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Asheville Watchdog

Out-of-State Patients Surge at Asheville Clinic As Nearby States Ban, Restrict Abortions 

Supporters of reproductive rights rally in Asheville Oct. 3 // Watchdog photo by Starr Sariego

By BARBARA DURR

More than half of the patients seeking abortion care at Asheville’s Planned Parenthood clinic are now coming from out of state, as nearby states move to ban or restrict the procedure in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that struck down the constitutional right to abortion, according to Planned Parenthood officials.

Molly Rivera, communications director for Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which runs all of North Carolina’s Planned Parenthood clinics, warned that the Asheville clinic may yet be further inundated. “As more states move to ban abortion, including South Carolina, we expect the demand to continue to increase in North Carolina, particularly in Asheville,” she told Asheville Watchdog.

The Asheville clinic is the sole provider of abortion services in Western North Carolina.

Rivera said that in North Carolina,

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Asheville Watchdog Reporter Kestin Wins National Investigative Journalism Award

Asheville Watchdog reporter Sally Kestin’s multi-part series Equity Erased was honored with a “Best Investigative Journalism” award Wednesday night by the national Institute for Nonprofit News.

The series, which is continuing, documents how Buncombe County homeowners lost years and sometimes generations of equity to Asheville real estate investor Robert Perry Tucker II and his associates.

As a result of Kestin’s investigations, Lisa K. Roberts, a Tucker associate, was arrested and charged with 41 felony fraud and forgery counts. Roberts’s Asheville attorney, Ile O. Adaramola, was also arrested and charged with six felony notary fraud charges. Their cases are pending.

The Watchdog series prompted investigations by the North Carolina Secretary of State and the North Carolina Attorney General. It also focused legislative attention on an obscure law in North Carolina that allows investors to force the sale of vulnerable properties and buy them at significantly below market value.

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Fox News: Asheville Is Crime-Ridden, Dangerous

Report Misstates Stats, Blames "Leftist" Agenda

Fox News last week told a national audience that Asheville has seen a 31 percent increase in violent crime in the last five years. “Asheville once touted as a top-10 tourist destination back in 2017, but with crime raging, the city now ranks, get this, in the top 10 percent of most violent cities in America,” anchor Todd Piro said. “That’s tough to believe.”

Yes, it is.

The 31 percent increase is not current. It refers to a period ending in 2020, when crime had increased nationwide. Violent crime — murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — went down in Asheville in 2021.

And the reference to Asheville being among the most violent cities came from an analysis, also based on 2020 data, that combined all violent crimes — a potentially misleading way to view the statistics,

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TDA Expenses for US Open: $70k for Travel, Food, Coozies

Guests wined and dined in suites

The tab is in: On top of the $1.3 million Asheville paid to sponsor the US Open tennis tournament, the public tourism board spent more than $70,000 in expenses that included catering and travel for their staff, board members and guests, nearly $25,000 on Asheville-branded beer coozies, and more than $1,000 on floral arrangements.

As Asheville Watchdog reported last week, the Tourism Development Authority’s $1.3 million sponsorship agreement included tickets to a luxury suite for two nights and passes to the President’s Suite. The Grand Slam tennis event in New York ended last weekend.

In a news release Monday, Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau listed the names of the suite guests and a summary of expenses paid for with tax money.

On Sept. 7, Asheville Night in Arthur Ashe Stadium, 17 guests watched the men’s and women’s quarterfinals in Asheville’s luxury suite,

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Luxury Suites, Perks for Local V.I.P.s in $1.3 Million US Open Deal

Tennis-see? Asheville is "Official Sponsor of the US Open"

The US Open winds to a close this weekend in New York, and among those attending in the luxury suites at the tennis Grand Slam event will be more than two dozen Buncombe County VIPS – courtesy of the public tourism board and $1.3 million in local tax money.

The Tourist Development Authority announced last month that it had paid $1.3 million to become an official sponsor of the US Open and touted benefits, including signs promoting Asheville, television spots, and an Asheville Night on Sept. 7.

Not mentioned were some of the other benefits the TDA received, according to the sponsorship agreement:

–  A luxury suite in Arthur Ashe Stadium for two sessions to be selected by the TDA. “With the suite will be included 20 suite admission tickets, two host passes and three VIP parking passes.” The TDA also agreed to purchase a minimum of 

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In Woodfin, the Balance of Power Is Shifting

New commissioners promise transparency, modernization

Last November’s election in Woodfin, Asheville’s sleepy northern neighbor, came at a time of major transformation. The town’s population has more than doubled since 2000 — it is now home to 8,000 people — and Woodfin is attracting keen interest from developers. 

The proposed Bluffs at Riverbend, a large mixed-use development on pristine forest west of the French Broad River, rallied residents. Voters turned out in record numbers, tossing out three incumbents who had governed the town for a decade or more.

Their three replacements, Jim McAllister, Eric Edgerton, and Hazel Thornton, were backed by the Sierra Club and promised to protect the town’s green spaces and steep slopes with responsible, environmentally sensitive development. Two others with similar positions, Judy Butler and Betsy Ervin, were appointed to fill vacancies, giving the Town Commission a solid majority and shifting power from longtime Woodfin residents to a group of mostly retired professionals who are relatively recent arrivals in town. 

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Woodfin Development Controversy 2.0

New Proposal Replaces Controversial Bluffs Project

By BARBARA DURR, Asheville Watchdog 

Just as the new reform-minded commissioners of the town of Woodfin — now a solid majority — have settled into governing, a fresh controversy is brewing. A new application for a housing development on the site of what was the highly contentious Bluffs proposal has been submitted by a different group of real estate investors. 

The application from Concept Companies of Gainesville, Fla., submitted to the town Aug. 5, proposes a smaller development of 672 multi-family apartments with three clubhouses called “Mountain Village.” The controversial Bluffs at Riverbend, with some 1,500 rental units, a 250-room hotel, and commercial space, was vehemently opposed by residents of Woodfin and the Richmond Hill neighborhood of Asheville.  

A coalition of neighbors from Asheville and Woodfin,

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Opinion | Looking a gift horse in the mouth? The Asheville Citizen Times drops a nonprofit’s investigative work

The paper says its focus on growing paid digital subscriptions is at odds with running the Asheville Watchdog's stories for free

Bob Gremillion, publisher of the the Asheville Watchdog, wrote a piece questioning the Citizen Times’ decision to stop publishing its stories. (Poynter illustration)

[Editor’s Note: This column appeared Aug. 17 on poynter.org, the website for the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit media institute and newsroom in St. Petersburg, FL that provides fact-checking, media literacy and journalism ethics training to citizens and journalists. It is reprinted here with permission. Rick Edmonds is media business analyst for the Poynter Institute where he has done research and writing for the last fifteen years.]

By: Rick Edmonds

August 17, 2022

The Asheville Watchdog has been a much-celebrated hit among digital news nonprofits. Founded two years ago by Pulitzer-winning retirees living in the gateway to the North Carolina mountains,

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Advocates: Youth Need More Say in Reparations

 ‘Let Your Voices Be Heard'

Tyler Lewis, 18, says he's tired of talking about reparations. "Let's start making things happen." // Credit: Starr Sariego, Asheville Watchdog

By SCOTT CARROLL, Asheville Watchdog 

Cultural malnutrition.

That’s the phrase Asheville native and longtime resident Priscilla Ndiaye Robinson has coined to describe the disconnect many in the Black community, especially young people, have about their history and culture. In Robinson’s mind, knowledge is power, especially now as a historic Community Reparations Commission works to atone for the government’s role in denying Blacks wealth-building opportunities.

“There is a lack of knowledge of relevant local history,” Robinson said. “Our youth need to learn that history.”

Perhaps no group could be more impacted by the work of the Reparations Commission than Asheville’s Black children and young adults. But a lack of participation by youths is emerging as one of the early challenges to the reparations process. 

The 25-member Reparations Commission is decidedly older — 

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Madison Cawthorn Targeted by Federal Election Commission

After high-flying campaign, he’s broke, busted and disgusted

In a message to constituents on Instagram, Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) shows off his cigar

BY TOM FIEDLER, Asheville Watchdog

Fancy cigars. Four-figure dinner tabs. Coast-to-coast luxury travel and stays at swanky hotels. Generous gifts to friends, and lucrative payouts to Republican advisors and cronies. Madison Cawthorn’s re-election campaign was rolling in money.

But now, following his defeat in the May 17 Republican primary, the money’s all gone. And federal officials want to know where it went.

In a bluntly worded letter dated Aug. 1 — Cawthorn’s 27th birthday — the Federal Election Commission warned that unless Cawthorn “immediately” submits a report that was due July 15, he faces fines of about $1,000 a day, an audit, or even “legal enforcement action.” The report must detail how he handled more than $3.65 million in campaign contributions, fully listing all his donors and the amounts they gave, and providing a full account of where he spent it. 

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