op frWith the North Carolina primary election just days away on March 15, Donald Trump continues his march toward the Republican nomination and, dare we imagine, perhaps the presidency. What was a bad joke six months ago now seems a very real possibility.

This much we know: Trump is most probably not a total racist and bigot, but he is at the very least a xenophobic jerk, he’s pompous, crass, egotistical, a comfortable liar, and more-than-a-little lewd. He seems to take real joy in constantly being disrespectful to those he is competing against and makes bizarre statements (“I love the poorly educated”) that reveal a deep obliviousness to this country’s problems.

op frSometimes I forget why I love it so much. The truth is that newspaper work is partly satisfying, partly frustrating. Just ask any of my co-workers.

Luckily, the satisfaction that comes from helping a small business gain new customers and find success, from a story well-told, and from making a small difference in the way an important issue is decided is what sticks, making up for many of the frustrations.

NorthCarolinaLargeMaybe North Carolina will be a shining star of a state working to resolve petty partisanship, and maybe it won’t. 

A three-judge federal panel ruled last week that two of the state’s congressional districts were gerrymandered, that they were unconstitutional because they were redrawn by the GOP-led legislature based on racial proportions. That, obviously, is illegal. The panel ruled that these particular districts — the 1st and 2nd — have to be redrawn, meaning other districts will also have to be change.

nc houseIt’s a fundamental question and voters will be the ultimate arbiters: is North Carolina spending adequately on education? The short answer is no, and I’ll show you why I believe that.

With Haywood County officials pondering the likely closing of Central Elementary School due to funding shortfalls, the question of the state’s commitment to education has been thrust into the spotlight. The back-and-forth has included emails and press releases from both Haywood school officials and Rep. Michelle Presnell, R-Burnsville, with our legislator stooping so far as to calling local officials “shameful” and “disingenuous.” Not quite the behavior you’d expect from a state representative, but hey, an uninformed electorate gets its just deserts.

op frThe imminent closing of Central Elementary School in Waynesville is fueling heated debate on many fronts. A small school in many ways is like a sun around which the lives of children, families, teachers, cafeteria workers and a community orbit, a center that brings purposeful togetherness to an otherwise random group of people. 

That’s the human element, and most of those in that orbit are hurting badly right now. But a school is also an arm of government that is paid for by our tax dollars. That money should be spent wisely. Central is very small and losing more students each year, the economies of scale tipping out of balance as children move to other schools, as families decide to home school or go to a charter school, as kids age up and go to middle school and fewer elementary age families move into the district.

op frFormer county commissioner, mayor and longtime Haywood County political player/observer Mary Ann Enloe was dead on in her column last week about the firing of Waynesville Town Manager Marcy Onieal (www.themountaineer.village-soup.com/p/marcy-onieal-is-a-classy-lady-who-will-be-fine-so-will-the-town): it was a bad decision by aldermen, but Waynesville and Onieal will survive this small-town political firestorm. Both have too much going for them.

op frThe idea to start handing out annual spoof awards instead of the traditional year-in-review that most newspapers do was the brainchild, as I recall, of staff writer Becky Johnson. Those who know Becky and have read our paper for a while know she’s been both an editor and reporter here at SMN, and has written many award-winning pieces.  She’s always looking for different and better ways to do things, and this idea has stuck.

op frIf there was ever a time in recent memory when Haywood County leaders and its citizens need reminding that they live in a county too large and too populous and too beautiful to be without land-use planning, it’s right now.

Just last week at a county board meeting, we learned that Jule Morrow wants to put an indoor shooting range and gun store on his property in the Francis Farm area of Haywood County. Some neighbors (who plan to attend the 9 a.m., Jan. 4, Haywood County Board meeting to voice their objections) say the range and gun store will be a blight in what for generations has been a cove of farm fields and pastures. As someone who travels that area frequently since my own home is not far away, I personally agree with those neighbors.

op frSometimes in the world of journalism, the story becomes more about the reaction than the original news event. By my estimation, that’s what’s going on right with Franklin Mayor Bob Scott and his decision to put his hand on the Constitution instead of the Bible when getting sworn in for his second term.

Scott is one of those small-town politicians who seems to come to public service naturally. He is a former alderman, has led the local chamber of commerce and the Rotary Club. He’s been a journalist and a public affairs officer who believes passionately in open government. He’s retired, but from what I’ve seen he works nearly all the time as chief cheerleader and advocate for his adopted hometown.

op frI’m not running for office and never will, but as a citizen of Haywood County and Western North Carolina and the U.S., it’s somewhat sporting to imagine what positions I would campaign on if I was running for election in one our towns or counties, hell even at the state or federal level.

It’s interesting to find out just what motivates people to put themselves out their and run for office. Today’s media — and I’m not talking about local newspapers — creates a challenging, frenzied political arena.

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