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Wednesday, 01 January 2014 00:00

2013: The year in review

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cover2013 is behind us now, and all the news reported over the last 12 months is headed for the history books or perhaps a less-lofty final resting place. But lest we all forget, here’s our annual tongue-in-cheek awards, a tribute to those who played some small part in the events that held our interest for at least a few moments during the past year. 

 

Doghouse award

This one goes to the Washington numnuts who couldn’t get their act together on a budget and caused the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway and the national forests to fold up and pull in their shingle just as the fall tourism season arrived. The national parks and forests happen to be pretty darn important drawing card for WNC’s tourism economy, and consequently pretty darn important to all the people who make a living off those tourists.

Cesspool of Sin award

Asheville might be the original cesspool of sin, an unofficial tagline the city has wittily embraced after being labeled such by a conservative state senator two years ago, but Franklin could soon be horning in on the action.

Franklin’s town leaders lifted a decades-old ban this year that outlawed the co-existence of booze and pool tables.

A 1948 law on the town’s books had declared pool and alcohol consumption mutually exclusive pastimes. Both beer and pool tables couldn’t be housed under the same roof.

The law also prohibited swearing in pool halls, as well as trap doors and hidden stairs. Pool halls couldn’t face back alleys and had to have glass windows, too. And they couldn’t be run by anyone of “immoral character” or habitual users of intoxicating liquor.

That’s all the in the past now, however, after the town board voted 5-to-1 this year to do away the restrictions on pool halls.

So look out Asheville, here comes Franklin!

By the way, Asheville owes its ‘Cesspool of Sin’ slogan to former N.C. Sen. Jim Forrester, who died in 2011 just six weeks after using the line, which is now seen around town on T-shirts and bumper stickers

Custer award

To the manager of the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway, who defied orders to close his doors during the partial government shutdown in October. His last stand was short-lived, because in just a few hours rangers showed up and told all his guests to leave and cordonned off his parking lot entrance with their vehicles.

Not easily deterred, he tried to reopen the Pisgah Inn again a few days later, and rangers were once again sent to barricade it. Manager Bruce O’Connell became the darling of the Tea Party, and a few dozen protestors showed up at the inn to support O’Connell for standing up to the federal government. He was also flown to Dallas to appear on an episode of Fox News.

The Parkway then decided to make an exception and let him reopen before the shutdown was officially lifted.

Paul Bunyan award

The Haywood County commissioners chopped down the large sugar maple trees on the lawn of the historic courthouse this year. 

cover2Commissioners complained the trees dropped dead limbs, kept grass from growing on the lawn, and obscured the stately courthouse from view. But the final death blow was an arborist’s report concluding the trees were in poor healthy and posed a risk. The loss of the beloved trees — and their shade during street festivals — was mourned by the Main Street community.

Oxymoron award

In case you hadn’t noticed, reality shows aren’t, in fact, reality. 

Nonetheless outdoor survival experts Spencer Bolejack and Eugene Runkis in Haywood County jumped at the chance to star on a reality show purportedly showing America the ingenuity of modern mountain men practicing real-world survival skills.

Soon they found themselves in front of a camera being told to feign impending doom, then use their Appalachian wit to scrape by. Like using the belt from an old truck to fix a saw mill band to split their wood just in time to keep from freezing to death come winter.

While those of us here in Haywood County know that the Dollar General in Bethel is just downstream of the scene of the life-raft episode, and that they were never really in danger of starving to death with discount soda and chips so close at hand, “Hillbilly Blood: A Hardscrabble Life” has been a hit. 

Though some are perturbed over the program’s premise and its stereotyping of locals, com’on folks, it’s television. Sit back, relax, and enjoy it for what it is.

Good Samaritan award

John Clinton Cathy, known to his friends as “Cat Hair,” told Waynesville police he was just trying to do a good deed after he was found with a homemade pipe bomb in the back of his truck.

Cathy claimed he found the pipe bomb near the Sunburst Recreation Area along the Pigeon River earlier that day. Fearing for the safety of families in the area, he had picked it up and taken it with him, intending to bring it to the sheriff’s office, but then forgot all about it.

Cathy, 37, ran in the same circles as known meth users, according to police reports. He was behaving erratically, including shaking and sweating profusely, when apprehended by police. He was charged with felony possession of a weapon of mass destruction.

“Candy” Camera award

This goes to Hugh Simpson, who reacted to statistics about obesity in Macon County by taking covert videos of people he deemed overweight going into restaurants, working on computers at the library and just going about their daily life — complete with personal commentary.

He posted the fat stalker videos on You Tube, and some went viral and attracted up to 10,000 views. Complaints poured in, prompting a call from the sheriff asking Simpson to take the videos offline. Simpson did indeed take the videos down, but claimed he was just “hoping it would be a wake-up call.”

“It’s all fun and games until …” award

To those visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park who feed the elk and otherwise try to get too close to them, which gets them acclimated to humans. Approaching or getting closer than 50 yards to the elk or other wildlife is against park rules. 

An elk who was caught on video playfully sparring with a photographer eventually had to be euthanized because it had grown accustomed to handouts — chips were apparently his Achilles’ Heel — and was thus considered dangerous to humans. 

The lesson: getting too close to the elk or feeding them may lead to the animals being killed.

A Lifetime Supply of Tide …

… goes to the town of Maggie Valley to wash all that dirty laundry.

In fact, Maggie had so much laundry to air out this year, extra clotheslines had to be strung up behind town hall.

The year got off to a bang after aldermen couldn’t agree who to appoint to an empty seat on the board. So they appointed no one, and spent the rest of the year locked in a 2-to-2 stalemate with the wheels of town governance locked up and not moving.

One meeting got so heated two men from the audience had to be separated and calmed down by the police chief and spectators. And one of the town’s most vocal critics was banished from town hall except under police escort after harassing town employees.

Another group of critics tried to get law enforcement to press criminal charges against the mayor for the unauthorized used of town letterhead.

The epitome of gridlock was when the town board was split on whether an inquisition — a verbal equivalent of a public lashing — should be launched against the mayor, allowing the public to air grievances and criticisms of him. But after the mayor refused to recuse himself from a vote on whether to stage such a crucifixion, the board tied on the matter and the issue died.

Come to think of it, we’ll throw in some Clorox action and odor elimination with that lifetime supply of Tide.

Carrot is better than the Stick award

Contractors hired to clean up a major landslide that closed U.S. 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park finished the work four weeks ahead of schedule. What, pray tell, could actually motivate road crews to finish a job early for once? The company earned a $500,000 bonus for cleaning up the debris early — a pot sweetener ponied up the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The tribe wanted to ensure the crucial route through the Smokies — and the main way into Cherokee from Tennessee — would be open by May 15, the unofficial start of the summer tourist season. 

cover5Feast or Famine award

To Mother Nature for this year’s record rainfall. Just a few short years after the entire state was mired in a drought, heavy rains began last January and lasted pretty much all year, setting records in many parts of the country. The torrential rains wreaked havoc on farmers, led to hazardous landslides, and were detrimental to the tourism industry — especially commercial rafters since rivers were too rough to run trips. However, extreme kayakers — who live for big water — were ecstatic, with some reporting waves as high as eight feet on the Nantahala River and others taking advantage of the opportunity to boat on creeks that normally don’t have enough water.

Million Dollar View award

That was the price tag on the 60-acre abandoned golf course in the small, residential community of Forest Hills. The short-lived golf course hasn’t been managed as one in more than two decades, and is now covered in overgrown bushes. The owner of the tract declared his intentions to build houses on it, but gave Forest Hills the first right of refusal.

Keeping this green space at the center of their community ultimately wasn’t worth the $1 million asking price from the developer, town residents and town leaders concluded.

“This Text’s for you, Grandpa” award

Cherokee youth are now able to text in Cherokee thanks to a mobile app that converts smart phones to communicate in the Cherokee syllabary. The efforts to save the Cherokee language have taken many paths among the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, but many believe that keeping it relevant for youth is the key to the language’s survival.

Wild Card award

Jackson County leaders say it’s impossible to know for sure how much demand there is for a liquor store in Cashiers, but they’ll soon be finding out.

Jackson County will front $200,000 in start-up costs for a new ABC store in Cashiers. The county will be paid back over time from the store’s profits — hopefully. Whether the store indeed profits depends on the volume of liquor sales, which is merely guesswork right now.

Cashiers residents and vacationers currently have to venture to Sylva or Highlands to buy liquor. The county’s new liquor store in Cashiers will no doubt siphon customers away from Sylva’s store, but it won’t be a pure boon to the county. The town of Sylva splits 50 percent of its ABC profits with the county. So the county will see its cut of revenue from Sylva decline, partially offsetting gains at its new store in Cashier.

The new ABC store is currently under construction by a private developer, who will lease it to the county for $32,000 a year.

Simon Cowell award

The “American Idol” judge who was notoriously brutal in his critiques of performers and a stickler for stage do’s and don’ts was apparently on retainer with the town of Waynesville this year.

The town rolled out a suite of rules for sidewalk performers to keep a lid on guitar-toting vagabonds crooning from the street corners. Before any crooning in public, a street performer must submit a detailed description of their act, two color headshots, go through a background check, and pay $25 for an annual license.

Oh, and they have to wear a town-issued photo ID badge while performing. And they need the blessing of merchants along the stretch of sidewalk they’re playing on.

To be clear, performers couldn’t play on the streets of Waynesville for money previously, because they fell under the same category as panhandlers in town codes.

So the new rules at least open the door for street performers, but not at the expense of offending the good graces of Waynesville’s tourists.

Only Game in Town award

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have expressed “concern” — the wording used in a press release from Chief Michell Hicks — about a pitch by the Catawba Indian tribe to stick a casino in North Carolina.

South Carolina won’t even consider the bid for a Catawba casino despite being the tribe’s primary geographic territory, so Catawba leaders started querying North Carolina lawmakers about putting their casino on this side of the stateline, namely near Kings Mountain.

Fortunately for those of us in Western North Carolina who like the jobs, tourists and economic boon that come with being the only game in town, it appears the Catawba effort is not gaining much traction.

Boehner award

While it’s not quite the federal budget impasse, a solution to Sylva’s Main Street parking conundrum is nearly as elusive as a budget deal was for House leader John Boehner.

And, kind of like the national debt, everyone agrees the diagonal parking configuration is a problem, but no one can figure out how to fix it.

Trucks, vans and SUVs often hang over the back of the diagonal spaces, their bumpers jutting into traffic lanes. And backing up from the diagonal spots into oncoming traffic takes a leap of faith.

After years of complaining about the problem, town leaders tried to tackle it this year with help from the N.C. Department of Transportation. But every solution — softening the angle of the spaces, reversing the direction of the spaces, drawing a “do-not-protrude-past” stripe across the rear of spaces, adding traffic islands, restoring two-way traffic — was like poking a balloon. Another problem just bulges up somewhere else — like sacrificing the number of spaces or causing confusion, which merchants fear could deter shoppers.

Two Cents award

The two cents of Maggie Valley moteliers derailed a two-cent increase on the overnight lodging tax — two cents that would have generated $450,000 annually to help build up Haywood County tourist attractions and venues.

Despite support from the tourism industry as a whole, a handful of Maggie motel owners campaigned against the tax. The extra two cents on the room tax would have created a funding pool for new or improved tourism amenities.

But opponents feared it might have the opposite effect — instead of building up attractions to lure tourists, the marginally higher tax rate might deter them from coming.

The same Maggie moteliers also said they would only support the tax increase if Maggie had the majority control on the committee that decides what projects got funded.

I Must be Dreaming award

Really? The highway department actually listened to the public and altered its road building plans accordingly?

Opponents of the Southern Loop in Jackson County had to pinch themselves when they heard the controversial bypass they’d been fighting for more than a decade was back-burnered this year. 

The cross-county Southern Loop was supposed to “loop” around or bypass the main commercial drag of N.C. 107 in Sylva. But it was dogged by public opposition for years, including from local elected leaders. And somehow, it finally took.

“We felt like it was the best idea to go with the wishes of the people and what they want,” Zahid Baloch, a DOT project engineer in Raleigh told The Smoky Mountain News earlier this year.

But did the daddy-knows-best Department of Transportation actually cater to public sentiment? Or did it finally realize the public was right? A DOT study concluded that the Southern Loop would not make much of a dent in congestion on N.C. 107 anyway, and money would be better spent redesigning N.C. 107 to improve traffic flow — which is exactly what the public had been saying for the past decade.

Ringer award

The beloved musical sons of Western North Carolina, Balsam Range, keep on climbing.

They won the 2013 International Bluegrass Music Association award for “Album of the Year” for their 2012 release “PAPERTOWN” — an enormous honor in the music industry. Their unique and cherished blend of mountain music, bluegrass, folk and gospel has landed them in the limelight. But they’ve been steadfast in staying true to their roots, lending their talents generously to local street festivals, shindigs and charity benefits.

Energizer Bunny award

He just kept going, and going, and going … downtown Waynesville merchants and shoppers were shocked, astounded and perplexed when the quaint downtown sidewalks fell victim to a slap-happy spray-paint job by a utility marker.

A pair of double orange lines marred up the lovely brick sidewalks throughout four blocks of downtown, including a portion of Main Street. Their origin was a mystery and the source of many rumors for days until The Smoky Mountain News tracked down who made them.

The overzealous marking job was the work of a telecommunications contractor. But the blame also rests with an environmental groundwater contractor who was digging a test well and called in an unusually wide berth of utility markings in a two-block radius around the one spot where digging was actually going to occur.

The paint is supposed to wear off after a few months, but seven months later, the remnants, while faded and muted, are still visible.

Get Out of Jail Free award

The sweepstakes machine industry must have an unlimited supply of these, and they stand to make a might bit more than $200 each time they pass ‘Go.’

Sweepstakes are somehow back in the game despite being outlawed, more than once, by the General Assembly and N.C. Supreme Court.

Lawmen pulled the plug on sweepstakes-style video gambling machines in the first part of the year, but they soon cropped back up in the corners of gas stations, openly flaunting the bans against them.

When local cops dutifully enforced the state’s sweepstakes ban by arresting the defiant operators, the police unwittingly served up just what the industry wanted: a day in court to make a renewed pitch for why the latest incarnation of their electronic betting machines were exempt from the standing ban.

Another day, another loophole, 

Monty Hall award

Jackson County commissioners could have used this guy in their corner when trying to hammer out a deal with the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. The original host of the “Let’s Make a Deal” game show was famous for derailing players with the allure of mystery prizes behind hidden doors that turned out to be worthless “zonks.”

That’s the conundrum Jackson County leaders faced when deciding whether to give the railroad $750,000 in exchange for the promise of prosperity in Dillsboro.

Dillsboro merchants clamored for the county to come up with the dough in hopes of reviving its train tourist traffic. Dillsboro, once the hub of the railroad, was left high and dry by the train when it relocated its main operation to Bryson City several years ago. The train disembarks in Dillsboro only occasionally these days for short layovers.

But skeptics questioned whether the railroad would live up to its end of the deal, or whether the $750,000 could be better spent on another economic development initiative.

For now, county commissioners have declined to “make a deal” with the train, but the heat is still on from train supporters.

Dark Horse award

When it comes to courting the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, Jackson County may have been first out of the gate, but Swain County was first across the finish line.

Swain came out of nowhere with a wheelbarrow of cash to help the tourist rail line restore an old steam locomotive. Jackson tourism interests had been mulling the very same idea — with vigorous debate on both sides — for more than a year, but never inked a deal.

Swain tourism leaders are banking on the restored steam engine — compared to the all-diesel fleet the train runs now — to bring even more riders pouring through Bryson City, the current hub for the railroad. Swain ponied up $600,000 to land the steam engine, to be paid for out of tourism tax dollars on overnight lodging.

Celebrating Our “Outdoor Soul” Award

To all the organizers and participants in the International Canoe Federation’s Freestyle World Championships, which were held in the Nantahala Gorge in September. The event brought hundreds of athletes to Western North Carolina and the competitions were streamed live around the world. ICF President Lluis Rabaneda of Spain told a reporter just before opening ceremonies that “the Nantahala River has that outdoor soul, which is what we love ….” That’s what a lot of people who live around here also love.

Full Circle award

Sylva Mayor Maurice Moody had already taken his pictures off the wall of his office in town hall in preparation of turning over the gavel to incoming mayor-elect Chris Matheson.

But the changing of the guard never came to pass. At Matheson’s swearing-in ceremony, she handed the gavel right back to Moody.

Matheson decided at the 11th hour to take a job as an assistant district attorney. It’s a state job, and state law prohibits state employees from holding elected offices.

Moody had intended to step down — he chose not to run for the seat again this year — but he agreed to resume the mayor’s post for another two years with the endorsement of the rest of the town board.

Comeback kid award

Phyllis McClure had barely blown out the candles on her retirement cake before she was called back to duty as Waynesville’s town clerk once more.

For 22 years, McClure had kept the gears of the town humming, making her the longest serving town clerk. Her record to beat will now be 23 years, however, after resuming the most this winter after just a month of short-lived retirement. The town had a replacement for McClure lined up, but that person ended up moving away, so McClure agreed to come back and pinch hit, and now a year later, is finally ready to make her second exit with a replacement once again lined up.

Nicknamed Mayor Phyllis, The Smoky Mountain News gave her a send-off article early in the year, quoting Mayor Gavin Brown as saying, “We were fortunate to have her for as long as we did.”

Little did he know, they would have her a while longer yet.

Mending Wall award

The famous poem by Robert Frost ponders the adage that “Good fences make good neighbors,” but when it comes to keeping Jackson County on its side of the fence, Macon County isn’t taking any chances.

Macon County commissioners called in the N.C. Geodetic Survey to do an official boundary line survey between the two counties. Where the exact boundary line falls is apparently murky in a few spots, particularly along the ridgeline separating the Cashiers and Highlands areas. 

Jackson County commissioner Doug Cody — like Frost in his poem “Mending Wall” — questioned whether the time, money and effort is worth it. Only a handful of properties are likely to switch county allegiances to — and thus which county they have to pay property taxes in. But from either the county’s standpoint, it would likely be a wash. And from the property owners’ standpoint, too, since the tax rate in both counties is almost identical.

Cody said the mapping employees in both counties have done just fine in the past putting their heads together to sort it out.

But Macon Commissioner Jimmy Tate, a champion of good walls between neighbors, wanted an objective and definitive survey once and for all.

Architect of the Brink award

To Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Cashiers, our congressman, who earned the “architect of the brink” moniker from CNN for his role in the October government shutdown.

Meadows, a freshman, wrote a letter in August to fellow GOP members of Congress asking them to tie funding the federal government to defunding Obamacare. Seventy-nine other congressmen signed on, and the House and Senate leadership were at loggerheads on a budget for almost three weeks as government operations shut down. Jane Bilello, head of the Asheville tea party, proclaimed to media inquiring about Meadows that he was “turning out to be our poster boy.”

Meadows, however, downplayed his role in the shutdown and said that was never his intention, claiming the media hyped his actual role in it.

One Size Fits All award

Is it bumper sticker-worthy? That was the question that finally tipped the scales for the winning slogan “Play On” in the quest for a brand that captures the essence of Jackson County.

“Play On” is a theme tourists of all persuasions can hopefully identify with, from country club golfers to white-water paddlers, from golden-year retirees to adventuresome families, from casino gamblers to trophy fly-fishermen.

Jackson’s new tourism authority hired a branding firm for $50,000 to capture in a single phrase what about Jackson County appeals to tourists. The creation of the ‘Play On’ slogan was the first step in a crafting a cohesive tourism marketing message for the county.

When It Rains It Pours award

Nothing says “fun” like standing around in a field with 300 other people drinking beer in the middle of the day — except of course when the sky opens up and there’s no shelter to be had. Now that’s some good times.

cover3The deluge that defined the sold-out, inaugural Waynesville Craft Beer Festival quickly weeded out the fair-weather beer drinkers, leaving more to go around for the hardy and dedicated. Spirits weren’t dampened by the rain pouring from the sky, however, thanks to the brews pouring from the taps of a dozen microbreweries from across WNC.

In fact, the downpour brought the crowd together, literally, as they crammed under the tents of the microbrewers, cheek to jowl with the kegs to keep out of the rain.

Two is Better Than One award

Western Carolina University football fans have learned to relish the positive when it comes around, however small or fleeting.

Coach Mark Speir posted only one win against Mars Hill his first year on the job in 2012. This year, WCU once again took down Mars Hill, but also beat Elon during the WCU Homecoming. It’s a 200 percent improvement on the team’s record when Speir took over. So, maybe finally, “The Legacy Starts Now” is beginning to take shape. Onward to three in the win column for 2014.

William Faulkner’s “The past is never dead. It’s not even past” award 

To Paula Dean and the controversy over her admitted use of racial slurs. Once she admitted to an interviewer that she had used the “N” word, “Yes, of course … (but) it’s been a very long time,” Dean had a precipitous fall from grace. The fall included getting the boot from Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, where the Paul Dean’s Kitchen restaurant was promptly scrubbed and rebranded with a new restaurant in its place.

Perhaps if the Southern icon had heeded the words of the famous Southern author, she would have known better than to admit having ever used the word, or to think that the past was indeed past.

Double Down award

The Eastern Band of Cherokee have shored up plans to open a second, smaller casino on satellite tribal land near Murphy. Tribal leaders say the casino will help provide jobs for ECBI members who live in the area, which is more than an hour from Cherokee. And it will help the tribe tap new markets they aren’t able to lure all the way to their main property in Cherokee. Construction has begun on the $110 million project, which could open by the spring of 2015.

“If you do something stupid, it will show up on the internet” award

To at least nine students at Swain County High School who were suspended last winter after videos of their “fight club” went viral, showing the ninth-graders boxing in the locker room when they were supposed to be changing clothes for PE class.

One mom told WLOS that the whole incident was blown out of proportion and it was just boys being boys. It was never revealed if any teachers know about the roughhousing but didn’t do anything to stop it. At least one student did tell the TV station that a teacher knew, but told them not to make videos. Guess they weren’t listening.

DB Cooper award

The Haywood County Republican Party got hijacked this year by far-right conservative purists, and just like the saga of Cooper’s great mid-flight heist, no one knows just where this story will end up.

The party clearly erred by letting everyone on board, and now can’t figure out just how to eject the trouble makers.

Will the hijackers be the root of their own demise, or walk with the gold — in this case having their very own political party at their disposal?

Longwinded award

How many Methodist preachers does it take to arrive at a consensus on the future of Lake Junaluska?

The answer remains elusive, thanks to the uncanny ability of Methodist preachers to keep talking, and talking, and talking.

The year-long debate over whether Lake Junaluska should merge with the town of Waynesville was marked by some of the most poignant, eloquent, nostalgic — and lengthy — public hearings that ever been held in Haywood County.

The polite decorum of the Methodist ministers who populate Junaluska in extraordinary numbers ensured that everyone was allowed to say their piece, however long it took.

While there was a majority opinion favoring a merger, it stopped short of a consensus, delaying further action until next year. 

Matt Kenseth award

He was so close to pulling off the NASCAR title this year, but came in second place after bombing out in one of the key Sprint Cup races of the season.

That’s something Macon County Sheriff’s Deputy Jonathan Phillips could probably relate to.

Phillips came out of the gate strong, and hung in for a while, but was left in the dust by a 23-year-old on a yellow Suzuki motorcycle who had the audacity to flee as Phillips tried to pull him over.

At one point Phillip’s clocked the biker at 124 miles per hour — just before he lost sight of him. Two other officers picked up the chase where Phillips left off.

Eventually, with two cops on his tail, the man crashed his motorcycle in a field, uninjured.

It’s puzzling what made David Ridao flee in the first place when Phillips tried to pull him that day for a simple speeding ticket — Ridao was going 74 in a 55, which rather shortly became the least of Ridao’s concerns.

Ridao had no outstanding warrants, wasn’t suspected of anything, and had an almost non-existent rap sheet.

The only crimes he was guilty of were the charges he racked up in the process of running from cops. Oh, and having a concealed weapon — which is child’s play compared to the charges he ended up with for fleeing.

Deepwater Horizon award

Like the oil leak that just wouldn’t quit, the ongoing saga of Cherokee bear zoos has been parked in the public limelight for years with no signs of abating — at least not until the animal rights activists get their way.

cover4Two bear zoos that kept bears in barren concrete pits for tourists to gawk at have been incessantly hammered by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. 

They picketed, sought face time with tribal leaders, put up billboards, mounted negative PR campaigns — even went undercover and got a job at one of the bear zoos, capturing video footage behind-the-scenes with hidden cameras.

The pressure tactics are starting to pay-off. One of the bear zoos closed due to persistent federal violations, and the bears were relocated to a sanctuary out West thanks to an anonymous donor.

Now their sights have turned on the remaining bear zoo, with not one but two federal lawsuits targeting its operation and petition federal inspectors to shut the second bear zoo as well.

Some Cherokee tribal members have gotten in on the action, signing on to one of the lawsuits, and petitioning tribal council to intervene by shutting down the zoo.

The campaign against bear zoos has attempted to smear Cherokee for allowing the bear pits in its midst. Ask BP, there’s only one way out of this PR nightmare.

“Here We Stand” Award

To the Moral Monday protestors in Raleigh and throughout the state. Their actions weren’t exactly as transformational as the words spoken by Martin Luther that helped spark the Protestant Reformation, but those taking part were in many cases no less outraged at the status quo. The protestors showed up every week at the General Assembly to condemn actions taken by the GOP leadership that they believed hurt the poor, the elderly, the unemployed and children. Many taking part were arrested, but most were so outraged by the legislature’s actions that they gladly paid their fines and kept showing up.

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