Letters to the editor

Bump-and-grind traffic’s not so calming

Jerry Sternberg is so right about traffic-calming devices. They make me mad too! [“Round and Round We Go,” Oct. 11 Commentary].

In addition to the points he mentioned — public streets belong to everyone, requests for such devices are random — there are a few more problems with traffic humps and bumps, narrowed streets and maze-like obstacles.

Speed bumps and other traffic-calming devices slow response time for emergency vehicles. Imagine your house is on fire and the fire engines must wend their way through neighborhood streets at 10 or 15 miles an hour. Imagine someone in your family has been injured or suffered a heart attack, when every second counts, and the ambulance must meander through local streets at a snail’s pace. For people suffering back pain, riding over a speed bump even at low speed can induce tears of anguish — I know, it’s happened to me.

Some American cities are paying expensive long-term disability settlements to firefighters unable to work again [after being] bounced off ladder trucks driving at emergency speed over speed bumps to a fire. What a waste of taxpayer money and what a devastating waste of highly trained emergency workers. For that matter, some cities are fighting lawsuits over the life-and-death issue of emergency vehicle response time. In those cases, everyone loses except the lawyers.

As if those problems aren’t enough, several air-quality studies have found that air pollution (in the form of heavy metals and carbon monoxide, among other compounds) increases greatly at speed bumps, where drivers must brake and then accelerate again, pumping excess toxins into the air at stroller height. A smooth, uninterrupted automobile trip pollutes far less than stop-and-go driving. Our city streets are engineered to carry traffic at certain speeds; how silly to post a 35-mph limit and then bring it down to 5 or 10 mph without justification.

Parents, if you’re worried about kids getting hurt in traffic (although most pedestrian fatalities involve drunk pedestrians), teach your children not to run into the street. And if the concern really is excess speed, then call the police for help. A traffic citation and a trip to court work effectively as disincentives to speed, while not indiscriminately punishing those who obey posted speed limits.

— Nan Chase

Got a better option?

Hey Jerry, if you really want to put the bitch on neighborhood traffic control measures, move to Berkeley, where they went you one better and simply blocked off streets and made most neighborhoods cul-de-sacs [see “Round and Round We Go,” Oct. 11]. Why? Same ol’, same ol’ — rapid growth, higher auto densities, no new roads.

So realizing that new roads fill up as fast as you build them, they put their public dough into pedestrian corridors, bike lanes, public transport. What a concept, huh? Cities that are people friendly!

— Lee Freedom

We need some mind-cleaning

One of the things that pleases me most about living in this area is the diversity. One of the things that displeases me most is when people moving here try to make things different from what they are and/or like the area from which they moved.

In response to Ms. Koler-Friedman’s letter [“We Need Some Housecleaning,” Oct. 4], may I suggest that if someone can visit these ancient, magnificent mountains during October and go away with only the thought of the smell of urine, that someone might want to reconsider his or her values. May I suggest to Ms. Koler-Friedman that she might avoid seeing homeless people if she moves back to where she moved here from, as it surely must be an area [without] homeless people.

— Elaine Hamil
Black Mountain

All together now

This is in response to Stewart David’s letter [“Practicing Restraint, Oct.11].

I would like to thank Stewart for his ongoing work for the protection of all animals. It is true that animals are vulnerable to predators and outside forces that are sometimes beyond our control. Life itself is finite for all of us who inhabit this planet for such a short time. Life is short, as some would say.

I am blessed to be in the company of the creatures of this Earth, including the birds, whose nature it is to fly. I allow my white pigeons to breed because it is their nature, and I feed, house and protect them the best I can. If confining them would save them from a possible fate, some would suggest that this would be cruelty.

I choose to support [David] and others in [their] efforts to save animals from cruelty; however, we cannot change the natural order of species. In life, one animal preys upon another. As human beings we can consciously choose to rise above the animal in us and pray to live in a symbiotic relationship with one another, not against one another. I choose to acknowledge [David’s] sincere desire to protect animals and [his] “extending compassion” to all living beings.

— Julia Gaunt
A Spirit’s Wings

Carrying a tune

I would like to thank the two gentlemen who took their basses, music stands and music into the woods owned by UNCA off Dortch Street and serenaded those of us walking the trails on a recent Wednesday afternoon.

I felt so privileged to have been there at that time. It was such a wonderful surprise! These woods are very special to those of us who live in North Asheville, and an impromptu concert only served to augment their place in our community. I hope the musicians return often!

— Sara Marshall

Bully for Asheville

It was with great interest that I read the letters to the editor in Mountain Xpress on a recent weekend. As I travel this wonderful country — and there is not much of it I have not seen — I find that most local publications in mountain areas contain much the same way of thinking. It gave me cause to wonder if somehow everyone missed the schoolyard bully?

I’ll get back to the schoolyard bully in a moment, [but] in those letters [one writer] said she was proud to be a member of the pro-surrender crowd [“Surrendering to Peace,” Oct. 4]. Another said we should defeat neurosis, terrorism and war through a cosmic Buddhism [“Asheville Is Helping Turn the Tide,” Oct. 4]. And another ranted and raved that — [and] I will call him our president, not “Mr. Bush” as the author [did] — our president has embarrassed us internationally. Also he said, “Ideas cannot be killed by weapons, only [by] dialogue” [“Use Dialogue for a Weapon,” Oct. 4].

Now getting back to the bully: You can only defeat one by striking him harder than he can strike you. No amount of talking will ever change a bully’s mind. Our great country is not a bully; our country is the leader of the free world. One would only need to talk to a great friend of mine who escaped Iran after our President Jimmy Carter bailed out on the moderates of that country. To listen to [my friend’s] story of walking out in the middle of the night will give most people chills. To stay would be to die. … Why, you ask? Simple. He was a Christian. It was leave or die.

I will suggest to all who want to make nice with the terrorists and talk them out of hating us, go give it a try. I think you will be surprised to learn [that] you will lose your life in such a folly. They intend to kill us. … [and] they want all of us dead. So please, everyone who can’t remember we won our freedom from England with guts, guns and loving our county more than ourselves: Take note. Go start your dialogue with the terrorists. Me, I’ll support our troops, President Bush, and our country. And yes, I’ll be happy to serve if my country needs me. Even at the old age of 50.

I daresay this letter will never be printed.

— Allen Harris
Titus, Ala.

Don’t touch

Recently, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, I was reading a Health Magazine and came across the column “Questions and Answers.” Somebody asked if it was safe to eat food that had [been] dropped on the floor and was picked up within seconds. The answer was: It isn’t.

Well, maybe I am the only one in the United States wondering how safe it is to put the groceries into supermarket carriages. I constantly see little children, some even older, standing or sitting — with dirty shoes and clothes — in the carriages. Before standing or sitting there, the children might have stepped into spit, chewing gum, even animal droppings or whatever on the streets.

Supermarkets [have] started to supply antibacterial paper dispensers at the entrances that customers can use to wipe off the carriage handles. That must be a joke! Handles of carriages are more contaminated with bacteria [from] hands than entire carriages [from] dirty shoes?

Who cares? This is America, the leading country in the world.

— Elli Cleber

Maybe you should just go

So many times I have grabbed pen and paper to write on a hot topic you so frequently convey in print, [but] I get so mad over some items that I just can’t finish the letter. However, now the time is correct to accuse the Republican Party and its company cronies of price fixing this country’s fuel supplies. All at once, near an election, the prices fall back nearly $1.50 (or more). They have their excuses for the price drop, but in reality the party in general has managed to bilk Americans of every extra dollar.

Sure, I know the stockholders need their profits. However they, too, are guilty of this robbery. Greed begets greed. When good people who need medicines have to forego purchasing their meds due to fuel price excesses, now is the time for this inflated economy to return to reality and the greedy wants of some to be ignored. Now is the time to investigate for price fixing, and all should be prosecuted speedily.

Now, one more thing. It seems there’s been a lot of talk about immigration lately, and I can’t resist [saying] I am Cherokee, my great grandfather a full blood. So here is what you all should know. We, the Indian people, only leased you folks the land. We never sold it to anyone, so everybody go back to your respective countries now — your lease is up and it is not going to be renewed. You have till January of 2008 to be out of North America.

Just kidding. We don’t really mind that you polluted the land and water, killed our people, burned our villages, forcefully kidnapped our grandparents and marched them thousands of miles at gunpoint, moving them to Tornado Alley. You destroyed everything that was — our history, our sacred religious beliefs. You beat our children when they spoke our language. And you brought tears where once was happiness. We weren’t savages, but you are — still finding reasons to kill after all these years. Go ahead. Let’s get this country back to the way it was when the good ole U.S.A. was started. Sure, you can stay.

— Philip Turner

Back to common sense

In the numbing chatter of talking heads and insider journalists, it is taxing for average citizens to break away and come to some conclusions for themselves. This is an attempt to apply common sense to these uncommon times.

• Lesson 1: When people in charge spend their time reading rosy weather reports of how they will be treated by history 30 years down the road while neglecting the current storm, ugly truths are being covered up.

• Lesson 2: Redistricting has led to safe congressional seats wherein siding with the extremist minority in each party is preferred to appealing to a centrist majority. [Thus] the cream drops to the bottom, and the three branches of government tend to become populated with mendacious theocrats. These extreme conservatives and liberals no longer provide a central commonweal [in which] the majority of Americans [may] place their trust.

• Lesson 3: What Bush has done in our name is grievous in the history of a great country founded by sons and daughters of the Enlightenment. To disregard our great tradition of openness, highminded equanimity and a confident, restrained reliance on provable facts and assumed innocence before taking action in favor of secrecy, legalization of torture and preemptive action assures him a place with our lesser presidents.

• Lesson 4: Redistricting has created a place for more mediocre-caliber Democrats and Republicans in Congress. I’m not talking scandals — just the general level of competence and ability to work together for the common good. Safe congressional seats are similar to corporate boards packed with cronies: closed environments where the best and brightest don’t always rise to the top or even get heard.

• Lesson 5: Profits and the stock index of the largest corporations are at an all-time high — another byproduct of a country “of, by and for the corporations” (Jim Cramer: Mad Money). Again, we have a closed loop wherein outside thoughts (environmentalism, workers rights, health care) are either not addressed at all, or — cynically — are addressed by the very corporations that need to be regulated. Normal citizens are granted fewer rights than corporate citizens, even though corporations are not even mentioned in the Bill of Rights or the Constitution.

• Lesson 6: The only remedy available to citizens is their vote — the ultimate check and balance on a system that is veering in the wrong direction. It is time for a change in course. It is time to vote for people who appeal to our better interests, not for comfortable incumbents who tell us to be fearful.

For the next few weeks, the ball is in our hands. Vote early and send a message.

— Tom Steitler

Show me the jobs

Again and again across Western North Carolina, we’ve seen it: unions broken or bought off. Salaries and benefits steadily eroded under the threat of layoffs that happen anyway as the work goes to foreign wage slaves. Owners conjure up jolly visions of the corporate family and better days to come, before selling out just in time to duck fines for decades of fouling the air and/or water. Then the new owners, vultures with MBAs, glide in to raid the pension fund before declaring bankruptcy.

This isn’t a world Rep. Charles Taylor made, of course. It’s simply a reality he turned a blind eye to when he lost his vote against CAFTA. It’s a corrupt and immoral system he perpetuated when he took $6,700 of Tom DeLay’s dirty corporate cash and refused to give it back.

We know Charles Taylor can pin a flag on his lapel and pose for photo ops with retired veterans, but where’s the evidence he can or will do anything to provide their children and grandchildren with an economic reason to stay in WNC?

We can’t afford four more years of Charles Taylor’s help.

— Jeff Callahan
Flat Rock

Say good night, Charlie

As the election nears, I listen for the voices demanding change. The antics of the current administration are frightening, irrational and destructive … a war with no exit plan [and] presuppositions now proven false … staying the course regardless of intelligence reports that America is breeding terrorists.

Instead of uniting our country, President Bush spouts political rhetoric claiming that a vote for a Democrat is a vote for terrorism. How dare he make such idiotic and childish assertions … instead of finding resolve to an unsolicited occupation of Iraq that has cost over 50,000 lives.

Bush protects corporate interests and censors scientists instead of reducing the deadly amounts of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. … [T]he aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will be trivial if fundamental changes in our energy use are not made.

I want to remind the people of WNC that a vote for Rep. Charles Taylor is a vote for the Bush administration. … Taylor has failed to provide the needed oversight of the executive branch. … He tows the party line rather than defend our constitutional rights. He is part of a leadership that created the largest budget deficit in American history. Yet Republicans [gave] themselves another handsome raise this year while blocking minimum-wage increases for the 10th consecutive year.

Taylor is part of a leadership that agreed to fund the construction of a 700-mile-long fence that will cost taxpayers $2 billion, rather than invest our money in our children’s education and affordable health insurance. [This] leadership continues to take no responsibility for its own party members’ acts of sexual, financial and ethical misconduct.

America needs new leadership. The time has come for Republicans to step down and to give Shuler and the Democrats their chance. They can certainly do no worse. Let us demand a humane, responsible, honest and united government that represents the will of the American people. Rep. Taylor, it’s time for you to go.

— Bob Hanna

Apply human decency to animals

One hundred years ago, famed social critic Upton Sinclair’s masterpiece “The Jungle” exposed the filthy conditions and cruel treatment of animals and workers in Chicago slaughterhouses. The book electrified the nation, led to enactment of the first Pure Food and Drug Act, and is generally credited with spawning the U.S. consumer and labor-union movements.

Unfortunately, it did little to improve slaughterhouse working conditions and even less to reduce the cruelty of animal slaughter. Subsequent Humane Methods of Slaughter acts of 1958 and 1978 were never funded or implemented.

For the last 24 years, World Farm Animals Day (wfad.org) has continued in Sinclair’s footsteps, exposing the atrocious conditions of animals raised for food in the world’s factory farms and slaughterhouses. On Oct. 2 (Gandhi’s birthday), I and hundreds of other caring folks in all 50 states and two dozen other countries [held] local educational events including information tables, exhibits, leafleting, marches and vigils.

It seems to me that folks who choose to eat animals owe them at least a decent life and truly humane slaughter. They should refuse to patronize a meat industry that cannot meet these minimal standards.

— Alex Chilter


• In Grant Millin’s Oct. 4 letter, “Change Course and Choose Shuler,” the Heath Shuler endorsement should have been attributed to the nonprofit, environmental organization Public Fuel Cell, of which Millin is president.

• In our Oct. 11 Gallery Gossip column, we incorrectly reported that the exhibit “‘Oh Lord, Remember Me!’ People of Faiths: Rites and Rituals in the Blue Ridge Mountains” is being held at the Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort. The exhibit is actually hosted by the Swannanoa Valley Museum in Black Mountain.

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