op frHaywood County commissioners drew a line in the sand. The Haywood County School Board decided not to cross it. In a nutshell, that’s what happened. 

But what was interesting was the spoken and unspoken back and forth between the two elected bodies about taxes and spending in this era of tight budgets and tax-hike phobia.

op frWhen I sat down to write a piece for this week’s paper my topic was already chosen. I was going to criticize the current legislative leadership in Raleigh and what that group is doing to our state. I’ve been following the bills that have been introduced and are moving toward passage, have read about the shenanigans going on concerning committee votes, had made notes and was ready with plenty of fodder. 

I also had my ending already in my head, which is a great start for writing anything: that the GOP leadership was doing absolutely nothing to encourage any shared sense of responsibility among those of us willing to admit that they inherited a mess. Instead of working together to find common ground, however, the super majority is ignoring democratic principles and even its own ideology as it stumbles along like a bull in a china shop. Legislative leaders are pushing unfunded mandates down to counties, usurping powers of local governments, and pushing ahead with measures that will hurt small businesses. 

op frThe “fractured public square” refers to the loss of the place where a community discusses ideas, politics and values. The ideal public square can be both a bonding agent and a place where one draws a line in the sand. It’s not necessarily a physical place, but it might be.

What happens when there is no public square, when it keeps fracturing and breaking into smaller places and smaller forums? I’m afraid we are on the way to finding out.

op frThe defeat of gun control legislation in the Senate wasn’t as much surprising as it was disappointing. This is one of those issues — like gay rights or even limits on tobacco advertising and use — that will eventually gain overwhelming support. Public opinion and a changing electorate will eventually win out. I’d bet the farm on it. Unfortunately, many more tragedies — some preventable — and a few more years will have to pass.

 Sandy Hook is still fresh in our minds. In truth, the Senate legislation would likely not have stopped a mentally unstable son from murdering his mother and taking her guns into an elementary school. But even the utter senselessness of that massacre was not enough to convince politicians who feared voter amnesia and an election backlash. 

op frI cannot credit film critic Roger Ebert, who died just a couple of weeks ago after a lengthy battle with cancer, with instilling in me a lifelong love of movies. I was already in love with movies before I saw Gene Siskel and Ebert’s show “Sneak Previews” in the late 1970s. Growing up in Sparta, I had seen movies in the old Sparta Theater and at Twin Oaks Drive-In. I went every chance I got, loving how the movies transported me from my small town and tightly circumscribed life into places and times and adventures I could have never dreamed of otherwise.

op frThe room tax hike being sought by Haywood leaders needs to pass and deserves the support of the legislative delegation in Raleigh, and we hope that Sen. Jim Davis in particular will get on board and shepherd this bill through the Senate.

The hike, an additional 2 cents on each dollar spent on overnight lodging, would bring the room tax up to 6 cents. It would net about $450,000 each year in additional revenue that could be spent on attracting tourists.

We have been hearing a lot lately about President Barack Obama’s charm offensive. He has been traveling a short distance from the White House to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress, including Republicans. He now seems more interested in developing relationships and a rapport with members on both sides of the aisle whose votes he can use in the days ahead.

op frWhat’s deadlier than a crazed maniac in a kindergarten class with a loaded assault weapon?

In the most horrifying massacre in the history of the United States, a few days before Christmas, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into a classroom of 5- and 6-year-old children, opened fire and killed them all plus six teachers and staff including the highly respected principal and then himself.

op frCigar smoke swirled around my face as the eardrum splitting street preacher invaded the festive mood of the thousands meandering around the entrance to the old market in downtown Charleston. A few minutes earlier, we had finished off a meal with an old friend, and afterward, my wife had departed for a spring break trip with her father. That left me, one of my daughters and my son to enjoy a couple of days in this great Southern city. 

op frWhen the city of Asheville decided that this year’s Bele Chere street festival would be the last it funded, little more than a whisper of protest was reported in the local media. The monstrous festival had become a victim of its own success. The largest street party in the Southeast cost nearly half a million dollars of taxpayer money each year, took just as much time to plan, and then during the summer buildup needed weeks of preparation. Many long ago decided it had become too big to enjoy.

Bele Chere may survive under the auspices of some other entity other than the city government, a move that would be helpful to the nonprofits that depend on it for a significant portion of their fundraising. The downtown association is a likely candidate, while the city could still help with security and garbage, writes Jason Sandford, the creator and writer of the blog Ashvegas.

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