By James Harrison
First, let’s get the important stuff out of the way—U.S. Senator Kay Hagan has a new challenger.
He speaks fluent Klingon.
Last week, the Associated Press broke the news out of Indian Trail, N.C., that Town Councilman David Waddell used the language of the “Star Trek” warrior race to submit his resignation letter the group, jump-starting a promising write-in effort to unseat Hagan this fall. Although Waddell admitted to the letter’s language of choice being “a joke,” he may be on to something. More Klingon, please.
Buncombe County happenings
Back here in our own galaxy, commissioners have banded together to approve $1.12 million in grants to Jacob Holms Industries, a Candler-based fabric producer which plans to add a $45 million expansion to its facility and create 66 more jobs. County Planning Director John Creighton estimated the move would generate $4.5 million in revenue by 2019, according to this Mountain Xpress report.
In other county news, a planning board offered its recommendation this week to rezone a tract of more than 30 acres located along Brevard Road for commercial use. The land, owned by (you guessed it) Biltmore Farms, is currently zoned residential. Although Biltmore Farms says the request is motivated by “long-term planning perspective,” county commissioners will undoubtedly have additional questions for the group when they address the request later on. More here in the Citizen-Times.
Get them topless women outta here! That was the message relayed (more or less) by the Asheville Chamber of Commerce this week, which threatened to stamp out the ability for women to roam around our fair city bare-chested. Chamber President Kit Cramer said the group would seek to ban the practice in Asheville, despite a City Council which has said in the past it can’t prohibit toplessness because of state laws. Kramer said she asked state Sen. Tom Apodaca to look into the matter. Last year, state Rep. Tim Moffitt introduced a bill addressing the issue, which has yet to gain traction.
Moffitt the consolidator
Speaking of Tim Moffitt, comments made by the lawmaker in last Sunday’s Citizen-Times had the city buzzing this week. In an interview with the paper’s “Answer Man” John Boyle, Moffitt said he is open to the proposal of merging city and county operations. Along with merging, the General Assembly has power to dissolve Asheville’s city charter—but Moffitt said he had no desire of doing so. Still, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer described the representatives comments as “baffling.” Should the city and county consider merging to avoid duplication of services? Should lawmakers in Raleigh be the ones determining if that’s OK? These and other questions were being asked all over town this week.
McCrory the comeback kid
This week the governor couldn’t stop talking about the great “Carolina Comeback” (no, it has nothing to do with Tar Heel basketball). The latest rhetoric from the governor’s office touts the state’s new tax system, claiming it will lower unemployment and spur the creation of jobs across the state this year. Right now, the state unemployment rate is at 7.4 percent, which is higher than the national average. Asheville, on the other hand, found out this week its jobless rate has dropped to 5.2 percent.
With a continuous flurry of negative buzz around the state Department of Health and Human Services, McCrory is standing behind his appointees. This week, the governor backed DHHS Sec. Aldona Wos, after it was revealed her department had sent nearly 50,000 Medicaid cards to wrong addresses. This comes after controversies behind Wos’ department’s awarding of up $1.2 million in contracts without written justification, and the hiring of McCrory campaign staffers to positions which were never posted.
While we’re on McCrory staffers—one of Wos’ key hires jumped ship this week. Ricky Diaz, a 24-year-old who was brought on to serve as DHHS spokesman for a reasonable $85,000-a-year salary, announced this week he accepted a job with a Washington, D.C. public relations firm. Diaz, who played a key role in McCrory’s gubernatorial campaign, had become controversial figure in Raleigh.
Hagan backs unemployed, Burr seeks an alternative
This week, Sen. Kay Hagan joined Democrats in supporting a bill to extend benefits for more than 1 million unemployed Americans. The measure, approved in a 60-37 vote, would extend benefits for three months. Along with supporting the bill, Hagan introduced a provision which would make North Carolinians eligible for those benefits statewide, even though a portion of them were done away with by lawmakers in the General Assembly last year. More on that here in the News & Observer.
Hagan’s counterpart, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, opposed the bill to extend benefits. Burr, a Republican,suggested an alternative proposal—to pay for the changes by eliminating a program which allows for illegal immigrants to claim an Additional Child Tax credit for their children. Along with Burr, all five of Republican primary candidates seeking to challenge Hagan (including House Speaker Thom Tillis) said they would have opposed the original bill which was considered by the Senate this week.
Money money money
If you read this weekly feature, you know this year’s Senate race has become a magnet for outside money. The seat is for sale! This week, the News & Observer took a look at the Republican side of the money machine, reporting that the Koch brother-funded Americans for Prosperity group has already dumped $4.2 million on the race. Moral of the story? Don’t say your vote isn’t worth anything.
Other political items you may care to see
Bill Moyers special on developments in North Carolina politics (Asheville gets a shoutout)
Coverage in Slate Magazine of changes to North Carolina’s education policies
Hard-nose reporting on Thom Tillis’ lapel pins of choice
OK! That’s it for now. See you next week.
Nathan Ramsey claims he started believing in “unified local government”, after Asheville’s City Manager rebuffed him in 2000 on sharing or ceding control of the City’s water system and airport.
Notice how he advanced this in the context of the water issue, with Tim Moffitt sitting next to him, nodding along. This latest talk of “Consolidation” isn’t about a rational, voluntary and efficient merging of public services – it’s about using the power in Raleigh to shove aside local elected government and take control of their assets. Notice how Nathan also admits that it is not a popular stance in his district. Oh well… what do they know?
From the BCGOP “we believe” page: “I BELIEVE the most effective, responsible and responsive government is government closest to the people.”
Except when you want to sweep aside that layer of government, because they aren’t doing what you want – then you turn to Raleigh.
does tax-payer money support the chamber of commerce? just dumb about this and want to know. if so, are they allowed to endorse party candidates in election cycles?
Asheville unemployment rate is 5.2% because almost everyone who lives here needs at least two jobs to survive.
it’s indian trail not indian river, homie.
Good rundown of political news here, I hope to see more content from James in the future.
Someone in the Chamber needs to come out of the closet and stop spending taxpayer money
The Chamber isn’t funded by tax dollars. The Economic Development Coalition does receive taxpayer dollars as part of their partnership with a few local governments but they work exclusively on economic development not things like this.
The public policy work of the Chamber is funded by its membership.
As a member I follow pretty closely what they work on and this issue was brought up through a survey of the community businesses, both members and non-members. So the Chamber is appropriately responding to a concern that business owners brought to them.