Letters to the editor

NIMBY is becoming a term of endurement

Many Asheville citizens actually read newspapers; many serve on local committees (and unlike ex-mayors never called attention to the hours spent); many served on the committee that wrote the Unified Development Ordinance; many worked for the revitalization of the downtown; many fought and continue to fight ignorant plans to develop the city; and many have questioned why City Council continues to ignore the Civic Center (which actually only needs a moderate makeover including a new roof, rebuilt plumbing and additional wiring) yet plows ahead giving blessings to an ultimately disastrous Wal-Mart Super Center.

Many are appalled by the Planning Department allowing developers to cut living tree buffers, not only in Montford, but in various spots around the city. Remember, a different set of developers did the same thing behind the Tunnel Road Restaurant Row development, opening the view of Morningside Baptist Church to the horrors of Tunnel Road — and nobody gets a fine!

Who does get the pain? Why — the neighborhoods, continually charged with being NIMBYs when fighting for their homes. How else to describe the mayor and the vice mayor calling Kenilworth neighbors NIMBYs because they stopped a low-income development planned for a dangerous landfill, below a high-hazard dam, opening on an overcrowded road (before Wal-Mart opened), with land that last September was under 6 feet of water!

Now that same City Council (by a vote of four to three) approved a development entering on a two-lane road (White Pine Drive) that is blocked most weekends with Asheville Mall traffic, a development with space allotted for 98 cars and consisting of three gigantic units, each with 20 apartments over 50 feet tall. Said the developer: “We tried to incorporate the surrounding one-story homes in the design by matching the pitch of the roofs”!

But 22 brave citizens gave hours of testimony on the Grove Park Inn’s neighborhood expansion (with only two people in favor: a woman who walks her dog and a retired person set to buy the first condo). They are NIMBYs, but the mayor and vice mayor never used the term because they don’t live surrounded by uncontrolled traffic on Biltmore Avenue, uncontrolled traffic on the Swannanoa River Road, or, the height of it all, looking down on the ravaged landscape of Cheeseburgers Are Paradise and the rest of what is now Restaurant Row on Tunnel Road.

Isn’t it amazing how up-market lawyers and city planners know what development is good for a city and what should be allowed in the name of Smart Growth, while the rest of us pay the taxes, live in the battlefields, and ultimately give up our neighborhoods for the good of the developer, the landholder and the construction lobby?

— Peter Loewer
Asheville

A natural choice for 29 years

Thank you for your article on natural-food groceries [“Natural Selection,” Feb. 2]. As two of the more than 1,000 community owners (“members”) of the French Broad Food Co-op, we are excited that more people are buying whole foods, organic products, local produce and other groceries that are good for you and good for the planet. [This] means fewer pesticides poisoning our soil and water, a stronger local economy and fewer resources consumed to deliver our food. … [It also] means healthier people, healthier communities and a healthier planet.

Shopping at a cooperative grocery takes it a step further: You’re investing in a different economic model. Instead of profits going to a few and maybe eventually “trickling down” to the rest of the community, co-ops like the FBFC and the Haywood Road Market are owned by democratically run groups of community members and driven by a mission to benefit the community. Each owner (sometimes called a “member”) owns one share of the co-op and has one vote. Owners elect a board to steer the co-op using consensus decision-making. Co-ops are direct democracy in action.

With the only all-organic produce section in town and one of the largest selections of loose herbs anywhere in the Southeast, the FBFC has chosen products based on service to the community and long-term sustainability, rather than short-term profit. Helping to create and sustain a market for local organic produce, the FBFC has been instrumental in supporting what is now a strong local network of small organic farms. Guided by knowledgeable staff, the FBFC’s bulk herb department is a library of traditional medicinals. The FBFC also provides meeting and event space, classes, farmers’ markets and a place to gather and build community.

We are also the only grocery store in WNC whose workers have a voice in decision-making through a union. As your article showed, this means FBFC workers have better wages, benefits and working conditions. It also means workers are empowered to be part of the decision-making process. We extend these values to the farmers who produce our food, emphasizing fair-trade products to support fair treatment and living wages. …

Long-time co-op shoppers, don’t be alarmed about the effect of big natural-food superstores on co-op sales. The FBFC is very much in business after 29 years. We are open to the public (you don’t have to be an owner/member or a worker to shop at the FBFC), and anyone can become an owner.

Come see for yourself!

— Beth Trigg
President, FBFC Board of Directors
Mike McCreary
FBFC Acting General Manager

The finer points of defining torture

How did our country end up going down this torturous road to condoning torture? Mr. Gonzales is being considered for attorney general, and this is appalling in light of making moral choices. He wrote up legal briefs and memos justifying torture in the U.S.-run prisons around the world, and in effect said the president can ignore the Geneva principles. And Mr. Bybee (assistant attorney general) went on to say that for an act to be torture, it must be done for sadistic enjoyment and not just for information. (I guess that’s why Mr. Graner and Ms. England got into trouble.) As per memos uncovered by the ACLU, the FBI was aware of torture and did very little to halt this. Those memos reflect a common thread through the various types of torture and show a wide geographical reach.

Mr. Bush claimed the U.S. forces “shall continue to treat detainees humanely, and, to the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity, in a manner consistent with the principles of Geneva.” Lots of wiggle room there. As any thinking person knows, you can justify anything in the end. One would hope that the person elected to our highest office would say, “Follow the Geneva principles always, no matter what.”

Mr. Arar of Canada was extradited to Syria by the U.S. authorities in New York [to face] “torture by proxy.” He was imprisoned and tortured for 10 months. Our government sent a man (who had never been charged with any crime) to a country that we have declared a “terrorist” state, to be tortured.

And for those who believe that morality is relative and claim we’re better than the terrorists because we don’t behead people, let me share this fact with you: The U.S. government has uncovered five prisoners beaten to death in Iraqi prisons, and is currently investigating 23 more [cases].

How have we come to this?

— Susan Oehler
Asheville

Did we just trade beef for drugs?

In reference to Albert Bowers’ letter [“USDA Protects Profit, Not People,” Jan. 12], here’s another twist on the USDA protecting citizens from mad-cow infected beef from Canada.

U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel reported on Jan. 12, 2005, “According to Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, President Bush and Prime Minister Martin spoke privately about drug imports during Bush’s visit to Canada on November 30. The U.S. announced that they would end the beef ban one month later, on December 29, the very same day that the possibility of Canada banning drug exports was widely reported.”

And the plot sickens.

— Patrick Boland
Asheville

Beware, the Social Security tinkerers

Here they come — the tinkerers that are going to “fix Social Security.”

This might be a good time to stand back and get out of the way; it could be messy. But to stand back is to leave the problem to a crew that has repeatedly proven they are neither capable nor trustworthy. This is the same crowd that gummed up the flu-shot program that had been running OK for years, the bunch that lied us into war in Iraq and hustled us into a national debt so huge it worries even brave economists. This is the same crowd that lied us into a tax cut for the wealthy that was supposed to jump-start the economy, and now they’re saying we should let them tinker with Social Security, a program that has functioned without their help for 70 years.

You just know something isn’t quite right when they begin to recall that President Clinton suggested some fixing during his administration. This would be the first time in more than four years the Bush people have approved of anything President Clinton tried to do. In his public statements, Mr. Bush has already tried to reassure the over-55 age group, hoping to sideline the powerful AARP.

There are indeed details in the Social Security program in need of attention, but these are not the people to do it. That would mean turning loose the current duplicitous gang of thieves with a sterling record of robbing the poor to give to the rich. It’s one thing to steal an election or two, but to impoverish an entire generation [while] at the same time funding an out-of-control military is not what the country needs.

— Allen Thomas
Asheville

Don’t let those Michigan mountains fool you

Re: “Freewill Astrology” [Xpress, Jan. 26]. I have been reading your paper since December. I live here for six months, then Michigan for six months.

Being a Virgo, I always read my sign. Well, this one is really wrong. Michigan getting the trash is so very right, [but] it’s not Rockwood that’s the landfill. Having lived in South Rockwood and Flat Rock a good share of my life, I know the area very well.

The landfill is in Carleton, Mich., on Will Carleton Road, just a few minutes off Telegraph Road, U.S. 24.

For years, the trucks have torn up the roads [and caused] traffic tie-ups — a royal mess for dollars the state keeps [without] helping with the roads.

Driving towards the landfill looks like you’re in the mountains — between Detroit and Toledo, I-75 and west for five-plus miles.

I enjoy your paper every week.

— Donna Sharpe
Maggie Valley

[Editor’s note: According to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s report on waste disposal, there is a Standard Environmental Services landfill in Rockwood which processed 1,610,484 cubic yards of waste in 2004; the Carleton Farms landfill, however, processed 7,248,415 cubic yards. But where the New Jersey construction waste landed was not revealed in that report.]

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