Letters to the editor

“Ne’er-do-wells” are people in need

I’m writing in response to Mr. Keller’s commentary on the “ne’er-do-wells” in downtown Asheville [Commentary, “Dependence and Its Effects,” May 11].

As an individual volunteer who serves meals to those in need in Asheville on a weekly basis, I find Mr. Keller’s opinions both disturbing and harmful.

Yes, there are people dependent on others.

Some of those who depend on these meals have been seriously abused and need time to adjust to an independent life.

Some are veterans who have trouble in a society that sent them to kill and maim fellow human beings so people like Mr. Keller could have the freedom to judge them.

Some are recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.

Some have emotional problems.

Others have mental problems (though not as many as some in Asheville would have you believe).

Some are just “down on their luck.”

Some don’t have any problems.

Some are just passing through.

Some just need a meal.

And yes, some of these “ne’er-do-wells” have forgotten how to care for themselves.

Not all people enjoy the privilege of a happy life, financial security or the ability to “live independently.” It is wrong to advocate denying all of them the help they need, [in order] to make “some” find “initiative and creativity.”

Not only has Mr. Keller judged those who have needs, but also those who have compassion enough to help — rather than judge — these people. Some do it to serve their God, some to fulfill their own needs, some just to help others. But all of them, to serve.

These “ne’er-do-wells” have the same rights as those who are privileged enough not to need to exercise them. They are people in need.

I find it an honor, and even a privilege, to serve these people as I can, giving them a meal and a smile — to let them know that there are those who care for them, as well as those who only want to judge them.

But I certainly don’t want to feed those who don’t need it, so I invite Mr. Keller to come down any Sunday morning with me, and he can tell me which ones have a need, and which ones don’t.

Otherwise, Mr. Keller has a unique opportunity to serve everyone by keeping his opinions to himself, or at least to those areas he knows something about.

— Carl Caristo

A grace note for Tim and Darrell

As the parent of two recent graduates of Arthur Morgan School (Celo, N.C.), both of whom were students [there] for three years, I was pleased to be able to support AMS by attending the benefit concert by Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott at the Grey Eagle on May 8. Little did I suspect what a spectacular evening it would be.

I was unprepared for the power and passion of Tim and Darrell in concert. Their impeccable musicianship, rapport with one another and the audience, and brilliant song selection simply blew me away. My word for their performance is “awesome,” not to be confused with the overused version of this same word that my kids use to describe anything from TV commercials to T-shirts. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a concert I enjoyed as much.

The donation of their talents in support of AMS was an act of great generosity. Their remarks about the school during the performance powerfully conveyed why AMS is such an important community in a world hungry for a meaningful place to belong. This message was received loud and clear by the standing-room-only audience. Perhaps it’s places like AMS that will serve as an antidote to the divisiveness, mendacity and violence that seem to fill America and the world.

Thanks are also due to the owners of the Grey Eagle, who donated the facility at no cost to AMS. If Tim and Darrell make this an annual event, I plan to be there.

— Jon Ellenbogen

Could Civic Center neglect be intentional?

In every story published about the Asheville Civic Center, the Asheville Citizen-Times describes the building as “aging” or in desperate need of repair.

In fact, it is a beautiful building that is not very old as buildings go. Of course, it needs routine maintenance. Mayor Charles Worley has promised a fix-up on the place since he first ran for City Council, yet nothing has been done. Why is that?

Perhaps it is intentional.

The word on the street downtown is that we can expect the Civic Center to be condemned for safety or fire violations. If that happens, the building is suddenly worth a lot less and could be sold cheaply. If the new owner tears it down, the land for the recently announced downtown hotel magically appears.

This City Council was elected with developers’ dollars. They tried to sell our parkland to the Grove Park Inn for a 15-story high-rise on Pack Square, until they were stopped by citizens’ outrage.

They wanted to log the watershed, and they have tolerated the Campus Crest developers cutting trees that they had promised to save. This Council already belongs to the highest bidder.

So while rumors about our Civic Center would not normally be particularly interesting, while this Council holds office, anything is possible.

— Charlie Thomas

The butt stops where?

Noting your finessing, several times, of a certain four-letter word (s**t) that appeared in the Black Keys article (“Rubber Soul,” May 11), I’m curious: Are your readers so sensitive that an expletive here and there in the paper would make them go, “Oh my!” and drop to the floor in a dead faint? (Or worse, drop their Xpress advertising?)

I’m not questioning your paper’s editorial policy (it’s your paper); I’m questioning the rationale behind the policy. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of too many alternative weeklies around the country who alter mildly naughty words in similar fashion. That practice seems more the domain of daily papers, which are obviously aimed at a far more mainstream (“family”) audience.

That said, I did have a tough time explaining to my 4-and-a-half-year-old son why the Asheville Citizen-Times printed “butt” in a large front-page headline (“City Tells Legislators: Butt Out of Water Fight,” May 12). He already knows from his parents and his teachers at daycare that nice people don’t use the word “butt.”

— Fred Mills

[Publisher responds: Publishing a newspaper entails an unending series of judgment calls, most of which are invisible to the public. Deleted or censored words spotlight the judgment. In trying to reach a diverse readership, one must be aware of what will be unacceptable and why. Is our judgment too prudish? Bear in mind that it’s a compromise: An altered quote like the one you reference makes it clear what the speaker said, but it also honors those readers who would find the wording offensive. Incidentally, the judgment of whether to alter the quote also involves consideration of the context; a news quote, for example, is more likely to be left in its original form than a quote in a feature story.

Xpress‘ overall goal is to promote dialogue among thoughtful, active readers. And that’s the rationale behind policy you question: to foster dialogue among readers with sometimes wildly differing values.

We don’t aim to come off like a daily paper, or a big-city alternative newsweekly. Instead, we are trying to create a paper that’s engaging, challenging and interesting to the diverse people of Asheville and Western North Carolina.]

Do-it-yourself enforcement

Since the fall of 2004, our neighborhood in Buncombe County has been plagued by barking dog(s). Upon contacting the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department (BCSD), we were immediately referred to Buncombe County Animal Control. The executive director, David Long, explained that though Animal Control does not enforce the noise ordinance, they provide citizens with a “barking packet.” It was also stated that if the dog is “actively” barking, the BCSD should be contacted.

Several calls to the BCSD have been made since early this year to report the nuisance barking as it was taking place. Each time, the dispatcher urged the caller to contact Animal Control because if the owner was not home, “there is nothing we can do.” Each time, we had to explain to the Sheriff’s Department that Animal Control does not enforce the noise ordinance — they (BCSD) do — and that barking falls under the Buncombe County noise ordinance: (www.buncombecounty.org/governing/ordinances/view.htm).

Meanwhile, the noise ordinance does not get enforced. If someone from Animal Control or BCSD would actually explain things to the dog owner in the beginning, much of this lengthy process could be avoided and a resolution would be had in a more timely manner! Instead, we are told (via the barking packet) that we, the average citizens of Buncombe County, have to take the responsibility of enforcing the law. It states that we need to make verbal contact with the dog owner, contact Animal Control for a referral to mediation, document the dog’s barking through a written log and/or videotape evidence, and submit the complaint to Animal Control. Once their “review panel” (which does not meet with any frequency) deems it legitimate, they then initiate contact with the dog’s owner(s) and urge them to take part in mediation. If there is still no resolution, they can provide you a letter from the Buncombe County district attorney’s office which you must take to a magistrate to get a criminal warrant issued for the dog owner.

Although responsibility is clearly outlined in the ordinance, the policy of the county is one where enforcement by our law enforcement officials is rare, if at all. The county government really needs to reassess this policy and either rewrite the law to reflect that there is no enforcement for nuisance barking, or start having the Sheriff’s Department do their job of enforcing this law!

It is an interesting note that in Asheville, once you call the Asheville Police Department about a barking dog, the dog owner’s address is forwarded to an Animal Control officer, who then contacts the dog owner. If the barking does not stop, the owner is fined. In Asheville, the police actually enforce this law themselves instead of relying on their own citizens to do the job for them.

— H.L. Cavanaugh

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