Happy New Year, Hit List aficionados! Who knows what 2015 has up her sleeve? Get acclimated with a full plate of local, state and federal news for the start of the new year.
Let’s just hope 2015 is better for the Asheville Police Department than 2014. Before Christmas, Asheville Citizen-Times investigative reporter Jon Ostendorff published a three-part series examining the troubled department, its perception among the community and its outlook for the future. The reports come out as the department is facing an internal certifications audit, a state standards inquiry and the possibility of losing its voluntary accreditation. Not to mention a host of recent officer resignations, accusations of retaliation from a pair of officers who voiced concerns over management, and a petition signed by 44 officers saying they had no confidence in former Chief William Anderson. Anderson stepped down last month, and a national search for replacement is ongoing. Former Santa Cruz, California chief Steve Belcher will begin serving as interim chief on Jan. 19. Read Ostendorff’s reports here (part 1), here (part 2) and here (part 3).
Buncombe County District Attorney Todd Williams was greeted with scrutiny at his new job this week, after it was revealed he hired a senior level assistant with a DWI conviction. Williams hired Rodney Hasty, former prosecutor who was convicted of driving while impaired after wrecking his car while taking prescription drugs for a medical condition in 2009. He is no longer on the medication. In a written statement, Hasty said he hoped the situation would be an opportunity to raise awareness of the dangers of prescription drugs, and in a Citizen-Times interview, Williams characterized Hasty’s story as one of “redemption.” Both Williams and Hasty were sworn into their positions Jan. 1.
Board of commissioners goes to the dogs
Buncombe County dogs got a new leash on life this week, as Commissioners voted to approve the minimum dog tethering length from 10 feet to 15 feet. Along with tethering, equine housing and defining animal neglect were all on the agenda at the year’s first meeting. The group voted 4-3 along party lines to adopt changes to the county’s animal control ordinance, with all Democrats voting in favor of the measure. Due to the split, the item will be discussed once more at a future meeting. The group also voted to approve funds for hiring 23 additional staff at the Department of Health and Human Services. For a detailed recap of the meeting, see Cameron Huntley’s report in Mountain Xpress.
Turner takes the oath
After unseating former state Rep. Tim Moffitt last fall, state Rep. Brian Turner took the oath of office for the District 116 seat in a ceremony Thursday. In a news release, Turner explained why he felt it was important to have a “local” swearing in. Both he and new Rep. John Ager head to Raleigh for their new jobs next week. In a sit down with Citizen-Times reporter Mark Barrett, both representatives offered insight as to how they’ve been preparing for the roles, and what they expect to experience once session convenes.
Medicaid a maybe
Could it happen? Gov. Pat McCrory hinted repeatedly this week at the possibility of North Carolina adopting a state-specific plan for expanding Medicaid, during a trip to Washington, D.C. During his journey, the governor met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. Following the meeting, McCrory said the president was receptive to his ideas on the state potentially being granted a federal waiver on Medicaid reform.
Governor guarded on payouts
The governor continues to defend his accepting of a six-figure stock payout after taking office, and went head to head with an AP reporter who inquired on the topic this week. For video of the governor’s sparring, click here. Speaking of reporters getting under the governor’s skin, another AP scribe who drew McCrory’s ire over last month’s stock payout story recently won a prestigious award for North Carolina reporting. So there’s that.
Remember the flap over McCrory’s nominee for poet laureate? The governor made good on his new pick for the position late last month, tapping UNC-Pembroke English professor Shelby Stephenson as the state’s next distinguished poet. Read up on Stephenson here.
Meadows makes a move
One of only 25 House members to defect from leadership, U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows was voted against John Boehner for Speaker of the House this week. The move, reflective of attitudes among conservatives on Capitol Hill, could potentially jeopardize the congressman’s appointments on various committees. Through a spokesperson, Meadows said he expected no retribution from Boehner for not voting in support of his leadership.
Tillis hits the Hill
His next election is six years away, but already U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis is already receiving contributions from PACs far and wide. He’s also taken steps to form his own political action committee—THOMPAC. The senator was sworn in Tuesday, as one of a dozen freshmen GOP members in the upper chamber. For an interview on Tillis’ thoughts as he assumes the new role, see this report in the Charlotte Business Journal.
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr took the helm of the powerful Senate Intelligence Committee this week, but before he could even be appointed to his new post, the list of potential challengers for his seat in 2016 to was the story. For a list of possible candidates, which includes former WNC Rep. Heath Shuler, see this Raleigh News & Observer report.
Tillis, Burr, McHenry and Meadows all took time to sit for interviews this week on Capitol Tonight, a politics segment produced by a Charlotte news station. The interviews offer an on-site window into the perspectives of the lawmakers as they begin new terms.
And just when we thought we were done hearing about former U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, POLITICO drops her name in one of the weirdest ledes of the new year. “Kay Hagan just wanted to swim,” the fascinating piece, titled “The Secret History of Women in the Senate,” begins. “It was late 2008, and the Democrat was newly arrived on Capitol Hill as North Carolina’s junior senator-elect. But Hagan was told that the Senate pool was males only. Why? Because some of the male senators liked to swim naked.” How bout that! Who were those skinny dipping senators? People have been trying to figure it out, with Jimmy Fallon perhaps coming closest to to giving us a clue of who it might’ve been.
That’s all for now! See ya next week.