Letters to the editor

Upmarket or down home?

Mixed-income neighborhoods can strive to be safe and clean, not gentrified.

Having read Brian Sarzynski’s article “Up and coming: What price downtown Asheville?” [April 14, 2004], I’d have to agree that what most people perceive as gentrification poses a very real concern to residents of downtown neighborhoods. I’m less than thrilled to watch my property taxes spiral upward at an almost exponential rate.

I love my neighborhood. I’m close to my place of employment, the school my child attends, and all the amenities of downtown, including those “award-winning restaurants,” boutiques, theaters and music halls. It doesn’t seem fair that only the wealthy should have this kind of access to downtown Asheville.

My neighborhood includes retirees on fixed incomes, the elderly and handicapped in nearby public housing, college students in rental properties, and young families just scraping by to afford their own home. Where would we all go should we be taxed out? Will we just have to subsist on the crumbs of the city’s spending in designated areas that the New Asheville Renaissance will bypass?

While targeted areas of Asheville’s glimmering new face receive a disproportionate amount of attention regarding the city’s services and infrastructure maintenance, the low-income neighborhoods slip into decay. Pretty downtown sculptures are nice, but my wheelchair-bound neighbor would like to maneuver on [an even] sidewalk in order to get to the bus. If I’m to pay higher taxes, I’d like to see some money spent repairing my neighborhood.

By the same token, I challenge residents to be more proactive in creating a safe and clean neighborhood. Pick up some of the trash lying in the street. Go to City Council meetings, or e-mail Council members, if you want to see your streets and sidewalks repaired. Participate in community-watch groups. Team up with your neighbors and put in a neighborhood garden space where an empty, overgrown, littered lot exists. If you rent, get on your nonresident landlord’s case if the trash is piling up and weeds are choking the sidewalk and driveway. Speak out and step out to create the kind of neighborhood that’s pleasant yet still affordable. See to it that our municipal government provides the services our taxes are paying for.

Yes, Asheville is a wonderful city to live in. And it can be even more remarkable if its urban planning and development is done in a compassionate, inclusive way.

— Suzanne Pierberg
Co-Director, South French Broad Neighborhood Watch Group

On gentrification, whiners and socialists

In most cities, gentrification is considered a positive improvement for in-town areas. But, leave it to the whiners in Asheville to twist it into evil.

The gall of folks like Jodi Rhoden, Eamon Martin, and City Councilman Brownie Newman suggesting that government step in to rescue nonprofits that have problems paying discounted rents, as if property owners are supposed to somehow lose money to keep them running! The real-estate taxes, and other costs in this town are way too outrageous to allow that to continue. Sometimes, folks who can’t afford to operate here need to relocate to cheaper towns, maybe like Marion or Old Fort. I’m sick of whiners complaining about the cost of living and operating here, when they have the clear option to move.

I have never witnessed a town so eaten up with government programs, such as public housing, rental assistance and a huge dependence on the taxpayers. Just look around you at the gross mismanagement of public housing, and all the other giveaway programs that reward the personally irresponsible. It creates a corrupt vote-buying system, and discriminates against the hard-working taxpayers.

Mr. Martin, editor of the Global Report, is another whiner who believes the taxpayers owe him an office. That anti-American, socialist rag is an insult to my intelligence, and it’s clear to see why it can’t perform in a free-enterprise atmosphere. Its constant “all one” message denotes offensive socialism. That message needs to be changed to “each one,” to celebrate the success of the individual, which socialists hate!

Another whiner writes about the new, illegally-funded WPVM radio station, with its “truth and reality.” You call Jim Hightower of Rolling Thunder truth? … Ask him why the word “democracy” is not in the U.S. Constitution, and watch him stutter! If he has such a big following around the country, why does he keep coming back to Asheville trying to glean support? Because the socialist idiots around here cannot think for themselves!

Strive to be smarter than a liberal, socialist Democrat! Learn what it takes to be successful, instead of whining all the time about what you can’t get from the government! Oh, and don’t ever vote for another Democrat; they keep us all oppressed!

— Fisher Caudle
West Asheville

Handling crowds

I am concerned about the police brutality in Asheville. I recently visited home from a trek across the country with Doris “Granny D” Haddock (a 94-year-old voter-registration activist). I was upset to learn that people I care about in Asheville have been continuously, seriously mistreated by the so-called civil servants of our town.

If the police are willing to attack protesters and college students without provocation, how might they treat people in minority neighborhoods, tucked away from public view?

If the police are interested in handling crowds peacefully, they might try better training rather than better riot weapons — or are they more interested in asserting authority than in keeping peace? I have not been in Asheville for the most recent incidences of violence. However, I did attend the informal Halloween parade where the police maced and tazed people for dancing peacefully in the streets. It was a fun gathering with no purpose other than to enjoy the creative place that Asheville is.

I was in New Orleans during the first anniversary of the Iraq War, and no protester was shown any aggression by the police as they escorted the unpermitted march through the town. Yesterday, I was at an anti-Bush protest in Des Moines. The police smiled and did their duty of keeping the peace among peaceful people.

It is time for everyone in Asheville to speak out against this brutality. Many of us have moved here for the freedom of living in a progressive community. You can move here for those things, but you will have to become part of the community to keep them. Your heart may be in the right place, but your voice and body are also needed. This issue needs to stay in the public eye until a positive solution is reached.

Much love and wishes for a beautiful future in Asheville.

— Blue Broxton
Asheville

Should we save Elkmont?

Across the mountains, in our national park, there is a huge controversy going on right now. More than 70 deserted buildings, many close to 100 years old, sit silently in the community that was once known as Elkmont. Col. W. B. Townsend, Col. David Chapman (who is called the “Father of the Park”), Mrs. W. P. Davis (the “Mother of the Park”) and former Tenn. Gov. Austin Peay were all instrumental in the development of our national park and had ties to Elkmont.

There was much discussion, then, on how to go about buying a national park — how to preserve these special mountains for future generations. Today we’re grateful for their hard work, and proud of our Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Today there is much discussion again. And, again, it is centered around preservation — and the future of Elkmont.

Some say this ghost town should be torn down and let nature take its course. Some say the cultural history is worthy of preservation. Some recommend we renovate these cabins, along with the Wonderland Hotel, vacant since 1992, and rent them out for overnight accommodations for the general public — something that other national parks have done and the [Smoky Mountains Park] does not. With concessionaires footing the bill, this would not put a strain on the park’s already lean budget. In fact, in the future, it could provide much needed income for the park.

The park has a tough decision to make, and has asked for public comments. Now is the time to voice your opinion, before the final decision is made. For detailed information, go to www.elkmont-gmpa-ea.com. There you can also send your comments via e-mail. Or you can mail your comments to: Superintendent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

And don’t forget that this is an election year. Let your congressmen and senators know where you stand. Today the future is in our hands.

— Julie Brown
Maryville, Tenn.

Whom to blame for 9-11

Al-Qaeda has been attacking the United States, starting with the 1993 World Trade Center attack and continuing with numerous attacks for the [past] 11 years, covering the two different presidential administrations. The numerous attacks being:

1) On American installations in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996;

2) African-embassy bombings in 1998;

3) The USS Cole in 2000, and;

4) The second attack on the World Trade Center on 9-11, 2001.

The Democrats blame the Bush administration. The Republicans blame the Clinton administration.

I blame neither. I blame the Bin Laden administration.

— David Council
Alexander

U.S. government’s secrecy causing worldwide suffering

Noam Chomsky states that when a government talks of “national security,” the real intent is to secure the nation from what they do not want the nation to know.

There was a very interesting article in The New York Times (April 10, 2004), by Hugh Eaken, titled “When U.S. Aided Insurgents, Did It Breed Future Terrorists?” The report focused on the opinions and experiences of Columbia University political scientist Mahmood Mamdani.

Mamdani argues that terrorism has less to do with Islamic culture than with American foreign policy after Vietnam. [The report] discusses the U.S. post-Cold War political mentality of covert operations to create, fund and arm insurgent groups (militias) to carry out terrorist acts of violence in countries and arenas where our political leaders feel their viewpoints and policies may be threatened.

I have witnessed the Bay of Pigs, the assassination of JFK, Vietnam, Watergate, Iran Contra, Nicaragua, Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Operation Iraqi Freedom — to name a few incidents. Each of these events embodies and demonstrates the quintessential truth of the harmful effects resulting from clandestine governmental operations.

This insidious attitude was on rampant display to the world as National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice took the “filibuster” approach while testifying under oath before the 9-11 Commission.

The White House clamors to “recreate” what they do not desire the public to know through the declassification of the August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB), which states that President Bush was told, that day, that Osama bin Laden planned an attack within the U.S. and wanted to hijack airplanes.

President Bush and Vice President Cheney have agreed to sit before the 9-11 Commission, in private, on the conditions that they are not under oath and that they appear together.

Many journalists have commented on the secrecy of this administration. The facts [show] that Vice President Dick Cheney had multiple meetings, behind closed doors, with Enron executives prior to creating this administration’s debacle of an energy policy. Former White House counter-terrorist advisor Dick Clarke has revealed in his scathing indictment, Against All Enemies, of pre- and post-9-11 secrecies and dismissals.

It is said that we are as sick as our secrets. Secrecy becomes a pathological breeding ground for deception, and our government is ensconced in this malignant malady. A government of, for and by the people cannot be allowed to continue promoting nefarious actions that cause worldwide suffering.

The time has come for “We the People” to manifest a “more perfect Union.”

I make a clarion call that we insist that light be brought to this darkness and that truth and integrity be what we seek and insist upon. One of this life’s crucial teachings is that of accountability for choices and actions. The choice is ours!

— Jeffrey L. Ray
Arden

Does Bush value the Constitution?

The Bill of Rights and the Constitution of the United States are kept in the National Archives Building in Washington, where numerous measures are devoted to their safety in cases specially made for viewing. Looking at them, one immediately realizes that these documents mean a great deal to us to warrant all this protection. But as vital as these documents may be, and as carefully as they are protected, there seems to be no way to keep out the sticky little fingers of people who think these are merely a couple of old pieces of paper.

We are reminded of this each time when, with annoying frequency, the right wing proposes yet another constitutional amendment. They seem unable to grasp the importance of the Constitution, that this is not just another Treaty with Spain or an agreement that has gone out of date. To them, the Constitution can be taken for granted until their continual vigilance discovers another place that needs to be fixed to keep it from falling into disrepair and becoming useless.

We trust the Constitution and what it stands for. So when the president of the United States takes the oath of office, swearing to “uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” it naturally comes as a surprise when he, the oath-taker, later steps forward to support changes he believes should be made in the document. He compels us to question his integrity. Has he actually studied the document he swore to uphold, or did he swear to something he didn’t understand? Has he consulted with constitutional scholars who have suggested where there are places in the Constitution maybe needing to be strengthened, [for] e.g., the powers of the president to take the country into war?

Our president has now given us doubts, of him and his oath, while we continue to believe in our Constitution. It could mean he supposes he didn’t really swear to something all that important.

— Allen Thomas
Asheville

Tune in to Keever

A number of Transylvania County residents, myself included, had the pleasure of hearing 11th Congressional District candidate Patsy Keever speak on April 8.

Her 12 years of experience as a Buncombe County commissioner, combined with her 25 years of dedicated service as an eighth-grade public schoolteacher, contribute greatly to her perspective on our region and to her understanding of what our needs are. Her message is one of focusing on “the basic needs of our community — creating good jobs with fair wages; accessible and affordable healthcare access for all; quality public education with necessary funding; clean air and protection of our environment; and the preservation of our mountain culture.”

If these very basic beliefs ring true to you, as they did with us all, then please vote this November for Patsy Keever as our representative.

For more information about her campaign, or to volunteer to help, call (828) 251-1177, or visit her Web site at: www.keeverforcongress.com. Donations are very much appreciated and may be sent to: P.O. Box 8815, Asheville, NC 28814, with checks made out to the Committee to Elect Patsy Keever.

— Sally MacMillan
Cedar Mountain

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