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The Daily Planet’s Opinion: November 2014
Friday, 07 November 2014 22:06

Downtown Asheville is widely credited with having a top-notch architectural heritage compared to other similar-sized cities — and it now appears to be at a crossroads in preserving its unique character.

A looming explosion of building activity is on the horizon that, if it follows recent trends, will bring more bland or incongruent structures — as seen with Hotel Indigo and Aloft Hotel — to this mecca of Art Deco design.

Projects include many new hotels, likely development of some major commercial structure on city-owned land across for the U.S. Cellular Center and the Basilica of St. Lawrence and the recently announced redo of the BB&T tower.

Asheville’s much-heralded Art Deco buildings are largely the result of the handiwork of some of the world’s greatest architects, who were initially brought to the city by George Vanderbilt to design his Biltmore Estate.

We agree largely with the sentiments of Asheville-based urban planners David Johnson and Tom Gallaher, who recently wrote that the city is at “a turning point” with so much future construction pending — and that it needs to preserve and enhance its architectural heritage.

While there already is a design review board with architectural review processes in place, the board’s decisions constitute mere recommendations, with City Council making the final decisions.

Presubmission guidelines could be useful in providing examples of what designs are encouraged.

Also, it’s critically important to have highly qualified people on the board to approve the designs — and a council that respects and supports Asheville’s treasured good looks.

Cecil Bothwell: On the left — Any way you look at it, you lose
Friday, 07 November 2014 22:03


The media and pollsters and politicians like to sort us out into neat piles.

There are liberals and conservatives, and people in the middle. 

There are progressives and tea partiers and boomers and millennials and GenXers and whatever the next crop will be labeled when they are old enough to be a consumer force.

What we don’t hear much about is a sorting into classes. We’re generally expected to think of ourselves as “middle” or “lower middle” or “upper middle.” Surely we’re all clustered somewhere near the middle of the curve, right?

Actually, no. If we created a line graph that accurately portrayed the wealth of U.S. Citizens pretty much everyone you’ve ever met would be below average, and mostly way below average. The Occupy movement made some progress on raising public awareness of the incredible wealth and power of the One Percent, but average folks still don’t really have a glimmer of what that vast wealth gap actually means.

Democrats and liberal politicians seem to be afraid of the idea of class war, perhaps because at least a handful of donors to liberal causes are part of that one percent. But there is a class war going on, it has been waged since Ronald Reagan took office, and the upper class is winning.

As Sen. Elizabeth Warren has told audiences across the country, “the game is rigged.” Furthermore, Republican politicians have lied, and continue to lie, about their motives for economic “reforms,” and most Democrats have failed to mount any sort of meaningful challenge to that legislation. 

Here in North Carolina, the GOP-dominated General Assembly passed their version of tax reform, and claimed that they were saving North Carolina taxpayers money. But that’s pure bunkum. When they cut the state’s income tax on the rich they also increased sales taxes on everyone. Since lower income people (that is, pretty much everyone you know personally) spend a higher percentage of their income on necessaries like food and clothing, they necessarily spend a higher percentage of their income on sales tax. 

When the same General Assembly cut per-capita funding for public schools, they again did damage to the great majority who send their children to public schools. Given that we all depend on the public benefit of having an educated citizenry, their policies will damage us far into the future unless we rise up and demand change. (Class war, anyone?) The really rich never send their kids to public schools, of course. And in their gated communities and offshore villas they don’t seem to very much care about education of the general populace, whereas you and I have a major stake in living with reasonably well-educated people.

It’s interesting to note some studies about awareness of the real and growing class divide in our country. Most people polled have no meaningful clue about how vast the wealth gap has become. The very wealthy are not only much wealthier than we imagine, they are apparently much wealthier than we are able to imagine.

Meanwhile, the theoretical political center has moved far to the right, at least as portrayed in the daily news. President Obama is successfully painted as socialist by right-wing pundits when he is clearly to the right of Richard Nixon on some policy matters. Conservative talk-show hosts and columnists have so vilified the word “liberal” that the number of people who call themselves that in public opinion polling is barely into the double digits, and about 15 percent lower than self-classified conservatives.

However, when asked another way, the actual stance of our populace is quite a bit different. In a recently released Pew poll, the numbers came up 34 percent liberal and 27 percent conservative.

Why the difference? Pew asked ten questions such as whether respondents thought war or diplomacy was more likely to achieve peace, and whether government on the whole was inefficient and wasteful or generally worked better than most people gave it credit for. It seems many people think of themselves as conservative but are actually, practically speaking, liberal. 

Like the famous Tea Party protest sign said, “Keep the Government out of my Medicare!” 

Cecil Bothwell, author of nine books, including “She Walks On Water: A novel” (Brave Ulysses Books, 2013), is a member of Asheville City Council.



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