Letters to the editor

Why Asheville needs plans

Some members of our community have expressed criticism lately that Asheville has too many plans and visions, and that these plans conflict with property owners’ rights. These criticisms were voiced again at the recent Charlotte Street planning forum, along with the sentiment … “It ain’t broke, so quit trying to fix it!” But we all need to face the fact that Asheville is changing at an ever-increasing rate.

Pick up any national magazine these days, and you’ll likely find Asheville on another list of America’s best places to live. But as more and more people move here, this community is going to grow and develop. Although change is inevitable, it can be either for the better or for the worse. Haphazard growth and development, however, are seldom for the better. You can’t enlarge a beautiful and livable home by randomly changing and adding rooms.

The plans and visions now being proposed in Asheville are not an attempt by a few elitists to legislate that all property owners — private and commercial — conform to a single blueprint. They merely present the concerns and efforts of a great number of people who are trying to ensure that, while growing and developing, Asheville doesn’t lose those qualities that make this such a great place to live: namely, its diversity, its beauty and its human scale. The more people we get thinking about where we are going and how we’ll get there, the greater the chances we’ll succeed.

— Paul Huisking

Hurray for Free Radio Asheville

Thanks for the excellent article on the Free Radio Asheville Collective [“Steal this airwave,” May 13]. I read with great interest the letters to the editor that this feature generated. I have been actively involved in encouraging others to seek out alternative-media sources, and I hope someday — in the not-too-distant future — to be involved in a Free Radio Hendersonville endeavor, as well as an alternative-media facility similar to the Alternative Reading Room, which used to exist in Asheville.

I have been an underwriter on both WCQS and WNCW for the past five to six years. I have asked both stations to seriously consider offering alternative points of view to the homogenized (read, Washington, DC-correct) coverage provided by National Public Radio news programs. [I’m] offering to underwrite one or more of the following, if either station would consider “downloading” them from satellite sources: RadioNation, a commentary program from the editor of The Nation magazine, Marc Cooper; Alternative Radio, a political-analysis program produced by David Barsamian that frequently features such important political thinkers as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Michael Parenti, Holly Sklar and Studs Terkel; Second Opinion, an interview program produced by Matthew Rothchild of The Progressive magazine; CounterSpin, media analysis from “FAIR”‘ (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), a media-watch group based in New York; Hightower Radio, short commentaries by Jim Hightower, who was canned by Disney when that company took over the ABC network.

To date, neither station has taken me up on my offer. Granted, WCQS offers the BBC after midnight. But again, we have a government-sponsored point of view — not independent analysis.

Believe it or not, you can hear all of these informative programs if you have a shortwave radio set to tune in Radio for Peace International. RFPI is based in Costa Rica and offers some of the most informative programming around — the problem being, of course, reception on the shortwave band and the need for a special receiver.

If our “community” public-radio stations really want to prove their independence from the increasing corporatization of Public Radio, I would think they could offer at least one of these alternative points of view.

Additionally, I was very sorry to learn that a commentary program that I underwrote on WNCW — Cecil Bothwell’s “Duck Soup” — got the axe when his commentary made the ‘”kitchen” of fundraising too hot for the station. I hope that Mountain Xpress continues to offer his insightful commentaries.

Thanks for the reporting and features you cover. Keep up the great effort.

— Jessica Claydon

Take a map and compass

A statement in “Best Places to camp” <["Best of" issue, May 20] was amusing: "The nearby Middle Prong Wilderness makes for really wild camping, but its trails are relatively unmarked, and it's easy to get lost in there."

Actually, the entire Shining Rock/Middle Prong area is a Congressionally designated wilderness, and, as a rule, no trails are marked, signed or blazed. That is intentional, under the provisions of the 1964 Wilderness Act. Ideally, there shouldn’t even be trails in a wilderness area, but those in SR/MP were already there when the place was so designated.

If you need signs and blazes, stay in the non-wilderness parts of [Pisgah and other] national forests (maps show the boundaries), or go to a park (such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park). It is recommended that anyone entering a wilderness area have a map and compass and the knowledge to use them.

And don’t forget: There is a permanent ban on open fires (that means no campfires) and a 10-person group-size limit within the wilderness. [These limits don’t apply outside the wilderness area.] Graveyard Fields, also referred to [in Best places to camp], is outside the wilderness area.

— Tom Bindrim

Bindrim is a wilderness volunteer with the USDA Forest Service

Local news void still exists

My comments on the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine and the subsequent demise of local radio news and public-affairs reporting [reported in “How the waves were lost,” May 13] were not meant to minimize the important contributions of public-radio station WCQS.

I was referring to radio stations with fully-staffed news departments, including reporters in the field providing daily local news and public-affairs coverage. With a one-person news staff, WCQS provides excellent programs such as Conversations and Byline, but it does not provide the kind of daily reporting once common among local radio stations.

Moreover, a two-week study this winter by the Benton Foundation and Media Access Project shows that the demise of local public-affairs coverage is not limited to radio. Its survey of TV broadcasters in five U.S. markets (Chicago, Phoenix, Spokane, Bangor, and Nashville) found that only 0.35 percent of total hours broadcast (46.5 out of 13,250 hours) was devoted to local public-affairs programming.

Most of the 46.5 hours were broadcast between 6 and 8 a.m. on weekends. Only two hours of local public-affairs programming appeared during evening primetime.

A March 1998 study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that crime is the most common topic of local newscasts. In a typical 30-minute newscast, commercials (eight minutes), crime (four minutes), and sports (four minutes) make up more than half the air time. All other topics averaged one minute or less.

With commercial broadcasters no longer required to meet even minimal public-service requirements — and with public radio focused mainly on music and national news programming — a huge void exists in local public-affairs broadcasting.

But there is hope. Perhaps the rise of pirate radio, recently reported in Mountain Xpress, can evolve into a venue for more voices on local governance and public affairs. In addition, Asheville is poised to develop a first-rate, public-access cable-TV operation — if the city negotiates a fair settlement of the more than $1 million [contested] franchise fees owed this community by Intermedia. Stay tuned.

— Wally Bowen

[Bowen is executive director of Mountain Area Information Network.]

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