Letters to the editor

Think local, act Global

Unless something dramatically magical happens right away, the editorial collective of Asheville Global Report is sad to announce that we may no longer continue publishing. We’re not kidding.

Many of you reading this letter may be familiar with our whining pleas every fall and spring for public support to cover our operating expenses. [And] for over six years, every fund-raising season has found the newspaper literally snatched from the jaws of death by public support. Perhaps we have described this dependence and have desperately begged so much in the past, somehow surviving each time, that by now a “cry wolf” syndrome has set in. But the fact is that every single time — every season — this desperation has never been exaggerated.

But this time, it’s different. It’s been bad before, but never this bad. We’re seriously in crisis, with no guarantee that we’ll be able to publish [another] week.

We’re appealing to Mountain Xpress readers as one last attempt to immediately rouse the support we need to continue. The situation: We owe our printers thousands of dollars, rent is due, and we have to decide if it’s time to cut our losses by redirecting our attention to paying off our debts and rebating our subscribers.

This past year has seen a marked decline in support for AGR — in community funding and in the level of volunteer commitment needed every week to produce the newspaper. It’s been so disastrous and unsustainable that we’re now forced to ask ourselves if … people generally don’t care whether or not we’re around. We’re fully aware that it is no easy task to run an all-volunteer, nonprofit, weekly newspaper. Maybe that’s why you don’t see more newspapers like ours in other cities. We feel lucky that we’ve managed to get by this long … [with] just enough volunteer power to churn out the newspaper, but absolutely no one dedicated to raising money, writing grants or soliciting advertisements. We have no salaried employees, and none of us can personally afford to finance this operation. And it’s pretty hard making sure all our bases are professionally covered at AGR [while] keeping ourselves personally afloat with meager-paying, part-time work and keeping burnout just out of reach.

This is not a sustainable management model. But in order for things to change, we need to know right away that we’re still wanted and that we’ll be given the chance to do it. So unless people step up and donate or advertise right now, we’ll have to deduce that the death of AGR is what you want, and within a week’s time you won’t be seeing Asheville Global Report around anymore.

Look at this would-be farewell as our last message-in-a-bottle for help. Maybe a loyal, generous reader or two will read this and respond with enough emergency donation money to buy us some time and keep us going for a couple weeks more. We hope this happens, while understanding that this is not a sound, long-term strategy, but a last-grasp, break-the-emergency-glass measure. If not, thanks for your support all these years, good luck out there, and goodbye.

— Eamon Martin, Editor
Asheville Global Report Editorial Collective

In the still of the night

As a new resident to Asheville, I was deeply troubled by the article detailing the Delta Force raid on the courthouse, arranged by the Sheriff’s Department and secretly condoned by the mayor, city manager, county manager and others [“Who’s in Charge Here?,” April 20]. In North Carolina, “the most military-friendly state” according to Governor Easley, elected officials put public safety last and flattered themselves with their important connection to “national security” via the “nondisclosure agreement.” They are lucky no one was killed. Now that the word is out, however, they are all scurrying to avoid any responsibility for their decisions.

Mayor Charles Worley’s evasive attempt is particularly ludicrous. The military assured him the exercise would be perfectly safe, and that’s all he needed. Did it not occur to him to conduct even cursory research in the history of property damage and injury, [as was] so well documented in Mr. Elliston’s article? This exposes a level of incompetence that is egregious for any public official charged with public safety. And the incompetence continues. None of them seem to know whether this military exercise will occur again in Asheville. If it does, both Worley and County Manager Wanda Greene “suspect that, as a courtesy, they [the military] would notify us.” They don’t know if or when it will occur? Who’s in charge here? Our elected officials, or Fort Bragg?

Particularly troubling was Worley’s comment to the effect that it’s not up to elected officials to approve local police training programs — that is, the Sheriff’s Department’s complicity in the military exercise. Think about the implications of that: no political oversight for police activities? Just how far could a local police organization go without intervention by elected officials? On a national level, the equivalent would be Congress giving up the right and responsibility to direct how the military is used. These are not only incompetent ideas, they are dangerous ideas. Political control of police and military is fundamental to a democracy.

Now that Mr. Elliston’s article has documented the risks of such a military exercise amid a civilian population, it should be incumbent on the elected officials who were involved to revoke publicly any future exercises, as Mayor Pat McCrory of Charlotte did. Public safety and political accountability demand it.

— Todd Davis

A matter of life and death

In the current North Asheville Baptist Church television advertising campaign, Pastor Jim Dykes references the Terry Schiavo debacle to declare America as “embracing a culture of death.” He quotes the scriptural teaching of Jesus, inviting us to “embrace a culture of life.”

I am quite perplexed that a minister espousing the literal scriptural teachings of Jesus conveniently overlooks his specific instructions in the Book of Matthew:

Matthew 5:38 — “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'”

Matthew 5:39 — “But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Matthew 5:44 — “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” (New American Standard Reference Bible)

Given that mindset and principle — [which] appears to me of far greater importance — preacher[s] of the Gospels would better serve humankind by applying the truths they profess to live, through vociferously proclaiming that the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of women and children in two Iraqi wars is, indeed, “embracing a culture of death.” I am appalled that these same purveyors of “right-to-life” religious/political dogma choose to annihilate the dignity and privacy of a brain-dead woman and her husband by making her a mere puppet and poster child for their ignominious agenda.

— Jeffrey L. Ray

Lives out of tune

I was disturbed by the last two ad hominim attacks Bud Howell launched against Vice Mayor Mumpower’s refusal to be complacent about the local, open-air, hard-drug market. And, contrary to the claims of your out-of-state readers, there’s more to drug culture than feeling good. While recreational users who can still hold down jobs and read newspapers haven’t crossed that line, we mustn’t forget the less fortunate among us who have or could.

Insatiable demons torment the addictive mind. Basic skills of coping, planning and working toward goals are never learned, as the seductive option of escape is always beckoning. Hours pile up into years of lost opportunities. When it’s feeding time for the inner demons, we’d sell anything to put the fire out. We pull our families, friends and neighbors down as we lie, cheat and steal to support our habits. Exhausting all support systems, many of us will turn to the streets, selling our souls for a life of crime.

When I hear arguments for protecting the local hard-drug trade, it often sounds like those inner demons are at it again, defending their hard-won turf. By encouraging citizens to elect groovy leaders who silently nod as troubled people stuff their emptiness with soul-destroying substances, we are incontrovertibly paving pathways toward homelessness, prostitution, theft, dependence on welfare, and other “social problems.” Whether we support a government that treats symptoms or root causes is our choice. The former brings to mind the words of poetess Myra B. Welch:

“And many a man with life out of tune, …

Is auctioned cheap to a thoughtless crowd … .”

— Leslee Kulba

Earth Day has lost its way

I don’t understand how “environmentalists” think they are going to convince the masses to change their lifestyles when most of them won’t make necessary changes themselves. The Earth Day celebration at City/County Plaza had vendors selling meat. That’s analogous to having vendors selling Hummers. John Lang of the Scripps Howard News Service said, “Pollution from factory farms impairs more miles of U.S. rivers than all other industry sources and municipal sewers combined.” Just as meat clogs the arteries of humans, it clogs the arteries of our continent — the waterways.

Early Earth Day celebrations recognized that recycling, using renewable energy and becoming vegetarian were the three basic lifestyle changes that would lead to a healthier planet. All of the scientists at the 1970 Berkeley Earth Day celebration advocated a vegetarian diet, recognizing that this was an action everyone could take that would do more to save water, fossil fuels, forests and topsoil than other individual actions could achieve. Vegetarianism was also recognized as the humane thing to do for our fellow living beings. The ideals of Earth Day have been co-opted to form a “bigger tent” to gain more political clout. Just look where the greenwash has gotten us.

People eating a burger rarely think about the fact that ranchers shoot, trap, poison, drown and burn alive tens of thousands of bison, bears, wolves, coyotes, prairie dogs, blackbirds, etc., to protect livestock. Wild mustangs are rounded up and slaughtered because they “compete” with cattle for food. Meat-eating exterminates wildlife, devastates habitat, depletes and contaminates groundwater, fouls the air, pollutes waterways, and uses enormous quantities of fossil fuels. Meat has no place at an Earth Day celebration.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has compiled information about how animal agriculture is destroying the environment in North Carolina. Visit http://www.nrdc.org/water/pollution/factor/stnoc.asp.

— Terri David

Serious hazards to downtown parking

I am a downtown business owner and downtown resident. My business is on Wall Street and I live above in a loft apartment. I have a monthly parking card from the City of Asheville that [costs] $80 per month. This is for a non-specified space in the Wall Street garage.

I have had this parking arrangement since October 2001, and in that time I have incurred approximately $6,000 in damages [from] five incidents of vandalism: slashed tires, two replacement bumpers for dents, and one [incident] I [am] still amazed at — a car [backed] up in anger [which hit] my parked car (in view of the parking attendant who failed to get information). Then most recently, two smashed windows and a damaged console.

I have noticed that in the prior few weeks about four other cars have had smashed windows. This is just a few of the endless incidents I know of, and many are not reported — which brings me to the point of my letter.

When I moved into my loft, my upstairs neighbor (who was a highly respected city supporter) was working on the vandalism problem because his car and the others he parked with at the time were experiencing the same level of vandalism. He was pushing for surveillance cameras that protected the overnight-parked cars. It just makes sense to install some kind of deterrent. I was told one time last year by the city legal department that cameras present a liability problem for the city and they are expensive, but they might be in the budget for the future.

Monthly card holders do not have a specified space or area. One solution would be to design an area for monthly parking with better lighting. Maybe the city could purchase one camera to protect this one area?

Could the city provide us with a nighttime security guard? I was told that the security is the responsibility of the Asheville City Police.

Repeatedly, my customers ask me: Are the city garages safe to park in? I have a hard time honestly assuring vulnerable visitors that it is OK, when I am fighting ongoing security battles with so much of my own time and energy.

— Michael Overstroem

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