Letters to the editor

Surrendering to peace

This past Sept. 11, I participated in a wonderful event in Pritchard Park called Peace on Earth Peace with Earth. It was attended by an estimated 700 people, who were writing a new story for human presence on Earth. It marked and celebrated the work and the life of Gandhi. It was an awesome event. I heard so many voices … that spoke to our deepest longings for peace, justice and stability in our world. This celebration of diversity and the mystery of life itself included spiritual rituals from a couple of different faith backgrounds. From the proclamation by Mayor Bellamy to the many voices raised in song, it was a unifying experience. This was a gathering of people who know that when consumption outstrips local resources, it causes great harm to our brothers and sisters around the world and great harm to our planet. This was a gathering of people who understand that violence to others is violence visited on our own souls, and that we cannot harm others without harming ourselves. This was a gathering of people who needed to stand united and to speak the truths we know.

I went home from this event to see how it was covered on WLOS, but it was not mentioned. Unfortunately, Mark Hyman of Sinclair Broadcasting was on WLOS that evening, and as usual, he spoke from fear, with no recognition of our collective humanity across the planet. He spoke of evil existing in others, with no awareness of any evil that might reside within our own borders. He claimed that those citizens who are opposed to the current wars are part of a “pro-surrender” crowd, and that they were dishonoring the victims of the terror attack that happened five years ago. This would imply that the way to “honor” those victims is by revenge and violent retribution. Mr. Hyman did say, “Fortunately, there are those who withstand the criticism from the pro-surrender crowd.” Considering that the “pro-surrender” crowd is also nonviolent, that’s mighty brave of him! Instead of accusing the voices of dissent of not supporting our troops, perhaps Mr. Hyman could enlist in our military and offer some real support for our troops.

I want to be the first to declare that I am a proud member of the pro-surrender crowd. I surrender to the voices of peace and sanity and reason. I surrender to those voices that call for caring for ourselves, for each other, and for this amazingly beautiful little blue ball we all live on. I surrender to the voices calling for nonviolent solutions to our problems. Imagine a world where instead of invasion and war, we had opened schools, clinics or hospitals in Afghanistan and named every one after one of the victims of the terrorist attack on 9/11. Just imagine.

— Susan Oehler
Asheville

Connecting with I-26

The I-26 issue is still alive and kicking! Although there is still an overwhelming amount of data coming in [that] supports six lanes, only eight-lane designs are currently being studied. In the meantime, we have a fantastic opportunity to get involved.

The Department of Transportation people will be in town on Oct. 9 and 10 at the Renaissance Hotel, One Thomas Wolfe Plaza downtown (Monday, Oct. 9, 4 to 7 p.m., and Tuesday, Oct. 10, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m.). The design options will be presented, and it is extremely important that the public submit written comments about these and suggest that we be presented with some six-lane options.

Please take time to attend these meetings! They may be one of the last opportunities to steer the project in the right direction — one that suits our needs as a community.

— Kathleen Riddle
Asheville

Seeking the patience of growth

As a vegetarian, an animal-lover and an organizer of the Sept. 11 Peace on Earth Peace With Earth Day celebration, I appreciate and am sensitive to the concerns expressed by Terri David [“No Peace Offered to Doves,” Sept. 20 Letters].

When the dove-release idea was suggested, I inquired about the treatment of the animals and was assured that it was quite humane. Human relationships with animals exist on a continuum from horrible cruelty to the absolute deference of Jainists. I note that there were a number of dogs on leashes at Pritchard Park that day; some folks would object to that limitation of animal freedom.

Regarding the meal, we did express our desire for an “earth-friendly meal” and for “food that would keep well” during the celebration. To me, at least, this suggested items low on the food chain, organic and locally grown. Had we explicitly called for “vegetarian,” we might have been criticized for not being “vegan.” And Gandhi purists [might] want only fruit. But we could only suggest; we could not mandate. After all, humans, like dogs and doves, need a bit of freedom.

Out of concern for animals, as well as use of energy and resources, I would like to see our culture become more mindful of dietary choices. Gandhi told us, “Human society is a ceaseless growth,” and I believe that, through education and example, we can shape that growth. But we must be patient with one another in the process. The Mahatma also said, “Intolerance is itself a form of violence.”

I hope that, in this spirit, Terri David will work with me and others to heal and transform our culture of materialism, greed and violence to one that values — above all — the integrity, well-being and harmony of the whole community of life.

— Kim Carlyle
WNC Chapter
Network of Spiritual Progressives
Barnardsville

We’re killing the goose

It was extremely disappointing to read that the Buncombe County commissioners decided not to vote on a moratorium on development in the county. I had hoped … that the commissioners had finally attained some realization of the unique beauty of this area and were actually going to take the time to institute stricter codes for developments to follow. This enlightened vision would lead them to greater concerns for communities and its citizens. Unfortunately, business as usual … overruled the tide of local hope.

We stand at a watershed moment in our area’s history. Asheville is seen by many … as the ideal community in which to live. Developers … are coming here in droves … making a monetary killing and then departing with their bounty.

[Even] when the laws and regulations do exist, our City Council, our county commissioners and the various planning boards rarely follow the will of the people, instead being blinded by the promise of burgeoning tax coffers and, in some cases, personal gain.

The rapacious developers have absolutely no interest in creating community, nor in protecting the environment. Profit is their life and motive. They destroy the landscape and construct very expensive homes that often do not measure up to their selling price. Only the wealthier classes benefit from this housing boom. Higher property taxes and home prices do not impact their deep pockets. Those of us who have lived simply in these hills bear the greater burden of increased taxes.

What will be the attraction of this area when it looks like Charlotte or Greensboro or Atlanta? What will be the attraction when the mountains are barren of trees, the streams dying due to increased runoff and ever-increasing hot weather due to the deforested landscape? There will be no attraction. Asheville will then look like any number of sprawling cities.

These so-called “developers” … have the funds to create dynamic, environmentally conscious and sustainable communities. … They should be accountable to the landscape and to the neighborhoods they impact. If they cannot build with strict, sustainable environmental guidelines, then they should not be granted permits to build. If they cannot be sensitive to all the concerns of the existing neighbors they impact, they should not be allowed to build.

Buncombe County has the absolute worst zoning guidelines in the state. They are practically nonexistent. Our elected officials should show greater foresight and courage in the future growth of Asheville and Buncombe County.

Stop these developers from destroying our beautiful mountains!

— Jay S. Gertz
Alexander

Protecting Madison’s soul

What’s at stake is the heart and soul of Madison County for years to come. It represents the changing of the guard in the county.

Older families have been alienated by decades of shabby treatment by county officials who see their roles threatened by change. Family, religion and isolation play a big role in Madison County.

Nearby counties, such as Buncombe and Haywood, [and their] various organizations contribute to the debate and have a voice in the process of real representation in fights over development.

The Planning Board in Madison County is a force, because the verdict has already been made — most often behind closed doors! This incited Laurel Valley Watch into political activism.

County commissioners have used “illusion of due process” in approving rezoning requests of B&E Ventures and their investors from residential and agricultural to resort and commercial.

There are too many questions about what type of businesses will be put on Laurel Valley Road near the Tennessee state line, where there is no current business. Is an airport to be located at Wolf Laurel without public discussion? Imagine a county without a comprehensive development plan! Heroes to the developers?

On Nov. 7, we must replace current commissioners who have not listened to the people.

Slow development and farm preservation is needed in Madison County. We also need to work together [for] mountain-ridge-development laws — enforced — for the betterment of our area. Locals need to preserve their way of life; they were here first! We need protective zoning and low housing density. Let’s work to preserve our rural character.

Remember that development increases the cost of living and will not necessarily benefit Madison County’s budget by providing a tax base. We’ve heard so much about this!

Too much development destroys the environment and the locals’ way of life. Financial interests motivate developers. Madison County must continue to be a desirable place to live and work. Growth must entail the inevitability of gradualness. We must protect the future of this fine county of Madison.

— Dr. Joe Morgan
Marshall

We need some housecleaning

Since I moved to this beautiful area last year, I have had many family members and friends visit me. They love the area, as I do. But I feel it is unfortunate that our city was an embarrassment to me. As sad as it is for certain people who fall to being homeless, over the summer I saw many homeless people sleeping on the streets of our city. I also was very embarrassed when leaving the parking garage on Walnut Street to smell urine in the stairway. My friends were left with that thought: This is Asheville?

The City Council and the mayor need to clean up my, your and our city. We live in the most beautiful place on earth. Why in the world would we not take care of it? If we are so concerned about our environment, then surely we would also keep our city clean.

I know very little about the government of this city. What I do know is that you are not doing enough keep the streets clean. May I suggest you do it soon!

— Patricia Koler-Friedman
Fairview

Change course and choose Shuler

Heath Shuler is a very good man. You can see in his eyes how much he loves this area and America. He is also ready to be a member of Congress.

All the times I have looked into Charles Taylor’s eyes, all I ever saw was corruption and darkness. It’s sad but true: Those who voted for Taylor and the present Republican Party candidates (in too many cases) were terribly duped and abused, like all of us.

The answer is to act now and change course. Heath Shuler not only understands both the need and the potential of renewable energy, but he knows how to be a leader in Congress to get the job done. We all know renewable energy is a major part of finding the way out of the many bad turns we’ve taken on our collective trip into Red Territory (Republican plans and policies). Heath sees how the assets in WNC are in place for success. It’s just that a lack of national vision has been bleeding us all dry and creating disaster.

We all have high expectations for a far better national leadership. There is some likelihood of this occurring in 2006 and 2008. But imagine a President Bill Frist or more years of Dole and Burr in the Senate. Impossible! We must get organized or once again accept the alternative of hoping for the best. I choose to make my vote count.

It is truth that renewable energy will stimulate hundreds of new, small, locally owned family and independent-business jobs, and serve in establishing our economy and society here in WNC as being thoroughly involved in many 21st century aspects of sustainable and secure civil society. Heath Shuler has [my] full support

— Grant Millin
Asheville

Asheville is helping turn the tide

As a three-year resident of this wonderful city, I would like to put forward my vision for local, national and world peace.

Let’s defeat neurosis, terrorism and war through a cosmic Buddhism. Simplicity, childlikeness, love and compassion are common to all world religions and are the original state of humanity. Once we understand existential angst, or the “sin”-tainted mind-state, then we can see how human innocence can be restored.

Being “out of your mind” or “beside oneself” is to be so concerned with your inner abstract mental world that you cease noticing or having functional access to the actual world. The trauma of various shocks and crises “cloud” the mind from efficient, happy functioning. This is the mind-state of the American administration and the so-called Islamic terrorists.

Why don’t we strip Buddhism (the most practical of religions) of its purely cultural peculiarities and acknowledge the overarching emphasis on being fully awake and present in this divine moment, and the daily practices of mindfulness such as medition and mantra. The solution to all neurosis can be achieved by the gradual stripping away of egotism to the one divine zero we all are.

I know that to change the world I must start on myself and gently encourage others to start on themselves. So, let’s start actively applying, not only privately but publicly, our spiritual disciplines — for example, meditating at our environmental and peace demonstrations and drumming circles, while those who can bring healthy food and drink for the hungry.

I feel Asheville is a seed city that is helping turn the tide in the love revolution. No less a genius than American educator John Dewey stressed that the truly lived life is lived in a joyful present.

We must acknowledge that in the realm of God, The Great Spirit or aesthetic experience, all duality is obliterated in that sublime epiphany — including gender — so that we must teach the youth that the “I Am” or God is Mother, Father, Son and Daughter and infinitely beyond, all in one. This is the God of Christ, the triune God I see manifest in Emperor Haile Selassie the First of Ethiopia, the might of the Trinity. He is the conquering Lion of Judah, which corresponds to Maitreya Buddha the unconquerable.

Living in the joy of the all-unifying God is the solution to the inner, local and global terror problem. Jah is Love. Love, peace and eternal life to all, right now and forever.

— Ras Berhane Kassa
Asheville

Help close the skills gap

Build a better tomorrow for our children and grandchildren: America’s growing economy requires a flexible, highly skilled work force, and the president is committed to providing American workers with the training that they need to succeed.

President Bush has put forth an ambitious agenda to ensure that America’s economy remains the most prosperous in the world and believes we must ensure every adult can access the training necessary to close the skills gap in America.

After the recent shutdown of major companies, such as in Spruce Pine, we are left to wonder what’s next. Let’s back up our president and get more jobs in before it is too late!

— Jonathan H. Bradshaw
Spruce Pine

My, how zoning ebbs and flows

At Asheville City Council’s Sept. 26 meeting, property rights versus city ordinances again [took] the limelight on at least three occasions: the parking lot on Grandview Place, the daycare on McDowell Street and the RM-16 cell-tower issues.

While I am intrigued by Council’s efforts to encourage Asheville developers [to] obey current development ordinances, I am perplexed by other examples where such concerns seem to be blatantly ignored. Most notable in my neck of the woods is the ongoing issue with the Greenlife loading dock.

Why is it that so much fuss is made over a couple of parking spaces on Grandview that … will have no significant negative impact upon anyone whatsoever, while a residential area [McDowell Street] must almost daily deal with tractor-trailers clogging up a small street [and] posing dangers where children play, as a result of a large business ignoring similar legislation — and our local government apparently refuses to address the problem accordingly?

Now, I enjoy shopping at Greenlife and see the addition of more Asheville health-food stores [as] excellent for healthy competition in a free market (pun intended). However, if I lived on Maxwell Street, I would be excessively outraged with the Council’s apparent lack of concern for both negative impact and current law! (Yet Council wonders why we might not take them seriously.)

In regards to the daycare and cell-tower proposals, the McDowell property, previously having been zoned for use as a daycare, was since rezoned for office space. Now the owner was asking to again rezone it for a daycare. Take note of the consideration of this property’s past history, as Council’s decision was to rightfully accept the request for rezoning.

In the other matter, Council was asked to allow freestanding towers in RM-16 zones, to be located on lots no smaller than 5 acres, 100 feet from any residential structures and disguised in a conforming manner. This request was not granted, but what got my goat was imbedded in Mayor Bellamy’s reaction, indicating that it was not fair to ask the community to accommodate greater densities and then ask them to accept cell towers, too.

Well, at least here the potentially affected community was asked! In the case of a counterproductive ordinance by a previous Council which limited the location of bed-and-breakfasts, there was not only no consideration given to grandfathered property use and zoning, but further, property owners negatively affected by the ordinance were not even warned prior to [the enactment of] such violations against their property rights, so that they could perhaps fight against it! (It is much more difficult to reverse legislation once it is passed.)

So I must ask our City Council to consider how it can be taken seriously — a concern they voiced — if it is to continually set examples such as these?

— Bernard Baruch Carman
Asheville

Check the big picture

After reading “The Jobs Issue” edition of Mountain Xpress [Sept. 6], I have something important to add.

Mr. Millard [“An Honest Day’s Pay“] may have thought he was being fair and balanced, but I think he may have overlooked something. I am from Santa Fe, N.M., the area of the study that Mr. Millard chose to [cite] in his “fair and balanced” approach reporting.

Aaron Yellowitz, the professor who wrote this study (I read it in its entirety), was funded by the Employment Policies Institute, which is funded by the National Bureau of Economic Research, a right-wing non-profit (ha ha) headed by Martin S. Feldstein, guru to Bush economics and responsible for his influence in getting Paul O’Neill nominated to Treasury secretary. O’Neill’s tenure was cut short, of course.

The big picture here is that all these neo-con corporate and private foundations funnel money to support not only the NBER, but the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Brookings Institute, Hoover Institute and last but not least, The Project for a New American Century — some of the cast being Richard Pearl and William Kristol. The analysis presented is flawed and is untrue. Santa Fe workers have benefited from a living wage and so has the city. Let your readers be informed. We must strive for a living wage in this area, and the City Council must lead the way. The people will support you.

— Ed Krasner
Swannanoa

Use dialogue for a weapon

Safer? No! Less safe, and with civil liberties being taken away at the same time. As bad as that is, Mr. Bush has embarrassed us internationally. We are no longer leaders — we are bullies.

Mr. Bush has led us to two wars and is losing both through his administration’s incompetence. Additionally, he has strengthened Muslim extremists around the world.

Ideas cannot be killed by weapons, only [by] dialogue.

It is discouraging to see what the president of the United States has done in the five years since 9/11.

— Joe Zinich
Asheville

Corrections

• The Warren Wilson College Farm’s annual Fall Meat Sale ad in our Sept. 27 edition gave incorrect date and price information. The correct order deadline is Oct. 17, and the correct prices are listed in the full ad appearing in the paper. We regret the errors.

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