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Asheville Watchdog

‘Stand With Protesters’

Downtown businesses, some vandalized, show their support

Kathryn Crawford and Gus Cutty led a group of local artists that created Black Lives Matter murals downtown.

One by one, they arrived at their downtown businesses this week to find shattered storefronts and graffiti-stained walls.

The damage could not have come at a worse time, following a two-month closure from a pandemic and a sluggish reopening.

But these Asheville business owners chose not to cast blame or demand justice from the vandals.

They joined the cause.

Patton Avenue Pet Company owner Jenna Wilson, Hazel Twenty boutique owner Lexi DiYeso and others drafted a letter that they posted Thursday night in the Asheville Black Lives Matter Community Facebook group. It began with 20 signatures and by Saturday, 49 downtown merchants had signed their names.

“Several of our storefronts were vandalized, with the potential for more damage in the days to come. We’ve boarded up our windows and are already seeing a decline in business coming to our Downtown locations,” the letter reads.

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Gassed

Inside Monday’s protest in downtown Asheville

A stranger poured milk on Mark MacNamara to soothe the effects of tear gas.

June 1st.  Night.

A few minutes before the first explosion a black woman stopped to say,  “It’s nice to see another older person.” She patted my arm. “You too,” I replied. Such kind eyes, I thought and reached out to touch back but she was gone.  I was standing just up from the police station, under the sign that reads, “Young Men’s Institution. Established 1892 as center of social, moral, religious influence for blacks working at Biltmore.”

The crowd was closely packed, but not a mob, which must always carry on its back its twin brother, lynch.  Altogether, the faces were mostly white, college looking, no one over 30, plenty of voyeurs, no apparent flower children, street people, drunkos or wackos, and only the rare person not wearing a virus mask, but of course you’re thinking, how many new cases are going to come out of this?

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What teachers see through an on-line lens

Some students thrive but many are virtual dropouts

Online learning gave teachers a glimpse into their students’ lives.

Impressions from the front lines as the school year ended last week with classrooms shut and students trying to learn from home: 

A Buncombe County elementary teacher: “We had some students who looked to me like they hadn’t bathed in a week,” said the teacher, recounting an experience from before the schools shut down. “If the parent isn’t helping them take a bath each week, I know that they aren’t helping them with [on-line] school work.”

A community schools coordinator: “I’m seeing a lot more usage of drugs, mostly marijuana.” These young teen students log-in to the school’s video connection “when they’re high… These kids are smoking an entire blunt – I’ll be honest – and they’ll do it all day.”

A first-grade teacher: “It was like the child had disappeared,” the teacher said recounting the situation of a student.

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What teachers see through an
on-line lens

Some students thrive but many are virtual dropouts

Online learning gave teachers a glimpse into their students’ lives.

Impressions from the front lines as the school year ended last week with classrooms shut and students trying to learn from home: 

A Buncombe County elementary teacher: “We had some students who looked to me like they hadn’t bathed in a week,” said the teacher, recounting an experience from before the schools shut down. “If the parent isn’t helping them take a bath each week, I know that they aren’t helping them with [on-line] school work.”

A community schools coordinator: “I’m seeing a lot more usage of drugs, mostly marijuana.” These young teen students log-in to the school’s video connection “when they’re high… These kids are smoking an entire blunt – I’ll be honest – and they’ll do it all day.”

A first-grade teacher: “It was like the child had disappeared,” the teacher said recounting the situation of a student.

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Families in Fear at Stricken Nursing Home

‘Not How Our Ending was Supposed to Be,’ says wife of Covid Patient

Kathie and Burt Carnahan at their daughter's wedding in 2018.

This story has been updated to reflect the latest Covid-19 cases from the state.

Kathie Carnahan nursed her husband through two major surgeries, watched helplessly as dementia robbed the once vibrant attorney of the ability to speak, and made the gut-wrenching decision to place him in an Asheville nursing home.

But nothing compared to the pair of phone calls the family received two weeks ago from administrators at Aston Park Health Care Center. The first brought the news she had dreaded: Covid-19 had entered the nursing home. And then: her beloved Burt was infected.

“My heart sank, and I thought, ‘Oh god, it’s happening,’ ” she said. “It was the worst moment in my life.”

Kathie Carnahan

Kathie and Burt Carnahan at their daughter’s wedding in 2018.

The coronavirus is surging through Aston Park,

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Asheville’s Soul Threatened

Artists and Musicians Hit Hard by Closures

The normally bustling Grove Arcade Outdoor Maker’s Market is quiet without artist vendors and foot traffic.

The pandemic that left thousands of Asheville workers unemployed has been particularly hard on the artists, musicians and performers who help define the city’s character.

“Lots of people have been broken by this — people that live day to day, week to week, month to month,” said artist David Achenbaugh of Blue Ridge Gems, who has been selling his jewelry at the Grove Arcade Outdoor Maker’s Market for 17 years. “I worked my whole life. Every day, I’d go out and go to work, and I can’t even provide for myself or my family now. 

“All my street artist people are hurting,” he said.

Ed Rowles

The normally bustling Grove Arcade Outdoor Maker’s Market is quiet without artist vendors and foot traffic.

The long-term impact could alter the very fabric of Asheville. 

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Covid Ravages Asheville Nursing Home

Half the Patients Infected, 4 Deaths in 11 Days

Half of the residents at Aston Park Health Care Center are infected with the coronavirus.

This story is being updated as new information becomes available.

It began with one employee falling ill from the coronavirus.

By Friday morning, just 11 days later, more than 55 elderly and infirmed residents at the Aston Park Health Care Center in southwest Asheville and at least 30 of its staff had tested positive. 

Four residents had died and one was hospitalized.

“We have some that are very, very sick,” said Executive Director Marsha Kaufman. “It’s hitting those patients that have been declining and are really weak and compromised, the worst.”

Coronavirus is sweeping through North Carolina nursing homes, claiming an astonishing toll of more than 400 dead. As of Friday,  outbreaks had occurred in 41 counties, including Buncombe, where cases had been reported at four nursing homes. The others are Carolina Pines at Asheville, 2 staff infected; Deerfield Episcopal Retirement Community,

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Tourism Isn’t the Enemy

A Candid Interview with Vijay Kapoor

Part 2

Asheville City Councilman Vijay Kapoor, who plans to resign this summer and move to Philadelphia, spoke in-depth to Asheville Watchdog founders Sally Kestin and Steve Keeble about the pandemic and lean times ahead for city government, the controversy surrounding tourism and hotel development, and Mission Hospital.

Q: Asheville’s economy is so heavily dependent on tourism. How do you think that’s going to help and hurt our economic comeback?

A: Contrary to what a lot of people believe in Asheville, we actually have a fairly diversified local economy with respect to tourism, which has been hit very hard.

I think what we need to be doing right now, frankly, is working together, both local leaders, elected officials, as well as those folks who are in the tourism industry to figure out a way forward that helps a lot of these groups kind of get back on their feet.

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Political Power in Asheville

A candid interview with Vijay Kapoor

Part 1 of 2

Asheville City Councilman Vijay Kapoor, who plans to resign this summer and move to Philadelphia, spoke in-depth to Asheville Watchdog founders Sally Kestin and Steve Keeble about who holds the power in local government, why the council isn’t serving the needs of many residents and what’s needed to prevent undue influence over politicians in development decisions. 

Q: What can you tell us about serving on the City Council that would perhaps surprise us the most? 

A:   We have a lot of incredibly passionate people for a city of 90,000. The kind of community interaction that I’ve experienced as a council member is something that I think is usually more reserved for cities that are much larger. And I think there are both positives and there are,

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$5M TDA relief bill for small businesses helps hotels too

Area restaurants have been especially hard hit by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

When the Rev. Tami Forte Logan learned that the Buncombe County Tourist Development Authority and allies won legislative approval to offer $5 million to small businesses crushed by the pandemic, she didn’t join the chorus of congratulations.

“This bill is making sure that the hoteliers don’t fall, making sure that they will be OK,” said Forte Logan, a leader in Faith 4 Justice Asheville, which advocates for racial equity. “But what about the people? I don’t see how this will trickle down to the workers who are being hit the hardest.”

The grant money is available to restaurants, retailers, breweries, art galleries and other small businesses that in the judgement of the TDA will “significantly increase patronage of lodging facilities in Buncombe County” when they reopen, the legislation says.

Mark Barrett

Area restaurants have been especially hard hit by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

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