Letters to the editor

Celebrate the medical miracle of public health

April is National Public Health Month — a time to celebrate and recognize the contributions that public health makes in our community and in our nation. In recent history, we have seen many modern medical miracles. Yet most people do not realize the contributions public health has made.

Over the past 100 years, it is advances in public health that have provided clean water, proper housing, immunizations, eradication of smallpox, an understanding of preventive medicine as exemplified by healthy lifestyle choices, and increased life expectancy.

Despite these successes, funding for public health programs has always been tight, and based on current discussions at the federal level, could get a lot tighter. Plans to eliminate the Preventive Health and Health Services (PHHS) Block Grant in the administration’s budget for federal fiscal year 2006 could impact public health programs in our community.

Local public health programs use Block Grant funds … to make it safer, more enjoyable and more feasible for residents to walk, bike and be more active in their daily lives. One such initiative, promoted through the Healthy Buncombe Coalition, is “Strive Not to Drive Week,” which now celebrates its 15-year anniversary.

Other public health initiatives support healthy-eating and activity programs for all ages. It is much more cost effective to prevent chronic disease than to treat it. Public health professionals are working to end the childhood-obesity epidemic through local partnerships.

Public health has been a quiet miracle — perhaps too quiet. In celebrating Public Health Month, let’s not be too quiet about our accomplishments. Let your elected officials know how you feel about healthy-lifestyles and prevention programs through your participation and advocacy. Cast your vote toward a healthier community. Strive not to drive, get out and play this month, and have fun doing it!

— Marjorie Vestal, MPH
Public Health Educator
Buncombe County Health Center

We need a break from jails

I attended the forum on the Buncombe County Detention Center, held on Monday, April 18, [and] ably moderated by David Hurand. One conclusion seemed to be that prisoners are not treated like human beings. Among prisoners, 70 percent have mental health problems. Another large percentage have substance abuse or alcoholism. Prison hardly seems the appropriate place for dealing with these problems.

Have those in power given any thought to alternatives? Here are a few: alternative sentencing (such as mandatory community service); halfway houses with social workers and counselors; rehabilitation and substance abuse centers; retribution; reparations. About $25 million will be spent on a new jail facility. This amount could go a long way toward making some of these alternatives possible.

Interestingly, no Buncombe County representative was permitted (though invited) to be on the panel of speakers.

— Leah R. Karpen

Myth versus meth: the sequel

I found Carl Mumpower’s recent letter [“Myth Versus Meth,” April 20] — in which he refers to his solicitation of crack cocaine in a residential neighborhood last year as an “urban myth” — to be very interesting.

In labeling the incident “untrue,” Mumpower obscures … an event that involved not only his solicitation of illegal drugs, but also the dangerous manipulation of circumstances to a point that could easily have resulted [in] gunfire in a neighborhood where children live.

In addition to the Xpress coverage of the incident last year [“The Education of Dr. Mumpower,” June 25, 2004], reports appeared in two other local papers.

In one, the June 10 edition of The Asheville Tribune, Mumpower is credited with having said: “We drove up to a group of men standing on a corner and I put my hand out the window and asked for a ‘dime.'” In the account, Mumpower added that after his acquisition of the crack cocaine, he and his accomplice in the stunt “drove off without paying.”

A similar report relating the same set of facts about the incident appeared in the June 2004 edition of the Mountain Guardian News & Opinion. It is unlikely that two conservative news outlets would run reports detailing the same circumstances of the affair if news of it amounted to a mere “urban myth.”

It is understandable that this incident and its circumstances would now seem regrettable and perhaps embarrassing to those involved. But that does not give Councilman Mumpower or anyone else the authority to mislead the public, deny involvement or escape personal responsibility in actions that put the lives of innocent people in danger and continue to insult the public interest.

It seems Carl Mumpower is either deliberately lying to the public or is so out of touch with reality that he doesn’t recall his own actions… . Neither of these situations is what Asheville needs in a city councilor. I share the relief of many in knowing that this man’s position as an elected official in our city will be up for vote later this year. In the meantime, I encourage Dr. Mumpower to stop writing checks with his political aspirations that his sanity cannot seem to cash.

— Bud Howell

Going soft on the homeless

Every time I start thinking our City Council actually represents the majority of our citizens, they surprise me! Now, we are going to build free housing for the chronically homeless. With the exception of two conservative councilmen, they actually voted for this fuzzy-wuzzy, feel-good liberal idea, as did our generous (with your money) Buncombe County commissioners.

What about those poor working stiffs who must have two jobs in order to even afford to live in Asheville? Let’s not worry about them. Instead, let’s give the drug addicts and drunks a free place to live. Let’s give them free medical, dental, drug counseling, etc., and even if they refuse these services, it’s OK, because we now have the fuzzy-wuzzy feel-goods.

In the meantime, what about funding? If we accept more HUD grants, we’re obligating our city to more federal regulation. Of course, this money isn’t free; sooner or later taxes are raised to pay for it.

Should our city and county pay for this new, mandated charity with a tax increase? We may want to send out fliers to neighboring cities, counties and states, welcoming their chronically homeless to Asheville — although we probably won’t have to do this, as we are already becoming a mecca for these people. When the homeless population finally outnumbers our present tax-paying population, will we still have the fuzzy-wuzzy feel-goods?

— Craig Young, President
Buncombe County Republican ACTION Club

Nuclear option explodes

[Editor’s note: From time to time, the Xpress receives a series of letters on a particular topic, similarly worded and appearing to be variations on a “sample” letter in circulation. To clarify our position regarding letters: We encourage our readers to express their opinions on issues important to them, but we do request that letters be original in composition and written directly and solely to Xpress.

Recently, we have received several letters addressing the issue of changing the process of judicial selection by Congress (the so-called “nuclear option”). The following excerpts — the most original in content — represent the sentiments others expressed.]

There is currently a move in the U.S. Senate to change the Senate rules … for the purpose of eliminating the filibuster … .

It has been widely reported that approximately 5 percent of the president’s judicial nominations have been blocked by means of the filibuster. This small percentage indicates that only those few nominees whose views are furthest from the mainstream have been so blocked, and that use of this tool has not been abused. It is my hope that our senators from North Carolina will not support this move to change the Senate’s rules for what appears to be a purely political purpose.

— David Houck

It is ironic that one of the major goals cited (of course, other than getting those pesky invisible WMD) for the war in Iraq is the spread of democracy: governance of the people, by the people, for the people.

However, the Bush administration does not appear to be so keen on preserving simple democratic principles here at home, as we are seeing now in their desperate maneuvers to stack the courts with extremist judges. Our country was founded on principles of fairness — a system of checks and balances so we would not be subject to the rule of one man, but rather rules established and evaluated by elected representatives who are supposed to represent the best interest of those who elect them… .

— Eloise Collier

Shall we go Dutch?

I’m writing about Clare Hanrahan’s outstanding commentary [“Failed Drug War Won’t Protect Our Children,” April 6].

I’d like to add that if tough-on-drugs policies worked, the quixotic goal of a drug-free America would have been reached a long time ago.

And if tolerant drug policies created more drug use, the Netherlands would have much higher drug-usage rates than the United States.

They do not.

In fact, the Dutch use marijuana and other recreational drugs at much lower rates than Americans do (see the Web site: www.drugwarfacts.org/thenethe.htm).

And if tolerant drug policies caused more overall crime, especially violent crime, the Dutch would have much higher crime rates than the United States.

They do not.

The Dutch murder rate is less than one-third the U.S. per capita murder rate, and their rate of incarceration is about one-seventh the U.S. incarceration rate.

In the Netherlands, marijuana is sold to adults — without criminal sanctions — in coffee shops.

In the United States, marijuana is sold by criminals who often sell other, much more dangerous drugs, and who often offer free samples of the more dangerous drugs to their marijuana customers — thus the gateway effect.

Legalize, regulate and control the sale of marijuana, and we close the gateway. Re-legalize all types of recreational drugs, and we will make the term “drug-related crime” obsolete.

— Kirk Muse
Mesa, Ariz.

Current drug policies fail society

Re: “Failed Drug War Won’t Protect Our Children” [Commentary, April 6]. Our drug policies create the black market — which is the threat to society because it creates an atmosphere in which we must be afraid to send our children to a corner store; to ever leave them unsupervised. Katie Collman (Indiana) and Paul Guajardo (Texas) are two children recently murdered. Katie (10) stumbled [upon] a meth lab, and Paul was undercover at 14.

It’s estimated over 100 million Americans have used some illegal drug. Why not educate our young, treat our addicts, and respect the rights of adults to choose their own recreational or medicinal intoxicant? It would free law enforcement to better protect us from violence and fraud, plus create room in prison for those selling children drugs.

Our DEA harasses the sick and the dying (medical marijuana patients). They get bad press. Bush balances this by going to bat for Terri. The present usurpers of the White House will do anything for you if you are brain-dead. However, if you have a brain and you want to make your own decisions — it might have to be over their politically dead bodies.

God bless.

— B. Colleen Minter
Stephenville, Texas

Hypocrisy rises to the top

About the tape of George the President, heard talking about His marijuana use [Letters, “Let’s Try Jailing Hypocrisy Addicts”, March 16]: I do not care if President Bush has smoked pot or used cocaine in the past, but I am concerned that he thinks it is OK to cage others for doing the same thing.

— Stan White
Dillon, Colo.

Frist’s zeal obscures his duty

Senator Frist, in his zeal to be the next Republican presidential nominee, has chosen to align himself with right-wing “religious” extremists. So eager to please those extremists is Mr. Frist that he recently portrayed Democrats who block Bush’s judicial nominees as being “against people of faith.”

That is an outrageous assertion. How dare an American senator make such a statement?

When he took office, Senator Frist swore an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, which prohibits the government from imposing any religion on American citizens. Most Americans are aware of the part of our Constitution that says, in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … .”

But not as many — including, apparently, Senator Frist — are aware of this part, in Article VI (Clause 3): “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

Let me repeat that: ” … but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

“No religious Test” means “no religious Test.” What part of “no” does Senator Frist not understand?

We must stop this outrageous attempt to turn America into a theocracy dominated by right-wing “religious” groups determined to impose their religious values and tenets on the rest of us. …

Senator Frist should be ashamed of himself.

— Lois Erwin
Waldwick, N.J.

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