Letters to the editor

Eliminate subsidy, not Civic Center

In the May 2 edition of the Mountain Xpress, Hal Millard [paraphrased] me as saying that I thought that the city should dump the Civic Center [“Red Ink Blues“]. This is a misrepresentation of what I said. Council had reviewed the city’s budget outlook for the coming fiscal year. In this outlook was a $700,000 subsidy from the general fund to Civic Center operations. To me, this subsidy is a problem and something that needs to change. I did not say that we need to dump the Civic Center. If managed properly and adapted to the changing nature of entertainment in Asheville, the Civic Center could [produce] a more positive image for the city and the region.

When we look at the needs of the city, we have civil servants that put their lives on the line every day for below-market wages; we have an inadequate transportation system; we have an undermanned planning department; we have a need for greater access to affordable housing; and we have a water system that needs more than $30 million in capital improvements. With all of that in mind, it is hard to justify over $700,000 in taxpayer dollars to keep a failing venture afloat.

The Civic Center should be a moneymaker for the citizens of Asheville. The Civic Center Task Force has offered up some exciting options for going forward. Any of those plans would be better than what we have now. If we are going to continue to fund the Civic Center on the backs of the citizens of Asheville, we need to significantly invest in major improvements, and we need quality management to capitalize on those improvements.

To do this, we cannot expect the city’s general fund to carry the way. We need Asheville’s hotel industry to agree to a 2 percent room-occupancy tax and the restaurants to agree to a prepared-food and beverage tax of 2 percent. Property taxes and general sales taxes cannot carry the way alone. There are those that benefit from the presence of the Civic Center more than others. I think it is fair to ask them to make a larger contribution than the general citizen. A project of the scale that is needed to remake the Civic Center [into] a real economic engine and a real presence to be proud of will cost a hefty purse. This will be a significant burden on the city’s bond rating and will need a dedicated source of revenue to pay the debt service. I hope that, as a community, we can agree that something new has to happen. I hope that we can make the realization soon.

I would like the Asheville community to realize that the Civic Center is something worth keeping, but also to realize that a major change has to take place. Until we commit to a solid plan for making the Civic Center a success for the community, I cannot use the taxes that everyone pays to fund a Civic Center that proportionately few Asheville citizens use. To say that I want to dump the Civic Center based on this line of thinking is an oversimplification and is wrong. We now have options to move forward. We need to choose one now, and we need a plan to pay for it in an equitable way that is fair to all Asheville taxpayers.

— Bryan Freeborn
Asheville City Council

More trees are in store for Pack Square Park

This is in reference to the May 3 letter, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” regarding Pack Square Park.

Pack Square Conservancy’s numerous public workshops over the past six years have revealed surprising consensus in public priorities for Pack Square Park. Four features were consistently at the top of the list: a large, open green space; a large, well-equipped performance stage; a clear view through the park and toward the mountains; and public bathrooms. Our park plans have evolved, but every completed version has had a pavilion, which will be the site of the bathrooms, a small cafe, exhibition space and a multipurpose room for classes, lectures and workshops. This vital indoor public space will be a convenience for people attending concerts and festivals in the park and will permit us to continue some of our public programs throughout the winter.

Opening up the view corridor through the park and the need for changing the ground elevation in some areas required cutting a number of trees. Being park-loving people, we have regretted that very much. We have long lamented the need to cut the cherry trees, which were located on the future site of the pavilion — an area where there will be extensive underground utility installations. However, cutting cherry trees in full bloom is a thoughtless thing to do, and we apologize for it. Undoubtedly someone on the work crew thought they would get that task out of the way. It was a sad day.

Please note that Pack Square Park will have more than 150 new native trees when it is complete. It will be a beautiful place, and we look forward to festive gatherings there with neighbors, friends and family.

— Donna Clark
Communications Director
Pack Square Park

Bicycles deserve some respect

What did a bike ever do to you?

A bike made me carry my 10-year-old brother to my neighbors to have them call an ambulance because the flesh on his knee had been ripped off by a cut-off bush. A bike gave me over 14 stitches. A bike allowed me to get up close and personal with a white Honda Civic. A bike has also given me numerous awe-inspiring sunrises and sunsets, a peaceful commute to my job and many burned calories.

I bike as much as I can — to work, nine miles each way; to run errands; to the grocery store with a huge backpack that I fill up. I like to bike, and I bike for many reasons. I am a physical-education and health teacher at a local school, and I truly believe in the benefit of exercise.

Our great president talked about America’s “addiction to oil.” So I bike instead of driving. My car is a very efficient 26-city-miles-per-gallon machine. … [But by biking], I am basically consuming 106 less gallons of oil a year and keeping about $318 in my pocket — [and] I am sure we can all use an extra $318. Automobiles are [also] one of the leading causes of pollutants in the environment. Biking will help the cause!

Probably 85 percent of Ashevilleans view bikers this way: That’s cool, I will get out of their way. [But] I pose this question to the other 15 percent: Why do you honk at us? As bikers, we do not have a radio or a 10-speaker Sony stereo blasting Snoop Dawg into our ears. We can hear you coming. Some of us also even have rear-view mirrors, so we can see you, too. So please, no honking.

Are we too far into your lane? According to the North Carolina Drivers Handbook, you are supposed to treat bicycles like cars and only pass them when it is safe and appropriate. So please, move to the left-hand lane as you pass us, or at least give us more than a two-foot buffer. (Have you ever looked at the [shoulder] side of a lane? It almost always has the biggest potholes and the most debris.)

Please — all we want of you is simply to share the road. We pay the same taxes you do. So in turn, we pay for the same right to be on the road as you. We just choose to use the road in a healthier, less polluting and less dangerous manner.

— Mark Strasser

The moral community extends to animals

I sincerely don’t mean to be offensive or insulting, but if those who oppose animal rights would research the issue before sending in their letters, they’d find that many of their objections have already been silenced by animal-rights philosophers. Instead, every few months or so, the same unsound arguments are put forward, and we animal-rights activists have to write in to refute these self-serving rationalizations.

The most recent example is Christopher Dorin’s excellent rebuttal [“If I Only Had A … Carrot,” April 12] to Chantal Saunders [“Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?“, March 29].

How many more times must we show that plants aren’t sentient beings? If you honestly believe plants can feel pain, go vegan and reduce the number of plants that are “brutally slaughtered” and fed to the animals you eat. Perhaps you should administer pain relief to the grass before you mow your lawn. Do people really think shucking corn and ripping the skin off a cat are morally similar actions? Or is this an attempt to stop the argument? An attempt to defend the indefensible behavior of eating meat?

Perhaps these people think animals matter so little that they have no moral standing. If you feel this way, what would convince you that animals matter? What does it take to be included in the moral community? Is it not enough that animals can feel pain? If you set the criteria any higher than this, you also exclude a number of human beings from the moral community.

Why is it that even our most trivial interests (the pleasant taste of dead flesh) trump the most vital interests of animals (to live free from human torture)? What’s stopping us from expanding our circle of compassion to include all sentient beings, even those not like us? Please think carefully about these questions. For more information, visit www.animal-rights.com and/or read Mark Rowlands’ Animals Like Us.

— William Kelly

Speak up, pro or con, on development limits

So Wal-Mart, the big bad wolf, the mega-super store — the one that everyone said, “It’s going to get in anyway, so what’s the point” — turned with its tail tucked between its legs and left the fight. We won! We the people affected public policy and the landscape of our community. To everyone that took the time to do something about it: Good job, keep it up! To all those who were too apathetic to care, please remember that the government and corporations get their power from one place: YOU. If you sit by and give them that power, they will (and do) take it, and won’t give it back unless you make them. They don’t want anyone to realize this, but remember we the people have all the power and we decide who to give it to.

Now is the time to make sure no more big-box stores are allowed to desecrate our community, environment and economic viability. I hereby challenge both the citizens of Asheville and the City Council to limit all new development to a reasonable square footage (20,000 to 50,000). Other small towns and communities in the United States have done this, and it’s time we do this as well. We need public discourse on this topic, and now is the time to start. I challenge everyone who cares about our town to start talking to their neighbors, writing letters to the editors and writing letters to City Council members about the future of our landscape. If you love Wal-Mart, speak up; if you hate Wal-Mart, speak up. Tell the rest of us why you feel that way. In short, start talking!

— David Braverman

The plight of the homeless cannot wait

Would Lazarus be thrown in jail for begging in America (Luke 16:19-31)? It appears so. Colorado Springs, Colo. — considered the evangelical hub of this country (see Focus on the Family: www.family.org) — bans panhandling. So does Asheville, N.C., which is near Billy Graham’s Montreat residence.

Granted, it is common knowledge many misuse charitable donations, either through alcohol/drugs and/or nonprofit CEO salaries. But why would Asheville police recently threaten to arrest and throw me in jail for holding a sign along an interstate off-ramp?

I appealed to the City Council, but the mayor (Bellamy) responded that homeless people’s needs are met through the (nonprofit) charity organizations. Yet Asheville’s own “Looking Homeward: The 10-year Plan to End Homelessness” cites as a myth the idea that homeless needs are met through (non-profit) charitable organizations. This leaves a person to wonder: What would Lazarus do until the coming of a new Chautaugua 10 years hence?

— Bruce Deile

Drug warriors are fighting the wrong battle

Thanks, Jack [Cole], for the great letter [“Stop Wasting Police Resources,” April 19]. I was arrested in 2004 because of my need for medical marijuana. I learned a lot about the mindset of law enforcement in my home county of Union.

Although everyone believed that my pot was for medical use, they could not see the impact my arrest would have. I am now a convicted felon with disabilities and no medical insurance. What do you suppose the odds are that I will be hired for a full-time job? I’d say slim to none.

Although none of my pot was ever sold on the so-called “street,” the local paper ran a story based on a law-enforcement press release that valued my medicine at $248,000. I was amazed, but of course that was 10 gallons of BS in a five-gallon bucket. It does look good in the paper though, if you’re running for sheriff or DA.

The aforementioned officials make more off drugs than I did. I didn’t make any money at all, which was supported by the fact that they could not show any money seized or produce any evidence of sales. I grew my medicine to relieve my pain and brain seizures when prescriptions failed me. How did arresting me serve any useful purpose?

Now I must get my medicine from those who don’t much mind who they sell to. Does that mean I am supporting terrorists? I don’t think so, but that is the drug-warrior party line.

— Robert Gregg

No need to hate the sisters

Misogyny sort of rhymes with gynecology, which is how I remember what it means. Before being introduced to the ridiculous idea that women need to be hated, I could never have imagined that this poisonous arrow needed naming. Hearing it spoken or seeing it in print always makes me think of a medical term or a foreign word, which, of course, it is to most Americans.

Americans, being largely uneducated and brutish, find such words annoying and pointless. Not surprising, there is no matching word that applies to men. I guess it’s simply understood that hatred between men is practiced so widely that there is no reason to name the obvious. Some call it patriotism and extrapolate it into manifest destiny — the call to empire. A few small voices call it the path to our destruction.

Ghandhi had it right: You hate, you die. Even though I am no feminist, barred by my sex, I fully support my sisters in the community who are struggling to make a difference for themselves and the rest of us.

— John Buckley

Will the real felon please stand?

How dare George W. Bush denigrate the American worker. Our leader is saying we need to have undocumented workers (illegal aliens) because there are jobs that Americans will not do. That is an outrage. There are no jobs Americans will not do. There are, however, jobs that American employers will not pay a decent wage to have done! No American can be found willing to pick lettuce for $5.50 an hour with no benefits and 16-hour days, living in a shack with a hundred other desperate souls. That’s not “a job Americans won’t do” — it’s a forced labor camp that takes unfair advantage of desperate people.

Bush wants to admit a huge second-class population into our country, [people] who are easily exploited, have little or no hope of ever becoming citizens or advancing out of poverty, cannot vote or serve on a jury, cannot report a crime without fear of being arrested. He wants a group of folks who have all the rights and privileges we afforded the field hands of the early 19th century. In other words, Bush wants slavery back.

We already ignore employers who hire (exploit) illegal aliens … who come here to get a better life. If we wanted to stop this, we’d demand that all labor performed in the United States be done by legal aliens (who have full rights of citizens, including legal representation, voting, jury and military service, and the right to organize) — or by citizens. But the dirty scoundrels who exploit the poor will not have it.

Employers who violate the law by hiring illegals ought to be shut down and their property confiscated. Heck, they ought to be horsewhipped! Skinflint employers who continue to gouge vulnerable people and exploit the government’s slapdash emergency health and welfare measures are the real felons.

— Evelyn Johnson

Separating truth from horse manure

The utter buffoonery in some quarters of this great nation of free speech … is being sold, bought, ingested, digested and excreted as pure, unadulterated, solid-gold, factual truth. The explosion of the Internet bible and the cybermind-blogger prophets are making it beyond impossible for the mental midgets to operate in the environment of the cognitive map of reality.

The O.J. Simpson trial as applied to the 9/11 … tragedy [offers] parallel regurgitation. Johnny Cochran convinced 12 reasonable people that the Los Angeles police were incompetent fools, yet they could manage and forge a major conspiracy involving hundreds of police and medical personnel to frame the infamous O.J. The same defective principle is being beguilingly applied to 9/11 and President Bush. His detractors insist he is so weak-minded that he can’t chew bubblegum and walk at the same time, yet they would have you and me believe that he and the administration — and hundreds of go-alongs, if not thousands — orchestrated (along with the highjackers, Bin Laden and Al Quaeda) the ultimate and exact precision of planting explosives to take down the World Trade Center. …

So the plan was for the 72 vestal-virgin seekers to fly jet airliners loaded with thousands of gallons of jet fuel … into the World Trade Center at the exact time and space as their cohorts on the ground set off the bombs/explosives. Now that was super logistical coordination.

Although the nearest star, Proxima Centauri (V645), is some 4.2 light-years away from Mother Earth, some would assert that we are being “visited.” Louis Farrakhan claims the “government” blew up the levees … meteorologist Scott Stevens in Idaho claims Japan’s Yakuza mafia used a Russian-made electromagnetic generator to cause Hurricane Katrina. …

Prerequisite qualifier: To buy this horse manure, you need to house a mush-brain.

— Fuller Moore
Mountain Home

Dear reader:

In the spirit of spring, here’s the latest on new features that are sprouting in the pages of Mountain Xpress:

• This issue features the debut of our Outdoors section, a weekly feature edited by Xpress staff writer Kent Priestley. Our team of able, passionate guides will help you pick the perfect trail, find the gnarliest single-track, catch the wiliest trout and paddle into the fiercest whitewater — and that’s just for starters. The section also includes a full calendar of regional goings-on in the great outdoors.

• Last month brought another welcome addition: Culture Watch, a weekly column by veteran editor/writer Steve Shanafelt that puts your finger on the fickle pulse of Asheville’s ever-evolving arts community. Steve will cover the reeling independent-film fad (who’s finished a movie, who’s making one and who’s thinking about it), trumpet the far-flung coups of local scene-makers (national awards, exhibits abroad), and reveal the aesthetic intentions of area performers of all stripes.

• Lastly, we’d be remiss if we didn’t let you know about an upcoming celebration that’s near and dear to Xpress‘ heart. This Saturday, May 13, the Western North Carolina Green Building Council will stage the 2006 Green Building Directory Kickoff Party at the Asheville Brewing Company (77 Coxe Ave.). Xpress is the proud co-publisher of the directory, which was coordinated by editorial assistant Rebecca Bowe and designed by Travis Medford. The fun begins at 7 p.m. and includes performances by Robin Cape and the Buckarettes, El Hub and Marsupial.

— The editors

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