Letters to the editor

Free bus, no service

In these times of high gas prices and poor air quality, I choose to forego owning a car and take public transit. For nine years, I have been able to make this work, but lately I find it an inconvenience.

On the evening of Aug. 31, a friend drove me to the corner of Riceville and Tunnel roads to catch the Route 29 bus, which runs between Warren Wilson College and downtown and has a track record of being unreliable. Since I ride this route often, I know the schedule well and arrived at the bus stop 10 minutes early, at 8 p.m. Another rider showed up, and my friend waited with me — an entire half hour. Once again, it was a no-show.

Next day, I called Asheville Transit [to] investigate the situation. The driver claimed the bus passed that stop at 8:14 p.m. and no one was there. It was suggested that I check my watch. I don’t wear a watch, and my cell phone clock was correct.

Once again, on Sept. 18, I waited for the last evening bus at its stop inside Kmart’s parking lot on Tunnel Road. After 10 minutes, I watched in disbelief as the driver stopped outside the parking lot’s entrance and — not seeing anyone — drove off, leaving all six of us stranded. I was fuming as I began walking two miles home in the rain. Fortunately, I can walk on two healthy legs and feet. But what about the man waiting in the wheelchair? What is he supposed to do?

Once again, I called Asheville Transit and vented my frustrations. The dispatcher assured me he would speak with the driver. I proceeded to tell him about other instances when Route 29 didn’t show up and [my] having to walk home at night.

My suggestion for peace of mind and saving lots of time: Forget public transit and drive a car, at least until service is more reliable.

— Christine Saitta

Pedaling against the tide

In response to Michael J. Suile’s letter [“Critical Mess,” Sept. 13] and Stephen Kirbach’s letter [“Spinnin’ Those Wheels Again,” Sept. 27], I disagree that the Aug. 25 Critical Mass bike ride was irresponsible because it took over I-240. Taking the highway on bikes wasn’t the problem; miscommunication between organizers and participants was.

The Katrina-anniversary [ride] was not just a memorial for the victims of Katrina. It was a direct action aimed at getting media attention about the unsustainable and virtually unchallenged use of fossil fuels that are killing us and our planet. Rising Tide North America, a new, radical climate-change group (part of a growing international movement), wrote the call for Katrina-anniversary CM rides, and climate activists from 17 different states in this country, multiple cities throughout Canada, and even a group in Gothenburg, Sweden, responded to this call to action and organized rides in their towns.

Usually the goals of Critical Mass are to promote bicycle culture and encourage safety and cooperation between cyclists and motorists, who far too often act like we don’t exist. The goals of Aug. 25 were different: to send a powerful message about what cars are doing to our world — one that’s not easy to ignore. The truth is, times are getting desperate, and we’ve probably already passed the climate-change point of no return. If we have any hope in slowing down and eventually stopping this suicide, it’s going to take a lot more than inconveniencing some drivers on a Friday rush hour, but it’s a start.

The conflict comes in because the organizers advertised this ride as a “community bike ride” to promote bike culture, rather than an international, coordinated, direct action against some of [those bearing responsibility concerning] Hurricane Katrina and climate change in general: the oil and car industries and the car culture they promote.

From now on, Critical Mass in Asheville will hopefully be a bicycle-advocacy group that promotes safe, fun and family-friendly bike rides through town without antagonizing motorists. If the plan is different in the future, I hope the organizers do a better job of communicating that than they did last time.

— Micah Lee

Give it a whirl

Now, that’s the way to ride. The Sept. 29 Critical Mass demonstrated that not all participants of the monthly event are antagonistic obstructionists. The group, before leaving Aston Park, discussed the route, road etiquette and — most importantly — the purpose.

This ride highlighted the ease and fun of biking throughout our city. Dining patrons, pedestrians and motorists alike cheered enthusiastically as the mass rolled through town. Having experienced the pleasant tone of this ride, I encourage everyone to give Asheville’s Critical Mass a whirl. Critical Mass meets at Aston Park at 5:30 p.m. the last Friday of every month. At the end of your workweek, get on a bike and enjoy a city tour with companionable folks.

— Michael J. Sule

Lookin’ good

Kudos to Jonathan Welch for his fabulous photos of the “Best of 2006[Sept. 27 Xpress]. They are interesting, humorous and eye-catching. I really enjoyed them.

— Theresa Poorbaugh

Right on the money

As a seven-year World Wildlife Fund member and concerned local environmentalist, I read with great interest Jeff Walker’s thought-provoking letter [“Sampling the Fear du Jour,” Sept. 27], and I must say that I feel he is right on the money, no pun intended. Walker makes a strong case that with November elections looming, politicians with hands deep in the pockets of Big Oil are perhaps attempting to puppeteer the American consumer with this probably temporary reduction in gas prices.

I hadn’t even thought of any of this myself, but this gentleman’s letter was a real eye opener. If I were he, I’d seriously consider submitting this one to the likes of USA Today or The New York Times as well, because I think it would serve as a great springboard for debate on a nationwide scale. Not to mention, it would also send a strong message to both politicians and Big Oil that We the People are tired of being duped. Great job, Jeff!

— James P. Anderson
Simpsonville, S.C.

Practicing restraint

I was saddened to read Nancy Allen’s mischaracterization [“Let Doves Wing It,” Sept. 27] of my spouse Terri’s letter [“No Peace Offered to Doves,” Sept. 20] regarding the 9/11 peace rally. [Terri’s] letter was clearly not a “vitriolic attack” — see for yourself at www.mountainx.com/opinion/2006/0920letters.php.

Ms. Allen stated: “In the future, I hope the Davids will concentrate their efforts on saving chickens, ducks and furry animals that are truly abused and tortured. Leave the doves alone.” I applaud her concern for chickens, ducks and furry animals, but will remain consistent by advocating for all animals. I do find it curious that rather than speak up for the animals that she recognizes are tortured, she instead chose to write a letter supporting dove releases, a practice that is often a death sentence for some of the unwilling participants.

Ms. Gaunt, the owner of the company that [appears to have] illegally released the doves (actually pigeons), also wrote a letter defending her livelihood [“No Dove Left Behind,” Sept. 27]. Yet she readily admits that the birds don’t all make it home from releases. So she just breeds more. What if she bred dogs or cats and turned them loose, breeding more to replace the ones that didn’t survive?

Releasing doves violates Section 3-27 of Article II of the Asheville Animal Control Ordinance and Section 6-76 of the Buncombe County Animal Control Ordinance, which — as I read them — require animals to be restrained in public. I hope anyone considering releasing doves will instead decide to engage in legal activity that does no harm.

We live in a truly schizophrenic society, where the suffering of some animals is a matter of social indifference while the abuse of others is a felony. Some folks revere the visitors to their birdfeeders yet regularly dine on the carcasses of abused chickens and turkeys. Other folks eat foie gras and then head to the lake to feed ducks. Others support dove releases but speak out against chicken and duck abuse. Meanwhile, animal activists are attacked with vitriol for our consistency in extending compassion to all animals.

— Stewart David

Taylor presumes ignorance

I was recently confronted with a current television commercial run by U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor, which stated that Heath Shuler “was sued for illegally dumping directly into a stream.” Mr. Taylor bases his opinion on a lawsuit that is currently pending in Knox County, Tenn. The commercial even flashes a copy of the complaint that was filed in the lawsuit, which I personally drafted, but the ad does not allow [you] to see what the complaint actually says.

As the attorney representing the plaintiff in that case and the attorney who wrote the complaint that Mr. Taylor uses in his commercial, I am deeply disappointed in Mr. Taylor. That a man of [his] position in this country can be so completely dishonest or so proudly ignorant as to believe that the complaint in question makes the accusations that he states in his commercial should raise grave alarm.

Mr. Taylor’s accusations are simply false.

First, the allegations of the complaint were drafted in plain English, not in “legalese.” (Unfortunately, Mr. Taylor’s ad does not show the voters the language of the complaint.) Anyone [who] can read should immediately see that the complaint does not name Heath Shuler, nor does it contain any allegations against Mr. Shuler. Second, the lawsuit is not a lawsuit for “illegally dumping directly in a stream.” The lawsuit is a breach-of-contract claim by a homebuyer against a private seller, and a breach-of-warranty claim against several other people who helped in the sale, none of whom was Heath Shuler.

The statements made by Mr. Taylor regarding this lawsuit are false. Where he expects voters to rely on them, they are even worse: They are defamatory. Mr. Taylor’s statements presume the ignorance, and worse, insult the intelligence and expect the apathy of his constituents. I am deeply disappointed that a member of Congress would stoop to such a level in his effort to remain in public office.

— Robin S. Kuykendall
Attorney at Law
Knoxville, Tenn.

The environmental choice

I usually refrain from getting involved in the political banter around election times, but there are a few things I can’t understand. First of all, why can’t Rep. Charles Taylor look in the camera when he says, “I’m Charles Taylor and I approved this ad.” Does he need a teleprompter to remember his name? I had no problems remembering the line after the first commercial (of many). His off-center stare is very distracting and disturbing.

Also, in his latest ads he declares himself “the environmental choice.” Does Chainsaw Charlie think that if he states something it will be true, even if it is patently false? Apparently he takes us all for simpletons.

— Joe Dawson

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