Letters to the editor

I’m all ears

Jerry Sternberg from time to time mentions me in one of his opinion pieces. He attributes “facts” to my political history that are, 95 percent of the time, untrue. For instance, he implied that I was responsible for the UDO. If only it were so. It would have been a far less complex and complicated document that [would have] created an environment in the development community making sustainable development easy and unsustainable development impossible.

[Although] I was on the Commercial and Industrial Hubs Subcommittee during the very preliminary community-dialogue days, his implication does an enormous disservice to the hundreds of citizens who participated in the process from day one. To say nothing of the fact that, without the oversight such a planning tool affords, Asheville would have looked like “Anywhere, U.S.A.” long ago. But I digress.

This letter is to thank Jerry for finally, factually informing his readers of something that I appreciate being recognized for. In his last Gospel column [“Put Up or Shut Up,” Nov. 8], Jerry states that City Council meetings are not intended to provide a public forum, and that these “interminable meetings started under Mayor Leni Sitnick, who adhered to the egalitarian dictum of having ‘citizen input’ in all aspects of city government.” Can anybody spell “of, by and for”? Does Jerry think that it’s OK for the citizenry to vote and then drop out? How does an elected body provide representative government if it doesn’t open up the process and put the people back in politics?

Did he prefer the 3 o’clock meetings that took place, for years, prior to the public meeting and behind Council Chambers? Those were the meetings that were not accessible to the people, not the ones that kept the doors open until they could get there. If Jerry had ever attended a City Council meeting during my administration, the doors would have been open for him, too. We would have been happy to listen to his suggestions. So, thank you to Jerry for the factual attribution. Frankly, I am proud that I had something to do with government in the sunshine, so that people like Fred English, Hazel Fobes and yes, even Mr. Bishop, felt their voices would be heard in the open forum of democracy.

— Leni Sitnick
Asheville

Giving us the bird

Want approval for the bird? [“He Knows Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Nov. 8 Xpress]

Get a super-size STAPLES sign to wear across the front of your costume. [I] guarantee the head of Planning and Zoning will be along to pat you on the head and tell you what an excellent job you are doing!

— Patricia Wald
Asheville

Putting democracy to work

The Laurel Valley Watch supports thoughtful, responsible development for a healthy community and sustainable future in the Laurel Valley and throughout Madison County. [We are] a community united to preserve and protect these assets: our rural lifestyle, our clean springs and streams, our Mars Hill watershed, our productive farmland, our abundant wildlife, our children’s birthright, our happy trout, the many small businesses that support us, taxes that we can live with, and neighbors we can rely on. (You may visit us, incidentally, at: www.LaurelValleyWatch.org.)

The best way to judge the effectiveness of a democracy is to measure how it allocates the goods of the land and ask, as did Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.: “Does the government protect the commonwealth on behalf of all the community members, or does it allow wealth and political clout to steal the commons from the people?”

[Our] members are fighting for county government that places public interest above private profit. This nonprofit, environment-oriented organization monitors local development activity to ensure that health, safety, land use, construction and environmental standards are upheld, and that special features such as the Appalachian Trail and Mars Hill watershed continue to be protected. On behalf of local residents who cannot afford to do so, we challenge development proposals and/or actions that fail to meet these standards. We sponsor programs in the public schools that teach students how to test and monitor their own creeks and streams and engage in other science activities related to understanding and maintaining the sensitive ecology of the region.

We sponsor volunteer community-service projects that maintain and improve the quality of life in the valley and county. We assist local residents whose property and/or health has been compromised by illegal, improperly permitted or otherwise questionable development activities. We educate community residents, local developers and public officials regarding principles of sustainable development and current regulatory requirements. We raise the funds necessary to fulfill these commitments through community events and private donations.

LVW meets regularly at the Ebbs Chapel Community Center (intersection of Laurel Valley and Puncheon Fork roads). For more information, call 689-2975.

— Dr. Joe L. Morgan
LVW Board Member
Marshall

An election accounting

So what does Western North Carolina receive in return if we send Heath Schuler to Congress, and what do we lose? Obviously, that’s a loaded question.

Call me crazy, but this is how I see it: The rookie Schuler [is] a marginal or average-at-best ex-NFL quarterback with no prior political experience/expertise — not even elected “dog catcher” — with a B.A. in psychology from the University of Tennessee (which could possibly help him in Washington). Whether the Democrats [control] the House or the Republicans retain it, “we” lose in Western North Carolina. Why?

If Nancy Pelosi becomes the Speaker of the House, Heath becomes a “lap dog” as a junior congressman with an office in the back of the building. He’ll probably be allowed to get her coffee.

What have we lost? Gone is the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment, controlling some $26 billion of federal government activities. Gone is the chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee of Science, Justice and Commerce. [Gone] are leadership and meaningful resources/dollars for Western North Carolina.

— Fuller Moore
Mountain Home

Begone, timid leaders!

The Nov. 7 election sent a clear message to elected representatives that the populace wants change. The time for timid leadership has passed, and elected officials must deliver bold action to address the myriad problems facing us both locally and nationally.

On the county level, our commissioners must move quickly and decisively to protect our beautiful mountains. We presently have no regulations regarding the building of multifamily housing, particularly on steep slopes. This has been brought to the commissioners’ attention, and thus far they have chosen not to address this critical oversight and deficiency. They must either institute immediate regulations to include multifamily housing development under existing county ordinances, or issue a moratorium on such building until more encompassing regulations are enacted.

On the state level, our representatives must move immediately to protect our mountains from unbridled and irresponsible development. They must revamp our taxation policies to prevent landowners from continuing to be gentrified off their properties by greedy developers with no understanding or appreciation of the sacredness of our area.

On the federal level, our representatives must address the critical threat of global warming and move quickly toward environmentally responsible technologies to wean us away from fossil fuels. Such action presents unparalleled economic development opportunities, and Western North Carolina is positioned to be on the national forefront of this effort.

To our elected representatives at all levels of government, I say “carpe diem.” Seize this voter mandate to initiate the critical changes so desperately needed to protect our mountain home and planet.

— Claudine Cremer
Weaverville

Flip those pancakes, Dick

Slate‘s John Dickerson writes: “Dick Cheney recently reasserted that Ned Lamont’s primary victory over Joe Lieberman was a sign to the terrorists that Democrats were weak on terror. The vice president, who is away on a so-far uneventful hunting trip … .”

So, Cheney, who accuses the Democrats of being weak on terror, is away during the election on a hunting trip? The vice president of the United States doesn’t care that it’s important to be working on stuff during one of the most critical times in the history of this country?

So, who is weak on terror (and everything else) here? If Cheney truly cares about our safety and thinks that Democrats compromise that safety, what’s he doing going off on a hunting trip at a time like this?

On top of that, Cheney is saying that the fact that the Democrats won in a primary over an Independent means that they’re weak on terror. That makes about as much sense as saying that winning a baseball game means you’re bad at making pancakes.

— Liev Aleo Black
Asheville

A fowl tradition

As the holiday season approaches, compassion urges all of us to consider those less fortunate than ourselves. We all possess the personal power to make a difference in the lives of those who suffer the most this time of year. In addition to being kind to fellow humans, compassion requires us to consider the 340 million turkeys inhumanely raised in the United States for our annual holiday consumption. These sentient animals are pumped full of antibiotics, debeaked without anesthesia, bathed in toxic fumes in crowded, feces-filled sheds, and starved before their slaughter (as undigested food in the stomach is not profitable). After 16 weeks of agony, they are hung by their legs from a conveyer belt and beheaded while fully conscious because birds are exempt from the Humane Slaughter Act.

For those who say Thanksgiving tradition calls for turkey on the table: I cry “fowl.” The first Thanksgiving consisted not of turkey but of corn and beans stolen from indigenous Americans by the desperate pilgrims of Plymouth. Ten years earlier in Jamestown, the settlers were so lacking in farming skills that they resorted to [eating] corpses. To suggest adherence to either of the aforementioned “traditions” is ludicrous. However, is it really any worse than choosing to be the final resting place for a majestic bird that the famous vegetarian Benjamin Franklin wanted as our national symbol?

For more information on alternatives to eating turkeys, visit www.goveg.com. For local vegetarian events and support, please see www.ashevilleveg.com.

— Joseph Walsh
Asheville

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