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Development: The shape of Asheville and WNC to come


Councilman Brownie Newman leads a 2009 forum on the Interstate 26 connector.


lthough there’s a lull in building and development in the area, it won’t last. The population of the Asheville metro area — Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties — is expected to increase from 394,469 to 486,153 by 2030. It’s important to use the quiet to prepare for the coming boom. The Downtown Master Plan is in the process of moving from proposals to policy. It will shape how the city looks over the next 25 years. For example, in some cases building size and height must be approved by council, at least to a degree. Projects like the new Indigo building downtown would require only staff-level review. This is a tremendously complex issue, and our news and editorial departments will strive to provide digestible information to our readers regarding specific proposals. It’s in the interest of all Ashevilleans to make sure this plan isn’t the latest in a line of many that more or less just sit on the shelf. Regarding parking, one recent study pointed to a deficit of 700-800 parking spaces downtown. The economic downturn has caused a hiccup in the parking discussion, with parking down more than 10 percent in city-owned garages, according to a report last spring, and parking in decks down. Those numbers and the city budget crunch would indicate little support for a push for something like a new deck; there would seem to be other solutions to be pursued. Development ties in to the master plan and newly approved county zoning ordinance as well.

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Jobs: A seismic shift creates a difficult new playing field

Citizen-Times viewpoint


The year 2009 is now in the record books. It won’t be missed. The year was brutal for many families in Asheville and around Western North Carolina, featuring an economic contraction not witnessed since the Great Depression. We enter a new decade with many signs that 2010 promises to be healthier than the year gone by. Hoping for an economic boom would seem to be a bit premature. But it looks as if we’re at the end of the financial free fall that has put so many lives on hold. As we dig out of the economic downturn, the community has a lot of work to do. For the past few months, the CitizenTimes editorial board has been working to identify issues that the newspaper and community need to pay close attention to in 2010. The range of issues is daunting. For example, ever since Volvo announced it was closing its local plant and eliminating more

than 200 jobs that averaged $60,000 a year, people have been wondering where the good-paying jobs of the future will come from. Now that homes sales are beginning to pick back up, the always controversial issue of mountainside development will raise its head again. Back in 2000, the Vision Group set a goal for Buncombe to be the healthiest county in the state by 2010. We failed. In 2000, six out of 10 of us weighed more than we should. Today, seven of out of 10 of us do. As a community, we have a lot of work to do. Following is a list of key community issues the newspaper and its editorial board will follow in 2010. Each month, we plan to address components of these issues and invite key people with expertise in these areas to share their views with our editorial board.

Steep slopes: An economic, safety and political issue


A memorial where casualties occurred during the 2004 landslide along Peeks Creek in Macon County stands as a mute reminder of the potential dangers of life in the mountains. 2010 should be the year lawmakers take reasonable steps to mitigate the threat posed by unchecked development on steep slopes — without killing the area’s vital building industry. neering studies prior to construction on steep slopes and disclosure from sellers regarding their property’s exposure to landslide dangers. The debate we’ve seen over the last decade has consistently eroded into a strategy where compromise has been left on the sidelines, meaning little has been accomplished at the state level. Some local governments — Jackson Coun-

ty and to a degree Buncombe — have taken the initiative, but in many places the ball simply hasn’t moved. There’s a needle here that should not be difficult to thread. We need growth, we need jobs, and we should have development that’s responsible to the unique environment of WNC and puts a priority on the safety of current and new residents.

Education challenges: Preparing children for an uncertain future




Despite spending more on health care than any nation in the world, Americans face an array of problems largely caused by poor lifestyle habits. have the longest life expectancies in the world “blue zones.” Buettner and other researchers found that it wasn’t some magical pill or surgical procedure that promoted long life in the blue zones. Instead, the secret of the blue zones rested in the diet and lifestyles of the people and the way they spent lots of time with family and friends. Buettner found it interesting that people in their 90s and even 100-yearolds stayed active, doing things like gardening and bagging groceries at a neighborhood food store. Park Ridge Hospital thinks the Asheville met-


Workers from FLS Energy install the first few of what will be 48 solar hot-water panels on the roof of the dining hall at Mars Hill College on Oct. 7, 2009. When completed, the project will supply all the hot-water needs of the facility. One analysis concludes the current climate and energy push could create 65,000 jobs in the state in the next decade.



t’s astonishing that years after a one-two punch of torrential rains left five people dead and 15 homes destroyed in the Macon County community of Peeks Creek, the state of North Carolina and most mountain communities have yet to enact serious regulations to prevent landslides or help inform potential buyers they may be in a slide danger zone. Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Mars Hill, has repeatedly put proposals on the table, but they’ve gone nowhere because of opposition from developers and even some of his fellow WNC Democrats. Western North Carolina has a long and painful history when it comes to landslides, and with more and more people projected to move here, that history could get even worse. In 1940, back-to-back tropical storms caused slides that left 14 people dead in Watauga County. A pair of tropical storms in September 2004 triggered a huge slide in Macon County that killed five people and destroyed 15 homes. More isolated incidents like recent ones in Maggie Valley have added to a tally of 534 landslides and debris flows since 1990 that have destroyed 40 homes and buildings, killed six people and injured five more across WNC. Rapp’s push would call for engi-

Health care: It begins at home he next time you’re in the food court at the mall or walking downtown in Asheville, look around and count out 10 people. Seven of these 10 are likely to die from a preventable degenerative disease. The key word here is “preventable.” Right now, health care dominates the attention of Congress and our legislatures. There is no easy fix for the multitude of problems we face. Despite spending more money per capita on health care than every other nation in the world, we’re not a very healthy people. It doesn’t surprise most of us that people in Japan, France and Italy live longer than Americans. But so do people in Singapore, Costa Rica, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Germany, Chile and Cuba. Yes, that’s right, Cuba. Park Ridge Hospital in Fletcher plans to celebrate its centennial this year by inviting the author of “The Blue Zones,” Dan Buettner, to visit the area. Buettner spent five years visiting areas of the world where there are higher percentages of people who live to be more than 100 years old. He then worked with demographers and physicians to pinpoint cities and regions where there were pockets of people who live longer and healthier lives than most of us. He called these pockets where people

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ro area has the potential to become a blue zone. Over the next year, and into 2011, the newspaper will follow Park Ridge and other community groups as they work to improve the health of the community. America’s obesity rate is the worst in the world and primarily responsible for the epidemic of preventable, degenerative diseases that rob so many of us of our quality of life. The best place to begin to fix the nation’s health care is to take a cue from Park Ridge and “The Blue Zones” and look at ourselves and our waistlines.

Editorial Board

Dedicated to the upbuilding of Western North Carolina since 1870.

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

he fourth-largest school system in the state, Buncombe County serves more than 25,000 students. Asheville City schools serve more than 3,500. Our local systems and others across WNC are blessed with a high percentage of national board-certified teachers. They’ll be needed in a challenging environment. Public schools face budget restraints, testing mandates and a mission that’s something of a moving target: preparing this generation to enter a work force featuring many jobs that don’t even exist yet. Schools will have to meet this demand while dealing with a student body that is also undergoing significant changes; for a measure of how demographics have shifted in WNC, one only has to note there are more than 50 languages spoken in the county’s 41 schools.

Along with new challenges are nagging problems; in Asheville City schools, where most of the county’s African-Americans are enrolled, achievement gaps remain virtually unchanged between 2007-08 and 2008-09 and actually have increased since a seven-year commitment to close the gap was made in 2004. Another problem yet to be solved is the dropout rate in our schools, which remains far too high to be acceptable. Flexibility will be a key in the education picture, with initiatives like Early College and charter schools playing vital roles. The next wave of health professionals and civic leaders are in classrooms today. Or the next wave of jail cell and drug rehab occupants, if we allow it. Our choices today will translate into what we’re facing tomorrow.


Asheville City and Buncombe County schools are dealing with a diverse student body, budget issues and challenges on the dropout and achievement gap fronts.

◆ Randy Hammer President and Publisher ◆ Jim Buchanan Editorial Page Editor ◆ Phil Fernandez Executive Editor ◆ Dave Russell Letters Editor ◆ Joy Franklin Contributing Editor ◆ Bill McGoun Contributing Editor

Letters policy

We invite Letters to the Editor of 200 words or less written by the submitter for the Citizen-Times. ■ Please include your name, mailing address, daytime telephone number and email address. ■ Mail to: Letters, Asheville

he past decade saw huge swings in where we work. In the Asheville metropolitan area from 2000 to 2009, a third of manufacturing jobs vanished, dropping from 27,300 workers to 18,100. On the flip side, employment in private educational and health services rose from 21,300 to 30,700. While the kinds of jobs changed, so did the kind of employer. The age of the large employer is virtually gone; the Mission Health System, Ingles and Buncombe County Public Schools Education Services are the sole players left standing with 3,000plus workers. In Buncombe County, nearly 11,000 businesses employ about 150,000 workers. Small business is more vital than ever. There’s a tremendous opportunity for Asheville to become a focus in the green jobs field, with success stories like the rise of FLS Energy, an Asheville-based solar firm that’s grown from three employees in 2006 to 45 today and may double that figure in the next year. One analysis concludes the current climate and energy push could create 65,000 jobs in the state in the next decade, and with RENCI, NOAA and the National Climatic Data Center located in Asheville, climate science and attendant jobs are a natural fit here. The challenge at hand is replacing stable, goodpaying manufacturing jobs like the 200-plus recently lost at Volvo with something other than low-paying service or tourism jobs. Let’s not mince words regarding what’s at stake here: If we don’t have jobs paying a wage that can support a family, the character of WNC will be lost. Our communities — American society as we have known it — can’t function as a two-tiered system consisting essentially of servants and those being served. We need our leaders to step it up on this front; we’ll end this with a query posed by blogger and former Citizen-Times local columnist Tom Sullivan, a professional engineer who usually lands work out of town, regarding the closing of Volvo: “Why do the people charged with attracting jobs still have theirs?” It’s a hard question. The times call for asking them.

Citizen-Times, P.O. Box 2090, Asheville, NC 28802-2090. ■ E-mail: ■ For information, call Dave Russell at 236-8973 or e-mail

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FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 2010 B3

Two more settle with state in Village of Penland case Land scheme spawned lawsuits By Mark Barrett


PENLAND — Two more people involved in a fraudulent Mitchell County land scheme have reached civil agreements with the state attorney general’s office. Florida resident Richard Amelung and Georgia resident J. Kevin Foster were involved in development of the Village of Pen-

land, which has spawned a number of criminal charges and civil lawsuits. State officials say that the project on a 1,200- to 1,400-acre tract of land involved bogus sales of land at inflated prices designed to get large loans on lots in the development, many of which were unbuildable. Developers told lot buyers that they would use loan proceeds to develop the

project and buy the lots back, court papers say, but then used the money for “other unrelated purposes.” No homes other than model homes have been built in the development, said Charlotte attorney Joseph Grier, who became the court-appointed receiver managing its affairs after problems with the project arose in 2007. The agreements approved Monday in Wake

County Superior Court in Raleigh provide that Foster will pay $100,000 to the development account, and Amelung, who has declared bankruptcy, will direct that the proceeds of an insurance policy covering his actions as a corporate officer go to the account. The agreements also set restrictions on any future involvement in real estate deals by Foster and Amelung. Foster neither

admitted nor denied wrongdoing in the civil case. Amelung denied the state’s version of events. Claimants in the case will eventually get a prorated share of the funds and other similar payments, Grier said. Two other people involved in the development have already entered into consent agreements with the state. Five people, including Foster, have pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges

in the case. Grier said the development is dormant at this point. He said he expects to eventually market the property, but that process has been delayed by economic conditions and complexity of sorting out who owns which piece of property. Developers sold about 2,000 lots in Village of Penland, many of which are subject to conflicting legal claims, he said.

Siemens moves power unit, 825 jobs to state $154.75M deal lured company



Kathy Molin closes the passenger door as vanpool members leave together after the ceremony.

VANPOOL: Employees save on gas costs Continued from B1

future Interstate 26 and the Walmart supercenter in Weaverville. “It’s my understanding that there are some folks in parks and rec that live in the Barnardsville area that may be able to ride with them,” Molin said. “We’re going to follow up with that and get some more people in the van.” The pilot program is expected to last between six months to one year before PACE reports its findings to City Council. “My dream would be to have some folks down in the Arden and Brevard areas coming in and doing the same thing,” she said. The city leases the van from Enterprise Rent-ACar. David Foster, the city’s interim assistant public works director, said he did not immediately know the specific cost of the program, but said the



Vanpool driver Wayne Sheldon parking services division and contributions from the employees have offset the cost. “It’s not a burden to the city’s general fund,” he said. Mayor Terry Bellamy “passed the keys” to Sheldon during Thursday’s event. In addition to helping achieve the city’s goal of reducing its carbon footprint, the program will

The eight vanpool participants prevent the emission of 19 tons of carbon annually, which is equal to the energy used in 1.5 homes per year, according to the city. Each participant is expected to save $1,000 yearly through fuel costs and wear and tear on their vehicles. save money for those using the vanpool and free up parking spaces, Bellamy said. Vanpool participants are expected to save $1,000 a year by not driving their own vehicles. “I think it makes a difference for our employees to have different options as they think about how to get to work, because I do believe this is one of the best places to work,” she said.

RALEIGH — German industrial conglomerate Siemens AG is consolidating production of gas turbines for electric utilities in North Carolina to position itself for an expected boom in electricity demand in the Southeast and globally. A subsidiary of the Munich company, Siemens Energy Inc., said Thursday it plans to invest $135 million to build a new manufacturing plant for 60-Hertz gas turbines in Charlotte. It was promised a deal of tax breaks, grants and low-interest loans worth up to $154.75 million to make the move. Siemens will close a similar plant in Hamilton, Ontario, that employs about 450, though it’s not yet clear how many will lose their jobs and how many transfer to North Carolina over the next 18

months, spokeswoman Melanie Forbrick said. The turbines will be shipped to utilities in the Americas, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia. “Over the next five years, we expect employment at the Charlotte site to grow to nearly 1,800 people, with more than 1,000 of those positions new to Charlotte. With this move we’re pushing ahead with our growth strategy in the U.S., which is our most important single-country market,” Siemens AG chief executive officer Peter Loescher said in a statement. The move is expected to create 825 engineering and manufacturing jobs in Charlotte within five years, paying an average wage of almost $64,000 a year. Production in the expanded plant is scheduled to start in the fall of 2011, the company said. State and local governments promised up to $35 million in tax breaks and grants. A county development entity is also

prepared to lend Siemens up to $120 million in lowinterest loans, with funding coming from bonds created by last year’s federal stimulus package. Siemens said the move to Charlotte was partly driven by a need to be closer to clients. Siemens-built power plants supply one-third of North America’s electricity, the company said. “I think that they’re seeing that the American market has been slow but will be rebounding,” said analyst William Schmalzer of market research firm Forecast International Inc. The North Carolina move “also puts them closer to their markets in Brazil … and Latin America, which are probably also going to increase in the near future.” Forecast International predicts global demand for gas turbines will be almost $140 billion by 2018, with Siemens holding about 18 percent of the market after General Electric’s 43 percent market share.

World backgammon champion Tim Holland dies at age 79 By Matt Sedensky THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

MIAMI — Tim Holland, a world backgammon champion who was one of the most prominent competitors in the game’s modern heyday, has died. He was 79. Holland died Wednesday of emphysema at his West Palm Beach home, said his daughter, Vanessa Holland of San Diego. Backgammon is a game of luck and strategy, played with checkers and dice on a board with a series of elongated triangles. When it enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, Holland traveled the

world handing defeat to opponents. He won the World Backgammon Association championships in 1967, 1968 and 1971 (no tournament was held in 1969 or 1970) and made his living between game purses and his own wagering. Holland authored “Beginning Backgammon,” “Better Backgammon,” and “Backgammon for People Who Hate to Lose.” He also created a teaching aid called Autobackgammon and opened the now-defunct Park 65 Backgammon Club in New York. Born Simeon Harold

Holland on March 3, 1931, in Rockville Centre, N.Y., he grew up playing bridge and golf in the town about 15 miles east of New York City. For years, he made a living as an amateur golfer. As interest in backgammon surged along with the game’s earning potential, though, he set his sights on a new career, spending years mastering the game. He lost repeatedly at the outset. But he eventually mastered it, captivating opponents with his focus and skill, traits noted in a chapter devoted to Holland in the 1975 book “Fast Company.”

WONG: Blanton widow against plea deal Continued from B1

Thursday but said nothing. Poovey has not yet ruled whether evidence from either of the interviews will be admissible during the trial. He told Melrose he understood the concern. Poovey on Monday postponed the trial until Aug. 16 to give Wong’s

other attorney, Randal Seago, time for treatment of cancer. Pre-trial motions will start July 12. Defendants in death penalty cases are guaranteed two attorneys. Wong is accused of shooting and killing Trooper David Shawn Blanton Jr. during a June 17, 2008, traffic stop on Interstate 40 in Canton.

Blanton’s widow said this week that she won’t accept a plea deal that would spare Wong the death penalty despite the delays in the case. The delay this week was the second time the trial has been postponed. The state Supreme Court last year ordered a delay to give Wong’s attorneys more time to prepare.

PLEDGES: Focus on community health Continued from B1

the 100th anniversary events at the hospital.

A book inspires

The “hundreds” are based around ways people can contribute to making the region and their lives more like the lives of people who live in four Blue Zones discussed in the best-selling book “The Blue Zones.” In the book, author Dan Buettner tells the stories of four of the world’s longest-living cultures and offers nine habits for people to follow to live longer, healthier lives. Park Ridge is bringing Buettner to Asheville on May 25.

The Blue Zone concept hit home with Park Ridge, a Seventh-day Adventist hospital, because one of the communities in the book is also Adventist. Grabowski said the culture of the Asheville area is also focused on living a healthy life. “We are asking people to find some things that you can do to make your world a Blue Zone,” Grabowski said. “It’s really about making lifestyle changes that are meaningful to you.” Although they are in the business of healing, Park Ridge CEO Bunch said the anniversary year and focus on “The Blue Zones” is about making the community healthier.

“We’d rather people be healthy than come into the hospital,” Bunch said. “We are determined to do all we can do to help the community.” At a kick-off celebration at the hospital Thursday, employees were treated to a variety of healthy foods and asked to pledge their own “hundreds.” Lynn Stewart, who works in payroll, is trying to walk 100 steps a day up and down the stairs. “I think it’s great,” she said of the hospital’s campaign. “This is a great place to work. Everyone promotes health and ways to exercise and is very communityoriented.”

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comeback falls short





January 17, 2010


Healthier living on agenda for 2010 WNC targets obesity, changing behaviors By Nanci Bompey


Development agency spends state funds on arts trips By Jordan Schrader


FLETCHER — As the nation slid into recession two years ago, the economic development agency AdvantageWest spent state money to rent a house and a condominium near the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. At least 17 people enjoyed the accommodations on that trip, which cost $8,700. Later in 2008, the Fletcher-based organization sent a designer and her model to Montana to put on a fashion show. And last year, as state government started cutting back on travel, the agency dispatched four people to a music, film

trips as successful in showcasing their region to artists. “The efforts with all of these are we’re trying to attract the creative class to Western North Carolina,” said Hendersonville attorney Sam Neill, a board member who attended four of the seven festivals. “We’re trying to, one, encourand new media festival in Austin, Texas, age the people that are here. We’re trying to market the region to people that could at a total cost of $7,133. Altogether, AdvantageWest has spent come.” $33,000 in state money over the past three years to attend film and arts festi- Beautiful locales Some travelers chipped in their own vals in the western United States as part of outreach that the organization has money. And taxpayer costs per official since scaled back. AdvantageWest officials praised the Please see TRIPS on A4

ASHEVILLE — If 2009 was the year Western North Carolina realized it needed to get healthy, 2010 could be the year the region starts taking bigger steps in the direction of good health. More people in the region now recognize obesity as a top health concern and steps need to be taken to help people eat healthier and exercise more, experts say. “I think we are making progress,” said Keith Ray, director of the N.C. Center for Health and Wellness at UNC Asheville. “Anytime you are talking about behavior change, the first step is awareness that a problem exists.” It’s become hard to overlook the obesity problem. Two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in Buncombe County are obese or overweight, according to 2008 figures from the county health department. Obesity was identified as one of the major health concerns in Buncombe Please see 2010 on A4

ISSUES 2010 The Citizen-Times has identified key community issues — involving development, the economy, education and health — that the newsroom and editorial board will be following over the course of the year. For an editorial on community health, see Page A10. For more stories and editorials in the series, visit

Columnist Pitts says King was filled with ‘angry love’

Haiti quake touches WNC

Crowd attends prayer breakfast

ASHEVILLE — Anxiety turned into relief for Yvon Descieux late Saturday afternoon. The Asheville man got a phone call from his brother in Haiti telling him his family survived the earthquake unharmed. “Their house is down, but they’re alive and that’s all that counts,” Descieux said at his East Asheville home. Descieux, 63, grew up and lived about half of his life in Haiti. It’s also where he met and married his wife, Dorothy, who was working there as a missionary with the Presbyterian Church. Yvon They moved to Asheville around 1970. Descieux “I saw this place, and I said, ‘If we ever decide to come live in America, this is where I want to be,” said Descieux, who works as a courier at Mission Hospital. “It’s been 30 years, and I never regret it.” Since the massive earthquake that leveled Haiti last week, Descieux has been glued to the television.

WEB EXTRA Visit for a photo gallery from the event.

By Clarke Morrison


ASHEVILLE — Martin Luther King Jr. wasn’t a patient man. There’s a perception among younger folks that the famed civil rights leader was some sort of “airy-fairy dream, some soft and squishy, turn-theother cheek prophet,” said Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. But the reality was different. While King was committed to nonviolence, he wasn’t willing to wait for change, Pitts told a crowd of more than 1,000 on Saturday morning at the

impatience in Martin Luther King,” he said. “The thing that people seldom seem to understand about Martin Luther King is that there was in him an unwillingness to wait, a frustration with status quo, a reSTEPHEN MILLER/STAFF fusal to believe a thing must always be simply because it has Leonard Pitts Jr. was the keynote always been.” speaker at the 29th annual Dr. Pitts, keynote speaker for Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer the event in the Grove Park Breakfast. Inn’s Grand Ballroom, told the 29th annual Martin Luther audience that to understand King Prayer Breakfast in Ashe- King, one must understand the ville. “The truth is, there was an Please see KING on A4



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Local man hears family is safe



HELP ARRIVES: Hope reached Haiti on Saturday in the form of more food and water. Page A8 U.S. AID: President Barack Obama pledges long-term U.S. support while former Presidents Clinton and Bush launch a private fundraising drive. Page A9

By Mike McWilliams

Please see HAITI on A8

PREP SWIMMING: Asheville School takes the Buncombe County swim meet. Page C10 SUSAN REINHARDT: Susan continues Asheville’s own “Blind Side” saga. Page D1

NO ANSWERS: John Boyle talks with Zebb Quinn’s mother, who still doesn’t know what happened to her son 10 years after his disappearance. Page B1

NATURE’S CURES: Bent Creek Institute’s focus on local plants common in Chinese medicine could give the local economy a boost. Page E1

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FRIDAY March 12, 2010 Mountains Editor Thomas Fraser, 236-8971 or

SBI arrests Murphy officer


Devyn Bryson, 7, kicks a dummy during a martial arts class at Fred Riley Academy of Martial Arts Thursday evening in Canton.

Asheville man, sons face assault charges

ASHEVILLE — Police charged a city man and his sons with shooting a man then beating him with a wooden table leg. Tony Lee McCoy Sr., 41, of Granada Street, was charged Wednesday with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury after he shot Michael Todd Williams, 40, and hit him in the head and body with the chair leg, according to warrants filed at the Buncombe County Magistrate’s Office. His sons, Tony Lee McCoy Jr., 17, and Antonio Lee McCoy, 23, were charged with one count each of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury for also beating Williams, whose injuries required him to get staples in his head, according to warrants. Tony McCoy Sr. was held on a $100,000 bond. Bond was set at $50,000 for Tony Lee McCoy and Antonio McCoy.

Cop charged with child sex crimes By Jon Ostendorff


MURPHY — A police officer is off the job in Cherokee County’s largest town after his arrest on child sex charges. Murphy Police Chief Justin Jacobs said Thursday that he placed 51-year-old Patrol Sgt. Michael Thurman Hall on administrative leave without pay

ed to patrol sergeant in Wednesday after State June 2005. Bureau of Investigation Jacobs said he has had agents arrested him. no complaints about Hall is charged with 11 Hall, and the officer has counts of first-degree sex performed his police duoffense on a child and 11 ties well. counts of indecent liber“This is the first time ties with a child. The girl, who was Michael Hall that anything like this has been brought to our atyounger than 13 at the time, was assaulted between Au- tention,” he said. The chief said his department gust 1986 and May 1989, according to arrest warrants. Hall was of six officers is cooperating ful27 the year the assaults started. ly with investigators and proseHe was hired as a police dis- cutors. Hall was being held in the patcher in 1992 and was promot-

State’s doctor to question Wong

Careers unlimited

Defense team can watch, can’t object By Jon Ostendorff


‘Fast Track’ auditions set

ASHEVILLE — “Fast Track to Fame,” a talent show airing on cable’s SPEED network, is holding an open call talent audition at 1-7 p.m. today at the Crowne Plaza Resort, 1 Resort Drive. The show is billed as a program where “performers can zoom from nobody to star in 60 minutes.” The show is produced live on location at various NASCAR events and features a wide variety of talent including singers, comics, magicians, jugglers and novelty acts. At the end of each program, two acts picked by the judges to perform again for a $5,000 prize. The show airs at 8 p.m. Mondays. Performers who are auditioning to a musical track must bring that recording on a CD. All applicants must be at least 18, have a photo ID and fill out paperwork. The auditions will last up to two minutes. Singers can do original works, but need to be prepared to also do a cover. The show is not accepting bands, aerial acts, fire acts or animal acts. For more information on the program and the auditions, visit

Get fresh fish in Fairview

FAIRVIEW — After closing its doors last weekend, Cape Fear Seafood, 119 Old Charlotte Highway, reopens today with an old-school fishmonger format. Owner Brian Hepler will sell fresh fish from the front porch of his former shop, at 10 a.m.-6 p.m. today and Saturday, he said. He’s making the overnight haul from Surf City, N.C., with a load that includes mahi, salmon, tuna, striped sea bass, crab meat and more. The old store had some structural problems, so Helper shut it down to restructure the business. He plans to be open each Friday and Saturday.


A headline in a story on page B-1 of Thursday’s newspaper contained incorrect information about the status of an embezzlement charge against a former Buncombe County Rescue Squad chief. Asheville police have filed an arrest warrant against Barton Rice, but they have not yet served it or taken him into custody.

Haywood County jail in lieu of $500,000 bond. He did not yet have an attorney; his first court appearance is scheduled for today. The SBI declined to provide additional details about the crimes, such as how Hall knew the victim or where the assaults occurred. SBI spokeswoman Noelle Talley said the case is still under investigation. The telephone number at Hall’s Fall Branch Road home wasn’t working Thursday.


Veterinarian Tim McMullan shows an x-ray of a dog Thursday while he talks about his work during Estes Elementary’s career day for K-5 students. Parents gave presentations about their careers.

Marketing director Kelly WadeArnel was among the many parents who participated in the career day. Visit for a photo gallery. PHOTOS BY STEVE DIXON/SDIXON@CITIZEN-TIMES.COM

Park Ridge ‘hundred’ pledges celebrate hospital’s centennial By Nanci Bompey


FLETCHER — Jodi Grabowski is committing to bicycling 100 miles. David Jacklin plans to volunteer 100 hours at a local soup kitchen. Jimm Bunch is working to keep his blood sugar below 100. These “hundreds” pledged by Park Ridge Hospital employees are part of the hospital’s yearlong centennial anniversary which officially kicked off Thursday, 100 years to the

As part of the celebration, the hospital is asking emPark Ridge Hospital is bringing Dan ployees and others in the community to commit to different Buettner, author of “The Blue “hundreds” or things they can Zones” to the Thomas Wolfe Audgive, give up or give back to the itorium at 6 p.m. May 25. Register community, whether it be losfor free tickets April 5-May 5 at ing 100 pounds or donating 100 pairs of shoes to people in need. “We wanted to celebrate our anniversary in a way that day that property was pur- helped the community,” said chased for Mountain Sanitari- Grabowski, who is heading up um, the hospital that would later become Park Ridge. Please see PLEDGES on B3


WAYNESVILLE — A psychologist working for prosecutors will have a chance to examine the man accused of killing a state trooper, the judge in the case ruled Thursday. And the doctor won’t be limited in his questioning of Edwardo Wong, despite objections from defense attorneys. Superior Court Judge Nathaniel Poovey said Wong’s attorneys could watch the examination from an adjoining room but would not be allowed to object to questions or interfere with the exam. Defense attorney Mark Melrose in court objected to any questions that might relate to Wong’s possible defenses, which include inEdwardo sanity. District Attor- Wong ney Michael Bonfoey made the request for the exam to counter any evidence offered from an exam by a psychologist working for the defense. The interview will be recorded, although the interview with the defense team’s doctor was not. Melrose said he didn’t mind recording the interview as a way to get an accurate record. But he was concerned that if the tape is shown in court it might have more weight with the jury versus the defense team’s evaluation, which was not recorded. Wong was in the courtroom Please see WONG on B3

WEB EXTRA Go to for past coverage and photo galleries.

City cuts carbon with vanpool program By Mike McWilliams


ASHEVILLE — Wayne Sheldon used to spend $60 a week driving from his Burnsville home to his job in the city’s public works department. Since January, however, Sheldon has parked his GMC pickup truck and now drives a van as part of the city’s employee vanpool program. Sheldon and seven other participants pay $40 a month, but a $25 reimbursement knocked that down to $15, Sheldon said. “I think it’s working out good so far,” Sheldon said Thursday during an event celebrating the success of the program’s first

month. “There definitely has been a gas savings.” The city’s vanpool program was conceived by the city’s Providing Alternatives for City Employees team, which is a crossdepartmental group of city employees, said Kathy Molin of the city’s transportation department.

Possible expansion

So far, there’s just the one van, but there could soon be some additional riders, Molin said. Each morning, Sheldon picks up riders at two stops, including the Jupiter/Barnardsville exit along Please see VANPOOL on B3


Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy recognizes the participants in the city of Asheville’s employee vanpool program Thursday at the Public Works Building. She presented keys to the driver, Wayne Sheldon, center, after the ceremony.

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SUNDAY, MAY 9, 2010 A9

Taking action to ensure longer, healthier lives I

t’s hard to believe. North Carolina has the fifth highest rate of obese children in Randy the nation. Hammer A story CITIZEN-TIMES on the front page of the PUBLISHER newspaper last week reported one in five children in North Carolina between 10 and 17 years old is overweight. Some of you Baby Boomers probably remember how President Kennedy got so upset about the sorry state of American youth that he created the President’s Council on Physical Fitness. Elementary schools used to give ribbons to children who ran laps and did chin-ups to pass a test to prove they were physically fit. Back then, when Kennedy said Americans were too soft, one in 10 children was overweight. Here we are, 50 years later, and now one in five of our children is overweight.

Something is terribly wrong here. Jodi Grabowski, who is the wellness coordinator at Park Ridge Hospital, put the problem in perspective when she described a segment she saw on the ABC TV series, “Jamie’s American Food Revolution.” Jamie Oliver is a British chef, author and cookshow host who traveled to Huntington, W.Va., to see if he could reform the eating habits of America’s most obese city. “Jamie was in an elementary school,” said Grabowski, “and he took these fruits and vegetables and showed them to kids in a kindergarten class. They couldn’t identify a potato. They knew what a French fry was, but not a potato. I couldn’t believe it. A potato? How can you not know what a potato is?” It’s one thing when adults allow their health to get away from them. But it’s shameful when we as parents and a country allow our children’s health to deteriorate to a point where their life


Buncombe County Sheriff Van Duncan, Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, Buncombe County Commissioner David Gantt and Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Richard Lutovsky will be running in the annual Chamber Challenge 5K. There is a Wednesday night training group that meets at the chamber at 5:30. expectancy will be less than ours. For the past century, America has been able to reduce chronic diseases and ensure that each succeeding generation would live longer than their parents. But not anymore. That 100-year-old trend is at risk, according to a fact sheet produced by the Institute of Medicine on childhood obesity.

We’re fortunate to live in a place where a number of organizations are working to address this and other health issues. We have Mission Health Care’s Lighten Up for Life; Pioneering Healthier Communities and its Activate Asheville campaign; the WNC Health Network’s Healthy Kids program; and dozens of other initiatives. We have Asheville

Mayor Terry Bellamy, Buncombe County Board Chairman David Gantt, Sheriff Van Duncan, and Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce President Rick Lutovsky training for the chamber’s 5K in June as a way to promote community health and wellness. And as the story on the front page of today’s newspaper explains, we have Park Ridge Hospital sponsoring a visit by Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones,” a book that identifies places in the world where a higher percentage of people live to be 100 years old. Park Ridge is also working with Pioneering Healthy Communities to bring together community leaders and organizations to talk about the nuts and bolts of creating a community that embraces the diets and lifestyles of Blue Zones. Over the next several months, the newspaper will profile a number of the people and organizations who are working to help the community make these lifestyle changes.

We will interview people in the community who have lived a century and ask them for their secrets to a long life. We will celebrate people who have made lifestyle changes and turned their health around. We will provide an overview of the community that pinpoints our abundance of hiking trails, farmer’s markets, yoga centers, meditation retreats, weekend walks and runs, as well as a calendar of summer camps and programs that will nudge your children off the couch into the outdoors. And we will follow people like Grabowski, the wellness coordinator at Park Ridge, as she works to make a difference in the community. “There are so many little things we can do that can make life better for ourselves and our children,” she said. “We just need to learn from each other, and help each other. That’s the only way we’ll make a difference.”

Get walking in Henderson County FROM STAFF REPORTS

HENDERSONVILLE — Walking is Gary Eblen’s version of therapy. “If I don’t go for a walk for a couple of days, I’m a horrible person,” said Eblen, 60, the community outreach coordinator at Diamond Brand Outdoors. “I kind of joke that going out for a walk or even a hike in the mountains, it’s my visit Gary Eblen to the psychiatrist.” Eblen will be leading people on a series of his favorite walks Thursdays in the Hendersonville area as part of Walk Wise, Drive Smart, a neighborhoodbased project creating more pedestrian-friendly environments for senior adults. Eblen said the walks embrace some of the concepts outlined in the Blue Zones, by emphasizing both physical activity and a sense of community. He said walks are good for the mind and body, and allow people to talk and socialize. “We need to do it to remind ourselves that it’s

LIVING: Health advocates aim to change the culture Continued from A1

involved.” While there is no one formula for living a life like Sprague’s, examining commonalities among people who live long, healthy lives may help us better understand how to get there. This idea is taken to the extreme in the book “The Blue Zones,” in which author Dan Buettner identifies regions around the world where people live to a healthy 100 because of common threads in lifestyle, behavior, diet, outlook and stress-coping mechanisms. Buettner is coming to Asheville on May 25 to share the principles and practices of the Blue Zones in an effort to inspire people in the region to embrace these ideas and strive to live longer, healthier lives. “People are completely energized by the idea,” said Jodi Grabowski, a spokeswoman for Park Ridge Hospital, which is bringing Buettner to Western North Carolina as part of the hospital’s 100th anniversary celebration. “It’s about total wellness and how you connect with the community and how you connect with your family.”

An older population

Americans are living

longer, and those in Buncombe County are doing UPCOMING BLUE ZONE AND HEALTHY even better. In 2006, life expectancy AGING EVENTS rose to a record 77.7 years ■ Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones” will give a in the United States. In presentation on the book and ways to live a longer, healthier North Carolina, life expec- life 6 p.m. May 25 at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Tickets are tancy for a person younger required but are available free by registering at CITIZENthan age 1 was 77.3 years from 2006-08, while Buncombe County babies can ■ Residents of Buncombe, Madison, Henderson and Tranexpect to have 78.3 years sylvania counties who are age 100 and older and a guest left to live when they’re are invited to be honored at the annual Century Club Celeborn. bration luncheon 11:15 a.m.-1 p.m. May 14 at Park Ridge But simply living long- Hospital. If you are 100 years or older or you know someone er isn’t what most people want — they want to be who is, call 251-6622 by Saturday. healthy, too. And while Learn more about Blue Zones at a kick-off event for Older Americans are living Americans Month 9:45 a.m. May 12 at Silvermont Opportulonger, chronic diseases nity Center, 364 E. Main St. in Brevard. such as diabetes are on the ■ The eighth annual Successful Aging Celebration will be 9 rise. a.m.-3 p.m. May 25 at the Crowne Plaza. The event includes “Nobody is going to entertainment, education, and opportunities for caregivers avoid dying. We can’t get out of this world without and individuals. Registration is required. Brochures are it,” said Cissie Stephens, available at the N.C. Extension Office, 255-5522; Land-ofinterim executive director Sky Regional Council, 251-6622; and the Council on Aging at the N.C. Center for Cre- of Buncombe County, 277-8288. ative Retirement at UNC ■ The N.C. Center for Creative Retirement’s Creative ReAsheville. “But we want to tirement Weekend is May 28-30. The annual event helps be as healthy as possible. retirees examine issues, concerns and possibilities of retiring Everyone I talk to says, ‘I want to live as long as I in Asheville. Call 251-6140. can do what I want to LIVING LONGER WITH THE CITIZEN-TIMES do.’” Being healthy isn’t also Throughout the year, the Citizen-Times will highlight different simply about being able to programs and people who are working toward living longer, run a mile or swing a golf healthier lives. The newspaper will draw attention to health club. Local health and ag- programs aimed at older adults and children, and profile ing experts said living a WNC residents living long, healthy lives. If you have a prolong, healthy life is about gram or person who you think would make a good profile, staying fit physically, mene-mail or call 232-6003. tally and emotionally. Like Sprague herself said, being connected to her friends and family, and as eating right and staying it than that (the physical side),” Stephens said. “I giving back to the com- active. munity is just as important “I think there is more to think you have to give back

to the world and to the community. We can’t focus on ourselves all the time.” Shifting views about older adults and providing opportunities in Buncombe County is a large part of the county’s aging plan developed in 2008. The number of people age 60 and older in Buncombe County is expected to nearly double by 2030, to 28 percent of the population. Rebecca Chaplin, of the Area Agency on Aging, said these statistics, and the county’s emphasis on health, give the county a good chance to become a Blue Zone. The region is home to the N.C. Center for Creative Retirement and the N.C. Center for Health and Aging, an interdisciplinary center promoting healthy lifestyles and successful aging. “I think it (the Blue Zone idea) is a way of living in which older adults are a part of the community,” Chaplin said. “I take away from it the possibility that we can live life optimally into an older age and that the amount of health we have in our culture is not related to the amount of health care.”

Changing the culture

Changing the culture to make living a long, healthy life easier is the goal of many people and programs throughout the region.

UPCOMING WALKS ■ Naturalist Urban Hike: 9 a.m. May 20. Meet at Patton Park shelter next to steel footbridge. ■ Main Street to Hyman Heights walk: 9 a.m. June 3. Meet at Patton Park shelter next to the steel footbridge. This is a 2.43-mile loop following paved sidewalks. Some moderate slopes. ■ “Watch Out for Us!” presentation on pedestrian safety 10:30 a.m. June 17 at the Sammy Williams Center for Active Living, 301 N. Justice St. ■ West Hendersonville Walking Route: 9 a.m. July 1. Meet at the Sammy Williams Center (301 N. Justice St.). This is a 1.92-mile loop. The route follows paved sidewalks with minimal slopes. something we can do and it has benefits,” he said. Along with the walks, Walk Wise, Drive Smart has worked on making structural improvements to the city to make it safer and more accessible for walkers. For more information call 251-7438.

Many efforts are focused on getting these habits started at a young age. WNC Healthy Kids is trying to help the entire region identify which programs work in helping children to be more active and have better eating habits, and connecting these efforts. The goal is to form healthy habits and reduce obesity and the chronic diseases that go along with it. “We are at a time in our nation where we have to look at ways to change the tide,” said coordinator Sally Smith. “Instead of treating diabetes, we need to be looking at how to change society so we don’t have 30 percent of people being overweight.” While it’s tougher to change bad habits when we’re older, it is possible, said Keith Ray, director of the N.C. Center for Health and Wellness at UNCA. But, he said, becoming a Blue Zone or a place where healthy living is normal is going to take the effort of everyone. “It’s going to take the efforts and contributions of many,” Ray said. “Living a healthy lifestyle is not just the work for those of us in public health and health care providers. It is everybody’s responsibility. Every segment of the community needs to be involved in helping to reshape the culture.”

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May 9, 2010


Tea party alters WNC, even in a loss


Anti-government groups shift election By Joel Burgess

gist finished second among six Republicans Tuesday. Eichenbaum won 34 percent of the vote but fell just short of forcing a runoff with Jeff Miller, who is from the GOP stronghold of Henderson County. Results are unofficial until certified by the May 11 canvass, though few expect them to change. Miller will face U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, whose primary performance against an unknown was less than stellar. Despite the loss, the force of the tea party message already


ASHEVILLE — While the tea party’s fortunes in the mountain’s biggest political race fell short, the movement’s anti-government anger looks to have permanently shifted Western North Carolina’s political landscape. Activists’ hopes of turning their small-government, low-tax message into direct political power foundered with the apparent defeat of Dan Eichenbaum, a tea party activist from a remote corner of the 11th Congressional District. The Murphy ophthalmolo- Please see TEA on A6 STEVE DIXON/SDIXON@CITIZEN-TIMES.COM

Mary Sprague, 90, helps Victoria Harlan-Allison of Cherokee check in as she volunteers her time at the Lewis Rathbun Center near Mission Hospital.

Making Asheville

into a ‘Blue Zone’

By Nanci Bompey


attack nearly 12 years ago, today Sprague is in remarkably good health. But the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother doesn’t attribute her longevity solely to eating right and exercising. “I am a people person and so I believe that is it: being with people, being involved and not thinking any particular age is the end of the world, because it isn’t,” said Sprague, who has lived in Buncombe County for more than 50 years. “I believe that’s it: being mentally involved and physically

If there’s a secret to living a long, healthy life, Mary Sprague may have figured it out. The 90-year-old Weaverville resident said she feels the same today as she did all of her other 89 years. Sprague volunteers at the Lewis Rathbun Center once a week, takes classes in history and current events at the N.C. Center for Creative Retirement, walks and exercises with her neighbors, and is an avid quilter and reader, keeping up with the latest titles for her book club. Although she suffered a heart Please see LIVING on A9

Forecast A GANNETT NEWSPAPER | VOL. 141 | NO. 129 | 78 pages | © 2010


Mostly sunny, windy High 64, Low 39 Weather, C10

MORE INSIDE ■ A community comes together. Page A9. ■ WNC longevity, county by county. Page A9. ■ Walking for health. Page A9. ■ Local resources, Page A7.















B1 B1-8 D6



Democrats show anger with Shuler at the polls By Jonathan Walczak


ASHEVILLE — A steady drumbeat of political predictions leading up to the primary elections had it that health care reform would drive voters to the polls. In Western North Carolina, it may well have — but not in the way many would have expected. Democratic Party frustration with U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler allowed his virtually unknown opponent to capture 40 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s 11th Congressional District primary, experts say. Within Buncombe, the district’s most heavily populated county, Wilson captured 52 percent of the vote to Shuler’s 48 percent. “I voted for Wilson to express Please see SHULER on A6

DRUGS, GUNS, MONEY: John Boyle looks into what happened to all the evidence that disappeared during disgraced Sheriff Bobby Medford’s tenure. Page B1

STILL GUSHING: A bold effort to cap the oil well pumping crude into the Gulf of Mexico failed. Page A2

IS IT THE COACH? Tiger Woods said he’s sticking with Hank Haney as his swing coach. Page C1 HONORS STUDENTS: Asheville City Schools recognized its top high school scholars in a ceremony. Page B5

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SATURDAY, MAY 15, 2010

100: Hospital studies keys to longevity Continued from A1

living a long, healthy life, part of the hospital’s effort to make the region a “Blue Zone,” or an area of the world where people live the longest and most vital lives. Park Ridge is bringing Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones,” to Asheville on May 25 to share the practices and principles of places around the world where he found people to be embracing common threads in lifestyle, behavior, diet, outlook and stress-coping mechanisms to help them live long, healthy lives. During the luncheon, the centenarians, who were born when William Taft was president and have lived through both world wars, talked about the greatest inventions in their lifetimes (Kleenex and automobiles) and things younger generations take for granted (money and thinking they are going to live forever). “We are trying to do the same thing (as Buettner did) here in Western North Carolina,” said Jodi Grabowski, wellness coordinator at Park Ridge. “We want to learn from them, hear their stories and celebrate their lives as part of our own celebration this year.” Bonnie Taylor Age: turns 100 June 3. Home: Marshall. Taylor insists there isn’t any secret to living longer, but her daughter, Kay Gordon, said, “Her sense of humor and attitude toward life is just wonderful.” Good genes also don’t

UPCOMING BLUE ZONE AND HEALTHY AGING EVENTS ■ Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones” will give a presentation on the book and ways to live a longer, healthier life 6 p.m. May 25 at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Tickets are required, but are available for free by registering at BlueZones. ■ The eighth annual Successful Aging Celebration will be 9 a.m.–3 p.m. May 25 at the Crowne Plaza. The event includes entertainment, education and opportunities for caregivers and individuals. Registration is required. Brochures are available at the N.C. Extension Office, 2555522; Land-of-Sky Regional Council, 251-6622; and the Council on Aging of Buncombe County, 277-8288. hurt: her mother, father and siblings all lived to be at least 100 years old. Florence Ready Age: Turned 100 in January. Home: Hendersonville. Ready, who still lives alone, drives and listens to music on her iPod, credits her longevity to eating a total vegetarian diet, walking in the sunshine, doing aerobics and drinking lots of water. “I changed my lifestyle in my late 40s,” said Ready, who moved to the area in October from Minneapolis and plans to volunteer at Park Ridge in

TEXT: Survey finds a third of teens text while driving Continued from A1

driving while texting charges as of February. More recent statistics were not immediately available Friday. Driving while texting has been cited in at least one other fatal crash in WNC. Troopers suspect text messaging while driving played a role in a crash that killed six people in Brevard last year on U.S. 64.

Dangers of texting

Trooper Gene Williamson of the N.C. Highway Patrol said training is done in schools to get the message out about the dangers of texting and driving. Police say a person can create and send a text message in 10-15 seconds. A car covers more than 80 feet per second at 60 mph, so one text message could equal a tenth of a mile that a driver is distracted. Officers set up a traffic cone course and have students drive a golf cart while receiving and sending a text message. Most students plow into the cones. The Highway Patrol has offered the training at schools in Haywood, Buncombe, Henderson and Madison counties. Williamson said his agency also is trying to teach parents and driver education teachers about the dangers of being distracted by a phone or anything else that takes a driv-

er’s eyes off the road. “This is just very tragic, and I hope students will learn from this tragedy,” he said. About half of teens ages 16 and 17 say they have talked on mobile phones while driving, and about a third of those teens have handled text messages while behind the wheel, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project.

the future. Stanley Ulewicz Age: 102. Home: Brevard. Ulewicz came to the Century Club celebration wearing his royal hat, which he wears every year on his birthday, but he came without his wife of 80 years, who lives with him at the Brian Center in Brevard. Ulewicz said the secret to his long life is staying active. After he retired from Chrysler in 1971, Ulewicz and his wife traveled the world, and today he “pushes his wife all over the place,” goes down to eat in the dining room and participates in activities, like bingo. Grace Goodell Age: 101. Home: Hendersonville. Goodell attributes her long life to “positive thinking, and I’m healthy, which makes a lot of difference.” Goodell keeps her body active by working out and her mind active by playing bridge. But most importantly, Goodell’s state of mind keeps her going. “I feel like a teenager,” she said. Margaret Speer Age: Turns 100 June 6. Home: Brevard. Speer said her secret to a long life is living “just a good clean life and a good husband and wonderful children. … I did everything my mother told me to do.” For her 100th birthday this summer, Speer’s family is throwing her a four-day party with friends and relatives coming from all over the country. “I’m very excited about the party,” she said.


FEE: Effect on consumers is not clear Continued from A1

both Sens. Kay Hagan and Richard Burr for supporting the bill. “Because of Sen. Burr and Sen. Hagan’s vote, business owners and their customers are one step closer to real, tangible reform. This amendment will enhance transparency and help protect businesses and their customers alike from these unfair, hidden fees,” according to a release from The Merchants Payments Coalition, which represents 2.7 million U.S. businesses. Beyond the cash register, lower swipe fees also could affect increasingly popular debit card rewards programs, where customers rack up points for goodies like airline tickets or the latest iPod model. Valentin and another analyst said those programs could disappear, because banks rely on revenue from interchange fees to help cover the programs’ reward costs. However, a merchant who has sued card companies and banks over swipe fees says savings from fee cuts would ultimately reach consumers. “It will transfer billions of dollars from banks to American families and small businesses,” said Mitch Goldstone, CEO of, an Irvine, Calif. e-commerce and retail photo business. If merchants pay lower fees on customers’ debit payments, those that don’t respond with price cuts will lose cost-conscious


A customer swipes a MasterCard debit card through a machine while checking out recently at a shop in Seattle. customers, said Goldstone. When businesses accept major credit cards they sign agreements with the card companies to pay a percentage of each transaction, usually about 2-3 percent. Fees are set in negotiations among the various parties, although merchants say terms are largely dictated by card companies and banks. The amendment that cleared the Senate involves interchange fees on debit cards, but not credit cards. Debit cards are being used more as customers have become less willing to borrow during the

recession. Still, swipe fees from credit card transactions make up a bigger portion of bank profits than fees from debit transactions. A version of the legislation that cleared the House in December didn’t include restrictions on interchange fees. So Thursday’s Senate passage of an amendment by Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, of Illinois, came as a surprise. Seventeen Republicans were among the 64 senators voting in favor. The financial industry is fighting the Senate proposal.

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A10 SUNDAY, MAY 23, 2010


A call for living longer — and living better ISSUES2010 W HEALTH

ant to live to be 100? More importantly, want to live to be 100 and be in good enough shape to enjoy it? There are ways to improve your odds, as Dan Buettner has shown in his survey of the world’s Blue Zones. Buettner will be in town Tuesday to discuss his book “The Blue Zones” and point out ways to live longer. The session, sponsored by Park Ridge Hospital, begins at 6 p.m. in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Online registration is closed, with more than 1,300 people signed up, but 500 additional seats are available on a first-come, first-serve basis at the will-call window starting at 5 p.m. There is no silver bullet that will assure a longer, healthier life. The deluge of TV ads for prescription drugs suggests that any infirmity can be cured by taking the right pill. That’s not really true, and it certainly isn’t true with regard to longevity. A good diet certainly is crucial, as Buettner showed in his survey of those areas where large numbers of people enjoy healthy old age, the areas he calls Blue Zones. In Nicoya, Costa Rica, the key factor seems to be a diet of beans, squash and a special tortilla. Among Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, Calif., it is a diet inspired by Genesis. But that’s not the only factor. The key to longevity on the Pacific island of Moai appears to be a sense of purpose and mutual support networks. Overall, the formula involves not just physical well-being, with the emphasis on diet and exercise, but also mental and emotional well-being. Consider the example of Mary Sprague. The 90-yearold Weaverville resident exercises, is involved in community work, quilts, reads and takes classes at the N.C. Center for Creative Retirement. “I believe that’s it: being mentally involved and physically involved,” she said. Western North Carolina is in a good position to join the

Dedicated to the upbuilding of Western North Carolina since 1870. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. ◆ Randy Hammer President and Publisher ◆ Jim Buchanan Editorial Page Editor ◆ Phil Fernandez Executive Editor ◆ Joy Franklin Contributing Editor ◆ Bill McGoun Contributing Editor

We invite Letters to the Editor of 200 words or less written by the submitter for the Citizen-Times. ■ Please include your name, mailing address, daytime telephone number and email address.

From MAD to madness


world’s list of Blue Zones. Besides the N.C. Center for Creative Retirement, the region is home to the N.C. Center for Health and Aging, an interdisciplinary center promoting healthy lifestyles and successful aging. Health foods are popular, and so is exercise. Life expectancy at birth is 78.3 years in Buncombe County, compared with 77.3 in North Carolina and 77.7 for the nation. Among the many groups promoting healthy lifestyles are Mission Health Care’s Lighten Up 4 Life, Pioneering Healthier Communities and its Activate Asheville campaign, and the WNC Health Network’s Healthy Kids program. But there also are disturbing trends. One in five North Carolinians between ages 10 and 17 is overweight. Childhood obesity shortens life span in many ways, not the least of which is contributing to the development of Type 2 diabetes. “It’s one thing when adults allow their health to get away from them,” Publisher Randy Hammer wrote recently. “But it’s shameful when we as parents and a country allow our children’s health to deteriorate to a point where their life expectancy will be less than ours.” During the coming months the Citizen-Times will continue to highlight health issues. We will interview those who have lived long and those who are helping others to do so. We will highlight community resources. And we will encourage those who are trying to make a difference. If you can get in to hear Buettner, do so. Even if you can’t, there is a lot you can do. Eat right, exercise, keep your mind active and stay involved with community and friends. Remember, your longevity is determined only 25 percent by your genes. The rest is under your control.

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Local columnist

■ Mail to: Letters, Asheville Citizen-Times, P.O. Box 2090, Asheville, NC 28802-2090. ■ E-mail: ■ For information, call Dave Russell at 236-8973 or e-mail

Good use for Boyle’s ‘tumbledown building’


er John Boyles’ “Answer man” article: “The tumbledown building — I have that,” said Dennis Mehring, spokesman for the Charles George Medical Center. “There would have to be a funding source identified and a viable plan established before anything is done.” If the county is still looking for a site to put the East Branch Library somewhere else, why don’t they consider contacting the VA to renovate and then rent the whole building for a library? I don’t know if this is workable or not, but it is a suggestion to put it back into service for all citizens. The VA could even keep some of the room for any expansion needed. David Bunner, Asheville

Perhaps Reagan should replace Jackson on $20


ome in Congress want to replace Gen. Grant’s likeness on the $50 bill with that of Ronald Reagan. I understand Republican zeal to lionize Mr. Reagan, but his main contributions to American life were deregulation and trickle-down economics which led us to the recent Great Recession. Gen. Grant, at least, led the army that ended slavery, although it unfortunately did not resolve the issue of states’ rights. But this is America, where few things are ever thoroughly resolved. If Republicans want to put Mr. Reagan’s likeness on a bill, why not the $20? Andrew Jackson was considered by many an avowed racist whose most notable contribution was the Trail of Tears. Many Cherokee will still not carry a $20 because of that. I do not wish to imply insidious intent, but this movement is characteristic of the insipidity that drove me from the Republican Party eight years ago. As far as change goes, the most positive change that could occur this year is for Republicans to renounce their obstructionist ways and refocus on the political process. The resulting legislation will be greatly improved, and, let’s face it, there are many more important things to worry about than whose likeness is on our money. Lee McMinn, Brevard

Letters to the Editor experimental Google fiber-optic superhigh-speed Internet system. We are in second place for the “second round.” I wish to appeal to everyone to go to fiber-optic and vote for Asheville each day, as the rules allow. The winning city should get jobs with Google as well as recognition and a superfast Internet system. So please vote. James Stevens, Asheville

Education is real medicine for ailing world


appreciated Caroline Fleming’s guest commentary on May 15 regarding the need for education worldwide. My son’s second-grade class recently participated in lessons highlighting Global Education Week. He came home talking about the 72 million kids who don’t get to go to school and about how we should help them. Education is one of the cornerstones of a strong democracy. It is also one of the most important components in “nation building.” It is difficult to have a thriving economy without an educated work force. By helping to create the opportunity for all kids to go to school, we would give hope and a future to millions of people. Education should be a foreign aid priority because it can and will save lives around the world. An investment in education is an investment in the future that will reap many returns. Rev. Christy Sharp, Fletcher

Easy to spot flaw in Arizona’s new law


he outrage over Arizona’s law is this: How do you spot an illegal alien? Do they have a tag on them? Do they have a flag on them? How do you spot one? Is it the white person who could be a visa violator? Or a black guy who could be a visa violator? How do you spot an illegal? It is obvious that the people who will be stopped will be Hispanic. They may have been in this country legally for decades. Any law that singles out enforcement based upon skin color is illegal. That is the outrage. They will target only one group of American citizens for enforcement on Keep pushing for the off chance they will catch Asheville as Google hub someone who is not an Amerisheville won the “first can citizen. round” in the unofficial naGeorge Sharp, Black Mountain tional vote for the winner of an


hen President Obama enunciated his nuclear policy, he jumped the tracks laid down by every one of his predeKaren cessors over the McKay past 65 years. OPINION Truman and Eisenhower relied on massive retaliatory nuclear force to deter a Soviet attack. Kennedy and Johnson adopted the doctrine of mutually assured destruction, or MAD. The deal was that neither the U.S. nor the USSR would do anything to protect their countries from nuclear attack because both would be obliterated. Accordingly, the U.S. dropped any notion of civil defense. Reagan considered MAD insane. Besides emerging nuclear rogue states that had little to lose, the Soviets cheated, fully intending to survive a nuclear war with the U.S. Their critical industry was hardened, redundant and dispersed; their civil defense plans for saving the majority of their population included pressurized subway tunnels in the cities. Reagan saw the Strategic Defense Initiative as the best solution for defense against nuclear attack. Our president, who said during the campaign that “if they bring a knife to the fight, we’ll bring a gun!” has now told our enemies that if they attack us with chemical or biological weapons, we will not defend ourselves with nukes if they are signatories to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. If we are attacked with chemical or biological weapons of mass destruction, we have no such weapons with which to respond. Nixon renounced first use of chemical weapons and unilaterally ordered the end of FDR’s bioweapons program, the destruction of all bioweapons in U.S. stockpiles and stopped production of chemical weapons. By the time George H.W. Bush renounced retaliatory use of chemical weapons, most U.S. stockpiles had been destroyed. The United States was painted into a nuclear corner. Without the option of responding in kind, there was no effective recourse other than nukes. The Soviets, meanwhile, were racing ahead with their non-nuclear WMD programs, not just developing chemical and biological agents, weaponizing toxins such as trichothecene mycotoxin and spider and snake venom, but fieldtesting and employing them against human targets in Yemen, Cambodia, Laos, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran through the ’80s. The administration says we will react to a WMD attack by a NPT signatory with massive conventional force. We can’t. We don’t have the strength. Even if we did, no conventional force can survive, let alone prevail over WMD. Further, our military is inadequately prepared for passive defense against any class WMD. From MAD to delusional ... “Madness hath imaginary bliss...” Our enemies suffer no delusions, and we have offered them the keys to our destruction. Karen McKay is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel living in Leicester. She can be contacted at

Stories aren’t of much use if nobody bothers to listen F

ess Parker quietly passed away a few weeks ago. In a different time, this would Jim have been Buchanan big news, EDITORIAL perhaps bigPAGE EDITOR ger around these mountains than in other places. Parker was known for his portrayals of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, two American frontier icons; Boone’s roots were firmly grounded here in the southern Appalachians. Parker’s Boone persona was that of a capable, independent woodsman, blessed with a reservoir of wisdom and common sense, quick to befriend and slow to anger. (Of course, in the 1960s TV show somebody managed to pull the latter off just about every episode and would subsequently be beaten like

Staff columnist a drum, if not completely excised from the gene pool.) As a kid growing up in these mountains surrounded by competent outdoorsmen, I have to admit I thought Dan’l was cool but not altogether extraordinary. I was actually quite leery of the trademark coonskin cap Parker donned as both Crockett and Boone. Kids all across America were running around wearing fake fur knockoffs of the cap; consequently, I lived in fear I would be presented an actual recently departed, flearidden raccoon in an effort to keep me abreast of the latest fashion trend. At any rate, Parker’s Boone was a fictional character, but passably close to an actual historical figure, at least by American entertainment standards of the time. And in that era, youngsters had a crop of actual human beings they could look up to

and perhaps emulate; Boone, Sgt. York, Amelia Earhart or Audie Murphy, perhaps. If you’re a kid out there circa 2010, you’re looking up to … I don’t know, maybe the latest “American Idol’’ flavorof-the-month. Or SpongeBob, perhaps. Where’d everybody go? Well, they’re still there; we’re just not paying attention to them. Bear with me here. This line of thinking started cropping up in the back of my head as Memorial Day began to draw near the horizon. It occurred to me that until fairly recently, we knew the names of people who were in the game, as it were; service personnel, astronauts, explorers, humanitarians, etc. And it then occurred to me that I can’t name a single active astronaut today. And I can’t recall, from news coverage, the name of a single ordinary soldier serving in the Afghan theater. I find this astounding.

And I find it appalling. After all, Afghanistan either is now the longest war in U.S. history or will be by mid-2012, depending on how one measures the length of the war in Vietnam. And you may not have heard, but we passed an unenviable milestone there last week, as the American toll in this conflict that began in 2001 passed 1,000 when five U.S. soldiers died at the hands of a suicide bomber. That tally includes some mighty fine people from these mountains. Yet, we just don’t hear about it. Troops in Afghanistan might as well be off on some offshore oil platform. Out of sight, out of mind until something blows up. As there’s no draft or war tax, it just doesn’t seem to matter to a lot of people. It doesn’t even come up when we’re talking about the deficit, which is a true disconnect., the Pew

Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, reported that Afghanistan received 4.6 percent of news coverage in 2009. The week of May 10-16, it received 4 percent. Actually, I guess one in 20 news stories isn’t all that bad. I guess what bothers me is it probably isn’t one in 100 water cooler conversations. I’m not here to do any chest-thumping to show I’m more patriotic than somebody else; I’ll leave that to the types who seem to treat “the troops” like G.I. Joe dolls instead of human beings. But I do think it’s not a stretch of courtesy to put some names and faces to the conflict, and to perhaps wonder if, after a decade of trying to drag a country into the 21st century, or at least the 20th, we come to the point where we ask ourselves if we’re not asking too much of these folks. Or if it’s not asking too much of our press and our public to acknowledge there’s a war

on. Well, here are some names. The five servicemen who died last week were Col. John M. McHugh, 46, of New Jersey; Lt. Col. Paul R. Bartz, 43, of Waterloo, Wis.; Lt. Col. Thomas P. Belkofer, 44, Perrysburg, Ohio; Staff Sgt. Richard J. Tieman, 28, of Waynesboro, Pa.; and Spc. Joshua A. Tomlinson, 24, of Dubberly, La. Perhaps, one day down the road, some future Fess Parker will have a TV show relating the stories of men like these. By the way, it turns out Daniel Boone didn’t care for coonskin caps at all and instead wore the widebrimmed hat favored by hunters of his era. His story may not have been told correctly. But at least we know his name. Readers can write Jim Buchanan at P.O. Box 2090, Asheville, NC 28802; phone him at 232-5841; or e-mail him at

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Voters tell parties they must evolve or fade By Liz Sidoti


WASHINGTON — Since the birth of the American political party, its primary mission has been to amass power by recruiting candidates, raising money and spreading messages. In short, a holding company that elects people — with a monopoly for 150 years by Democrats and Republicans. But a recent chain of events — from the Internet’s astonishing ascent and a Supreme Court ruling on political money to today’s maelstrom of voter anger — is changing things. The major political parties are inching toward a decision point: Change with the times or risk diminished influence. Results of primaries last week in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Arkansas illustrated the threat that the party establishment faces. Elections are becoming fragmented as populist coalitions thwart the will of Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington. “People have decided they don’t need big, centralized gatekeepers to make decisions for them,” said Alex Castellanos, a former Republican National Committee adviser and a longtime GOP strategist. “The same thing is happening all over to every institution,” he says. “It’s a bottom-up world, not a top-down world anymore. And people are empowered to cut out the middleman.” To some degree, this is democracy at work. People rise up, make their voices heard and choose leaders without being told by Washington party bosses whom to support. But the outcome could mean it’s harder to get things done. Even if they carry the party label, free-agent candidates elected without the establishment’s sup-


Sen. Mitch McConnell

GOP chairman Michael Steele

Sarah Palin port owe it little or nothing. More insurgent lawmakers in Washington could make it tougher to accomplish anything on Capitol Hill, where building coalitions already is tough. And it doesn’t have to be about movements. Wealthy special-interest groups could recruit and fund candidates, too. “Both parties need to recognize that people who don’t feel like their voices are being heard or their concerns are being addressed now have the abilities and the motivation to organize on their own,” said Karen Finney, a former Democratic National Committee spokeswoman. “So,” she said, “the parties need to rethink how they reach out to suppor-

ters and engage supporters. That’s part of how they will stay relevant.” Carl Forti, a former strategist with the House Republican campaign committee, put it this way: “The parties need to evolve. … It’s about changing how they talk to voters and take advantage of new technology.” Still, he said, “Even 20 years from now, the parties are going to play a central role. The question is how other groups evolve.” Mindful of the wake-up call from voters, both parties have been studying Tuesday’s results intently. In Kentucky, the tea party coalition rallied behind political novice Rand Paul for the GOP Senate nomination over the candidate preferred by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in his home state and the Senate GOP’s campaign committee. In Arkansas, unions split from President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, pouring money and manpower into a Senate race to force White House-backed Sen. Blanche Lincoln into a runoff. Democratic voters in Pennsylvania rejected the party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter, a five-term institution and the recipient of campaign help from Obama, in favor of a lesserknown congressman. Last fall, Republicans in a House special election in upstate New York sent a message to party leaders who had chosen the GOP nominee: They voted against her in favor of a third-party candidate — even though it handed Democrats the election. Republican Sarah Palin now has legions of Facebook and Twitter followers. And Republicans who argue that GOP chairman Michael Steele is ineffective have created a network of outside organizations intended to pick up the slack.

WOMEN: Mountain BizWorks supportive Continued from A1

the nonprofit served 1,074 entrepreneurs last year, an 8 percent increase over 2008, and 61 percent served in 2009 were women. Rachel Zink started, an online gift registry featuring the handmade work of local artists, a year ago. She’s focused now on growing her business, and said the local advice and connections

she’s found locally has been instrumental in her success. “Just being able to make those personal connections through a really supportive environment that Mountain BizWorks provides has been really key,” Zink says. “You need the skills, but at the end of the day, it is meeting people and understanding there are people out there that can help you make it hap-

pen.” Robin Cape, a former Asheville City Council member who calls herself a “serial entrepreneur,” will deliver the keynote speech. “I’ll talk about looking at the process and tools used to develop our biggest and best asset — ourselves,” Cape said. “It’s not about working harder. It’s about working truer. It’s not about being tougher. It’s about being stronger.”

CITY: Project is about uniting community Continued from A1

“We can’t beat the environment we’re living in. It is going to beat us,” Buettner said. “So we have to organize all factions of the community and look at the science and organize a tsunami to move that environment back toward the way parents grew up with and back the way we see in the blue zones.” Buettner’s answer is about proactively thinking about ways to reverse the environment and creating “nudges” so that leading healthier lives becomes mindless or just part of daily life. In Albert Lea, the Minnesota vitality city, Buettner’s project created moais, a Japanese word meaning “social networks,” where residents meet to take a walk or garden together, not only doing something healthy but also connecting with each other and finding meaning in life, which Buettner said is half of the secret to living longer. About 700 people joined the walking moais and about 3,600 of the city’s residents have gotten involved in some way in the vitality project in Albert Lea. There are success stories, such as the man who

IF YOU GO Dan Buettner’s Blue Zone presentation is at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in the Asheville Civic Center, downtown. The talk is free. While advance tickets are no longer available, 500 additional tickets will be given away first-come, first-serve starting at 5 p.m. Tuesday at will call at auditorium. To learn more, visit


To learn more about Vitality Cities, visit was overweight and depressed, but since joining a walking moai has lost weight and made friends. Then there’s the Kenyan immigrant who feels more a part of her community through meeting with her moai three times a week. “It’s not just a diet program, and it’s not just a walking program, and it’s not just a life purpose program,” said Albert Lea Community Development Director Bob Graham. “Those things are important but unless you reform or re-create or reestablish community, you

just have a town. The vitality project is very much about re-establishing community.” Now, the real test is coming as the city attempts to continue the effort on its own. It’s building a vitality center in the middle of town and kicked off a new round of moais this past week. Graham admits being a vitality city can be time consuming and that changing habits means constantly keeping the ideas before the public. He said people were skeptical about the idea at first, thinking they had to buy something to participate. But Graham said despite these bumps in the road, becoming a vitality city is one of the best things to happen to Albert Lea. The town has been featured in national publications and TV shows, and it’s brought the city together. “All of us have to become healthier and we have to get control of this obesity issue and we’re not doing it through all of the programs that exist,” Graham said. “We have to reestablish community in the full sense of the word: as a place where people care about each other and they are important to each other.”

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WEDNESDAY, MAY 26, 2010 A7

BUETTNER: Author talks about health care crisis

THE POWER NINE: 1. Move: Find ways to move mindlessly. Make moving unavoidable. 2. Plan de Vida: Know your purpose in life. 3. Downshift: Work less, slow down, rest, take vacation. 4. 80 Percent Rule: Stop eating when 80 percent full. 5. Plant-Power: Eat more veggies, and less protein and processed foods. 6. Red Wine: Consistency and moderation 7. Belong: Create a healthy social network. 8. Beliefs: Spiritual or religious participation. 9. Your Tribe: Make family a priority.

Continued from A1

women. More than 1,000 people came to hear the author talk about his book and his travels around the world to find the planet’s longest-lived people. In these “Blue Zones,” Buettner discovered communities where common elements of lifestyle, diet and outlook have allowed people to live longer and enjoy a better quality of life. In his hourlong talk, Buettner described the habits of shepherds in Sardinia, Italy, older women in Okinawa, Japan, and a community of Seventhday Adventists in Loma Linda, Calif. “None of these centenarians ever belonged to Weight Watchers, didn’t go on any diet, they didn’t eat powders or pills,” he said. “When it comes to longevity, there is no short-term fix — there’s no pill, there’s no supplement.” In talking to centenarians in these three communities around the world, Buettner came up with nine lessons that he says could put people on the path to a longer life, including exercising more, eating better, finding a purpose in life and becoming a part of a community. Buettner told audience members that if they follow any six of what he calls “The Power Nine,” they could live four to six years longer. “You see the same things happening over and over again … and I think they provide an important direction for us to follow,” he said. Buettner and Healthways are partnering to bring the concepts of “The Blue Zones” to a commun-


Source: Dan Buettner, “The Blue Zones”

Dan Buettner speaks with Florence Ready in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium on Tuesday. During Buettner’s lecture he outlined principles for increasing lifespan. ity in the United States. Asheville is one of three finalists to become the next “Vitality City.” As part of the initiative, experts will come to the city and help it make permanent and semipermanent environmental changes to make it a healthier place to live. Buettner performed the same experiment in a city of 18,000 people in Minnesota and said it reduced health care costs, increased life expectancies and helped people

lose weight. “The secret to turning this health care crisis around is creating an environment of health by emulating Blue Zones around the world,” he said. Buncombe County Health Director Gibbie Harris, who was in the audience, said the ideas Buettner talked about, including making environmental changes to encourage healthy behaviors, are good, solid public health practices. She said a lot of

groups are already working to make the community healthier in the ways Buettner talked about. “The question for me is

this (the region becoming Go to for a Blue Zone), the best way video and photos. for Asheville and Buncombe County to move forward,” Harris said.

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TRIPS: Economic development officials defend the spending to attract creative class Continued from A1

for each of the trips were less than half what three members of the Asheville Regional Airport board spent this month to travel to a conference at a Hawaii resort. But AdvantageWest often paid to fly several people to the festivals — as many as five on a 2008 trip to Austin’s South by Southwest. The N.C. Film Office, by contrast, sent a single representative to South by Southwest in 2008 and 2009, and budget cuts will keep it from sending anyone this year. One AdvantageWest employee will go to Austin this year: Pam Lewis, who runs the agency’s entrepreneurial initiatives. Fans of the Geodome, a sort of inflatable planetarium the agency brought to festivals along with one to three operators, will go away disappointed; the agency will not have a booth this year. Lewis said attending South by Southwest in past years has inspired her to copy ideas for Asheville’s Carolina Connect conference for entrepreneurs. She worked hard to learn as much as possible, she said. “You barely lay your head down at night,” Lewis said. Other officials agreed the trips were no vacation despite attractive locales and lodgings, like the condo beside ski slopes in Park City, Utah, or The Driskill hotel in Austin, which bills itself on its Web site as “among the world’s finest hotels, offering an unforgettable level of luxury and service.” A three-person delegation stayed at The Driskill during 2007’s South by Southwest, racking up a $2,462 hotel bill over five days, including a couple of

McConville said, “and the booth was packed the entire time because of the draw that it was providing.” At Hatchfest in Bozeman, Mont., the agency put on a show to announce a deal to make Asheville the East Coast site for the festival. A fashion performance showcased local designer Brooke Priddy and a music set featured a Philadelphia DJ, King Britt. The agency said the DJ’s management team is from Asheville. Corporate donations paid for King Britt’s performance, AdvantageWest said, while tax money picked up travel for Priddy and her model. At Sundance, the focus was on a movie created in Asheville, “Anywhere USA.” The indie flick was due to win the 2008 festival’s Spirit of Independence Award. AdvantageWest said it chipped in $3,000 toward the weeklong rental of a house for director Anthony “Chusy” HaneyJardine, his wife and producer, his daughter and star, and at least 10 other cast and crew. Without AdvantageWest, star Perla HaneyJardine “could not have made the trip to Sundance,” her father said in an e-mail, “and our biggest publicity and promotional vehicle would have been relegated to a neighbor’s house playing Wii instead of being interviewed by national and international press.” The attention paid off in helping the film find a distributor, Cinevolve Studios, and plenty of fans, including a famous one. “Sitting in front of me was Quentin Tarantino,” said N.C. Film Office director Aaron Syrett, “and he loved the film.”

Hendersonville attorney said. “It never entered my mind. Because I think anytime you’re doing board service, it’s a volunteer board.” State legislators have set $15 as the typical per diem payment for members of state boards, but legislators permit AdvantageWest to pay $100. AdvantageWest, one of seven regional economic development commissions, is both a state-created board and a nonprofit. The organization cut back on travel last year as

the state fiscal picture worsened and budget cuts hit. Its state funding has dropped 26 percent, and Myers said ending per diems is prudent as a budget-cutting move. The agency paid board members $39,300 over the last three years in the per diem payments that have now ended. “I don’t really think anybody’s missed it,” Myers said. “I don’t think serving on the board of AdvantageWest has anything to do with getting $100.”

HOW ADVANTAGEWEST IS FUNDED AdvantageWest, shorthand for the WNC Regional Economic Development Commission, is a public-private partnership funded mostly by state money that markets the region’s 23 counties to corporations. Of seven such commissions around the state, it receives the most state money. But the General Assembly has cut funding for the commissions by more than 26 percent to less than $5 million. In the flush times of 2007, legislators directed an extra $50,000 to each of the state’s six film commissions including the one run by AdvantageWest, which spent some of the money at Sundance, South by Southwest and a Los Angeles trade show. AdvantageWest has 19 board members and about a dozen staff members.


AdvantageWest spent more than $90,000 in state money on out-of-state travel in 2007-09. Among the destinations: Venice, Italy; Copenhagen; and other European cities on an April 2008 trip. Board member Gordon Myers joined an N.C. Commerce Department trip led by former Gov. Mike Easley and his wife to market the state to businesses. AdvantageWest said it spent $3,300 in state funds on the trip. Myers didn’t know of any deals that came out of the trip but said it helped him understand what relocating businesses look for and allowed interaction with Commerce Department employees. “I think it was a very worthwhile trip,” Myers said. The same month, the agency spent $2,900 to send an official to the United Kingdom and Ireland to promote Western North Carolina as a tourist destination. There is interest in Britain and Ireland on bluegrass and other traditions influenced by Scots-Irish culture in Appalachia, former AdvantageWest CEO Dale Carroll said. Betty Huskins, the vice president who traveled and has since left the agency, said meetings with travel agents and interviews with the European press paid off. “All of our tourism Web sites started getting hits from Ireland, England,” Huskins said.

hotel room movies. Officials weren’t sure why the movies were recorded as being paid by state funds. “Our policy is that we

don’t pay for those types of things,” said CEO Scott Hamilton, who took over in 2009. If the group did pay the $21 charge, he said,

it was unusual and unin- Southwest. Neill emceed the ceremony, which he tentional. said gave him a platform to Showcasing the area sell WNC. Asheville entrepreneur AdvantageWest said it has succeeded at getting David McConville showed out its message: that its films in his Geodome, inarea is home to creative cluding one that took professionals and would viewers on a virtual tour of downtown Asheville and welcome more. The group’s Creative the Blue Ridge Parkway. AdvantageWest offiCommerce Commission sponsored the film awards cials “were trying to get attention,” ceremony at South by people’s

markets Western North Carolina to corporations. Nor would he seek reimbursement for the miles he put on his car. The decision came two and a half years into Jenkins’ tenure as chairman and a year after the board decided to forgo payments for its other 18 members. Jenkins, a Franklin real estate broker, said he decided to end the payments “for the foreseeable future” because he will have less responsibility now that AdvantageWest has hired two new employees.

Jenkins took a $100 payment on each of 48 days last year and 60 days the year before. His predecessor, Gordon Myers, received 86 payments in his final year, or one every 4.24days. Board members do not draw salaries, and Jenkins defended the payments as compensating board members for taking a day out of their schedule. “I certainly don’t think anyone is getting rich off their per diem,” Jenkins said. Most board members

other than the chairman took per diem payments just a few days a year, mostly for attending board meetings. Member Sam Neill said he charged only on days of meetings. Neill traveled to places like Austin, Texas, as part of leading the agency’s efforts to recruit filmmakers to the region, and was reimbursed for many of his expenses on those trips, but he said he didn’t get a flat payment. “I went to a lot of things for this, but I never charged a per diem,” the

AdvantageWest chairman ends per-day payments By Jordan Schrader


FLETCHER — Until recently, a day the chairman of the AdvantageWest board traveled to recruit jobs to the mountains was a day he could have his expenses taken care of and pocket an extra $100 for his trouble. But Chairman Tommy Jenkins has now given up that extra compensation. Jenkins told the board in November he would no longer take per diem payments of $100 when representing the agency, which

KING: Dignitaries speak at breakfast

2010: Groups offer healthier life choices

Continued from A1

Continued from A1

history of oppression of the country’s AfricanAmericans. After blacks were freed from slavery at the end of the Civil War in 1865, with the protection of federal troops in the South, “they were treated, more or less, like people.” They held public office, voted and went to school. But it didn’t last. “The change began with riders who rode through the night in packs, hoods on their faces, torches in their fists, terrorizing and brutalizing black people who were foolish enough to act like people,” Pitts said. When King’s generation came along, Jim Crow ruled the South. It was called separate but equal, but separate was hardly ever equal. Pitts, who has written his nationally syndicated column since 1994, said water fountains for blacks were rusty and corroded, their separate bathrooms were nasty and their cemeteries were overgrown with weeds. “The school had to make do with old books thrown away by the white kids,” he said. All this filled King with what Pitts calls “angry love.” “It was love that dared to look at the Christian gospels and to believe

County in 2005 and continues to be an important focus of the health department. Experts say the obesity epidemic didn’t happen overnight, and it is not going to go away quickly. Large-scale success — declining rates of obesity and chronic disease — is still years or even decades away, but now is the time to lay the groundwork. “The first thing we have got to do if we want to change direction is slow the ship down,” Ray said. “That is what we are doing.”


Asheville High School quarterback Brandon Whitesides received the 2010 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award. that the message there applied not just to the misty past or the sweet by and by, but to this minute, this day, right here, right now,” he said. “It was love that refused to cooperate. “Martin Luther King had a crazy idea that the walls between black and white, high and rugged, centuries old and maintained by the forces of law and custom, could be made to crumble. And that we wouldn’t have to wait for some utopian future to see it happen.” Several other local dignitaries spoke at the breakfast. Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy recalled that last year at this time she was in Washington at the inauguration of Barack Obama as our country’s first African-American president. “Today we are here to honor a bridge builder,” she said. “I’m asking you

to be a bridge builder.” U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler told the crowd he also was at Obama’s inauguration, and he said “we owe so much to Dr. King and so many others.” Actress Andie MacDowell urged the audience to become educated about the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tens of thousands of women and girls have been systematically kidnapped, raped and tortured, she said. “We can stop what’s happening in Congo,” MacDowell said. “Help these women.” The Martin Luther King Fulfilling the Dream Humanitarian Award was presented to Julia Nooe, a professor at Mars Hill College. She is the chair of the college’s department of social work and has previously served on the prayer breakfast board.

Community support

Focusing primarily on individual behavior, while important, is becoming a thing of the past, said Terri March, coordinator of Healthy Buncombe. Experts now realize that the key to changing these behaviors on a larger scale is to focus on how communities can support healthier lifestyles. That means implementing policies that build sidewalks and bike lanes, and improving access to fresh fruits and vegetables. In 2009, active transportation — biking, walking and public transit — became a more prominent issue, and March hopes 2010 will bring policies that support more active ways of getting around town. Stimulus funds have already been allocated to support

better bike and pedestrian infrastructure. Local groups also plan to continue efforts to get more fresh fruits and vegetables into schools and expand access to tailgate markets and other ways of getting fresh food. “It’s not so much about the obesity,” March said. “It’s about the behaviors and what our community can do to support healthy behaviors.” As part of its 100th anniversary this year, Park Ridge Hospital plans to offer programs and presentations that focus on overall wellness and healthy lifestyles. The hospital plans to sponsor a visit from Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones,” as a first step toward making this an area where people live longer and healthier lives. Buettner’s book examines regions of the world where people live especially long lives. The YMCA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities initiative, a group comprised of local leaders, is working on creating policies that make it easier to make healthy choices at school, work and home. The group received a $30,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support physical activity initiatives. It also plans to develop a community healthy living index to measure physical activity and nutrition in the community and will allow groups to see if changes are working.

“We are talking about being creative in shifting into this new area of public policy change and making the healthier option the easier option,” said Kristen Weaver, director of wellness advancement for the YMCA of WNC. Buncombe County is also working on completing its community health assessment, a survey of the health of the community performed every four years. This year, the county will include questions about accessibility to fresh food and physical activity. “Choices an individual makes have a huge impact on their health behaviors, but we also need to look at what choices are available,” said J. Nelson-Weaver, executive director of Health Partners. “We’re trying to be more strategic about what paths to take.” These are just some of the local efforts to combat obesity. Working to bring together the dozens of groups working to fight obesity is one goal of Health Partners this year. The N.C. Center for Health and Wellness at UNCA also plans to work with child obesity advocacy groups statewide to help them get their message across to local and state policy makers. “Big picture success is years away,” Nelson-Weaver said. But “if you never start you never get anywhere. If you wait to see the whole staircase, it’s too late.”

Blue Zones Coverage  
Blue Zones Coverage  

All articles running that cover either Park Ridge, Dan Buettner or Blue Zones