Letters to the editor

Glass corrections

I was gratified by the space devoted to Southeastern glass art — and to my gallery, Vitrum — in the July 19 issue [“Going ga-ga over glass”]. However, I need to point out a few omissions/corrections.

First, the original owner, Priscilla Hope, should be credited for the “original vision” of a glass gallery in Asheville. I purchased Vitrum from Priscilla in 1998 and have since remodeled the display space and added to the roster of superb artists we represent. Second, the summary on the [table of contents] page led some readers to think that we have routine demonstrations of glassworking. Unfortunately, we don’t: We simply lack the space and equipment, although we have plans for some parking-lot demos soon. Also, we’re happy to put people in touch with glass artists who open their studios to guests by appointment, or who have open studios. Finally, while I love publicity as much as any businessman, I regret any confusion that has arisen regarding the location of, or credit for, the Southeastern Glass Invitational. This terrific exhibit was organized entirely by the staff of the Blue Spiral, where it can be seen through Sept. 9. I urge your readers to see the exhibit — more than once!

— David Ross

Let’s take on litterers

After the vendors cleared out and the crowds returned home, all that was left of Bele Chere Monday morning were the memories and the enormous amount of litter. During my post-festival tour of the city, I found hundreds of plastic bottles, cups and paper lurking in bushes, under benches and on building ledges. There were tons of cigarette butts stashed in the flower pots we work so hard to care for.

For the record, the city crews and Bele Chere volunteers did a fine job of cleaning up most of the trash, but litter has a way of hiding from the street sweepers.

Seeing our newest batch of litter reminded me to invite Xpress readers to Quality Forward’s Clean Community Committee. The committee meets once each month to discuss and implement litter-prevention programs; our next meeting is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 18, at noon at Quality Forward’s downtown office.

If you would like more information or would like to join us Aug. 18, please contact me at 254-1776. I would love to hear your fresh ideas. We are not powerless against litterers!

— Kelly Grundman
Quality Forward Clean Community Coordinator

The Health Adventure a stellar science museum

I am writing in response to Donald R. Campbell’s letter proposing the Sayles Bleachery site as a possible museum of science and industry [Letters, July 26, “Make old Sayles Bleachery site a science museum, not a superstore”]. Although I am unsure about the best use of the Sayles Bleachery property, I am certain that Asheville’s needs for a science museum are already met.

The Health Adventure is a 20,000-square-foot health-and-science museum located in Pack Place in the heart of downtown Asheville. Started in 1968 as a project of the Buncombe County Medical Auxiliary, The Health Adventure has grown to become nationally recognized and is one of only four museums in North Carolina accredited by the American Association of Museums. Over 100,000 visitors experience science each year through our interactive exhibits and programs. We are the sixth-largest science museum in North Carolina, in terms of our attendance and budget, and we serve more people per square foot than any science museum in North Carolina.

The Health Adventure has achieved record levels of attendance in each of the past five years, and we celebrated our one-millionth visitor this past January. We host three traveling exhibits annually, and last fall hosted Arithmetricks — a hands-on math exhibit that attracted more visitors than any other traveling exhibit in our history.

The Health Adventure has a 32-year history of success and a bright future ahead. We will continue providing high-quality, interactive science and health education to the residents of Asheville and the entire Western North Carolina region. Although the Sayles Bleachery is a fabulous site, Asheville already has an outstanding science museum. Come see for yourself! The Health Adventure is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-5 p.m., Sunday.

— Todd R. Boyette
President and CEO
The Health Adventure

Environmentalism and Libertarianism not mutually exclusive

In response to Victoria Lyall regarding funding for bikeways [Letters, July 26, “Public funds should pay for bike paths”]:

Ms. Lyall’s quote: “Biking is a viable form of transportation, not mere fun. And that is why bike paths should be funded by public dollars. Public money funds roads for cars every day.”

My response: The public highways are in essence funded exclusively by gasoline taxes. Libertarians call it a user fee. In other words, the people who use the system pay for it, which was my point about the bikes. If half the people of Asheville started riding bikes tomorrow for the next 10 years, our air would be little different from now. We are breathing Midwest air.

Now, I must tell you that I consider myself an environmentalist as well as a Libertarian. I have lived in this area for four-and-a-half decades and seen three environmental periods. I will call the first one the Coal Age. As a little boy, I remember the coal-smoke-filled skies of the area and the johnny houses over the creeks. Then there was an interim period of Pleasant Living. And now we are into the Great Migration era. Lots of people have moved into our area driving their SUVs and raping whatever mountainside they could find that was unmolested. I was saddened recently to sit atop the observation point at Craggy Gardens and see almost nothing below — quite a contrast to my memories of seeing forever only a few years before.

If you were a shrewd politician wanting to glean some real profit out of the system, you would wisely attach yourself to a very popular cause — for example, the environment. You would then come up with a five-minute magic plan that would enable the government to masterfully control the environment. The enthused citizen would then sacrifice much to promote this single-issue cause. Ladies and gentlemen, I am an environmentalist, but I will not trade my freedom for this issue, for if I have the environment and not my freedom, I still have nothing. I am tired of this thinking that only the government can solve our problems.

Do you want a concrete solution? Here is one. Consider the Sierra Club. Consider the money that they have collected over the years and for what purpose. They have spent most of that money on influence — lining the pockets of money-grubbing politicians trying to get the government to do this or that. It is to the advantage of the politician not to give you all you want all at once. Guess what? If the Sierra Club had put all that money into stocks over the past 10 years, they could now purchase several national parks with the proceeds. Who would you rather have running our parks, the government or the Sierra Club? The Libertarian Party advocates for no one. Instead it gives you the opportunity to do things your way.

I am in no way irritated at you, Ms. Lyall. I respect your respect for the environment, and I hope that you come to see that there are many creative alternatives beyond government for solving our problems. I hope that, together, we can be creative beyond mere slogans and get on with improving our state.

— Clarence Ervin Young
Candidate for the 28th District, N.C. Senate

No more “Oooohwheeee!” thank you

This is a letter to men driving around in Montford:

Stop yelling “Hey baby!”, “Oooohwheeee!”, “Uunh!”, etc. at women walking on the sidewalk. It won’t get you anywhere. We are not impressed. We will not sleep with you, go out with you, or even have a conversation with you after something like that.

You would be much better off using your drive time to practice: “Hello, how are you doing?” and “So, how do you like living in Asheville?” or “Would you like to go to a clean-air meeting with me?”

— name withheld

Light industry belongs at Sayles site

The controversy over the proposed Wal-Mart googolplex at the old Sayles Bleacheries site has certainly galvanized our community, and I’ve been following the letters in Xpress and the Asheville edition of USA Today with great interest. As an Atlanta native, I find the hue and cry about more pavement and traffic heartening. It is a hopeful sign that members of our community are aware of what we stand to lose if poorly planned commercial development is allowed to proceed unchecked. However, I believe that many well-intentioned writers have called for an alternative to the Wal-Mart development that is impractical.

Much has been made of the beauty of the Sayles site. It does have pretty trees. It does front the Swannanoa River. Why not make it a park for families to enjoy? While such an idea will be given due consideration (or perhaps “lip service” would be a better term) by City Council and the mayor, I believe the arguments against a park are too persuasive for the powers that be to ignore.

The Sayles site is prime real estate, located between the Tunnel Road mess and the River Ridge mess. The site is currently derelict, and the city obviously has a lot to gain if it were developed. Property-tax revenues from a million square feet of new construction would be significant. Turning the site into a park would require public funding for purchase, and recurring costs in the form of lost property-tax revenues and staffing and maintenance costs.

Another factor that has not been addressed is the former use of the site. Sayles-Biltmore Bleacheries was a textile-processing facility that burned a carload of coal each and every day and used barrels and barrels of metal- and hydrocarbon-based dyes, inks and solvents long before there was any real environmental oversight. I don’t know what the toxic status of the site is, but I wouldn’t want to roll in the mud out there.

The clincher, I believe, would be payroll. Opponents of a park plan could — quite rightly — point to the jobs a Stupor Wal-Mart would create. In a city that has lost manufacturing jobs hand over fist in the last decade, any plan that costs jobs — no matter how crappy the pay — faces an uphill battle at best. One need only recall the furor over the Asheville Speedway deal, where a piece of the local economy was deeded away to become a park, to get an idea of the local political temperature vis-a-vis an idea like this.

In all my reading, I have yet to come across anyone who has addressed the fact that the Sayles site is what it always has been — a prime industrial site proximate to major highways. As far as I know, our Chamber of Commerce, which receives money from the city for economic development, has said nothing about the benefits of attracting industrial jobs to the area instead of $6-per-hour check-and-bag jobs. No one, to my knowledge, has pointed to the abandoned Champion mill near the MSD facility, which has been successfully redeveloped as a light-manufacturing-and-distribution center with plenty of good-paying jobs. Nor has anyone made the distinction, in terms of infrastructure, air quality, law enforcement and property values, between a few dozen heavy trucks during daylight hours and a few thousand private autos 24 hours a day.

So I’m writing this letter.

I really don’t think that a city that cannot build sidewalks or maintain its water system is going to buy a valuable parcel of land, clean it up, and turn it into a park — particularly when its citizens voted down a bond [issue] for park construction last year. Nor do I think that building a gigantic store, paving acres and acres of ground, and trashing a mountain river is going to help this city solve its economic problems. I do think that a city-assisted initiative to rehabilitate the existing structure, subdivide it, and offer incentives to light-manufacturing firms that pay good wages would give significant benefits to our community without much more traffic, asphalt or emissions.

I find it quite curious that our mayor and City Council have not formulated any viable alternatives to Stupid Wal-Marts on both the Sayles and Gerber sites. These are quality industrial sites being converted to retail, which — in terms of land use — amounts to paving farms. Meanwhile, our city has agreed to underwrite bonds for the rehabilitation of the Grove Arcade, which will generate more low-paying retail jobs. Surely, with the kind of financial backing the Grove Arcade developers have received, developers could attract the high-paying light-industrial-and-distribution payroll to these sites that our city so desperately needs.

As Ann Landers says, I hope folks “wake up and smell the coffee.” I wish every other lot in the city was a park, but it isn’t going to happen. And what is desperately needed is an alternative to the Supine Wal-Marts that makes political and economic sense.

— Andrew Dahm

Kaufman interview insightful

Julian Price’s “An environmentalist comes out of the woods” [Commentary, July 26] will surely fill your letters box with fire from the many environmental extremists haunting the streets of Asheville.

Mr. Price is to be commended for his insightful interview with Wallace Kaufman.

Mr. Kaufman joins the growing number of environmentalists who can no longer support the deceptive and destructive tactics of the contemporary environmental movement. I look forward to reading his book.

Another notable environmentalist who has “seen the light” is Dr. Patrick Moore. Moore, a Ph.D. forest ecologist, was a co-founder of Greenpeace and served in a leadership role while they focused attention on several valid environmental problems during the ’70s and ’80s. He now spends his time writing and lecturing on why environmentalism has gone too far in opposing sound, scientific forest management. Moore spoke in Asheville in ’98 at a North Carolina Forestry Association meeting. Among his books is one that is a must-read for anyone who wishes to explore the misleading forestry information espoused by extreme environmentalists. The book, Green Spirit: Trees Are the Answer, is well written without the confusing scientific jargon and uses examples everyone can relate to. It can be ordered at his Web site, www.greenspirit.com. You can also review many of his magazine articles and op-ed pieces on this informative Web site.

It is quite clear that the myths propagated by the contemporary environmental movement are quickly falling apart. Their sky-is-always-falling rhetoric is falling more and more on deaf ears. This is a good trend because, as Mr. Kaufman pointed out, much of what they are advocating is actually anti-environment.

— Steve Henson, executive director
Southern Appalachian Multiple-Use Council

A one-citizen posse in action

Asheville is known as a tolerant city. It is also, to our great pride, a virtual case study of tolerance in action. Neighbors, we are well off in one another’s care.

Monday night, in downtown Asheville and just having fun, Erica was robbed. It was a snatch-and-run; her petite size and friendly grin marked her as a potential victim to some riff-raff predator. He grabbed her wallet and took off running, ripping off her expensive glasses as he did so. The damn fool actually thought he could perpetrate this outrage in our town and get away with it, at or about 11 p.m. on Lexington Avenue!

He was wrong.

It isn’t nice, nor is it smart, to mistake tolerance for stupidity or cowardice. Such an aberrant thought ought not fool a predatory type into thinking anything other than that, by definition, intolerable behavior is dealt with swiftly and sternly ’round here! Civic action, in this case, was summarily undertaken by a posse of one bystander. The predator was overtaken and handled roughly by a man whose name is unknown to this writer. The stolen property was returned to Erica, the glasses damaged, and the unnamed hero [got] a cut finger from the crack pipe in the brigand’s pocket.

Erica was rattled; the situation later may or may not have escalated.

The preceding is the extent of this disturbance to our peace that is known to this writer at this time.

A day later, Erica said, “There are so many underlying things to this whole scene: socially, culturally, etc. I wouldn’t say that I won, but I wouldn’t say that I lost, either.”

I’d imagine the villain will sober up and think twice, he and all his predatory buddies, before pulling any more intolerable infamies in downtown Asheville. We are a self-flushing community. We have an unknown neighbor to thank out there, a nonvictim of aggressive thievery, and a predator chastened and at large with the down word from downtown: “Behave!”

— Rod Personette

Kaufman still “in the woods”

I know that commentary is not subject to the same rules of evidence as news reporting, but in order for opinions expressed to carry any weight whatsoever, a writer owes it to readers to attempt to be reasonably well-informed. Wallace Kaufman [Commentary, July 26, “An environmentalist comes out of the woods”] has clearly been completely out of touch with reality while forming his acidic perspective on environmentalism. If he applied the same methodology to his organic-farming efforts, I am not even mildly surprised that he failed.

First, and most egregiously, he asserts that the Kyoto protocols on global warming have failed. “We’ve spent billions of dollars, and we cut back on a very tiny proportion of carbon dioxide …” Hello? We Have Spent Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Mr. Kaufman has obviously missed the fact that the U.S. Senate has failed to ratify the Kyoto accords — not only preventing the U.S from doing anything, but effectively blocking implementation worldwide.

Kaufman goes on to assert, “I think most scientists and climatologists think we don’t have enough data to determine how we make the reductions, and they believe we have the time to make those reductions.” Well, he is certainly allowed to think anything he can dream up. He can think the moon is made of green cheese, if he likes. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — composed of 2,500 climate and social scientists, sponsored by the United Nations; The American Geophysical Union — a major professional organization for climate and earth scientists; the directors of Britain’s Meteorological Office, and of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have all indicated that the Kyoto protocols are only a good start. The world scientific community is overwhelmingly in agreement that we are facing a global crisis and that each day of delay in implementation is a very serious mistake.

Now we come to Kaufman’s wild misrepresentation of science. He claims that environmental science is an opinion poll controlled by touchy-feely liberals who are misleading the public and each other. Oh, come on! Scientific research has indeed fallen on hard times, but not because hippies and vegetarians have stolen the keys to the labs. A preponderant proportion of scientific study is now bought and paid for by huge corporations, not only in their own labs, but in the colleges and universities they underwrite. Their support for schools is contingent: They want results that are patentable, profitable and nonthreatening to the status quo. There is enormous pressure on scientists to go along to get along.

At the same time, the fossil-fuels industries have spent $65 million on a disinformation campaign — hiring scientific hacks to churn out non-peer-reviewed articles for the popular press, to bolster the impression that there is some confusion about global warming.

The problem with science, Mr. Kaufman, is that too many scientists are being bought. Those who stand up to the global pirates with their gene splicing, chemical agriculture and plutonium reprocessing are heroes, not wusses.

Since a large proportion of the putative facts that underlie this author’s ideas are obviously false, anything he has to say is clearly suspect. If I didn’t know that the New York Times was on-line, I surely wouldn’t believe it based on his assertion. (Perhaps he ought to read it now and again? Even the Asheville Citizen-Times could straighten him out on recent environmental news.)

Over the time span that Mr. Kaufman has failed in his back-to-the-land experiment, I have followed similar pursuits — albeit on a much tinier scale and more successfully. And here is where I think, perhaps, we can see the man’s fatal flaw. I know nothing of his dreams 30 years back, but I see his picture with a skidder. In my experience, folks who buy 300 acres and put in roads and sell lots are usually not getting back to the land: They are getting back to the real-estate office, no matter how they dress it up with good intentions. Unless he was enormously wealthy, he probably had a mortgage (land has always cost a lot in current dollars, even if the $15 acres of yore sound like a bargain).

Mortgages have been the kiss of death for many a farmer and communard, because it means embracing the cash economy at the same moment one is trying to step out of it. Like utility electricity, it is a seduction that appears affordable but demands endless compromise. The reason Mr. Kaufman failed is very likely because he never broke free of the system in the first place.

And now methinks he is functioning as the witting or unwitting mouthpiece of the beast that bought his soul. It is no wonder he seems to be such a bitter man.

— Cecil Bothwell
Black Mountain

Tobacco and alcohol curious exemptions from “drug war”

Robert Bonadonna makes an excellent point in his letter “Make ‘war on drugs’ a war on tobacco” [July 26]. Why does “our” government spend billions of our tax dollars in a vain attempt to eradicate coca, opium poppies and cannabis, while allowing two substances (tobacco and alcohol) to continue killing vastly more U.S. citizens than all “illegal” substances combined?

As all citizens of the United States are to be treated as equals before the law, should not all substances be judged equally by the law?

Impartiality is the cornerstone on which respect for the law rests. All current elected representatives, all candidates for national office and [President Clinton’s drug-policy director] Barry McCaffrey should explain why tobacco and alcohol are exempt from classification by the Controlled Substances Act. The CSA claims dominion over all substances in this world except tobacco and alcohol. Why should two killer drugs be exempt from the iron fist of the CSA, DEA, ONDCP and the rest of the alphabet soup of government agencies that seek to control what we can put into our bodies and the state of our consciousness?

Thinking U.S. citizens eagerly await the response of their leaders and Czar McCaffrey.

— J. Colman-Pinning
Waldport, Ore.

Kaufman offers a breath of fresh air

Julian Price’s article on Wallace Kaufman [Commentary, July 26, “An environmentalist comes out of the woods”] was like a breath of fresh air — much needed in the Asheville area. Kaufman evidently gets it, and goes beyond the hackneyed and fixed old positions of leftist vs. rightist, liberal vs. conservative, whose adherents have for decades been simply proselytizing instead of thinking. It is always harder to think and apply factual knowledge to problem-solving than it is to mouth the same old, tired ideology.

Maybe a measure of our real problem-solvers today is the extent to which tired and fixed conservatives accuse them of being leftist radicals, and tired and fixed liberals accuse them of being right-wingers. Problem-solvers use science instead of ideology as their starting point.

Kaufman’s perspective is similar to that of a group from San Cristobal, in southern Mexico, who will be visiting Asheville in October. They include both professional environmentalists and ordinary citizens, and they represent urban and indigenous populations, NGOs and the municipal government. Working together to protect their mountains, forests and water resources, they have moved beyond “us vs. them” and old ideology into “we together,” using reliable data from real science.

Perhaps there is in various countries an emerging move to junk ideological “junk science,” to use Kaufman’s phrase.

— Mary Lasher

A hypocrite ascends into the Wankers Hall of Fame

I found a notice on the windshield of my SUV yesterday. It read: “Congratulations!!! You have won the Wanker Award for driving the #1 Vehicle Class in gas-guzzling, air-polluting, road-hogging, death-related accidents on or off the road. Do you not know, or Do You Just Not Care? …”

The notice goes on, but you get the gist. First of all, I bought my car in California, where it was equipped with anti-smog devices to meet the state’s tough emissions standards. I follow every scheduled maintenance to keep the engine in top running order, and it always performs exceptionally well on the emissions tests here. Moreover, I live walking distance from my office, and when I don’t have appointments or a tight schedule, I usually walk.

I admit this is a rash assumption, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the person passing judgment on my choice of vehicle drives a decade (or two)-old, poorly maintained, smoke-belching compact car that creates twice the amount of pollutants mine does.

Curiously enough, this notice was Xeroxed on bleached copy paper. I assume the individual distributing this notice either does not know or Just Does Not Care that this style of paper, as well as the Xerographic toner bonded to it, is difficult as heck to recycle.

To whoever put this on my windshield: For needlessly distributing a notice composed of a quasi-nonrenewable resource, don’t forget to add yourself to your Wankers Hall of Fame. While you’re at it, give yourself the Hypocrite Award, too.

— David Lynch

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