There was lots of swearing at City Hall Tuesday. Taking the oath of office, Esther Manheimer was sworn in to a four-year term as Asheville’s 47th mayor. City Council members Gwen Wisler, Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith also took their respective oaths.
Offering her first remarks as mayor to a packed chamber, Manheimer laid out goals for maintaining and improving the quality of life in Asheville. Councilman Marc Hunt was also elected to serve as Vice Mayor—a position formerly held by Manheimer.
The council then conducted its regular business, opting to delay debates on a host of planned developments. For a detailed roundup on the meeting, see thisMountain Xpress report, here.
Can the county cut back it’s carbon emissions by 80 percent? Environmental groups were quick to applaud the adoption of an ambitious, long-term plan by County Commissioners last week, but a top county official charged with implementing change sees challenges ahead. General Services Director Greg Israel told Xpress this week that the county’s carbon output has significantly increased in recent years, and noted difficulties in determining how the county would measure the impact of future changes. Unlike Asheville, Buncombe County doesn’t have an Office of Sustainability, whose staff is tasked with reaching similar goals.
The machine behind this year’s voter ID law has added to its numbers in Republican-ruled Raleigh. The American Legislative Exchange Council, better known as “ALEC,” counts roughly one-third of the General Assembly as card-carrying members, the News and Observer reports. Big shots serving on the group’s national board of directors include Rep. Tim Moffitt and House Speaker Thom Tillis, who is waging a campaign geared at unseating U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan. Democrats will absolutely attack Tillis’ ties to the group in the rundown to the GOP primary.
Speaking of Tim Moffitt, buzz continued to swirl around his successful inclusion of 10,000 copies of “The Raleigh Digest” in a Nov. 27 run of the Citizen-Times. All the way from New York, the Columbia Journalism Review offered it’s take on Moffitt’s paid 48-page political insert, including a quote from the paper’s new publisher, Dave Neill. Apart from the paper’s failure to label the insert as a paid advertisement, Neill said he “would have not stopped” Moffitt’s insert from being included in the paper.
And as expected, Moffitt drew his first challenger in his bid for re-election to District 116 next year. Brian Turner, a former UNCA assistant vice chancellor who quit his job to challenge Moffitt, officially announced his candidacy Tuesday. In a video announcing his candidacy, Turner refrained from mentioning Moffitt by name, but that didn’t stop Moffitt from welcoming Turner’s challenge on Twitter, saying he anticipated “an informative campaign” next year.
Unemployment is falling across North Carolina, and who should we thank? Do we even have to ask? Gov. Pat McCrory told business executives gathered in Charlotte this week that the reversal of the state’s job woes was prompted in part by “tough decisions” made by his administration. Despite the gains, unemployment in North Carolina is currently at 8 percent—a full point higher than the national average. Meanwhile, Asheville’s jobless rate hit a five-lear low this week, coming in at 5.6 percent.
Brace yourself—this week the U.S. House of Representatives actually passed a bipartisan budget deal, potentially ending the sequester and lessing the prospect of another government shutdown. Congressmen from Western North Carolina split their votes—with U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry supporting the bill and U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows voting no. Meadows, who was one of 62 Republicans to vote against the plan, has yet to release an official statement explaining his reasons for opposing the measure.
What’s new with U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan? This week, the senator’s calls for a formal investigation into the rollout of the Affordable Care Act were acknowledged by Health and Human Services Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, who announced her agency would begin a study of the failed launch of the flawed insurance website.
Meanwhile, increasing national focus is being placed on Hagan’s first re-election bid. Her candidacy was the focus of feature on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” which sent a reporter to the small town Selma, N.C. to gauge Hagan’s favorability with voters. Statewide, Hagan’s approval ratings have leveled after plummeting to 43 percent in recent months, according to a new poll from Public Policy Polling. State Rep. Thom Tillis, who is leading the pack of Republicans vying to challenge Hagan next fall, also saw a drop in support this week in the same PPP poll.
That’s it for this round—see ya next week.