Letters to the editor

Quite a slide

Your “Slippery Slopes” articles [Nov. 22 Xpress] covering the concerns with the overdevelopment of our beautiful mountains hit on my growing heartbreak as I witness these rapid changes here in Western North Carolina. I have lived in this area for over 23 years now, and I feel such a deep-heart connection to these mountains and all that lives and grows here. Sixteen years ago, I bought a 900-square-foot fixer-upper house that I am still working on. My 16-year-old daughter was born in this house. I have planted over 80 trees on my acre and a half and built a straw-and-earthen pottery studio. I have tried to make choices to minimize my environmental impact on the area. Although it has been wonderful to see what was a dead downtown of Asheville turn into such a vibrant, cool little city, it shouldn’t mean the surrounding countryside be destroyed in the process.

Now when I drive to Asheville from Alexander on any of the several routes, I am seeing at least four or five development sites being bulldozed per route. I just learned 50 acres right on the river here in Alexander is slated for 160 units! My well is only 90 feet deep, and I have seen the water capacity drop the last few years. I am one of those who does not have six grand in my back pocket for a new well. More houses have been built all around me. These 160 units will be built smack on Dry Ridge (named such for a reason!). Residents have reason to be concerned about their water supply. Not to mention the added traffic and noise. So much for bicyclists enjoying scenic River Road!

Who likes driving into Atlanta, huh?! With 16 lanes of traffic, there is still gridlock during rush hour. The widening of I-240 is only a temporary fix, obviously, with all these gargantuan houses sprouting up everywhere you look. By the time it is finished, the traffic will have increased to gridlock again. This doesn’t even address the added pollution. Everywhere I look, swaths of trees are being bulldozed and cut — the very thing that helps clean the air that we deem necessary to foul. In Woodfin, a whole mountain has had its trees cut and the mountain carved, and now hundreds of the biggest houses I have seen are going in. I really love the view of that! Are the people who have been living here in more humble ways going to be forced to leave by soaring property values and taxes? Some say: Well, you can get more for your property. Well, what if you like it and call it home and are not interested in starting over? And farmland is being sold for that reason. Farmers can’t afford to keep it and in goes another development.

So I think residents are going to need to rise up here in mass — make the county commissioners listen, and put a stop to this before the area is ruined (if it isn’t too late already). Enough heartbreak already.

— Troy Amastar
Alexander

Kill that “N-word”

Talk around our table this Thanksgiving revolved around the recent tirade given by Michael Richards towards two African-American hecklers at a comedy concert. We all found it astonishing that in 2006 the discussion is still about the use of the archaic word “nigger.” No one at the table was shocked, hurt or mortified by Richard’s response to his heckling audience members, as this word is used daily. Richards used a word that has been deemed hateful and racist, and yet when used with a different spelling, pronunciation, or in some form of music or lyrical verse, it is viewed as belonging to a new generation — a part of culture. I beg to differ.

Today, as an African American male of 44 years, if called “boy,” I take offense. Why, you might question? I have paid my dues to be addressed by my name, Mr., or Sir. “Boy” is a long time past for me. But when I hear the word nigger, visions of hatred fill my mind. Since maturing, that word is not a part of my “culture” as an adult. Since the terms “boy, girl, Sambo” etc. have made their way into the dusty archives of our vocabulary when it comes to speaking of African-Americans, why can we not put “nigger” on that shelf also? And, I do not just mean by my Caucasian counterparts — I mean by everyone.

Often I challenge those students who use the word with reckless abandon [by asking them] to define the word. Sometimes the definition is confused with the definition meaning miserly — niggard. This misunderstanding comes because the words look similar. But when given the definition of nigger, the word can mean someone from a disadvantaged race to an ignorant race of people. However, in today’s society, the word renders maliciousness when uttered. So I ask students why use a word that has hatred overtones, and I am told it is “just slang” and “our word.”

When I teach students the etymology of the word, eyes start to open. The word gets its origins from alteration of the earlier neger, from Middle French negre, from Spanish or Portuguese negro, from negro black, from Latin niger. But how many people reading this knew where the word comes from?

My question to readers is, why are we allowing this word to continue to be used and then becoming upset when a comedian uses it in public? Why are we not teaching students to get rid of the word, no matter what form it comes in? And until we are ready to scrap the word, do not be shocked when it rears its head.

I am not surprised by Michael Richards’ statements, as it shows he has a problem [for which] he may need to seek professional help. His tirade was childish and insensitive. We now need to help Michael, and anyone else using the word, to understand that as long as we call the rose by any other form of the rose, it still has thorns.

— Cedric Austin Nash
Seventh-grade social studies teacher
Randolph Learning Center
Asheville

The tempest doth blow

I think you’re beating two dead horses:

1) Greenlife — Let’s see. When “Greenlife neighbor” Reid Thompson bought his property, it faced:

a. a babbling brook
b. A mountain meadow
c. A suburban, residential street scene

(Answer to a, b and c: No, I don’t think so.)

In fact, when [Thompson] bought his Maxwell Street property, it faced the back of an old supermarket and, across said supermarket’s parking area, bustling Merrimon Avenue. (By the way, how did supplies arrive at that old supermarket — by silent helicopter in the dead of night, by food fairies or, just maybe, by tractor trailor?). So, just maybe, a good solution would be for Mr. Thompson to sell his property to Greenlife, a store that has been, from its opening day, providing a “community good.”

2) Staples — Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t Professor Owens state, inter alia, that Asheville’s code was a bit “fuzzy”/capable of misinterpretation, and [that] using their interpretation, the city authorities approved Staples’ plans? Why is Staples the “bad guy”? Isn’t Merrimon Avenue the north-of-240 commercial street? If big signs are a bother, the Staples sign is smaller than the Fuddruckers billboard, which is certainly seen by more folks.

How come folks demonstrate about a sign, but not about the conditions responsible for the homeless woman parading along the street with all her belongings heaped in/on a shopping cart? How come you, Mountain X, spend all those column-inches on these two tempests-in-a-teapot and so little on Asheville’s homeless?

— Jerry Friedman
Asheville

All aboard — except Asheville

I recently logged on to the N.C. Department of Transportation’s rail-division Web site (www.bytrain.org) to see how far I would have to travel to catch a train to the Raleigh area. The answer, I found, is a couple of hours’ drive — to Salisbury, Winston-Salem or the Charlotte area. Negotiating the driving, departure times, parking etc., makes for some pretty complicated travel plans. Why is it not possible to ride a passenger train from Asheville, especially in light of the rail-travel history of our city?

NCDOT’s Web site provides information on “future service” with WNC on the line, but the plans have been under fiscal review, it seems, since 2001. All other major cities in North Carolina are connected on the rail line, with great fares ($23 Charlotte to Raleigh), plans for high-speed service, and even bike racks. It is a brilliant solution for commuters, tourists, traffic congestion, parking, pollution … so why is WNC not connected? I encourage all of our elected officials (yes, I voted!) to work with the state DOT and state budget allocation to expedite the process of rail service to Asheville. It is a public good from which we would all benefit.

— Susanne Strull
Asheville

And please don’t slam the door

We’ve finally seen the end of a truly shameful campaign of relentless nonsense from the Charles Taylor [camp] and the national Republican Party. It couldn’t have ended soon enough. I can answer my phone again without bracing myself for another recording telling me that Heath Shuler is really from Tennessee or that he missed paying some taxes.

We in WNC have done our part to finally rid this country of this disastrous 109th Congress, whose only function has seemed to be to aid and abet this failed administration as they do all they can to drive the country off a cliff. I can’t help but note the graceless manner in which Congressman Taylor chose to leave the stage, snidely commenting about Heath Shuler’s prospects (as quoted in the Xpress [“All Shook Up,” Nov. 15]).

Fortunately we won’t have to hear much from Mr. Taylor in the future. He can now spend his time tending to his vast holdings here and in Russia, and let someone more qualified tend to the business of the country.

— Steve Cohen
Asheville

Wildlife advocate remembered

A wildlife supporter and nature-center advocate passed away unexpectedly on Oct. 27. James Hughel (Bo) Moon had just had his 60th birthday on Oct. 1 and was a resident of Huntersville. He was a wonderful person and so loved by family and friends. His loves involved nature, all animals and especially his involvement with the [Carolina] Raptor Center in Charlotte. His love for nature, hiking and canoeing encouraged him to support injured birds of prey.

He [was] a member of the National Audubon Society … [and] his daughter said of him that: “He loved to identify all birds and plant life and rescue bugs and animals from harm.” She said he had created quite a sanctuary in his own yard for all living things.

Bo was a graduate of N.C. State University School of Design. He was employed at Bourgeoisie in Charlotte as the lead designer. His mother, in Iron Station, said recently of him that to release an endangered bird or recovered animal back into nature was his idea of heaven. We need more like him, and he will be missed.

— Dale Drake
Tryon

Correction

Our recent article on Latino Elvis impersonator El Vez (“Impersonation Fun in Acapulco,” Nov. 29) stated that fellow Elvis tribute artist Eddie Miles had undergone plastic surgery. The statement — which was intended as a joke — was unfounded. Miles tells Xpress that he has never had cosmetic surgery. Our sincere apologies to Mr. Miles.

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