SMN staff

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To the Editor: 

Let’s talk about the upcoming elections – not the candidates, but the voting. Regardless of your political leaning, there is a lot that we can agree on that is critical to our democracy. 

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To the Editor: 

More than one million North Carolinians (12.9%) have no health insurance. 

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• Western Carolina University’s Martin Luther King Jr. weeklong celebration will be highlighted this year with speaker Charisse Burden-Stelly’s keynote address “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Tradition of Radical Blackness.” Find a full list of events here.

After serving as interim director for seven months, Will Summer has been named the next director of the N.C. Division of Land and Water Stewardship and executive director of the N.C. Land and Water Fund. 

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To get the most out of out of James Lee Burke’s latest novel, “Another Kind of Eden” (Simon & Schuster, 2021, 243 pages), readers might want to first read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown.” Here’s a short synopsis that may help.

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The Haywood County Arts Council (HCAC) and regional partners, including the Asheville Area Arts Council, Transylvania Community Arts Council, the Tryon Fine Arts Center, the Arts Council of Henderson County, and the Rutherford County Arts Council, have announced the 2021-2022 Artist Support Grant awardees. 

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To the Editor:

Over the last few years I have read with incredulity article after article about how our town alderman and county commissioners have been handing millions of dollars to large corporations in the form of property tax breaks while raising those same taxes on average homeowners. There is no doubt we need affordable housing, but providing incentives to big developers by overtaxing us homeowners is not needed. 

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To the Editor:

Rolling into the end of this year we have experienced trials and tribulations. From one virus to another coupled with higher gas prices and groceries. Lower inventory due to supply chain disruptions and labor shortages have created stress for many of us. Judy and I are now traveling from Sylva to Kansas City and are finding things to be thankful about. 

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January is National Mentoring Month, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Haywood County is celebrating those who are already volunteering as mentors — “Bigs” — and also recruiting volunteers. 

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The dawning of a new year brings a surge of energy and opportunity. If there’s ever a time to reassess financial plans and goals, it’s now. Below are five suggestions to save big in 2022. 

The National Park Service will waive admission on five days in 2022, aiming to encourage discovery and visitation of the country’s variety of national parks. 

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The Lake James watershed near Morganton is now a little more protected following a 35-acre conservation purchase Dec. 23 along Paddy’s Creek.

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Chimney Rock State Park has a new animal ambassador — Oscar the opossum, who was born with no eyes. 

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The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission awarded 23 grants worth more than $4 million for agricultural and economic initiatives across the state. 

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To the Editor:

This is in response to another Trump hit piece disguised as an opinion letter to the editor. I thought Trump derangement syndrome was cured. Come on man, get over it! No one cares.

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To the Editor:

Apparently, though he took the sacred vows of marriage in front of a cross, meeting Donald Trump’s “needs” is more important to Madison Cawthorn than meeting his wife’s. 

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To the Editor:

We are in the middle of another wave of Covid and Haywood County has dropped the ball. Where are our free testing sites? Buncombe County has them. Jackson County has them. Why don’t we?

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To the Editor:

If you survived the daily bombardment of TV ads for Medicare Advantage plans during Medicare Open Enrollment and chose to stick with traditional Medicare, you could be in for a big surprise.

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The state quarantine area for the imported fire ant has expanded once more to include all of Granville and portions of Caswell and Person counties, meaning that 79 of the state’s 100 counties are now included in the quarantine area. 

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The Walker Sisters Cabin in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be closed over the coming months due to safety concerns in the historic structure. 

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A new hiker hostel has joined the Franklin Appalachian Trail Community Council as an A.T. Supporter.

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Robin Arramae of WNC Paint Events will be continuing her fun paint nights to bring you not only a “night out” but an experience that lifts your spirits.

Looking back to early 2021, we all thought this was going to be our year. I mean, how could it be any crazier than 2020?

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We’ve been told that participation trophies are the devil, but we’re also certain that everybody who has lived through 2021 deserves one. This award, dear reader, is your participation trophy. 

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The Town of Sylva and Jackson County share this award for the two opposing statues that occupied downtown Sylva this fall.

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Amy Poehler’s character in “Mean Girls” memorably conferred this title on herself back in 2004, and like that character, the recipient of this award found herself doing something stupid in an effort to make herself more likeable — though in this case toward a bear, not a teenager — and instead ended up making things worse for everybody. 

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The Cherokee Tribal Council displayed profound mastery of improv’s cornerstone rule of thumb, “Yes, and,” as it spent much of the year inventing reasons not to consider an ordinance seeking to lift the tribe’s hard-line ban  on same sex marriage. 

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Residents of the Qualla Boundary and Robbinsville can now join the rest of the state in a collective 5 p.m. ‘cheers’ after voters in those jurisdictions chose to lift some of the last alcohol bans still in effect in North Carolina. 

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This one goes to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which, like the much-memed Hollywood actor, just seems to be in everything these days. 

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As Kenny Rogers famously sang, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run.” Franklin’s long-time mayor Bob Scott knew it was time to fold ‘em and walk away from his late-in-life political career that he loved so much. He probably could have won another term in office but decided not to seek re-election and give someone else a turn at the helm. 

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This award goes to the members of the Waynesville Task Force on Homelessness who were hell bent on not doing anything to solve the problem of homelessness in Haywood County. 

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Rumble is a women’s newsletter started by the female staff members at The Smoky Mountain News. The tagline for Rumble is “Fearless, Curious, Generous” — all words used to describe Barbara McRae, who passed away in March after a long battle with cancer. 

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The Grinch Award goes to Swain County Sheriff Curtis Cochran, but not for the reasons you may think. We know the Grinch — and law enforcement — gets a bad rep, but we forget that the Grinch wasn’t all bad, and in the end, he came through for Whoville to make Christmas a magical time for all. 

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Maggie Valley Town Planner Kaitland Finkle has experience in her field, multiple master’s degrees and a clear, coherent way of sharing complex information. So why then do the Maggie Valley Planning Board and Maggie Valley Board of Alderman regularly ignore her zoning recommendations in favor of their own ideas?

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As the late, great rocker Tom Petty once opined, “The waiting is the hardest part,” and it sure seemed that way as Haywood County attempted to recover from disastrous floods this past August. 

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And what a year it was for Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers. 

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After 27 years of loyal service to the Main Street merchant community in Waynesville, Wall Street Books got booted. The building that the book store resides in has changed hands and unfortunately, a used bookstore isn’t in the plans for those new owners. This winter, bookstore owners are currently in limbo, on the hunt for a new home with an estimated 50,000 books in tow. 

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When legendary Drag Queen RuPaul kicks a queen off his reality tv show for up and coming drag queens, he sends them off into the sunset saying, “sashay away.” But if RuPaul had seen the action at Sylva’s inaugural pride parade this summer, he might have said “ooh, sashay my way!”

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The winner of this year’s “most likely to get my vote award,” goes to John Hinton. While other politicians seem to have drifted from the understanding of what voters really want, Hinton gets it. It’s money. 

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The first-ever award for mismanaging and destroying a longstanding community institution goes to … that longstanding community institution itself. 

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This year was a challenging year in so many ways, but that was especially true in Western North Carolina. 

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As if Henderson County native David Madison Cawthorn’s meteoric rise to fame wasn’t surprising enough, Cawthorn’s Nov. 11 announcement that he’d run for reelection not in the district that elected him but instead in a newly-drawn district that he doesn’t live in, has set a new bar for political opportunism in Western North Carolina. 

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All teachers everywhere are recipients of the Bullsh*t Award every year for what they have to put up with, whether they are recognized for it or not. But in the midst of their third pandemic school year, the award hits home a little harder. 

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Cullowhee Valley School stole the running for the Woke Citizens Award when it voted to retire its outdated Rebel mascot, personified by an old Confederate general. 

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Alley Cat Youth Racing will return to Cataloochee Ski Area in Maggie Valley this winter, with the first races scheduled for Jan. 4-5. 

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A new music video featuring Asheville-based band The Fates aims to raise awareness for an ongoing effort to make wildlife road crossings in the Smokies safer for both people and animals. 

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Despite widespread rains last week, the drought situation in North Carolina hasn’t changed much, according to a map published Dec. 16. 

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park plans to build an annex to its existing headquarters building, and a comment period open through Jan. 9 will take input on the results of a study investigating the project’s likely impact to wetlands and floodplains.

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