Letters to the editor

The “authorities” ought to be ashamed

The puissant “law-enforcement” rackets run by those in the public sector who are entrusted and enjoined to promote the public peace and the public good here in Asheville nearly ruin’t my livelong day, today, first thing this mornin’. As I exited my home, via wheelchair, I was verbally ambushed by two armed men in street clothes, claiming they were Asheville Police detectives. I confess I was unable to read their pocket-clip ID tags, for my aging has been accompanied by the need of my spectacles to read small print and I had not my glasses upon my person. But I’ve got a witness, their names and part of our “interrogation” on tape.

Their invasive intimidation techniques evidently had to do with some fugitive whom I, for one, had never seen; so what was the hassle? They flashed a blurry photo, demanded peremptorily if I’d seen ‘im; if I had a driver’s license for my wheelchair (!) or did I have state identification papers like an N.C. photo ID (which I did have, but felt no imperative to display). When I inquired: “What’s up, guys? Am I some kind of ‘suspect,’ or something?” the “bad” member of the good-cop bad-cop duo mumbled something about “obstruction of justice” (because I would not unlock the door to my octogenarian landlady’s home for them!). No warrant, no nothin'; just a sorry, low-down, sour attitude.

What a rotten way to start the day! Triflin’ interactions reek and they leave me feelin’ disgusted, all irate and gnarly. I am fed up with talking to control freaks, public and privately retained — some of whom are Asheville Police Department officers — uniformed, armed and wielding full municipal-police jurisdiction — claiming that they are working “off duty.” They are not “off duty” when they are working the private sector as “security” or whatever is the current vogue euphemism for what ranges all the way up to and includes territorial gangs of goon squads! Surveilling and video-peeping and sneakin’ around and what not. It’s a mind-bogglin’ thing, is it not? Yes, they are out there in plain clothes too, snoopin’ around. It’s an everlovin’ marvel to me, beloveds. They are out mingling in regular street threads with their ass-load of angst, a badge, gun and back-up — with a law-enforcement-profile agenda that is completely misconceived and misdirected, to the benefit of nobody. My, they do so entrap and in general carry on like there’ll never come a reckoning. That’s pretty damn bold, I say.

Well, I’m now purged of that, I reckon. Sickening. Is it not so?

I’ve reconciled myself long since to the de facto militarization of what once was a far more “normal” world. But I am nowhere near reconciled, nor will I ever be, to this bizarre “bend over, buddy!” clusterthink of nasty, bullyin’ blackguards, bushwhackers, rascals and rogues. Such guys devour widows’ houses and deprive the poor of sustenance, kinship and dignity. My friends are not like that, nor in fact are any of those with whom I associate. The puissant authoritarians ought to be ashamed. They ought to deport themselves as is more seemly for ladies and gentlemen who are employed in the public trust.

This goes on all the time, and that’s about a-damn ’nuff.

Sayin’ what needs sayin’, at least as I see fit to say it, is what I do. Let’s hear from you, too. Speak out. Write. What you have to say has need of telling. Silence is mistaken for consent. Respect begets respect. Like the Hokey-Pokey, that’s what it’s all about! Keep diggin’ it and doin’ it right. Ever aspire to dream: It’s a sacred trust.

You are in a very fine time and place. Play as needed. Do it. Write!

— P. Rodney Personnette
Asheville

Doris Day Animal League sets the puppy-mill record straight

In Michael Redfox’s response to a posted letter critical of the AKC [Jan. 10], he took the opportunity to offer his interpretation of the Doris Day Animal League (DDAL) position on dog breeding. In the interest of clarity, I would like to address some of his statements.

It is precisely because of “ignorant people irresponsibly breeding dogs” that DDAL and other animal-protection groups have filed a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture for failing to halt cruel and inhumane practices in “puppy mills” throughout the United States. The USDA is charged with enforcing the 1966 Animal Welfare Act (AWA), which, among other things, requires that retail breeders be licensed and follow certain humane standards of care for the dogs they sell. Despite the clear intent of Congress that the AWA should apply to all retail pet “outlets,” the USDA has arbitrarily decided that only actual “pet stores” must be licensed and therefore subjected to federal regulations. Certainly, any responsible breeder would agree that anyone in the business of selling dogs for a profit, including what Mr. Redfox describes as “ignorant backyard breeders,” should be required to follow these minimum standards of humane care. Those who can’t (or won’t) should have their animals confiscated and their operations shut down.

In addition, Mr. Redfox’s advice that the buyer beware when purchasing a dog ignores the fact that unlicensed breeders are not required to keep records on how their animals are raised. When “puppy mills” sell directly to the public, they do not usually allow potential customers to tour the rows of cramped, filthy cages in which their dogs are kept. Furthermore, since they essentially see dogs as dollar signs, these irresponsible breeders are not often concerned with providing full disclosure to their customers, who are then unprepared to deal with the numerous health problems with which dogs bred in these conditions are usually afflicted. DDAL supports the banning of “puppy mills” because we believe that it is the dog, as well as the consumer, who should be protected from unscrupulous breeders.

While we are obviously in agreement with Mr. Redfox about the problems caused by “irresponsible” breeders, even “responsible” ones contribute to the crisis of companion-animal overpopulation. The abundance of rescue groups around the country is a testimony to the number of purebred dogs who are abandoned at shelters — as much as 30 percent of all surrendered dogs, according to some studies.

DDAL will gladly work with anyone — including breeders — who wishes to help address the tragic problem of companion-animal overpopulation. Unfortunately, the continued resistance we receive from the American Kennel Club and other breeder groups seems to prove that there is an inherent contradiction in the promotion of “responsible breeding” and our goal of stopping the annual killing of 4 to 6 million unwanted dogs and cats in this country. That is why the Doris Day Animal League will continue to urge all people to choose adoption from a humane society, animal shelter or rescue group when making the commitment to share their homes and their lives with a companion animal, whether purebred or mixed.

— Richard De Angelis
Director of Communications
Doris Day Animal League

Don’t stop cablecasting crucial public-comment portion of commissioners’ meetings

The recent proposal to stop cablecasting the public-comment portion of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners’ meetings is a disturbing proposition, and the board of the League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County urges [commissioners] not to act precipitously.

Public comment is a vital and important part of every session, and a full and complete cablecast of these meetings is a distinct service to the community. Such a video is also a complete transcript of a public meeting — in essence, a public record — and as public record it should enjoy unique legal protection. Thus it would seem that in the event of attempt to assert a claim of libel or slander perpetrated by a member of the public, that individual — not the county — would be the responsible party.

Free-speech provisions in the First Amendment provide significant protection for public meetings and their reporting, and the county’s release of such a video transcript certainly does not equate with being a sponsor of a commercial television program. We feel more wide-ranging investigation may show the county’s concern to be unnecessary.

Meanwhile, for clarity as well as protection, a simple disclaimer at the start and end of the cablecast could emphasize that this is a complete and unedited presentation, and any views expressed in the public-comment portion are those of the speaker and are not endorsed or approved.

Should additional investigation fail to convince [commissioners] that there is no significant potential legal liability, we would support securing legislation affording full protection. The value of providing this public service through cablecast outweighs, ultimately, the nebulous potential of incurring a lawsuit. Such protection would be helpful to Buncombe County and all other elected bodies in the state who seek to make the content of their meetings freely and fully available to the public.

We ask our commissioners to keep the higher purpose in mind, and to strive to continue airing the complete record of [their] meetings on behalf of the people they serve.

Nelda F. Holder, president

League of Women Voters of Asheville-Buncombe County

Sternberg missed the mark

In response to Jerry Sternberg’s commentary, “How about a little compassion, folks?” [Jan. 17], I must ask, “How about a little truth, Jerry?”

The reason there is no grocery store on Charlotte Street does not lie with the “affluent, elitist outsiders” that seem to bedevil you in your populist fog. Much as you try to remake the past to meet your revisionist fantasy, there are enough of us everyday residents here along Charlotte Street who remember what really happened and know the truth.

The fault for the ongoing absence of a grocery store lies solely with the Ingles Corporation.

When its old 18,000-square-foot grocery store burned down, Ingles could have built back a store measuring up to 30,000 square feet on the site, a 67-percent increase in size. That’s what was allowed under the then current zoning ordinance, and that’s what had the full and enthusiastic support of the neighborhood residents.

Ingles, however, only wanted to build a 45,000-square-foot suburban-scaled superstore — and wanted to tear down at least five buildings containing more than 30 apartments to do it.

It was the local residents who rose up in opposition when Ingles refused to change its plans — a lot of them your beloved and oppressed locals who do, indeed, have serious fundamental needs. Two of these are affordable housing and access to food, produce and other essential household supplies.

Instead of modifying its plans to build a store that would fit the site and serve the neighborhood, Ingles chose to leave the site vacant. And since it couldn’t build its superstore, Ingles is determined to make sure no one else can either. It continues to maintain its lease on the empty parcel in order to prevent anyone else from building a store on the site, thus preserving its virtual monopoly on grocery stores in central Asheville.

So, we are left with:

1. No grocery store;

2. An ugly empty lot regularly used as an overflow parking lot for the Grove Park Inn and for ad hoc auto sales;

3. You, an aging curmudgeon who fancies himself a cowboy-hatted proletarian, trying to refashion the past to conform with your nativist prejudices.

— Rich Mathews
Asheville

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