Letters to the editor

Legislators and water don’t mix

Recently, progressives met together to tell government what they wanted out of a water agreement. The room was abuzz with anger when people learned how Buncombe County had been conspiring with developers and the North Carolina General Assembly to write legislation (Sullivan Acts II and III) that would make Asheville’s side of the negotiations illegal. If passed, these laws would not only prohibit differential rates, they would cause a public utility to be put in the hands of an independent authority — most likely, MSD [Metropolitan Sewerage District].

First, citizens need to stand up for democracy and open government and let Sens. Tom Apodaca and Martin Nesbitt know that this misuse of legislative authority will not be tolerated by a free people. At one point in the meeting, Mike Morgan told of Cicada Brokaw’s suggestion that a water co-op be formed. Though there are many pleasant aspects to the prospect, the way things are going, I expect that the Senate would amend the language of the Sullivan Acts to read, “Co-ops are now illegal.”

Second, it is shameful how politics have prevented these crimes against democracy from making it to the press. I first heard about the abuses of power in the negotiations process from a presentation Vice Mayor Carl Mumpower gave at a CIBO luncheon in February. Unfortunately, only a couple of under-read, under-listened-to Republican media outlets picked up on the story.

I hope the Mountain Xpress will follow the Asheville Coalition’s lead in raising awareness that the water negotiations are not a Republican hang-up, but a threat to liberty and justice for everybody in Buncombe County. The people have been heard!

— K. Rhodarmer

Woodfin’s leading the way

I would like to say, “Congratulations!” to all the people of Woodfin for their success in reclaiming control of their water supply.

The “Cochabamba Declaration” [Bolivia] reads in part: “Water belongs to the Earth and all species and is sacred to life. Therefore, the world’s water must be conserved, reclaimed and protected for all future generations and its natural patterns respected. Water is a fundamental human right and a public trust to be guarded by all levels of governments. Therefore it should not be commodified, privatized or traded for commercial purposes. These rights must be enshrined at all levels of government.”

For either the City of Asheville or Buncombe County to control the water and sell it for a profit is no better than a corporation owning and selling the water for a profit.

The current water system in Buncombe County was created many years ago by merging six county systems and the city system. The People have more than paid for the system through their water bills over the years. In fact, I was informed recently by one of our state legislators that the People have overpaid by about $28 million, which is currently sitting in the water authority’s bank account. That’s to say nothing of the money that the People have been overcharged that has already been spent on the golf course or whatever else is tied into the current water agreement. You probably already know that we pay the highest water rates in the state.

It’s time for the citizens of Buncombe County, including those who live within the city limits of Asheville, to take back control of their water. The people of Woodfin showed what citizens can do when they get truly excited about an issue.

I urge you to join in a united effort to form a water co-op to manage and supply the People of Buncombe County with water “at cost,” as it should be.

— Clyde Michael Morgan

Step out of the box; create a water co-op

Some of the concerns that the city has raised about an independent water authority are accountability and the issue of ownership of the assets (the water lines). Creation of an authority that is structured as a consumer-owned cooperative would address both of these issues.

With regard to accountability, a consumer cooperative is owned by those whom it serves (i.e. the water customers). In a cooperative, each owner votes for the board of the organization. This board could be elected at the same time other government offices are filled, or independently, via mail. The board would be directly accountable to the people in this way.

With regard to asset ownership, it is said that the city of Asheville owns the water lines. But who is the city of Asheville? It is the people who live here and use the water. Transfer of the assets from the city to a cooperative entity (whose owners are the residents served by the water lines) transfers ownership from the people to the people. There is no significant loss or gain. People from the region who are not city residents would become co-owners with city residents. This is only fair. They have paid significantly to maintain the system over the course of its existence, just as have city residents.

The cooperative model has been and continues to be used successfully across the country to provide services. We don’t have to create something from scratch. We can get information and [sample] by-laws to facilitate a fairly rapid transition.

Please consider this opportunity to think outside of the box. An independent regional authority owned cooperatively by the people it serves — the water customers — is a viable and creative alternative to the proposals which have been brought to the table thus far.

— Cicada Brokaw

Students voice their eco-concerns

As the semester ended at Rainbow Mountain Children’s School, science teacher Michelle Kelly mailed us a variety of letters from her middle school students, who had been studying environmental topics of their choice. The students shared their results in the format of newspaper commentaries (thus assuring, we hope, a continuing stream of letter-to-the-editor writers in this community as these residents mature).

Energy and air quality issues weighed most heavily on these young writers’ minds. Those topics are featured in this release of letters (excerpted due to space constraints). Other topics will be addressed in a subsequent publication.

Waste not, want not

There is a high percentage of people who are wasting energy without knowing it or paying attention to it. People have too many things on their mind, like work, school, girls or boys and other activities, so they don’t pay any attention to their technological and environmental surroundings.

Here are some ways you could help reduce the wasting of energy and coal:

• Turn off the lights in a room when leaving it for at least five minutes.

• Carpool with friends to waste less gas.

• Purchase compact fluorescent lights, because they use one-quarter of the energy of regular lights.

I think people should understand that the world and energy sources are not everlasting, and that we need to pay attention to our intake of everything.

— Wilkin Hanaway

If you watch television, you will notice that most commercials advertise that bigger is better. Well, this is true. Bigger is better at guzzling gas. The more we consume, the more demand, the more pressure this puts on limited resources and thus the higher the prices go. Vehicles like the Hummer and the SUVs, because they are gas guzzlers, cause the gas prices to go up for all of us.

Did you know that there is an aircraft that is fuel self-sufficient? Impossible, you say! Well, no it isn’t. This plane uses solar power and can fly above the clouds.

— Blue Swan

There is a wonderful alternative to the cars we have been using for the past 60 years or so. This new alternative is Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs). These HEVs still use fossil fuel, but they don’t use as much as modern cars and they are more efficient with the fossil fuel that they use. These cars will save money and save the environment. [They] will also reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, which should reduce our trade deficit.

There should be a tax break for car manufacturers that start to make more HEVs instead of the modern combustion-engine vehicles. People who buy the hybrid also should get a tax break. The people who buy combustion-engine vehicles, in my opinion, should have to pay extra tax to make the tax breaks for the manufacturers and the customers.

— Aiden Whitney-Johnson

Regular gas and diesel is nonrenewable (which means we can run out of it over time). However, there is biodiesel, which is a renewable energy supply because it can be made of sunflower, safflower, soybean, animal fats and used restaurant oil. America relies too much on foreign oil, but biodiesel can be made and produced right here in Asheville.

Biodiesel contains 98 percent less carbon dioxide than regular diesel fuel. In the year 2004, 30 million gallons of biodiesel were sold, and to keep a clean Earth we will need this to grow in numbers every year. So eating more French fries could help America’s energy independence.

I personally have had experience with biodiesel because my dad had a Jetta TDI 2004. We were able to take it to our local biodiesel co-op and get biodiesel just as easy and convenient as regular gas.

— Zion Greenfield

We could reduce pollution significantly by using hydrogen-powered fuel cells instead of gasoline-fueled cars. … When you burn the fossil fuel, it gives off a lot of pollution; the only thing that hydrogen fuel cells gives off is heat and water. Neither of those two things will hurt the Earth.

In my opinion, the hydrogen fuel cell will not save the Earth singlehandedly, but it could help us get back on track to recovery for the planet.

— Hayden Clark

Car exhaust is not just bad for the environment, but is bad for people, too! Children who are exposed to pollution such as car exhaust are likely to suffer from asthma and related symptoms earlier in life.

Car exhaust creates come global warming. Never leave an automobile running in an [enclosed] garage, because carbon monoxide levels may rise. Some ways to help reduce car exhaust are to use public transportation and ride bikes. Try not to drive, and spend more time with your family! Buy gas-efficient cars so that you get better mileage.

— Cassidy Murphy

Global warming is a serious issue in the world right now. Glaciers in the South American Andes are melting so fast that [if the rate continues] they will be gone by 2020. If Greenland’s ice sheet were to melt, global sea levels would rise up to 26 to 33 feet. Coastal lines would be flooded; it would be like the tsunami all over again!

Ways to prevent this from happening are to change your regular gas to biodiesel; harness tidal energy and solar energy instead of burning coal.

— Anna Tuuri

I think it’s too bad everyone is putting so many greenhouse gases into the air. Scientists think that it’s causing a lot of the global warming. If this continues, polar bears, seals and other northern animals that live at the North Pole could become extinct.

The average temperature has increased 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit since the 20th century. Winter temperature has increased four to seven degrees over the past 50 years.

So stop driving and start riding [bikes]! And if you must ride a car, it’s good to carpool or ride public transportation.

— Trey Low

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