Letters to the editor

Don’t blame Nature

The drought of 1998 and high temperatures this spring have become the official explanation for our recent shortages of clean water and breathable air. Because Nature remains largely beyond human control, it has become a handy scapegoat for public officials (and polluters) who wish to divert attention from their own acts and omissions. In this case, though, Nature has an alibi: Total rainfall in 1998 was normal; recent temperatures have been below record levels.

If normal rainfall produces water shortages, why haven’t we often experienced similar “crises”? And if our temperatures are within normal limits, why is this our first “code orange”? Something else is going on, and it didn’t happen overnight.

True, Nature uncharitably released a disproportionate amount of rain in the early months of 1998. Since our impoundment facilities are inadequate, water that would later be needed simply went over the spillway and was wasted. Meanwhile, a growing demand for water threatens to outstrip supply, even in wet seasons. The Water Authority points the finger at Nature, but the Water Authority itself should be called to account for the “water crisis.”

True, less-than-record warm temperatures have interacted with ever-increasing levels of industrial pollutants and auto emissions to produce the unhealthy haze over our region. We stood by as visibility worsened during recent years and acid rain became a growing problem. Government at every level (especially the WNC Regional Air Pollution Control Agency) has let us down, and now we live in fear that Code Orange will be “upgraded” to Code Red. The officials responsible for protecting our health point the finger at Nature, but they failed to curb polluters, and the rest of us were just too busy to care.

Now, water supply and air quality are on everyone’s mind. But we must stop blaming Nature and focus, instead, upon the failings of responsible officials, while acknowledging our own foolish inattention to problems of water supply and air quality.

To paraphrase Pogo: The enemy isn’t Nature, he is us.

— John D. Johnston Jr.
Biltmore Forest

How to get a local government job: Give ’em sex

It is not uncommon to see what is happening with the jobs that are “supposed” to be “Equal Employment Opportunity” designated: They are not. … They are “fornicated” for and not offered based upon the individual’s qualifications.

I am referring to employment within the city of Asheville, Buncombe County and the state of North Carolina. It seems that in eight years of President Clinton, the American people have learned that lying is condoned, that engaging in “sexual relations” with a city, county or state employee to get a good job is permitted. Therefore, those who are “qualified” are overlooked, due to some inexplicable reason that is given when [they are] taken to court and sued. But, it is also known that, as long as that person continues to “provide” those sexual favors, they will keep their job(s). It is also known that the practice of sexual harassment is permitted, with no [hope] of ending …

When a person says no, they mean no, and the offending person(s) should get the message that, “Hey, she/he does not like what I am doing, and I should stop it.” Sadly, this is not the case, as the same offender is still employed and the victim is terminated and threatened if they seek legal counsel.

I know this, as I have applied to the city of Asheville, Buncombe County and the state of North Carolina for employment, only to be informed, and most times, not even given the courtesy of a simple draft memorandum saying they are not interested in my qualifications, unless I am willing to get on my knees and …

The same applies to the law-enforcement agencies, as I am always informed, “We are looking for the right man for the job.” What is wrong with the term “right person?” …

So, in conclusion, unless you are prepared to sacrifice your self-respect, personal integrity, personal beliefs and choices to get a good-paying job, you aren’t even welcome in Asheville, let alone wanted.

— Lori Anderson

Help stop the marijuana witch-hunt

Almost everyone in Asheville will attend Bele Chere at some point. But beyond reveling in the Bohemian delights of the festival, citizens will also be in a unique position this year to make their presence count.

Everyone either knows or is a victim of our government’s irrational war against the plant marijuana. We know cancer, AIDS or migraine patients who are forced to suffer terrible pain because their doctors are forbidden to prescribe this safe and effective medicine. Farmers are prevented from recouping their tobacco losses by converting to hemp production, and children are taken from parents if a couple of joints are left out on the coffee table.

This McCarthyesque witch-hunt serves as the rationale for stripping us all of our constitutional protections against unreasonable police force and seizure. The privacy, even of our own urine, is routinely violated, and our tax dollars are wasted on creating the largest prison population in the developed world.

Asheville registered voters can stop the “war on people” in our own town by dropping by Community of Compassion’s tables — located in front of High Mountain Hemporium, on Wall Street, and Instant Karma, on North Lexington Avenue — and signing a referendum petition that, when passed, will prevent the Asheville Police Department from enforcing all laws against personal cultivation, possession or use of marijuana.

Modeled on similar referendums that have successfully passed in scores of American cities and nearly a dozen states, this ordinance doesn’t change state or federal laws. It simply instructs our local police to designate cannabis as their lowest priority of enforcement, and tells them to target violent crime instead of peaceful families. The referendum also establishes a watchdog committee of city residents to whom the police must report each time they commit an act of anti-marijuana law enforcement — a potent way to rein in a police force that Asheville residents increasingly view as out of control.

The petition needs 7,500 signatures — 15 percent of Asheville’s registered voters — in order to place the ordinance on a ballot for a citywide special election. Seek out our tables and volunteer to help gather signatures for a couple of hours. Sign on the dotted and send a clear message to the powers that be that Asheville people refuse to hurt our own. (For more information, call 779-2001.)

— Dixie Deerman
Community of Compassion

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