Government reporting

Police, judges, attorneys work to reduce Buncombe jail population ahead of COVID-19

People confined in the Buncombe County Detention Facility have considerably more elbow room today than they did prior to N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper’s March 10 declaration of a state of emergency over the COVID-19 crisis. Since then, local law enforcement and criminal justice agencies have reduced the jail’s population by 39%. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued detailed guidance for correctional facilities, noting that the integration of housing, health care and food ser

Asheville mayor gets emergency powers

It was a City Council meeting like no other. With nine people present in the echoing chamber, Council members on March 24 unanimously approved a consent agenda that granted Mayor Esther Manheimer broad emergency powers. Manheimer, along with Council members Sheneika Smith and Keith Young, attended via phone as their four colleagues in City Hall first passed a measure allowing up to three members to participate in meetings remotely. The emergency ordinance gives Manheimer — or, in her absence,

Slates set for March 3 primary

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Buncombe, announced Dec. 19 that he won’t seek reelection to the 11th Congressional District seat he’s held since 2013. Before the day was out, three Republican candidates had filed to replace him. And on the filing deadline of Dec. 20, nine more Republicans added their names to the list. All told, 19 candidates are currently in the running for Meadows’ position in the U.S. House, including five Democrats and one candidate each from the Green and Libertarian parties. But ev

Life and hard times in the Buncombe County jail

Steps away from Asheville’s broad, busy front lawn with its grand pair of government buildings lies an entrance to another city. A hidden city. A place where hundreds come and go and eat and sleep and wait and wonder and worry. Pass between City Hall and the Buncombe County Courthouse and descend a pleasant set of concrete steps to Davidson Drive below. Cross the street and step up into the Buncombe County Detention Center’s harshly echoing lobby. Beyond the reception desk, a set of sliding doo

Xpress and BPR host candidate forum for Commission District 2 candidates (video)

In partnership with Blue Ridge Public Radio, Mountain Xpress will present a candidate forum for the District 2 seat of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners today at noon. Democratic candidate Amanda Edwards faces Republican Glenda Weinert in the Tuesday, Nov. 6, general election. Current District 2 Commissioner Ellen Frost, a Democrat, is not seeking re-election. Republican Mike Fryar occupies the other District 2 seat, which he held by a 317-vote margin in the 2016 election. His opponent

Camera-shy candidate kicks off voter forum

What did we learn as the first of three League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County candidate forums opened on Sept. 20? Sen. Terry Van Duyn (D, Buncombe) moved to this area when her now-adult son was in third grade. Rep. John Ager (D, Buncombe) would be giving a talk on challenges facing dairy farmers at another venue later in the evening. Republican Amy Evans is a veteran of the armed forces. Democrat Amanda Edwards has a “big sweet” dog named Charlie. And Republican Mark Crawford ob

Can the Woodfin Greenway & Blueway beat the odds?

At a time when rising construction costs are seriously threatening the prospects for several proposed local greenways, the Woodfin Greenway & Blueway is riding a wave of broad-based support and fundraising success. The ambitious undertaking will comprise 5 miles of greenway, a brand-new park plus the area’s first constructed whitewater play wave. And with $11.6 million in funding commitments in hand toward a generously estimated $13.9 million budget, there seems to be a boatload of momentum. B

Smaller project, bigger budget, approved for RAD

Assistant City Manager Cathy Ball sat on the dais at Asheville City Council’s June 27 meeting, filling in for absent City Manager Gary Jackson. It didn’t look like a comfortable place to be as Ball fielded sharply worded questions from Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler and other members of Council about how cost projections for a major infrastructure project in the River Arts District underestimated construction costs by more than 50 percent — and why city staff kept mum for a month before informing Counci

Climate change, aging infrastructure and rapid development fuel Asheville stormwater woes

These days, when it rains, it really pours. Due to global climate change, “Heavy downpours are increasing nationally,” noted the National Climate Assessment’s 2014 report, compiled by hundreds of experts overseen by a 60-member federal advisory committee. And in the Southeast, rain intensity has increased nearly 30 percent in recent decades, the report concluded. Here in Asheville, however, climate change is only one factor driving a rising tide of stormwater problems. Aging infrastructure and

Activists speak out against proposed police department expansion

At over $27 million, the Asheville Police Department’s budget represents the single largest category in the city’s proposed $121 million general fund operating budget. But the scrutiny the department’s funding has received during the creation of the 2017-18 fiscal year budget (which will go into effect July 1) isn’t just tied to the relative size of the expense. Chief Tammy Hooper‘s request for $1 million to add 15 officers to create a 24/7 downtown police unit has sparked outrage from activists

Asheville Council closes in on city budget

City Manager Gary Jackson told members of Asheville City Council on May 9 that 85 new hiring requests and $11 million in city spending “are on the cutting-room floor” in the wake of his proposed 2017-18 fiscal year budget. But Jackson agreed to do more trimming in response to Council’s request to achieve a revenue-neutral tax rate plus a 3.5-cent increase to pay for debt service on the $74 million bond referendum passed by voters in 2015. When the budget returns to Council at the body’s May 23

Asheville traffic stop data show racial inequities

Driving while black in Asheville, City Council member Keith Young said, “is real.” Young, who is African-American, said data on racial disparities in police traffic stops presented to Council at its Tuesday, April 24, meeting validated his personal experiences and anecdotal observations about unequal treatment of black and white drivers by Asheville police. Council heard a report on the data by Ian Mance, an attorney with the Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice. Black drivers in

Council vote could mark new phase in struggle over ‘Pit of Despair’

Sometimes a vacant piece of land becomes more than just a piece of land. And the scant acre of city-owned property on Haywood Street and Page Avenue has certainly come to represent more than its area, or even its monetary value, would suggest. For many, the “Pit of Despair” facing the U.S. Cellular Center and the Basilica of St. Lawrence has become a battleground where warring visions of Asheville compete in a take-no-prisoners contest for the soul of the city. After City Council’s unanimous vo