Cory Vaillancourt

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There is perhaps no parcel of land in Haywood County that generates as much interest as the one that’s home to long-shuttered mountaintop amusement park Ghost Town in the Sky, but as social media misinformation continues to arise, the property’s developers are now revealing tantalizing details of the incredibly complex plan for the venture and the progress that’s already been made. 

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As vaccination of North Carolinians continues and positive coronavirus case reports decline, today Gov. Roy Cooper announced changes to a number of previously imposed restrictions meant to quell the spread of the coronavirus.

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It’s not something that happens all that often, but a late fourth-quarter drive by Western North Carolina’s state and local elected officials helped them find pay dirt in the end zone — in this case, raising the coronavirus-related capacity limits on outdoor high school athletic events.

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Weary and sore they came upon a small copse of Loblolly pines swaying high above a sea of softly undulating golden broomsedge just as the first light of dawn faded in from the east. 

For weeks, they’d slept during the balmy spring days and walked mostly by moonlight, never by road. At times they’d take to the train tracks, ducking into the underbrush when one of them would sense the coming of the iron horse. Other times they strode along soaring tree lines edging fallow fields, damp spongy soil radiating the last of the day’s heat to their bare feet, until they found some small, safe, out-of-the way place as dark and anonymous as their faces.

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North Carolina’s fiscal and economic health, along with years of budgetary discipline and a commitment to economic freedom, bode well for a sustained long-term economic recovery so long as policymakers continue prudent decision making — particularly in regard to worker regulations and market restrictions. 

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After years of pecking away at Western North Carolina’s broadband problem at the state level, a large-scale federal investment in rural broadband access could bring a game-changing impact for schools, businesses and entrepreneurs across the country, state and region.

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It’s a rivalry that runs as deep as the waters of Lake Logan and as wide as the Pigeon River that snakes its way through this county of 60,000, but this year the annual Pisgah-Tuscola football game has already taken on a significance that extends far beyond the borders of Haywood County. 

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As promised, members of Down Home North Carolina presented to Haywood County commissioners a budget alternative that prioritizes treatment and rehabilitation over incarceration. 

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Another aesthetic improvement to Canton’s emerging downtown business district — rundown and dilapidated for years, until recently — will soon welcome residents and visitors alike with a sense of style befitting the mountain mill town’s historic character. 

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A bill in the North Carolina General Assembly that would allow local governments to stop publishing mandated legal notices in newspapers may save cash-strapped local governments a small amount of money in advertising expenses each year, but could also lead to citizens missing out on critical information while also damaging local newsrooms. 

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Opponents of Haywood County’s proposed $16 million jail expansion project are ramping up pressure on county commissioners to consider alternative proposals that would devote more resources to keeping people out of jail. 

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He hasn’t even been in office for a month, but Western North Carolina’s Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn is already starting to see groups forming to oppose him over his conduct leading up to the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

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More than 40 years after it first took up the matter, the North Carolina General Assembly may consider finally ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment first passed by Congress in the early 1970s. 

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Madison Cawthorn, rolling himself around the Longworth House Office Building, draws attention from around every corner and down every straightaway of the labyrinthine tunnels that underlie Washington D.C.’s Capitol Complex, greeting passersby with their first name. 

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It wasn’t exactly the fall of the Berlin Wall, but on Thursday, Jan. 21, workers in Washington, D.C. began disassembling the miles of fence girdling the core of the federal district that kept Americans literally and figuratively separated from their government during the inauguration.  

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Ahhh, there it is! There’s the D.C. we all remember.

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task force founded by Gov. Roy Cooper in the wake of violent protests after the police killing of Minneapolis man George Floyd last summer makes dozens of recommendations to strengthen and support North Carolina’s law enforcement community, including several that would lead to greater transparency by law enforcement agencies. 

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First it was 10,000. Then, 15,000. Then, 20,000. Now, they say, there are 25,000 National Guard troops in this city of 700,000, or about one for every 28 residents.

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No garbage cans. Temporary fencing, bolted together top and bottom. Armed soldiers in black ski masks every 50 feet.

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Last week, as elected members of the House of Representatives and the Senate gathered in their respective chambers to certify electoral votes, Western North Carolina’s newly-elected Republican congressman began to notice that something wasn’t quite right. 

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A nonprofit health care foundation serving Haywood County is set to discuss whether one of its trustee’s anti-vaccine, anti-mask advocacy is relevant to her position on its board.

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In the interest of transparency, all responses from local officials regarding the Jan. 6 insurrection have been published online, in their entirety. Some submissions may have been lightly edited for grammar, spelling and punctuation or to conform with AP style. 

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Newly-elected Western North Carolina Republican Congressman Madison Cawthorn, R-Hendersonville, hadn’t yet been on the job for three whole days before witnessing perhaps the most consequential day in American politics since the start of the Civil War.

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One of the loudest voices against masks and vaccines during recent public comment sessions in Haywood County also serves on a nonprofit health care board that’s charged with managing more than $12 million of taxpayer money meant to support public health. 

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On a frosty Appalachian mountain morning in 1962, 22-year-old Waynesville man Charles Miller brought his car to a stop on a little-used road not far from a rushing creek in a rugged, remote section of Haywood County. 

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A Nov. 3 report by the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office demonstrating the need for a $16 million expansion to the existing detention center hasn’t exactly met with approval from all sectors of the community. 

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By Cory Vaillancourt • Fake News Editor | When I started writing this yearly feature five years ago, it was intended to highlight the then-emerging phenomenon now known as fake news. I thought that 2016 column would be a one-off, a satisfying way to blow off some steam and play with some local news stories in the same fashion as revered satirical outlet The Onion. 

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Each year around this time, North Carolina takes a look at the economic prosperity, or lack thereof, in every one of its 100 counties. That analysis reveals the haves and the have nots, but it’s about much more than just bragging rights. 

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Passing modest, nondescript houses with swing sets and dog houses in their yards, the big red pickup truck lumbered up the winding mountain road, bed filled with bread, cereal boxes, canned goods and the like. Negotiating one final hairpin, it slowly creeps into the grassy driveway of Hannah Orlikowski. 

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A routine update to the Town of Waynesville’s State of Emergency ordinance finally passed on Dec. 8 after being tabled for weeks due to an uproar among anti-mask citizens who embarked on a marathon series of public comment sessions in fear that the town was also planning to enact a mandatory mask-wearing edict.

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After several public meetings where intensive questions were posed by the Haywood County Republican Party to seven candidates, the party has chosen its nominee to fill an impending vacancy on the Haywood County Board of Commissioners.

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Calling the stakes dire and the situation “a matter of life and death,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a new modified “stay at home” order and threatened additional restrictive measures if the startling increase in the state’s coronavirus numbers doesn’t subside.

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Weeks after controversy erupted due to a mischaracterization of a routine local government housekeeping measure in Waynesville, conspiracy theorists continue to spread false information about COVID-19 and a purported mask mandate. 

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Round two of the Haywood County Republican Party’s candidate screening process is now complete, and after fielding more than two hours of questions on everything from COVID-19 to homelessness and needle exchange programs, it’s becoming apparent that there are few — if any — differences in viewpoints among the candidates. 

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A vacancy on the Haywood County Board of Commissioners will soon be filled, albeit through an unusual method that gives the privilege to the Haywood County Republican Party. 

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The results are in — well, sort of — and Republicans in Western North Carolina don’t have much to complain about right now other than the reelection of Gov. Roy Cooper and the ultimate fate of President Donald Trump; they retained all western state legislative seats as well as their congressional seat and reclaimed a state House seat that’s flipped back and forth several times in the past eight years. 

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It was one of those fairy tales that actually came true. Madison Cawthorn, a 25-year-old political unknown, pounced upon an unexpected congressional vacancy last December, survived a Primary Election field of 12 candidates to claim a spot in the runoff where he defeated a runoff opponent that was hand-picked by incumbent Republican Rep. Mark Meadows and endorsed by President Donald Trump. Cawthorn then ultimately prevailed over a well-qualified former judge and retired U.S. Air Force colonel in the General Election.

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Franklin Republican Karl Gillespie will now become the third Macon County commissioner in the last decade to make the jump to Raleigh to represent the citizens of North Carolina’s westernmost counties, with his convincing win over Murphy Democrat Susan Landis.

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The abrupt departure of Western North Carolina’s congressman, Asheville Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, wasn’t the only surprise of the 2019 candidate filing season — four-term Burnsville Republican Rep. Michele Presnell unexpectedly called it quits as well, throwing open Democrats’ best opportunity to claim the seat in nearly a decade.

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A pair of Republican incumbents seeking to retain their seats will remain on the Haywood County Board of Commissioners after they topped two upstart Democrats.

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The Macon County Republican political machine just keeps on cranking out winners.

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Western North Carolina’s longest-running political feud, between two men whose families have plodded about these here hills and hollers since before the United States was even established, has once again come to a conclusion.

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A report presented to Haywood County commissioners says the county’s detention center is approaching operational capacity and because the minimum security annex needs costly repairs and upgrades, a $16.4 million jail expansion that would allow for growth through 2045 is in order. 

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A routine housekeeping measure intended to clarify who, exactly, can declare a State of Emergency on behalf of the Town of Waynesville — and, for what reasons — devolved into a disruptive shouting match over a non-existent “mask mandate.” Town officials, including Mayor Gary Caldwell, attribute all the fuss to a sensationalized story containing multiple inaccuracies.

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Democratic vice-presidential nominee/California Senator Kamala Harris visited Western North Carolina last week, reminding voters of the importance of getting to the polls on or before Nov. 3.

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Earlier this month, nearly 300 people packed the four-bay garage of the Jackson County Rescue Squad in Sylva on a Saturday night during the height of campaign season to witness a high-stakes struggle between two fierce competitors.

They’ve been fighting over your attention on the internet and the television for what seems like forever now; they’ve got their slogans and catch phrases, their soundtracks and color schemes, their gimmicks and gags, their die-hards and their haters. One’s a hero, the other’s a villain. Countless hopes ride upon the outcome but in the end only one can be victorious. 

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Since last fall, events in North Carolina’s 50th Senate District have largely been overshadowed by an attention-grabbing race in the 11th Congressional District, but the bigger story is that one of Western North Carolina’s most powerful voices won’t return to Raleigh next session. 

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Last Thursday, Democratic vice presidential nominee and California Sen. Kamala Harris was forced to cancel a planned trip to Asheville after two staffers tested positive for COVID-19, but that didn’t stop her from returning Oct. 21 to speak at an event at UNC-Asheville. 

After more than a year of work, Haywood County’s property revaluation process is nearly complete and will be presented during a forthcoming public hearing. 

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As the tumultuous 2020 election season draws to a close, partisans on both sides of the aisle are expressing anger and frustration over a rash of vandalism and sign thefts in Haywood County. 

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