Letters to the editor

Wave that flag (upside-down)

While we’re on the subject of flags, why don’t we fly the American stars and bars upside-down — to remind us of the atrocities that the U.S. government committed against Native Americans?

— Don Humphries
Asheville

Local means of affecting U.S. foreign policy

In the waning days of Apartheid, South Africa found itself the subject of sanctions imposed not only by the United States Congress, but by a number of states and municipalities as well. [Such] local sanctions were not unprecedented. Today, this sub-federal assertiveness is back — with the target of the sanctions usually being American companies faced with the [impossible] choice of abandoning overseas markets or losing lucrative government contracts.

The leading entrepreneurs of such companies are challenging these sanctions in court — and winning — simply because the prerogative of the federal government (which includes the sphere of foreign policy) cannot be constitutionally overridden by the lesser governments of the states and municipalities.

Yet local [governmental] forays continue, despite Madison’s and Hamilton’s firm contention that the power to originate and implement foreign policy must reside at the federal level — thus giving it the quality of uniformity of purpose. Without this uniformity, our foreign policy is nothing better than a patchwork and Balkanization of our national interests — a scenario that necessitated the U.S. Constitution in the first place, and that disproved the efficacy of the failed Articles of Confederation.

This is not to say that nothing can be done at the local level. To wit, every revolution in the thought of mankind begins at the grassroots level and slowly swells until what was a paradigm shift in the minds of a few mavericks propels a paradigm shift in the minds of the general populace, which then — by osmosis, as well as by other channels — reaches the central nervous system (i.e., Washington, D.C.).

On the tangible level, private citizens and nongovernmental organizations can organize boycotts to pressure businesses to quit countries with [records of] human-rights abuse … and local officials can lobby Congressmen, as well as craft nonbinding resolutions to condemn repressive regimes.

— Charles Mathis
Arden

Oh, Canada!

Let’s support all the [Asheville] Smoke players. Put up a Canadian flag next to the stars and stripes, and play the Canadian national anthem after the “Star Spangled Banner.” These guys have come a long way from home. Let’s show them a little Southern hospitality!

— Paul D. King
Asheville

A place of our own

We have a problem in Asheville that’s been needing attention for a long time. It’s the fact that the kids of [our] city have nowhere to just “be” and create without feeling out of place on some level. I have lived here for [my] life span (thus far) of 18 years, and have often talked about creating a youth center. I have now decided that the only way it will get done fairly and in a timely manner is if we do it ourselves. I have already created a group of people who are willing to see the birth of this place through. We have written out a mission statement and what we hope to accomplish with the youth center. We’re now looking for a structure [through] which we will base all of our creative and uplifting activities. We want to make this a nonprofit organization, built and maintained by donations. This is why we need your help.

We want to be right in our assumption that Asheville’s community cares about its youth.

What we need: [Locating a place] to house us is the most pressing issue. We need lots of open floor space near downtown, and a rooftop or balcony or some sort of outdoor space. We can fix whatever needs to be fixed (we’re not really picky), and [we’re willing to] talk about what donors can get out of [their contributions].

Mission statement: To create a loving, supportive, share center for the disadvantaged youth of Asheville, in a free environment for self-expression and inspiration.

Goals: 1) Earn respect for the youth on the streets. 2) Manifest compassion in the community. 3) Offer a chance for emotional release [through] creative projects. 4) Foster growth through group teaching and learning. 5) Expand community awareness of environmental, political and social issues. 6) Provide a place for the free exchange of ideas. 7) Expose the beauty of diversity. 8) Maintain support for those who have none. 9) Create job opportunities for houseless youth. 10) Provide a safe, nurturing environment to promote wellness. 11) Erase the imagined boundaries that seem to separate us.

Please help us make this a reality!

— Breanna Leslie
Asheville

Breanna Leslie can be reached at 252-0037 or, by e-mail, at shalidon@aol.com.

Walking disaster

I adore dogs … always will. I regard with pride and with no little awe the estimated 14,000 years in which humans and dogs have shared their lives and homes. The responsibility of owning a dog is not something to be taken lightly. I, myself, have a dog and understand this only too well. It is the responsibility of owners to ensure the safety and well-being of their animals, and to ensure that their dogs integrate well into the human community. While a large number of dog owners make this a priority, there are still many owners who do not — and therein lies the problem.

There’s a leash law in our town; yet, almost every day, I see as many as four to six dogs roaming down my street, off-leash and completely unsupervised. These dogs are not strays; and, while a couple may be the result of a rare escape from fenced backyards, the vast majority of these animals are pets that are knowingly allowed by their owners to roam the streets for hours at a time. The results are disturbing. Neighbors cannot walk, jog or cycle without the distinct possibility of a confrontation. Some of these roamers are relatively well-behaved. Others are a menace.

Take, for example, a recent encounter my dog and I experienced. We were enjoying a walk when we witnessed an unaccompanied German shepherd chasing a truck. After [the dog barely escaped being hit by the truck], it spotted me and my dog and quickly ran down the street to intercept us. (Do you have any idea what it feels like to have an unknown German shepherd charge you at top speed? I hope you never do.) Within seconds, the shepherd proceeded to badger us relentlessly. It was a young, beautiful dog (maybe a year old), weighed as much as 100 pounds, and stood as tall as an adult human when on its hind legs. I know this because the dog repeatedly threw its full weight upon me, knocking me down to the ground several times. He wore no collar, so I couldn’t grab onto anything to restrain him; and, try as we might, we could not get away from the dog. The shepherd was literally on top of us and was practically smothering my dog — who, at 40 pounds, was considerably smaller. A fight was dangerously close to breaking out more than once.

Interestingly enough, the shepherd’s body language was that of an unruly child (a freakishly large child with galvanized nails for teeth, that is). The problem was, he was absolutely manic with his desire to play, and didn’t know his own strength. Obviously, the dog had received little to no training whatsoever (an unwise decision for [an owner] of such a large breed). When we tried several times to walk away, he bit at my dog, my dog’s leash, my hands and my hair (grabbing it by the roots and yanking my head back — and my hair is short, by the way). He went wild.

For nearly six minutes, we simply couldn’t break free — an interminable length of time under such circumstances. Finally, thank goodness, two teenage neighbors heard the commotion and ran over to help, managing to distract the shepherd long enough for me and my dog to make our escape. The dog then ran off to inflict itself upon someone else, further down the street. None of us knew to whom the shepherd belonged.

What worries me most is this: What would have happened if that dog had run across a small child or frail, elderly person, instead of a middle-aged adult? What then? I managed to sustain only a few scratches and bruises from the incident, but consider the consequences if this dog had met up with someone less able to endure such exuberance. It was a frustrating, frightening and exhausting experience that happens with amazing frequency in our community.

This is the city of Asheville — not a sparsely populated rural community. We have a leash law, and there are very good reasons for having such a law. Pet owners who do not follow this law are putting their own dogs at risk — exposing their animals to traffic and other urban dangers. At the same time, these roaming dogs may present a nuisance and a threat to their neighbors.

Yes, the city has to address this problem, but, more importantly, we all need to diligently honor this beneficial law. If you own a dog, please make sure it’s always outfitted with an ID tag, and keep it on leash and supervised when it’s off your property. What’s more, if anyone sees a dog roaming the streets, contact the owner (as the dog may indeed be lost or missing). Or, if the animal has no identification, report it to the appropriate authorities, to protect the interests of all involved.

The recent pooper-scooper law is a fine idea, but let’s not forget to get dogs on leash in the first place, to prevent a more serious walking disaster.

— K. Shirley
Asheville

Hold the DOT’s feet to the fire

Congratulations to Asheville for persuading the allegedly reformed N.C. Department of Transportation to revisit the I-26 project in the upcoming design forum — where all stakeholders will supposedly come together to produce a design that represents a consensus of all interested parties. There’s just one problem: The reformed DOT, that [claims to be] committed to an open process that works in collaboration with local government, organizations and citizens, is slithering backwards.

In Waynesville, the DOT — under the guidance of former Secretary Norris Tolson — worked tirelessly with stakeholders in workshops and public hearings to produce a consensus plan for our Old Asheville Highway. [The plan] was endorsed by Secretary Tolson in April 1999. Now, after plans have been issued for right-of-way acquisition, an individual property owner (whom the DOT will not publicly identify) has requested his own personal design for the highway. This has happened without official notification to local government and other stakeholders.

And the [resultant] plan has more asphalt, is less safe, and does more harm to Waynesville’s natural and visual environment than the former compromise plan. The compromise plan has a modern roundabout — which the DOT acknowledged is safer and more efficient than a signal intersection, and desirable as a traffic-calming device at the gateway of Waynesville. The latest version drives a five-lane road into the heart of an established community, without considering what would happen to the induced traffic.

Obviously, we cannot continue the path of a five-lane road through downtown Waynesville without ripping out Main Street or removing the front steps of churches on Haywood Street — or without blasting through precious neighborhoods. I thought the state was supposed to be pursuing transportation systems that enhance the integrity of established town centers.

Asheville citizens be forewarned: You must have the passion and strength to hold Secretary David McCoy’s and DOT’s slippery feet to the fire.

— Doris Bixby Hammett
Waynesville

I-26 and the limits to growth

In reference to Cindy Meehan-Patton’s article, “Defining sustainable growth for Asheville” [Commentary, Feb. 16], I have to agree with an opinion that Cecil Bothwell expressed a few weeks back [Letters, Jan. 19] that the very term “sustainable growth” is an oxymoron.

There are an increasing number of debates these days about how to deal with growth, urban sprawl and the like. Not too many of the debates that I’ve seen get to the roots of the problems — which are overpopulation and depletion of natural resources.

When the layers of opinion are stripped away, it seems that most people fall into one of two camps on the subject: belief in the possibility of unlimited growth, or belief that there are definite limits to growth. I definitely fall in the latter category.

To take an extremely important example — crude-oil resources — there are a number of geologists and scientists who have plotted the peak of world oil production at around the year 2005. One of them, Dr. Colin Campbell, predicted in 1998 that the Arab nations would have the “swing share” of production by the year 2000, because of falloff in production in North Sea and other competing oil fields, enabling them to effectively dictate the price of oil. Guess what? Here we are! For those of you with Internet access, the Web site at www.hubbertpeak.com has a compendium of writings on this subject, and a debate forum. For techno-luddites like Hal Crowther (God bless ’em), find a copy of the March ’98 issue of Scientific American.

What does it all mean? Well, if scientific predictions are anywhere near close, we might not even need an I-26 connector at all. By 2010, gasoline may be so expensive that the traffic flow might be cut in half from what it is now. That’s just a drop in the bucket as to the implications for this society, which is running out of the fossil fuel to which it is addicted. Also, contrary to popular belief, there is no alternative-energy source that can come anywhere close to replacing crude oil in the quantity and at the price we are enjoying right now. The only counter-arguments that I’ve read come from economists who seem convinced that the “laws” of supply and demand somehow supersede the laws of physics.

For another excellent compendium of writings on population, energy and limits to growth (or if you just really want to wallow in it), check out www.dieoff.org. This is not crackpot stuff, but sound and widely published scientific and lay opinion.

As a society, we are capable of planning for our future and dealing with these issues — but only if we come to the hard realization that this is a finite planet, and its resources are being strained past the breaking point. We need to actually stop the growth of population and development before the laws of nature do it for us.

— Eric Thurston
Asheville

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