coverMore than 10 million people now have health care coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, and Swain County residents benefited from the new law more than any other county in North Carolina. 

According to data released by Enroll America, a nonprofit with the goal of maximizing the number of Americans enrolled in health coverage, the percentage of uninsured residents in Swain County decreased from 25 percent in 2013 to 14 percent in 2014.

op canaryBy Thomas Crowe • Guest Columnist

In case you didn't know it, right here in our midst we have a gem of an organization — an organization that has been fighting for clean air and water for all of us here in Western North Carolina since 1999.

As a founding board member, while I know that many folks have probably heard of the Canary Coalition (think “canary in the coal mine”), there are many that may not be aware of what it does to raise public consciousness about environmental issues and to influence public policy related to these issues.

out frWhen the North Carolina Audubon Society announced its campaign to install 10,000 small-holed bird boxes to bolster the population of brown-headed nuthatches, Russ Regnery was intrigued. But, like many environmental issues coming down from Raleigh, the plight of the little songbird had little relevance in the mountains. The birds just don’t live much above 2,000 feet. 

“We kind of felt left out because we didn’t have the bird,” said Regnery, president of the Highlands Plateau Audubon Society. “Then we started thinking, ‘Well shucks, the same principal may apply to other small cavity-nesting birds as well.”

Stories from the 2014 midterm election:

Hicks: Getting off the sidelines

Dean Hicks is still a coach at heart. 

“I’m an old coach, I don’t want to be average,” Hicks said. “No coach could settle for average, and I don’t think North Carolina should either.”

Election season is winding down to the finish line and both candidates in the N.C. House’s 119th District race are eyeing Raleigh. Challenger Mike Clampitt and incumbent Rep. Joe Sam Queen, D-Waynesville, have been here before. They went up against each other in 2012 and both are back for more. 

The campaign season — even these last frenzied weeks — suit Queen just fine. He loves the ballgames, homecomings and festivals. 

fr classwarfareTax reform was one of the top issues tackled by the new Republican majority in Raleigh last year, but voters hitting the polls this election season don’t yet know whether they’ve come out ahead or behind, since the changes don’t come into play until next April’s tax returns.

coverNorth Carolina has rarely seen an election where the candidates matter so little, but who wins matters so much.

This year it’s not about the names on the ballot. Those are mere window dressing. Their alma matter, their church, their IQ, their gender, their profession, their hometown — things voters might have cared about in the past — have fallen by the wayside, too. Even the last-minute, slick campaign ads will likely be futile in budging voters to their side of the fence.

fr samesexJamie Kemper knew it’d happen. She just didn’t think it’d happen this quickly.

“We thought it’d be a few years,” Kemper said. 

op educationBy Jim Hunt • Guest Columnist

Earlier this year, I called for a state commitment to raise teacher pay to the national average in the next four years. It was a bold proposal, but that’s what leaders do. Since that time, teachers got a raise, but what they didn’t get was a commitment. State lawmakers need to go back to the drawing board if they are going to show teachers that they are valued.

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