Letters to the editor

The corporate-litter connection

Managers of public areas know it is vitally important to promptly and, as quickly as possible, repair damage, control graffiti and pick up litter. Removing these visual cues tells the public their property matters and is being cared for, [and hopefully] motivates them to care for it, too — emphasizing a sense of community, we might say.

But getting trash and littering under control in Asheville is going to be difficult, surrounded as we are by [other] visual cues telling us that some corporate and business members of the community couldn’t care less.

Visual signals from arrogant corporate/business interests are everywhere: tower signs and in-your-face billboards, cell-phone towers, mazes of above-ground wires and cables, the destruction of century-old stands of trees … the wooded hillsides destroyed for malls that leapfrog one another out from the center of town.

To some, these visual cues say, “Maybe one more bit of trash won’t matter.” [These people] might stand at the bus stop in front of the East Asheville Mall and look left at the destruction for the new interchange, or down the hill toward Lowe’s at the tens of thousands of square feet of desecration — and be pardoned if they casually drop a candy wrapper.

Private citizens have shown they will work to make the community better, volunteering to pick up trash, if necessary. Not so the corporate interests. When a mild cry arose regarding cell-phone-tower ugliness, Bell South said get lost. And they are far from alone in the unwillingness to see themselves as part of the community for anything but profit.

Cleaning up Asheville is going to take more than some dedicated volunteers.

— H.A. Thomas
Asheville

Don’t limit public comment at Council

I strongly advise [Asheville City Council members] not to pass a resolution limiting who can speak at City Council meetings, or how long they may speak. What other forum do most people have to address our elected leaders — and actually have an effect on the laws that affect their daily lives?

I also firmly believe that it is the people who disagree with a proposal (such as Council member Tommy Sellers at the Aug. 11 Council meeting) who most need to listen. Council members are all in power to listen to people’s wishes and serve those people, not their own sense of right, wrong or personal preference. It is only by listening carefully — and fully understanding views with which you do not agree — that you can truly serve the people you represent. If, after carefully considering opposing views, you do not feel that acting on them would serve the public interest, then you may choose not to pursue action — but not before.

As to people bringing up issues and ideas that go counter to other laws (i.e., state or federal), how else are we, as a people, to challenge and eventually change those laws that we feel are unjust, unnecessary or otherwise wrong? This process is a long tradition in our country, and it’s part of what it was founded on. Our City Council should set an example for the rest of the nation and seriously consider any issue that the people of our city feel is important.

As to people using Council meetings as a forum — and taking up too much time — good! We should be pleased that people are involved in the politics of our city. Maybe if we encouraged people to feel as if their voices mattered, we wouldn’t be complaining about apathy and low voter turnout at our next election. If one group of people starts to repeatedly come and take up lots of time, this indicates to me that an issue exists that they feel very strongly about — thus, we need to give it more attention, not less. Perhaps separate meetings could be set up in those cases, with four or five representatives of the group and members of City Council (including those for and against the proposal). If these meetings still do not bring a consensus, perhaps mediation could be tried.

Asheville, let’s show the rest of our country that true democracy exists here!

— Kate Hyde
Asheville

No satisfaction, just dust everywhere

There has been much coverage in the newspaper lately about the WNC Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, which is responsible for enforcing the Clean Air Act in Buncombe and Haywood counties.

I have been having a problem since early July with a construction site next door to me. The grading contractor has allowed dust to fly from the grading site, covering my house (inside and out) with red dust emanating from the hauling roads on that site — to the point that I have lived in hotel rooms, tried to run my home-based business from a hotel room, and have made multiple trips to physicians for control of dust-induced asthma. Pets and business require that I make several trips a day to my home — and complete avoidance of the dust is impossible.

When I contacted the air-pollution agency in July, the inspector came out immediately and, for a couple of weeks, closely followed the site, issuing citations to the grading contractor for failure to control particulate matter.

Suddenly, on Aug. 25, I was informed by the supervisor and director of the agency that it was not the grading company’s fault, but that dust was a problem because it hadn’t rained, it was very hot, it was very windy — and if they watered the roads, the machinery got stuck. This came after a long morning meeting between the agency and the grading company at the site. I was told that I had misinterpreted the rules and regulations, and there was nothing to be done.

If I misinterpreted them, the agency did as well, as they cited the grading company for failure to comply, issuing one warning citation and two civil penalties for failure to comply.

My question to the agency is: When did the rules and regulations change? As late as Aug. 14, the grading company was cited for failure to comply. The situation has not changed, and the agency has failed to notify me that the rules and regulations have changed, though I have asked for a copy of the “new” rules and regulations.

Nothing has changed, other than the view of agency toward the construction site. Why? When did the contractor become the one protected by the rules and regulations? Is the agency doing its job? Isn’t it time for it to come back under the jurisdiction of the state of North Carolina? There will be a meeting in Charlotte on Sept. 9 to make that decision. For the sake of the [residents] of Buncombe and Haywood counties, I sincerely hope that change is effected.

— Phyllis Pendleton
Asheville

Editor’s note: WNC Regional Air Pollution Control Agency Director Jim Cody told Xpress by phone that the dust-problem at the new Lowe’s site on Patton Avenue is currently being investigated. He denied having told Pendleton that the dust was not the grading company’s fault. He agreed it is a bad situation and noted that the agency was setting up an air monitor to determine the extent of the problem. He emphasized that this is an “ongoing investigation.”

Police have a problem

I would like to add to the many complaints about the local law-enforcement problem in western North Carolina [Letters, Aug. 5, 12 and 19].

It seems to me that if you’re a pedophile, you would apply for work in a day-care setting. If you like abusing people — both physically and verbally — for no other reason than to satisfy a faulty self-esteem, it seems that law enforcement is where to apply.

We routinely have more officers being charged than being awarded any honors (and the ones that DO get awarded honors are STILL being charged). Funny thing is, the crimes are the same ones that police routinely arrest others for: gambling, drug use and manufacturing, prostitution, etc., ad nauseam.

The real problem is apathy and lethargy in the administration. Until this issue is addressed, it will continue to happen. …

But when all you get is a sarcastic “Thanks for your input” — like Jay Marlow did [Letters, Aug. 19] — you know you’re in trouble. If the [police] administration won’t take care of the blatant lawbreaking within its department, what chance do the citizens (who are being abused) have to remedy this problem? One would think that the next “Rodney King” or “plunger incident” would draw attention to this problem. Yet we’ve had a few people this year die in police custody.

These people are out of control! They are way out of control.

Like Jay Marlow penned, if they will exhibit this kind of force in front of a mass of witnesses, what will they do when they have you alone?

Be scared, Asheville — be very scared. And the people you should be afraid of are the very people who are charged with protecting you.

The new APD motto should read “To harass & badger,” rather than “To serve & protect.”

— Name withheld at writer’s request
Asheville

Shame on you, Keith Taylor

Shame on you Keith Taylor! How can you or WLOS-TV call your Aug. 19 story, describing crime statistics and adult entertainment, investigative reporting?

In your report, you give statistics regarding “calls for service” by police officers. The numbers you displayed showed Barley’s Taproom as having over 100 calls for service, as compared to Xcapades only having 25 calls during that same period. Keith, you are comparing apples to onions. Had you done some investigating, you might have inquired into the nature of the calls.

In the more than four years that Barley’s has been in Asheville, we have had less than five calls for service inside the restaurant. During that same period, we have had hundreds of calls for service outside Barley’s. These are not indicative of what goes on inside Barley’s, but actually highlight our diligent efforts to end downtown’s South Biltmore area of crack dealers, panhandlers and other urban vermin.

Our managers regularly patrol the street and parking lots looking for potential problems, which they phone in to police. We are one of the few businesses downtown that understand that our business does not stop at our front door. We know that what goes on outside our establishment can and does affect our bottom line. We have been at the forefront of efforts to provide a safe and friendly atmosphere for our customers and other visitors to Biltmore Avenue.

If the current state of affairs on South Biltmore received as much attention from the city as do the fliers taped on light posts and the adult clubs, I am sure that the number of calls for service would drop.

As it stands now, the high number of calls have resulted in added police coverage of the area, thus giving our customers and visitors a safer place to enjoy a day or night on our town. That is something we are proud to be the driving force behind, and we will continue [our efforts] until the problem is cured.

To compare our business to Xcapades is absurd! Barley’s is a family place that is proud of its civic reputation and its role in the revitalization of Asheville’s downtown. We will continue to be active in our efforts to provide a safe downtown experience for our customers, even if we have to make a million calls for service.

I think you would agree, Keith, that you fell well short of “investigative reporting.” Next time, get all the facts. It makes for a better story.

— Doug Beatty, owner/partner
Barley’s Taprooms and PizzeriaAsheville

Help for diabetics in Asheville

This letter is in response to Abby Bird’s letter in your Aug. 12-18 issue. It is easy to understand a young diabetic’s frustration when faced with the high cost of medical care and supplies and an unyielding system that seems out there to squash all dreams. But there is help, and it is only a phone call away.

Some good folks in Asheville’s diabetic community have organized a group called “Cornerstones,” which meets every third Thursday evening from 4 to 6:30 p.m. at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Those gathering there are great sources of information and are eager to share their own experiences and the many aspects of this complicated disease. And active in the community is a wonderful man named Clayton Harmon who, I’m sure, could advise Ms. Bird on the options available for low-cost supplies and medical attention. He can be reached at 252-5481.

Abby Bird, don’t give up. Your road to dreams realized has only just begun.

— Suzanne M. Wheeler
Asheville

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