Daily decides what is news
I sent the following letter to the Asheville Citizen-Times on June 2 following their reports about City Council member Brian Peterson. So far they have not seen fit to print it, even though they have continually beat the drums for Peterson’s resignation (and succeeded in convincing the City Council to vote for censure). It seems to me that they have decided that the police chief’s speculations are news and told us what to think about those speculations, without being willing to consider a different point of view.
“To the Editor:
“Thank you for your story about Councilman Brian Peterson. I have heard many speculations about other citizens of Asheville that I would like to share with your readers. How do I get them published on your front page?
“It is hard to know if the police chief was more out of line in bringing you that story or you in publishing it. When the story is boiled down to the reportable facts, Peterson made a turn without signaling and was cited for it. Then it was discovered that his driver’s license was expired. That’s all.
“What goes on in the mind of the officer involved or in Chief Annarino’s mind is not evidence. Nor is it proper information for you to report. I suppose the police chief has many suspicions. Can we expect a daily conjecture column by him in your paper? At least until the next election?
“City Council should certainly reprimand Annarino for his action. Or perhaps, if we had a police review board, it could decide if his actions were defensible. It is not part of the chief’s job description, or of yours, to be judge and jury.”
— Charlie Thomas
Censure resolution ill advised
Thank you for a well-written editorial on the Brian Peterson issue [“Violating the Public Trust,” Mountain Xpress June 11]. City Police Chief Will Annarino’s reasoning behind going, unsolicited, to the Asheville Citizen-Times with a story he knew would attract attention because of the word “prostitute” sounded weak, and, unfortunately, could set a dangerous precedent for “clarifying” information which might be the subject of “street talk” anywhere in Asheville.
What Annarino’s actions helped create was a City Council censure of Brian Peterson that stepped dangerously into some gray areas which again set questionable precedents. What exactly are “the standards the citizens of Asheville have the right to expect of their elected officials” which Brian Peterson’s conduct fell short of, according to the censure resolution? “The standards …” fall into a tremendously vague area. Does the Asheville City Council take it upon themselves to know those standards? As Councilman Joe Dunn pointed out in his extremely negative appraisal of this country’s morals when he requested Brian Peterson’s resignation, only 30 percent of the citizens of Asheville vote. Does that mean that the city’s elected officials could represent at best 30 percent of the citizens of Asheville? If so, how can they hope to represent the moral standards of the majority?
As your editorial pointed out, the high visibility of this incident was based in large part on Chief Annarino providing unsolicited information to the Citizen-Times and the status his position conferred on that information. The City Council, if it is not simply out to rectify a country gone morally amok (as Joe Dunn’s statements indicate that at least he is) had a responsibility to place the blame for a situation that “tends to undermine the Council’s credibility with the public in general and with law enforcement in particular” (censure resolution wording) fairly on all who created the situation. The omission in the City Council censure resolution of the Citizen-Times, WLOS, and Chief Annarino fell well “short of the standards the citizens of Asheville have the right to expect …”
— Martin Fullington
Free to disagree?
The orange barriers placed recently by the Asheville Police at Vance Memorial had me trying to understand what it is about the right-wing beliefs that can’t stand up to disagreement. It is characteristic for them to loudly trumpet the cause of freedom so long as exercise of freedom doesn’t conflict with their views.
The Asheville Police barriers circled the portion of public property that had been occupied by the anti-war people. There seem to be no barriers where the pro-war people stood, although the trumped-up excuse had it that demonstrators might distract drivers and interfere with public use of the sidewalks.
Furthermore, there have been objections to the objections to the Police action by the pro-war supporters, led by the fascist wing of downtown business interests. Apparently after the barriers were in place, wiser heads prevailed and they were removed, probably because “it wouldn’t look good for the tourists.”
If the pro-war theme is robust, truthful and just, it can stand on its own, without fear of any opposing view. The idea of war would be so compelling, there would be no need to use police-state methods to stifle disagreement. People would readily take up the cause in increasing numbers. But if the pro-war idea is based on lies, bogus intent and flimsy reasoning, then it would be important to be sure no objections are allowed to see the light of day.
— Allen Thomas