The Beat: Weekly news roundup

Congressmen, guns and forests

Rep. Heath Shuler has been making national news lately, first for casting a party-bucking vote against repealing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (see “Just Say No” in the upcoming June 9 issue of Xpress), and then for his response to a recent death threat.

In “FBI Details Surge in Death Threats Against Lawmakers” POLITICO reports that a 70-year-old resident of Shuler’s district with a history of mental illness and a cache of guns threatened to kill the Western North Carolina congressman for voting for a federal stimulus package. According to the article, Shuler says he was shaken by the threat, and “he has taken precautions to protect himself and his family. Family members have altered their daily routines to be more security conscious, and … he and his wife have obtained concealed-weapons permits.”

Former NC 11th District Rep. Charles Taylor has also been making news for a somewhat surprising reason: The conservative Republican — known among environmentalists as “Chainsaw Charlie” for his past pro-logging policies — plans to sell 8,000 forested acres to a group of nonprofit conservation organizations.

BlueRidgeNow reports in “Former U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor Selling 8,000 Acres at Discount” that the Taylor estate recently agreed to sell the wilderness land for $33 million, about half its market value.

“We’re interested in preserving the land as it is and to prevent the land from being sold and used for purposes other than conservancy,” explains Charles’ son Owen Taylor in the article.

According to the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and The Conservation Fund, the tract is the largest privately owned wilderness block remaining in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains. The tract encompasses most of the pristine headwaters of the East Fork of the French Broad River. Both organizations say they’re working to put the land into future public ownership and open it to hunting, fishing, hiking and other uses.

Wrestling, basketball and the fate of the Civic Center

One new Asheville resident who might want to explore the wilderness area is World Wrestling Entertainment star Edge, who says the beauty of the surrounding mountains is a major reason he moved here. In “Asheville’s Latest Celebrity: Professional Wrestler Edge,” the Asheville Citizen-Times reports that “Edge sure can sound like an Asheville hippie,” saying he loves hiking, mountain biking and dogs.

“The last show here, I was standing out on the [Civic Center] balcony, on the side, looking around at the mountains,” Edge told the C-T‘s John Boyle. “I’ve always liked this town. We walked around the downtown and really got a feel for what it’s like — an old-fashioned downtown, not a superduper Walmart kind of downtown. We liked the art, and it seemed like it was pretty cool culturally — and we love the mountains and the seasons.”

On June 4, Edge and other WWE stars battled it out at the Asheville Civic Center as part of the WWE Raw World Tour.

The C-T also reports that beginning in 2012, the Civic Center will once again host the Southern Conference Basketball Tournament. According to the article “Asheville Gets SoCon Tournament for Three Years,” the sporting event could create an economic impact as high as $12 million. The tournament was last held at the Civic Center from in 1995, and now features 23 men’s and women’s teams and 21 games over four days.

In an online post, “Southern Conference Basketball Tournament Returning to Asheville in 2012-14,” Xpress reports that organizers agreed to bring the tournament back after the city promised to invest $3 million in capital improvements to the facility. On that latter score, stay tuned.

Taking care of business: jobs, cocaine, crime and fires

In other business news, the Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa recently announced plans to hire at least 70 employees. In an online post, “Grove Park Inn is Hiring for More Then 70 Positions,” Xpress reports that the resort has a variety of job openings available in hourly, salaried, and management positions. (For more details, see The Biz section in the upcoming June 9 issue of Xpress.)

And in business news of a more sordid variety, a recent traffic stop on Interstate 40 resulted in one of the largest drug seizures in Buncombe County history. In “Buncombe-Henderson County Joint Highway Interdiction Team Seize 33 Pounds of Cocaine,” the C-T reports that authorities arrested Tiombe Stafford, of Houston, Texas, on May 27 after finding 33 pounds of cocaine in her vehicle. The stash reportedly has a street value of $1.5 million.

In other crime news, BlueRidgeNow reports in “2 of 3 charges Dropped Against Former Hendersonville Teacher,” that on June 3, weapon and drug charges against a former Hendersonville High business teacher were dropped. The story has been making a big stir since the teacher, Andre Dubois, was arrested May 13 on a warrant of contributing to the delinquency of a minor — charges he will face in court on June 29.

In other news outside of town, the temporary relocation of Graham County Sheriff Russell Moody‘s offices continues to generate huge controversy since an alleged arsonist set fire to his former headquarters last month. In “Fight Over Sheriff’s Building Fires Up Crowd at Meeting,” The Graham Star reports that “the disagreement over the location of the sheriff’s office has resulted in a stalemate between the commission and the sheriff, with neither side apparently willing to concede.”

The article goes on to say that local residents were in such an uproar over the issue at a recent meeting of the Graham County Board of Commissioners that “commissioners appeared to be on the verge of losing control of the meeting.”

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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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