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The Daily Planet’s Opinion: April 2019
Tuesday, 02 April 2019 22:41

Move soccer complex out of floodplain to avoid $1M bills

So it is good and bad news that East Asheville’s popular-but flood-prone John B. Lewis Soccer Complex, which has been closed since major flooding last May, is set to get a $1.1 million cleanup soon, as was reported widely on March 8.

The good news, of course, is that about 7,500 local children and adult players, along with thousands of out-of-town soccer enthusiasts who come to JBL — one of the region’s most popular sports facilities — for tournaments, will be able to resume use of the facility. Well, that is, if there is no more major flooding in the meantime.

As WLOS New 13 reported, “the city and the Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association have a contract with an astro-turf company” costing more than $1 million. (About $1.1 million is the repair price, to be more precise, as reported by the Citizen Times, which also noted that the repair company actually IS AstroTurf.

The city taxpayers will cover $875,000 of that, with the remaining $200,000 coming from the nonprofit Asheville Buncombe Youth Soccer Association, which also runs the adult leagues.

Sandra Travis, Asheville parks and recreation operations manager, saud (as reported by WLOS, “What will happen in the cleanup is that they will remove all the silt and sand and the debris that is currently on the turf. And once they get down to the turf, they’ll be able to have a better idea as far as any damage that might be lurking underneath. And then we’ll go from there.”

That may be all well and good to the extent that it provides a temporary solution to a problem, but the bad news is that the city made a horrendous decision originally to locate the soccer fields in a floodplain, and then facing bills to repair the damage to the Astro-Turf costing around $1 million. With major flooding from the adjoining Swannanoa River happening ever more frequently, there seems to be no end to a treadmill of floods followed by humongous cleanup and repair bills.

If the current Plan A (to keep repairing the complex, which strikes us as a sure-fire disaster) is deemed no longer feasible, what is Plan B, we wonder?

From what we can gather, and as WLOS reported, it’s merely this: “City officials are also working with the youth soccer association on a long-term agreement that would set aside money to pay for maintenance and repairs at the complex.”

And as the Citizen Times stated, “The complex was built to withstand flooding from the nearby Swannanoa River... But a May 30 inundation brought a record 10 feet of water, depositing a thick layer of silt on the East Asheville facility. City officials said cleanup was delayed by three smaller floods, a contractor shortage and missteps in a federal aid application. That kept JBL shuttered for nine months and sent soccer leagues scrambling for other places to play.”

The contract gives AstroTurf 10 days to get on site, then 80 days to do the job, Travis told reporters. “If it exceeds 80 days, there’s a $500 penalty per calendar day. The 80 days can be extended due to weather issues if mutually agreed upon,” she said.

The Plan B to transfer more of the responsibility for cleanup costs to the youth soccer association is a step in the right direction.

But we think an even wiser step would be for the city to cut its losses and find a new location for the soccer complex that is not in a floodplain and make some other use of the property — or, perhaps better yet, sell it.


Looking for a restoration specialist
Tuesday, 02 April 2019 22:39


Special to the Daily Planet


Years ago, when I was young and working, I was approached by a company needing help with their name.

The company’s business was house fires. They did everything necessary to return the house to its original condition, from demolition to final touches. The name of the company was Restoration Specialists.

Now as we approach fateful 2020, that’s exactly what I’m looking for in a Democratic candidate for president. I want a restoration specialist.

Our Founding Architects designed a stout form of government that withstood stormy feuds, floods of immigrants, a fiery Civil War. It stood strong because successive presidents, congresses and courts wanted it to survive and prosper.

The Founders were hugely optimistic on the future of the nation they established.  John Adams predicted it would be celebrated “from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.” But James Madison foresaw a time when their creation could fall into irresponsible hands: “The hope is that [those elected] will be…patriotic and just, chosen due to their virtues. …But, on the other hand, the reverse could happen. People of sinister designs might wangle their way into office.”  

Well, it took 230 years to come true, but now the Wangler is in the White House.  Every day there’s some new outrage – making foreign policy with Russia and Saudi Arabia for their m-o-n-e-y, ignoring the Constitution’s separation of executive and legislative branches, attacking our free press, threatening critics. He sees himself as head of a mom-and-pop country where he gets no guff. 

The great puzzle of our time is that almost 90 percent of Republicans agree with him. They seem to want Trump as an authoritarian president with press and Congress muzzled on a leash. I know many Trump supporters. They’re sensible people.  I understand that a lot about American isn’t working and nothing gets done in Washington. It’s tempting to wonder if Enlightenment ideas of government by the people aren’t out-of-date.

Tempting, yes – if that president were patriotic, smart, honest, truthful and informed on issues. Talk to me about an American dictator when we have a president with the character traits that Trump is famous for not having. Until then, I’m stickin’ to the Founding Fathers.

The election of 2020 will decide our direction. If American voters re-elect Donald Trump, they strengthen the strongman. If they defeat him, they welcome back our democracy.

Right now, Trump’s opposition looks like fans before the big game – candidates rushing about, most of them unknown until they declare for president. They’re polishing life stories and concocting charisma. They’re teeming fish in a pond. How do we pick one?

Smart and tough, that’s my combo. I picture them sitting across from Mitch McConnell and squashing the worm into his chair.  It’s part physical presence, part strength of character, part open-armed warmth. 

That person can restore our democracy – helping along a functioning Congress, voting rights laws, somehow controlling money in elections. This new tough-and-smart Democratic president can take us back to a time when reasonable people practiced the art of governing, not political warfare – before Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh.   

He or she can free senators and congressmen to walk the halls of government like giants once more, adopting an old-time work ethic, even staying in Washington most weekends. And best of all, old-fashioned values will be back, like truth, honesty and, yes, honor and patriotism.

For my grandchildren, I want to see the old house restored to the glory envisioned by the Founding Fathers.

I hear some Democratic candidates planning a new house next door. I’m sorry, but it’s not a house. It’s a Walt Disney castle. The Green New Deal takes me back to my childhood, when Mother’s lust for stuff would crash against Daddy’s income.  

I’m solid behind universal healthcare, for example, but tough-minded budgeting and fair taxation must come first.

But if one of the new-House Democrats wins the nomination, I’ll back them enthusiastically. Trump must be defeated. Our democracy must be saved.

Lee Ballard , who lives in Mars Hill, has a website at



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