Why we support Heath Shuler

[Editor’s note: Mountain Xpress doesn’t generally accept commentaries endorsing individual candidates. But given the authors’ status and the unusual fact that six of them (none of whom is currently up for re-election) saw fit to join forces this way, we opted to provide a forum for expressing their views in more in-depth fashion than is usually available to them.]

As local elected officials from Asheville and Buncombe County, we understand that one of the highest priorities for citizens in our community is protecting our environment. Preserving the natural beauty and health of our mountains is critical to our quality of life and our economy.

Over the past five years, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners has invested $5.4 million to preserve 3,699 acres of family farmland and forests. Meanwhile, the Asheville City Council has committed to cutting the city's carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2030. Asheville has reduced its total energy use by 8.2 percent in just three years, which saved taxpayers $127,135 per year in utility costs in the past year alone.

But protecting our mountains’ ecological health and our country's environment cannot be accomplished solely at the local level: We need environmental leadership in Washington. This is why we strongly support the re-election of Rep. Heath Shuler this November.

During his four years in Congress, Shuler has led efforts to preserve Western North Carolina's most environmentally valuable lands and has pushed for a strong national commitment to clean, renewable energy. According to the nonpartisan League of Conservation Voters, Shuler voted for the pro-environment position on 86 percent of the key issues that came before the current Congress. The average score for North Carolina’s two senators was 55 percent; for its 13 House members, 58 percent.

In June of 2009, the House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act. If approved by the Senate, this legislation would commit our nation, for the first time in its history, to large-scale development of clean, renewable energy, eliminating our dependence on the fossil fuels that drive global warming. It could reduce our combustion emissions by 83 percent by 2050. The legislation is projected to generate 2 million new jobs in the clean-energy sector.

This historic bill passed the House by a vote of 219-212. If just four members of Congress had switched sides, it would have been defeated. Shuler provided a key vote in securing passage.

Closer to home, he facilitated resolution of the long-standing controversy concerning the North Shore Road. For decades, debate raged over building a 34-mile-long highway into the heart of one of the Smokies’ most pristine areas. Many in Swain County wanted the federal government to follow through on a 1943 pledge to build a road to replace the one flooded by Fontana Dam. The environmental community opposed the road due to the enormous cost and the harm it would do to this irreplaceable national treasure.

Shuler listened to Swain County residents who proposed an alternative solution, and after years of work, a new agreement was signed on Feb. 2, 2010, that will provide $52 million in return for formally retiring the North Shore Road project.

The money will be held in trust, so only the interest generated can be used. Swain County commissioners are empowered to invest those funds in schools, job creation, infrastructure and services to benefit county residents. At 5 percent interest, the trust would generate an estimated $2.6 million a year once it’s fully funded.

Swain is one of the most beautiful counties in North Carolina but also one of the poorest. The financial settlement will have a huge beneficial economic impact for generations to come. Shuler's leadership in resolving this long and bitter dispute in such win/win fashion for both area residents and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ranks as one of the prime environmental accomplishments in North Carolina over the past decade.

Shuler has also provided leadership on other key environmental issues:
• He voted to increase the fuel efficiency of new automobiles by 40 percent, which will significantly reduce the nation’s annual oil consumption and global-warming pollution.
• He sponsored the proposed Blue Ridge Parkway Protection Act, which would preserve an additional 50,000 acres of ecologically critical lands.
• He secured $420,000 to help the city of Asheville purchase new clean, quiet, hybrid-electric buses for our transit system.

Meanwhile, rather than outlining any plans of his own to address our country's addiction to fossil fuels, Shuler's opponent in the race — Hendersonville Republican Jeff Miller — has repeatedly attacked Shuler's support for strong clean-energy legislation. The fossil-fuel-industry group allied with Miller has already committed $712,000 to fund ads attacking Shuler’s vote for clean energy.

Miller even signed an oil-industry-sponsored pledge designed to derail market-based solutions to reducing global warming. Those who recall 16 years of Charles Taylor representing us in Congress understand that we can’t afford to elect another politician who makes blocking environmental progress the major focus of his tenure.

We don’t agree with Shuler's votes on every issue, but his local and national environmental leadership has benefited us all. If these ancient mountains inspire you as they inspire us, we hope you’ll join us in supporting the candidate who’s stood up for our environment and who’s worked effectively to usher in the clean-energy revolution this country so desperately needs.

— David Gantt and Holly Jones serve on the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. Brownie Newman, Gordon Smith, Cecil Bothwell and Esther Manheimer are Asheville City Council members.

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52 thoughts on “Why we support Heath Shuler

  1. J

    The democrats are supporting a democrat? Wow, that’s amazing! Oh, no, wait, they’re important folks, you see.

  2. When Heath Shuler is defeated the democratic party is much more likely to place a real democrat up for election to his seat in the House of Representatives. That will not happen until Heath is gone. Buh bye Heath Shuler.

    I met Aixa Wilson on Sunday. He seemed like a very nice young man.

  3. Michael Wilson

    Now if we could only get Mr. Shuler on board with social/ civil rights issues. I’ve heard from other members of the gay community here in town that they’re supporting the republican candidate because of Mr. Shuler’s social views. I’m not on that bandwagon (yikes) but I’d like to see my elected official do more for my rights.

  4. bobaloo

    When Heath Shuler is defeated the democratic party is much more likely to place a real democrat up for election to his seat in the House of Representatives.

    Who will be soundly defeated by practically any Republican candidate that is nominated.
    At some point you have to accept the reality of your location Christopher. There is simply no way a liberal Democrat would receive majority support in this area.

  5. JWTJr

    I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when they wrote this letter. They had to be holding their noses the whole time.

  6. Grant Millin

    [Hey MX, I improved this version of my comment.]

    There’s no doubt a politician’s environmental record is critical these days. Unfortunately (for the sake of perspective) I don’t think any of the politicians signing this commentary have health insurance problems. (I certainly wish these fine folks and their families good health and cheer… and decent health insurance.)

    It is noteworthy that some Buncombe County employees are unable to get into HMOs.

    Taylor

    Charles Taylor’s real problem was general disethics… which included a deformed environmental agenda… an image he has attempted to reform in recent years. The reason Shuler was elected was to dislodge one of the most unethical Members of Congress, ever.

    Lack of prosecution (directly affecting Taylor) hardly erases the facts about Taylor’s self-aggrandizing behavior and scofflaw attitudes.

    I’ve always wanted to know how much of NC 11 is owned by Taylor in one way or another. How much of that land (the rest of what is still inside his sphere of influence) was sacrificed to non-green, conventional, non-innovative development? No serious reporting has ever been done on that one.

    It’s important we understand what the wider systems approach Shuler, or his alternative (hopefully not a Republican), needs to be working on.

  7. dhalgren

    Well, I’m voting for “Joe the plumber” cause he loves homosexuals! Not really, I’m voting for the best (electable) candidate available. (Shuler) To vote for Miller as a protest would be stupid of me and since environmental protections are important to me, how could I vote otherwise.

  8. croig

    Heath Shuler did exactly as he was told to do by Nancy Pelosi during the Health Care vote. Because they had enough votes, I believe he was told that he could say no on the vote. There were a number of his constituents that had a scheduled meeting with him during the weekend (I was one of them) of the Health Care vote. He ducked the meeting and a few of us saw him in the hallway and he would not speak with us regarding his stance on this issue or speak with us at all. He does exactly as he is told by Nancy Pelosi. He is not my choice of a candidate as I do not believe he has the best interests of the people of Western NC at heart, nor overall interests of the America as a nation. He wants to be a career politician and he will do whatever is takes to make that happen.

  9. dhalgren

    Shuler may have voted as he was told on the health care issue, or maybe he voted to represent the majority of his constituent’s wishes. Who knows? As far as his aspirations to be a career politician, so what!

  10. Johnny

    Shuler’s got my vote, some nose-holding and random grumblings notwithstanding. Thanks for the letter.

  11. UnaffiliatedVoter

    Do the ‘letter writer/signers’ even know how much we dont care what they think?

    Miller is much more honorable than the (John Edwards picked to run) Heath Shuler. The democrats had NO ONE formidable and experienced so they drafted a football player/TN real estate broker.

  12. Matt Mittan

    Hey Mountain XPress, you could have saved a bunch of trees and reduced this column down to the only three words that really mattered – as to WHY these people are endorsing Shuler… “He’s a Democrat.”

  13. Kry

    [Editor’s note: Mountain Xpress doesn’t generally accept commentaries endorsing individual candidates. But given the authors’ status and the unusual fact that six of them (none of whom is currently up for re-election) saw fit to join forces this way, we opted to provide a forum for expressing their views in more in-depth fashion than is usually available to them.]

    so will mountain xpress give the same opportunity for supporters of shulers opponent? or is it because these 6 are city council and higher profile they received special treatment concerning something that isnt usual for this local paper? its about fairness right?…why does fairness seem so one sided?

  14. Stan Hopewell

    I would say it is obvious that these democrats support Shuler simply because he has a (D) after his name. Shuler and Miller are twins, philosophically. But I want change in Washington, so I am voting for Jeff Miller. Let’s give a guy with no political experience a chance. At least he will go up their clean. I think Shuler has gotten corrupt in a short time up there.

  15. The Trolls Troll

    “Miller is much more honorable than the (John Edwards picked to run) Heath Shuler. The democrats had NO ONE formidable and experienced so they drafted a football player/TN real estate broker.”

    And he defeated a longtime, incumbent Republican.

  16. Staying out of it, mostly

    I think the point here, though I’m not sure why I even feel compelled to try to explain it, is that the signing parties would NOT vote for Shuler just because he’s a Democrat.

    What the letter is saying is that, though Shuler is not a leftist tree-hugging waif, he HAS proven strong on the environment. At least, way stronger than Miller.

    Personally, I’m not a big fan of Shuler. I’d feel pretty awful having to cast a ballot for him just to keep the other guy from power. However, this letter has given me the strength to do just that.

  17. Piffy!

    It’s cute to watch the Republicans-in-hiding trying to sway people to vote for Miller, as if their intent isn’t entirely transparent.

  18. UnaffiliatedVoter

    Hypocirtes was Plato’s cousin, right agnes?

    Hey Cry, its only FAIR when it tilts way to the left.

  19. Taxed Enuf Already

    “Hey Mountain XPress, you could have saved a bunch of trees and reduced this column down to the only three words that really mattered – as to WHY these people are endorsing Shuler… “He’s a Democrat.”” –Matt Mittan

    You’ve got it exactly Matt.And I am glad that the only local person serving on the Council, Jan Davis, did not want his name on this brazenly partisan statement.

  20. Wyrd Wulf

    “But protecting our mountains’ ecological health and our country’s environment cannot be accomplished solely at the local level: We need environmental leadership in Washington.” Hasn’t all the political commotion of tea parties, Ron Paul, liberty movements, etc over the last two years been about not seceding our sovereignty to a federal master planner? I guess this is simply lost on some people. Our right to self determination has been eroded from our consciousness by years of the “nanny state”. If we would quit giving them our money and our freedom we should need Washington’s “help” in only very limited circumstances, as it was meant to be in the beginning of this nation.

  21. dhalgren

    If the democrats in N.C. hated blacks and gays, and were against abortions, the republican party would dry up and blow away for lack of wedge issues.

  22. agnes cheek

    Yes, not like the Democrats that led the race riots in NC. Oh wait, history…facts…those always cloud agendas. My apologies.

  23. Betty

    Shame On You!

    Shame on the Mountain Xpress for publishing the commentary in support of Heath Shuler! Adhering to policy not to publish commentary endorsing an individual candidate has previously been a hallmark of distinction for the Mountain Xpress.

    That the editor would change his sound thinking merely because the authors are in possession of some kind of “status” in the community is foolishness. Since when have these politician-authors become so high and mighty that we should prefer their thoughts and ways to ones we can discover for ourselves? Are they not flesh and blood, subject to error and fallacy like the rest of us?

    No statements in the commentary contained breaking news. No issue commented upon was not already known. The so-called commentary consists of nothing more than an attempt by a group of local politicians to sanction approval for another one of their own. No surprise there.

    I believe the Mountain Xpress has done a great disservice to its readers by publishing the commentary. First, that it would assume that we readers would lap up the authors’ every word because we are incapable of becoming educated and making decisions on our own. And second, it has elevated the status (and probably therefore the egos) of the authors, furthering a mistaken notion that they are somehow better, more informed, and more important than the rest of us. In the big scheme of Life, they are very small potatoes.

  24. Barry Summers

    Oh wait, history…facts…those always cloud agendas. My apologies.

    Not sure you’re the poster child for getting your facts right, Agnes. Sorry, but it’s true…

    And history? I’ll repeat my favorite quote of all time, by Konrad Adenauer:

    “History is the sum total of things that could have been avoided.”

    I’m sure everybody involved in stirring up race hatred in the past, and heck, right here today, really regrets it…

  25. Piffy!

    [b]Yes, not like the Democrats that led the race riots in NC. Oh wait, history…facts…those always cloud agendas. My apologies.[/b]

    I love how this fact is constantly trotted out not as just bit of history, but as a way to dodge any sort of wrongdoings within the Republican party.

    Yes, the Democratic Party has a shady past, and present. How does this POSSIBLY serve as an excuse for the same basic problems with the Republicans?

  26. J

    Apparently Gordo, Dave, Hollister, the Both, Esther, and Downtown Brown are so important their letter gets to run two weeks in a row.

    Good for them.

  27. agnes cheek

    The folks that wrote this article all had to come together to come up with “we support Heath Shuler because he has a “D” next to his name? hah!

  28. Barry Summers

    I love how this fact is constantly trotted out not as just bit of history, but as a way to dodge any sort of wrongdoings within the Republican party.

    Yes, the Democratic Party has a shady past, and present. How does this POSSIBLY serve as an excuse for the same basic problems with the Republicans?

    Besides, as we all know, the more racist elements of the Southern Democrats were deliberately courted by the Republican Party, in the gambit known as “The Southern Strategy”. Here’s Richard Nixon’s political strategist Kevin Phillips in 1970:

    “From now on, the Republicans are never going to get more than 10 to 20 percent of the Negro vote and they don’t need any more than that… but Republicans would be shortsighted if they weakened enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.”

    http://blog.slvrsft.com/?p=408

    Voila! Republican majorities in the South! Along with the increased use of the code words, “states rights” (don’t enforce federally-mandated integration), Republicans in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s built their current strength in the South by playing the race card. Congratulations. You must be very pleased.

  29. Barry Summers

    Seriously, which is more shameful:

    a) that pre-Voting Rights Act, there were historically many white racists in the Southern Democratic Party,

    b) that the Republican Party deliberately courted, encouraged, and tailored their campaigns to recruit these racists in order to win elections,

    or c) that some current Republicans would try to blur or ignore that history so that they can smear the current Democratic Party as ‘racist’?

    For me, it’s a toss-up between b) and c)…

  30. UnaffiliatedVoter

    Which ‘party’ FREED the SLAVES? Which ‘party’ ENSLAVES the people?

    no toss up there…

  31. agnes cheek

    Too bad there is actually no difference between the two parties…
    On the right you have crusader zealots, on the left you have pretentious, self righteous hypocrites…
    How’s that for voting choices? Straight party voting is irresponsible, reckless, and ignorant.

  32. dhalgren

    “If we would quit giving them our money and our freedom we should need Washington’s “help” in only very limited circumstances, as it was meant to be in the beginning of this nation.”

    You mean like back in the good ol’ days of slavery, rotten medical treatment, poor transportation system, indentured servitude, debtors prisons, white property owners only allowed to vote, outdoor toilets and piss pots for your bedroom, rotten educational system, absolutely no environmental protections what so ever , no social security…god I long for those days of freedom!
    Lot’s of things have changed since then, many of those changes for good were brought about by the federal government! And the same kind of sociopath that would own slaves or rape the environment back in your “good ol’ days” are around today; they are running your pawnshops and title loan businesses, heading up corporations, (enron, b.p., coal co., etc.) AND WE STILL NEED TO BE PROTECTED FROM THEM! Thank god for the federal government.

  33. Barry Summers

    Which ‘party’ FREED the SLAVES? Which ‘party’ ENSLAVES the people?

    Why are you holding back, Bunky? If you had typed this in all caps, you might have convinced me.

  34. Paul -V-

    @agnes cheek: We probably agree the US political system is run by two branches of a pro-corporate party. However, there are a wide range of differences between Republicans & Democrats in tax policy, social issues, infrastructure priorities, and civil liberties.

    Let’s not echo the “Both Parties Are The Same” line that politically apathetic people parrot in order to sound wise.

    We probably also agree America is in desperate need for viable alternative parties.

    I don’t know how it is within the Republican party, but the main way Democrats keep their people in line is by pointing to scary Republicans – rather than presenting an inspiring vision for the future.

    – pvh

  35. “Let’s not echo the “Both Parties Are The Same” line that politically apathetic people parrot in order to sound wise.”

    Spoken like a true yellar dog.

  36. Paul -V-

    @D.L.Dial:

    Spoken like a true yellar dog.

    Spoken like someone who doesn’t know me, and who clearly hasn’t read the entire comment.

    – pvh

  37. Yeah, I read it through…just not convinced.

    Your true colors are shown in the “apathetic” description of folks who view both parties as the problem. We are not apathetic and hoping to sound wise. This shows how little you know us.

  38. Paul -V-

    D.L.Dial: Apathetic people don’t propose workable solutions.

    Rather than whine and make patently false assertions, those who claim there is no difference between the parties would be more productive if they offered a few.

    – pvh

  39. Barry Summers

    And then there are the politically devious people who parrot the “Both Parties Are The Same” line in an attempt to suppress turnout on the opposing side.

  40. Barry Summers

    But Paul, don’t lump in people who have decided that the two-party system is broken beyond repair, or that any two candidates are too alike to care which of them is elected, with “apathetic people.”
    I can’t bring myself to pull the lever for Heath Shuler, but I am far from “apathetic”.

  41. Paul -V-

    @Barry: Understood.

    We agree that while the 2-party duopoly is broken, and I also refuse to vote for Shuler.

    But let’s start the conversation on how to fix the system from a space of integrity. There _are_ important differences between the two parties.

    Saying there isn’t is factually incorrect, and doesn’t help address the problem.

    – pvh

  42. You clearly don’t know me very well either. I’m probably one of the more vocal voices on this forum and SH. And have made numerous suggestions…only to have them pooh pooh-ed or ignored.

  43. TakeAStandFan

    That’s great that Heath Shuler is in favor of preserving our forests and pristine areas. Being a stance environmentalist, that’s pleases me quite a bit.
    He’s also in favor of hunting, which we really need in our area. We have so many dangerous wildlife, coming into people’s yard in the urban areas now, it’s become dangerous to even step outside sometimes.
    You go Heath Shuler. I find it awesome that he fought for the citizens of Swain County, too, who lost their road in the floods in the 1940s and he’s won money for them to get jobs, etc.
    Finally, a politician who actually works for the people!
    While I don’t like Pelosi, he’s not Pelosi, and I’ve always like Heath Shuler. I’m not a big fan of any of the democrats anymore, but he’s one democrat I do have faith in.

    Heath Shuler, I have a question for you, if you are reading any of this forum.
    Would you please bring something environmentally friendly to our area, here in Asheville, like a film Studio? Wilmington, NC has a film studio and it generates very good paying jobs and a lot of income for its residents.
    We need such a thing. We also need a professional hunter to come cull areas in the town of Asheville or Buncombe county, period, where there’s too many dangerous wildlife, such as deers and bears running wild all over the place.
    A couple’s dog got killed in their own yard, this summer, on Tunnel Road, by a bear. Deer have almost hit our car, as we are driving up our own driveway dozens of times in the last year alone.
    We now have high blood pressure from all the constant stress of these wild animals running in our yard, all the time. White-tailed deer are also know to carry Lyme Disease, and there’s many people in our area, that now have Lyme Disease.
    Would you see about starting a program where physicians are actually allowed to treat patients for Lyme Disease? It’s a prevalent disease all over the country, and people are suffering horribly, with no way to even get treatment for it.
    It doesn’t cost much either to treat someone with antibiotics when it first occurs, but many times, it will be months or years, before someone can find a competent doctor, school in Lyme Disease, to treat them. People have died from this disease, yet, we are forced to see deer on an almost daily basis in many parts of our county.
    This isn’t safe for humans. As much as I love animals, I also want to stay alive, and I don’t like see people’s lives being put in danger. Many people have also told me they almost got their car hit by deer too. Deer can kill a driver in an instant if they hit your car.
    Here’s a website that shows the dangers of wildlife like deer being around a human being.
    “http://www.garnercitizen.com/2010/04/13/beware-the-danger-of-wild-animals-in-our-backyards/”

  44. mtg

    Schuler is a bigot, pure and simple. The GLBTQ population owe neither party a thing! But Heath really takes the cake. The Dems have all but lost me forever, and I have never voted for anyone other than a Dem my whole life. The Dems are far too conservative and far to conciliatory towards the religious political extremists of this country (ie: most Republicans/Tea Party and a lot of Dems). After a life-time of hope being dashed by the likes of most Dems and now Obama (defending DOMA and appealing the DADT decision was the last straw, I will not vote for him again!) I doubt I will ever vote for Dems again. ISO 3rd party.

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