Letters to the editor

Protect the strippers from the prostitutes

Forget separation of church and state; we drowned that baby in her bath water when politicians started running on “morality” platforms. But when a veteran [Asheville] City Council member (a white male) thinks eliminating a woman’s free choice of occupation “is the answer,” it’s time to ask, “Is democracy still the question, my fellow Americans?”

(Matthew 7:1) “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” Before casting the first stone of stigma at the women who work at the Xcapades club, critics ought to move out of their glass houses and lily-white ivory towers. “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy neighbor’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:1).

The full monty is exposed in all its vulgarity by politicians who stuff their aging jockey shorts with hard-earned tax money extorted in the name of “family values.” Heroic single mothers (bless their hearts) are trying to get their children off of what scraps remain of welfare. They should be supported, not branded as whores to burn at the stake of our self-righteous “Asheville City Titty Tax,” as it is affectionately nicknamed down at City Hall.

To ban disadvantaged women from equal freedom of opportunity and throw away the key is an obscene, heartless example of the prostitution of power and politics. The women of Xcapades are perfectly capable of opening doors for themselves. But if those doors are chained shut through blatant acts of sexist discrimination, Justice Herself is locked out in the cold, without a G-string or a chamber pot to pee in. Justice is stripping off Her blindfold for “legalized” bribes, and local politicians are lined up to snap the garter.

“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) “They’ll stone you when you’re trying to make a buck. They’ll stone you, and then they’ll say good luck.” (Bob Dylan, 1997 nominee for the Nobel Prize in literature).

— Tommy Kerr
Asheville

Is justice blind in Thornburg’s court?

So, it’s taking years just to renovate the courtrooms in the federal courthouse in Asheville. I wonder how long it took to build the entire new Federal Building from scratch? In the meantime, Asheville citizens are forced to go to trial in Bryson City.

A few years ago in Miami, a Hispanic police officer killed two black individuals, and rioting ensued. The officer was charged, but because there was a serious threat of further civil upheaval, the trial was moved to Tallahassee. The court had to protect the rights of the black victims to a trial, and also the rights of the Hispanic defendant. Tallahassee’s county had a Hispanic population of 2.4 percent, with a jury pool of 0.7 percent. The appellate court ordered the trial to be moved again, stating: “We agree that public confidence in our criminal justice system cannot be maintained under such circumstances, and that either a conviction or an acquittal resulting from such a trial would be inherently suspect.” The trial moved to Orlando, with a Hispanic population of 10.1 percent. This interesting case (State vs. Lozano) cites the American Bar Association Standards of Criminal Justice [as saying] the prosecutor has an obligation “to guard the rights of the accused as well as to enforce the rights of the public.” The prosecutor acts as a servant of the law (Berger vs. U.S.).

The black jury pool in Bryson City is 0.89 percent.

Looking at the record, it becomes apparent that a citizen’s constitutional rights seldom have been high on [Judge] Lacy Thornburg’s list of priorities. Of the judges with whom he went through the confirmation process, he has the highest number of cases that were reversed by the appellate court, averaging 4.27 per year. That’s almost twice as many as the next-highest among the judges. During this same process, he was asked how he came to be nominated for the office of federal District Court Judge. He replied that he had served as co-chairman for the Clinton-Gore campaign and had asked his co-chair for a letter of recommendation to President Clinton. (The co-chair was given an ambassadorship!)

However, it may be simply that the courthouse in Bryson City is much closer to Judge Thornburg’s residence in Webster than is the courthouse in Asheville.

— Ann Ryder
Mars Hill

Sell Memorial Stadium? Noooo!

Thank you for reporting our presence at the Feb. 17 City Council work session [“Just the facts,” Feb. 25]. You were correct in reporting our concern over the lack of youth-soccer facilities within the city. More precisely, the Asheville-Buncombe Youth Soccer Association is corresponding with City Council and the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department (relative to the Memorial Stadium proposal) regarding our long-stated position that youth-soccer programming deserves dedicated field space at neighborhood parks/fields throughout the city.

This position was formalized in our 1989 commentary on the 2010 Plan forum held that year.

To clarify one point in Parks and Rec Director Irby Brinson’s response to our inquiry regarding the number of existing soccer fields available to our program within the city, we are not only aware of the city’s commitment to negotiate the purchase of property at Lake Craig for use as a multifield soccer park — we are a partner in that collaborative effort. The nonprofit Western North Carolina Soccer Foundation — which represents ABYSA’s interests in high-quality, central facilities at which local, state and regional league and tournament play might finally be properly venued in Asheville — is also signed on as a paying partner, should the Lake Craig project become a reality. Buncombe County Recreation Services and the Buncombe County commissioners also remain committed to assisting this project.

The point we would like to reiterate for the public’s attention is that our program was founded on a commitment to facilitating the game of soccer for all children within the Asheville-Buncombe domain. This commitment was first formulated in 1979 by the committed volunteers of the grassroots youth-soccer movement in our community. Neighborhood youth-soccer teams are the driving influence in this creative venture.

Accessible neighborhood field spaces underwrite neighborhood youth-soccer teams’ right and ability to exist. With this in mind, Asheville Parks and Recreation’s proposal to trade away the only full-size youth-soccer field space they own — which happens to be located in the heart of the vital downtown Asheville neighborhoods of Kenilworth, Mountainside, Lee Walker, French Broad, Livingston, Biltmore and North Asheville — for the prospect of zero soccer-field space serving the same neighborhoods makes exactly zero sense to ABYSA.

While we understand much to be at stake in this particularly contrived venture regarding needed finances for other much-needed field construction (and are sympathetic to these needs), we submit that the asking price — forfeiture of existing solid public infrastructure (albeit this ground, too, needs attention and progressive development), in order to facilitate this other “deal” — makes the whole thing seem exactly bogus.

This proposal also certainly brings much into question regarding the master-planning effort, which Asheville Parks and Rec is supposedly now undertaking. We think the master plan should be completed and approved before a pivotal decision, such as the sale of Memorial Stadium, is negotiated, and we do not understand how trading away this particularly excellent field space fits into a master plan that makes sense for Asheville.

The Asheville-Buncombe Youth Soccer Association currently sponsors play for over 2,500 boys and girls ages 4 through 18 in each of our fall and spring seasons — and votes NO to this proposed sale of Memorial Stadium, as well as to master planning that does not include accessible public field spaces for youth soccer in all of our neighborhoods.

— Briggs Sherwood, director of development
Asheville-Buncombe Youth Soccer Association

Cable process should be more democratic

Having looked forward to “openness” with the recent election of [Asheville] City Council and the early announcement to reconsider the cable-franchise ordinances, I was appalled at the manner in which the long-awaited public hearing was conducted.

Council has had access to the [proposal] since at least Jan. 20, when [it was] presented in a very long work session open to public observation. Presumably, each member of Council has had time to review the material and ask for clarification on specific items.

Council’s having the temerity to consume the time for a public hearing with another “work session” presentation by Assistant Attorney Patsy Meldrum came across as a deliberate attempt to shut out public comment. The undue delay thus created meant that several who had wished to comment had to leave without doing so.

This abuse of the citizenry is not unlike the effrontery many of us have experienced with Rep. Charles Taylor. If the ordinances are too complex for Council members to sort out in this short six weeks’ time, they should say so and not yield to pressure from [City Manager Jim] Westbrook to make a decision. It is my understanding that Council employs city managers, and is not dictated to or at the mercy of unelected bureaucrats.

The patronizing comments between [InterMedia General Manager Joe] Haight and Mayor [Leni] Sitnick regarding subscriber complaints and programming preferences were evidence of disregard of and [Haight’s] contempt for … subscribers. In my experience, “File 13″ is where attempted contacts with Mr. Haight’s office end up.

I wonder why InterMedia felt the need to purchase a half-page ad in the [daily] newspaper on Feb. 23, the day before a public hearing? I found the content of the ad blatantly misleading — as [it read], for example, “in line with customers’ wishes.”

Reminiscent of Rep. Taylor’s announcement of “three-to-one strong opposition” to the American Heritage River designation — with no figures to back it up — [are] InterMedia’s references to [the] “wishes of a majority,” [the] “comprehensive survey of cable customers,” “adding Inspiration network after numerous requests,” [and the] “small minority of citizens holding [the] agreement hostage,” with no base-line figures to back up these claims.

Mr. Haight told me at a January meeting that he had surveyed subscribers last May — “mailings to over 40,000 customers, with a 3 percent return.” An unsatisfactory level of return, I would say.

As there are only 22,000 customers of the services being franchised for under InterMedia, the survey results represent 660 customers. An independent survey regarding programming should be required.

I will not subject myself to another public hearing on this issue; however, I am exploring ways to boycott and picket the company until fairness is achieved.

— June Lamb
Asheville

Citizens are wise to (and weary of) Taylor

The recent announcement of a congressional “alternative” to the American Heritage River designation is a flagrant attempt to subvert a self-help, grassroots initiative. It is an incomprehensible example of the failed philosophy when government leaders view citizen initiative as a threat to their domain, rather than joining them in dynamic vision and achievement.

The issue here is now clearer than the river has ever been: River enhancement and the accompanying economic and public-image gains are far too sexy to be entrusted to local nonprofit organizations. No, they would best be left in the hands of higher seats of power — men of real influence, with the ability to oversee rules and regulations that control outcomes, while hiring an army to implement the plan.

In a recent high-level Washington meeting, a New Age official referred to this kind of leader as “old bulls.” Citizens are weary of this failed philosophy, and wise to the reality that local groups struggle for years to raise public consciousness about issues and excite people about solutions, only to be one-upped by the very people they sent to the echelons of power to represent them.

RiverLink and our city and county leaders demonstrated excellence in leadership on the future of the French Broad. It is now time to hold Congressman [Charles Taylor] to higher accountability. He needs to sit across the table, on equal terms with the people he represents, to iron out differences and join in a united effort for the river, free of divisive posturing and politically motivated agendas.

— Vera Holland Guise
President, American Grassroots Unlimited
Skyland

Black community must unite against AIDS

I am African-American. Call me a community activist, or educator, if you may. But I am very concerned about my race and issues that affect my race.

I see my race as gradually becoming the “forgotten” race — particularly in the area [in] which I live. We don’t have much of an outlet anymore to reach our small but growing community. Neither do we seem to have enough concerned citizens within our race to spearhead activities to educate or bring us together!

We used to have a predominantly black radio station that was not only entertaining, but also very informative, inspirational and educational. We had black-edited newspapers that reached out to our communities, and the community centers played a very large role — not to mention the NAACP and the YMI Cultural Center, which is losing funding and in great debt. And above all were the black churches.

Well, Asheville, Buncombe County, western North Carolina (what have you), we are facing a deadly epidemic within our community. It is labeled as HIV/AIDS, and it is taking our brothers and sisters in numbers you would not believe — especially in comparison with other races and the gay community!

But understand, it is not, in my opinion, because we are innately African-American/black. I look at it from a societal point of view. It’s because we are engaging in deadly activities, both sexually and in relation to substance abuse, and we are greatly undereducated and underinformed. We are afraid to come together as a community to boldly and wisely fight this epidemic. I have the faith that we, as a whole, have the capabilities to fight and overcome this!

— Jewel M. Johnson
Asheville

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