Letters to the editor

Note to Mumpower and Worley: Wrong!

I want to thank the Mountain Xpress for writing such a thorough and appropriate story [“Dam Long,” March 31] on the March 23 City Council meeting. Not only was this a lengthy meeting, but a historical one demonstrating the power of a neighborhood pulling together and defeating a “money-hungry developer” and “development-crazy” city planning staff — on technical and public-safety grounds.

I was quoted several times in the article regarding my arguments against this development, which remain as strong as ever despite the rebuke from both Vice-Mayor Carl Mumpower and Mayor Charles Worley. They both noted this meeting to be “the worst case of NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard)” they had ever seen. I would argue that this was the best case of NIMBYism they had ever seen. Finally, a case of NIMBYism that made sense and was not just about keeping low-income residents away from an existing neighborhood. We actually liked the development plan and support affordable housing for all, it’s just that this site was not suitable for any residential development, much less one for folks who have so few housing options. Many would argue that this land should be protected as a bird sanctuary and green space, which would benefit all Asheville residents.

Sadly, these facts were missed by Mumpower and Mayor Worley, despite nearly five hours of debate. Luckily for the city of Asheville and the potential Foxwood Apartments residents, the other five Council members were really listening that night.

— Michael Weizman, M.D.
President, Kenilworth Forest Community
Asheville

Penland: We’re not quite as tough as you think

Thank you very much for your lively and in-depth [cover] story [“Wheel Reinvented,” March 17] on the 75th anniversary of Penland School of Crafts. I want to address one misimpression, however. The article leaves the impression that it’s difficult to get into a class at Penland. While this seems to be a widely held perception, it’s not really the case.

It is true that we have instituted a lottery, which applies only to the first wave of summer registration. However, we have 98 classes each summer and typically we only fill about 30 of them by lottery. The rest are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, and we enroll students all summer long. For example, right at this moment we have space in more than 50 summer workshops. Our eight-week spring and fall sessions do not have a lottery, as they generally take several months to fill.

It is true, as your article states, that we count many full-time artists among our students. It’s also true that our classes can be quite intense and they reward students who are willing to fully immerse themselves. However, most of our classes welcome students at all skill levels, including beginners. It’s not uncommon to have beginning students working alongside people with years of experience. In the best cases, both groups benefit from this. We also get students of all ages (although our minimum age is 18) and from all walks of life.

Thanks again for letting your readers know about our anniversary. I’d be grateful if you could also let them know that there are many classes open for this summer, and [that] we welcome all kinds of students.

— Jean W. McLaughlin
Director, Penland School of Crafts

Withdrawing from Iraq only way to restore justice, integrity to U.S. government

The one-year anniversary of our declaration of war against Iraq has now passed. As a rationale for going to war, our president told us that the United States “must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof — the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. … We have every reason to assume the worst, and we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring” (from The Washington Post, Jan. 28, 2002).

That, however, was not the message that he was getting from the intelligence community. CIA Director George Tenet made the following statement about the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which summarize the pre-war views of the intelligence community: “Let me be clear: Analysts differed on several important aspects of these programs, and those debates were spelled out in the Estimate. They never said there was an ‘imminent’ threat” (transcript of Feb. 5 speech at Georgetown University).

No weapons of mass destruction have ever been found over the past year. More than 650 coalition troops (including more than 550 American service people) have been killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and more than 3,200 have been injured. Thousands of Iraqis have also been killed and injured. A recent Mother Jones magazine article presents graphic illustrations of the many “injured” — 20-year-old amputees who went to serve their country, and who must now determine how to live the rest of their lives without the limbs that they lost in the name of patriotism.

If there had been an imminent threat, perhaps the sacrifice of these limbs would have served a purpose; without this threat, it seems these soldiers have been betrayed — that all U.S. citizens have been betrayed by our government through lies and deceit, a government that is supposed to protect and defend.

This is a very sad time indeed — a time to mourn rather than celebrate, a time to hope that our president and his cabinet can indeed carry out the wishes of the American people and stop a war that was based on propaganda and deception, and must end with the withdrawal of troops from Iraq if there is to be any justice and integrity restored to the U.S. government.

— Virginia Bower
Asheville

Kerry: Defying the moral will of God

I am a student at North Greenville College. I am currently 20 years old and have been involved in politics for the last three elections. The first time, I worked the campaign of a friend who was running as a Democrat, and in the 2002 and 2004 elections I worked with the Republican National Committee. Never before have I been so afraid of the outcome of an election.

Our country is at a crucial moment. Thanks to President Bush’s tax cuts, our economy is beginning to rebound from numerous factors that hurt [it], partial-birth abortion has finally been banned, and we are taking the initiative to take care of those who have no respect for human life. The reason this election worries me is because the Democratic candidate is an extreme liberal who, if elected, could destroy everything this country was founded upon.

The Declaration of Independence says that because of the authority of God, we have the right to life. John Kerry has said his first executive order will be to overturn a New Mexico bill that bans government-funded organizations that support abortions. So not only will Kerry defy the Declaration of Independence by denying unborn children the right to life, but he will use our money to do so. As a Christian and a human being with a [conscience], I cannot understand this. I am opposed to abortion, but because of the officials the people elect, I may have to pay for the ending of life before it begins.

As a Christian, I am ordered to obey the authority placed before me, but only as long as that authority is not contrary to the moral will of God. There are many other issues such as the sanctity of marriage and the protection of our troops that I [also] disagree with, but do not have the time to go into.

These are the choices we are faced with in this election. May by the grace of God we will make the right [ones].

— Jason Graham Vaughn
Tigerville, S.C.

Police are interrupting our right to free speech

A question that seems to arise from time to time when we discuss history is how could the people in Germany in the 1930s have allowed Hitler to commit atrocities, how could the people have given up their power to speak out against injustice, and how could they ignore what was going on right under their noses? And I look at my own country and the state in which we are now living, and the conditions seem ripe for our citizens to adopt this same blind view of the United States.

In an article entitled “Protester = Criminal?” in The Proqressive‘s February 2004 issue, we are given three instances of protesters being arrested for simply exercising their right of free speech. One took place in St. Louis last May 16; one in Miami on Nov. 20, 2003; and one in Port of Oakland, Calif., on April 7, 2003 — and these show an increase in police and military force against our own citizens who wish to express views divergent from the Bush administration. Force used was, according to the article, “tasers, shock batons, rubber bullets, beanbags filled with chemicals, large sticks, and concussion grenades against lawful protesters.”

Even here in Asheville, the specter of unnecessary force has reared its ugly and unlawful head. According to that same Progressive article, $8.5 million of the $87 billion that Congress appropriated for the Iraq war was used by police in Miami alone.

It becomes even clearer how a people can go blithely on with day-to-day existence without thought of how our constitutional rights are eroding when none of this is reported in the mainstream media. This silence is deafening, and threatens to bring down our basis for democracy — an informed public.

Jim Hightower says that democracy has to be nurtured. It’s like a muscle; when we don’t use it, it atrophies. We must demand our voice back from the large corporations that have the private ear of the government, and whose motto is greed. We must insist that the police abide by the laws. We must stand up and speak out against those in our own country who are taking away our freedom.

— Renee Robb-Cohen
Asheville

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