The Beat: Taking it to the streets

Last week’s spring-like weather had people taking to the streets.

It began with a pair of well-attended downtown Asheville rallies.

In the online post, “Local Residents Hold Rally to Support Wisconsin Unions,” Xpress reported that hundreds gathered Feb. 26 at Pack Square Park to rally on behalf of Wisconsin workers who have been protesting a bill that would take away collective bargaining rights.

Meanwhile, just down the road at the Vance Monument, about 50 folks showed up for a “Pro-Choice, Pro-Planned Parenthood… Pro ‘Vahjayjay’ Rally.” According to the Xpress online post, the rally was one of several around the country held to protest a congressional budget amendment that would gut the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which provides medical and contraception services, particularly to low-income women.

A less political event, today’s March 6 Mardi Gras parade is expected to draw hundreds of merrymakers who plan to dance, drum and celebrate their way down Patton Avenue.

Those venturing outside the city to enjoy more natural surroundings this spring won’t have worry about encountering an eastern cougar, reported the Asheville Citizen-Times. After an extended review ended last week, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife officially determined that the species was extinct, according to “It’s Official: No Eastern Cougars Left in North Carolina.”

Meanwhile, the daily paper reported that the local human population continued to grow. According to new Census figures, “Asheville Population Increased 21 Percent in Last 10 Years.” That growth resulted in a city population of 83,393 people, while the population of Buncombe County increased 15.5 percent to 238,318 people. North Carolina grew 18 percent to 9.5 million people.

In “Census Bureau Releases Data Snapshot of WNC’s Counties,” the Carolina Public Press also reported that with an updated population of 15,579 people, Mitchell County was the only one of the 17 westernmost North Carolina counties to have less residents than 10 years ago.

The new online news outlet launched March 3, saying on its website that it’s “dedicated to in-depth, investigative and independent reporting on the overlooked and under-reported people, places and issues facing the 17 westernmost counties of North Carolina.”

The not-for-profit has initial funding from The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, as well as private donors, according to the Xpress online post, “Online WNC News Outlet Carolina Public Press Launches.”

“We have a big mission and a small amount of money to make it happen,” explained Angie Newsome, editor and founder. “It’s kind of the NPR model, in that we’ll be asking pretty consistently for contributions.”

If Newsome needs help keeping track of those donations and doing her taxes in the coming weeks, she might want to look into the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. In “Students File Taxes for Community,” The Blue Banner reported that the program allows economics students at UNC Asheville to receive hands-on experience while helping community members file their tax returns.

The assistance is free and open to the public, with students available between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each Saturday through April 9 at the Pack Memorial Library.

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About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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