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Issues Facing Buncombe County


We can consider all the good people of the world who make homes and clothing to keep us warm and dry, grow our food, work in various industries to provide the fuel and electricity that keep technology running, the guys constantly miniaturizing technology, and those making apps for work and for pleasure.

Then there are those who bide their time on the planet. We eat, drink, and be merry. Some are born too poor to hope for laboratories or software or large R&D budgets. Some of us may be too timid. Others may just be really bad at pitching good ideas.

In politics, producers tend to be underrepresented. They go out and vote, but they’re usually working overtime in the office or volunteering in their evenings. They don’t have time to attend civic meetings or write newspaper columns. Besides, they can usually find out how to get what they want as long as they keep their wants within reason. Maybe that’s why political leaders tend so badly to treat their constituents as consumers instead of producers.

Now, consumption is essential to survival, but one camp views it only as a means to an end. One must eat and stay healthy, or one will be unable to create. The other camp views consumption as the end of creation, and that brings us back to government.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Buncombe County Commissioners eight people implored government leaders to legalize medical cannabis at the local level. Again, the list of maladies it was curing was staggering, but nobody was present to challenge claims that there were no side effects or to bear testimony that it didn’t work sometimes. Remember, the doctors, nurses, and psychologists were likely working second shift or at home completing paperwork. It was public comment, and all are invited to say what they want.

Later on, the commissioners reviewed a second swipe at a countywide opioid strategy, the first one having been remanded for being too impulsive. The adopted county strategies now involve, as we should hope, treatment and recovery; but also listening sessions, education and training, and summits. The faith-based summit begs the question: Is government now God, or is it just superseding His Word in telling pastors what their flocks need?

In the old days, we’d say the flock needs to find Jesus, accept his love and share it by doing something for somebody else. That usually cures the big empty inside. The old adage teaches one cannot get enough of what one doesn’t need; what one doesn’t need can’t satisfy. Today, we hire navigators to help enroll consumers in services.

The plan proposes educating consumers to fight the opioid crisis much like a terrorist. “Secure your pills,” read one bullet point. The gist of the conversation was that it was the evil medical profession that was overprescribing, and it was the duty of all citizens to push back. It’s not like somebody who earned a Ph.D. can actually learn how not to prescribe something. Doctors tend to be dismissive of non-doctoral patients – er, consumers – anyway. Hospitals aren’t in the business of healing so much as they’re in the business of not getting sued.

The next topic on the agenda was an update on what the county is doing to combat infant mortality. The commissioners were informed, “The two main focus areas … are safe sleep for infants and the impact of opioid replacement therapy on mothers and newborns.”

Elsewhere on the agenda, the commissioners approved a program agreement for treating juvenile sex offenders, whose treatment was deemed a priority for the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. While there are no best practices for treatment, the agreement went on to describe capital outlay, staffing, and conflict-of-interest details for the program.

In addition, the report shared, “Substance abuse is prevalent in 40% of juveniles in the Buncombe Juvenile Court System. Youth are assessed for substance use and/or abuse in the comprehensive evaluation, particularly because it presents as an elevated risk for problematic behavior.”

So, after all that concern about the harms addictive substances were posing on the community, the commissioners were given the opportunity, pursuant to the legislature’s adoption of NCGS §153A-145.7, to pass a local ordinance allowing the consumption of alcoholic beverages as early as 10:00 a.m. on Sundays.

Sunday restrictions on the sale of alcohol hark back to an era when people worshipped something bigger than self. There were mysteries, like life itself. It was so irreplaceable, it was held sacred before we all learned in school that we evolved randomly from pond scum. So, Sundays were a valuable time to contemplate how awesome the universe is, how fragile life is, and learn from the Good Book “how to be part of the solution rather than the problem.” As an aside, the whole Book of Proverbs goes about defining as fools those who serve their bellies.

Secondly, people used to see others drink alcohol and fly into drunken rages and do things they would not do when sober, like beat their wives. Primitively, it was assumed the alcohol had something to do with it; but now we understand the crime is drinking and driving. One should get a designated driver so one can safely arrive home to beat the wife.

The third and most important element of our enlightenment and our willingness to make beer our god to the point of skipping church to taste local craft brews – is that beer is a revenue generator.

The logic goes like this: Demigods run government, and everybody else is a consumer. Fortunately, we have evolved beyond the Nazi assessment of the masses as Unnütze Esser, or useless eaters living “life unworthy of life.” Now, the masses are viewed as useful revenue generators for government.

The masses love pot, beer, opioids, or whatever it takes to get high without doing any work. Flashing back to the old days, again; one would get a thrill in school solving a difficult problem, one would feel joy for rushing to help somebody who was struggling. The natural high positively reinforced more good deeds, because love is a beautiful feeling. But why search, think, and work when pot, beer, and opioids can give you the same buzz with one bend of the elbow? Since Roman times, the politics and economics of “bread and circuses” was understood.

The staff report itself states, “Sunday morning alcohol service will allow the hospitality community and retail merchants in our county to meet the needs of their customers, benefitting the county’s small business community, bringing people into business districts earlier in the day, and generating increased tax revenues.”

The current county budget, remembering there’s a lot of reaching out for cost-sharing partners in the community, set aside $100,726,056 for human services, which encompass “public health, social services, youth services, aging services, mental health, child care,” and more. Even so, the budget hearings indicated a lot of people felt government was not giving them enough.

At a recent commissioner worksession, the latest community profile statistics were shared. For just Asheville, 50.3 percent of kids in public schools were receiving “free or reduced” lunches. 17,759 Asheville residents were on food stamps, and 22,852 received Medicaid benefits. Somewhere around 20 percent of people in the county were living below the poverty level, and of course the new unemployment formulae make joblessness look like a thing of the past.

During public comment on early Sunday alcohol sales, speakers only redeveloped the theme. Beverly Gottfried spoke of the importance of serving alcohol at Sunday brunch for destination weddings and how everybody down to the cakebaker was missing out on potential income. Don Yelton told the commissioners they should legalize every vice, park a sheriff car at the door of all the joints, fine any pursuant criminal behavior, and balance the county budget. Jerry Rice said people were being greedy, putting money ahead of social costs.

The commissioners spoke as if walking on eggshells. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara said beer was a driver in our economy, but if the commissioners were going to increase access to alcohol, they needed to increase access to services. Joe Belcher and Bob Pressley opposed the measure as compromising family values. Then, Al Whitesides persuaded Mike Fryar to go with the crowd because commissioners were not moral police. After all, St. John taught the importance of worshipping “in spirit and in truth,” and not because government won’t let you buy beer somewhere else.

Since the measure didn’t get the unanimous vote needed to adopt new ordinances, it will be subject to a second reading.

In summary, Modern Marxists ignore the first part of Karl’s slogan, “From each according to his ability.” Again, back in the day, when people yearned to contribute and stay in the game of advancing the human condition, we helped each other find special talents. For example, it was noted that while Down syndrome kids might not be able to type 100 wpm, most of them had an uncanny knack for compassion and the sweetest smiles.

How would society be different if government went back to viewing its citizens, and citizens viewed themselves, as creative producers with a divine calling; instead of consumers? What if schools taught that to be human was to love, to live as art, to discover, to create; and government stopped acting like humans only provided the heartbeat for masses of protoplasm government needed to sustain with services?

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