Letter: Standing up for efforts of local Sierra Club

Graphic by Lori Deaton

This is in response to the full-page opinion piece published in Mountain Xpress in your June 29 issue lambasting the Western North Carolina Sierra Club and its leaders, and our members’ efforts to educate the public regarding how to protect our valued environment by electing “green” candidates [“Sierra Club Chimera: WENOCA Chapter Endorsements Are an Environmental Disgrace”].

Dear Mr. Branyon, losing is hard. I understand that. But your opponent, Al Whitesides, has a proven track record with environmental issues. He voted to set the most aggressive carbon-reduction goal of government in the Southeast and to advance a bond measure for solar energy that not only presents a carbon emission reduction, but also saves money for our county schools through that lower energy cost.

But somehow your full-page spread attacked the Sierra Club and its leaders. Again, sorry you lost, but the best man did win our endorsement. I cannot count the numerous times that the Sierra Club stood against unsound development. Does the Bluffs development in Woodfin come to mind? It was a perfect example of an unsound development neighbors wanted to prevent in favor of sound development: development that will not create unstable hills and mudslides, traffic that disrupts neighborhoods, lack of road and other infrastructure needed to support the community.

Did these folks ask you to get involved and support their concerns? No, they did not. They asked Ken Brame and the WNC Sierra Club to help them elect responsible candidates who are aware of their concerns. Guess what? Our supported candidates all won against three long-term incumbents! The political status quo in which the citizens had lost faith and the elected officials that were not questioning the proposed developmental impacts on their properties were all unseated. Where were you in that effort? If you are against brazen development, where were you? Ken and the Sierra Club were there.

If you seriously want to stop all development here in Asheville and Buncombe County, I would call you really out of touch. Growth is going to happen, more people will come here, and more housing is and will be needed, whether it be affordable housing, and yes, that must include infill development. Sir, life goes on, and new people and businesses contribute to our vibrant city and our well-being. Pushing that development farther out into the county or into neighboring counties will only contribute to more sprawl, traffic congestion and increased carbon pollution at a time we need to do everything possible to reduce emissions.

I do not like manufacturers connected to the weapons industry any more than you do. But that is reality. Under North Carolina’s laws and constitution, local governments are very limited in preventing development on private property.

Our city and our county governments are using all of the leverage they have (which is not much, thanks to the control of the Republican Party, of this you must be aware) to provide for not just affordable housing but multiuse development, combining housing with retail development and infill development for smarter growth and to help prevent sprawl.

So, sorry, but local development will proceed, and my view is that our city and county are doing all that they can to preserve our unique local identity and still allow for affordable housing, environmental protections, family farm protections and all of the many factors that make WNC a place in which we want to live.

I’ve known Ken Brame for eight years. I know him to have integrity and to present all sides of an issue, especially with regard to our political candidates. I know him to further environmental goals and equity issues in all in which he is involved. I know him to be successful. I welcome you to have the same impact on local issues as Ken and the Sierra Club do. We invite you to join us in our efforts to protect our environment rather than criticizing our hard work. Preventing the worst impacts of climate change will take all of us working together.

— Maryanne R. Rackoff
Sierra Club volunteer



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5 thoughts on “Letter: Standing up for efforts of local Sierra Club

  1. MV

    “Does the Bluffs development in Woodfin come to mind? It was a perfect example of an unsound development neighbors wanted to prevent in favor of sound development: development that will not create unstable hills and mudslides, traffic that disrupts neighborhoods, lack of road and other infrastructure needed to support the community.”

    It will be very nice if the Asheville City Councilwomen endorsed by the Sierra Club will one day stand with taxpayers against the Bluffs and protect Asheville citizens and much-used Richmond Hill Drive from 10,000 car trips per day if Woodfin does not insist that developer Holdsworth build his bridge first. Thus far, the only council member to voice any concern/opposition to the Bluffs (for all the reasons stated above by the Sierra Club representative) has been Kim Roney.

  2. Voirdire

    The Sierra Club…. the enviro group of choice for the very white and generally well off retiree crowd. We can do better.

    • Peter Robbins

      Not to worry. I’m sure all those comfortable retirees will rethink their commitment now that they know you disapprove of their race and age.

      • Voirdire

        Rethink their commitment to their 401k /taxpayer funded pensions that pays for their cush/ entitled lives here in our little slice of paradise? Yeah, no worries there for sure, lol.

        • Peter Robbins

          Some folks find it hard to live on Social Security alone. You may be one someday. Try not to be so judgmental. There’s room for all.

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