Letters to the editor

Health care is not a right in a just society

The letters section of your July 1 issue was so filled with greed, selfishness and contempt [“Readers respond to Andrew Cline’s health care commentary”] that I would appreciate the opportunity to respond. The subject was health care and whether access to this and other basic needs is a right. Obviously, in a fair and just society, it is not.

Your longest letter was by Mr. Bill Walz, and it was particularly shallow and spiteful. I advise Mr. Walz, first, to look up the word “fascist.” He may find this better describes his own philosophy. While he’s at it, I would also like a definition for the word “pseudo-logic.”

Aside from this foolishness, all the letter [writers] supporting health care as a right insist there is a social contract among civilized people. I agree. First, each of us must be productive. We must support ourselves and our families, and — if we are decent — we try to help others. If we accept help from another, it must be given freely. Taking from another by force is stealing. It doesn’t matter whether you use a gun yourself or vote [for] the government tax collectors to use one for you. It’s wrong to take away or give away what you do not own. To the extent you can force me to work for your needs, I am a slave. Only the most greedy or selfish person believes himself entitled to another’s labor or would consider dumping his burden of responsibility on another. Freedom is given — but food, shelter and health care are not. For these things, you must provide for yourself, or properly compensate another to supply them. This is the essence of freedom and mutual respect.

Knowing this, honest people live within their means. Kids are expensive. Anyone who is not prepared to meet their needs for food, housing, clothing, education and health care should not even consider starting a family. To do otherwise is a crime against society or against your helpless babies, because you’ll either end up stealing from others or neglecting your children.

I’m sure these statements of fact will generate a load of letters filled with hateful accusations and name calling, but come on, people: This isn’t rocket science — it’s just simple truth. If you don’t pay your bills, who does?

Reasonable debate is avoided with slogans and corrupting language and morality, in order to avoid the issue. Mr. Walz was foolish enough to call honest, self-reliant people who wish to deny him use of their property fascists. The people who work hard and plan carefully are the “haves,” while the ones who sit and make excuses are the “have-nots.”

This is justice — not class privilege or any other overused Marxist slogan. With very few exceptions, people become wealthy by serving others. Free people decide what to buy and from who. People like Bill Gates create thousands of new jobs and countless new marketing opportunities. Is he considered a national hero or a villain? Evidently, for many of your readers, creating equals taking; success equals selfishness and stealing equals justice. What’s next: Freedom equals slavery?

— Tom McCurry

Troubled kids aren’t overlooked

In your June 24 cover story about the shooting of Ms. Stein [“A survivor’s tale”], Ms. Williams reports that the shooting victim insists that her alleged juvenile attackers ” … had fallen through the cracks in our educational and social-services systems.”

This isn’t correct.

The fact is that at least two of these accused children received a wealth of services, including special education, modified academic testing, special schools, special teachers, home interventions, judicial interventions and more, for many years — all at taxpayer expense. We’ve tough-loved them and understood them and identified them and diagnosed them and helped them and empowered them for most of their lives. Nevertheless, they still stand accused of shooting Ms. Stein.

The problem isn’t that we overlooked these kids. We didn’t. The problem is that, in too many cases, our extensive and expensive interventions failed.

Our current system identifies a great many kids who need special help, and probably helps a lot of them, but I’m sure we would all welcome suggestions about how to be more effective.

Perhaps we could start by asking the people who actually spend time with troubled kids — the teachers and parents and care-givers — what they think we should do. And then, perhaps, we could listen to what they say.

— Peter Millis

Bright lights and permit snafus on Broadway

David and I want to thank our many friends who continue to show support during our “plight” with building inspectors and codes. I confess! I guess I am vocal and persistent. And now I must add “confused” and “guilty.”

We applied for a “limited special occasion” permit (with a $200 application fee, but time was of the essence) — a permit that requires [the permittee to have] nothing more than beer and wine licenses, which we have had since 1990 (no violations). [It is] a permit that costs us money, but does not generate money through any sales; a permit that serves as a courtesy to clients and allows them to bring their own [supply of alcoholic beverages] on our property and give it away.

If we, as a venue, have this permit, this saves our client the trouble of having to write or drive to Raleigh or Charlotte to obtain their own permit. The Asheville ALE/ABC office used to provide this service on-site/same-day, but stopped offering it a few years ago.

This presents an awkward situation for a client such as Universal Studios, who called on April 22 [to lease our space] for an event on April 25. David and I wanted to provide the best service and welcome to Asheville for these people.

The ridiculous thing about our permit is that we really don’t need it. It simply serves as a convenience for clients. Any individual can get their permit [for a single occasion] by paying $25 — no inspections of the venue required. I guess I should have just told Universal Studios’ upper management to fly someone to Raleigh or Charlotte and take care of this application themselves. It would have saved us a lot of money and trouble! [Editor’s note: When any business in Asheville applies to ALE for a “limited special occasion” permit, it triggers inspections of the premises by the city.]

Which now brings us to the decorative lights, the only issue that Asheville’s Building and Safety Department raised in denying us our permit. We use what the electric-supply companies sell as “current tap,” which is UL approved for 660 watts, residential/commercial, [and] it has one lamp holder and two plugs. The electric code says we can only use this for a light bulb. Just how many 660 watt bulbs does anyone use? Ours are 75 or 150, max, in those locations. We also plug in one strand of low-wattage twinkle lights. Now, here’s where it gets interesting. The code book states that night lights are OK. That’s the category most people put our twinkle lights in, because of their low wattage. The code also acknowledges that these [current-tap] adaptors are commonly installed for Christmas and [other decorative-lighting purposes] — although it violates this section. So I asked the obvious: Is it OK to be in violation in November and December, and is Christmas the only holiday that the code book recognizes? Is this an exemption or selective enforcement?

We called the [Asheville] Fire Department and asked for their opinion about the lights. “We don’t have a problem with them,” was the response. That made us feel warm and fuzzy and safe. But, I am told, the electric code supersedes the fire code.

I used to work for Ann Landers at the Chicago Sun-Times. I now have that same feeling when the phone rings and someone says, “I’ve been reading about you and your lights in the newspaper. You don’t know me, but can I share a story with you about my experiences with inspectors?” Some of these stories go back a few years; others, unfortunately, are too current.

I now have different categories for these complaints: “opening day of business,” “tear down/do over,” “must have missed that,” “lost paper work,” the “lucky” file (they persevered and got money back), and my very favorite one, the “finger” file.

These conversations come from big developers and the little guys, new people with new construction, and people who have been here for years doing a new or add-on project. The city would have us believe we are all singular cases. The banks, the realtors, the Chamber of Commerce and, now, many more of us know otherwise.

What is going on here? What can we do to improve things? We are all looking for quality and consistency. We all want safe environments. We need respect for past certificates of occupancy. We need a realistic attitude that nurtures the restoration of historic buildings and acknowledges architectural limitations. We need a supportive attitude for existing businesses and an inviting environment to encourage future investments.

David and I are just trying to keep our sense of humor high and our blood pressure low. Anyone care to join us?

— Bonnie and David Hobbs

[The Hobbses operate the Broadway Arts Building and the green door gallery in downtown Asheville.]

Community councils Balkanize Buncombe

Today, July 15th, I got a copy of Mountain Xpress [which had] the article in it by Jill Ingram [County Commissioners Report, “Public debate reveals fear”] on the minority [of people] in Fairview Township wanting to start a community group. Monday night, I viewed on TV this same meeting with the county commissioners, and Jill had done such a good job describing what I viewed on TV.

As I remember, zoning started with Limestone and Beaverdam community councils. The theory was good on the surface — however each turn into zoning boards for their townships. If we keep creating councils, there will be several such boards throughout the county.

From what I read, and then saw on TV, the commissioners set up and issued the resolution that [allows for the establishment of] community councils. Is it not possible that the commissioners and attorneys know this sets up a vehicle to put neighbor against neighbor? These neighbors will be on the agenda, weekly, pro and con. Some will praise the commissioners, others will condemn them. I guess the commissioners enjoy sitting there listening, donating their time as referee.

When a prospect goes to buy land, build a home or business, invest in a subdivision, build a school or a road, they will have to find out if the plan fits the community-council zoning. [The prospect will likely be told,] “I am sorry, they met at Joe’s house last week, and the chairperson is on vacation, and they will have to call a meeting for this.” In the meantime, this holds up the real-estate person, and the client does not know if he needs an attorney, surveyor, architect, or if the plan will be able to meet the requirements.

I think the people of Buncombe County know that some type of zoning is coming, we just do not know when. Why not make a zoning [ordinance] in simple language, like the subdivision [rules — which] cover everyone alike in the county. That ordinance works, it is simple, easy to understand. If you have a question, you can quickly get the answers from the Planning Department, headed up by Mr. [Creighton] and his fine staff.

— Ray E. Anders

Right or not, government funds health care

The July 1 issue of Mountain Xpress contained a number of letters responding to a previous commentary on health care [“Health care is not a right — and here’s why,” by Andrew Cline, June 17]. Evidently, I missed the issue which carried that commentary, but I doubt that anything in it was as preposterous as the statement made by Paul St. Clair in his letter of response: “Health care is not yet a recipient of tax dollars.”

Really, Mr. St. Clair! Allow me to bring you up to date on this matter. Have you ever heard of Medicare? Medicaid? Veterans Administration hospitals? The U.S. Public Health Service? County and state health departments? The Centers for Disease Control? Have you thought of how all the recent immunizations in Buncombe County for Hepatitis A — 1,600-plus, I believe — were paid for? Please consider how health care for all government employees is funded. Since it’s paid for with tax funds, it follows that even the “employees’ portion” of their health insurance really comes from tax funds. Please remember that government employees include teachers and the military, as well as their dependents.

I personally happen to be in favor of prevention programs, including children’s health services. I also believe that a great portion of the escalation of costs can be traced to the insurance industry, which is a separate issue from tax support.

If people feel compelled to write letters of righteous indignation, they should realize their arguments will be much stronger if based on facts.

— Beverley J. Gaines

Help legalize needle-exchange programs

Carroll Lewis, thank you so much for your letter headlined “Lawmakers: clueless about drug problem,” [July 8]. We were happy to see another community member writing about needle exchange in a positive and intelligent fashion. We know that there are many community members here in Asheville and the western North Carolina region who favor and support comprehensive harm-reduction programming that includes needle exchange. It seems rare, though, to see their opinions in writing.

Now with over 3,000 syringes exchanged, the Needle Exchange Program of Asheville (NEPA) — the only openly active needle exchange in the state of North Carolina — is asking for greater public support. We have remained fairly quiet about our HIV/AIDS- and alcohol/substance abuse-prevention strategy up to this point. It is time now for the entire community to take action and become involved in the support of this public-health issue.

The president of the United States recently stated that it should be up to the local communities to create and implement harm-reduction programs that include needle exchange. NEPA has written to the president, asking him to send a letter of support to our mayor, chief of police and county health director — all of whom are aware of our prevention efforts — in hopes that his support will add credence to our work.

You, too, can write a letter of support, to all three of the above community leaders, and to others, such as the director of the Buncombe County Drug Commission. You can even write to the president of the United States, letting him know that, by not funding needle exchange, we, as a nation, are lagging behind countries around the world, who at the recent World AIDS Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, gave statistics showing beneficial results from needle exchange. The fire of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still raging out of control.

The following came to us recently from a consultant in Raleigh, who wrote in response to our question, “Is there a way to get a local exemption to the state laws relating to needles?” He wrote, “As for local exemption from these laws, you would have to get permission of the legislature through what’s called a ‘local bill.’ They are bills that only affect one community, [and are] advocated by the local legislative delegation. … You would need to get the majority, and preferably all, of your state legislators from Asheville to support it. It would be the January 1999 session before you could do it. … The deadline has passed for introducing bills in the current budget session.”

So what does the community think? Who in the community believes that, together, we could make a greater change? Would you like to try?

— Michael J. Harney Jr.
Marty Prairie

[Harney is the coordinator of the Needle Exchange Program of Asheville.]

About Webmaster
Mountain Xpress Webmaster Follow me @MXWebTeam

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.