What were the top local news stories of 2019?

Jon Elliston
Jon Elliston. Photo by Thomas Calder

Jon Elliston, senior editor at WNC Magazine, recalls the top news stories of 2019.

  1. Buncombe’s corruption: My, how the mighty have fallen. Several of Buncombe County’s top administrative personnel recently found themselves convicted of corruption and heading to prison. There are still some chips to fall in the scandal, it appears, and lots of soul-searching awaits a county government that not too long ago was garnering accolades.
  2. Heads in beds: For every reason people love being in the Asheville area, it seems, there’s a corresponding complaint about the sheer cost of living here. How a major tourist draw can craft proper public policy about rents, home rentals and hotels remains perplexing and hotly debated.
  3. Nature’s wrath: April showers brought floods to many parts of Western North Carolina and threatened to shut down some major roads and tourism draws that depend on accessible natural resources. Then a summer drought hit, impacting farmers, waterways and much more. Meanwhile, activists clamored for public awareness about how climate change could impact quality of life for us all, even at our elevation.
  4. HCA’s purchase of Mission Hospitals: It’s hard to imagine a deal that could impact the well-being of WNC’s residents more than the one that went down in February 2019. The nonprofit Mission Health, which ran six regional hospitals and satellite facilities, sold its operations to for-profit HCA Healthcare, and the fallout will likely prompt spasms and adjustments going into next year and beyond.
  5. Asheville’s artistic vitality: On the good-news front, Asheville continues to be awash in artistic innovation and production. From the small scale — every artist hammering it out in the River Arts District and beyond, every band belting it out at myriad music venues — to the well-received reconstruction of mainstays like the Asheville Art Museum, Diana Wortham Theatre, the Center for Craft and the new Moogseum honoring Bob Moog’s legacy, we’ve got the arts on lock.

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