Buzzworm news briefs

Battered workers

Domestic violence has a cost outside the home. The American Institute on Domestic Violence reports that “intimate partner violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work each year — the equivalent of more than 32,000 full-time jobs and nearly 5.6 million days of household productivity.”

The impact of domestic violence in the workplace was the subject of a Nov. 9 workshop in Asheville sponsored by the N.C. Council for Women and Domestic Violence Commission. Speakers and panelists included N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper, Mayor Terry Bellamy, Asheville Police Chief William Hogan, Helpmate Executive Director Valerie Collins, attorney Katherine Fisher of Pisgah Legal Services and representatives from several major employers. The event focused on identification of victims and how businesses can offer help as well as recognize the significant financial cost to employees and employers due to lost work and medical expenses.

Fisher’s presentation offered employers and human-resource personnel clues about when and how to intervene on behalf of workers. Warning signs she listed included: excessive personal calls, excessive absences or chronic late arrival, decreased productivity and increased stress, mood swings, lack of advancement, job-hopping, partner involvement in personnel matters, and physical signs. Fisher warned that victims often mask problems for fear of losing their jobs or concerns that the employer will side with the abuser in thinking that “there’s something wrong with me.” She noted that victims are sometimes so terrified that they think, “He’s going to kill me, and no one will know.”

Fisher pointed out that it usually takes seven to 10 attempts for domestic-violence victims to leave an abuser for good. The advice for employers from Fisher and others speaking at the conference was that intervention is appropriate and urgently necessary. Involving law enforcement or protective agencies can help victims obtain protective orders, find shelter and get counseling, all of which benefit both the worker and the employer. Development of safety plans is another step employers can take to prepare for possible invasion of the workplace by an abuser.

“My main hope is that even if employers still don’t want to take some initiative for the employee,” Fisher said, “they’ll refer the employees to Helpmate, Mainstay or the domestic-violence protective agency in their county, or directly to us.”

For more information, contact Pisgah Legal Services at 253-0406 or Helpmate at 254-2968.

— Cecil Bothwell

Word to your manager

Public input can loom large in debates about development in Asheville, where a proposal can be green-lighted or smacked down because of citizens sounding off.

With that in mind, Asheville holds public forums twice a year to communicate trends and upcoming plans to residents, and to invite questions and comments in return.

“We don’t want to be operating in a vacuum,” says City Manager Gary Jackson, who will host a forum this Friday.

The meetings typically address the development proposals received and the building permits issued by the city during the past six months. This meeting will also examine historical development trends in Asheville. The public will be invited to comment on revisions in the city’s procedures and reorganizations and personnel changes, such as the current search for three new employees for the city’s planning staff, Jackson says.

Special to this forum will be updates on the Unified Development Ordinance and steep-slope-development regulations, the Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction, Technical Review Committee submittal revisions and storm-water issues.

Though the city is opening its doors for public comment, registration is required for the event and must be received by noon on Thursday, Nov. 16.

The forum will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17, at the Public Works Facility (161 S. Charlotte St.) A light lunch will be provided. To register, call Jan Moore at 232-4505 or e-mail jmoore@asheville.gov.

— Brian Postelle

The Riverway: Some assembly required

Since its inception in 1987, RiverLink has worked toward a grand vision of redevelopment and conservation of the French Broad River basin. The grandest and most visible element of the nonprofit’s plan is the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay, named for the local writer whose history of the river region, The French Broad, has gained a wide readership since its publication in 1954.

On maps, the riverway looks pretty simple — just draw lines around a couple dozen miles of river frontage along the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers and color it green. On the ground, the proposition is just a bit more complicated: It requires stitching together a patchwork of parkland, one parcel at a time.

On the west bank of the river, the greenway currently extends from the French Broad River Park (opened in 1994) near the intersection of Amboy Road and Riverside Drive and follows the waterway to the 50-acre Carrier Park (formerly the Asheville Speedway, added in 1999) and on to Hominy Creek Park (linked via a conservation easement granted by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in 2005). As of late last month, the largest outstanding parcel in the section, the 5.3-acre site of the EDACO automobile-salvage yard, has been stitched into the RiverLink quilt.

Recently, Ted Tilson Wells, owner of the EDACO site, decided to contribute to the riverway project by selling his property to RiverLink below market value and financing the sale for five years. Coupled with what the organization terms “generous support” from Shelli and Bradford Stanback, RiverLink closed the deal Oct. 27.

Due to possible pollution resulting from 20 years of use as a salvage yard, RiverLink has submitted a formal request that the EDACO property be accepted into the N.C. Brownfields Program for assessment, and the property will remain fenced until any required remediation is complete. However, a paved walking/biking trail across the frontage on Amboy Road will be constructed immediately using already approved state Department of Transportation enhancement funds.

Though RiverLink will purchase the property with donations, the organization doesn’t hold long-term title to properties. Eventually, the organization will convey the land to the city of Asheville for permanent recreational use. To finance the project, RiverLink is selling “Deeds of Support” for $50 per linear foot. Purchasers will receive personalized deed documents that are suitable for framing.

For more information, call 252-8474, ext. 118 or visit www.riverlink.org.

— Cecil Bothwell

Local minister honored in Cuba

The Rev. Ken Sehested, co-pastor of Asheville’s Circle of Mercy Congregation, was lauded at a recent conference of Baptist theologians in Havana. Sponsored by the Fraternidad de Iglesias Bautistas de Cuba and hosted by the Martin Luther King Center in Havana, the conference drew participants from eight countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, including Baptist-seminary presidents from Colombia, Costa Rica and Mexico. It was held to reaffirm the shared conviction that “life in the Spirit and life in the world are intimately connected,” said Jonathan Pimentel, president of the Baptist seminary in San Jose, Costa Rica.

In a surprise presentation during the conference, Francisco Rodes — a professor at the Evangelical Seminary in Matanzas, Cuba — presented Sehested with an engraved plaque and spoke of his long history of advocacy for justice, peace and human rights worldwide, spotlighting his encouragement and support of Christian peacemakers in Latin America. “He has the heart of an evangelist, the mind of a theologian, the voice of a poet and the courage of a prophet,” Rodes said in presenting the award.

This was Sehested’s third trip to Cuba in the last decade. Following the conference, which ran Oct. 13-16, he preached at seven churches across the island, including the Iglesia Getsemani, a partner congregation with Circle of Mercy in Camagueey, Cuba’s third-largest city.

One of the results of the U.S. sanctions against Cuba is that most Americans know next to nothing about this neighboring country, Sehested said. “Few people know that the church is not only alive but growing rapidly in Cuba. Dr. King is well-known. In fact, the King Center in Havana was founded 19 years ago by Raul Suarez, a Baptist pastor who continues as its director and who is now an elected member of Cuba’s national parliament.”

“Early in the revolution there was a bias against churches, because the elites had close ties to the U.S.,” Sehested told Xpress. “But after Castro became familiar with the Sandanista revolution [in Nicaragua], with its religious ties, and after Rev. Jesse Jackson took Fidel to a church service in 1989, there came a major turning point. And in 1992, a sermon I delivered there was broadcast on television.” Sehested added that the principal obstacle to establishing new churches is zoning laws that restrict building; as a result, “many services are conducted in the living rooms of church pastors.”

Sehested, who’s also a stonemason, served for 18 years as director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. He is a program associate with the Institute for Servant Leadership and a founding member of Circle of Mercy.

The latter congregation is affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists and the United Church of Christ. Its Web site states, “Our purpose is to nurture spiritual formation in ways that support prophetic and redemptive work in the world.” The young church, established in 2001, is a founding member of Christians for a United Community, an interracial peace-and-justice organization based in Asheville. The congregation meets in the parish hall of The Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village.

For more information about Sehested and his church, visit www.circleofmercy.org.

— Cecil Bothwell

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