Small-town papers help knit communities together

I’m dedicating my July 4 to the courageous journalists who were murdered last week at the Capital Gazette in Maryland.

Independence Day celebrates our nation’s declaration that it would not abide by the arbitrary decrees from across an ocean by a monarch who feared putting power in the hands of his citizens. With the Declaration of Independence began the formal shaping of this nation and its ideals of freedom that are unlike those in any other country.

There’s not much room left in the gutter

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders got asked to leave a restaurant because the owner can’t stand her boss’ politics. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Neilsen was heckled at a Mexican restaurant over the administrations policy of illegal immigrant children from their parents. A Democratic lawmaker encourages those opposed to Trump policies to continue to publicly calling out Trump advisers and supporters. 

A sound decision and a wise investment

Town and counties never have enough money to provide all the services and amenities that their citizens — in a perfect world — would like. That’s an unrealistic expectation, so when local leaders do make smart investments that are somewhat unconventional, we think it’s worth noting.

The decision by the Sylva Town Board and the Jackson County commissioners to spend $250,000 each to conserve an additional 441 acres adjacent to Pinnacle Park is one of those admirable and wise expenditures. 

Something is wrong with this picture

I’ve been covering local governments in North Carolina for 30 years, and a small item in Macon County’s budget for 2018-2019 caught my attention like a flash of lightning: the public education budget is $8.5 million, or 18 percent of the total budget; the public safety budget (law enforcement and jails) is $13.9 million, or 28 percent of the county’s budget.

For decades, education and human services (DSS and health departments) have traditionally been the most expensive items for county commissioners. Now we’ve reached a point where it seems law enforcement and jails will take an equal amount or more of our local tax dollars, which inevitably means local schools will be squeezed even tighter.

If you have opinions on growth, it’s time to speak up

Fifteen or so years ago, meetings like those Monday and Tuesday night in Waynesville were all too common: private citizens who usually keep to themselves flooding a public meeting because they are worried how a particular development project will affect their lives and their communities, and they wanted to make sure their voices were heard. Large, high-end residential developments were being planned across the mountains in the early 2000s, and steep slopes, water quality, traffic, viewsheds and a concern for preserving that highly subjective “sense of place” and “quality of life” were on many minds.

Tribal Council media ban a mistake

Symbolism is often just as important as reality. The decision by the Cherokee Tribal Council to ban all media from council chambers except the tribally owned Cherokee One Feather is rife with symbolism about values and open government, and the picture it paints is not very positive. 

Specifically, the Tribal Council took direct aim at The Smoky Mountain News and our reporter Holly Kays. The Council member who made the motion to ban media asserted incorrectly that this newspaper had misquoted her. We did not misquote her, and a video of the meeting clearly shows that to be the truth. Despite that, the motion passed with just one Tribal Council member voting against it.

As Nicaragua smolders, our lives go on

We Americans are spoiled. Too often we take our way of life for granted, both the freedoms we have and the institutions that keep our democracy intact. Our republic is strong, but its survival is not a given. 

People who have traveled know that the biggest hearts beat in those who have the least. That’s a truth you’ll find throughout the world. In places where people struggle to find the day-to-day basics needed to stay alive, where scarcity is a way of life, you find friendliness and generosity in abundance.

Brunch Bill is about better business, not religion

It’s one of those issues that garner headlines and controversy but really shouldn’t.

I’m talking about the Brunch Bill, the law passed by the state legislature that allows businesses to sell alcohol starting at 10 a.m. on Sunday if they want. Many municipalities and counties around the state have supported the law, deciding to let local businesses make that decision for themselves.

‘What took you so damn long, Joyce?’

It was the shortest funeral service I’ll likely ever attend. And though there were tears and somber conversations, there were also a lot of happy, smiling people. And for good reason.

Joyce Jones — Aunt Joyce to me — passed away March 22 at 91 years old. Her husband, Uncle Robert, also 91, had died on March 4. Took her 18 days to be reunited with her man, the guy she had been married to for 74 years. A perfectly fitting end to one hell of a life together. What’s not to like about that?

Student protestors deserve gratitude

I’ve always admired those who speak out, those who have opinions and feel compelled to share them.

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