Letters to the editor

Memorial Stadium may still be sold

In defiance of the spoken consensus of the overwhelming majority of the people of Asheville at the March 10 public hearing about the proposed sale of Memorial Stadium, Vice Mayor Ed Hay, backed by three others of our elected officials, plunged forward with the harebrained scheme of trading away fine public property located in the heart of Asheville for a few dollars with which to build baseball fields for a few rich folks’ kids in North Asheville to enjoy.

What sort of shenanigans is this? At this hearing, we learned that this magical place was initially established to pay homage to the local veterans of World War I. No wonder the place is full of ghosts! When I first set foot on this ground some dozen or so years ago, I knew I had found a special home for the youth of Asheville to come together and play ball. One of the comments at the public hearing, made by a veteran, really hit home for me. “What more fitting tribute to our war veterans than a place for our young people to experience the joy of American recreational sport.”

My longing for this space is as its founders intended. What can our councilpeople suggest about their own longings?

Here are some other facts! While the Parks and Recreation Department and Vice Mayor Hay (who says he runs at Memorial Stadium during his lunch hour) say that this space is not well used, hundreds of our local children go without decent field space on which to pursue their dreams of team and individual sports and recreational achievement. Much of this lack stems from a lack of programming that would give access to appropriate games and field space.

In my view, there is a great leap of activity waiting to happen on just such a field as our leaders propose to dump.

The Asheville-Buncombe Youth Soccer Association stands firmly by the pledge we made at this hearing: to provide programming for this space that will make it a vital hub of multi-cultural youth recreation. We have no doubt that it is the perfect place. We only have doubts about our so called leaders’ intentions for providing equality of recreational opportunity for all of Asheville’s residents.

And what are you guys waiting for before you report the Mayor’s comments that “parks in perpetuity” are what we need to be thinking about to stave off the sort of unscrupulous developmental trading we are faced with here. The mayor and two of our councilpeople have it right, that our civic stewardship must override the city’s temporary cash shortfalls. Let’s get behind them, good people!

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

Terrific Kids gives that extra boost

I am writing in regard to an article in the Mountain Xpress on Dec. 10, 1997. The article was asking “Are all children terrific?” and “Does the Terrific Kids program hurt self-esteem?”

First of all, I would like to speak on behalf of the Hendersonville Kiwanis Club in saying, “Yes, all kids are terrific.”

The Terrific Kid award was not intended to alienate anyone. It was to give those children who are improving in their academics a boost. If a child has been struggling in his or her school work and puts forth the extra effort to try even harder, doesn’t that child deserve a “pat on the back”? This is what the program is all about — boosting self-esteem, not hurting it.

It is the teacher and school who pick out those children who the Kiwanians recognize. They work more closely with the child’s progress. We just like to be able to share the spotlight with the child’s great achievements.

[The fact that] we recognize a handful of children at a time doesn’t one bit reflect how we feel about the rest. All children are and will always be terrific.

Why don’t we question the bumper sticker that says “My Kid Beat Up Your Terrific Kid” instead of worrying about why my child didn’t get picked!

Society is so worried about competing that it forgets that self-esteem comes from the home. Everyone is looking to blame someone else.

Home is where it all starts. If we are taught to love ourselves and taught self-esteem at home, why would we even care to look elsewhere for it? Does the bumper sticker really matter? No.

In closing, Terrific Kids is not a give-away program, it’s an earned program that gives an extra boost to those who those who may need it. And, yes, all children are terrific!

— Doreen Webb
Hendersonville Kiwanis Club

Thanks, Ashely

Even though I occasionally disagree with your reviewer, I do appreciate the comments made by Ms. Siegel. My eyes are always opened to some perspective of the movie that I had not considered.

— Donna L. Murray
Woodland, CA

WNCAP: a house united

As the case-management staff of Western North Carolina Aids Project, we feel that it is imperative that we respond to the March 11, 1998, article in Mountain Xpress. The article made the front page and stated that WNCAP is a “house divided,” and that, after internal battles, a separate organization is being formed. Please allow us to clarify and correct the misleading statements and accusations printed in this article.

We would like to start out by saying that WNCAP is not a house divided, but very much a strong team of individuals who are very dedicated to this agency and to helping the clients whom we serve. There are no internal battles, but instead a caring staff and board who are very supportive of each other, especially amidst all the controversy that we have faced in recent months.

Brenda Fullick, your reporter, came to our office and interviewed staff, took pictures, etc.; however, the article stating what we do as an agency was never printed. The recent article did not even mention this interview. Since the reporter’s obvious choice is to place emphasis on the critics’ side, please allow us to inform you and the community of exactly what we, as case managers, do at WNCAP to assist our clients.

Case Management is the coordination of services within the community for each client and [his or her] specific needs.

Regarding the criticisms in the article of our approach to substance-abuse treatment, we offer the following information. Substance-abuse issues are addressed initially at the point of intake, and [then as] a part of the ongoing case management work with each client. We are not, however, a drug-treatment clinic, but are committed to assisting clients in any way possible when they need referrals for detoxification, substance-abuse treatment centers and counseling.

Given that case management is “client driven,” we, as case managers, must respect that it is the client, not the case manager, who must choose the “treatment,” as an option for dealing with substance abuse. It is in the process of assisting the client to explore their options that a case manager must ultimately respect the client’s final decision. We continue to remain dedicated to working closely with the local drug-treatment services in our area, such as Blue Ridge, Charter, Bridgeway, ADATC, etc., in a combined effort to combat this ever-growing need.

To address the racial issues raised in the article, WNCAP is a progressive agency committed to equality — be it gender, race or lifestyle orientation. None of the case managers would ever treat an individual differently, or deliver less than quality case management, because of color, gender or lifestyle. The suggestion of anything otherwise is absurd and disturbing. We do not feel that the color of either the client or the case manager is ever a determining factor in the quality of services we provide, or the relationship that client and case manager form together. As an agency, we extend these same beliefs and intentions to our hiring process.

As the case-management staff, who work daily with the clients, we are only aware of approximately eight clients — out of almost 290 served [this] year, to date — who are dissatisfied with the services we provide. We are not aware of the large numbers of “clients and critics” that were continually referred to in your article.

Additionally, there are certain issues raised by the article that we cannot respond to, due to confidentiality laws. Many of our clients do not come forward to speak out in support of WNCAP, due to the fear of being identified as HIV positive.

We, as case managers, are always committed to learning, so that we can better serve our clients. We attend conferences, read, research and try to stay informed, despite the abundance of changing needs, medicines, publications and controversy surrounding HIV/AIDS. It is only with the teamwork of the client, case manager, doctor and community that we can become more informed and grow together in healing and understanding. We are here as case managers to assist the client in dealing with [his or her] HIV status; we are not here to know all or to fix everything. Above all, we are very dedicated: We choose to be here and have every intention of remaining.

We work consistently to coordinate and arrange for medical and social services for all of our clients. We advocate for the development and delivery of needed services, navigate the direction for clients seeking access to services, support clients and their family members, and provide education. We continue to strive toward service delivery that reflects the client’s right to a quality life, confidentiality, nondiscrimination, compassionate nonjudgmental care, self-determination, dignity and respect. We offer all that we are able to provide, within our limitations as an agency and as individuals. Each case manager carries a case-load of 40 to 45 clients, all with varied and specific needs.

Any client or community member who wants to be more involved in the decision-making process and the policies of WNCAP can become a voting member, and is eligible to be elected to the board or become a volunteer.

We are open to suggestions and constructive criticism, when they are presented in an atmosphere of positive growth. However, we believe that when an atmosphere of negativity, attacks and hostility is present, it is a disservice to everyone involved. Such an atmosphere creates an extremely stressful and unhealthy environment. We do not wish to participate in such, but prefer to spend our energy continuing to respond to the needs of our clients, the demands of our job, the positive ways in which we can all learn and grow, and to never forget why we are here.

— The case-management staff of WNCAP

Avoid harmful landscape timbers

Marsha Barber’s article on “Gardening for the space-impaired” [March 11] provided lots of great information. However, one clarification I’d like to make is that MAGIC does not encourage the use of landscape timbers, which are usually treated to preserve the wood.

We recommend using recycled plastic lumber, available at Earth Care Products in Hendersonville. Or you can use bricks, cement blocks, rocks, locust or other non-treated logs, or any other materials you may think of that will not leach harmful substances into the soil. Actually, raised beds will grow fine without any borders!

— Roberta Greenspan, Director
MAGIC Community Gardens

WNCAP article was balanced

I was very pleased to read Brenda Fullick’s highly balanced article on March 11 concerning the problems within WNCAP and the HIV/AIDS community [“A house divided”].

The situations she described are real and accurate. I frequently find WNCAP to be a near-nightmarish world of smoke-and-mirrors where different officers or employees give contradictory answers to the same question, which leaves clients and friends fearing they are precariously standing on the Titanic’s deck. …

I write this as a person who lives with AIDS. I have seen good from WNCAP, just as I have seen arrogance and misdirection. I wish our questions might be answered.

— Rev. Charles H. Lee

WNCAP board, staff are united and forward-looking

I am writing to you in response to your recent article “WNCAP: A House Divided” [March 11], in which I was quoted.

I have had the privilege of serving WNCAP for the past seven years as a board member, treasurer and, now, vice-president. During that time, I have seen staff, clients and board members come and go. Joan Marshall and Bill Allen, also quoted in your article, are past members of the board. The board has always worked very closely with the staff, and our exchanges have always been lively and considered. Contrary to the implication of your article, WNCAP is far from divided. The board and staff are united and committed to providing service, case management and education to the community at large, and to those living with HIV, in particular.

In response to concerns raised by a very few (and very vocal) clients in the fall of 1997, the agency held a series of public forums, with the intent of answering these concerns. Much preparation and consideration by the board and staff went into fully addressing the questions asked of us. Those questions covered all aspects of the agency: its finances, budget, programs and future concerns.

While many valid issues were raised and discussed at those meetings and at subsequent board meetings, it became clear to us that those same very vocal clients had an agenda other than the welfare of the majority of those living with HIV. Over the following months, the level of harassment of staff of WNCAP began to interfere with the day-to-day working of the agency, culminating in the false accusation of embezzlement against our executive director, and in the alteration of a WNCAP publication. After obtaining legal advice, we felt obliged to pursue legal action.

Throughout this at-times stressful process, we have resolutely remained positive and forward-looking. I have no hesitation in expressing my admiration for the entire staff of WNCAP, who have behaved with professional dedication and shown great personal integrity in dealing with these difficulties.

While I am delighted that you have chosen to feature WNCAP on the cover of your publication, I am disheartened that you have produced an extremely misleading piece of journalistic blurb. It would have served this community better if you had clearly identified the real issues facing us:

1) tenuous funding for essential HIV medication;

2) continued funding for HIV case management;

3) outreach and service in communities most at risk;

4) issues facing women with HIV who are heads of households;

5) HIV in the workplace; and

6) impact of drug abuse on the community.

These are some of the issues that WNCAP is attempting to address, and for which we need continued community support.

— Dr. Christina McQuiston, board member
Western North Carolina AIDS Project

Asheville government does a good job

The Asheville Citizen-Times editorial of Feb. 27 entitled “Public ill-served by marathon session” was “inconsiderate to the point of rudeness” to our mayor and City Council. Democracy and open government often require extra effort and patience.from everyone. The article mentioned several issues that should be clarified:

• Could it be that, in their wisdom, the “Old and New Business” was done first so that seats would be available for citizens waiting in the hall?

• Three minutes to speak is and has been a standing rule. (The time reminder is a recent addition and is thoughtfully administered by Vice Mayor [Ed] Hay).

• Due to the hour at which Council meets, citizens may not be able to participate (due to work schedules) if the public hearings are done first on the agenda.

• Council agendas are available in advance from either the city clerk or ARNIE (259-5436, exT. 116).

• City staff does an excellent job in planning the agendas — especially considering the work load that has to be covered.

Thank you, Mayor Sitnick and Council, for your dedication and fortitude. The public is well-served by your openness and interest in hearing from all — even if it means a marathon session for you, also.

— David Whitley

[Editor’s note: The Citizen-Times editorial chastised the Asheville City Council for pushing the cable-franchise hearing to the end of its Feb. 24 agenda, forcing citizens to sit through five other public hearings and a 70-minute staff presentation on cable before citizens were allowed to comment. The editorial accused the city of disenfranchising citizens by making them wait until 11 p.m. before giving them a chance to comment on the proposed cable deal. The editorial argued, “Public hearings should be scheduled at the beginning of meetings to accommodate citizens who have come forward to participate in the governing process.”]

AIDS service agencies must be accountable to patients

I have been following with interest events unfolding in Asheville. Persons with HIV/AIDS demanding simple accountability from the organizations that serve them should not be news. Unfortunately (and increasingly), AIDS service organizations are failing to provide for reasonable requests that would allow persons with AIDS to participate effectively in the delivery of social services that affect their most basic needs. I commend your paper on an attempt to present a balanced and fair representation of this complicated issue.

I say complicated, but it really isn’t complicated at all. AIDS activism has changed the manner in which medical/social services are delivered for everyone, and for the better. On state and national levels, legislators are talking about a “Patients Bill of Rights.” The FDA has opened up the manner in which it approves medications, making more medicines available to more people in a shorter amount of time. AIDS activism is about patient empowerment.

Patient empowerment means that someone has to give up power. Unfortunately, rather than accepting persons living with HIV/AIDS as partners, too many AIDS service organizations have chosen to fight the very people they are supposed to be serving.

Journalism can be a difficult profession. Before AIDS made it necessary for me to go on Social Security disability, I wrote for our local public-television affiliate. One of the pieces I am most proud of was on homelessness. I interviewed housing-rights activists, homeless people and people who had been homeless and HAD somehow made their way into stable living situations. The segment won an award. And I am proud, not because the award in any way reflects on my abilities, but because I tried to allow other human beings to present themselves as they really are, and someone listened to them. I believe that is the most important role a journalist can play. I congratulate you, the newspaper and, most of all, your reporter on a job well done.

— Barry Norris
Louisville, KY

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