Letters to the editor

Landlords good, tenants bad

[In] response to Pat Farmer [“Council Has Disempowered Tenants,” Xpress Aug. 27]:

Ma’am, may I interrupt your fantasy. We landlords can’t keep places rentable because most of you “really good tenants” keep them in a state of disrepair. You may not know how to repair breakage, but you’re experts on destruction. You have all the rights — [you] live in a place, tear it up, [don’t] pay the rent, leave garbage behind, say how terrible the place is and [then] move on to do the same [in another rental property]. You have all the options. So rents go up, as they should.

Save your money as I did — buy [yourself] a small house, rent it out and watch what was to be your retirement investment go up in repair bills. Go do it, Pat Farmer, and all you “poor, disheartened, powerless, abused, mistreated, misunderstood tenants.” Just do it.

— Elaine Singletary

Get on the Brownie train

If you — like my husband and I — are frustrated and angered by the actions of those elected to Asheville City Council last time around, consider a fresh choice: Brownie Newman.

Brownie wants to protect our few remaining green and open spaces. Brownie will not vote to sell or lease public property on our City’s front lawn to the Grove Park Inn for another faceless, glass skyscraper. Brownie will not vote to reduce the oversight the city has had over rental property via required inspections. Brownie will not gain additional clients or otherwise benefit fiscally, owing to his position on Council.

He’s an ordinary citizen with a genuine concern about the health of our community and protecting the future of this wonderful town, without sacrificing its key assets. He may not always have the blessing of Rich and Powerful White Guys, but he can win this election with your support and your vote. Please support Brownie Newman for Asheville City Council this fall.

— Susan Andrew

You rock, Asheville!

I am writing to publicly thank the myriad amazing artists, singers, organizers, food vendors, brewers, poets, street performers, muralists, deejays, dancers, comedians, sponsors, art-car owners, merchants [and] musicians — and all Ashevilleans and other locals that made the Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival a whopping success!

For those of you who didn’t make it, on Sunday, Aug. 31, a part of Asheville long lost in the shadows of downtown shined with excitement and creative fervor. Lexington Avenue celebrated the uniqueness that is Asheville in a daylong arts fest to raise money for the Asheville Mural Project, and Arts2People.

The Asheville Mural Project is a blossoming confederation of artists and community activists intent upon painting the town, and Arts2People is a nonprofit committed to bringing the empowering strength of the arts to all people irrespective of financial and social situation.

The festival is a celebration of our cultural strength and diversity, and of the creative power of our area, and strives to support the arts-based culture and economy we enjoy. Everyone who contributed to the festival did so without the promise of personal gain, and brought forth their best for this all-local extravaganza. The quality of the performances and art [were] world-class, and we hope to annually demonstrate that we have all the talent we need for a successful arts-destination city right here!

Thank you all for helping to cement the identity of one of Asheville’s creative hotbeds, Lexington Avenue, and for supporting the success of your own community and fabulously evolving culture.

— Kitty Brown, LAAFF coordinator

A little help here, please!

I am a homeowner on Forsythe Street in north Asheville. Forsythe Street becomes Dortch Street, off which there is an entrance to a large wooded area owned by UNCA. Many people walk their dogs, bike, jog and stroll their children down Forsythe and Dortch to get to the trails in the woods or other parts of the community.

For the past year, some person has chosen to defile this section of city streets and UNCA property by weekly throwing large amounts of feces — human or animal — wrapped in toilet paper and newspaper in the street, trees and curbside grass on the north side of Dortch near Forsythe. It happens right before garbage pickup and always in the same spot. It is happening with increasing regularity and has become a real biohazard issue for those of us who live and commute on these streets.

For a while I picked up this “litter” during my periodic street cleanups, but when it occurred more consistently, I phoned Richard Grant, who is in charge of city garbage pickup, [and I also called] UNCA’s Materials Management Department. No one had an answer as to how to stop or catch the culprit, short of paying a policeman to patrol the area 24 hours a day — not an option.

Most recently, I have encouraged my neighbors to call UNCA, the Buncombe County Health [Department], Richard Grant and the Montford substation of the Asheville Police Department. UNCA’s public-safety officer told me “it isn’t their problem” since the grass area is city property. I thought we were a “community”! I was told not to pick it up anymore by both UNCA and the health department. I suggested that someone from the city trash department pick it up as they made trash rounds, but this has not happened. The [health department’s environmental health director] said he would contact the police and get back to me. So far I’ve heard nothing.

Finally, on Labor Day, [a] neighbor helped me clean up street trash, which included piles of newspapers full of feces. Other [piles] have disintegrated in the streets with rain and car traffic. What can I do next? I would appreciate any ideas. How do we stop this from happening, and because it is a biological concern, whose responsibility is it to remove it?

— Sara Marshall

[Ed. Note: We asked Layton Long, environmental health director with the Buncombe County Health Department, for an update; Long took Marshall’s original complaint.

A Health Department employee will visit the site as part of a routine complaint investigation, Long said. But even if the situation is verified, options are limited unless the perpetrator can be easily determined.

“If someone can be identified, then we would take whatever enforcement action we can to get it stopped,” he explained.

But realistically, Long continued, the situation would likely require nighttime surveillance of the site, something the Health Department hasn’t the manpower or wherewithal to handle.

“It’s a very difficult situation,” Long said.]

Parents, get your kids tested for lead

Many people consider lead poisoning a thing of the past, something their parents had to worry about. Unfortunately, the effects of lead in homes and products still threaten children in the United States every day. Hundreds of children in Buncombe County test positive for lead contamination every year, and those are only the children who are tested. The truth is that lead poisoning is the No. 1 environmental disease for children from birth to 6 years of age, and a blood test is the only way to detect it.

It’s regrettable that the state of North Carolina does not require children to be tested for lead. A recent study by The New England Journal of Medicine revealed that even low levels of lead in a child’s body [can] cause detrimental effects to their intelligence. If detected early on, families can avoid further lead poisoning by pinpointing the source of lead and eliminating it.

All parents should take a step ahead of the law and request a lead test for their children at their next checkup.

— Mary Wyatt

All schools deserve equal resources

Our nation’s public schools are much more than [places] wherein we educate our young people. They are the heart and soul of our neighborhoods. They are the foundation of a healthy democracy, and there is no substitute for the sense of community [that] is achieved when we come together to support them.

Liberty and justice for all [is] possible only when we ensure the finest education for every American citizen. Our strength is our ability to stand together as a people during a crisis — and that crisis is now! We are becoming a nation of individuals instead of acting as individuals of a nation. Freedom is only possible when we are educated as to both our rights and our responsibilities. Choices not made in freedom are not choices at all. We have accomplished neither integration nor equality of learning opportunities, and until we do so, the promise of this great nation remains unfulfilled.

Our society is built upon an educated and informed populace participating in governance. We come from many different backgrounds, and the sum of our individual voices becomes the direction we follow as a whole. However, there is a common ground upon which we can all, in good conscience, stand. Our nation and the Declaration of Independence from which it sprang, our Constitution and the freedoms that it guarantees — both ecclesiastical and civil — are our commonality. We can realize the “self-evident” truths that bring us together when we come together to support quality schools in every neighborhood, black or white, rich or poor, of citizens newly arrived or of many generations’ residence. In a healthy democracy, there is not — nor can there be — a substitute for equity within our educational institutions.

We cannot, in good conscience, allow some schools to fail because of inadequate resources, while other communities reap the benefits of quality neighborhood schools. The benefits of “choice” are trumpeted, when we would all choose to have quality education available in our own neighborhoods. Instead of dedication to each and every school, we expect that many families will send their children to another school further from home. We all pay taxes in one form or another, and with equity of school funding, the resultant strengthening of communities would lead to a self-perpetuating adequacy of available resources. Property-tax-based school funding has always been inherently unethical, unfair and unconstitutional. Neighborhood schools and participation therein strengthens our families, our communities and our nation.

Smaller class size, adequate program resources and quality infrastructure are real means by which we can achieve strong, safe and self-sustaining communities. “High-stakes testing,” “teacher accountability” and “school choice” are empty phrases without a concomitant dedication to funding-equity. There is no substitute for adequate nutrition, available early-learning programs, an emphasis on reading ability and a focus on learning for its own sake. Our overemphasis on mathematics at too early an age helps perpetuate our inattention to the “humanities,” and to young people as unique individuals.

President Bush would sell out our nation’s youngest citizens in order to satisfy a conservative agenda that confuses greed with patriotism. Never has an American president talked so much and said so little of substance regarding education. President Bush willfully exacerbates existing racism by failing to fulfill his constitutional and moral obligation to ensure equitable funding for all schools. It is easier and cheaper to let them fail and speak of “choice.” President Bush would institute “testing” of students and allow them to fail due to his own incompetence and neglect. President Bush speaks for “accountability” while he is unwilling to provide the tools with which reasonable standards could be met. “Testing” values answers, “choice” is cheap and “accountability” is for someone else

There comes a time to stand together as a people — and that time is now! Competition without cooperation weakens the very fiber of our nation. There can be no higher goal, particularly in a democracy such as ours, than the maintenance of the best possible schools for all of America’s young people.

— Michael Richard Smith
Hot Springs

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