Debating Forest Service plan at Newsmakers forum

(Mountain XPress) The Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests may be our shared, public lands. But what do we do with them? How do we preserve and protect them — and for what uses? These were the questions posed at the first of Carolina Public Press’s Newsmakers series, held Thursday, Nov. 13. The lively discussion focused on the U.S. Forest Service’s draft plan for 1 million acres of public lands in Western North Carolina — and demonstrated just how passionate area residents are about the public lands that are part of the region’s great outdoors.

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Mills River fire chief presses council on affordable housing

(Hendersonville Times News) Chief Rick Livingston of the Mills River Fire Department attended Thursday’s Town Council meeting to make a plea for council members to expedite a decision on whether to create areas within the community that would accommodate higher-density, affordable housing. Mayor Larry Freeman said the town’s planning board began discussing the topic of affordable housing more than a year ago and has put in a lot of time, holding public input sessions and looking at different options. The chief said that over the last 28 months, the department has lost 14 of its volunteers, including both of his sons, largely because they cannot afford to live in Mills River.

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Fire chief wades into murky Asheville Police Department waters

(Asheville Citizen-Times) Scott Burnette would probably rather be standing in a trout stream. Instead, the Asheville fire chief is wading into much murkier waters. Burnette is about to be waist-deep — maybe deeper — in a planned reform of the Asheville Police Department, which has become a force torn by internal conflict. Pulled off his duties as chief, Burnette will make a short trip next door to the police department, also housed in the the Public Safety Building. City Manager Gary Jackson has asked him to be strategic operations plan project facilitator for the police department. He’ll be working with Police Chief William Anderson and a consultant to pinpoint and address the root causes of discontent.

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City may add $425,000 in Federal Funds to affordable housing effort

(Asheville Citizen-Times) The city may boost the number of low-cost homes in the region with a $425,000 infusion of federal money. The City Council Tuesday is set to vote on allocating the money to 88 projects in Buncombe and surrounding counties. In addition to helping to build affordable homes and apartments, the grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would help find homes for 14 families who would otherwise be homeless and upgrade two homes that have fallen into serious disrepair. In several cases, the money will add new units to already existing projects. The money isn’t enough to fully build the projects, but serves as seed money, said Jeff Staudinger, Asheville community and economic development assistant director. “We can never raise enough to do the whole project. It’s usually enough to do a couple units,” Staudinger said. “What this does is allow these organizations to leverage the money into even more funding.”

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The coming crisis: Too few teachers for NC

(Raleigh News & Observer) For more than a year, media outlets have trumpeted stories about North Carolina’s decline in per pupil funding, elimination of teacher tenure, end of additional salary for earning master’s degrees, removal of class-size caps, elimination of the Teaching Fellows Program, introduction of vouchers and growing exodus of teachers from the profession. While the past year has been tumultuous, North Carolina is only now feeling the forward winds ahead of the real storm. Our state’s colleges of education, the training ground for our most successful career teachers, are seeing substantial declines in enrollment, and a potentially serious teacher shortage is looming.

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