Letters to the editor

Weary of weather forecasters

I am weary of the cocky, over-confident, pontifical, unprofessional weather announcers who lack the humility or courage — or perhaps the knowledge — to cite their mistakes and to explain what happened to change the normally expectable. The shame is not in making a mistake in predicting irregular natural events, but in failing to admit human errors and taking the opportunity to explain them. An important purpose of forecasting should be to help the public to understand weather trends by predicting with as much precision as possible, and to explain potential deviations to watch for. We can all become amateur forecasters and understand more about weather if we watch the clouds as much as we watch television.

— P.N. Smith
Asheville

Asheville attitudes

Boo!

Pretty scary, eh?

It was not a bit scary to return to Asheville at this time last year. The temperature was about 80 degrees — the warmest day ever for January in much of WNC. After meandering through the West awhile, it was my great pleasure to be home. How was I to have anticipated that the very sun had been eclipsed by the very human butt of somebody named Ukiah? That came later, thank heaven. It was cool to sit with an old buddy of mine and yours at Pack Square, chillin’ and rekindling our friendship. There we sat: sharing remembrances, telling travel stories, swapping lies back and forth, and whatnot — two aging children at play.

Shortly, we were joined by other folks at play, and many of the people I’ve met since then have become old friends. It happens like that. That’s why everybody loves WNC. Or ought to. We have a great place to live here. … Our plain, down-home mountain hospitality is perhaps a bit odd, even bizarre to some. Tribal, even. It’s why I came back here. There are barriers, but it’s pretty wide open sometimes — and in Pack Square, on a fine day, you may offload your burdens at will. Scatter your worries among the backpacks and join in. Have fun.

From the perfectly normal to the imperfect and bizarre, you can find it somewhere, sometime in Asheville. Not everybody, of course, is always nice every time. No, that’s no more true here than anywhere else. The main difference, as I see it, is in our attitude around here! … About the only outcasts here are those who are predatory. They, even, must be present and accounted for, though, so we can keep them on the fringes — which is where they belong. It’s a good thing it’s so peaceful here, because there are even, occasionally, predatory peace officers. Predatory peace officers are oxymorons.

But, then, this is Asheville. Where else would you ever find an oxymoron [acting as a predator]?

The funny thing, as I’ve seen with my own astonished eyes, is often [police officers’] own “highly” placed spokespersons — at public meetings, even. I have seen and heard [that] queries to an individual officer are up to that officer’s discretion. One officer — responding to a query about another officer — simply said, and I quote here, “He lied.” After establishing so flatly this enormous credibility gap, the same officer later thought better of himself. At the same meeting, he benignly reassured those who had not already left in disgust that it may not have been a lie!

These — are they “trickle-down orders?” — come from above. Hmmm. What’s wrong with this picture? I can’t seem to get something straight inside my own head here … but I believe what I see and hear. Most times, I believe most people do. At the time, it made me angry — but since then, I have not been much bothered. It seems to be getting better, too. Once one is dazzled by such a stellar display as we see being played here in our town, once the confusion subsides, the play continues. The neighborhood cops are still in Asheville. Promoted from above, they don’t have any more to say about the behavior of one another than you or I would about one another. The … rookie [cops] sometimes … need to be tolerated. They watch us, the people. That’s how they learn not to behave as rookies. Their butts are more out there than even Ukiah’s. …

I hope someday to meet Ukiah, this fellow who struts his butt so publicly. That is why I got a ticket back here. I’m a clown, myself. Of course, I don’t drive. All my friends who drive seem to have parking tickets festooning their dashboards, anyway. Parking is expensive in this community! With the good hearts of so many working so hard to improve the community — and with what must be an awesome parking-violation-revenue fund to draw on for hiring a few good men and women — the picture is improving all the time.

It’s cold now. Driving by in your warm car, think how cold and miserable the poor wretch must be who is outside. Be happy it isn’t you whose butt is freezing so publicly out there [when you’re] decorating taxpayers’ windshields with parking tickets. Somebody has to do it. … It’s just another tax, anyway. Taxes pay these people, too, but we may get onto that subject later.

For now, chill.

— P. Rodney Personette
Asheville

Commissioners not interested in animal services

Jerry Rice’s comment that “[The McKelvy] appointment is going to come back and bite them” [Xpress, Jan. 5] — referring to the recent appointments to the Animal Services Advisory Board by the county commissioners — is an understatement.

In a Sept. 21 Asheville Citizen-Times article, Tom Sobol said he would seek input from representatives of various animal-rights groups. He said, “We’re putting the board together to get all these groups who have an interest in animal welfare to the same table.”

Not one representative of an animal-protection group was appointed, except for Bill McKelvy, who represents Friends for Animals (FFA), the very group that this board was created to oversee.

FFA has the $650,000 county contract to run animal services, and the public is in an uproar about the gross mismanagement of the animal shelter and animal control. The employees who left FFA in a mass exodus complained about sexual harassment by Marc Paulhus, the executive director. They complained of his lack of management skills, abusive behavior toward the employees, and lack of compassion for animals. The latest financial statement shows that FFA has been hoarding county money, rather than spending it on animal care. There have been complaints of cruel treatment [of] the animals, and of animals not being placed when homes were available.

Regarding McKelvy’s appointment, Elaine Lite was right when she said, “It’s like spitting in our face” [Xpress, Jan. 5] The commissioners have been dragging their feet and not taking any effective action to change conditions with animal services. They appointed Mike Bradley to oversee the problems. Although he is a nice man, he doesn’t have animal experience, is only doing the job part-time, and isn’t even on the premises. The new advisory board includes mostly people who have little or nothing to do with running a shelter for dogs and cats. Give me a break: A hunter, a zoo director, a farmer and a breeder aren’t the right people to solve dog and cat problems. They are the very people who cause animal cruelty. Critics and animal-protection groups are conspicuously absent from the board appointments.

This will definitely come back to bite the commissioners. They, obviously, have no interest in improving management of animal services.

— Terri David
Asheville

The paving of Lake Powhatan (and other outrages)

by Klaus Martin

There’s a place I go in north Buncombe County where woodpeckers hammer and breezes knock branches together in a forest of naked poplars. On summer and fall afternoons, I often hear grouse thumping in the brush. When I stay overnight, owls punctuate the darkness with their hoots and glide through my campsite without a sound, to get a closer look. It’s a slow place that knows only increments of seasons and moons, where vegetation grows and then subsides, like an annual tide rising and falling.

Over the years of my solitary visits there, I’ve been impressed with its completeness unto itself, and how unnecessary I am to its rhythms and its perennial fecundity. It remains, as yet, unviolated by roads and cell phones. Although I’m sure it has seen loggers and farmers in the last 300 years, this place is the closest thing to natural that I’ve come across in the Southern Appalachians.

Knowing it’s there — and knowing I can make those visits whenever I wish — helps me to carry on my life in a city of barking dogs and parking meters. At my downtown office, I sometimes look out over the streets and try to imagine the time when the city of Asheville, too, was nothing but a series of silent mountain folds — harboring turtles, old-growth chestnut, mountain lions, wild orchids (and, of course, the native Cherokee).

That was a long time ago. Today, we have to search for the natural. I consider myself fortunate when I find it, and unfortunate when I lose even a portion of it.

I hadn’t been to Lake Powhatan since 1992. Last spring, I took a walk out there and was saddened to discover they’d paved the gravel roads and parking lots with asphalt.

Gravel is, at least, a local, earthen material. Local plants and ground cover grow up through gravel, and you can hear it crunch as you move across it. It kicks up dust in the summer, so visitors have to drive even more slowly, if they don’t want to be rude. Sometimes, the gravel is of interest to the young children from the city, who’ve never seen such a thing before.

On the other hand, it’s a struggle to redeem the asphalt at Lake Powhatan. It’s black like oil, hard like cement, fast like an interstate, dangerously silent, and as generic as any other patch of paved earth. I was very sorry to see the gravel buried deep under a petroleum product. It has made Lake Powhatan less like the woods — and more like the city from which we often seek respite.

We’re into progress up to our chops, and we can’t seem to help ourselves. We’re carpetbaggers descending upon the South — two days or 200 years ago. We build our little farm roads with pick, shovel and ax — which through the decades and the centuries, get graveled, then paved, then superseded by interstates that dominate the landscape. Then we find ourselves running to a quiet mountain cove that is still unimpinged, where we feel like we’re in heaven.

I often ask myself why we perpetually wage war on the natural. Then, the other day, I received a flier from a funeral home that gave me a clue to the answer. They were advertising burial vaults, because “above-ground entombment fulfills a heartfelt want — complete and permanent protection against the elements of the earth.”

The marketing pitch assumes that we regard the natural as a kind of criminality: something offensive, intrusive, invasive — something that must be defended against, if we are to achieve our heart’s fondest desires.

So, taking note that these were the ideas of an undertaker, I went back up to the mountain cove, where I kicked up a weathered turtle shell tangled in the dead grass. A large, seed-eating mammal had deposited two piles of purplish scat. I got down on my knees and examined them with a stick — wondering what left them, and when.

I never know what to expect of the place; it always happens of its own accord, without malice or threat — and without any input from the likes of me. I prefer it to the city’s rush, bustle and consumption. I prefer it to Lake Powhatan’s monotonous asphalt. And I certainly prefer it to an above-ground vault.

[Klaus Martin lives and works in Asheville.]

Kudos to City Council for enacting the “stool rule”

“Steaming dog feces” [Jan. 26 commentary, “The stool rule,” by Allison Frank] on Asheville’s downtown sidewalks may not be the city’s “most serious problem.” But, hey, what’s wrong with a new discussion — one that was finalized through City Council with an end result?

I guess the main argument [as Frank put it] for “[taking] issue with our city’s leaders for enacting [the new ordinance],” as always, is related to cost. Technically, we have already expended time, energy and money to remove the “organic waste” (“waste” being the operative word here) from public/private areas, which certain “laissez-faire” pet owners have left in their wake. From personal experience, I know I have. Therefore, if that same time, energy and money is transferred to enforcement, all relevant costs are equal.

Yes, there are “woodsy detours” close to our urban center where dog owners can let their puppies “unburden themselves.” But, the fact of the matter is, some of those woodsy detours are on private/public treed property, and others are planted sidewalk-beds that are wonderfully maintained by downtown residents and business owners alike. And, maybe it was different in the era of Mr. Ed or Dr. Dolittle, but I truly don’t believe that a pet owner can relay the message, “Hey Rover, just hold it for a few minutes. We’re on our way over to the public park that has been created for your use.”

Then there’s the proposed theory of shifting the responsibility to Mother Nature. Biodegradable or not, what happens in a drought season? No “little rain [to] poof the stuff away” existed last summer. And, about those puny $10 fines? I don’t believe “incentive” is passed along via the amount of the fine (local outstanding parking-ticket balances will prove this). Hopefully, the incentive will come from the awareness (presently nonexistent) that will be pressed upon certain pet owners. To be exact, others (like myself) are no longer willing to tolerate picking up after your hound.

In addition, this new “pooper-scooper” ordinance may not be just about who is responsible for picking up those “vile-smelling, brown” piles left on public/private property alike. It also may transcend to the subject of those pet owners, themselves, who impose “egregious transgressions” against their own dogs. You know: Those certain owners who tie their dogs up to downtown parking meters (leaving them to sit on concrete paving) while they go and sip cups of coffee for hours on end. Let’s face it, there are people who should never be given the privilege of owning a dog. But, just the same, maybe Friends For Animals (via this new “ludicrous” law) will [instill] some insight into the minds of these certain pet owners:

1. Take responsibility for those living things that you have chosen to have in your life.

2. You can no longer casually transfer the one unpleasant responsibility of pet ownership onto others.

Thanks goes to City Council for adopting ordinance number 2631! And, to those “laissez-faire” dog owners: Pull out those “doo-doo” bags.

— R. S. Lantzius
Asheville

Be proud of your heritage, even if it’s controversial

People should be proud of their heritage, regardless of the history behind it. The ideas and dreams that their ancestors fought so hard to fulfill and to preserve within their era shows a quality of martyrdom that has almost deteriorated into extinction as future generations marched forth. Whether or not the ideologies that they contributed to the world seem unfair or unjust to us now, centuries later, should be irrelevant to their sense of pride. As humans, we are all prone to flaw or error — but without those imperfections, forgiveness wouldn’t … ever [have] been born. [The] mistakes we make show us a hope in unity, in the sense that we — in order to be forgiven — have to reach out and ask to be forgiven. Somewhere in this age, society has forgotten how to forgive, and how to be forgiven. Or so it seems.

For example: When will the African-American population finally feel appeased for the way that my forefathers treated their race? It seems to me that the issue of slavery is in the public eye more often than it was when it actually existed. The guilt that the NAACP is trying to push on to the Southern Caucasian individual is overwhelming — and very unnecessary. The racial ignorance of this generation is separating us more now than the civil mistakes of the past did back then. And we had nothing to do with that. Where will this all really end? In the American courthouse or in the human heart? Why must social attitudes be reflected by our bloodlines, instead of who we are now?

I’m pondering this now — at the beginning of a whole new century — because an age-old controversy has once again risen in the United States. This time, it targets the symbol that has represented the significant and historical importance of my ancestry. It bothers me that the NAACP has been trying to have the Confederate flag taken down from over the courthouse in South Carolina. The news of this controversy has been highly publicized, and it is breeding a lot of racial tension in the South. The media is throwing opinions out to everybody, and the opinions that are being stated are often stated without any truth behind them. What kind of image is being presented to the youth by all this? Is the Southern white teenager — looking to establish an identity in society and a sense of pride of who he is — benefiting from this? Or is he to feel some sort of heretical shame, which he shouldn’t?

Without a doubt, it is true that the South did play a big part in the racial injustices that plagued America at one time. And, yes, it may be true that some blacks may take offense in the glorification of the stars and bars, because it represents those injustices. But it is a historical emblem, nonetheless. And real constitutional freedom is based upon the idea that a person may not be [held] in the most popular opinion [for stating] their message, but will always will be entitled to state it anyway. Besides, the flag is only a symbol. Symbols are often [reputiated] by the message that they present, but those who judge those symbols often hold no patriotic creed to the message it portrays, therefore seeing fault in the individual that projects that symbol. That defines prejudice. That is judgment without cause.

The flag of the Confederacy is an imprint of what our culture once was, as ugly as that truth is. But it is also a part of our history and our heritage. Society has done more than enough to [make up for] the suppression of the African-American race. Why must we destroy the pride of the Southerners? It is not justified. What has been done has been done, and what will be done will be done. The groundwork for our future will never be set if we keep digging up the dirt of the past. And that is exactly what is happening here.

— Charles “Ocean” Green
Asheville

Miracle pups

Someone left a shoebox on Leicester Highway with four newborn puppies inside. Luckily, some kind people stopped and retrieved the box from the middle of the dangerous highway. [The puppies’] little innocent lives were saved. They were bottle-fed and cared for, and placed in loving homes. They are sweet, happy little puppies. They just want to give and receive love, like the rest of us.

I just want to know what is wrong with the mind [of the person who abandoned the puppies]; whoever did this cruel act will be punished in time, believe me. Go get help, in the meantime.

These are truly miracle pups. Thank the Creator for good people.

— Maggie E.
Asheville

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