CDE Program Director Reid Chapman and Executive Director Deborah Miles dramatically drive home the relevance of World War II in our lives today. Consider the story of an Asheville High graduate who was shot down behind enemy lines and then met two fellow alumni in a German prisoner-of-war camp. And then there’s the tale of how Asheville native Robert Morgan flew the now-famous Memphis Belle bomber throughout the long conflict. Many of the young fighting men risking their lives on the frontlines were no more than 18 or 19.

But Mountain Memories also evokes the war at home with an engaging array of American artifacts, including anti-Japanese propaganda and a children’s game in which young sharpshooters who nailed Adolf Hitler were rewarded with a gumball.

The exhibit pays special attention to how the war forever changed the perceptions and roles of women and minorities in the United States, including here in Western North Carolina. In particular, the blacks and women who participated in the war — whether as soldiers overseas or as workers back home — weren’t eager to relinquish the newfound freedom bequeathed by their various wartime roles; indeed, they were inspired to fight for it.

The wheels of both the civil-rights movement and the nationwide struggle for equal rights in the workplace (which culminated in the Equal Pay Act of 1963) were set in motion during World War II.

Black veteran Barney Gray‘s tale of coming home after serving his country during wartime is among Mountain Memories’ most poignant. One of the many veterans interviewed for the project, Gray recalls his first day back home — first being denied service at an all-white lunch counter in Arkansas and then being threatened and called “nigger” by a white bus driver for having the audacity to sit at the front of the bus. Gray’s story — and the whole “WWII Mountain Memories” exhibit — make a compelling case against deciding to “study war no more.”

For more information, call the Center for Diversity Education (254-9044).

— Stuart Gaines

PETA offers $2,500 reward

On or about Sunday, Oct. 19, a cat named Tiny was shot with a hunting arrow in the Lee’s Ridge Subdivision (near Erwin High School). Tiny’s owner, Megan Fish, finally found her companion on Oct. 22, pierced by the arrow and tangled in vines. The cat is now undergoing multiple surgeries to repair extensive damage to her thoracic region and to combat a serious deep-muscle infection. The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department is investigating.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a national animal-rights organization, is offering up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for this crime. The Asheville Humane Society is also offering a reward.

Caring for the wounded cat has cost close to $1,000 in veterinarian’s bills. Contributions can be sent to Wachovia Bank, earmarked “for the benefit of Tiny.” (For details, phone the bank at 255-2344). Fish will provide copies of the medical bills through the bank — and after covering the expenses, any additional donations will be given to the Humane Society.

Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to contact Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department investigator Katen McBride (255-5555) or Asheville Humane Society investigator David Long (253-1195).

— Cecil Bothwell

Once in a lifetime

Every now and then, people who give generously to others could use a little pat on the back.

To that end, local philanthropist Leah Karpen will be honored Nov. 20 by the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council at the organization’s annual meeting, where she will receive the Council’s 2003 Distinguished Service Award for Lifetime Achievement. Her late husband, Morris Karpen, will be recognized posthumously.

Over the years, the Karpens contributed generously to UNCA (which named Karpen Hall in their honor), Habitat for Humanity and other community organizations. Leah Karpen remains active with the League of Women Voters and the Asheville Art Museum.

The event will take place 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 20 at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel. Cost is $15/person.

For more info or to make a reservation, contact the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council at 252-4713. The deadline for reservations is Friday, Nov. 14.

— Tracy Rose

Living the entrepreneurial dream

“We’re losing a lot of our manufacturing base in many counties across North Carolina,” notes Gordon Mercer, the director of Western Carolina University’s Public Policy Institute. “So we need to have a strategy to replace these jobs. That’s why this conference is so important in terms of developing strategies for entrepreneurship.”

The conference in question — “Catching the American Dream: A Summit on Entrepreneurship” — happens Wednesday, Nov. 19 in the university’s Ramsey Regional Activity Center. The daylong summit will bring together major strategists and policy leaders and successful entrepreneurs to discuss ways to encourage small-business growth and entrepreneurship in Western North Carolina.

“Essentially, what we’re finding in North Carolina and the rest of the nation is that it’s not the Fortune 500 [companies] that are growing and creating jobs. It’s the small businesses and the entrepreneurial startups,” Mercer explains.

Former N.C. Gov. Jim Martin will give the keynote address, “Does North Carolina Mean Business?” Other scheduled speakers, including Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Jones and Asheville Mayor Charles Worley, will discuss the role of political leadership in encouraging entrepreneurship. Both cities are doing extremely well in that area, says Mercer.

Three local entrepreneurial success stories will be featured: Roger Bartlett, founder of Western Builders; Leanne Campbell, founder of Blue Ridge Motion Pictures; and Payson Kennedy, founder of the Nantahala Outdoor Center.

The summit will also include a panel discussion on developing entrepreneurial strategies for the region. A policy report based on survey research and the ideas discussed at the summit will be presented to local and state leaders, including the state legislature.

The $25 registration fee covers lunch, refreshments and materials. Display space for businesses is available for an additional $25.

Mercer himself has an interesting take on entrepreneurship: “We are now in a knowledge-based economy,” he explains. “Essentially, entrepreneurship involves the application of various kinds of knowledge. The knowledge may, in fact, be there, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it’s going to develop in terms of business opportunities.”

As an example, he cites the field of computers. While much of the early thought on computers originated in Great Britain, says Mercer, “It was the U.S. that figured out a way to apply that knowledge and develop some of the early computers and to develop leadership in that area.

“So we’ve got to do more in terms of stressing the knowledge-based economy and the application of that knowledge into entrepreneurship.”

For more information or to register, call the WCU Public Policy Institute at (828) 227-3173 or (828) 227-3863.

— Lisa Watters

Fueling the learning curve

The city of Knoxville will soon debut four hybrid propane/electric-powered trolleys to serve its downtown area. And within the next five years, the Tennessee city aims to replace most of its fleet of buses, trolleys and vans with alternative-fueled vehicles, according to Barry Greenberg of Knoxville Area Transit. “These [trolleys] are really just [a part of] the alternative-fuel plans KAT has that will … help East Tennessee improve air quality and reduce foreign-oil dependence,” said Greenberg.

Asheville has a long way to go to catch up with our neighbor across the mountains, but we are taking some baby steps toward reducing the amount of air pollution produced by city vehicles.

Asheville’s Parking Services Division has two electric GEM cars in which enforcement personnel scoot around town writing tickets, and the city plans to add two more to its fleet in the near future, reports Parking Services Manager Steve Thomas.

Meanwhile, Public Works Director Mark Combs reports that the city is in the process of applying for a Mobile Source Emissions Reduction Grant from the state Division of Air Quality to help fund the purchase of electric vehicles for the Police Department.

In addition, notes Combs, the city is installing a compressed-natural-gas station (adjacent to the current city refueling station across from McCormick Field) that will also be open to the public. “Honda, for instance, has a compressed-natural-gas Civic, and they’re about 97 percent pollution free,” he explains.

The city received a $400,000 grant to build the station as part of a broad state and federal effort to provide sources of compressed natural gas coast to coast.

“We plan on buying natural-gas vehicles when we get the station built,” says Combs. “It’s of course a classic case of chicken and egg: You have to have the infrastructure before you have the vehicle.”

And because compressed natural gas “is a very high-pressure system (3,600 psi), it requires some training and expertise by the folks that maintain those systems,” he adds.

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