Buzzworm news briefs

Red Cross Needs Holiday Blood Donations

The American Red Cross has issued a request for blood donations as soon as possible.

“The recent blast of winter weather caused the cancellation of several blood drives, preventing the collection of approximately 360 units of blood,” reports Randy Edwards, chief operating officer for the organization’s Carolinas Blood Services Region. “This early impact from the weather, the beginning of the flu season, and the looming holidays have us greatly concerned about the blood supply into the new year.

“Although we encourage blood donors of all types to donate as soon as possible, our most urgent need will be for donors of types O and B,” he added. “We are already at a less than two-day supply of types O negative and B negative. The Red Cross will need a steady flow of donors throughout the month of December to help keep the blood supply stable.”

Blood has a limited shelf life. Red cells, for example, must be used within 42 days of donation. This means donors are needed every day to ensure an adequate supply of blood is available for patients and for unforeseen emergencies.

Because donated blood is separated into its components — red cells, platelets and plasma — a single donation can potentially save the lives of at least three people.

Donors — who must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in general good health — are urged to visit a Red Cross blood center or blood drive in their area at the earliest opportunity.

[For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 258-3888, ext. 129 or 136.]

— Cecil Bothwell

After-hours learning

After putting in some time in the workaday world, you’re ready to go back to school. Maybe you’re thinking of changing careers, or perhaps you just hunger for further education. Trouble is, you already have a full-time job, and taking a significant amount of time off is not an option.

But Mars Hill College’s ACCESS program “is designed specifically for working adults, so they can work within their time constraints,” explains Marketing/Admissions Director Marie Nicholson.

Initially, the program (begun in the early ’70s) offered only one degree: in teacher education. Today, ACCESS offers degrees in business management, social work and special education, as well as licensing programs in teacher education, special education and teaching english as a second language.

Most program participants, notes Nicholson, “are considered full-time students. They work full-time jobs and take 12 credit hours each semester — so essentially they can complete the program in four years, the same as you could if you were an on-campus student.”

The school year is divided into three semesters — fall, spring and summer — each containing two terms. This creates six entry points throughout the year at which new students can join the program, she explains.

And for students remote from the main campus in Mars Hill, ACCESS classes are also offered at five other locations around Western North Carolina: in Asheville, Burnsville, Hendersonville, Marion and Waynesville.

“We take students with only a high-school diploma or GED — or with any amount of college-transfer work,” notes Nicholson. Many ACCESS students, she adds, are doing graduate work and/or working toward a teaching license.

Tuition runs $175 per credit hour. But state residents who are full-time students working on their first bachelor’s degree may be eligible for a North Carolina Legislative Tuition Grant of $1,800 per year.

Registration for the spring semester is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 5 through Thursday, Jan. 8 at assorted locations.

[For more info on registration or course offerings, call the ACCESS office (689-1166 or (800) 582-3047) or visit the Mars Hill College Web site (www.mhc.edu/access).]

— Lisa Watters

A leg up for the laid off

A-B Tech has a New Year’s gift for pink-slippers — folks who’ve been laid off during the past three years.

A free course, Transitional Worker Training, will be offered from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Jan. 6 through Feb. 5, in Room 212 of the Pine Building on the Asheville campus.

Topics will include basic computer skills and keyboarding, with an introduction to Windows, Word, the Internet and e-mail. The course will also cover how to write resumes and cover letters.

Prospective students don’t need to be currently unemployed, but layoff verification is required.

[To register or for more information, call A-B Tech at 254-1921, ext. 333.]

— Cecil Bothwell

Keeping it green

When it comes to land-management issues in Buncombe County, a yawning chasm often separates the folks who want more government control from those who want less.

But at least one topic seems to unite both growth-management proponents and property-rights advocates: the need to conserve undeveloped land in the unincorporated parts of the county.

To that end, a group of county residents known as the Land Use Forum asked the Buncombe County commissioners to create an official board to pursue that goal. On Dec. 2, the commissioners did just that, establishing the Land Conservation Advisory Board.

The new 13-member board will inventory the land in the county that’s protected by conservation easements; develop a list of high-priority sites for voluntary conservation efforts; and both promote and raise money for land conservation, according to the resolution adopted by the commissioners.

“We need to get the word out that people can apply” for a seat on the board, says Land Use Forum spokeswoman/facilitator Bette Jackson.

But time is short; applications are due by Monday, Dec. 29.

“The idea of using conservation easements is something there’s strong consensus for — and a lot of enthusiasm,” notes Jackson.

She should know. The Land Use Forum draws representatives from about 10 local groups, including Smart Growth Partners of Western North Carolina and the Council of Independent Business Owners.

The forum was formed almost immediately after the county’s nonbinding zoning referendum four years ago, though it didn’t give itself a name until last spring. In November 1999, voters were asked to weigh in on the idea of countywide zoning. Only 33 percent of the registered voters actually recorded an opinion that day, but about 56 percent of those who did vote turned thumbs down on the concept.

Although forum members still don’t see eye to eye on zoning, they do agree on the desirability of conserving green space.

“I think that’s something a lot of people care about,” Jackson observes.

[For more info, call the Buncombe County clerk to the board at 250-4105. Nomination forms can be downloaded from the county’s Web site (buncombecounty.org — follow the “citizen participation links”). Forms are also available at 205 College St., Suite 300 in downtown Asheville or in the Commissioners’ Office (Room 206 of the Buncombe County Courthouse).]

— Tracy Rose

A leg up for the laid off

A-B Tech has a New Year’s gift for pink-slippers — folks who’ve been laid off during the past three years.

A free course, Transitional Worker Training, will be offered from 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Jan. 6 through Feb. 5, in Room 212 of the Pine Building on the Asheville campus.

Topics will include basic computer skills and keyboarding, with an introduction to Windows, Word, the Internet and e-mail. The course will also cover how to write resumes and cover letters.

Prospective students don’t need to be currently unemployed, but layoff verification is required.

[To register or for more information, call A-B Tech at 254-1921, ext. 333.]

— Cecil Bothwell

Lest ye be judged

A state oversight commission recommended last week that North Carolina’s highest court censure Buncombe County District Court Judge Shirley Brown for her handling of a 1996 hearing.

The state attorney general’s office brought the 1996 matter and three other questionable cases to the attention of the Judicial Standards Commission in February 2003. The commission weighs accusations of judicial misconduct.

Back on April 18, 1996, Brown presided over a hearing in which Asheville lawyer Jack Stewart was challenging an earlier ruling Brown had made. At the hearing in question, Brown not only conducted the proceeding but also testified under oath, examined witnesses and ruled on objections. And afterward, she never announced a decision or entered an order in the case.

In October 2003, the Judicial Standards Commission held a hearing on Brown’s case; earlier this month, the commission concluded that Brown had violated four canons of the N.C. Code of Judicial Conduct and that her actions were “prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.”

The commission specifically cited Brown’s failure to disqualify herself from conducting the 1996 hearing (even though Stewart had asked her to do so), as well as her multiple roles in the hearing and her ultimate lack of a decision in the matter.

But the commission did not recommend censure in connection with the other cases cited by the attorney general’s office, even though the commission found that a judicial canon had been violated in two of the three.

In two child-custody cases from 2000, Brown failed to enter a written order for more than a year. Brown later said she’d forgotten about one case and had been unable to make a decision in another.

“While not condoning such conduct, the Commission concludes, considering all the attendant circumstances, such conduct does not warrant discipline, and therefore makes no recommendation for the imposition of discipline,” the recommendation states.

In the third case, which involved a 1998 adjudication order that went missing, the commission found that an allegation of judicial misconduct had not been proven by “clear and convincing evidence.”

Brown’s lawyer, Asheville attorney Bob Long Jr., said he and Brown appreciate the fact that the commission didn’t recommend any kind of judicial discipline in three of the four cases.

“I think it means that they’re rather isolated instances and, you know, that the judge fully explained her position about those matters when she took the witness stand,” commented Long.

As for the 1996 case, Long said he isn’t quite sure what to make of the commission’s recommendation.

“I just don’t know how relevant that is,” Long remarked. “Gosh, that is seven-and-a-half years ago. The judge has been re-elected twice since then.”

The state Supreme Court received the commission’s recommendation on Dec. 16 and must now decide whether to follow through with a censure or take other action.

Meanwhile, Long said he and Brown had not yet determined whether to file a petition that would pave the way for presenting oral arguments before the court.

Censure recommendations are relatively rare. Between 1999 and 2002, 898 complaints were filed with the commission. During that time, the commission recommended that four judges be censured and two more be removed, reports Paul Ross, the commission’s executive secretary. The Supreme Court followed the commission’s recommendation in all of those instances, says Ross.

— Tracy Rose

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