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On public health and morality of the herd



By Leslee Kulba – In the interest of transparency, the Buncombe County Commissioners have taken to scheduling discussions of expenditures that ordinarily would be on the consent agenda as new business. The action, it has been noted, is “more motion than action.”

The problem under former management wasn’t a lack of public presentation so much as appending so little information to the online agenda as to render members of the public unable to even begin asking questions.

Noting there were already eleven items of new business, some with subheads, before the commissioners added another three, one staffer in the audience remarked to another about the so-called transparency, “We’ll do that for awhile until we realize why we don’t do it that way.”

One of the items added to new business was a request to change the commissioners’ Nov. 6 meeting to Oct. 30, because Nov. 6 is Election Day. Noting the new date was Halloween eve, Commissioner Joe Belcher said he wasn’t going to wear a costume; and to wit, Commissioner Al Whitesides replied, “Just come as you are, Joe.”

As the commissioners moved into their published agenda, Dr. Jennifer Mullendore, medical director for Buncombe County Health and Human Services, presented information on immunization. The presentation came at the request of Commissioner Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, after she had heard an alarming segment on BPR.

Mullendore showed a slide depicting “community immunity.” It rhymes. Another one showed the percentage of the “herd” that had to be immunized to prevent the spread of four diseases for which vaccines are available. The next slide showed a herd of strange-looking creatures, one of which was a different color. It read, “This is Ben. He is immunocompromised ….”

Mullendore explained North Carolina allowed exemptions from vaccination for two reasons. The first was a medical condition, such as the Ben thing had, where his health would be compromised by the vaccine. Mullendore said that exemption required a signed note from a medical doctor who had evaluated the person in question. The other was for practitioners of bona fide religions that prohibit vaccination. All that was needed in this instance was a note signed by a parent.

Mullendore said North Carolina offered no exemptions to people who oppose vaccination for philosophical or personal beliefs. Later, while talking about what can be done to get children immunized, one strategy was to deliver, “messaging to address moral values of the vaccine-hesitant.” Asked to elaborate, she said the “vaccine-hesitant” were typically concerned about individual liberty and purity. When Commissioner Ellen Frost asked if there were common traits among the “vaccine-hesitant,” Mullendore said they are typically well-educated and they do their research. They are also well-off, so access to immunization was not the issue.

During public comment on another issue, citizen Don Yelton pointed out the irony in trying to educate the public against something practiced by the well-educated. Regardless, to educate the educated, Mullendore recognized they would rebel against being sermonized, but they might be more responsive to hearing the message from a peer. The plan was then to plant seeds with individuals and get them to share the word with their faith communities or other social groups. Once several cooperative cells were onboard, it would be easier to enforce top-down measures.

Another tack for “increasing immunization uptake” was advocating for stricter state requirements. California, for example, does not allow conscientious objections ever since measles broke out at Disneyland. Following her remarks, the man in the Joe Belcher costume said in a roundabout way that liberty, purity, and the right to make decisions with which one was comfortable mattered.

Personal liberty came up again when the commissioners decided not to take any action on changes to employee insurance plans Interim County Manager George Wood said would help close a $1.5 million budget deficit. Wood had suggested offering employees the choice between an 80/20 plan and a high-deductible plan with a HSA; and doing away with the rich-by-any-standard 95/5 plan. Belcher said he would accept no change in insurance without a wellness plan, and this time it was Commissioner Mike Fryar who stood up. He said it was a free country, and it was not for the commissioners to order and arrange employee lifestyle choices. Fryar said he was tired of telling people what to do and when to do it.

To that, Chair Brownie Newman explained that freedom wasn’t free so long as taxpayers were subsidizing it. Largely due to pressure from county employees, the commissioners voted unanimously to protect employee insurance as-is this year and postpone consideration of cutting the amount of unused leave time employees can cash-in – even if it meant raising taxes. Borrowing from Claude-Frédéric Bastiat, if the county’s insurance plans were in the best interest of the people, employees could reach out to the community to find willing individual sponsors.

UNC-A professor arrested for allegedly stealing political signs

Professor Dr. Amanda Wray was arrested for allegedly stealing a political sign. This is a screen shot from her UNC-A webpage.

In a Facebook post Saturday morning (October 6) Summey said, “Last night, just before 10 pm, I caught two women in the act of stealing our signs. I watched them remove the signs then rushed in to confront them. Both were carrying a sign when I ask them what they were doing.

They said they were taking the signs. I told them what they were doing was theft and I intended to report them. At this point they ran across the street to their car and quickly put the signs in the back of it. I grabbed my cell phone and quickly followed them where I made this picture of the license plate on the car as they tried to speed away.” According to Summey the incident took place in the Erwin Hills area.

Summey said he called the sheriff’s department and they dispatched a deputy to the scene where Summey filed a larceny report. Summey said when the officer ran the tag it came back to an Amanda Wray of Asheville. Summey says that after he obtained the name of the person owning the vehicle he looked Wray up on Facebook and immediately recognized both women who stole the signs.

A warrant for arrest has now been issued for Wray for allegedly removing a political sign. Wray’s Facebook page says she is a college professor at UNC-Asheville.

According to Wray’s webpage on UNC-A’s website she states, “I am interested in language practices, looking in particular at the ways in which words have social power (to construct and deconstruct). What you say has great potential to contribute to or to interrupt social norms, and students in my classes can expect conversation about everyday strategies for using language to address social oppressions.

I consider writing an important tool for critical thinking and creativity, but also I see the ability to write effectively and appropriately for different situations to be a most valuable and marketable skill within and beyond the university. My research interests involve oral history, feminism, public scholarship, rhetorical practices of consciousness, visual rhetoric, professional writing, research methods, and creative nonfiction.”

Wray has not responded to any messages from the Leader about her arrest. UNC-A also did not respond to request for a comment as of press time. Wray has a court date of Dec. 4, 2018.

‘Principal of the Year’ Luke Manuel is patient, toiling leader

Luke Manuel, principal at Hendersonville Middle, learns he is 2018-19 Principal of the Year for Henderson County Public Schools at a pep rally. Photo courtesy of Henderson County Public Schools.
Luke Manuel, principal at Hendersonville Middle, learns he is 2018-19 Principal of the Year for Henderson County Public Schools at a pep rally. Photo courtesy of Henderson County Public Schools.

The local principal of the year is selected by peers. The 23 principals in Henderson County Public Schools nominate principals for the honor when meeting for the new academic year. This establishes finalists. Later, they vote electronically and secretly to selected the winner.

Manuel told The Tribune he was totally surprised that he was chosen, and was not thinking how the honor is given early in the academic year. Reading teacher April Paige said few among staff knew. She helped host a pep rally in the school gym, that is normal early in the school year. Assistant Principal Amanda Childers honored each school athletic team one at a time. Cheerleaders did a dance routine, that revved up the student crowd.

Caldwell and other school officials shrewdly entered the gym only just before it was award time, and stayed to the side and out of Manuel’s sight. He was in another corner of the gym. He later noted he did not see them enter the gym, nor figure at first he was to get an award.

Once the surprise was out Luke’s wife Beth joined him, making the honor more shared and special. They hugged at center court. Minutes earlier “when I saw my wife in the gym, I wondered why she was there,” Luke recalled. “Then when I saw Mr. Caldwell, I realized it was more than just a pep rally. I had inkling” it might be reward-related. Even once Supt. Caldwell was announced and was about to speak, there loomed possibility he might announce something else — such as a special grant for the school.

Initially, a surprised Manuel hugged Caldwell after the award was announced, then plunged his face into his hands in disbelief. The onlooking Caldwell also looked emotionally moved.

A moment later, Manuel shifted into celebratory mode. He surged a fist pump toward the rafters — as students stood and loudly cheered. He began chuckling. He circled around in front of students, then ‘high-fived’ cheerleaders.

Manuel told students and teachers how “humble and honored” he felt, to serve as principal in “one of the very best middle schools in all of North Carolina.” Staff gave him a cake.

“This is a huge honor,” local schools’ Chief Human Resources Officer W. Scott Rhodes noted. “Mr. Manuel has done an outstanding job leading” HMS. “He is a kind and humble leader, who loves his students and staff.”

Math teacher Katy Gash posted this recent message of Manuel on duty and optimism, on her classroom wall: “Be professional, be patient, be kind. Everything is fixable.”

Manuel supports teachers being flexible where they see it will get the most out of a student, on a case-by-case basis. He cited to The Tribune as an example giving a student with writer’s block extra time to finish a report. “We give our students every opportunity to learn.”

Language arts teacher Meryl McMahan likes Manuel the best of all principals she has worked for in 31 years of teaching, including charismatic ones at East Henderson. She is in her third year at HMS.

Manuel “cares about you as a person,” Mrs. Gash said. McMahan said Manuel makes teachers “feel appreciated” for various tasks in class and beyond. “He’s so appreciative,” she said. “He often says ‘thank you!’”

Manuel said he realizes teachers can “feel under-appreciated” at times, handling so many challenges that tend to go “unnoticed.” He tries to notice them, and express gratitude.

Bearcat pride extends to keeping classrooms and halls free of litter. “We do our best to maintain the integrity of the building, and its cleanliness,” Manuel said. The school was renovated and expanded a decade and half ago, with a second classroom building added.

He credits a positive and productive HMS atmosphere to staff and the two assistant principals, Childers and Matthew Ramsey who is also the athletic director.

Manuel sets an example as a dedicated go-getter, going the extra mile himself. Like many principals, Manuel helps in various areas such as directing traffic as parents pick up their children after school. A half-hour after that task last Thursday, he was busy helping sell concessions during the HMS Bearcats’ football game. “You just help” — wherever and whenever needed, he said with a chuckle.

HMS Bearcats defeated Apple Valley 36-6 — over two days last week. The teams played a mere minute and forty seconds on Thursday, before an electrical storm forced a delay. “The trainers have a weather app” on their phones, Manuel explained. “Whenever there is a lightning strike within a 10-mile radius, it alerts them. The game automatically goes into a lightning delay.” Weather soon worsened, raining very hard. “Then we saw lightning and rain.”

Above all, he said, “we make sure players and fans are safe, and are sheltered.” A.D. Ramsey enacted his advance plan to delay the game to the next day, once the storm did not pass through in reasonable time. The HHS field was again available Friday, as varsity Bearcats were off last week. Ironically, the elder Cats practice not on their game field but on an HMS field.

During the rain and delay with most others sheltered and dry, Manuel directed “wrapping up of concession stands and equipment.” As he noted, “it’s an undertaking.”

The Manuel family is often on the go, as much as Luke was scampering on Falcon option football plays back in the day. He finished his Tribune interview Sunday evening, while driving home from daughter Sawyer’s two victorious soccer matches in Spartanburg, S.C.. Sawyer is in fourth grade at Glenn C. Marlow Elementary. Son Truitt, the Manuels’ eldest child, is in seventh grade at HMS.

Luke Manuel, who has coached football, said he “tries to be hands off” and avoid meddling in coaching of athletics. Yet he is all for communication between a student’s coaches and teachers if any notice a dip in the youth’s performance or change in behavior. Home life and other factors might explain such shifts. Manuel said it helps that “we’re all in the know,” to better help a student overcome any obstacles and get back on track.

Manuel was a model student athlete. Many fans best recall him as a swift Falcon quarterback, making snap decisions. He led a potent option rushing attack that included big backs Philip Keefe and Jay Young, a current West varsity assistant. Keefe (Class of ’92) won a state football title in S.C. in 2014, coaching then-unbeaten Northwood Academy of Charleston, S.C.

In baseball, Manuel was a prime base stealer and starting left fielder for all four years at West. He was a freshman sparkplug on West’s 1992 state champion squad.

He was a gritty defender and rebounder in basketball, as a power forward going against larger foes. He and star shooter Joey Bryson were co-captains of the ‘94-95 conference title team. Manuel said of the Falcons, “We hung out together. We gelled as friends, and teammates.” Bryson soon starts his third season as West Falcons’ varsity hoops head coach.

Manuel graduated from Appalachian State, and earned a master’s in school administration from Gardner-Webb.

He promptly returned home, as an educator. He taught social studies in two high schools — in Hendersonville (HHS) in 2000-03, then at North Henderson for five years. He was an HHS assistant football and baseball coach. He was North Knight’s head football coach for four seasons.

He then moved into administration. He was assistant principal at HMS in 2008, and athletic director in 2012-13. He then held post of those posts at his alma mater, West, in ‘13-14. He ascended to be HMS principal in 2014, and in his fifth year at the helm. West’s main school color is blue; Hendersonville’s is red. Manuel said in 2014, he had to expand his wardrobe and buy more red shirts.

Essentially, he is like a head coach of the entire middle school. “My time as head coach at North Henderson somewhat prepared me for what I’d do as a principal” at HMS, he realizes. “I was in charge of players,” and now all students. “There is preparation for games, working with others, and coordinating events, team meals and travel.”

Manuel has a hand in all four high schools in Henderson County. He has worked in three of them. His ongoing influence on East Henderson is indirect, via Justin Heatherly who clicked with Manuel while HMS head football coach. Heatherly is in his second year at the helm of football at his alma mater, East.

His tremendous 5-1 start is best among the four local public high schools. He took with him the spread passing offense of HMS that mirrors that of HHS Bearcats.

Coach Heatherly “creates good relationships” with players and their families and assistant coaches, Manuel said. He said Heatherly also made strong “connection with the high school coaches,” and implemented the same offense for smoother transition of players up the ranks.

Coach Heatherly said of working with Manuel, while at HMS, “His work ethic is phenomenal. If something needed to be done, he didn’t sit around. He got on it. He got results.” Heatherly was also athletic director. He is grateful Manuel readily provided needed gear and equipment, for various HMS teams. “If they needed it, he made sure they got it.”

Manuel noted they made an inventory list, to determine “what’s safe, and what’s not” and needed repair or replacement. First for football in preseason, helmets and shoulder pads get reconditioned. “The ones that are deemed no longer usable get kicked out,” Manuel explained. “We want our athletes to use top-notch equipment. That’s huge now more than ever, with concern for concussions and other injuries.” Heatherly said safety “standards are higher. It’s important to keep equipment up to date.”

Offsetting some of HMS’ safety gear expenses are such cost-saving measures, as using HHS hand-me downs as football practice uniforms.

Manuel is like an extra coach, giving feedback on the (Friday) morning after HMS games, Heatherly recalled. “He’d talk about good and bad things he saw.” He said Manuel was “positive” in approach, with constructive suggestions. Also, she said, “Luke was very supportive of the FB team — win or lose.”

That is how many coaches were for Manuel at West, when he played there a generation ago. He calls himself a “product” of local schools, inspired by “great teachers and coaches.”

Rick Wood, the school board’s vice-chairman, was his basketball coach at West. The retired Wood is a “classy, professional person and great mentor” to this day, Manuel said. “We knew he was for us,” and was proud of players keeping solid grades.

Wood said “Luke is one of the special ones! He earned ten letters at West in three sports. He exhibited outstanding leadership qualities, back in high school.” Wood added, “I am so proud to have a former student and player achieve excellence” in any field — let alone education.

Manuel played for football head coaches Danny Shook then Don Millwood, and taskmaster Jim Hyatt in baseball. Hyatt was “known for his tenacity. But he also kept things loose and fun, at practice,” Manuel revealed.

Manuel said these coaches like Heatherly today may vary in personality, but they share key strengths of character. He said such leaders expect full effort, earn respect, and stick to rules and standards of conduct in deploying “tough love.” They build in youths pride in oneself, the team and school tradition.

Manuel describes his mentors similarly to how others now describe him, when he speaks of “patience,” extra hours of preparation and eyeing longer-term grand plans. “My former coaches put in the time and hard work,” he said. “They held you accountable for good or bad. If you did well, they’d praise you well. If you didn’t do well, they also let you know that” and how to improve.

“Sports mirrors life — hard work, perseverance, and how to handle wins and losses,” Manuel said. There is value in both. It takes reflection, to figure what to improve on. Students need to learn to respond to adversity, because it’s always going to happen. That’s huge.”

On his dealing with tough administrative days, Manuel managed to laugh in saying “there’s always that potential. Something might go wrong as easy as not enough pizza in the pizza line. Or someone (i.e. a student’s parent) gets upset. You say ‘we’ll do better, next time.’ You try not to make that same mistake.”

Eternal optimist Luke Manuel delegates and trusts well, too. He said the key is “surrounding yourself with good people, and trusting them. I know whatever situation arises, it’ll work out. We have such good people at Hendersonville Middle. The central office will steer you in the right direction, with good advice. They always help and support. We rely on good people, to keep good things happening here.”

Conspiracies about conspiracies masquerading as news about news



The game is played by creating chaos. Surkov is said to have sponsored groups of all stripes, from humanitarian to skinhead, and even created a few extremist groups of his own. The warfare he wages is guerilla, multi-layered, and multifaceted. Tactics include creating “alternate facts,” lying to reporters, and switching narratives. Adam Curtis of the BBC illustrated, “In Syria, we are told that President Assad is the evil enemy, but then his enemies turn out to be even more evil than him, so we bomb them, and by doing that, we help keep Assad in power.”

The fog and malingering are tools of control. Writing in Politico, Molly McKew notes, “It’s hard to muster resistance to an enemy you can’t see, or aren’t even sure is there.” Vocal Kremlin critic Peter Pomerantsev wrote, “Putin goes out and lies in your face in order to say, ‘Facts don’t exist, which means you can’t argue with me.’” By raising hype against enemies du jour, those in control not only monger fear, they sow confusion that engenders feelings of inferiority in their subjects, who are incapable of understanding what they don’t realize is designed to defy comprehension.

Political commentator Mike Mariana wrote, “This shape-shifting propaganda makes just enough of a lasting impression to leave people feeling distrustful and victimized. But before any one line of thinking can be pursued for too long, the narrative jumps to something else. People are left distracted and angry, but unsure of why or at whom.” The result is not political activism, but despondency and passivity. “To which,” wrote Curtis, “the only response is to say, ‘Oh, dear.’”

Pomerantsov said this is what has happened in Russia, where people consent to control and play along. He recalls how members of the liberal avant-garde would look at him as if he were a fool and say, “’Over the last 20 years, we’ve lived through a communism we never believed in, democracy and defaults and mafia state and oligarchy, and we’ve realized they are illusions, that everything is PR. … Can’t you see your own governments are just as bad as ours?’ they asked me. I tried to protest – but they just smiled and pitied me.”

McKew noted Georgia, Estonia, and Lithuania had all complained about Russian operatives sowing chaos in their political systems, and, “all three countries now have parties with Russian financial connections leading their governments, which softly advocate for a more open approach to Moscow.” But now that’s starting to look like Trump-Russia, which is crazy because now that Trump’s leading, he says our countries share mutual respect. Besides, Russia stands nothing to gain from disrupting America’s political structure.

By way of contrast, Pomerantsov illustrated, the Kremlin passed “aggressive” anti-gay legislation to run interference when the news cycle was turning to corruption. “The Kremlin needed a new storyline, one they could control.” Fortunately, that can’t happen here, where Manifest Destiny keeps corruption out of government. Journalists are trained not to turn cable news into “a mudslinging sideshow;” and if they did, the populace is too media-savvy to be polarized and drawn into tribal warfare.

The party of anarchy has declared war


Each week the editors of The Tribune are selecting a communication from the Buncombe County Republican Party we feel will be of interest and value to our readers. You can learn more about your local Republican Party’s efforts at BuncombeGOP.org

If we didn’t know it before the Kavanaugh hearing, we certainly know it now. We are in a 1st tier culture war where the historical rules of political engagement have been shredded.

Thank goodness the nominee rediscovered his testicular fortitude and refused to roll over. Though he sometimes confused being angry with being effective, he did well, and per the facts and testimony introduced, hopefully salvaged his nomination. As regards his antagonists, allow us to suggest three summation words – false memory syndrome.

Before, during and after the last-minute “we found something else” play by the Democratic Party, every standard of dignity, honesty, integrity, maturity and civility was violated with impunity. The paralyzed state of most of the Republicans charged with countering the nonsense was disappointing. If only one side is firing their guns, that side gets the attention no matter how badly they’re shooting.

Don’t look now, but if you’re a conservative, the opposition is out to get you.

They’re not just out to disagree with you, impair you or defeat you – they’re actually out to get you. That’s get you as in abuse you, hurt you, destroy you, or make you go away.

Less one think that’s an overreaction, rewind the Kavanaugh hearings and Brand-X’s campaign to get him. Short of a trained sniper on a building, what haven’t they tried?

By now you’ve noticed it’s always the left claiming the right is pulling America apart with racism, sexism, hate, violence and deception. That defensive claim is called projection, and it’s an amazingly effective way to confuse people. Subterfuge at this level is an act of war – not politics.

One is reminded how the North Vietnamese notoriously exploited American TV by providing films of children “killed by American bombs.” All the while they were busy murdering children and anyone else who got in their way in South Vietnam.

The craziness is not just a Washington thing – it’s happening right here at home.

Remember Antifa – the liberal “anti-fascist” group our local daily happy faced as innocent protestors attempting to counter the excesses of the right? They were wrong – really wrong.

Right wing radicals are finding no traction within the Republican Party. We’re rejecting our extremists. In contrast, Antifa is on a hot streak of anarchistic radicalism that’s broadly endorsed by the Democratic Party.

For confirmation of Antifa’s dark heart, take a journey on the social media sites of their members and fans. It reads like the handbills of Russia’s Bolshevik revolution. Lenin would have been proud and smiled at their propensity for verbal and physical violence.

Take any organized political activity in our community where the conservative view is in play and Democrat antagonists of one flavor or another will appear. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Trump pre-election rally; a political debate; a Town Hall meeting by an elected conservative official; a meeting of a bi-partisan Board of Election; or just a guy wearing a pro-conservative T-Shirt in a downtown bar, the left’s gorilla warriors are on the scene with a license to disrupt.

This may come as a shock, but would you believe one of Asheville’s more prominent Antifa-like activists is a MAHEC-trained physician? Yep, and this person is employed locally by a tax-payer funded clinic. The mission of this inconsistent healer’s confederation is apparently to attack anyone in Asheville with the cojones to demonstrate their conservative leanings. The message is something like this, “This is our town, you don’t belong, and we have the power to make you miserable enough to where you will leave or at the very least dare not reveal yourself.

When looking at local and national liberal anarchists, one is reminded of a quote often mis-attributed to Gandhi – “First they ignore, then they mock, then they attack – then they surrender.” These folks are just arriving at the third phase and they have no plans for surrender.

Don’t mention it, but they’re doomed to failure. Enthusiasm won’t compensate for the fact it’s not possible to get to good places through bad means. Doing good in a hard world is never that easy. Unfortunately, as they rise and fall, they will take a lot of people with them.

Anarchists – in whatever form – should be readily recognized as lazy. They like short-cuts and when they run out of fuels like entitlement, victimization, self-righteousness and anger, their movements collapse.

Pay special attention to that anger thing. Notice that it’s always central to their efforts. The problem for the recipients – us – is it can lead to some temporary misery. The bigger problem for them is that it assures long-term misery. Anger is addictive and destroys the person or organization that contains it. Wherever you find lots of anger, be assured you will find lots of depression. Watch liberal activists for confirmation and don’t confuse the temporary enthusiasm of being on a stage for being happy.

Is there a counter answer to the Democratic Party’s evolution into anarchy? Sure, the normal people of America have to double down and keep doing the hard work of keeping American great. Duplicating their model is not an answer.

Allow us this opportunity to remake a point – the Republican Party remains the only organized political movement capable of countering the growing excesses of the left.

May we suggest you vote accordingly?

Evans, Ager playfully joust  in state house debate

State Rep. John Ager and challenger Amy Evans both laugh, at a light moment in their recent debate. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
Democrat N.C. State Rep. John Curtis Ager, Jr.

The Agers run fifth-generation Hickory Nut Gap Farm. Bearded UNCA alumnus John co-manages Sherrill’s Inn event venue. His wife Annie Clarke Ager is daughter of his “political hero,” the late former U.S. Rep. Jamie McClure Clarke. Clarke represented the 11th U.S. District in 1983-85 and ‘87-91, preceding Charles Taylor.

Republican Kris Alan Lindstam, a UNCA student, challenges incumbent Democrat Susan Carscaddon Fisher in the leftward District 114 dominated by Asheville. Those two were not in the forum Sept. 20. The general election is Nov. 6.

Republican state house challenger Amy Byrd Evans

Evans, who lives in Black Mountain, touts herself as a fiscal, social and constitutional conservative. She vowed that if elected she would support ongoing GOP legislative policies, such as for lower taxes and less regulation. “I want to keep on keeping on.” She said in North Carolina, for the last year and a half the economy has sizzled in an “amazing turnaround. Small businesses create the jobs, and keep our economy moving upwards.”

She is experienced in the corporate world. She was attache to the CEO and president of DuPont subsidiary Berg Electronics, Inc. She worked abroad in such cities as Paris, France, and speaks fluent French and German. She calls that chief of staff job the “most senior administrative position within the company.”

She held five similar jobs as right hand to corporate presidents in Illinois, such as for Baxter Healthcare International. She was Discover Financial Service’s assistant to the president in Chicago, earlier in this decade. Locally, she managed Tanner LLC in Black Mountain for the past four years.

Evans was among the first women to get appointed into the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. She worked as a Coast Guard oboist, after playing the obo with the Boston Symphony. She rose to become executive administrator of the academy foundation’s board that included 12 admirals, and was led by then-Treasury Sec. G. William Miller. She and her family were stationed in Germany, Japan and Hawaii while her husband was an “ambassador” of sorts for the Coast Guard.

Evans lauded state job skill training that pairs companies with community college students, to plan jobs available to them after graduation. This is as long as the students train specifically in areas of the firm’s biggest needs. They earn “technical certificates.” In this way, “we invest in the future of our young people.”

She said state policies have somewhat offset how during Barack Obama’s eight-year presidency of costly business regulations, young adults economically had “less and less opportunities” and drifted farther from realizing the “American dream” of job stability and prosperity.

On her website, Evans said she wants a “better business climate — especially for those struggling rural regions that need it the most. I will stand with our law enforcement, veterans and blue-collar workers to ensure less government regulation…”

She also stated online she is running to “fire” Ager and ensure “our mountain values have a voice in Raleigh” and one who will “fight for them, and stand up to those who oppose free capitalistic markets and fiscally-conservative business practices.” She also wants the state to help crack down on illegal immigration. She told The Tribune she declined offers of PAC donations and influence.

Another area of debate is over the state’s portion of the tax on gasoline. Evans is leery of rising taxes. She called the onslaught of regulations “fundamentally unAmerican.”

Many Democrats hope high gas taxes prompts people to switch from gasoline to electric or hybrid motors, for less emissions. Ager is for incentives for electric vehicles as part of “multi-modal transportation, especially in urban areas. He noted a legislative idea to “charge by the mile,” to afford to “maintain our large road network. We have the second most maintained roads of any state.” He supports I-26 expansion, among infrastructure upgrades.

While pro business/jobs was Evans’ mantra, Ager espoused state assistance such as in health care in the debate. Ager strongly backs expanding Medicaid from the poor to many more residents in the state. He called it “unbelievable that we haven’t done it.” He reasons that “you don’t really save money in the health care system, by not extending coverage” to more people.

But Evans was just as diligent in her opposition to “failed” government-handled insurance, at any level. She links wider Medicaid via the state with the federal Affordable Care Act that the GOP tabs as Obamacare, and chastised for resulting in higher premiums for healthier patients. “I think the Affordable Care Act is a failed policy of the previous administration” in D.C., Evans told the debate crowd. “I don’t think expanding a failed program is the answer.”

Ager pointed to need for such wider health care, also fairer districting and more “transparent” legislative activity as main needs. “We need to really conduct our business down there (Raleigh) more openly,” he said. “When the government is not trusted, you really have a hard time leading the state.”

He later explained to The Tribune that the California system he suggested for N.C. districting fills a special commission that the public applies to get on. Similar to jury selection, each political parties in the Golden State can toss out applicant finalists to lessen the panel’s partisanship.

On teacher pay, Ager ripped the state for “shortchanging our teachers and our education system.” He said, “We built the prosperity of this state on education,” which he called the “great engine” to drive careers.

He said “we’ve got to do better” for teacher pay and benefits, closer to the national average. The National Education Association last year ranked N.C. 35th in teacher pay for 2016-17, up from 41st a mere year earlier. The Tar Heel State rose from ninth to fifth among 12 Southeastern states. On his campaign website, Ager also calls for “fully funding our schools” for textbooks and other supplies.

Evans said teacher salaries have soared 19 percent in the last eight years, under mostly unified GOP state rule. When asked about allocating some of the nearly $2 billion fund balance, Evans said she is against a request of retired teachers for greater pensions. “I said ‘no.’ That’s not (an ongoing new expense what the ‘rainy day fund’ is for.” Ager said “we just had the ‘rainy day,’” with “expensive hurricane recovery.”

Regarding spending to ease class size, Evans teased Ager: “Did you vote against that, naughty boy?” She said “I’m definitely for smaller class size, if we can do that without destroying the budget” with the added expense.

Ager suggested funding a teacher aide per classroom. He said he introduced a bill requiring all private schools be “accredited, to receive a voucher. There are some pretty sketchy schools getting state money.”

Environment is among Ager’s trigger issues. “John has stood up to polluters, and opposed fracking to protect our water and air,” his website states. It describes him as a “strong, honest, thoughtful voice,” and someone “fighting for everyday people and common sense.”

When candidates could grill the opponent with a question, Ager chose the climate change which is among debates separating the two main parties. He said the Atlantic Ocean has warmed, linked that to hurricane formations and greater rain, and asked what the General Assembly should “do to mitigate the long-term consequences of climate change?” Evans sharply replied Hurricane Florence and other storms had nothing to do with global warming. She called for “preventative maintenance” spending, to help the coast better withstand hurricanes.

In turn, Evans made a comical inquiry and got Ager to grin and affirm that he indeed changed into more formal attire in a parking lot when on the go and rushing to legislative sessions.

In talking to The Tribune after the forum, Ager distinguished himself from fellow Democrat Turner on one issue. Ager noted he voted for the HB2 bill that passed, with Turner voting no. Ager called it Gov. Cooper’s compromise on the issue of gender rights.

Rep. Ager told The Tribune that Democrat leaders pushed for those in his party to fall in line for votes merely about five times in the last two years. “The pressure within the caucus is not as bad as I expected. It’s very unusual for them to say ‘we need to have a (unified) caucus position.”

The two District 115 candidates’ websites are amyevansnc.com, and electjohnager.org. For more on activities of the two main parties in Buncombe County, check buncombedems.org and buncombegop.org.

City Council: Three hours and what?



By Leslee Kulba – It is doubtful enough he-said-she-said could be extracted from the three hours of Asheville City Council meetings Tuesday to inspire advertisers to continue working with this newspaper. The evening began with the second of five budget worksessions the city will hold this cycle. One takeaway was a sense that some on council know less about the history of city government decisions than members of the public at-large. The other was that there are a whole lot of interim people holding down department leadership positions.

Interim Fire Chief Chris Budzinski led off, rehashing the data broadcast in former City Manager Gary Jackson’s white paper, that the city’s emergency service departments respond to a number of calls for service on a par with cities at least twice Asheville’s size. The department invests in certain practices that on the surface appear strange, but they are needed for it to retain its ISO certification which, in turn, reduces property insurance costs for residents. The fire department also owns a lot of expensive equipment, for incidents like swiftwater rescue and hazmat containment, that serve all of Western North Carolina, albeit rarely.

It is either (1) required by the state, OSHA, or the National Fire Protection Association; or (2) makes more sense to own it than to assemble apparatus or bring it in from Charlotte when lives are in the balance. The department stayed within its budget, for the first time in years, by managing overtime.

PR director Dawa Hitch told how the city needed to build relationships with the community. Adversely affecting those relationships were all the public forums the city has been holding without taking action on the input. Councilor Julie Mayfield suggested the city work with an organization called Democracy Is Boring. At the formal meeting, Hitch would talk about the need to respond swiftly and appropriately to crises.

Following the Johnnie Rush incident, the city has added rigidity to internal chains of communication. It is also considering contracting with a firm for crisis response, since it is generally believed the incident was seized as an opportunity to let false narratives get out of control. Councilor Vijay Kapoor asked, rhetorically, if the new guidelines included training on what is and is not appropriate for members of city council to share.

Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler asked questions during a presentation by Parks and Recreation Director Roderick Simmons to make sure the city wasn’t being complacent in accepting expenditures as the way things have always been done.

A brief history was recounted of how the city got left holding the bag for maintaining the ambitious vision of the Pack Square Conservancy. It was suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that the city fence off or stop mowing the portion of the park owned by the county. That led Mayfield to say the county could retaliate and fence off the section between first and second base the city owns in one of their parks. Mayor Esther Manheimer said there were several strange cutouts in parks owned by the city, county, and schools and once again took the opportunity to take a swat at the state legislature for not cooperating with municipal interests in establishing a Regional Parks and Recreation Authority.

While Parks & Recreation is the city’s third largest department, Manheimer said it has suffered underfunding because “basic things like childcare, afterschool, and summer camp” are viewed as less essential than public safety and infrastructure. Simmons cautioned maintenance for the RADTIP was going to introduce a major blow to his department’s budget.

During the presentation by Interim Human Resources Director Jaime Joyner, city leadership briefly discussed the benefits, in health and savings, the city is realizing through the Asheville Project. The initiative, launched in 1997 by then Risk Manager John Miall, the program caught national attention for encouraging employees to meet regularly with pharmacists to make sure they were upholding their prescribed regimens, which would be fine-tuned frequently. The ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure. For a commendable drilldown on how line items in the 2019-20 budget are shaping up, members of the public are invited to check out the hyperlinks at http://www.ashevillenc.gov/departments/finance/budget/budget_worksessions.htm.

During their formal meeting, council heard an update on how the police department was responding to the study the city commissioned to, as Chief Tammy Hooper explained it, identify and correct departmental blind spots following the Rush incident. Changes are being made to employee training and monitoring and the handling of incidents. Council also received updates on the development of plans for Tunnel Road and Burton Street. Citizens who commented hoped the latter wouldn’t be another instance of plowing a highway through an African-American community. Dewayne Barton, the author of the poem, “Dust Won’t Catch Our Dreams,” which was inspired by all the plans the city has sitting on the shelf, reiterated his thesis.