Cory Vaillancourt

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Members of several progressive groups concerned over the moral and monetary implications of Affordable Care Act repeal in rural Western North Carolina say that although their congressman isn’t listening to them now, maybe he’ll hear them in 2018.

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A powerful Republican Congressman who also serves as the leader of his party’s most conservative faction now has his first challenger for reelection in 2018.

As first reported in the Smoky Mountain News April 12, Asheville Democrat Matt Coffay will challenge Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, for North Carolina’s 11th congressional district seat.

Meadows, chairman of the powerful House Freedom Caucus that singlehandedly derailed President Donald Trump’s Obamacare replacement plan back in March, was first elected in 2012 by a 57-43 percent margin.

Since then, he’s faced increasingly token opposition and widened his margin to 63 percent in 2014 and 64 percent in 2016.

Meadows spent $5.75 per vote in 2012 on donations of $1.1 million, but spent just $332,000 to defeat Rick Bryson, D-Bryson City, in 2016.

Coffay – who’s website just went live – is expected to formally announce his candidacy at a 3 p.m. rally today that is sponsored by a coalition of left-leaning groups from throughout the 11th district, including Progressive Nation WNC.

Not much is yet publicly known about Coffay, as his website and Facebook pages don’t yet contain much information about his background, or his positions.

His personal Facebook page says he has a degree in Philosophy from The University of North Carolina-Asheville, and lists his workplace as The National Young Farmers Coalition. His website says that he’s running because “it's time for change, and Western NC needs new leadership.”

He goes on to promise “the biggest grassroots campaign that NC-11 has ever seen.”

One of the main challenges Coffay’s grassroots campaign will face is an increasingly popular opponent who has become the face of the fiscal conservative movement.

Meadows regularly appears in the national media and is an important figure in the House of Representatives, where he holds sway over a conservative bloc of 30 to 40 other representatives from across the country.

Check back for more information on this developing story in our next issue, due on stands April 26.

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Canton’s search for a new town manager took about an hour.

“We’ve sent a clear signal to the town and the region that we’re keeping things moving,” said Alderman Zeb Smathers of the board’s unanimous decision to tap Assistant Town Manager and Economic Development Director Jason Burrell as Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss’ replacement.

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A Waynesville-based regional social services agency will finally get that new building its been after.

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Parking may get easier and safer for Junaluska Elementary School parents if a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Bryson City, makes it through committee.

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The straightforward Russ Gilliland is a fifth-generation Haywood County resident, but his path to becoming Maggie Valley’s newest police chief has been anything but.

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A new program by the Town of Maggie Valley offers citizens a candid look at what the town does, how it does it and how it pays for it.

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A “Mark Meadows Town Hall” meeting on health care in Waynesville April 23 doesn’t promise U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows will be there, but it does promise that an unnamed Democratic challenger will be. But who is it?

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North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, is known as a staunch fiscal conservative, opposing expansive federal fiscal policy set forth by his Democratic colleagues — except when it comes to his own district.

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“More for less” — that’s the message Western North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows, R-Asheville, is trying to send to Congress and President Donald Trump about the Affordable Care Act.

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UPDATE:  House Speaker Tim Moore has said the “Uphold Historic Marriage Act” will not be heard in the North Carolina House of Representatives because of "constitutional concerns,” according to WNCN.  

The enumerated powers of the federal government do not include the authority or power to establish laws concerning marriage; further, God says in Genesis 2:24 that "a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh."

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Residents of Haywood County stand to save at least $1 million a year if relaxed emissions standards become law — and there’s a good chance they will. 

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Widespread inequality in the rates Haywood County residents pay for fire protection is about to come to an end.

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Cultural bias and conflict aren’t new to Western North Carolina; chattel slavery and Cherokee removal still leave a deep and painful legacy for many in the region — something Folkmoot’s Cultural Conversations program seeks to remedy. 

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Cycling enthusiasts who want to help steer the direction of Canton’s proposed Comprehensive Bicyclist and Pedestrian Plan may want to roll on in to The Colonial Theater to have their say.

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After expressing his outrage early last month over a bill that would make school board elections partisan in Haywood County, Chairman Chuck Francis and the Haywood County School Board have formally spoken out against it.

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An admittedly imperfect compromise that could end the tempest of controversy surrounding North Carolina’s HB2 has been reached, but not everybody’s seeing rainbows after the storm.

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Renewed concerns about the local impact of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts and his attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act could affect some of Haywood County’s neediest — and smallest — residents.

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Hundreds, if not thousands of “civic ambassador” programs begin each month in cities and counties across the nation, including in Haywood County, where the Chamber of Commerce’s eight-session Leadership Haywood program yearly produces a dozen or more “civic ambassadors” armed with firsthand knowledge of how all sectors of the community might work together in harmony.

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A small assortment of businesses in the 400 block of Hazelwood Avenue have been flourishing of late despite suffering through decades of decline, but an expanded parking lot may just be the key to increased prosperity in the once heavily industrialized area.

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Smaller cities and counties with smaller tax bases can’t always afford the capital expenses of their wealthier neighbors — it’s a simple fact of life for rural Appalachian governments that often have to do without the luxuries afforded to the better-off.

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A variety of law enforcement agencies serve the 60,000 residents speckled about the 555 square miles of Haywood County, and although they all practice varying degrees of camera system usage, they all seem to share similar concerns about costs and benefits.

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As the digital revolution proceeds unabated and technology exponentially shrinks in size and cost, law enforcement agencies have more tools in and on their trunks than ever before. 

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Republicans under President Barack Obama voted more than 40 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act with no luck. Now, with the White House, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate all firmly in Republican control — and even a pending Supreme Court majority — the party of opposition has become the party of proposition, but their proposition to repeal and replace the controversial universal healthcare system has been derailed by members of their own party.

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Many rural Americans who voted for Donald Trump last November did so based on his promise to cut the federal deficit and rein in spending. When he announced his preliminary budget proposal March 16, however, Democrats and Republicans alike were shocked at the extent of proposed cuts to programs that serve some of the nation’s poorest rural communities.

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The sudden but amicable resignation of Canton Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss came as a surprise to many, but as the shock wears off, at least one town official is hoping to maintain momentum and replace him in a timely manner. 

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High atop a knobby bald in central Haywood County sits lonely Dix Hill Cemetery, just yards from Jones Temple AME Zion Church in the heart of Waynesville’s historically African-American Pigeon Street community.

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From frost-churned fields on steep hills above shadow-soaked coves spring mossy fieldstones, hopelessly eroded and only becoming more so, season by season.

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Arriving in Waynesville shortly before last year’s Folkmoot Friendship Festival, I like many who’d come before me had no idea what it was.

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The Town of Waynesville will soon build a very special playground, thanks to a successful Connect N.C. bond application made last fall.

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While most people agree that the $18 million Russ Avenue widening project in Waynesville is much-needed and long overdue, the long and winding road to groundbreaking has thus far been a rough one, even though construction won’t get a green light until at least 2022.

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Tensions between Haywood County and a state legislator are on the rise as commissioners called her out at a recent meeting for yet again obstructing a request for legislation that has overwhelming local bipartisan support. 

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The strange saga of Haywood County Tax Collector Mike Matthews isn’t over, but for the moment the spotlight is back on the Haywood County Board of County Commissioners.

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A bill set to make school board elections partisan in Haywood County took current school board members — including the chairman — completely by surprise and has so far earned poor marks from a majority of the board.

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After scrambling to cut $2.4 million from last year’s budget, the Haywood County School Board has weathered the storm and presented a proposed 2017-18 budget that is significantly sunnier than in years past, but still sees storm clouds looming on the horizon.

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A message sent by opponents of the Russ Avenue widening project’s Walnut Street segment appears to have been received loud and clear by state transportation officials.

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A lot is going right in Canton these days, but a driver going left — right into a downtown building — hasn’t dampened downtown’s bustling mood.

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Canton is the archetype of a small southern mill village: the river running through it helps churn the gears of industry while shaded streets host quaint homes where generations of Cantonians have embraced the red, white and blue-collar culture typical of many Western North Carolina towns.

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A collaborative program designed to help students overcome the familial, financial and social obstructions of attending college lacks room to grow and is chronically underfunded, which may hamper efforts to serve more of the county’s most promising students.

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A new park in Waynesville’s Pigeon Street community can finally move forward thanks to an agreement reached between Haywood County and the town of Waynesville.

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Canton native William McDowell and his wife, celebrity songstress Gladys Knight, have big plans for McDowell’s old alma mater, Reynolds High School.

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A dilapidated segregation-era high school in Canton purchased by a former student will become a $5 million community center by 2019 if the Reynolds High School Community Foundation meets its fundraising goals. 

SEE ALSO: Q&A: Reynolds Community Center to be a ‘safe haven’Reynolds Community Center to be a ‘safe haven’

Entrepreneur and Canton native William McDowell — married to Motown legend Gladys Knight since 2001 — purchased the 20,000 square-foot building and adjoining 6.5 acres at auction for $80,000 in 2013, and judging from what they want to do with it, they’ll need every inch.

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Special recognition could be coming to an overlooked quarter of Waynesville if a recently submitted grant application receives funding.

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Standing in the parking lot of the Jones Temple AME Zion Church on Pigeon Street in Waynesville, Phillip Gibbs doesn’t look 71 years old.

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The Haywood County Board of Education and local attorney Mark R. Melrose have agreed to a settlement that brings an end to his lawsuit over the shuttering of a Waynesville school that left parents shocked and some students in tears.

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A 2012 change to a law that lays out requirements for yearly school calendars has the Haywood County School Board weighing the pros and cons of switching from a daily to hourly format. 

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Canton officials and town staff met for four hours Feb. 16 to discuss achievements and goals, but will have to spend even more time discussing revenues and expenditures.

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The rift between Haywood County commissioners and the last remaining elected tax collector in North Carolina — Mike Matthews — got a little deeper Feb. 20 when commissioners passed a resolution calling for an end to the practice of electing the position.

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Budgeting for the 2017-18 fiscal year is underway across the state, but in Haywood County, a decrease in property tax value makes this year’s process more bitter than sweet.

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Haywood County Commissioners are locked in an increasingly bitter power struggle with elected Tax Collector Mike Matthews over his job performance and work habits, and there doesn’t appear to be any easy resolution to the festering dispute.

SEE ALSO: 
• Unfair collection practices in tax collector’s office?
• Comparing tax collections under Francis, Matthews
• Public comment session at next commission meeting

Matthews, a Republican who has been a lightning rod of controversy since taking office in December 2014, is the only elected tax collector in North Carolina. 

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