Here it is—the moment you’ve been waiting for—your WNC weekly roundup of all things politics on the local, state and national levels.
Council condemns fracking
Despite the lifting of a moratorium on fracking by state lawmakers last year, members of the Asheville City Council voted to approve a resolution opposing the practice at their meeting this week (which was held at the U.S. Cellular Center. More on that later). The resolution calls on the state to “not explore the future of horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Western North Carolina, Buncombe County and the City of Asheville.” In an interview with WCQS, Councilman Jan Davis described the resolution as mostly symbolic, and speaking for the views of “the citizens in this area.” In addition to Asheville, the cities of Sylva, Hayesville and the counties of Haywood, Marshall, Swain and Jackson have all passed anti-fracking resolutions. In other business during the meeting, the council approved a $3.5 million economic incentive package for Linamar Corp., which will be put toward a $190 million capital investment by the company and account for 400 new hires.
Freeze forces flood
Asheville’s historic City Hall had to be evacuated last week, after freezing temperatures led to the rupturing of an 85-year-old pipe. According to City Manager Gary Jackson, the burst on the iconic building’s 7th floor sent 10,000 gallons of water flooding below. The building was closed for two days, and caused City Council members to relocate their meeting to the U.S. Cellular Center. Now, floors are being ripped out and new ceilings are being installed, according to this Mountain Xpress report. Two of the building’s elevators will also need repairs. The building re-opened Monday, and there is no estimate for the cost of the damage yet, according to the Citizen-Times.
The City of Asheville plans on hiring a new planning director by May 11, and a new police chief by June 1. That was the line delivered by City Manager Gary Jackson at a meeting of the Council of Independent Business Owners this week. Jackson told the group the city had engaged Matrix Consulting, a California-based company, for assistance in the search for police chief. New District Attorney Todd Williams also addressed the group, and said plans were in the works for creating a new Veteran’s Treatment Court and a child advocacy center. For a full recap, see Cameron Huntley’s report in Mountain Xpress.
Wanna get up to speed on Asheville’s Transit Committee? The Asheville Blade has you covered on that this week, with a report on the group’s goals as it moves into the new year. In the article, committee members are quoted saying that expanding service, improving routes in South Asheville and enhancements to bus stops are among the items being considered for submission as the city’s budget process ramps up.
Return of the NCGA
They’re ba-a-a-ck! Members of the North Carolina General Assembly returned to Raleigh this week, to kick off their newest session. The session, which officially began Wednesday, was primarily held for organizational purposes, with members voting in state Rep. Tim Moore as the state’s new Speaker of the House and re-electing state Sen. Phil Berger as President Pro Tem of the Senate. Reports on the convening referenced an air of bipartisanship on certain issues, if such a thing is possible in the Republican-supermajority dominated chambers. The occasion also marked the first day on the job for new WNC reps Brian Turner and John Ager, with Turner taking the opportunity to send his firsttweet from the House floor for folks back home to see.
Mopping up after Moffitt
The arrival of Reps. Brian Turner and John Ager in Raleigh this week caused scribes across Western North Carolina to take note of the other side of the coin—the absence of former state Reps. Tim Moffitt and Nathan Ramsey. In a Hendersonville Lightning report, Henderson County Rep. Chuck McGrady said he didn’t think any of the controversial Asheville-related issues left to him by his Republican colleagues—including the airport and the city’s water system—would be “onerous.” The report goes on to detail relations between the city and nearby GOP state lawmakers, with Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer suggesting that rapport between the city and both McGrady and state Sen. Tom Apodaca as being more cordial than the ones between Moffitt and Ramsey. The Citizen-Times took note of McGrady and Manheimer’s comments in a subsequent report, and wonks across the state have also taken note of Moffitt’s absence—with the Raleigh News & Observer citing the defeat of one of Thom Tillis’ “chosen lieutenants” as creating potential challengers for new House Speaker Tim Moore.
Fallout from last month’s revelations of a six-figure stock payout continue to mount for Gov. Pat McCrory. This week, the governor found himself the target of a 50-page ethics complaint filed by Progress N.C. Action, a liberal political organization. The complaint includes a new allegation brought against the governor—that he is listed as a partner in his brother’s sales consulting firm, a status not mentioned by his ethics form. Responding to the complaint, McCrory said it would be “inappropriate” to respond to a “left-wing, very politicized group.”
McHenry movin’ up
Rep. Patrick McHenry, who represents a sizable chunk of Asheville, is the 4th-ranking Republican in the House and a long-time member of the House Financial Services Committee. On Thursday, it was announced McHenry will serve as vice chairman of the committee, which oversees banking and monetary policy. The committee, which is comprised of 60 members, is one of the most influential in the House of Representatives.
Tillis running hard
The new gig seems to be a natural fit for freshman U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, who is still getting oriented on Capitol Hill. In an interview with the Raleigh News & Observer, the new senator is described as “running hard” and getting acquainted with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. If you’re in DC and would like to pay him a visit, his temporary office is located between a guarded entrance to the Dirksen Senate Building and the staff ID photo shop. In the article, Tillis says one of his primary goals is to work to “get the Senate to function again.” He also said he plans to visit border states to gain better understanding on immigration issues.
Hagan heads to Harvard
The former senator is off to the Ivy Leagues. On Thursday, it was announced that Kay Hagan will be spending the next few months at Harvard, serving as a fellow for the John F. Kennedy School of Government. She’ll be teaching study groups for students during the spring semester—a role which has been also recently enjoyed by ex-North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue. Give our regards to Boston.
Other items of note
Tough fight to break Buncombe County’s dog chains—Citizen-Times
NC economy may be best ally for McCrory at halfway mark—AP
McCrory visiting Britain for first overseas trip—WRAL
North Carolina rethinks the Common Core—NPR
Sen. Burr: Paris-style attacks could become weekly event—CNN
See ya next week.