Letters to the editor

Lifestyles of the rich …

Cecil Bothwell’s brilliant article, Daddy’s Money [Nov. 24], was a splendid synthesis of the effect of inherited wealth on Asheville. Although it fearlessly featured the bountiful benefactions of both George Vanderbilt and Julian Price, the comparison between the two stops there. Julian lived without servants in a three-bedroom apartment above a store in what was a run-down part of town. He drove a midrange Ford, and his only other personal property was a small condo near the South Carolina beach.

In vast contrast, George V. needed 80 servants to support his lifestyle, ego and 250-room castle. This Biltmore Estate gleamed from 125,000 acres of some of the most beautiful land in the world. He even had his own railroad for transportation, and his own town for a labor source. George epitomized a grossly ridiculous amount of conspicuous consumption. Julian consumed only what he needed to safely and comfortably survive.

Present Biltmore Estate owner Bill Cecil’s life’s mission is to maintain his family estate, according to the Aug. 10, 1992, Raleigh News and Observer. The heirs of William Randolph Hearst had the opposite attitude towards San Simeon — that other “largest American home.” They gave it, for free, to the people of California. If Asheville owned the Biltmore Estate, the net revenue would pay for a substantial part of the city budget and lower city property taxes to a fraction of their current level. As it is, the estate and its attached city, Biltmore Forest, pay no Asheville property taxes, while largely surrounded by Asheville.

The circumstances surrounding the closure of the Asheville Speedway at least gives the appearance that the Cecils had a hand in the behind-the-scenes maneuverings, which destroyed a major recreational outlet for much of blue-collar Asheville. Without those roaring racers, the Cecils could build a quiet, super-luxury hotel and earn a few dollars more.

A major reason no one protests the Cecil family’s influence is because all Bill Cecil need do is permanently padlock his giant house, and a huge portion of Asheville’s tourist dollars would go down the French Broad. The Cecils have also built Biltmore Park, Lake and Farms, and Vanderbilt Park and the Ramble. All are protected or gated communities stuffed with unaffordable housing.

In glorious contrast, Julian Price left much of his money to the Public Interest Projects, which continues to create affordable housing and locally-owned businesses, as well as to restore downtown buildings and help the poor.

— Bill Branyon

The Peel will miss its soulmate

A friend of mine called me a few weeks ago to tell me that there was a rumor that Vincent’s Ear was closing for good. Frankly, I didn’t believe this. The next day, I saw Fisher Mehan (of Drug Money) walking past Beanstreets and asked him about the rumor. The rest is history, or soon will be.

When Jack and I came to Asheville almost four years ago to check out the prospect of opening a club here, one of the first places we visited, chaperoned by Sue Millon and Lance Wille, was Vincent’s Ear. It was refreshing to see such a colorful and cutting-edge club here, clearly anchoring [the] thriving cultural scene of Lexington Avenue. “This,” we said to each other, “is just the kind of place we want to be.” The existence of Vincent’s Ear was one of several factors that prompted us to move here. Knowing that there was a starting point for rock and indie bands in this community, knowing that there was some diversity downtown, knowing that small businesses were not only welcomed here, but embraced and encouraged, was a sign to us.

We’ve heard through friends and read in the papers that the owners of Vincent’s have been supportive of what we do here at The Peel, and the feelings have always been mutual. I think there will be a void in our city with this closing. It feels like we are losing a piece of our soul.

P.S. I would have written sooner, but I was out of town — in a city that once boasted the coolest corner in the nation (which is now the site of a Gap and a Ben & Jerry’s).

— Lesley Groetsch
The Orange Peel

[Editor’s note: At press time, Vincent’s Ear had just won a reprieve. Business owner Joan Morris and building representative Renee Lantzius were entering mediated negotiations to discuss the future of the North Lexington hallmark, and the closing date was postponed for an indeterminate amount of time.]

Speculation trumps community

Downtown Asheville is almost complete. We are on the brink of total, bland homogeneity with the impending closure of Vincent’s Ear. This is a truly sad reality for those of us who actually live here and frequent downtown and partake in the thriving original culture that we helped create.

Many people are grateful for the integrity and originality that Vincent’s Ear has maintained over the years. I personally owe them an immeasurable debt of gratitude for allowing me to use their stage to explore my creativity with other musicans. Thanks to their support, Ahleuchatistas (the band I play in) has met musicians from all over the world and built a network by which we now tour internationally. It all started because Vincent’s was open to difference and experimentation. It is truly unique as a venue in this regard. Many cutting-edge artists have been born from this very fertile, creative ground over the years, and we, as listeners, are very privileged to have been able to witness the many eclectic performances that Vincent’s hosts.

We do not need another boutique. We do not need another schmaltzy restaurant. There is an utter contempt for humanity on display here, as shortsighted speculation trumps community, and the gentrification steamroller indiscriminately plows through our city. It is shameful.

— Shane Perlowin

Asheville’s light dims

Vincent’s Ear is closing. It will not open again. It’s over. The “arts,” as I see them in this city, derive from the independence of many different [small] businesses in the area. Up and down Lexington Avenue, people actually believe in themselves and their community. I believe that Vincent’s is the heart of all this.

Without Vincent’s, so much will be missed. It’s really a quiet place during the day. You make friends [quickly]. People who go there have a deep interest in music, art and the downtown Asheville community. And it shows.

Vincent’s has been there over 11 years, and in that time, has had … no violations for drug-related activities, no alcohol violations. It’s all in the public records … . So there is no real reason … to not renew the lease.

It’s really about the art. The music. The poetry. The paintings. The bands that come to play Vincent’s ’cause they know there will be a crowd that’s interested. All types of [musicians] come to play. Jazz, rock, punk, hip hop, etc. [Vincent’s owners] feature local art hanging on the walls, and keep it fresh, changing it up. I hope in my heart that this isn’t happening, but it is. The city of Asheville, and its arts, will be a dimming light.

Thanks to Rick and Joanie for keeping Vincent’s open as long as they have. For supporting the real artists of Asheville. Vincent’s will be missed.

— Tony Plichta

Take heart, WNC bands

In the Dec. 1 Mountain Xpress, there was a letter to the editor titled “Picking the Bele Chere Blues.”

The radius clause and blackout dates that exist for entertainers do not apply to Western N.C. bands.

— Casey Richardson
Event Specialist, Cultural Arts Division

[Editor’s note: Before we published the Dec. 1 letter, Xpress called the Bele Chere office to confirm the blackout information contained in the musician’s application — which we were told requires bands selected for Bele Chere to not play at other venues within a 120-mile radius of Asheville during the period 30 days before and after the event. Unfortunately, we were not informed at that time that local bands are exempted from this restriction. We apologize for the confusion caused.]

Legalize, regulate and tax

Letter writer Michael J. Harney Jr. [“Give N.C. Something to Crow About,” Dec. 9] is one more voice in a multitude nationwide calling for sensible drug-law policy reform. If our elected officials won’t listen, a free and independent people have no choice but to take it to the electorate at large through ballot initiatives. I hope Mr. Harney follows through.

No credible drug-law-reform activist claims that using cannabis, more commonly called marijuana, is totally without risk. But for the vast majority that do so responsibly, the risks of actual use pale in comparison to being dragged through the criminal justice system and locked in a metal cage. At substantial cost to the taxpayer, I might add.

Treating cannabis like tobacco and alcohol just plain makes good sense. Those substances are regulated, sold by licensed vendors who check ID, and they are taxed. What is now a drain on public resources could generate revenue. And since only a small percentage of adults regularly use cannabis, I would think the majority of citizens would be in favor of a tax they would never pay.

Legalize, regulate and tax. There is a better way.

— Greg Francisco
Paw Paw, Mich.

Rigged election? Let’s follow Ukraine’s example

Isn’t it ironic? The U.S. Department of State is chiding Ukraine for having a rigged election. Indeed, hundreds of thousands [have been] out in the streets there.

But what about our recent election? According to MSNBC, 90,000 more votes were tallied than there were registered voters just in one county in Ohio! Not to mention [reports] that in many areas where 70 percent of the voters were registered as Democrats, the election results were showing a 70 percent win for Bush.

It is too easy to tamper with the Diebold machines, whose maker actually promised to deliver Republican votes. Why aren’t the American people out in the streets, like the folks in Kiev?

We need a recount! Where were the international observers during our dirty election?

— Cathy Holt

Elders should listen to the young

Neo-conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg [in the National Review] … complains that he’s against any movement to urge young people to vote because the youth vote is aimed at citizens least likely to have a worthwhile opinion about government. He says this because they have less education, less experience, less money, less property and fewer responsibilities than older people. But this is precisely why I say … they are better qualified to cast their ballots than an old geezer like me. …

We old-timers are over the hill, and so we don’t have to worry about a downturn in jobs. We also don’t have to worry about crime, because we live in a nice part of town. Since we also received a good education, we don’t have to worry about that, either. Young people have to worry about all these things. They also worry that we older voters don’t really care about preserving our environment, or about global warming, because we’ll be dead long before we experience its bad effects. Did I mention that we’re collecting Social Security and Medicare benefits, and they’re not? …

Mr. Goldberg also complains that youth issues are nothing but “left-wing sentiment.” Well, I suppose that all of us old coots with hefty portfolios should be concerned about that. What these youngsters want is a piece of the pie that we’ve been eating all along. … They’re also smart enough to know that we old fogies recently got a big tax cut, whereas their tax savings have been miniscule. Maybe this is why more young people than ever before voted in the recent presidential election.

Goldberg’s third quarrel … is that [the youth vote] is an expression of all that’s wrong with contemporary liberalism — getting young people to feel imbued with an authority they haven’t earned. Well, maybe it’s about time they got that authority. Look at what a bunch of principled old guys and gals did in snookering us into believing that we had to invade Iraq. Consider Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice … and many other so-called “neocons” in the Bush administration — certainly brilliant men and women … who truly deserve to cast their ballots. What did they do? They pushed the inexperienced and uninformed President Bush into a war that has already killed more than 1,200 men and women of our coalition forces and perhaps as many as 100,000 Iraqis, all because they had an untested, ivory-tower idea that sheer military force was going to bring Western-style democracy to Iraq. … Maybe Mr. Goldberg thinks that this is really being responsible — but then, he’s only a 30-something. As for me, I’ll take the decisions of the kids over those of the graybeards any day in the week.

— Leonard S. Carrier

I’d rather lose guns than friends

The only thing Bush had against Kerry was [that] the only consistent thing Kerry was doing was being inconsistent. I believe that since Bush won the spot in government, we will lose more and more jobs and more and more lives. This war in Iraq was something his dad started, and they both said (both times) that it would not happen. Now look at us — we are in a war.

What is the world coming to? I would rather see our guns taken rather than my best friend or someone I love taken out by a gun in war. Plus, the deal about the gays — Bush needs to find something to cry about. If a man is gay, he should be able to be gay. That is his body. God put him down here to live his life. The same with a lady; if she wants to be gay, let her. God did not put Bush down here to tell us what to do. Neither did he put Kerry to, either, but at least Kerry was going to let people have their rights.

Now Bush says women should not be able to use birth control unless they are married. I believe that is BS. [A] woman should be able to take birth control whether [she is] married or not. If she is not ready to have a baby, I believe that she should be able to have the right to postpone its arrival.

Now do you see? The only consistent thing Bush is doing is being inconsistent. He is trying to run our happy lives right into the ground, just like he has done our soldiers. So take a stand and veto Bush.

America will thank you.

— Justin Guffey

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