Letters to the editor

Stoneleaf’s virtue and genuine graces

Among the strongest reasons that Asheville shows up on one index after another as one of the country’s best places to live is the cultural richness. This cultural diversity has received a huge boost in the last couple of years via the Stoneleaf festival, spearheaded by Charlie McIver, co-founder (along with Angie McIver) of the excellent North Carolina Stage Company. Charlie has forged an excellent, productive bond with the North Carolina Theater Conference in Raleigh to bring us this wonderful array of theater troops from all over the state.

Stoneleaf outclassed normal expectations for a town of this size. I’ve taken in arts festivals all over the country and a few in Canada and Europe, and have helped produce a few. I can’t think of another city in America with a population less than half a million in which one could walk along lively, attractive streets from venue to venue and conveniently take in one’s choice among 20 superb plays in varied genres, each mounted by an accomplished, inspired theater company. To have this kind of superb fare spread before the Asheville audience was an absolute kick.

Last year, as Charlie introduced the festival, he made it clear that the inaugural festival was a trial, and, depending on how it went over, a decision would be made later as to the location for the 2006 festival. I had resigned myself to the possibility that this year I might have to travel to Raleigh or Tryon or wherever to catch the next festival. But the actors and producers themselves had such a nice experience in Asheville last year that they wanted to come back, and we all have benefited hugely.

There are vicious circles, and also there are virtuous circles. Asheville is the kind of place that made the McIvers and their colleagues from across Carolina want to create a cultural force that, in turn, makes Asheville a better place. Couldn’t be more positive, more healthy! We all owe a debt of gratitude to Charlie and to Terry Milner, executive director of the N.C. Theater Conference. I greatly hope this wonderful festival keeps growing, and that we all swing in behind them and support them in every way we can.

— William Jakobi

Creative parking might help

Here’s an idea that would create a lot more parking spaces downtown: Make it illegal for artists — or painters, anyway — to park within 300 feet of a coffee shop.

Instead, they could park at the new Staples building lot, or — Lordy! — in the new $1-million Chamber of Commerce building’s parking lot, where they could set up easels and paint the view (or each other), instantly creating the biggest art show in the Western Hemisphere.

— Ron Ogle

Dream on

It is perhaps of interest to know what percentage of the readership actually can afford a “mountain home” in Asheville [Commentary: “Dream Home or Nightmare,” June 21].

Vogel’s opening comment: “So you’ve fallen in love with our beautiful mountains, and you’re ready to buy your Western North Carolina dream home. How do you choose?” As if such a choice was real in the minds of a significant percentage of the readership of the Mountain Xpress.

And then Vogel concludes with: “So before you buy that eagle’s aerie with the million-dollar view, think long and hard about it.”

Yes, we shall. Perhaps next, the Mountain Xpress will enlighten us as to the perils of purchasing Bentleys or, even better, a second mountain dream home, since the assumption here is the first mountain home is something we all acquire at a whim whenever we please. Alas, we all know this is simply not the case.

Please focus on content of value for the Mountain Xpress readership, as the [Asheville] Citizen-Times has topics such as million-dollar dream homes adequately beaten into the ground.

— Nicholas Ruiz

Replace misinformation with compassion

Kathryn Chappelear (Letters, “When’s My Turn?“, June 21) has a lot of opinions that are simply not based in fact.

“Most of them receive a check and food stamps and Medicaid every month,” [she wrote]. Is there a survey I don’t know about? There are around 550 homeless in Asheville. I don’t know how many it would take for a representative sample, but I doubt that statistics developed from such a study would support any of Chappelear’s assertions.

“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.” I know only one person who chooses to be homeless (she prefers the term “houseless”), and she does not receive government assistance. And how do you sell food stamps? The EBT [Electronic Benefits Transfer] card system has been in place more years than I’ve been receiving mine, and by the way, I receive $14 a month. I can’t buy many drugs with that (and wouldn’t want to; I haven’t even taken a prescription drug since November 2003, as noted in previous letters to Xpress).

“What about the working poor?” In Asheville, between 40 and 60 percent of the homeless population are “working poor,” according to our membership records. Many of them have full-time jobs, some work regularly or often, but it is well known how difficult it is to obtain affordable housing in Asheville.

I hope that the level of misinformation shared by Ms. Chappelear is not commonly held. Asheville Homeless Network has been educating the populace of Asheville about the issues since our founding in early 2004. Maybe if she came to our meetings, she could gain more compassion for these people and could retire that old blanket she is using to cover us.

— Gerald L. “Moss” Bliss
President, Asheville Homeless Network

Respect deserved by all

We that are homeless, whether by choice or by circumstance, only want to be treated with the same respect and dignity that has been guaranteed to us by our God and by the blood of our forefathers. Let us not forget those in Iraq right now who are fighting and dying for our country and what it stands for. Do they fight just so that the rich can wallow in their wealth?

I have chosen to live on the streets of the cities to proclaim the love of my Lord Jesus Christ, and to some, my walk seems extreme and weird. To some others, I bring hope and a good laugh. I do not say that everyone has to live this type of life. I only seek to glorify Jesus and the cross that He died on. That gives me peace, and it is the resurrection that gives me hope.

I speak out against evil. Is that not what Jesus would do? To treat anyone [as] less than a creation of God is evil. [Take] my being banned recently from the Western North Carolina Rescue Ministry for using marijuana while not on their property. If someone uses marijuana for either medicinal [purposes] or for relaxation, that is between one’s self and one’s God. Everyone at the ministry knows my beliefs and that personally I smoke marijuana. I don’t remember reading that Jesus turned anyone away when He gave the meals.

Let all ministries and the City Council know that we will not accept this type of behavior from any member of the Family. I would also like to say one last thing: If you want to help the poor, then speak out with your actions and support. I myself would recommend ABCCM. They are located on Cumberland Avenue, they are great, and they show the fruit of Love and Family.

— Fr. Christopher Chiaromonte

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