Cory Vaillancourt

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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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The March 3 Republican Primary Election for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District between 12 candidates hoping to represent the party in its bid to retain an important U.S. House seat resulted in no candidate achieving the required 30 percent threshold for victory, so a Second Primary – a “runoff,” in common parlance – will take place on Tuesday, June 23. 

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As expected, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced that he believes the state is ready to begin phase 2 of his three-phase reopening plan, although the increasing number of cases warrants a more modest reopening than originally planned.

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An economic development incentive plan first passed by the Haywood County Board of Commissioners in 2004 underwent a significant retooling in late 2017, but a string of disappointments has led commissioners to revise it once again in hopes of luring businesses to the county.

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced moments ago that he believes the state is ready to begin phase 2 of his three-phase reopening plan, although the increasing number of coronavirus cases warrants a more modest reopening than originally planned.

“Today we’re announcing another cautious and gradual step,” Cooper said during a 5 p.m. press conference.

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On May 17, a typical sunny spring Sunday in this community of churches, congregants gathered for religious services all across Haywood County much as they’d done hundreds or thousands of times before. 

Choirs warmed up. Pianos tinkled in the background. Pastors shuffled papers and pamphlets at podiums, testing the microphones and speakers and projectors. Worshipers parked themselves in place and prepared for the sermon.

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Despite the reticence of some local governments to spend money on non-essential services due to uncertainty in revenues amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic, the Town of Canton and Haywood County are moving full speed ahead with development of the Chestnut Mountain project. 

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Waynesville Town Manager Rob Hites, an experienced professional with almost 40 years in municipal government, called the current budget year a strange one, and apparently town aldermen have heard him loud and clear. 

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As local government units across the state work on their annual budgets a variety of approaches have been taken by administrators, but in one Haywood County town, it’s pretty much business as usual. 

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The Coronavirus Pandemic has made it that much more difficult for many low income and unsheltered individuals to feed themselves especially with Frog Level’s Open Door being closed, but thanks to a partnership with the Salvation Army, volunteers will soon be able to take meals, mail and clothing to people who need it. 

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Contractors performing work at Waynesville’s wastewater treatment plant last week were surprised to make a revolting discovery that highlights the importance of personal responsibility in terms of what should and should not go into one’s toilet.

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Every year around this time, local governments, community colleges and public schools are busy crafting budgets for the upcoming fiscal year that begins on July 1. In a normal year, budgeting is a year round process, however this is anything but a normal year.

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The debate across the state still simmers — too soon, too late, or, like Goldilocks’ porridge, just right?

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The nation’s annual Small Business Appreciation Week is held around this time each year and, coincidentally, couldn’t have come at a better time this year. 

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Less than five weeks after issuing a “stay home” order and barely three weeks after extending it, Haywood County commissioners approved a resolution May 4 to terminate their countywide order and told Gov. Roy Cooper they hope he’ll do the same with his statewide order when it comes up for possible renewal May 8.

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Over the past year Haywood County’s tourism industry had been cruising along well above historical averages — until the Coronavirus Pandemic resulted in a substantial downturn. 

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A decision has finally been made on where to put Haywood County Schools’ central administration office before their lease at the Historic Haywood Hospital runs out at the end of this year, and as it turns out, they won’t have to go far. 

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Workers, businesses, schools and local governments impacted by the Coronavirus Pandemic will benefit from a comprehensive, bi-partisan relief plan that appropriates billions in aid while also modifying and clarifying a substantial number of regulations and deadlines rendered untenable by state and local “stay home” orders.

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Less than five weeks after issuing a “stay home” order and barely three weeks after extending it, Haywood County commissioners approved a resolution today to terminate their countywide order and told Gov. Roy Cooper they hope he’ll do the same with his statewide order when it comes up for possible renewal May 8.

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Despite being mostly spared from large numbers of COVID-19 diagnoses, Haywood County's totals have continued to grow slowly in recent days and have more than doubled since April 28.

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Results from large-scale testing designed to gauge the level of asymptomatic coronavirus carriers among front-line workers at essential businesses conducted by Haywood County’s Department of Health and Human Services last Tuesday were released by the county earlier today.

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While the Coronavirus Pandemic has affected the way many people perform their jobs, for the nation’s consummate front-line workers — sworn law enforcement officers — not much has changed at all. 

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One thing that most front-line workers have in common right now is that they’re serving some of the community’s most vulnerable members, and in most communities, there are few members more vulnerable than mistreated children.

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A coalition of local nonprofits will pay to house some of Haywood County’s unsheltered population amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic after Haywood County government announced it wouldn’t pursue federal funding — essentially, free money — to do so. 

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Last weekend may have been a little bitter for BearWaters Brewing’s owners Art O’Neil and Kevin Sandefur, but it was also a little sweet. 

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Several hundred workers lined up by car at Haywood Community College April 28 to receive drive-through testing designed to gauge the level of asymptomatic, undetected COVID-19 cases in Haywood County, and if all goes well the results will soon help county decisionmakers evaluate the feasibility of reopening parts of Haywood County’s economy. 

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It’s been a long, strange trip for radio host Pete Kaliner, who came into the industry just as it was beginning an era of dramatic change. In many ways, his 20-something year career in Western North Carolina broadcast journalism mirrors the ebbs and flows of the modern media waterline.

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Globally, more than 2.5 million people have contracted the coronavirus since its identification earlier this year. The hardest-hit country, the United States, has reported 802,159 cases as of April 21. Of those, 685,679 cases are still active. 

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