News

Matt Bush / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Visiting the Biltmore can be best described as an ‘experience’.  But Western North Carolina’s biggest tourist attraction wants to take it a step further with its latest exhibition.  It wants visitors to party – Vanderbilt style.  

For almost 15 years, North Carolina’s rigid school calendar law has led to complaints about its lack of flexibility.  Haywood County leaders are asking for change, but aren’t sure they’ll get it. 

BPR

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a pair of living teddy bears make their debut at the  Western North Carolina Nature Center in Asheville.     BPR’s Helen Chickering has a preview.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Margaret Curtis and her husband, their two sons and a joyful chihuahua-dachsund mix named Sally live on a quiet, curvy street on a hill above downtown Tryon. From the surface, it’s the quintessential American picture.

Curtis doesn’t paint such pictures.

Town of Woodfin

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina legislature is weighing anew whether changing how liquor sales have been regulated for decades is worth boosting the number of retail outlets selling spirits with what critics call the risks of increased alcohol consumption.

Lilly Knoepp

Mission Health’s sale to for-profit HCA may be final, but skeptics who pushed back against the deal during the many months of its negotiations aren’t letting up.

 

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein negotiated stronger protections for the rural hospitals as a result of the state, but there’s still plenty of ‘optimistic skepticism.’

 

The Fed Cup women’s tennis tournament is in back in Asheville this weekend with the U-S taking on Australia.  The first match is Saturday, but action has been happening all week with events and activities designed to get kids interested in tennis.  BPR’s Helen Chickering stopped in on a Fed Cup tennis clinic at the U.S. Cellular Center.

Joseph Wiseman, the contractor involved in the final of three indictments against former Buncombe County manager Wanda Greene, plead guilty Thursday to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud.  His guilty plea is the fifth prosecutors have achieved over the past year for an investigation into corruption and fraud in Buncombe County government.  He faces up to five years in prison when sentenced.

Homeless Census Could Boost Funding

Feb 6, 2019

Homelessness is a growing problem in Western North Carolina, compounded by the difficulty in counting all those who are homeless.  That’s been a barrier to resources for those in need.

Living outdoors under a curious collection of tents and tarps isn’t easy, according to Sassy Fulp, but dealing with the wind, the cold and the rain aren’t even the hardest parts of it.  “[It’s] people riding by voicing out opinions in accusations and names,” said Fulp. “Pieces of trash, get a job, pick up the trash, drug addicts, thieves.”

Matt Peiken | BPR News


Emöke B’Rácz has survival in her blood. In 1956, Her father came to the United States from Hungary as a political exile. B’Rácz was 15 years old when she and the rest of her family followed him to Connecticut.

“I did not speak the language. In Hungary, I was an ‘A’ student, and in the United States, I was at the bottom of the class,” she recalled because I couldn’t say anything very well.

Cass Herrington

Asheville residents Tuesday night got the chance to weigh in on qualities they’d like to see in the next chief of police. But much of the discussion centered on how the public meeting was promoted and who was missing from the conversation.

City Manager Debra Campbell looked out over a mostly empty auditorium at the Doctor Wesley Grant South Side Center. Joining her were three consultants representing the Police Executive Research Forum, or PERF, which is helping conduct the national search to fill the position.

 

Avril Pinder, the deputy county manager for New Hanover County in Eastern North Carolina, has been appointed county manager for Buncombe County.  She is the full-time replacement for Wanda Greene, who retired after 20 years in the job in 2017.  Greene was indicted three separate times in 2018 by federal authorities for corruption and fraud.  Buncombe County commissioners appointed Pinder following a unanimous vote at a special meeting Tuesday afternoon.

Annette Elizabeth Allen for NPR

President Trump delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday February 5th after a delay due to the government shutdown. The Democratic response was delivered by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.  The NPR Politics team annotated each speech which you can read below.

State Of The Union speech by President Donald Trump annotated - 

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Lilly Knoepp

 Access to healthcare can be difficult all over Western North Carolina - but that’s especially true in the rural parts of the region, where hospitals are far apart and average incomes are lower than in Asheville.

One of the few free clinics in Western North Carolina is located in Bryson City.

Lilly Knoepp

Both nationally and locally, candidates are beginning to startup their campaigns for 2020. But one important election is taking place this year in Western North Carolina.

 

The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians are a sovereign nation with their own governmental structure. All 12 spots for the members of the tribal council as well as the principal chief and the vice chief  are open since their 2 year terms are ending.

Lilly Knoepp

Today, Mission Health System has officially been purchased by for-profit hospital system HCA Healthcare for $1.5 billion dollars. The sale has been in negotiations since March 2018.

“We’re looking forward to investing in western North Carolina and helping ensure Mission Health’s 133-year tradition of caring for communities throughout the region continues for many years,” says Sam Hazen, CEO of HCA Healthcare in a press release.

Shade Tree Farms

  Southwestern Community College’s first ever AgriBusiness Summit this week brought together farmers of all kinds to learn about new regulations, grants and skills.

 

Over 100 farmers – both veteran and beginner – attended to learn new skills or brush up on old ones. Tiffany Henry of Southwestern’s Small Business Center reminded them all of the importance of having a business plan.

 

“If you are a farmer, you are a business. Even a hobbyist will sell their excess at a farmer’s market,” says Henry.

Matt Peiken | BPR News


The best documentary photography happens when skill and vision meet preparation and luck. For Joanne Chan, the formula was a little different.

“I started taking my pictures when I went to pick up my roommate after work. She was working at a place called Honeybuns, and it was an all-nude dance club,” Chan recalled. “My roommate said ‘Oh, I think you should take pictures,’ so I took some pictures and then I made some workprints and presented them in my class, and during the critique my professor said ‘I think you should take more pictures like this.’”

The North Carolina General Assembly reconvened Wednesday in Raleigh, and bills for the coming session began to be introduced.  The power dynamic in Raleigh is much different this year, as Democrats were able to break Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the General Assembly in the 2018 legislative elections.  That means the GOP will not be able to override vetoes from Democratic Governor Roy Cooper along party line votes, as they had done numerous times during Cooper's first two years in office. 

Lilly Knoepp

 More than 2 million people in North Carolina will be impacted when changes to the state’s Medicaid program take effect.

 

At the end of last year, North Carolina finalized terms to move to a managed-care system for Medicaid in the state. The first regions of North Carolina where those changes will be rolled out will be announced at the beginning of February says Deputy Secretary for North Carolina Medicaid Dave Richards.

 

The National Park Service is asking  visitors for patience while crews clean up nearly a month's worth of debris from winter weather and lack of maintenance.   BPR’S Helen Chickering checked in with two people who have deep connections to the national parks here in Western North Carolina.  

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Following a short break from the pomp of swearings-in, the North Carolina General Assembly returns to work in earnest Wednesday for a budget-writing session that traditionally lasts until early summer.

BEIJING (AP) — China on Tuesday questioned the appropriateness of an email sent by a Duke University medical school administrator warning Chinese students to speak in English.

Asked about the controversy, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang compared it to a Chinese university demanding that English-speaking students talk only in Chinese.

"If a Chinese university required that American students not use English to communicate, I think this would not be normal," Geng said at a daily briefing.

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest has taken another step — but not a surprising one — toward running for governor in 2020.

Forest announced Monday that he has formed an "exploratory" committee to seek the GOP nomination, releasing a brief video in which he talks about building a better North Carolina.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

It only takes seconds to tour David Gilbert’s West Asheville home to learn he’s a ferocious music fan.

There are shelves of vinyl albums right past the front door. Toward the back is a long room with assorted music memorabilia and a complement of guitars, amps and a drum kit. This is where Gilbert’s bands rehearse.

Duke University School of Medicine

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Duke University's medical school has issued an apology and launched a review after an administrator admonished students over speaking Chinese in a school building.

Megan Neely, who served as graduate studies director in the biostatistics master's program, wrote an email Friday urging students to "commit to using English" in the building housing the program.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina Democratic legislator is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican incumbent Thom Tillis.

State Sen. Erica Smith, from Northampton County in the northeast, announced her 2020 bid to unseat Tillis on Saturday through social media and at a Democratic Party gathering in Charlotte. Smith is a math instructor and ordained minister first elected to the legislature in 2014.

Mecklenburg County Commissioner Trevor Fuller also announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination last week. Primaries are in March 2020.

Blue Ridge Public Radio has appointed Ashleigh Kenny as its Development Director, a new position at the NPR affiliate, and a reflection of the continuing growth and success of BPR in Western North Carolina. She has an extensive background in non-profit media in various stages of growth and transition.

UNC Asheville

Security presence was higher than usual for last night's Martin Luther King Junior keynote address at the University of North Carolina Asheville.  The speech by Women's March co-president Tamika Mallory was overshadowed by controversy that’s caused factions within the national movement.

Mallory has been dealing with fallout for her association with Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam. Last February, she attended an event where Farrakhan delivered a speech making inflammatory statements about Jews. Mallory has denied accusations that she’s an anti-semite.

This week the Asheville Citizen-Times published a study showing Asheville police were disproportionately charging African-Americans with resisting arrest.  The study, which looked at the last five year, found that 35-percent of resisting arrest charges filed by Asheville police were against African-Americans.  The city's black population is only 12-percent.  The study also found a sizable number of those a

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