We drove through the small town of Clyde on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 11, right in the midst of the commemoration for the 9/11 attacks. Patriotic music was playing while firemen and law enforcement officials were at attention. Unsurpri-singly, I caught myself choking up a bit.

Similar celebrations were happening across the country, people recalling the countless acts of selfless heroism that were on display that day 15 years ago and the senselessness of the terrorist crimes that at the time were so new to most Americans.

When we got out of the car on Sunday at the parking area in Jackson County at the end of Fisher Creek Road, it was cool, perhaps high 60s or low 70s. Fall is coming, I thought. Despite the favorable temperatures, the walk up the trail toward Black Rock and Pinnacle Peak soon had all of us bathed in sweat, feeling winded and wonderful at the same time.

I’d been on the trail before. That was on a cold April morning a few years back as a pack of crazy trail runners took part in the annual Assault on Black Rock race. The sheer exhaustion I suffered during that run erased any real memory of the trail, and so this time it might as well have been my first time maneuvering up the rocky path.

If you don’t think there is an affordable housing problem in the mountain region, you’re just not paying attention.

In last week’s cover story in The Smoky Mountain News (www.smokymountainnews.com/news/item/18291) and in a subsequent story in this week’s edition, we looked into several issues related to affordable housing. But it’s the simple numbers concerning income and pricing that tell the story in the most easy-to-understand terms.

Let’s be completely honest: the Haywood County School Board’s long-time practice of recording its work sessions makes it one of the most transparent elected boards in the region. No other boards in Haywood County do the same, and I’m betting not many in the entire state record work sessions. For that, the school board should be commended.

So when School Board Chairman Chuck Francis announced Aug. 4 that the board would stop recording those sessions, many of us who argue for open government were incensed. When a board embraces openness, going backwards seems much worse and more suspicious. Because every presidential candidate since Richard Nixon in the early 1970s has released their tax returns, Donald Trump’s refusal to do so arouses suspicion.

North Carolinians can debate whether a few of the controversial laws enacted by the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly and supported by Gov. Pat McCrory are unconstitutional or not, but it seems the courts are leaning toward striking them down. 

More importantly, perhaps, are that the legal challenges keep landing Democratic gubernatorial candidate and state Attorney General Roy Cooper on the front pages of many of the state’s newspapers. Indeed, the controversy over these laws may just help Cooper unseat McCrory from the governor’s office, which would be a positive step for North Carolina.

When the back-to-back national political conventions finally ended, it was like a benevolent deity had provided a merciful pardon, finally allowing me to move away from the television and get on with my life. Those two weeks are one of the few times when I tend to watch way too much TV.

But as we prepare for the start of school, my wife (a teacher) and I have discussed a couple of times the comments by Donald Trump Jr. at the GOP event regarding teachers. In case you forgot or missed them, here’s what Junior — educated exclusively in private schools — had to say:

When Christopher Holt contacted me in March about a trip he was about to embark on to Cuba, I was fascinated. 

Holt is a painter, and in recent years he has built part of his career around traveling to distant places — Egypt, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, to name a few — and doing plein air work, meeting people through his painting, and then trying to make a living off those works when he returns to Western North Carolina.

I hope the lawsuit by Mark Melrose against the Haywood County School System has its day in court, and was gratified last week when a judge did not stop it from proceeding.

Melrose — whose daughter was a student at Central Elementary School — has sued the school system over its decision to close the school. Judge Joe Crosswhite immediately snuffed the effort by Melrose to keep the school open through an injunction, but at this point the remainder of the suit is going forward.

Amidst a raucous crowd of nearly 600 runners — and probably just as many spectators — a couple of Saturday nights ago at the start of a race at Highlands Brewing in Asheville, I noticed quite a few people with phones taking videos.

And before I could tell myself not to go there, before I could steel myself so as not to give in to the state of paranoia that I suspect many are feeling, my mind ran away to the cell phone video of the St. Paul shooting victim by his girlfriend, to the cell phone videos of the protestors fleeing for their lives in Dallas after a gunman opened up on police, to the flood of mass shootings and police assassinations, and then I was scanning the ground around me for unattended bags, found myself eyeing spectators for anyone who seemed out of place and not into the party-like atmosphere of the moment.

op frTuition just got significantly cheaper at Western Carolina University, and as long as the legislature keeps its promises to fill in the gap, then this is a huge win for North Carolina families, our university and the region.

The North Carolina Promise Tuition Plan caps tuition at WCU, Elizabeth City State and Pembroke at $500 per semester. It doesn’t cap fees, meals and housing, but total cost for a year (two semesters) for those living on-campus at WCU will drop from $17,600 to $14,600.

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