Letters to the editor

Concentrating as fast as I can

Have a little sympathy for your politician trying to figure out what you’re thinking after he just got done telling you what you’re thinking.

“If the election were held tomorrow, who would you vote for, Gore or Bush?” asks the eager young man with the clipboard (or the microphone or the TV camera).

“Well, actually, tomorrow I was going to get the car washed and have the dog groomed. Then we’re going to the beach. Would next week be all right? Could I have till then to decide?”

“Oh, no, no. These poll results have to be in tonight, in time for the 6 o’clock news. Who would you vote for, Bush or Gore?”

“Well, I don’t know. Mr. Bush is certainly a fine-looking man; he seems to be much younger than I remember him but, well, so is Mr. Gore — fine looking, I mean. Are you sure the election is tomorrow? I haven’t been watching the news lately.”

“No madam,” replies the eager young man. “We would just like to know how you feel about the candidates at this time. Would you vote for Mr. Bush or Mr. Gore?”

“And if I’m voting tomorrow, well, I’ll have to have my hair done; Mrs. Swenson works at the polls, and I’m not going to be out in public looking like this.”

It’s no wonder the poor man or woman being surveyed is having a little trouble focusing. It’s so hard to keep track, what with all the things we have in front of us — all these things to keep track of.

To make matters worse, the problems we’re told about keep changing. Some of us can remember when ring-around-the-collar was an important issue — the important issue actually. Then, just about the time of the Cuban missile crisis, there was the matter of wax buildup. Were you taking sufficient care of your furniture, or were you risking wax buildup? Then there are germs, always germs. Recently, they seem to have gotten under the rim of our toilets, but they seem to be everywhere.

How can anyone decide, when there are so many things to worry about? There are hemorrhoids that hit while you’re doing jury duty, gas that inflates you so large you could become an advertising blimp, dentures that are so loose your grandchildren are indifferent to you. Oh, and Y2K.

The only way to keep track, it looks like, is simply to try to concentrate on what they’re saying at the moment: “Mr. Gingrich is filing for divorce.”

“Well, doesn’t his wife have cancer?”

“No, that was the other wife; this is a different one.”

You have to forget what they said the other day — this is now. Try to remember that.

“Back to you, Connie or Dan or Jim.”

— Allen Thomas

Ready to attend the debate

It is, without a doubt, one of my major fantasies to see our two local eco-guys, [Brownie] Newman and [Andrew] George, about to enter the editorial ring to square off with those two purveyors of sawdust, [Steve] Henson and [Tom Dale] Thrash [Letters, July 28]! I can almost hear the bell ring, as the announcer ducks through the ropes!

As an activist with Katuah Earth First!, you might think I’m a little extreme in my opinions and actions. Damn right! But what’s really extreme? [Have you taken] a look to the southwest from Asheville lately? Seen the extreme haze of ozone? Notice the ever-increasing reports of extreme water contamination in the news? How about the extreme growth of the pulp-and-paper industry in the last 10 years? Extreme urban sprawl, increase of Superfund sites that consume extreme amounts of taxpayers’ money … I could go on.

Henson and Thrash accuse environmentalists of concocting a plan to depopulate the state, nation, continent, etc., in order to return the land to a pre-Columbian utopia. Gee, sounds kinda neat! Trouble is, it’s crap! Ridiculous. Paranoid.

As one with a knowledge of the very serious condition of our environment, I know there’s not enough time to even begin to implement such a fantasy — not to mention the humanitarian issues that render it immoral, genocidal.

But, as I watch the sky becoming ever murkier, the rivers laden with bacteria and silt, and our life-giving forests taken to the mills, I have no doubt that this land will one day be eerily depopulated. There is no Utopia for us.

Brownie and George — take those two to the woodshed!

— Ed Stein

Vote for Brownie

The Asheville City Council is threatening another property-tax increase. As a homeowner in Asheville, I can tell you it’s already a struggle to make ends meet. I work hard as a business owner (Asheville Courier) and a father of two; I don’t need this extra burden. I support Brownie Newman’s bid for City Council because he believes there are other ways to raise money for our city — such as strengthening our tax base through urban revitalization. I hope the voters will vote wisely this fall. The future of our city depends on it.

— Jon Sarver

Real solutions for real kids

We say, as a society, that we care for children. There is even a local nonprofit agency named Caring for Children that gets grants and donations and has a wonderful relationship with the local police in its work with delinquent teens.

My question is: Do we really “care for children,” or is that another cliche to suck money from citizens so that some pseudo-do-gooders can live off the system, running do-nothing nonprofits such as Caring for Children?

Instead of warehousing kids at places like the Juvenile Evaluation Center (JEC) or shuffling them around from one nonprofit to another (or foster home, depending on the case), why not try ideas that work?

Preventing the problem of teen criminals would be a place to start. A system of day care — such as the Israeli kibbutz arrangement, where child care is valued — would allow parents to work and children to have someone to care for them in a loving environment. In other words, they would not just be a number or a few more dollars in the grant! Having a school system that encourages creativity and imagination would be another step. Kids in school are now trained as serfs (workers) or masters (management). What about the child who wants to be Picasso?

These are some ideas that I think we could build on. Slapping kids down and putting them in child-jails, like the JEC or Caring for Children, is not even a Band-Aid solution. Those kids turn 18 and “graduate” to adult prison, and a new bunch of teens takes their place. Instead of getting tough, why not get smart? Let us do what is best for these children and leave adult politics in the trash, where it belongs.

— Daniel M. Breen

Forget the sign, save the trees

I wrote in these pages a year or so ago, expressing alarm at the desperate, intrusive, in a sense violent, land-grabbing development and clearing in my neighborhood, Arden [Letters, April 8, 1998]. It seems the developmental schemes are much more extensive than anyone could have imagined.

One of the main reasons people have moved here is because one is (or was) likely to live adjacent to wooded land. The rate of disappearance of this kind of land is nothing less than alarming.

Developers and planners have been used to thinking it is right and good to clear any patch of land they choose. All they have to do is put up the money and seek the right zoning, which always seems to be granted to those who have this awesome power to clear and pave everything. Residential water bills have skyrocketed, in order to subsidize these developers and their endlessly increasing demand for water for their handiwork.

In addition to talk of zoning (I cannot discern whether zoning means more or less clearing/sprawl, etc.), some have mentioned “restrictive covenants.” Where are these controls when we need them?

Forget about the new Pack Place sign, which everyone seems to be up in arms about! It’s a very functional, informative, urban thing in an urban setting. It’s fine.

It is quite a bit more important for us all to ensure that we will have trees to look at. Residential property that abuts wooded land should be allowed to remain that way. Just because we don’t personally own the land and pay the city taxes to keep it doesn’t mean we don’t need the land to be there, undisturbed.

In some sense, we need to promote the idea that large amounts of land are owned by all of us, in common. It doesn’t have to be a federal thing or a national park — just land that is safe from the mad pavers. If more housing is needed, there should be efforts to reclaim and improve the ruined, dilapidated sections of town, which government and industry developers are now ignoring.

— Tom Coppola

North Carolina’s amazing school-age-driver restrictions

I moved to this part of the country in 1982, after retiring in Michigan, and now live in Polk County. When the Polk County News Journal reported on June 30 about the “Lose Control, Lose Your License” legislation that passed the state legislature recently, I was impressed and pleased.

Since I still have family, including four grandchildren, in Davison, Mich., I wrote to that school board, explaining the law, which is designed to reduce unruly behavior in schools. It is one of the best pieces of legislation I’ve heard about in a good many years, and I described how it will afford another tool to help maintain discipline in the schools.

Polk County High School is already enforcing a state law, enacted last year, that deprives a student of his driving privileges if his grades are too low. Several such revocations have occurred, a school spokesperson said. With the new legislation, students expelled or suspended for more than 10 days for bringing a gun, alcohol or drugs to school, or for assaulting a teacher, would lose their license for up to a year.

The biggest reason to vote for this bill is not for the students who will lose their license as a result of it, but because of the deterrent effect. Significant action was needed, and this is a significant action.

I requested that the Davison board circulate the message to all board members as soon as possible. If nothing like this is under consideration in Michigan, perhaps Davison could be the springboard for such a law.

I was pleased to receive a reply from the superintendent of schools, stating that he was approaching their state representative with a copy of the letter I had written, and asking for her support in initiating similar legislation.

If all of us who have connections to school boards in other states would send a similar message, we may be able to effect positive change in more states than North Carolina.

— Ana Jo O’Brien

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