Letters to the editor

Keep common sense in Parkway equation

If the present course is followed, a state-of-the-art visitor center for the Asheville district of the Blue Ridge Parkway may turn a good idea into unnecessary duplication of facilities that could threaten operations of the Folk Art Center.

Headquarters of the Parkway are located at Hemphill Knob near Oteen, while headquarters of Southern Highland Craft Guild are situated at the Folk Art Center, only a couple miles away. They share common cultural and social ideals and objectives.

Current planning [for the Parkway headquarters] calls for a mountain-experience interpretive center. Regional culture and mountain life, including folk life, folklore and folkways, could be presented by means of audiovisual exhibition. A desirable and valuable proposition.

Now, it so happens that the Guild is in dire need of funding for the same purpose. At the Folk Art Center. And its 900 members have been trying to tell part of this story for some 22 years. Two “welcome centers” so close together would create an unheard-of situation. Counterproductive, potentially destructive.

The attractive Guild site (16 acres with a 30,000-square-foot building) is spacious, more than adequate to accommodate both, and herein lies a solution. Those who have examined the situation agree that the logical way to go involves extension of present facilities [at the Guild site] by some 10,000 square feet. A matter of common sense.

The original proposal poses another problem as well. Its goal includes provision of regional destination information such as motels and entertainment, but this is already available at a number of locations. And the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is building a large new facility to offer more. There’s no shortage of this type of information, and that should be figured into the equation.

The Parkway people also need a new library, including space for archives and museum, but that can be provided on the present site. The real problem is substantial funding [needed] to bring operations up to desired standards. And that objective can only be hampered by using up scarce dollars on duplication of facilities in the same area.

And consider this. The expensive, existing proposal calls for a new 250-seat theater/auditorium, ignoring a 270-seat theater/auditorium now in use at the Folk Art Center. The latter could easily be renovated. The result would be first class.

— David C. Bailey

How about privatizing ABC stores?

I admit that I’m new to the city [as of] last November, so I don’t know the history of the problem, but Mr. [Joe] Dunn [Commentary, Oct. 13] makes a powerful case for the (oh, my God, I can’t believe I’m going to endorse this word) privatization of alcohol sales. Forgive me if this is an old issue, but why exactly is our government involved in selling alcohol? Is this something I want my tax dollars working for? Why doesn’t the government sell tobacco, too? Or medicine? It all sounds vaguely socialistic, if you ask me.

And if the mismanagement issue is as bad as Mr. Dunn states, why do we pursue it further? I don’t see how five board members will improve a process that three board members couldn’t handle. Wouldn’t private companies, with a for-profit incentive, be better able to run the business of alcohol sales? With a nice tax [percentage] for the city and county built into the price of every bottle, it seems like a slam-dunk decision. Private companies/stores sell the bottles. The bottles generate taxes. The taxes go to the city and county. Jobs are created. Even the drunks win in this scenario.

What am I missing?

— Mark Bloom

Flood of kindness has buoyed our return

We are writing this letter to publicly thank the Asheville community, participating members of the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association, and many local businesses for the tremendous outpouring of financial and emotional support that was shown at the fundraiser for our staff.

All of us have been deeply touched by the way this community has embraced us during this time of loss. Though our restaurant was devastated by the floods, each and every one of us has been greatly uplifted spiritually by these overwhelming gestures of kindness. We have experienced firsthand how this loving community reaches out to those in need.

We look forward to our return in December as, once again, an integral part and an active member of this wonderful city.

— Richard and Barbara Laibson
Trevi Restaurant, Biltmore Station

Give us a sign

Is it a conspiracy? Does some entity want thousands of new drivers, new residents and visitors circling through our streets and neighborhoods because of inadequate or nonexistent street signs at crucial junctions?

Examples abound:

There are no directions to the interstate from Westgate Shopping Center.

There are no directions to Broadway north from the interstate. (No wonder it is underutilized.)

There are no street signs at U.S. 25 and Meadow Road (which connects to Amboy Road — a major road for east/west traffic).

And then there are the signs that can’t be read because they are covered with plants. And the switching of through-traffic from one lane to another without overhead signs, and the overhead signs that can’t be read at night because of the glare of the signal lights.

See why I think there is a conspiracy? Asheville’s citizens and leaders would not allow such confusing and hazardous road conditions unless there was a powerful conspiracy. I appreciate any help your readers can provide as my search for the conspirators continues.

— F.L. Burton

How will we be remembered?

When our president says, “We will attack them over there — so we don’t have to fight them here,” does he realize how obscene that sounds? They — the Iraqis — did nothing to us, but we have turned their country into a broken mess and a terrorist stronghold. What about their innocents (thousands and thousands), homes destroyed, children killed and maimed? I hear no one speaking for them. …

I can’t believe we have succumbed to this fear-mongering — this fear for our own safety, with never a thought for all the other innocents. Is our well-being to be more valued than theirs? Who are we to make that decision? …

Israel was established 50 years ago and is still smoldering, so it is very hard to believe that democracy in Iraq, real democracy, will happen, either. It’s just not possible to bully people into thinking like we want them to think. …

We went into Vietnam to save those countries from falling “like dominoes” to communism, and after all those lives were lost, the Vietnamese sorted their own affairs out to suit themselves. Nor will the whole of the Arab world “fall” to democracy, no matter how long we are there. And I really doubt if the “powers that be” would want it to be truly democratic — they would lose all control, and maybe in the back of their minds they are still thinking about all that oil.

History will show that this is a sad time in our evolution. Will we be remembered for our greed and lack of vision? Women should unite, regardless of party, and demand an end to all the senseless killing!

I wonder about the bitterness these injured and maimed soldiers are going to feel in the future. Will they be like the Vietnam vets, wondering years from now: What was it all for? And was it worth it?

— Gloria Elasky

PC terms slow food truths

The Mountain Xpress article about Slow Foods Asheville [“I Want a Lover with a Slow Fork,” Sept. 8] included a picture of a bakery that is a member of the group. Why is it that organizations that promote local food feature pictures of bakeries, vegetable stands and organic gardens, but never slaughterhouses? [Slow Food’s] events have included pig- and goat-roasts, fish-bakes, a chicken dinner and a barbecue. Using politically correct words like “local,” “free-range” and “sustainable,” they apparently want everyone to feel good about eating anything produced locally. Yet producing something locally should not be the sole yardstick we apply in measuring whether a product is desirable, sustainable, environmentally friendly or humane.

The term “free-range” is used to create the illusion that animals cheerfully run around a barnyard prior to the time their throats are slit. But the only legal definition for “free-range” birds raised for meat is that they have access to the outdoors. No other criteria — such as environmental quality, size of area, number of birds, or space per bird — are included in the term. Many chickens sold as “free-range” never see the light of day; they are crammed into buildings with thousands of other birds. Furthermore, if we were to move the 9 billion chickens killed in America every year out of the factory farms and into truly sustainable free-range environments, we’d need millions of acres to accommodate them. That’s a lot of trees that would need be cut down — hardly an environmentally-friendly approach to food production.

Eating meat is simply not sustainable. Most of the food that goes into animals comes back as feces. It can take as many as 20 calories of food put into an animal to return one calorie in the form of flesh. Granted, a few animals here and there can be raised on hillsides that can’t be plowed, etc. But with over 6 billion people on this planet, the vast majority of meat will continue to come from intensive-confinement operations.

If we want to heal the planet, we need to move beyond falsehoods and exaggerations that make us feel good about eating animals. We need a paradigm switch towards vegetarianism.

The Xpress article referred to the Slow Food folks as perhaps the “happiest activists on earth.” But it seems to be less about activism, and more about justifying one’s gastronomic desires and selling one’s products.

— Stewart David

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