Letters to the editor

Please stay in Minnesota

[To Natalie Rebucha, the Minnesotan who praised Asheville in letter published Aug. 25, and said she’d like to move here]: At the risk of sounding unfriendly, I’d like to encourage you and your husband not to move to Asheville. Personally, I’m glad Asheville isn’t advertised more. Why? Growth is exploding! Every day, I see more woods and farmland bulldozed for yet more development. The mountains are being raped. Traffic congestion has increased. So, more mountains are blasted and woods bulldozed to make way for widened highways, or new ones. Pollution has worsened to the point that one cannot see the mountains most of the summer — not to mention the health risk. And perhaps, [you say,] your husband could work for a logging company here? Thanks — but I think the trees are dropping fast enough!

Besides that, real-estate [costs], rentals and property taxes are soaring. Wages are not. Farmers are dividing up their land. Some elderly residents are having to give up their old homes, which have been in their families for generations. I bet I could show you a lot of working-class poor folks around here who could tell you how much all this growth has helped them, as they face the fast-rising costs of living.

Yeah, Asheville has turned into a cool little city. I have watched its once-dead downtown blossom with neat shops, galleries and restaurants. It’s been great to see the old beautiful buildings renovated and brought back to life. But the more Asheville grows, the more people it takes to feed it. The more cosmopolitan it becomes, the more cosmopolitan types move here to buy their newly built cosmopolitan homes. Meanwhile, the locals — in their modest old homes — watch their property taxes triple, while their wages remain between $6 and $8 an hour.

Oh, and the stereotypes of hillbillies and moonshine stills were never accurate to begin with, and certainly are an insult to anyone born and raised in these parts. That would be like believing most Native Americans looked and behaved like Tonto. If you stepped out of cosmopolitan Asheville and went deep into some mountain hollow, you might find some mountain people with a refreshingly simple, down-to-earth lifestyle and a complex, yet rich, heritage.

Mostly, transplants have created the wonderful cosmopolitan Asheville of today. It has been at the cost of those who lived close to the land and were raised by generations of a culture fast disappearing.

So now the touchy part: I am a transplant of 15 years. Some may argue, “How dare you talk like this, when you moved here from somewhere else, too!” My answer is: In the first 10 years, I saw moderate growth. In the last five, it has become so rapid I fear the very beauty that drew me here will be destroyed. Enough is enough. It’s the same with the overall world-population growth. When will we responsibly stop human-population growth, in order to stop destroying our planet?

I am really glad you enjoyed your visit, Natalie. Come visit again, if you like, but please: Keep your home in Minnesota.

— T. Amastar

The economics of diversity

In the article “Planning for prosperity” [Aug. 25], a [Council of Independent Business Owners] member complains that the diversity of lifestyles becoming more and more apparent in Asheville interferes with a healthy business atmosphere, especially downtown.

I wonder if it is the lives of gay and lesbian human beings that the speaker dismisses as “lifestyle?” Is the speaker suggesting gays and lesbians are unhealthy for commerce? If so, who was responsible for a significant part of the momentum and creativity that transformed downtown Asheville from deserted to thriving? The shop owners and shoppers, restaurant owners and diners, theater owners and theater-goers, gallery owners and patrons, does the speaker think all these folks are white, middle-class heterosexuals? Yeah, right!

Thankfully, economic adviser David Kolzow responded to the CIBO member clearly: “You’ve got to learn to live together. Diverse communities thrive …”

Look around! Asheville’s kaleidoscope of lifestyles (artists, musicians, outdoor types, professionals) and diversity of humanity (including gays and lesbians) is one of the strongest draws to this beautiful mountain city. It is prejudice, ignorance and fear that create the most unhealthy environment of all, for human beings and for business.

— G. Wilkerson

Speedway monument was never forbidden

I read with interest the commentary by Richard O. Waters, “Requiem for Asheville Speedway,” in your Aug. 25 issue. There are two statements made by Mr. Waters that are incorrect and require a response.

The first stated that RiverLink is a federally funded group. RiverLink is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 organization that has never received any federal funds for operations.

The second stated, “An additional deed restriction prohibits even erecting a historical marker to commemorate the speedway.” This is simply not true. The actual agreement between RiverLink and the city of Asheville, signed on Jan. 27, 1999, states, “The City of Asheville agrees that it shall not under any circumstances seek historic designation for the speedway property that would require the asphalt track speedway and other structures and facilities be preserved as a historic structure or landmark, in whole or in part, or any designation that would in any way interfere with the development of the speedway property consistent with the master planning for the use of the speedway property. This provision does not in any way attempt to prohibit recognition of the historic significance of the Asheville Motor Speedway by monument, plaque or other appropriate marker, and is not intended in any way as being disrespectful of the history of the Asheville Motor Speedway, the drivers and racing teams or the racing fans.” (italics added for emphasis).

I realize that there are many points of contention on the speedway issue; these two should not be among them.

— Pam Turner, chair
RiverLink board

Ready for public-access TV

Thanks for your article on public access [“Lights, camera … action?”, Aug. 18] and also for the good work you do in general. I got my degree in video production and, like many in Asheville, feel strongly about the importance of public-access television.

I see public-access TV becoming the most positive and unifying force in our community. In this day and age, television is the most powerful communication device in the world. It has such a tremendous influence over every one of us — in both positive and negative ways.

Most of the TV that we see, however, is ruled by old-fashioned greed, mass marketing that conditions us all to buy, buy, buy. We need to see programs that aren’t motivated by money, that are good for us, that are produced to educate, to communicate, to inspire.

There are so many positive things going on in Asheville that should be known by the whole community. And then there are not-so-positive things that also need to be exposed, in order to effect change. I would like to see or produce stories about public-service programs such as MAGIC gardens, Helpmate and the Asheville Housing Coalition. We could have programs on Asheville’s art community, from the River District artists to Montford Park Players to local musicians and WNCW.

Public-access TV could be a start toward protecting our natural resources, by keeping an eye on development, getting stories from the older generation on how things have changed, informing people on how and why to conserve, recycle, respect. Stories on organic farming, natural-healing arts, our train yard, the Nature Center, Dreamland Flea Market, the Health Adventure, contra dancing, skateboarders, the LEAF and Black Mountain fests, and of course, a history of Asheville herself — her buildings, monuments and famous people — would all contribute to getting the people of this city to know and, hopefully, enjoy each other a little better. We could have a local bulletin board announcing yard sales, fairs, meetings, even weddings. Thus, community in this ever-growing world could, in some way, be preserved — perhaps even created.

For now, why can’t we start the public-access channel in conjunction with either the government channel or the education channel? Separating the three channels seems self-defeating, especially for the “public” sector. Until there is more demand and interest, would the city please consider allowing us to start small, as a part of the other two channels?

I feel [public]-access TV could be the people’s most important communication tool in the upcoming years. In an age where our voices are too small to create positive change, public access can be the forum. Knowledge is power. We the people need more control, to help shape our own lives, community and environment.

— Marston Blow

Does anyone like That Sign?

I’d just like to know two things. 1) What the heck were they thinking? 2) Is there anybody in Asheville who does like “That Sign,” besides those who approved its construction?

Now I know and appreciate that pretty much everyone has their own unique and individual awareness and perception of reality. But how can anyone look at the Pack Place area and even consider that “That Sign” would do anything but detract and deface the wonderful, beautiful and charming architectural and cultural diversity found there?

I agree with the comments of any of those who have written before me expressing their [suggestions] to sell or dismantle or destroy or get rid of “That Sign.” If I read the Asheville Citizen-Times, which I won’t even consider doing, I imagine that I would find letters of disparagement about “That Sign” to agree with, as well.

I have asked many, many people, both friends and total strangers, their opinion of “That Sign.” I have yet to hear a positive response. So, what’s the silly thing still doing there???

Well, there ya go, there’s another question. Tell you what, I’ll settle for just the answer to question number two.

— Carlton Whatley

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