Letters to the editor

Turn the page on Asheville government

It is time for a new chapter in America and in Asheville, for we have defined ourselves individually and collectively too narrowly — we are more than economic cogs in a giant machine.

The economic world has always tended toward flatness. Whether it was the textile industry in Great Britain moving to New England, then to the South, then to the Orient; or, more recently, call centers moving from small towns in the Midwest or places like Asheville to India or Ireland, the business of selling tangible goods will always seek the lowest cost of production. It is time for us, as Americans, to realize that we have no inherent advantage in making “widgets.” To the extent that “widgets” become a commodity capable of being made anywhere on the globe, we will increasingly lose any labor or material advantage that we might have had in the past.

The challenge for America now is to realize that there is one aspect of life wherein we do hold an advantage. It is the power of our ideals as a society. Over the years, the enfranchisement of slaves, women, non-property owners, etc., into our government reflects the best principles of our democratic government. The individual liberties and freedoms of expression that our citizens enjoy are the envy of the world, and will not likely be duplicated in many parts of the world for many years to come.

We continue to keep score in this country by the amount of our assets, not the quality of our ideals. Our gross national product is just that — a gross measurement wherein costs of divorce, lawsuits and chemical clean-ups are counted as equals with selling automobiles. This empty method of national accounting of our “success as a society” was true in the time of Martin Luther King, and it is even more true today after two generations of trickle-down capitalism embraced by our elected leaders.

I am fortunate to live in a city that is prosperous on many fronts. I would suggest that this prosperity is not due to the acumen of our businessmen, but to the tolerant and open society of disparate creative individuals who thrive here in the midst of a pristine natural environment. The best of what we are collectively as a society will be seen in the years to come by the legacy we leave. If the past is any indication, this legacy may be in the novels created here, the works of art created here, the public buildings for the public benefit that were created here, the social institutions that were allowed to flourish here, and the transmission of the beautiful natural environment intact to future generations.

Therefore, candidates for City Council should realize that the proper role of government is not merely to facilitate business transactions, but rather, to embellish and encourage those aspects of collective Asheville society which make it truly unique. For example, the next time we need a public building, why not have a design competition instead of a behind-the-scenes negotiation? Why not mandate that the successful bidder include a percentage of the total budget for public art, etc.? Asheville is thriving despite a lack of leadership in the things that make Asheville unique and wonderful. It is time we realize our strengths and allocate our public time and energy accordingly.

— Tom Steitler

Pagan pride is Christian paradox

Paganism is alive and well in Asheville. On Sept. 10, there was a Pagan Pride Day celebration here. It was their sixth annual event, about which the Mountain Xpress wrote: “‘It’s a great opportunity to learn what paganism is in a friendly, nonthreatening environment,’ notes Lylith Hawk, a member of CERES (the Coalition of Earth-based Religions for Education and Support). Hawk emphasizes that members of many Earth-based religions will be represented at Pagan Pride Day, including Hindus, Shamans, Druids and Wiccans.” [“Pagan Pride,” Sept. 7]

Here in the South, the Bible Belt of Christianity, the Tempter is attacking us Christians even more. How far has the world gone astray from God? Why do we turn to other things to believe in, other than the One True God? How will we answer at the Last Judgment for our sins? Are we speaking out against these teachings as Christians, so we may as one uphold the Divine Truth of God?

The article goes on to say: “… workshops on topics such as pagan parenting, belly dancing, drumming, yoga and chanting will be offered. Other attractions will include a children’s area with face painting and crafts, and a vendor’s area with books, jewelry, pottery and other offerings. … Food donations are asked for. The donations will be given to Helpmate, a local organization that assists victims of domestic violence. And in response to Hurricane Katrina … Pagan Pride will be collecting cash donations for the American Red Cross.”

Doesn’t this sound like such a wonderful event, where we could bring our families and learn how to be pagans as well! We will reach out to those in need (without Christ in our hearts) and help them.

The Church Fathers tell us that if you want to boil a bull frog, you must put him into warm water, where he will be comfortable and not jump out, then slowly you turn up the heat so he won’t notice until he boils! In this same manner, the Devil makes things look warm and relaxing, welcoming and desirable, until he destroys our souls. Let us pray to the Lord with one voice and one heart for mercy, and let us pray for the lost sheep that have fallen into the snare of the wolf! So through the Holy Spirit, they may find their way back to the One True Shepherd, Jesus Christ our God!

God bless Asheville.

— Rev. Fr. Demetrios Iliou

“The City” lacks humor

After reading “White Middle Class Suburban Man” [The City cartoon, Aug. 31], I was wondering — when is this comic going to feature black, high-class urban man; yellow, low-class country man; brown, middle-class suburban man/woman, etc.?

Why is it OK to stereotype and make fun of European-American men and no one else? Why don’t you make a comic strip about a yellow man who plays Ping-Pong and takes pictures with his digital camera constantly, or a black man who does nothing but play basketball and work on his dunk shot? You get the picture.

A lot of “white” men are very concerned about conservation and protecting our environment. In fact, when I go to the recycling center, a very high percent of the people there are “white,” middle-class suburban men.

We should not stereotype or make fun of any group of people. Even us “white,” middle-clas surburban men have feelings. Please stop printing this comic. It is very prejudiced and insulting.

— J. Bowers
Black Mountain

Ballet? Ballet!

After seeing the amazing production of Hair recently, I was inspired by the dance numbers in that show to take my daughter to see the ADDance and Stephanie’s Id collaboration, “Anna!”

I must confess, I’ve never attended the ballet in Asheville. I’ve never been to see Stephanie’s Id, even though many friends had told me I’d enjoy their music. Wow! What an amazing introduction to ballet for my daughter! She and I were both enthralled the whole performance. At one point during the second act, my 11-year-old child turned to me and whispered, “This is so cool!”

We bought the Stephanie’s Id CD right after the show and are looking forward to attending the rest of ADDance’s and the Asheville Ballet’s seasons. Asheville is truly blessed to have so many amazing performing arts companies. They deserve our patronage and support.

— Julie Carter

Asheville needs to police its annexations

The North Carolina government gives cities the right to annex, but it seems that has placed a fox in the hen house. Asheville City Council has used the tax money gained from these annexations for things that the city did not need … . That money should have been spent on important projects, such as our badly outdated water lines or roads that truly are in bad shape.

Council currently has six approved annexations, and has been told that will require two new police officers — but how are two new officers going to make a difference when the city is 29 officers short? It is time to think of the residents and business owners whom Council is elected to represent, and cease annexation until the Asheville Police Department is fully staffed.

The city is currently facing two lawsuits. Would [City Attorney Bob] Oast have a good chance in court, even if the city passed hiring two new officers, when the city has such a deficit of officers? The city has lost its last three large annexation lawsuits. The price tag, paid by city taxpayers, was $78,000. This money was paid to outside attorneys and does not include the cost of staff or Mr. Oast’s time. I think it is safe to say that Mr. Oast does not have a good record in annexation lawsuits. His record boasts nine losses and no wins.

I [reviewed with City Manager Gary] Jackson some old annexation tapes. When Council members asked how the city would provide fire service to my property, Chief [Greg] Grayson said that the Candler Volunteer Fire Department would provide service and be paid by the city. That meant that I would have the same service that I had when I was in the county, only [my] taxes [would be] much higher. I then told Mr. Jackson that neither Candler nor Skyland has a volunteer police department. That leaves us fairly unprotected as residents and business owners in these “gray areas.” Furthermore, the state highway patrol has given the city police the added responsibility of covering all traffic accidents within the city boundaries on I-40, I-240 and I-26.

I believe that it is time for city leaders to tighten their belts and force the fox out of the hen house. There are four Council members running for mayor or Council, so it is time they start looking out for the people and business owners in this city.

— Michael Fryar

Time to paint the town

Regarding the Staples wall at Orange Street and Merrimon Avenue, I think a mural should be commissioned by Staples for their south wall. The city should decide the content of the mural [following public input]. The mural should reflect the diverse cultures and POVs of Asheville residents.

Of course, this remedy is difficult because it would be an ex post facto requirement. I cannot believe no one in city government foresaw the blight the Staples store now creates. How truly bizarre. Nonetheless, I hope someone on City Council has the guts to fix the mistake, although these big box “mistakes” are no accident.

City Hall, please don’t offend our intelligence and understanding of our system of government by explaining all this away as strictly constitutional and based in rights to property. I have heard from city officials that the rate and quality of growth in this area is simply “constitutional.” If we were to still define the world strictly in terms of what certain property owners want — total control and a special order of society for themselves — we would still have official slavery here in the South.

Why are so many corporate big-box stores coming into our community? Is there no alternative?

It’s like all these filthy motorcycles with illegally modified exhaust systems designed to create noise. Modified cars and those in disrepair are yet another source of noise and particulate pollution. These are simply nuisances with no constitutional right to exist.

Instead of accommodating these nuisances, it’s time to notice the abuse! But who will get the job done?

Mayor Worley represents large real estate developers as part of his legal practice. That’s why he’s not poor, and got enough support from somewhere to be mayor. I say Bill Branyon for mayor, and Robin Cape clearly has to be one of our new City Council members.

— Grant Millin

Freeborn’s vision would promote new jobs

Last Sunday, I was looking through the employment section of the paper and was shocked at how small this section was. We need more jobs in Asheville. Not just any jobs, but good jobs at which people can earn a living. Bryan Freeborn, candidate for City Council, can help. He has a vision not only to create jobs, but to create entire businesses here in Asheville.

Bryan’s vision is to help entrepreneurs take their ideas and transform them into opportunities for job creation and economic exchange through education about business planning, marketing, permitting processes, and then by providing loans. This system is already in place, but is not very well known. By investing in the industries of the future right here in Asheville, we not only provide opportunity for our work force, but we can strengthen our local economy as well. On Oct. 11, vote for Bryan Freeborn.

— John Noce

Responsible government needs responsible citizens

Just prior to Hurricane Katrina, I attended a well-publicized Asheville City Council community meeting, where citizens can address officials on any topic important to them in a less formal setting than a regular City Council meeting. There were over 100 people in attendance. However, when the city manager asked city employees to stand, less than 10 concerned citizens remained seated. I was dumbfounded by this lack of citizen interest.

In the aftermath of the hurricane, I was amazed by the people pointing fingers at the president, the governor of Louisiana, and the mayor of New Orleans as being the prime evildoers for the lack of response. Let’s put the blame where it belongs.

Put simply, the citizens of our fine country have allowed the federal government to grow too large and bureaucratic to govern efficiently. That, combined with the fact that all of our lesser governments — either through greed, indifference or incompetence — are now so dependent on our federal government that they can no longer function as independent entities concerning most duties of government.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the Constitution mandate only four areas of responsibility to the federal government? Weren’t the city, county, and the state governments supposed to have the majority of the governing power?

Recently, I read a message concerning Iraq developing their own constitution. The anonymous quote was: “Hell, let’s give them ours, we’re not using it anymore.”

If we are going to play the blame game, we need only to look in the mirror to find the true culprit. We, the voters, are responsible for the governments we have. Being allowed to vote is not only a right but also a responsibility. Get informed and be active in your government. If we want a responsible government, we must become responsible citizens.

I believe that we are quickly entering an era that will determine our destiny as a nation.

— Craig Young

Here’s one way to deal with done deals

What do the words “done deal” mean? Well, in Asheville, these words are usually heard from City Council or city officials, and they mean: “We’ve spent a lot of time and money at lunch with the interested parties — the developers, construction and hospitality interests, banks and real estate people — working out a deal they are happy with, and we don’t need a bunch of troublemakers (read citizens) jumping in messing up our plans.” Done deal means just what it says, whether it was done in a closed meeting or not.

Closed meetings are against the law, but we have closed meetings anyway. Panhandling is against the law, but yesterday I saw two APD and two “units” interviewing a pitiful, dirty, bearded person sitting on the grass near I-240, and I was greatly reassured that we take such a stern view toward such violations of the law by dangerous-looking homeless or protesters. Sometimes our police even join as a threesome against private citizens walking harmlessly down the street, and taze them if they think no one is watching.

The law can be an ass, even in Asheville; [it] sort of depends whose ox or ass is gored. To be honest, I’d like to see a Taser operator standing by at these secret meetings.

— Allen Thomas

Do-it-yourself emergency planning

In the past two weeks, I watched two informative TV documentaries on the importance of being prepared for national disasters. Hurricanes are becoming monumental storms. Terrorism is still a very real threat, as well as the possibility of a pandemic similar to the one in the early 1900’s.

While, we all hope that our government (local, state and federal) will be able to help us, we cannot know for sure. It is important for each person and family to prepare in a practical way. Then, whatever happens, you and your family are ready. This is a list that I came away with from watching these programs. I am sure there are more things that could be added. Perhaps public meetings with local officials could serve to help all of us come up with practical solutions and instructions in times of emergency.

First, family members should have a plan. In case of separation, designate a relative or friend living in another state as the contact person for each member to call in case of a disaster. All family members should know this number. Children should be made aware that something out of the ordinary could happen and not to be frightened. Discussing things in advance, answering questions and planning helps so much to alleviate the trauma if a disaster happens.

Second, create a place where you keep the following:

• Transistor radio with batteries

• Flashlight with extra batteries

• Medication (if needed for any family members; at least one month’s supply)

• Cash and coins (ATM and credit cards won’t work if there is no electricity)

• Water, food (canned or packaged), some kind of antibacterial wipes or lotion and a can opener

• Extra clothing, perhaps stored in a small suitcase just for emergency situations.

Third, keep all important papers in one safe place so you can grab them on the way out: birth and marriage certificates, banking information, credit card information, insurance policies, tax returns, property deeds, title of vehicles, passports, etc.

— Mary Ann Winiger

Voting is not for the timid

We are in the midst of the second American Civil War. It is not North versus South. It is conservative versus liberal, and it is tearing this country apart. This time around nobody will win.

I voted for Ralph Nader twice. On the rare occasions that I have told this to someone in Asheville, I have been severely booed: How dare you?

My duty as a citizen is to vote for the person I think is best for the job. Period.

President Bush isn’t the problem. The problem is the system that puts people like him in office. We will see his kind again and again. The two-party system will continue to allow people like him to become president as long as voters continue relegating themselves to two choices. Everyone seems to be voting against the person they hate, instead of for the person they love. That’s not good. We all despise the crooked politicians, but only the Democrat and Republican parties have enough crooked money to play the game.

It’s our game. We make the rules. I will continue to vote for my top choice regardless of peer pressure or party affiliation.

— Bryan Hewett

The liberals have it wrong

I am tired of liberals calling conservatives liars. Every day, on the progressive radio station, I hear Stephanie Miller and Al Franken accuse the president and his administration of lying. They say he lied about weapons of mass destruction, he lied about the connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, he lied that his tax cuts would benefit the poor and lied when he told the former head of FEMA he was doing a “heck of a job.” Liberals say his denial of global warming or his assertion that same-sex marriage will destroy the American family are lies.

To lie is to knowingly deceive. Our president is not a liar. He is delusional. He actually believes this stuff. So please, stop calling these public servants liars — call them crazy.

— Tom Sherry

Essential liberty or temporary security?

Does it strike anyone as ludicrous that the current administration wants to run their own investigation into this [hurricane] disaster? This is the administration that leveraged the attacks on 9/11 to authorize preemptive strikes on the people of Iraq. This is the administration that monopolized the nation’s grief to strike at the very heart of our liberties with the Homeland Security Act.

Are Americans paying attention? Did they even look at what this new definition of Homeland Security means? Do they know that the Freedom of Information Act has been so weakened that their government and its corporate sponsors can now act in total secrecy without any accountability for their actions?

In the words of Ben Franklin, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.” Americans who aren’t questioning the brazen and reckless actions of this administration don’t deserve the freedoms they are losing. For the rest of us, there remains a long, uphill battle back towards democracy. And here’s a news flash: It won’t be won in Iraq.

— Joshua Daley

Heck of a job

America needs a commission to investigate the federal government’s horrific failure on the Gulf Coast that cost many people their lives. Those responsible should be held accountable. President Bush patted Mr. Brown on the back and complimented him for doing “a heck of a job.” It seems as if he is the only one with that opinion, but if you look at Mr. Brown’s credentials, it will become plain to you that he was appointed to the position as FEMA director for some reason other than his experience.

It has become very clear that our president is more interested in placing political allies in high profile positions than filling [positions] with qualified personnel. The commission needs to investigate from the bottom to the top, and the public deserves to be kept informed of the ongoing revelations. I’m afraid the president may have forgotten that the government belongs to all of us, not just his cronies.

— Gary M. Poppas

“No comment,” no vote

Judge Roberts dodged too many questions from the Senate in order for myself, as a taxpaying citizen, to be satisfied in accepting this appointment to our Supreme Court, which affects our government for a possible 40 years. When it comes to issues like equal voting rights, reproductive freedom and worker protections, no comment is just not good enough for me.

I request further questioning from the Senate, and for the Senate to take to heart the opinions of the people. Judge Roberts does not have my vote at this time.

— Kim Anderberg

Continue to quest for truth

I have been a little confused as to where John Roberts stands on almost every issue that seems to have been brought up. On my way to work and home, it takes me a few minutes to tell if it’s a live hearing or the same one I had listened to earlier in the day. NPR is my news source because, in my opinion, that is truly the most balanced radio news there is today. And I cringe every time that I hear Mr. Roberts repeat that single statement that is only one step “right” from silence.

I want to hear his thoughts and opinions on abortion, gay rights, privacy, and his thoughts on ethnic and women’s rights. As a young woman looking at this, I can only hope that he has every American’s rights in his heart. This is a man that could potentially hold this seat for 40 years. I hope he lets us into his thoughts for a moment so we can peek into the mind of this man.

I may only be one person — and you reading this [may make] only two, three, maybe even four — but think how many people have caught themselves thinking these thoughts in our cars or in front of the television, getting frustrated and feeling hopeless. I believe that the more we speak our minds, the more we quest for the truth, then we will find that no one is alone in their ideas. Question everything, form your own opinions, and above all, demand the right and freedom of knowledge.

I am not alone in my venture for the truth that is necessary to make a decision. Let us speak out and rise together in one voice, as one people, demanding the right to know. Mr. Roberts, what are your thoughts?

— Min Pulliam
Black Mountain

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