One doesn’t need to be an avid consumer of the news to know the world is filled with seemingly intractable problems. It’s easy to feel hopeless about civilians dying in Ukraine, the persecution of religious minorities in China or wildfires on the West Coast.
But when one zeroes in on Western North Carolina, it seems harder to be hopeless. It becomes apparent that, for all the problems that exist in the area — and to be sure, there are many — no one wants to give up. And perhaps more importantly, no one is claiming those problems can’t be solved.
If there’s one thing that gives Xpress hope for 2023, it’s the knowledge, based on the responses from our Year in Review, that WNC’s citizens are deeply committed to making this small corner of the world a better place.
What did you hope for over the last year, either politically, economically or personally? Were your hopes and dreams realized?
“Like many, I have the continuing hope that all our American citizenry can, even with all the differences in political viewpoints, come together to show respect for other citizens and visitors in our great country. I’ve realized over a long lifetime that there are always cycles of discord, yet also times of reunion. Each year we can continue and not give up working to bring about better, respectful relations among all groups of people here.” — Elizabeth Colton, diplomat- and journalist-in-residence, Warren Wilson College
“I’m a plaintiff in Davis v. HCA, which claims HCA violates antitrust and monopoly laws. This suit has been years in the making and took enormous effort and coordination. For most of the year, we’ve held our breaths, hoping it would not be dismissed. The business judge saw merit in the suit, and discovery will begin soon. It could set precedent nationally and improve health care across the country.” — Will Overfelt, creator of Mountain Maladies and HCA lawsuit plaintiff
“I had hoped for a reduction in the number of veterans taking their own lives. Sadly, it was discovered that the number of 22 a day had been vastly underreported due to classification errors. The number today is more like 40 veterans a day committing suicide. We are a nation in crisis, and it’s being ignored by Washington.” — Alan Yeck, executive director, Veterans Healing Farm
“At the beginning of 2022, I talked to a business coach and was planning to really focus on growing my business. After the invasion of Ukraine, to deal with emotions of anger, fear, shock, etc., I co-organized two concerts and began fundraising. Since February, I’ve raised over $60,000 for humanitarian aid for Ukraine. My business took a total back seat. I realized my hope of success, not for my business, but in doing my part to help Ukraine.” — Andrea Kulish, mixed-media artist
“Being reelected after almost a year of campaigning is rewarding, but mostly because it has been my greatest honor to serve as the mayor of Asheville. I am humbled and fortunate to keep doing one of the best jobs in the world.” — Esther Manheimer, Asheville mayor
What person, incident, event or local election result gives you the most hope going into 2023?
“The election of Maggie Ullman to Asheville City Council will provide the strong environmental leadership of City Council that has been missing since [state Sen.] Julie Mayfield left Council.” — Ken Brame, political chair, WNC Sierra Club
“Martin Moore‘s recent election victory in District 2. We now have two Black leaders (Moore and Al Whitesides) serving as Buncombe County commissioners. These changes are not merely symbolic; they stand as constant reminders that our demographics are shifting, that we’re all in community together and that everybody’s interests need to be considered.” — Jim Stokely, president, Wilma Dykeman Legacy
“Bishop William J. Barber II, Sheriff Quentin Miller, and Michael Hayes are my biggest influencers when it comes to being political or driven to change the world because to see someone that looks like me in high places is something really special to me. They are my hope.” — Julia Darity, eighth grade student
“The DeWeaponizing Medical Debt event in Asheville led by N.C. Treasurer Dale Folwell and featuring Mayor Maureen Copelof of Brevard. A Navy veteran, she demonstrates a backbone that inspires, fighting for her citizens and pioneering the path for the city of Asheville and counties of Buncombe and Madison to take on (file an antitrust suit against) the Wall Street corporation that now owns the once-independent Mission Hospital and surrounding hospitals.” — Mitch Li, physician and co-founder of Take Medicine Back
“Red wolves are the most endangered animal on the planet — fewer than 25 are left in the wild, and they only live in North Carolina. They had nearly been hunted to extinction, and managers had abandoned their recovery program. But the underdogs have made a comeback, thanks to litigation and new leadership. This year, a new red wolf recovery plan was released, and six red wolf pups were born in the wild for the first time in years.” — Will Harlan, conservation biologist, Center for Biological Diversity
“The tiny home project by Beloved Asheville has given me the most hope: small, beautiful homes to help people in transition. A thousand more of these, and we’ll be making real progress. Gentrification is the norm and affordable housing the exception. More homeless will be coming.” — Alan Yeck
“Our youth! Our young neighbors care deeply for each other and are demanding a hopeful future. They boldly speak their truth. From policy advocacy in their schools to making comments during Council meetings to rallying in defense of human and civil rights, I am deeply hopeful because our youth care and show up.” — Kim Roney, Asheville City Council member
What person, incident, event or local election result makes you less hopeful going into 2023?
“Despite what we know about how social media is used to sway our opinions and actions, many of my neighbors still rely on social media engagement to inform their voting decisions. This is an actual, identified threat to our democracy.” — Jennifer Caldwell-Billstrom, founder, Velo Girl Rides
“I don’t think the public has an understanding of how important the district attorney’s office is with regard to combating crime. We need fair policing and a fair judicial system. The concern is not criminals let out for minor drug offenses, but those who are committing serious crimes. This is not an attack on our DA [Todd Williams], but rather a question of how he is working within our complex judicial system.” — Honor Moor, playwright/nonprofit board member
“Election turnout is discouraging. This election was personal — and close. We have a lot of work to do organizing our community outside of elections and building trust through relationships so we can move and grow together when we face challenges. We can’t let go of hope; we have to stretch it. We can’t lose energy, we have to compost it. We are capable of being better.” — Kim Roney
“Although I see a lot of conflict about Democrats or Republicans, my problem is the division of color and gender in politics. We are in 2022. We should’ve learned from mistakes in the past by now and not be repeating the same problem.” — Julia Darity
“I am particularly troubled by the switch in control of the state Supreme Court and what that will mean for future gerrymandering.” — Ken Brame
“The office of N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein. The public has seen more vigor, conviction and tweets from the office of the AG regarding the price of Taylor Swift concert tickets than antitrust enforcement in the health care system. With a widely expected 2024 gubernatorial bid, I have hope that the people’s attorney will make a strong stand against hospital consolidation and enforce existing laws prohibiting the corporate practice of medicine in North Carolina in 2023.” — Mitch Li
“The Forest Service’s GAP Project proposes to log 25,000 acres of Pisgah National Forest. In 2022, hundreds of people rallied against logging in Pisgah. The Forest Service is ignoring the public and pushing forward with the largest-ever project ever in Pisgah, the most visited national forest in the country.” — Will Harlan