Letters to the editor

Champion should clean up its mess

A recent article in the Asheville Citizen-Times brought to light the fact that Champion International recently bought a new paper mill in Brazil. The company has extensive landholdings in the South American country and is looking to “expand” its presence there. At the same time, Champion is trying to sell its controversial Canton mill to employees. Apparently, no other corporate entity was interested in purchasing the Canton mill, citing a lack of economic feasibility and incentive.

It seems clear that Champion’s attempt to dump the mill onto its employees and leave the area is a good indication of just how underhanded the corporation really is. In the face of controversy surrounding a nearly 100-year-long legacy of pollution and corporate manipulation, Champion is running away.

The employees of the mill should consider the fact that liability lies in ownership. Who will pay to clean up the toxic sludge left behind by Champion International? Will the new owners be liable, or will Champion? I suggest that any negotiations between employees, unions, and corporate executives include dialogue about future corporate liability.

We must not allow this multibillion-dollar, multinational corporation to slip out of the picture without retribution.

— Joseph Allawos

Beloved Grant Hasty will be missed

Friends of Grant Hasty, a local performer, underground poet and political pundit, wish to thank you for printing his always humorous, sometimes scathing letters in the past.

Grant passed away on Monday, Jan. 26; he knew he was not long for this world, and said so when last we spoke on the Sunday prior to his death. For those of you unfamiliar with Grant and his keen wit, allow me to elucidate and celebrate the life of a friend and compatriot in the local arts scene.

You may remember him as the eclectic deejay at the old WUNF during those hazy college-radio days (he was one of the few to expose listeners to the Fugs and the Mothers of Invention, or Firesign Theatre). Our absurd Monty Python shows could not have been complete without him, our beloved “Cardinal Fang.” He attended and performed in many poetry slams at the green door — an avid writer up until his death. We often joked about his “dinky-tinky shop,” formerly The Shoestring, at the intersection of North Lexington and Hiawassee Street. He couldn’t keep that business, as more people came in asking for money than would buy his goods. I now regret not buying that Band of Gypsies/Jimi Hendrix LP! No longer will our resident hobbit haunt the likes of Beanstreets or Malaprop’s with his books and pamphlets — but then again, perhaps his presence will prevail.

Thanks for exposing Grant’s humor and sensibility to an unsuspecting public via his scribblings to the “Letters” section.

— Terry Darakjy

We can choose far-sighted politicians

I think that citizens, including myself, feeling cheated by Rep. Charles Taylor single-handedly polluting a chance for the French Broad to be considered for designation as an American Heritage River, also feel that he has failed to effectively represent his constituency. While I understand these feelings to be justified, I wonder if they are accurate.

At the risk of stating the obvious, the fact is, Congressman Taylor is a politician. I’m sure he has good reasons for the decisions he makes. His decision not to support the nomination of the French Broad was a very clever way to bolster his position in the 11th District while thwarting the good efforts of the Clinton administration’s environmental agenda at the same time. I think he would not have made this decision if he felt he could lose his appointment to Congress.

What remains is a responsibility for us — the people that were cheated — to continue to find methods that preserve and conserve the French Broad River. One of the most important methods [is] educating those who enjoy and those who need the river about the necessity for comprehensive planning. In other words, [we should be] sharing ideas that clarify misgivings about property rights and deter partisan politics.

Eventually, I trust, our community will find a new leader for a constituency that cannot tolerate decisions from a representative supporting short-term judgments at a long-term expense to our community. It is fortunate that western North Carolina has so many individuals and organizations devoted to making this a reality.

— Richard Burgner

Leadership and vision are needed for a good cable-franchise deal

The city faces many immediate issues that all require the limited resources of our community. To resolve these issues, an open dialogue with City Council, the city government and our citizens is necessary.

As I have become involved as a volunteer in the issue of the cable-franchise renewal, … I realize the [franchise’s] potential for affecting the future of our community. …

After numerous meetings, work sessions and letters [exchanged] with the city, I have come away with the impression that the city has negotiated a franchise agreement that will serve the immediate and future needs of the “business” of running a city, but that it is an agreement that does very little for the community at large.

City Manager Jim Westbrook posed a very revealing question in one of my meetings: “What is the motivation for the city to negotiate a better access contract, or to fund it?” He was also clear in [saying] that the access question was one for governmental access and some limited public access. [As far as the city was concerned], any funding or organization for educational purposes was really an issue for the city schools to undertake.

Indeed, what is the motivation? Today, I do not have all the answers, but I do know that this country is becoming “wired.” I also know that a more democratic society can be built through the exchange of information, and that 60 percent of the jobs of the future will require “connected” literacy.

It is also true that the intent [behind] recent communications acts passed by Congress was to allow cities to require cable providers to build and support the information infrastructure necessary for those cities to be viable in the 21st century.

The former City Council was not interested in this dialogue. The current Council is under some pressure to conclude this negotiation and begin operations under a more favorable (short-term) financial structure for the city. However, all the issues have not been resolved, and community input is only beginning to surface.

It is essential to answer the questions of community needs, public access and educational uses of the cable system. To this end, it has been suggested that Council appoint a task force [with] fair representation from the community to find the answers.

Right now, the proposed franchise is only half a deal. It is time for the community half to be added to the deal.

— Mark Rosenstein

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