Letters to the editor

Pick-your-own rules

Mr. Sternberg’s recent perspective of CAN, development, and zoning violations [“Stay Off the Self-Righteous Slope,” Commentary, June 7] takes a complicated issue and attempts to make it seem black and white, with good guys and bad guys (Jerry’s developer guys being the good guys, of course). In an ironic twist, he even presents government (city planners) as good guys trying their best to enforce development guidelines written by bad guys who intentionally created an [unintelligible] document.

It seems clear that numerous recent projects have been built or approved in Asheville contrary to what is allowed by development regulations. A simple point that CAN seems to be trying to make regarding this activity is this: If you have rules, then they should be enforced.

Uneven enforcement puts design professionals such as myself in an awkward position. Should we submit designs meeting the regulations, as our professional ethics mandate, or should we encourage our clients to ignore some of the [regulations] because word on the street says that is okay?

The Staples building, for instance, was poorly designed on many levels. Jerry concludes it is hated by only 500 people. Gather the folks that think this is a well-designed building; I’ll buy the first round. It is a classic example of a national chain unwilling or unable to incorporate responsible design [in order] to make their formula fit on a challenging lot in our community. To imply that an overly complicated UDO backed them into an ugly building that could not meet all the standards is hogwash. Good intentions and competent design can overcome challenging sites and even onerous regulations.

But the belief of many that [Staples] is an ugly building is not the point. The point is that even though this and other recent projects seem to violate several clear development restrictions (setback, signage, access, buffer plantings and vehicular sightlines), they were approved and built.

If Mr. Sternberg thinks it is antidevelopment for a group or an individual to ask why or how this happens, does he then encourage self-regulation, where it is up to each developer, contractor and designer to decide which rules they will abide by?

— Michael McDonough

Listening for change

In regard to the profile “All Ears[May 31 Xpress] about Herb Walters and the Listening Project, Cheryl Page was not just speaking about her personal goals for the Gulf Coast Listening Project when she was quoted in the article. She was speaking about the goals of the Atlanta, Birmingham and Columbia coalitions of community- and church-based organizations that are listening to Hurricane Katrina survivors. They will use the interview findings to educate and to inspire dialogue in communities around the country that can lead to action on issues of race, poverty and inequality in our country.

The opportunity for involvement in this dialogue-and-action process will take place in Asheville as well. The voices of Katrina survivors can be catalysts for change. Contact us and help make that happen!

One added note: The Health for Hispanics Listening Project referred to in the article took place in Yancey County, not Asheville. That project helped bring about El Centro de Enlace, the Hispanic community center that now functions as the hub of Hispanic services and empowerment in our county. For further info, contact www.listeningproject.info, or you can contact me at hwalters@yancey.main.nc.us or 675-4626.

— Herb Walters

Making the majority irrelevant

In two recent issues of the Mountain Xpress, two articles were devoted to the current controversy over the use of Prichard Park as a site for feeding the homeless and destitute [“Feeding the Fire,” May 31; “The Cost of A Free Meal in Asheville,” June 7]. I was a participant and respondent at the Council meeting where this issue was discussed. I have reviewed a DVD of that meeting to make sure my following information is accurate, and I wish to comment on your reporting of the meeting.

Of the eight people who spoke to the issue of food cooking and distribution at the park site, your paper reported on two speakers who focused on the community as ignoring the needs of the homeless (not the issue), and two others who spoke of the unacceptable behavior of some of the homeless around Pritchard Park (also not the issue). The remaining four community respondents, myself included, focused on what the issue before the Council was — namely, cooking for and feeding people in a public park. These were responsible comments, germane to the issue.

In your reporting of the meeting, the majority viewpoint was completely left out of your discussion. The majority of people who spoke were sympathetic to the homeless, had no objections to their being fed, and offered other centrally located sites with better facilities that would not impact the appropriate use of the park by everyone: residents, the homeless, visitors and business people. These were rejected out of hand. Your reporters preferred to use provocative and biased reporting of irrelevant issues to describe the City Council proceedings, rather than the relevant remarks of the majority. This is not the way to bring a community together.

— Kato Guggenheim

When’s my turn?

OK, that is it! I am sick and tired of hearing about the homeless! Most of them receive a check and food stamps and Medicaid every month.

They are homeless because they choose to be. They would rather spend that government check on dope and alcohol. They sell the food stamps to the first dealer they can find.

What about the working poor? We are stuck in dead-end jobs because of past mistakes no one helps or forgives. We just have to keep on working to keep the roof. Feel sick today? Too bad! Cannot afford a doctor, cannot afford to miss work!

So, when do I get taken care of? Who is going to bring me breakfast, heal me, pay my bills?

— Kathryn Chappelear

Homeless should have priority

Mayor Bellamy is dead wrong in her published e-mail about Dr. King’s position on homeless people in parks [“The Cost of A Free Meal in Asheville,” June 7 Xpress].

According to Eyes on the Prize, Dr. King’s last major campaign in 1968 was the Poor People’s Campaign, in which he made his position on this issue crystal clear. At that time, King personally helped organize large numbers of homeless people to build and occupy camps in a park in Washington, D.C., on an ongoing basis — camps nearly identical to the ones for which Bellamy supported summary destruction by the vandalistic-volunteer goon-squads of Quality Forward. The camps in [Washington] were destroyed after Dr. King was shot and killed. In short, Bellamy is speculating about King inaccurately on an issue for which there is clear and specific evidence that demands careful study.

Secondly — and here I don’t know King’s position — if parents [with] young children cannot coexist with homeless people in parks, then preventing such friction is yet another good reason not to have children, and for cities to fund contraception. As for the other park-space competitors that Bellamy mentions: Tennis is a luxury pastime, and tourism is an energy-wasting sin. Neither deserves any municipal assistance, and homeless people have absolute priority over both.

I was very encouraged by Bellamy’s swearing-in speech [in which she] oppos[ed] density limits that harm housing affordability, and I hoped she would stand up to neighborhood associations and their malicious NIMBYism. I am now disappointed that she would [align] herself with such lowlife associations.

— Alan Ditmore

Quit spinning this wheel

I have been watching people fight about things in the letters section of the Mountain X for years now: herbivores versus carnivores, pro-war versus antiwar, Republicans versus Democrats, business owners versus local youth etc. I usually see both sides of the debate and have resisted the temptation to weigh in myself, but this recent conflict between motorists and cyclists is too much.

Come on y’all, this is ridiculous! I am not writing to rehash the debate or invalidate anyone’s opinion — I am writing to beg you to get over it. I don’t want to feel unsafe on my bicycle or get dirty looks when I am in my truck.

It would be ideal to have bike lanes everywhere, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon. Some people rely on bikes as their sole transport for many reasons, and they don’t have the luxury of driving their bike to a park for a ride. Many people must have a gas-powered vehicle for many reasons, and should not be made to feel like they are wrong for driving. Roads are not just for cars, and cyclists can’t get everywhere without riding on them. Cyclists are not better than anyone else just because they choose not to drive.

My ultimate point is this: There is room for all of us on the roads as they exist if we just extend a little courtesy to each other.

Cyclists: Please, wear safety gear to be visible, hug the shoulder as close as safely possible and obey the rules of the road. Blowing a red light or cutting across intersections is dangerous and is not going to save you all that much time.

Motorists: Please, acknowledge a cyclist’s right to be on the road, keep a lookout for bikes and drive with courtesy. Slowing down for a moment to safely pass a bike or allowing [bikers] a moment to change lanes and turn will not make you all that much later.

Cars are not going anywhere, biking is going to increase and the roads can’t be changed overnight. Let’s just face that reality and keep everyone safe and happy. This fight is the most stupid one I’ve ever seen in the letters section. Please, let’s get over it.

— Jarrett Leone

It’s no laughing matter

In reference to Molton’s recent cartoon [June 7 Xpress], he seems to think that heat exhaustion for animals in circuses is a joke. But it wasn’t so funny for Clyde, a Ringling lion who died [in 2004] while traveling in a poorly ventilated boxcar through the scorching temperatures of the Mojave Desert.

A former Ringling lion handler signed an affidavit saying the lions were not given water or checked during the journey. The train master would not stop because they were behind schedule. The handler also [said that] Ringling flew in staff to quickly install a misting system in the lions’ boxcar before the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors arrived. Ringling had previously been cited for allowing animals to overheat.

Circus animals lead lives worse than you can imagine. Make sure you know the truth before you support the circus. Please go to www.circuses.com to learn more and see training videos for yourself.

— Michelle Poindexter

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