In a July 27 email, Asheville City Attorney Brad Branham said that the city’s charter, which directs all Council vacancies to be filled by appointment, took precedence over a state law that called for an election under certain circumstances.
According to state law, if a Council vacancy occurs more than 90 days before the next city election, voters get to choose who fills the remainder of the absent member’s term. Asheville City Council member Vijay Kapoor says his resignation will be effective Saturday, Aug. 8 — within 90 days of the election on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Democrats Amanda Edwards and Al Whitesides joined the board’s three Republicans in a 5-2 vote approving a proposal to hire three new detectives, which would match a $375,000 federal grant with $734,000 in county funds through fiscal year 2025.
A bill that would have changed the distribution of Buncombe County’s controversial hotel tax to better benefit local government is likely dead until at least next year. The change would have reduced the share of room tax money to market and advertise Asheville as a tourist destination.
Henderson County real estate investor Madison Cawthorn took nearly 66% of the vote in a June 23 second primary against Madison County real estate agent Lynda Bennett, thereby securing the nomination to run in November’s general election. His 30,444 votes in the second primary exceeded the total ballots cast in the 2012 runoff between former Rep. Mark Meadows and Vance Patterson by over 7,400.
As the race for the GOP nomination heads to the June 23 climax, Bennett appears by many indicators to be locked in a desperate race against 24-year-old political neophyte Madison Cawthorn of Hendersonville. A victory by Cawthorn, a political unknown until weeks ago, will be seen as a humiliating defeat for Bennett, a longtime GOP functionary.
Carolina Public Press and other news media organizations filed a lawsuit May 28 to obtain public records relating to state’s tracking and handling of COVID-19 crisis.
Since March 16, local government boards and commissions meetings have been canceled, meaning citizens have largely been shut out of formal policy discussions as Asheville City Council and the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners manage the tandem economic and public health crises caused by the coronavirus.
Restaurants, pools and personal care services — including salons and barber shops — will be allowed to open at 50% capacity, while child care facilities, day camps and overnight camps can open with “enhanced cleaning and screening requirements.”
As Mission Health begins to reopen for elective surgeries and procedures put on hold during the first wave of the ongoing pandemic, the unresolved question that roiled the community just three months ago remains: Was HCA’s purchase of Mission Health healthy for Asheville?
Coronavirus relief is just the latest topic in an ongoing debate over whether the Tourism Development Authority, with its mission to bring ever more overnight guests to Buncombe County, is good for county residents — or just good for the hotel industry that has controlled it since its inception nearly four decades ago.
County government only plans to keep about $3 million of the state allocation; the remainder would be distributed to Buncombe’s municipalities and fire districts using the same formula as for county sales tax. Asheville would receive roughly $944,000, or 21% of the money, with the Skyland Fire District receiving the next largest award of nearly $67,000, or 1.5%.
As they also had argued during an April 16 special meeting, Republicans Joe Belcher, Anthony Penland and Robert Pressley said they continued to be left out of key decisions about how to restrict business and social activity in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
The legislative change allows the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority to use $5 million from its Tourism Product Development Fund — which previously had to be allocated to nonprofit entities or local government and spent on capital projects — for grants of up to $50,000 in support of tourism businesses other than lodging.
The two bills signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on May 4, both unanimously passed by the General Assembly, together designate nearly $1.6 billion for the state’s COVID-19 response and grant flexibility in many areas of regulation.
Adjustments for a second round of primary voting in NC congressional District 11 could be preview of what whole state will face in November.
Cancer therapies, joint replacements and other elective procedures that had been postponed due to the initial COVID-19 response will be the first to return. Since North Carolina’s first confirmed case of COVID-19 was announced on March 3, the Mission system has treated just over 20 inpatients for the disease.
With baby kissing, hand shaking and door knocking out of the question, candidates in key races from Congress to the County Commission are sidelined and struggling to connect — virtually — with voters. Campaigning in the era of COVID has been upended.
The commission’s Democratic members passed direction for expanded community testing and contact tracing over the objections of its Republican contingent. Joe Belcher, Anthony Penland and Robert Pressley stressed their commitment to ensuring the county’s safety but expressed concern over the process by which the resolution was introduced and some of its terms.
“Buncombe County is going to take actions that best safeguard the public health for Buncombe County residents,” said Fletcher Tove, the county’s emergency preparedness coordinator. He confirmed that the county’s more stringent rules would remain in place through at least the morning of Thursday, April 9.
More Buncombe County voters — 81,887, or 41.79% of all eligible residents — took part in the primary elections that wrapped up March 3 than in any previous primary in the county’s history. Xpress outlines the winners and losers for levels of elected office from president to Asheville City Council.