Bothwell’s “get out of garage free” card
Who knew such a thing existed? Late Thursday news was revealed that City Councilman Cecil Bothwell opened the gate for an estimated 60 vehicles leaving this week’s Mountain Moral Monday protest in downtown. According to Citizen-Timesreporter Mark Barrett, electronic records show Bothwell used his electronic parking pass to allow as many as six cars per minute to exit the garage, without paying any fees. The councilman has said he’ll be willing to pay for any unpaid parking fees, if the county sends him a bill.
Mountain Moral Monday redux
Speaking of Monday’s protest, did you go? Approximately 3,500 people did. The turnout for the second edition of Mountain Moral Monday was significantly less than the amount to show up on Pack Square last year, but the amount is still big for your typical protest in Asheville. You can read a recap of what went down at the event, here.
City eyes vacation rentals
Have any experience with VRBOs in Asheville? That may be about to change. City Council is expected to take a look at new rules for vacation home rentals in Asheville, which is big money for a lot of property owners in town. Discussion on the issue has been going on at the city level for some time, but new rules could be up for vote in a matter of months. More here in Mark Barrett’s report for the Citizen-Times.
Commissioners get in their zone
Some significant rezoning ordinances were approved by Buncombe County Commissioners this week, among which included the Asheville Regional Airport shifting from a Public Service Zone to an Airport Industrial Zone. According to Cameron Huntley’s report in Mountain Xpress, the change will accommodate ongoing expansion at the airport, and encourage “growth of aeronautic industry” in the area.
Budget in rearview
The week began with expectations for Gov. Pat McCrory to sign the $21.3 billion budget compromise put forward by state House and Senate members, and on Thursday he did just that. The governor said he was “proud” to sign the bill, at a ceremony at the Executive Mansion. Five weeks overdue, the budget includes $1,000 raises for most state workers and pay increases averaging 7 percent for public school teachers, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. Of course, legislators are still arguing over what the changes exactly mean. Analyses on sectors of the budget are just getting started (the environment, coal ash and film incentives, to name a few), expect more in days to come.
Pope steps down
Besides the budget, the biggest news in Raleigh this week was Wednesday’s announcement that state budget director Art Pope would be stepping down from his post. Pope wielded (an arguably still wields) wide influence over conservative politics across the state, which drew him national attention and broad criticism during his two years at the helm. Pope’s future is unclear at this point, with some suggesting he may return to to help lead the Koch-brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity, make a run for office, or seek the top slot at the University of North Carolina.
Moffitt trailing Turner
This week’s tidbit from the battle between Brian Turner and state Rep. Tim Moffitt—an internal poll released by Turner’s campaign has the Democratic challenger up 11 points on the GOP incumbent. The state Democratic Party House Caucus sponsored the poll, which was conducted by a firm which “specializes in electing Democrats and advancing progressive causes,” according to this Citizen-Times report. It’s the second poll released by Turner’s campaign showing the candidate with a lead over Moffitt, who is seeking a third term, is also contemplating a bid for House Speaker.
Meadows pushes exemptions
A bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows this week could be on its way to a vote. Meadows put forward the “Student Worker Exemption Act,” which would allow for Universities to not be penalized under the Affordable Care Act for not providing health insurance coverage to students employed on college campuses. The congressman put the bill forward after hearing the idea from the president of Western Carolina University, and UNC System President Tom Ross has given the plan his endorsement. More here.
Burr on the trail
Not the campaign trail, silly, the hiking trail! U.S. Sen. Richard Burr visited the Roan Highlands this week to commemorate conservation with U.S. Sec. of the Interior Sally Jewell. Burr, who is the sponsor of a bill to allocate money for the continuation of a federal conservation fund, had some nice words for the mountains we call home. Read more on Burr’s visit and and area conservation work here.
Senate race update
Last week ended with news that U.S. Sen Kay Hagan underwent successful emergency eye surgery, causing her to miss Senate votes the previous night. The senator was expected to be “back to full speed” this week. Hagan’s procedure didn’t slow down any of the action in the fight for her Senate seat, though. Midweek, Hagan was ranked No. 4 on Roll Call’s list of the “Top 10 Most Vulnerable Senators,” another poll has her and Tillis deadlocked. And the real fun is just getting started. Expect Tillis to get some support from high profile Republicans soon—according to this report from the Washington Post,former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney will stump for the GOP candidate in North Carolina “over three days in mid-August.” Will big-dog Democrats be following suit for Hagan soon? Count on it.