Letters to the editor

Public left out of Madison decision

I want to thank each of the Madison County commissioners for presenting us with the illusion of due process at their meeting on Monday, March 13, in which they approved all of the rezoning requests of B&E Ventures and their investors, from residential and agricultural to resort and commercial.

By now, we have a vague idea of what the developers want to do: build an airstrip long enough to accommodate private jets [and] cut right through the mountain, and put businesses all along Laurel Valley Road where there is no current business. What kind of businesses? Maybe a bank, maybe a McDonalds, maybe a supermarket or super-something-else. A “retail village” in the current wetlands: Maybe we can become the “Blue Ridge Venice” and shop by gondola.

Then there is the sewage treatment plant on Puncheon Fork Stream, headwaters to Madison’s trout-fishing streams, that according to their application to N.C. Division of Water Quality will accommodate “910 two and three bedroom homes, a 100-seat restaurant, a 35-room hotel, and a 100-seat lodge.” The Lodge is closed for water-safety violations, which the builders, to their credit — and now under intense scrutiny — have endeavored to correct. Wouldn’t anyone want to see an adequate septic system before allowing a corporation to pipe sewage across the mountains and into a huge treatment plant?

An injunction was filed against beginning work on the jetport, partially based on the fact that it was not rezoned to industrial. At the end of Monday’s meeting, the commissioners went into closed-door session. Magically, the minutes of the June meeting were revised to rezone the airstrip from commercial to industrial. Is it my imagination, or did they just put an airport in our neighborhood with no public discussion? Where is retro-zoning allowed in the county bylaws?

Madison County is required by state law to have a comprehensive development plan. This was their perfect opportunity to be heroes to the people of the county, 260 of them inside the courthouse and 80 or so outside, unable to get in. They could have put a hold on all rezoning until such a plan is in place. But they did nothing. No resolutions, no proposals. Nothing. Instead, they were heroes to the developers.

Rezoning has to be compatible with existing land use. Maybe I’m slow, but I can’t make the “compatible” leap from horse and cow pastures, woodlands and streams to high-density resort, airport and sewage treatment.

The commissioners, by not seizing the moment, are party to dividing the county into two starkly opposed camps — one defending the traditional way of life and the heritage of these mountains, and the other making a killing financially and just unable to comprehend what is being lost. They had a golden opportunity to bring the county together, to work for a sensible future that includes slow development and farm preservation, but opted instead to side with those selling us out. Why can’t we all make a living instead of a killing?

— Steve Crimi
Laurel Valley

Standing up for the f-word

After reading Hanna Miller’s ill-researched article, “Comfortably Numb[March 22], I’m perplexed at her conclusion that “UNCA students seem to favor a definition of feminism that prioritizes comfort over challenge.” I found this article to be based more on assumptions than actual facts. As a UNCA student and ardent feminist, I can attest that feminism is far from dead among college women. Extrapolating the views of a 3,000-student body based on a scant four sources is just bad journalism.

If Miller had difficulty finding feminists in the women’s studies program, I suggest that she interview the Feminist Collective student group instead. Or how about interviewing the many strong, activist women in other campus groups such as Alliance or Amnesty International? You’d be hard-pressed to find any June Cleavers there, although you might find a few Our Voice volunteers. I would also suggest attending the annual “Take Back the Night” rally, or UNCA’s annual production of “The Vagina Monologues,” which always plays to a full house. Go to one of the many Women’s History Month events on campus right now, and look at the diverse ages of the women involved. The UNCA community is not as antiquated as Miller would have us believe.

Sure, the “f-word” is still taboo in some circles. But I claim the title of “feminist” proudly, and I am not the only one to do so. Please do some more thorough research before making such gross generalizations about my peers.

— Kim Barto
Asheville

A feminist who’s not afraid to say so

Feminist.

Why is it that every time I read an article about this word the author cannot seem to get past interviewing people who disassociate themselves from feminism to actually talk to those who are invested in the feminist movement? Why are they always using over half the article to talk about the feminists who want to be housewives? I am all for their choice — I admire all housewives and mothers — but why must we constantly put light on these women and not those who are activists? Those who are raising up their voices every day trying to stop violence, inequality and suffering due to patriarchy, a lot of them doing this while being mothers?

It is not hard at all to find feminists on the UNCA campus. [Editor’s note: The writer is referencing the March 22 Xpress article, “Comfortably Numb.” Being a Warren Wilson student who takes a course at UNCA and has a good number of feminist friends there, I feel I can say this: The Feminist Collective is strong, the Alliance group is active. Did you not notice the recent scandal over the Sex Workers Art Show? Students, feminist students, with the help of supportive faculty, made that [show] happen despite all the outrage and protest. There are dedicated activists on that campus who have a lot to say about why they are feminists and not humanists. Feminists who would probably tell you that when they hear “humanist” it brings to mind white liberals who say they are “color blind.” Both terms being, in my opinion, a cop out for individuals to ignore their privilege and the systemic racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia and more running all our lives.

I think what is going on here is the fact that no one really wants to hear what self-proclaimed feminists have to say about feminism. Underlying the article is a voice proclaiming “Here they are, but no alarm — you see, there are still acceptable women who do not associate with the word. All is okay in the world; feminism is practically dead!”

It was a feminist film festival. How hard would it have been to talk for once about what feminism really means for women who call themselves feminists, instead of what it means to those who are afraid of the word?

We just officially opened the doors this month to a brand new Women’s Resource Center at Warren Wilson College (a project started by students and run by students). There is an active group, GASP!! (the Gender Activist Student Project), on our campus where we are not afraid to use the word. We Are Here! We read feminist thought, we talk about it all the time, we create our own definitions, we are making our community a safer place for all its members because of our dedication to feminism. Is that so hard to believe?

We are not sitting idly in our dorm rooms, apartments and houses. Things do not change by simply telling those scrambling to survive to “relax.” We active feminist college students, who recognize what a gift and privilege it is to be getting an education, know better.

— Erin Remick
Asheville

Eco-leader deserves thanks

I would like to address the comments of Joseph Allawos in his letter, “Those Green, Green Fields of Home[March 8]. If Joseph would look closely at this Montford home, he would see that it does have many energy-efficient and sustainable components, although it may not be a totally “natural” home. To bash this eco-builder is totally uncalled for.

Knowing this eco-builder personally, and being a builder myself, I can attest to his commitment to green building. He is a leader in the push for green building locally; he has won community awards for his efforts; he works very hard with the local WNC Green Building Council; and last year he made a presentation to the Asheville Home Builders Association that led to the adoption of the HealthyBuilt Homes Program locally.

The adoption of green-building techniques and materials will not happen overnight. It will be a slow but steady process, based on education and consumer demand — much like the demand for organic products has increased their availability. So instead of blasting this eco-builder, we should be thanking him for the great contributions he is making in the local building industry.

— Ryan McLellan
Black Mountain

Think again about “sustainable” farms

I’ve been reading about “sustainably raised” animals, “humanely raised” animals, and “happy meat.” But what do these terms really mean?

Suppose an average American meat-eating family of six decides to grow all of their own food and raise all of the animals they eat. They would need approximately 20 acres, and many would consider such a lifestyle the very definition of sustainability. Yet when you consider that it only takes one acre to feed a vegan family of the same size, doesn’t it seem a bit selfish? Cycling food through animals simply to satisfy a craving for flesh is a gross waste of resources that could, instead, feed starving humans. Small farms that raise animals are a relic of the past; there is simply no place to put them. They may have worked 50 years ago, but human population has more than doubled since then. Attempting to recreate the nostalgic family farm is no answer to today’s global environmental crisis. Solving 21st-century problems requires us to look forward, not backward.

“Humanely raised” is a euphemism for less abused. Most places that claim to treat cows and pigs humanely castrate them without anesthesia. Even free-range farms order their chicks from large hatcheries. Males born at these hatcheries are economically useless. They can’t be raised for meat because they are genetically different and won’t grow to slaughter weight in a matter of weeks. Male chicks are suffocated in plastic bags, gassed or are ground up alive the day they are born.

All animals raised for food or their reproductive secretions end up being slaughtered. It’s often an ugly process that results in a slow and painful death. There are no “happy animals” at slaughterhouses. It’s silly to pretend that food animals were either happy, humanely treated or had anything to do with sustainability.

— Terri David
Asheville

Involuntary annexation is wrong

The city of Asheville recently voted to expand its extraterritorial jurisdiction by three miles and to be able to forcibly annex these areas within 70 days instead of a one-year period. The current N.C. annexation law permits a city to forcibly annex land contiguous to its borders — providing the area meets population-density and growth-development criteria — without requiring a vote by residents on whether or not they want to be annexed.

North Carolina is one of seven states that allow involuntary annexation; the other 43 states require a vote by the people. Involuntary annexation not only causes economic hardship for those who have to pay city and county property taxes, it also imposes a hardship for county governments by depriving them of revenue and causing businesses to leave the area.

The N.C. annexation law should be changed to allow people to vote on whether or not they want to be annexed. The only option allowed under this law is to settle the matter in court. Involuntary annexation contradicts the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of property rights. It is taxation without representation, a taking and a different form of eminent domain.

Write your legislative representatives and tell them you want this law changed to permit the people to vote on annexation. For those who are looking for information on involuntary annexation in North Carolina or want to know how to fight it, go to www.StopNCAnnexation.com.

— Meiling Dai
Asheville

Marijuana may be a blockade, not a gateway

I’m writing about Bob Niewoehner’s thoughtful letter: “Making Sense of Medical Marijuana[March 15]. I’d like to add that we should try and make sense of our insane marijuana criminalization policies.

There is only one country in the world where adult citizens can legally use, possess and grow small quantities of marijuana: The Czech Republic. (In the Netherlands, marijuana is quasi-legal, not officially legal.)

The Czech overall drug-arrest rate is 1 per 100,000 population. The United States’ overall drug-arrest rate is 585 per 100,000 population.

The Czech robbery rate is 2 per 100,000 population. The United States’ robbery rate is 145.9 per 100,000 population, according to the FBI.

According to our drug-war cheerleaders, tolerant marijuana laws cause people to use other, much more dangerous drugs, like meth and heroin.

Obviously, this doesn’t happen in the Czech Republic. Why not?

Could it be that when people can legally obtain marijuana at an affordable price, they tend not to use or desire any other recreational drugs?

Could it be that marijuana legalization actually creates a blockade to hard-drug use — not a gateway?

— Kirk Muse
Mesa, Ariz.

Animal, vegetable or mineral?

I was upset after reading the harsh bashings of Warren Wilson’s farm, as it is a wonderful model for community sustainability. One writer quoted Tolstoy, and obviously Leo was not an Eskimo. Eskimos have sustained their lives for centuries on a diet heavy with meat. Did the writer mean to imply they should trade in their presumably barbaric lifestyle to plant corn in the snow?

Humans cannot ignore the varied needs of other human beings in favor of their own. While a great concern for animal suffering is at the base of the writer’s argument, she fails to consider the suffering of plants when they are cut from the vine, pulled from the earth or otherwise “slaughtered” for human consumption. Because they have no personifying face, make no audible sounds or otherwise do not communicate pain, can we say with absolute certainty that vegetables do not suffer?

Does not the pine tree weep when its skin (bark) is cut? If all living things suffer, then perhaps it is the quality of the suffering that is abhorrent. Few would argue that inhumane living conditions are acceptable for any living thing, but to presume that humans are in communication more with chickens than carrots would be foolish. And to assert that the slaughter of Warren Wilson’s animals is done out of concern for cost and not … sanitation is uneducated.

Human beings are designed to be adaptable, ready to take advantage of the natural resources in their environment. If we stop being adaptable, forget to keep variety in our diet or blindly adhere to one dogma over another, we are doomed to become extinct. …

Certainly our modern-day “megafarm” practices apply as much to plants as they do to animals. Ninety percent of the soybean crops in the United States are genetically modified, as are many of the other plants we eat, [including] pricy organic foods. Large machines have replaced human labor … increasing farm profits by putting people out of work. Some farmland is subsidized by the government to not grow food.

Be careful when targeting the “bad guy.” If people are truly concerned and want to make improvements for the environment, then save those attacks for the real enemy. The real enemy is not Warren Wilson’s farm.

— Chantal Saunders
Asheville

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