Letters to the editor

Don’t let cars kill Pack Square

I am concerned about the “improvements” planned for Pack Square, in the heart of downtown Asheville.

Are we really going to let this area be even more oriented towards vehicular traffic? Did not George Pack bequeath this land to the city “on the condition that it always remain a public park“?

A full two-thirds of the original Square has already been paved for cars. The traveling design team aims to “revitalize” this area by making what remains of our Square into a traffic island. They plan a new cascading fountain, just east of the Square, and it, too, is to be a traffic island!

The designers (where are they from?) specifically plan for tour buses (with engines idling) to be parked in front of the boutique/restaurant proposed for the raised grassy area adjacent to “Pack Square Street” — that brick road that sits on top of our park. (The raised grassy area was built on top of the original location of the street adjacent to the Square.) Go to Pack Place and see the 1887 model of the old courthouse and its lawn. That big, square lawn is what Mr. Pack gave us in 1903 — including the land under the courthouse. You can look this up at Pack Library.

Imagine the ancient and immense trees that surely stood in the pristine air above the ridge top in the year 1700. Picture our descendants — on foot, on bicycles — looking at the fountains (which are dry for half of the year) surrounded by pavement. What will they think of us — our foresight, our respect for this Earth?

Is this what we really want?

The design team decides?

The vitality of a city comes from its pedestrians, not its cars, right?

Pasted onto a certain downtown fence, I found a quote that addresses this situation: “Some people act as though they were going to make a fast buck and move on, that’s an invader’s mentality. Some people are beginning to try to understand where they are and what it would mean to live carefully and wisely, delicately in a place. Also, your children and grandchildren and generations a thousand years in the future will still be able to live there. That’s thinking as though you were a native. Thinking in terms of the whole fabric of living and life.”

— Ron Ogle

Immigration should be based on desire for citizenship

In recent months, I have heard many racist remarks about our Hispanic community from probably every type of individual living in Buncombe County. I personally have not met even one member of our Hispanic community that doesn’t work at least one job (sometimes more), bother no one, but most of all want to become a citizen of this country and participate in the system as part of our American family. On the other hand, the legals coming across the border from the north are a completely different situation. I have heard nothing but complaints from the majority [of them] — of everything from bad streets to our government [gripes] –and none I have met want to become citizens. [They] just [want to] live here, enjoy the fruits and complain.

My grandfather came to the United States as an Austrian Jewish immigrant, and no matter how prosperous he may have been, his entire life was based on becoming a citizen of the greatest country in the world. If those who enter our borders would read about our history, it is based on citizenship and participation — and, most of all, freedom.

Even though this freedom is extended to others without reservation, it, too, is based upon becoming a citizen and participating in every form of our government, life, different religions, cultures, etc. If you cannot become part of this because of choice, maybe you should try the Third World countries who would appreciate you more. Oh, I forgot. There is no money to be made that way.

— Ron Crowder

Make sterility part of immigration policy

I’m writing because I have seen how the population-control movement has mixed feelings about immigration. I have had mixed feelings myself, because, on the one hand, restricting immigration can be cruel, but on the other, immigrants are responsible for most U.S. population growth. I also advocate incentives for sterilization and have realized that these two problems can be linked into a solution.

We can use immigration and U.S. citizenship as an incentive for sterilization. If the U.S. were to allow immigration of people who can prove that they are sterile, exclusively, immigration would not be a lasting U.S. population problem. Any sane person facing dire consequences in their home country would be willing to be sterilized. Refusal to be sterilized would serve as evidence that asylum applicants are not genuine refugees.

Some might call deportation or sterilization a cruel choice. But my vasectomy was easier than having my wisdom teeth out. The cruelest thing for me about sterilization was its $500 price tag. So I don’t believe the choice is cruel at all, provided the operation is offered free. Thus, the U.S. could use sterilization to solve its immigration-related population problem humanely and still remain a haven for refugees in dire need.

I should add that there are many people in the Third World who are already sterile and can prove it. This may be a result of accidents, diseases, or voluntary or involuntary, present or past policies in their home countries. Whatever the reason, the burden that a sterile person will put on U.S. resources is both limited and temporary, so the reasons to exclude them are similarly limited.

If politically correct people are still concerned about humanitarian aspects, then we could also consider inviting sterile immigrants in addition to current quotas, or any numerical compromise between the two policies. The main precedent that needs to be set is that sterility is a major asset and should become part of immigration policy.

— Alan Ditmore

The fly in Mahaffey’s coffee

Mountain Xpress’ peripatetic philosopher Mickey Mahaffey inspires one to consider some of the great issues facing Asheville. I must admit, however, that his doom-and-gloom scenario does not inspire me to want to support his program. As is typical of pessimistic pundits, he finds little to praise and much to damn.

In his latest column [“Cooking in our own soup,” Nov. 8], Mahaffey finds the fact that there are a few $250,000 condos in a renovated building as evidence of a boom town hurtling toward ruin. I personally don’t find that the existence of some pricey downtown condominiums in buildings that have lain derelict for many years proof that all hell is breaking loose. In fact, many environmentalists believe that the revival of downtown living (no matter what the price range) has real benefits in slowing sprawl and reducing automobile use.

I don’t begrudge Mahaffey’s right to live any way he wants or to complain about everything under the sun. But what gets me is the complete absence of his ever noticing the good things that are happening to downtown. When abandoned buildings were being turned into affordable apartments, where was he? Nowhere. But let one or two expensive condos come on the market and, “Oh my, where is it all going to lead?” Successful downtown redevelopment, in order to work for everyone, needs a mix of price ranges for housing. If it’s all -ow price or all high-price, you don’t get the success of a thriving, diverse community.

I, as well as Mr. Mahaffey, appreciate the need for clean air, but having a 1929-style depression to get it is ludicrous. When most of the citizenry are destitute, clean air is the last thing they will clamor for. First they will want jobs and money. They will not be grateful to be returning to a subsistence type of living.

Please be aware, Mr. Mahaffey, that the reason you are able to live the simple life is that so many others all around you are working hard to create and sell your cowboy coffee and whatever else you need to live such a life. If the community fell into a depression, the hungry and jobless hordes would find your woodsy hideaway and steal all your stuff.

— Ralph McClarty

Disgusted with Gore

What a sad state of affairs. And what an example of everything that is disgusting and revolting Al Gore has displayed in the aftermath of the election. It is now clear that Gore will do anything to win the presidency. His short speech tonight (Monday, Nov. 13) reflected such incredible dishonesty and lack of character that I am frankly concerned for our country should he win the presidency.

I am disgusted. If he wins, which at this point I hope he does not, he will not get my vote in the next election.

Gore already faces the disdain — indeed the ire — of at least half the electorate, all Republicans, as well as a considerable number of Democrats who are coming to realize the type of man he is. Gore will stop at nothing, even the loss of confidence of the electorate, to gain the presidency. He dishonors himself, the American people and the position of president. In this fashion, he is indeed no better than Clinton.

At the time Congress was coming to a decision regarding support of the Gulf War, according to former Sen. Alan Simpson, Al Gore offered his vote to the side that would give him the most air time on the Senate floor. I initially felt this was unlikely. Now I am not so sure.

A prediction: If Gore prevails, he will face strong reluctance from Congress to work with him on any program. Washington will come to a virtual standstill. Anger and dissent will be the order of the day. I can’t blame them.

— Gil Kempenich

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