Letters to the editor

Don’t disparage concerned citizens

In reference to your County Commissioners Report [Aug. 26], I think you missed my point in the section titled “Placating the public?”

I have been researching annexation and related issues in both county and city governments for 15 months. The vendor list [for the annexation study] was not “problematic” — the bid was rigged.

Interestingly, the recent land-use study used the same vendor list.

All of this aside, I realize you folks don’t have time to research your topics thoroughly. Consequently, you miss many important but not-so-obvious details. Could I offer an observation? If a citizen takes time to research information, it is because he/she has a vested interest. Don’t down play the findings of the citizen. Like you, our government officials don’t have time to research topics in depth. They depend on staff.

Citizens offer the checks and balances to government. If, like in my case, the citizen appears to be the questionable party, the public suffers a gross injustice. A better course of action might be to challenge the citizen to document the claim. [Failing that,] silence serves the public better than misleading commentary.

If you are interested, I would be happy to share my documentation.

— Cynthia Edmonds

Editor’s note: Xpress has asked Edmonds to write a commentary detailing her research and concerns.]

[Reporter Paul Schattel responds: Thanks for your observations. Of course, it is entirely possible that I did miss your point in the commissioners’ chambers on Aug. 18. But I stand firm in my conviction that extrapolating from your comments and concluding that the vendor list in question was “rigged” would not only be reckless, but would be a disservice to the readers of Mountain Xpress.

Know the rules — or face the rangers

Regarding Mickey Mahaffey’s commentary “No camping in the woods” [Aug. 26]: I understand his frustration at having his trip ended by the park rangers, but he was camped illegally. He sounds like an experienced hiker, and he should have known where the Parkway boundary was, and that camping on Parkway land is prohibited.

When you go camping, know where you are going, and know the regulations. Just because it’s “the woods” doesn’t give you the right to camp there, even if you camped there years ago. Camping at the Rattlesnake Lodge site is illegal, and it’s a bad idea because it is near a spring. It is on Parkway land, not national forest. There is a big difference, as Mr. Mahaffey found out.

Camping and fires are prohibited virtually everywhere in national parks, except at designated campgrounds. Excellent maps are available locally that show Parkway boundaries. If in doubt as to where camping is allowed, call the district ranger station.

Park rangers can hardly be blamed for being aggressive this summer. One Ranger was murdered on the Parkway and two campers were murdered in Linville Gorge (not to mention the search for Eric Rudolf). The rangers have reason to act the way they did. If the rangers were to let people off with a warning, many people would ignore the regulations. And yes, if they catch you breaking the law, the rangers will make you walk down a mountain in the dark, and they will fine you. Don’t argue with the rangers (or other law-enforcement officers); it won’t get you anywhere except jail.

I’m sure Mr. Mahaffey did not intend to break the law. But he and his companions should have planned the trip better.

I’ve seen too many people disregarding the common-sense rules of the trail: taking short-cuts (Bull Gap); letting their dogs run ahead up the trail and startle other hikers (Bull Gap); ignoring signs and entering fragile habitats (Mt. Mitchell); taking groups of 30 kids on overnight trips and using up all the available campsites on a mountaintop (Roan Mountain).

And these are people who enjoy the outdoors. Don’t get me started about the folks who have no respect for the forest and would have it cut down and paved to make a quick buck! The more people act irresponsibly, the more prohibitions we can expect. Oh, by the way, I almost called the rangers last February when I saw a large group of people camping above the Rattlesnake Lodge site. At the time, I wasn’t sure where the Parkway boundary was either, so I didn’t make the call.

— Tom Dudley

Litter roundtable proves open government works

As the people of Asheville are finding out, they have a voice in their government. They are not only heard, but they are listened to.

Participating in the mayor’s roundtable on litter was invigorating! Over 100 people openly discussed the ways to solve the litter problem in Asheville. It’s exhilarating to see the enthusiasm and energy exerted to solve problems when people feel a part of the system. Mayor Sitnick’s approach to open government is to be applauded.

When people feel that they are being listened to, they participate — and when they participate, innovative and cost-effective solutions are realized.

These roundtables offer ways to be proactive in problem resolution. Now, we can be a part of the solution by working along with city staff, as opposed to just complaining. Why didn’t we think about this before ?

I am grateful to have a mayor who is willing to expend the extra time and energy required to assure that all voices may be heard and listened to — whether it be at a litter roundtable or at Council meetings. As proven at the litter roundtable, there are too many benefits to gain by having the public participate. Let’s continue to encourage their participation.

— David Whitley

Get your favorite-deity key chain

Thanks for the refreshing commentary, “Worshiping Commercials?” by Leif Kramer [Aug. 26]. How about a fund-raiser for the Pagan community, featuring T-shirts, bracelets, etc., of your favorite Pagan deity?

• WWAD — What Would Athena Do? (She’d think about it long and hard, applying her great wisdom.)

• WWID — What Would Isis Do? (Reassemble all the pieces and create new life.)

• WWCD –What Would Cernunnos Do? (Run through the woods and have a great time.)

I personally have a key chain with WWID — What Would Inanna Do? Many people have commented on it, and I give them a crash course in Sumerian mythology.

Some people, however, think it stands for “What Would I Do?” And maybe that’s the best one of all: asking each person to know themselves, in order to do the right thing.

Thanks again for the Kramer commentary. It was refreshing. Maybe I’ll get one of those “Ask Your Local Witch” mouse pads.

— H Byron Ballard, your local witch

May your free speech be factual

It is time for you folks to make some corrections!

I was twice quoted incorrectly in the Sept. 2 issue of Mountain Xpress. Margaret Williams wrote an article covering the Aug. 25 City Council meeting, where myself and a large group of citizens were once again asking the City Council to use its fiscal and administrative authority to direct the Asheville Police Department to place the enforcement of laws criminalizing the possession, use and cultivation of cannabis on a “non-priority level.”

In responding to Mayor Sitnick’s argument that Asheville police could not ignore the laws, I pointed out that poppy heads and poppy seeds were sold commercially at local floral distributors and local grocery stores. Your paper quoted me as saying, “common poppy seeds available at Wal-Mart can be made into opium.” Wal-Mart was not the store I mentioned, and I never said you could make opium out of poppy seeds. I said an opium tea could be made from poppy heads.

Both poppy seeds and poppy heads are regulated and prohibited by federal and state laws. [Yet,] poppies are widely cultivated for the elegance of their flowers. A quick check of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Internet home page will reveal that the agency has been sending out quiet directives to floral and seed distributors [telling them] to discontinue the illegal distribution of the poppy plant. My purpose in bringing up the subject was to demonstrate how the police routinely fail to enforce some current laws. And for all you losers out there who want to say “Ah-ha! I knew that Dan Waterman is a druggie!” I just want you to know that, while you’re at home groping your television sets, I am in the library reading about all this stuff.

Correction number two: The Molton cartoon appearing on page 5 of the above stated issue of MX has a terrible, and false, quote. The Molton cartoons are quite funny, and I don’t mind at all being quoted in one — just as long as the locution is accurate! Thomas Jefferson never, to my knowledge, said, “The prohibition against marijuana violates the rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution,” and I never quoted him as such. What Jefferson did say was, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” And Abraham Lincoln said, “A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”

Incidentally, if any of y’all are wondering why the group of citizens who initially proposed the cannabis resolution was not in attendance at the Sept. 8 session of City Council, just remember Dave Mittler’s admonition to the City Council: “We aren’t going away.” The Asheville Police tried to intimidate us out of practicing those rights of assembly and free speech — protected for us by the Constitution — by having an undercover vice cop film us, both outside and inside of Council chambers. This person wouldn’t even identify himself as a police officer, except to say to me when I blocked the view of his camera, “Move, or I will arrest you for impeding and obstructing an investigation.”

These kinds of tactics won’t be tolerated by citizens with a conscience. We will not fail to address this issue further. This is just the calm before the storm, baby — the calm before the storm.

— Dan Waterman

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