Cory Vaillancourt

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Trends in several key coronavirus metrics are stabilizing or declining, leading North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to let up on some restrictions that have been in place for months.

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The faces of more than 2,000 overdose victims – many from North Carolina, and some from Haywood County – will be on display this coming Monday, in commemoration of International Overdose Day.

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President Donald Trump made an appearance in Mills River on Monday, touting a food program designed to reduce food insecurity and retain jobs in North Carolina’s critically important agriculture sector. 

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Even Hollywood screenwriters would be hard-pressed to craft a more quintessentially American story.

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While the big news out of the Democratic National Convention thus far may be the formal nomination of Joe Biden last night, former NC11 Democratic Congressman Heath Shuler — who held the seat before Rep. Mark Meadows — wants Western North Carolina to know that there’s big news coming tonight as well.

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Acclaimed Appalachian writer and poet Ron Rash has made a substantial impact on American literature during his three-decade career, but one of his most enduring legacies may be the influence he’s had on a whole crop of younger writers, like Jackson County author David Joy.

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The Coronavirus Pandemic may have left plans for Canton’s historic Labor Day festival up in the air, but a new idea launched by town officials Aug. 13 means things are looking up. 

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The window for the public to provide input on an important planning document is drawing to a close, but given the initial response to the Waynesville 2035 plan, there may not be much more to say. 

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Rallies expressing support for law enforcement officers and agencies are starting to become commonplace in Western North Carolina, but as the election draws near, Republican candidates are asserting more and more ownership of the “back the badge” movement. 

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Republican Madison Cawthorn and Democrat Moe Davis, candidates for the North Carolina congressional seat left vacant by White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, have both agreed to appear at a two-day joint forum hosted by three of the district’s largest media outlets.

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An Aug. 13 Instagram post alleges improper behavior by North Carolina Republican congressional candidate Madison Cawthorn during a date six years ago, and although Cawthorn acknowledges the incident and that his actions were inappropriate, he says his accuser is being used by Democrats as an election-year tool.

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It’s been almost exactly 100 years since the 19th Amendment — often called the Anthony Amendment — was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920.

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When the United States Constitution was adopted in 1787, left to the states was the power to determine who should be allowed to vote in elections. While several states indeed permitted some women to vote in various elections, the right of suffrage was far from universal. 

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Although the seven-day rolling average of positive COVID-19 tests continues to trend downwards across the state of North Carolina, western counties are beginning to see huge upticks in both cases and deaths. 

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After more than two years of planning and public presentations the Town of Waynesville’s new comprehensive land use plan is ready for a vote by aldermen, but not before a final pair of public hearings.

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As the largest North Carolina town west of Asheville, Waynesville often sets the bar for how other municipal governments handle issues of governance. Although it’s among the worst in terms of gender balance in the workplace, Waynesville’s leaders are now attempting to set an example of how to deal with it. 

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From the very birth of this nation, the words “All men are created equal” never really meant all men, and it certainly didn’t mean women. 

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The Aug. 1 Black Lives Matter demonstration in Maggie Valley may have been bigger and louder than its predecessor on July 18, but it was also something else — safer.

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Some new rules will be in place for all future protest activity in Maggie Valley after the town’s board unanimously approved an ordinance meant to minimize what Mayor Mike Eveland called “chaotic and grossly confrontational encounters” that took place at a previous demonstration.

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As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues to grow in both size and scope, educators across the country and the state have had to make some difficult decisions on how to proceed. When the Haywood County Schools Board of Education got their chance to weigh in on July 22, the board approved a “cautious” plan intended to slowly transition from remote-only to in-person learning over a period of weeks. 

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A rally hosted by Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland in downtown Franklin July 25 drew hundreds of law enforcement officers and spectators as well as a who’s who of Western North Carolina elected officials and candidates, all with one simple message: “We’ve got your back.”

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Despite seemingly doing everything right, a long-term care facility in Haywood County is now reporting 36 cases of COVID-19, spread among residents and staff. 

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Two congressional candidates vying to represent a district where one municipality has already passed a resolution exploring reparations for its Black community each hold radically different views on the controversial topic, and they’ve both come out swinging — foreshadowing what’s likely to be a bitter and hard-fought campaign this fall.

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In response to an adversarial demonstration that took place on July 18 and in anticipation of a repeat on Aug. 1, the Town of Maggie Valley has scheduled a special called meeting for July 30 to discuss a newly-proposed protest ordinance.

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After being temporarily relieved of his day-to-day duties on July 13 following a controversial July 10 Facebook post, Haywood County Schools Superintendent Dr. Bill Nolte has been fully reinstated after an investigation by the Haywood County Schools Board of Education. 

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After more than two years of funding an economic development partnership between the Haywood and Asheville chambers of commerce that’s resulted in lots of bites but no actual catches, Haywood County commissioners approved a change in how economic development monies will be spent in the future, in hopes of finally landing “the big one.”

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Competing theories as to the nature of proposed police reform have emerged, with one being that law enforcement budgets should be cut drastically and the other being that they should be increased drastically. 

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The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers less than two months ago has added new fuel to the long-simmering debate over criminal justice reform.

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Black lives matter. All lives matter. Defund the police. Back the badge. Take it down. Leave it up. Heritage. Hate. Reopen. Stay closed. Biden. Trump.

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After weeks of speculation, Gov. Roy Cooper announced July 14 that North Carolina would again remain in Phase 2 of his three-phase reopening plan and that schools would reopen as scheduled on Aug. 17, albeit with important caveats.

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After a social media post regarded by some as racially insensitive, Haywood County’s superintendent of schools has been temporarily relieved of his duties.

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After years of languishing in the shadows of a shuttered amusement park, Maggie Valley’s west end is now seeing substantial commercial development resulting in several major new or renovated businesses. 

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How, exactly, does someone lose a Primary Election in which they have almost a year’s exclusive advance knowledge of the seat’s impending vacancy, and the endorsement of the four-term incumbent who previously held the seat, and more than a million dollars in PAC money, and the full support of the President of the United States?

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Last week, as demonstrations were taking place across the nation to call attention to police brutality and racial injustice, Canton resident Becky Trull was struck with an idea. 

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North Carolina’s graduated three-phase COVID-19 reopening plan was set to cruise into Phase 3 on June 26, but due to growing community spread, increasing daily case counts, a high percentage of positive tests and rising hospitalizations, Gov. Roy Cooper has hit the brakes.

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While much of the nation is talking about removing monuments, the discussion in one Western North Carolina county is also about installing them — and that discussion is no less contentious. 

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Republicans finally know who will face Democrat Moe Davis in the November General Election, and the results indicate a major embarrassment for President Donald Trump and his Chief of Staff, former congressman Mark Meadows.

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As Republicans across North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District head to the polls, some of them are bucking their party and their president by putting principle over politics.

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After widespread complaints about the way Georgia’s pandemic-influenced Primary Election was conducted last week, North Carolina’s top elections official isn’t taking any chances with the 11th Congressional District Second Primary slated for June 23.

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A short video segment featuring NC11 congressional candidate Lynda Bennett that was produced by Asheville-based WLOS-TV at Haywood County’s early voting location violates state election law, according to North Carolina’s top elections official.

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For the second week in a row, many small Western North Carolina communities have seen demonstrations in response to the killing of North Carolina-born Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of the city’s police force. 

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WNC elected officials reluctant to speak on monuments

By Cory Vaillancourt

Staff Writer

On Wednesday, June 10, The Smoky Mountain News sent emails to 43 elected officials in Haywood, Jackson and Macon Counties, along with Western North Carolina’s current state legislative delegation, asking for their position on the removal of Confederate imagery. Emails were also sent to candidates competing against elected officials this coming November. As of press time on June 16, almost half of them failed to take a position.

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Waynesville. Sylva. Murphy. Canton. Bryson City. Franklin. Demonstrations associated with the death of George Floyd aren’t solely a big-city phenomenon, nor are they all destructive. Since June 1, more than a thousand Western North Carolina residents have taken part in a series of actions in small, rural mountain towns without any of the violence and vandalism associated with protests in larger cities. 

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A group of almost 100 demonstrators hoping to draw attention to racial injustice marched through Waynesville on the night of June 1, but unlike protests in other parts of the country and the state, this one ended peacefully, with no arrests or injuries to marchers, onlookers or first responders. 

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A year ago, few would have predicted that a crowded field of Republicans would eventually whittle themselves down to two, in a runoff, competing for the U.S. House seat of Asheville Republican Rep. Mark Meadows.

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As cities across the nation smolder amidst the destruction of racially charged rioting over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, social media backlash against the branding of a locally-brewed beer has some people leveling accusations of alt-right white nationalism and anti-government militia sentiments at the brewers.

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The Class of 2020 will forever be remembered as the “asterisk” class. Whether it be high school, community college or university, the instructional disruption that came about in North Carolina in mid-March as the result of the COVID-19 outbreak will be as much a part of their permanent records as their marks in reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. 

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Canton native Lily Payne still remembers her last day of school at Haywood Early College. 

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Maggie Mehaffey’s taken a bit of a different academic path than many of her peers — a path that gives her a unique perspective on the Coronavirus Pandemic. 

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Since the Coronavirus Pandemic began in earnest in Haywood County in mid-March, emergency physician Dr. Mark Jaben has been the face of the county’s response, so much so that he’s now regularly stopped on the area’s hiking trails by strangers exclaiming, “Hey, you’re the guy from YouTube!”

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