Letters to the editor

Here’s to The Peel, and to Jack and Lesley

If there is one thing that Jack and Lesley Groetsch know how to do, it’s run a music club. You don’t spend years at the helm of the legendary Howling Wolf in New Orleans unless you can get the job done. Their vision of contributing to Asheville’s already vibrant music scene combined a truly world-class music club with the social conscience and involvement of a New Orleans Mardi Gras Krewe. With the opening of The Orange Peel Social Aid & Pleasure Club, they achieved both goals.

In less than three years, The Orange Peel has become one of the destination clubs for any musician playing the East Coast. A friendly back-stage layout with showers and private rooms, unique “lift loading” for direct curb-to-stage load-ins and outs, and a top-of-the-line sound system all make players welcome. And they often comment from stage on what a gift The Peel is to our little town.

Jack’s decades of music booking — where it’s all about who you know — has led to the most incredible array of music I have ever witnessed, and I’ve been an avid live-music fan for 30-plus years, mostly in the Atlanta area but here the last seven. From a who’s who of rock legends, to the next big thing, to little gems and oddities, there has been a steady flow of quality, pulling in fans from well beyond Asheville.

For all of Jack’s music-biz know-how, Lesley provided equally honed skills in connecting with people in the community — vital for establishing and promoting the club — and she has handled most matters of the Social Aid end of things. As one of the most visible entertainment centers in the area, The Peel is constantly besieged with requests for contributions of space, time, staff and money on behalf of Asheville’s large nonprofit community. Lesley has helped raise much-needed funds and visibility for countless groups and causes. Recently, The Peel played host to, generated and supported a myriad of efforts to ease the suffering for the New Orleans music community after Katrina.

Their New Orleans connection and spirit brought a new energy here that spoke of celebrating the party of life and opening yourself to multicultural rhythms. It spilled beyond the music scene into the fabric of our community. The ever-more-spectacular Big Ball events of the Arts Council are certainly products of this creative energy. The Downtown After Five series and Bele Chere benefited as well, and have drawn more people than ever.

I love The Orange Peel: the music it has provided, the friendly staff (most there from the beginning), the positive vibe. Through the grapevine, I hear its future could involve expanding operations to generate more regular use of the space and increase weekly revenue. I can’t speak to whether or not these plans are worthwhile avenues to pursue. Corporations exist to make money, and cold numbers often dictate decisions. But I hope the current use won’t be compromised. I have great hopes for the future of The Peel and will continue to support efforts to maintain the quality of the club.

I will miss Jack and Lesley — I have been lucky enough to count them among my friends. I know that New Orleans will benefit from their return through renewed acquaintances and the community spirit and enthusiasm they bring. Asheville is, and will continue to be, a better place for their having been here.

— Rob Campbell
(The Wine Guy)

Council should walk in my shoes

Recently, Councilman Mumpower shared a few points at a City Council meeting for which he seemed to have received some flak from other Council members.

Mumpower reiterated to the Council that greater government control leads to more expensive and elite development. This has been happening in Asheville, as evidenced by the number of people finding it harder to afford to live in the city. Mumpower has asserted it is illusory to believe government can override the free market.

Mumpower is philosophically opposed to government exerting greater control over private property and neighbors trying to control other people’s property. He claims that Council members are attempting to use their position of authority to impose their agendas on the city. For example, micromanagerial land-use planning was an exercise in futility that distracted Council from more serious concerns — like public safety and infrastructure.

Focusing mainly on the issue of private property rights, I’d like to ask the Council members a few questions: If you purchased a home which was zoned with the property-use allowance for a bed-and-breakfast, and at some point, this property use was changed without any notice whatsoever by City Council so that you could no longer have a bed-and-breakfast — how would you feel, and what would you do? Would you not even care that someone else has told you what you cannot do on your own private property, even when you had the right to do so when you originally purchased it? (Be honest!) Or would you get angry that local bureaucracy had caused your property rights to be altered, without recourse, and perhaps decide to sue the city for doing such a thing?

This is what happened to me, and when I addressed this with the appropriate city office, I was basically told: “It’s what other cities are doing now in America.”

For anyone on the current City Council who doesn’t believe various Asheville citizens have continued to suffer as a result of [Council’s] ongoing negligence in regards to property rights, I beg you to please step down from your official position and give us a break!

But hey, I cannot entirely blame our various City Council members over the years, for this seems to be the socialized direction in which our entire nation is tragically headed.

Thank you, Dr. Carl Mumpower, for standing up for what is right and attempting to steer our local government away from its authoritarian nature.

— Bernard Baruch Carman

Just give us the facts

Regarding “The Elephant in The Room” (May 31), I commend the Mountain Xpress for examining the issue of animal abuse in the Ringling Bros. Circus. However, I wish the article had included more factual information. There are numerous USDA inspection reports, letters and other documents that would have put to rest the absurd claims that no animals are abused by Ringling. The beatings of Ringling elephants have been caught on video, yet the defenders lie about the issue and reporters treat the subject with uncertainty. What part of “whacking elephants with metal hooks is cruel” don’t people understand?

If you think animals have to be dead to prove the abuse, well, no problem. In 1998, Ringling was allowed to settle an investigation of the death of a baby elephant, Kenny, for $20,000. In spite of an acute gastrointestinal infection and bleeding from the rectum, Kenny had been forced to perform. A USDA Report of Investigation dated September 1, 1999, blamed a trainer’s use of a bullhook for traumatizing and ultimately causing the death of another baby elephant, Benjamin. That same year, a Ringling horse collapsed and died, and the report stated: “For the last 3-4 years this horse has needed medication for chronic asthma.” This is just a sampling of animal abuse and deaths. For more info, visit www.circuses.com and click “Ringling Bros. Factsheet.”

A cruel practice that Ringling engages in is forcibly separating baby elephants from their mothers — using ropes and chains that sometimes cause lesions. This separation is totally unnatural, since females in the wild live with their mothers their entire lives, and males remain with their mothers up to age 15. Ringling separated Doc and Angelica from their mothers when they weren’t even 2 years old. The USDA sent Ringling a letter dated May 11, 1999, stating that “the handling of these animals caused unnecessary trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm and discomfort to these two elephants.” The USDA has other pending investigations against Ringling for animal deaths and abuse.

It is frustrating that reporters rarely take the time to examine USDA documents when writing about the circus. The articles generally are of a he-said/she-said nature, leaving the reader wondering what the truth really is. Well, the truth is: Ringling does abuse animals, and I’ve got the documents to prove it!

— Terri David

Who appreciates democracy more?

I read in the paper that illegals might have voted in [the recent] elections, and oh — what an outcry. But judging from the record-low turnouts at the polls, I say let ’em. Someone’s got to make electoral decisions for us, since apparently citizens don’t want to. Perhaps those who’ve crawled through mud and dodged vigilantes to get here will actually appreciate the privilege.

— Bill Carlisle

Tourism gets expensive

Asheville is a very special place, with many natural and man-made gems to lure tourists into our backyard, [helping to] make North Carolina sixth in the nation for tourism. That’s a pretty impressive ranking.

And as residents, we are well aware of the costs of keeping the tourists coming to our area, as we also rank pretty high in terms of taxation. Our gasoline tax is double that of most neighboring states and over three times higher than Georgia’s. And I suppose that is just the cost of living in such a beautiful area, but something happened recently that angered me.

I was at the Folk Art Center with a friend and, upon leaving, I decided to pick up a complimentary map of the [Blue Ridge] Parkway. I had to ask for one, as they were not sitting out. My friend asked for one, too, and the lady said basically this: I’m sorry, but I just gave your friend one, and our budget has been cut. We only have a thousand to last all summer. If you don’t like it, write your congressman.

So that is what I am encouraging everyone to do. I think it is shameful that we can spend on average $6 billion per month to fight a war based on lies and greed, but states and cities all over the country have to scrimp on basic operating costs. Not to mention that recently Congressman Taylor and both [N.C.] senators voted to extend the tax cuts to the wealthiest two-tenths of a percent of Americans.

If you make around $30,000 per year, your tax cut will be nine dollars, while those making a million will get an average [cut of] $42,000.

Wake up, America. Stop voting on American Idol and start voting out the criminals in office — starting with Charles Taylor.

— Jeff Walker
Black Mountain

The inconvenience of eating

Al Gore’s riveting documentary An Inconvenient Truth has focused public attention on the looming disaster of global warming and the associated flooding of coastal communities, extreme weather conditions and destruction of wildlife habitats. Global warming is brought on by emission of “greenhouse gases,” primarily carbon dioxide and the much more potent methane and nitrous oxide. These gases trap the sun’s heat in our atmosphere, creating a greenhouse effect.

Most of us blame automotive and industrial emissions. But animal agriculture is a major culprit as well. Carbon dioxide is emitted from the burning of forests to create animal pastures and from combustion of fossil fuels to operate farm machinery, trucks, refrigeration equipment, factory farms and slaughterhouses. Methane is emitted from the digestive tracts of cattle, and nitrous oxide from animal waste cesspools.

According to a recent University of Chicago study, a meat-free diet reduces greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 1.5 tons of carbon dioxide per year — as much as switching from an SUV to a hybrid car.

Folks who care about the future of life on Earth would be well advised to consider switching to a meat-free diet even before they switch to a hybrid car.

— Albert Bowers

Letter from the Editors

Dear reader: Lest we forget, this newspaper was born green. In a past life, the Xpress’ founders ran a monthly called Green Line that evolved, in 1994, into the multifaceted weekly you are now reading.

In this issue, we’re honoring our roots, debuting “The Green Scene” on page 28. It’s where WNC’s environmentalists can find the latest dirt (and kudos) on the policies, plans and people who will define the future of our ecosystem.

Turn a few pages, and you’ll find our Food section, where Mackensy Lunsford has slaved over the hot stove that is the local restaurant scene for the past year and a half. Talking straight about where to eat, as she does each week in her column, “The Straight Dish,” isn’t always appetizing work (especially with a Picky Companion in tow). But work she has, and we’ve just gotten news that Lunsford’s labors have paid off in a big way.

Last week, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies named her the second best food writer among the weeklies like Xpress that are spread across the nation. We were hardly surprised, but the next time we’re in a local restaurant that she’s recommended, we’ll raise a glass to salute her all the same. Cheers, Mackensy!

— The editors

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