Letters to the editor

How green was my rooftop?

I just read Mountain X‘s coverage of the last City Council discussion of the Civic Center with its leaks [“A Heaping Helping,” Sept. 5] and noted that Jan Davis was quoted as saying, “The biggest problem it has is its stigma. We have to change the image … of that place.”

There is an obvious need for repairing the leaky roof. For a fabulous image upgrade, why not put a green, living roof on it?

A green roof can save 20 to 30 percent of the energy for heating and cooling, thus lowering peak demand in summer (a key for avoiding new power plants). A study showed that Chicago could save $100 million per year in energy costs just by installing more green roofs. Green roofs diminish the “urban heat island effect” (making ambient air temperature cooler). In addition, they decrease runoff from the roof by 50 to 95 percent, thus abating the storm-water runoff problem. Another benefit is that the soil and plants protect the roofing materials from the elements (UV rays, wind, temperature extremes) and make roofing materials last up to twice as long. The plants absorb heavy metals, acid rain, VOCs, CO2, hydrocarbons and pesticides; they remove cadmium, copper, lead, nitrate, zinc, diesel soot. A thousand square feet of green roof can supply 110 people with oxygen and remove 41 pounds of airborne particles per year. Clean water can be collected.

One hotel in Victoria, Canada, harvests plants and herbs valued at $30,000 per year, grown on its roof. The roofs provide habitat for birds, butterflies, etc. A green roof that has access and can bear the load can provide extra park-like space for visitors and even space for community gardens.

The EPA Clean Water Act’s Section 319 provides funding for source reduction — up to 60 percent of the cost of the project. One important part of getting the funding is to “show strong community support and involvement.” Other funding sources are also available for energy efficiency retrofits. There are not many green roofs yet in North Carolina; Asheville can be a leader!

— Cathy Holt

Make that WNC, not ET

I was delighted to pick up the [Aug. 30] issue of Mountain Xpress and find “Love in the Land of Swimming Holes.” As one who goes out of my way to find hidden “holes,” I especially appreciated the tip about the Not 417 (never knew it was there).

The article was nearly ruined for me, though, by one small bit of erroneous information tucked away toward the end. Other national writers have made the same mistake; even Backpacker Magazine did it three or so years ago, but I somehow expect better from our own Western North Carolina writers. Neither Midnight Hole nor Big Creek are in East Tennessee. When you leave I-40, circle around, and get to the power plant and cross that little single lane bridge, you’re back in good ol’ WNC. The entire Big Creek drainage is WNC water. Why give East Tennessee something so special?

— Forest Ray

Which side are you on?

Belatedly, I just read the recent article dealing with the homeless in Asheville [“Homesick: The Many Faces of Homelessness in Asheville,” Aug. 2]. A north Asheville resident who spends insufficient time downtown to formulate a clear sense of how to deal with this issue, I would nevertheless like to offer a note of transparency where it is sorely missing in that treatise.

In the article, adjacent to a photo of APD Capt. Tim Splain, a quote appears in which he states: “We don’t want to be seen as the bad guys … but as long as there’s a statute, we have to enforce it.” Were Capt. Splain a newcomer on the force, I might think, “Oh, well.” But as a ranking officer, he knows better. The APD enforces statutes selectively. If its resources compel this, better to say so. Just one example: There is a statute on the books in Asheville which makes it an offense to cross the center line of a street and drive any distance in the opposing traffic lane. Yet somewhere around 25 percent of the local population does this every day [when they] park their cars curbside, faced in the wrong direction. In resuming travel, they must do so again. This creates, also daily, tens of thousands of infractions that can lead to accidents. Not one citation is ever handed out because [this] statute is [not being enforced].

— Edward E. Loewe

Buddy, can you spare a farm?

The “Gaining Ground: Saving Something of WNC’s Farmland” article of Aug. 23 quoted [regional agronomist Bill Yarborough] as saying, “But there’s no way to connect people who want to sell with people who want to farm.”

I would like readers to be aware of an organization dealing with this, called the North Carolina Farm Transition Network (www.ncftn.org). Their mission is to ensure that working farms remain in agricultural production by assisting retiring and aspiring farmers in the effective transition of farm businesses.

— Tom Dierolf
Heifer International AppalachiaBrevard

The appropriate tribute is peace

As the Right Rev. Chilton Knudsen, Episcopal Bishop of Maine, has said: “I pray that we will learn to distinguish between the sin of retribution and a holy passion for justice.”

As the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks draws near, people of all religions are struggling to find ways to fight terrorism without adding more hate and violence to an already saturated world. Radical ideas such as bombing the terrorist nations with bread clash with our powerful nation’s predilection for war. Regardless of our political-party preference or our choice of spiritual paths, we all agree that our world, our nation and our cities are not safe.

Most of us feel there is little we can do to change the big picture or the course of events. It is fatalistic and foolish not to at least make an attempt to stand for a peaceful alternative to the world’s fighting.

So on Monday, Sept. 11, area peace groups are sponsoring “Peace on Earth Peace with Earth,” an event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gandhi’s nonviolence and justice movement [see information below]. There may not be a more appropriate way to pay tribute to and remember the people who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and those who have given their lives for this country throughout our history. The time has come for the people of all nations to join together to find a better way.

— Marlisa Mills
Black Mountain

Editor’s note: For details on the “Peace on Earth Peace with Earth” event described in this and the following two letters, see “The Other 9/11” in this week’s Buzzworm section.

From Ghandi to King to Pritchard Park

To most people in our land, the date Sept. 11 (or 9/11 in media-speak) commemorates the sad day in 2001 when terror reigned in lower Manhattan and northern Virginia, as well as in the air over Pennsylvania. It is a day we will not forget, and the horror of it all remains with us five years later.

One hundred years ago, on Sept. 11, 1906, Mohandas K. Gandhi — later the Mahatma — a young Indian lawyer in South Africa, first employed nonviolence in opposition to the colonial oppression of both that country and his native land across the Indian Ocean, to the east. Gandhi had been influenced by the writings of American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, who was influenced by the legacy of the teachings of the historical Jesus.

Interestingly, just 55 years later (and 50 years ago, now) in 1956, a young African-American clergyman from Georgia [who was] working in Alabama — Martin Luther King, Jr. — [was] inspired by the message of those three earlier leaders [and] adopted the same nonviolent strategies to liberate his people from similar oppression in a land far across the Atlantic Ocean, to the west.

On Monday, Sept. 11, Asheville area folks have a public opportunity to observe those two historic movements [see “Editor’s Note” above]. What more appropriate way to observe these three quite significant events of the past century?

— Jim Cavener

Standing for nonviolence

I have been moved and energized by the prospect of a gathering of people in the Asheville area standing together on Sept. 11 in Pritchard Park in recognition and celebration of the interconnectedness of all people. Our actions as individuals, as well as the actions of our local, state and federal government, are not made in isolation: From recycling to acts of kindness to nonviolent means to express our views and bring about change, [we have] the possibility of affecting our planet in profound ways. Likewise, we need to work together to find solutions to reverse the tides of violence in our lives, whether domestic violence, overt or subtle disrespect for any people in our community, disregard for our precious planet, or warfare between nations.

We have the opportunity to link earth peace with human peace, and through grassroots activity and citizen involvement in public affairs, to honor and renew the extraordinary work of Mahatma Gandhi. Yes, the celebration on Sept. 11 is an anniversary of Gandhi’s first courageous act of nonviolent protest against injustice in South Africa. I look forward to this community standing together to hear our mayor’s proclamation, a statement of possibility for working together with respect, honor, love and true concern for social justice for ourselves and our planet.

— Idelle Packer

Rightmyer got it wrong

The right-wing attacks on progressive local candidates in this fall’s election have begun. When I read Mr. Rightmyer’s recent letter attacking N.C. House District 114’s Rep. Susan Fisher [“Fiddling While Corruption Burns,” Aug. 23], I wondered if he merely didn’t know how the N.C. House operates or if he was intentionally trying to deceive people.

He blasted Fisher for being chair of the N.C. House Ethics Committee and not holding hearings investigating state leaders for possible ethics violations, claiming that hers is “the very committee that had the responsibility for setting and enforcing ethical standards” for legislators.

Wrong. The House Ethics Committee does not set, police or investigate the behaviors of legislators. That’s the job of two other committees in the state government. The job of the committee chaired by Fisher is to review bills proposed in the House that have any sort of ethical implications.

Mr. Rightmyer’s allegations against Fisher are completely baseless and absolutely ludicrous. But I’m not surprised. I have grown accustomed to the lies and fear-mongering of the right-wing extremists. It’s what they do to try to influence voters and win elections. They blame, attack and hurl mistruths when they’re up against a strong and popular candidate.

Don’t be fooled. Rep. Fisher is a decent and ethical human being, very well-liked and respected in our community. She is a smart, hard-working leader with absolute integrity — a progressive Democrat born and raised right here in Asheville who cares deeply about the issues that matter to the people of Western North Carolina. Her constituents in District 114 are lucky to have her as their representative.

I urge you to join me in supporting and helping to re-elect Democrat Susan Fisher to the N.C. House of Representatives this Nov. 7.

— Christopher Fielden

Comparison shopping

In his Aug. 23 letter to the editor (“Fiddling While Corruption Burns“), Tom Rightmyer called Mike Harrison, Republican candidate for the N.C. House, a “proven and ethical leader.” But Mr. Harrison has never held any public office. He did run for Buncombe County commissioner in 2004 but finished next-to-last in the general election, despite spending a large sum of his own money. After visiting his Web site (electmikeharrison.com) and reading his position papers online, I can see why more people didn’t vote for him. He is an extreme right-wing Republican and the wrong choice to represent me and my community in District 114. I encourage you to do your own research and see for yourself.

Then I visited his opponent’s Web page at electsusanfisher.com. What I read at incumbent Democrat Rep. Susan Fisher’s Web site is very impressive. Even more impressive is her voting record, which is linked from her site. For example, she voted to increase the state minimum wage by $1, voted to give public school teachers and state government employees a pay raise, and voted to fund public education in North Carolina at its highest level in history. Let Fisher’s voting record speak for itself. Now here is truly a proven and ethical leader who reflects my values and those of my community. She has my vote!

— Richard Hill

30 years later

This year marks the 30th year of Leonard Peltier’s imprisonment, and Sept. 12 is the birthday of this great man and political prisoner.

Leonard Peltier is a citizen of the Anishinabe and Dakota/Lakota Nations who has been unjustly imprisoned since 1976, even though government attorneys and courts acknowledge that the government withheld evidence, fabricated evidence and coerced witnesses to fraudulently convict him. He is recognized worldwide as a political prisoner and a symbol of resistance against the abuse and repression of indigenous people. To many, he is a symbol of the long history of abuse and repression the Native Americans have endured.

Despite the fact that the government has admitted that the trial was a fraud, Leonard is still behind bars. Some of the organizations and supporters demanding Peltier’s freedom include: Amnesty International, National Congress of American Indians, The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama and 78 other world-religious leaders, 55 members of the U.S. Congress, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the European Parliament … and many more.

I hope the public will join the Asheville celebration of Leonard’s birthday on Sept. 12 at the N.C School of Holistic Herbalism in West Asheville, starting at 6 p.m. (for information, e-mail celestemelody@yahoo.com), or read more about his case at leonardpeltier.net.

— Celeste Kuklinski

Weak on history, not terror

Scarcely a day goes by [without] some talking head somewhere reminding me via some bought-and-paid-for media that I need to live in fear and dread that if those damned “soft-on-terror” liberals get back into office again, we’ll all be in big trouble.

Excuse me, Mr. Talking Head, but just what is it we are in now? We have totally alienated ourselves with every Arab country on the globe and have even gone so far as to kick their camels and pitch sand in their eyes, all the while telling them it is the price of democracy. Even Comrade Putin was quick to tell our president that our particular brand of democracy was not a very desirable commodity.

I have tasted democracy — back in the day when it less resembled theocracy based on reductions of constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms. Fear and loathing of the terrorists have brought us to a brink of Mr. Orwell’s Big Brother.

1969-1971 in Vietnam taught me that the hearts and minds of the enemy cannot be won with bullets and bombs, and every day I was there, I prayed that we would never again become a country of misinformed led by those who are incapable of learning the lessons of our past.

For the sake of a right-wing agenda to show that we are not “weak on terror,” we sacrifice a little more of our birthrights every day, forfeiting to the bureaucrats our children’s future-without-indenture, and an Earth inclined to support them all. At the end of the day, it is all full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.

— Larry Smith-Black

Enlightenment requires an open mind

Responding to news that, for ethical reasons, the city of Chicago banned foie gras and Whole Foods Market discontinued live lobster and crabs, Bard Kepley wrote that he despised companies and officials acting as his moral watchdogs [“Support Banned Food,” Letters, Aug. 16]. Furthermore, Mr. Kepley pronounced that in response to the bans, he planned to consume as much as possible of these food products.

Following this incredible logic, anyone who disagrees with ethical stands taken against outrageous behavior should “show them they can’t tell me what to do” by vigorously keeping slaves, treating wives and children as property, trafficking in child pornography and ignoring child labor laws.

A more mature and reasoned response to the news regarding these bans might be to actually keep an open mind and welcome the opportunity to become a more informed consumer and compassionate member of society. Remember, before Americans were enlightened about the horrors of slavery, they accepted it. My hope is that one day we will look back on the unnecessary and cruel practice of eating animals and be just as appalled as we are now about other already abolished atrocities.

— Leslie Armstrong

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