Letter writer: Bothwell’s Sierra Club criticism is disappointing

Graphic by Lori Deaton

As a member of the Sierra Club’s executive committee, I am disappointed with recent public comments made by [City Council member] Cecil Bothwell.

Relative to the “pit of despair” downtown park discussion, he said [that] because the Sierra Club’s endorsed candidates favor a public plaza/mixed-use project rather than a small park, the organization is “more attuned to bolstering the status quo than to environmental protection.” Really? Locally, we’ve led a successful, three-year-long battle and won the closure of the coal plant in your backyard, Cecil. Perhaps you weren’t paying attention.

Cecil was also quoted as saying the Sierra Club-endorsed City Council candidates are “… not for the changes we need to make here and now to address global climate change and livability downtown.” Does he really think a grassy site of less than 1 acre is going to combat climate change? If you want to have a serious impact on that issue, Cecil, dream bigger. Think at the level of coal plant closures.

Good people can disagree on the park versus mixed-use/public plaza discussion. But no one is saying “high-rise hotel,” even though Cecil keeps propping up that straw man.

Perhaps part of the answer to Cecil’s comments rests with the person who is funding his PARC organization and the non-Sierra Club candidates. It’s someone who lives in a downtown building whose mountain view would be lost if a high-rise project was in fact put on the site. Whose interests is Cecil serving?

One last note: Cecil sought and won the endorsement of the Sierra Club when he ran for [the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners] and City Council. We’ve supported him. He’s good on green issues. His illogical position on a park and criticism of the Sierra Club mystifies me.

— Mark Threlkeld
Executive committee member
Western North Carolina Sierra Club
Swannanoa

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5 thoughts on “Letter writer: Bothwell’s Sierra Club criticism is disappointing

  1. Actually Mark, the Sierra Club has been singularly unsuccessful regarding the Lake Julian power plant. The switch from coal is in no way due to Sierra Club efforts – it is a switch being made nationwide by utilities now that fracking and energy conservation have driven down the cost of natural gas. Duke has been planning this switch for years. Former Rep. Nathan Ramsey was advocating a mega-gas pipeline years ago – and it certainly wasn’t for home heating.

    If the Sierra Club endorses the switch to gas, and the massive expansion of the Lake Julian plant, they are acting on the side of the utility company.

    I applaud the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign – for raising public awareness – but not for any meaningful success locally with Duke.

    Truthfully, on the same basis the Sierra Club could claim responsibility for the sun rising each morning to power solar cells.

    Further, I have never argued specifically for a park across from the Basilica and Civic Center. I have argued for citizen input. The City convenes forums for waste/recycling, greenways, the Downtown Master Plan, etc. and etc. – but is incredibly resistant to seeking public input for this parcel. If the people of the city want a high rise hotel, so be it. My beef with the Sierra endorsed candidates is that they have all indicated their preference for sale of the property for development. (Though, in response to electoral pressure they are attempting to fudge their positions.)

    What I see happening with the local Sierra Club endorsements is nothing less than cronyism. Whatever one might think about my position on the candidates or on the Haywood property, it ought to be a puzzle why this City campaign has been worth upward of $10,000 to the Sierra PAC – when there is no meaningful difference of opinion on environmental issues between the six candidates, and no urgent environmental issue facing the City.

  2. OneWhoKnows

    ‘cronyism’ ? roflmao! glad it’s finally exposed! like we know…the silly sierras are totally IRRELEVANT!

  3. Big Al

    Such fun to see the commie-libs eat one another like crabs in a barrel.

  4. John Morris

    Mr. Threlkeld, surely you must know that a great many Asheville Sierra Club members, myself included, were upset and embarrassed by WENOCA’s and the Sierra Club PAC’s endorsement and campaign contribution decisions in the recent city council election. To many of us, it is, in fact, as Cecil puts it, “a puzzle why this City campaign has been worth upward of $10,000 to the Sierra PAC – when there is no meaningful difference of opinion on environmental issues between the six candidates, and no urgent environmental issue facing the City.” If it wasn’t “cronyism,” what was it? This and other concerns (i.e., why was Rich Lee endorsed for the primary but not the general election?) are legitimate questions that must be addressed if WENOCA hopes to serve as a trusted voice in future elections. They won’t go away by attacking the messenger or pointing out the good work that WENOCA has done in the past.

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