Letters to the editor

Aah, for an all-terrain airboat

There are many of us who, unlike Mr. Sternberg, have frequented the banks and waters of the French Broad River over the years, to fish and paddle and picnic with family and friends — and, in some cases, to live and raise children nearby. Many of us purchase annual fishing licenses, or annual passes to the Biltmore Estate, and we support local sporting-goods stores with our business. We have witnessed with quiet joy the return of the brown trout and the smallmouth bass, the great blue heron and the river otter.

Are peace and quiet the exclusive domain of the rich and powerful? We can only conclude that this must be his opinion, after reading Mr Sternberg’s commentary and endorsement of the airboat, [written after] his first experience on the river as a passenger, instead of a developer [“The word on thongs and airboats,” June 23].

Passengers on the airboat are required to wear earplugs to keep their hearing from being damaged. But what about the wildlife and human beings who are on or near the river (for more than 30 minutes, or more than once in a lifetime) and are subjected to the boat’s damaging noise as it whizzes by, several times an hour, all day long? According to a licensed audiologist who measured the decibel level of the airboat, the noise level was 16 times greater than that allowed by local noise ordinances. Businesses are currently exempt from the noise ordinance in Buncombe County — which is somewhat understandable, because of zoning — but an airboat business is free to take its noise pollution along for the ride, wherever it goes. An individual on a personal watercraft making the same amount of noise, or considerably less, would be breaking the law. Will earplugs become required standard safety equipment, along with life jackets, for all boaters on the river? If this one commercial airboat is allowed to continue operating, what will keep others from coming to our mountain communities and further exploiting our local waterways?

I learned recently that there are all-terrain airboats that can navigate on dry land, as well as on water. Perhaps Mr. Bumgardner, the owner of Airboat Express, could increase his business (as well as opportunities for tourism) and then be able to afford that quieter propeller. How about offering all-terrain airboat rides every 30 minutes — down Kimberly Avenue, up to the Grove Park Inn and through the North Asheville golf courses? It would be a real treat for many of us who have never lived in a big house, never stayed in a five-star hotel, and never played on an exclusive golf course — but who can afford to enjoy the tranquillity of our local river. Then let’s see if the noise generated by the airboat is just a “minor inconvenience” to those who live and recreate in Asheville’s affluent neighborhoods, where trucks much quieter than airboats are banned from the streets. Then let’s see if the airboat receives a friendly wave and a wholesale endorsement from those it leaves in its wake.

— Penny White

The real Y2K hucksters

“Y2K doomsayers prey on people’s instincts to fear the worst” was the headline in the May 11 business section of the Asheville Citizen-Times. Ellen Seidman, director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Thrift Supervision, was [prominently] quoted in the article. Seidman is not a programmer, nor is she telling the whole truth.

Seidman states that America’s banks have been preparing for Y2K since 1995. This is a half-truth. Many banks started in 1995, a few even earlier, but more started later. Their suppliers (for all banks) are still dragging their feet today.

The Bank of Boston is a Y2K poster child for its aggressive approach, organization and early start. It is still not compliant.

No big software project has ever come in on time or under budget. Microsoft, the software giant, the supposed best of the best, has always delivered late (and buggy) software.

Also, for any system to work, the power, the phones, the suppliers, the embedded systems, the hardware, the software and all the interconnections have to work perfectly. There will be bank failures. There also will be power, water, food-distribution, transportation and health-and-welfare failures.

All computers, systems, software and hardware cannot be repaired in a few years. Social Security took 10 years, 300 programmers and a staff of 2,000, just to be able to make its “direct deposit” Y2K compliant.

Seidman also goes on to criticize preparedness businesses for selling generators, food-storage supplies and wood stoves. In fact, almost all Y2K Pollyannas say a half-tank of gas, $100 and a few days’ supplies [are] all that is necessary. The happy news never seems to have backup claims or third-party verification.

Seidman claims people are “preying on people’s instincts to fear the worst.” When the Fire Department asks people to buy and install smoke detectors, are they, too, selling fear? Fear is a healthy thing, if you have advance notice to prepare.

Y2K is real. It has a known deadline. It’s systemic and worldwide. Failures — from water-treatment plants (like Van Nuys, Calif.) to telephones, [from] power grids to train switchyards — will happen. How many systems will fail is anyone’s guess.

The U.S. government — against many major programming companies’ wishes — dictated the double-digit year as a standard protocol. IBM, INTEL, Texas Instruments and Microsoft all went along for the ride — as recently as this year! Laws are being passed in Congress limiting Y2K-liability lawsuits for organizations that actually supplied the public and private market with flawed software and hardware.

Big businesses are lying about Y2K readiness to protect their stock value. Government Y2K projects are far behind. Many will not be ready until 2008, or later. There are hundreds of thousands of convincing documents, including government testimony, that problems and failures will occur (worldwide) in late fall and into 2000.

Seidman claims that Y2K-preparedness people are “hucksters.” What is more important right now, the latest Beanie Baby or 50 pounds of dried beans? Anyone who believes that Y2K will be a bump in the road, also believes that politicians and corporations always tell the truth. The spokesmen and women for potentially bankrupt industries and governments are the real “hucksters.” Our leaders are inept and untrustworthy. The responsibility to care for each other and ourselves rests with us, the people. Start preparing now for 90 days to a year of problems.

— David B. Widdicombe

Dear Mr. President

Editor’s note: Third- and fourth-grade students at Francine Delany New School for Children, in Asheville, wrote to President Clinton after the Columbine High School shootings, to share their thoughts on violence. Here are a few of those letters, with an introduction from teacher Anne Craig — plus Clinton’s response.

Dear Mr. President:

These letters were written to you in response to the shooting at Columbine High School. As you can see, these third and fourth graders are very concerned about their nation and world. We, as adults, must try to help them make sense of things and … foster in them a sense of safety, security and future. Current trends make this increasingly difficult to do.

— Anne Craig, teacher

I think there is too much killing on TV and you need to make the people that make killing-movies stop making those kinds of movies. Use some of your money and buy some metal detectors for all the high schools.

— Rosie Egle

I think that the people that shot those high-school kids need to think first, not just go ahead and shoot people. I think that is not fair to do that. They need to think about the people. I think you need to stop making guns.

— Corey Tobe

I think that the high-school kids who killed some students watched too many horror movies and thought that some kids thought that they were geeks. I think adults should not let their kids buy guns or let them watch horror movies, unless they are old enough.

P.S. Please write back.

— Isaac Oszmian

Violence is the type of poisonous sin that can plague a person’s mind. Yesterday, the Columbine High School was being destroyed. Students and their teachers were murdered with a gun. Will you stop this idiocy? The whole world is being slaughtered.

— William Jerome Davis

I like the freedom to say whatever I would like, but some industries are not using free speech responsibly. For example, the movie industry is using free speech to make violent movies; in these movies, children learn that violence is “cool.” Most of these children want to be “cool,” so they decide to be violent. This violence is coming to our school. Knowing about all this violence in schools makes me uneasy when I’m at school.

I know that us children are the future of this country, and if we grow up in a school that’s full of violence, how do you expect us to be good leaders and give this country a good future? I would like you to do everything you can do to teach children that violence is not cool.

— Hannah Griffin

I am writing to you about the kids who shot at Columbine High School. I am also writing to you about Kosovo. I think that the kids were very disturbed … Mr. President, please go on television about [parents’] responsibility for their kids, so their kids don’t grow up violently, [so] they don’t bring guns to school and shoot people.

P.S. How can you expect us not to be violent if the government is violent? Did you even try to talk to Mr. Milosevic?

— Angel Baker

I don’t understand why you care for kids here, and you’re killing kids over in Kosovo. I would like it if you would stop the killing and be friends.

Write back.

— Christine Lynn Litton

President Clinton’s response:

Dear Students:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the recent shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Col. Like all Americans, I have been deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic incidents of gun violence in our nation’s schools. It is difficult to understand what could drive young people to do such terrible things.

I believe that everyone deserves schools that are safe and secure. As your president, I am working with members of Congress and your state and local leaders to find ways to prevent future incidents from occurring. While we do this, you can help us by communicating with your parents, teachers and friends about your concerns and your ideas for making things better. It is also very important that you stay focused on your schoolwork. Together, we can create a safe and brighter future for everyone.

— Bill Clinton
Washington, D.C.

Neighborhood association opposes MSD’s plan

At a meeting of the Kenilworth Forest Neighborhood Association on June 16, community members unanimously agreed to adopt a motion to support the preservation of trees and the integrity of our neighborhood — and to encourage the Metropolitan Sewerage District to explore alternative routes and options, rather than the project known as the East Kenilworth Lake Sewer Rehabilitation Project.

In our discussion about the plan presented to three homeowners on East Shore Drive, the community discussed the negative impacts on the three residences on East Shore Drive, on Kenilworth Forest and the city of Asheville. Trees are an integral part of our community — their destruction devalues the environment, ambiance and aesthetics upon which all of us depend.

Furthermore, Kenilworth Lake is fed by Ross Creek, recently designated as an impaired stream. This watershed could be further damaged by digging near the lake, destroying large trees, and damaging other trees’ roots and, thereby, possibly destroying additional trees. Two possible collateral effects of the current MSD plan include additional sedimentation of the lake and erosion of the waterfront.

We believe the magnitude and sensitivity of this project warrant an environmental-impact statement. We request that alternative routes be explored, that the size of the sewer lines be kept to the size needed to serve this community, and that the latest science and technology be applied.

— Claire Payne, president
Kenilworth Forest Neighborhood Association

A downtown merchant’s point of view

First, I am self-employed, so my time is limited. I cannot count on a paycheck if I get bogged down in politics or bureaucracy. There are so many times that the merchants of downtown Asheville are overlooked or misquoted by either the city government, the paper or by people in general who can count on that weekly paycheck!

I would like to say to the lady from UNCA, who wrote to the Asheville Citizen-Times regarding how necessary that huge sign in the middle of Pack Square is to Pack Place, “Welcome to my world!”

It amazes me how the city can justify anything that benefits a city-sponsored business. If I put that tasteless sign in front of my business, I would be fined $500 a day until I removed it. As a matter of fact, the city is looking to enforce the sign ordinance that prohibits “sandwich boards” (those small, A-frame sidewalk signs). Those signs are inexpensive, vital advertising for small businesses in downtown. Any small business deserves to be found and advertised as much as the Health Adventure. Our livelihood depends on it.

The Grove Arcade is another subject. I am not sure if I am for it or against it, at this time. However, I do resent the implication that it will revitalize a depressed area! Have you people been to the Battery Hill District lately? It is thriving from a.m. until a.m.! There are wonderful restaurants and shops doing just fine, with or without the Grove Arcade Public Market!

It also amazes me that the city is now co-sponsoring the Grove Arcade. We need more parking in the Battery Hill District. Parking has always been a problem for downtown merchants, and we have been working on solutions for decades! I personally hope the Grove Arcade [lives up to all the hype] — but I doubt it.

And what abut the Honda Hoot? It has been reported that merchants don’t benefit from Honda Hoot. Ha! Everyone I know benefits, either directly or indirectly. All that the merchants want [during the event] is to have the first hour of parking free in the decks for customers with receipts from Haywood Street and Battery Park Avenue businesses. Since most of the on-street parking is taken up by motorcycles during the event, we want to provide parking for our local customers. Our local trade is vital to our year-round existence. But the merchants welcome the Honda Hoot! We just [want] the city to work with us a little.

Too often, I hear from a merchant frustrated with bureaucracy and ready to move their business out of Asheville. My family have been merchants in Asheville for over 100 years, and here I am.

I am here because of loyal customers, a strong economy, and a great downtown neighborhood.

— Regina Trantham

[Trantham owns Masterpiece Jewelers.]

The end of civilized discourse, Mr. Henson?

In his June 16 commentary [“What do environmentalists really want?”], Steve Henson suggests that we publicly debate forest policy — but his fearmongering is aimed at stifling reasonable discussion of the issues. He sprinkled his rant with quotes from people on the radical-preservationist fringe, in order to suggest that the proposals he decries would mean “the end of industrialized civilization” and that Western North Carolinians might be exiled from their homes.


The conservation and environmental groups who now support an end to logging in U.S. national forests are backing the McKinney-Leach bill, introduced in Congress over a year ago and now undergoing careful consideration. If enacted, it will curtail less than 4 percent of logging in this country, slightly raise the value of private timberlands (thereby encouraging tree planting, vs. pavement), increase the profitability of timber operations east of the Mississippi, and make the national forest system profitable, after almost a century of money-losing timber giveaways to mega-corporations.

Henson tells us to look around at what is happening in our region and points to the $9-million war chest amassed by the nefarious environmentalists. Yes, let’s look around. Nine million dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to even one mall expansion. Look around at the toppling forests and widening roads that are underwritten with hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money, and then explain how “25-plus” full-time activists, funded by charitable foundations, are going to wreak havoc. Bear in mind that their abominable goals are clean water, clean air and livable communities.

I regret that Mr. Henson failed to list the funding sources of his own organization, the Southern Appalachian Multiple-Use Council — but it has a reputation regionally as a timber-industry support group. I would urge local timber companies and loggers to look carefully at the economic benefits they are likely to gain from a national-forest — ban, not to mention the health, recreation and tourism benefits that will accrue to us all.

— Cecil Bothwell
Black Mountain

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