Comprehensive approach to firefighting needed in Jackson County


To the Editor:

The proposal Cullowhee Fire Chief Tim Green brought before the County Commission for a Cullowhee fire tax district was reasonable. The requested amounts were large but they reflected the problems created by growth and the fact that major entities like Western Carolina University do not contribute to property taxes. Knowing Chief Green, I am sure that he labored mightily over a difficult problem that appears to have no easy or practical answer.

North Carolina’s rules regarding the provision of volunteer fire services in rural areas are arcane and out of date. They do not reflect the growth patterns or type of growth that have significantly changed the character of rural areas like Cullowhee and much of Jackson County. Given the specific circumstances in Cullowhee and throughout the county, fire tax districts will end up resulting in untenable tax rates to support the level of fire department services needed to maintain public safety.

Our local volunteer fire departments reflect the character of each of the communities they serve. That’s a good thing but the fact is that all of the local VFDs are intertwined and rely on each other for assistance and backup. The county needs a comprehensive approach to fire protection that reasonably shares the burdens across the county and allows for capital and equipment acquisitions that are coordinated and well planned. However, this needs to be done in a way that maintains the integrity and community character of the various VFDs.

One solution may be to create a single countywide fire service district funded by a countywide fire tax that shares the burdens created by growth and the presence of public entities not subject to property taxes. Rather than have several small local fire boards, more accountability would exist in a single board manned by local chiefs as well as other representatives of the communities. A single entity would allow for coordinated planning and might be able to benefit by creating unified capital and equipment acquisition budgets.

A single entity might also better be able to explore the problems created by growth and find ways to hold public entities accountable for the costs they impose on our local communities. Some of those entities, for example WCU, will argue that they bring many benefits to the community. This is undoubtedly true, but they also impose costs. Often the benefits accrue to the county generally but the costs get localized in a single community. A single district could equalize that. A single district may also more fairly apportion costs among county residents and those in incorporated towns who pay both county and city tax and in some cases doubly support public service entities.

There would of course be hurdles to a single countywide district. Parochialism exists, no one wants to give up their local prerogatives. That’s understandable and efforts must be made to focus on maintaining local community identity in a single district. However the simple fact is that we are stronger together as a county than as separate districts.

Mark Jamison,



Where’s outrage over violence on the left?


To the Editor:

I expect a group of Democratic leaders will be writing an opinion letter to The Sylva Herald condemning Antifa actions.

On March 11 Antifa rioters in Portland, Oregon attacked the Federal Courthouse, a U.S. public building, with people in it. They smashed, burned and destroyed parts of the building while chanting “expletive the U.S.”

This kind of rioting and destruction is nothing new for them. Antifa, other groups on the far left and anarchists brought this same violent behavior to cities all over the United States in the summer of 2020. Now sections of Seattle, Portland, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York and Los Angeles are boarded up, businesses closed or destroyed, automobiles smashed and some residents or business owners beaten or killed.

In The Sylva Herald on Jan. 21, a group of Democratic leaders wrote an opinion piece condemning the U.S. Capitol breachers. They called the Capitol building sacred and the men and women who entered frenzied. If the Capitol is “sacred,” then those holding offices there must be gods to these Democrats. The Capitol breachers did not burn or destroy the building.

The opinion piece went on to accuse a flawed man, former President Donald Trump, of all kinds of verbal language that in their opinion caused the breach of the capitol. Since Jan. 6 we have learned the facts that the letter writers ask for. Those who stormed the Capitol had planned this long before Trump’s rally on Jan. 6. There was no urging by Trump or any others like Representative Madison Cawthorn to cause this action. Use of the word “fight” was chosen by the letter writers as a call to action and so was the plan to march down Pennsylvania Avenue. In fact the word fight used by Cawthorn is not a call to physical fighting but refers to a state of mind to push for what one believes.

Marching down Pennsylvania Avenue is typical after Washington, D.C., rallies. I have been there and done that.

Many, maybe all, of the Capitol breachers are in prison while being investigated probably from birth. We really don’t know how many of the Antifa lawbreakers are in prison but we do know that some were bailed out with funds donated at the urging of our now Vice President Kamala Harris.

Since the Democratic opinion letter states “we worry that our nation now so abounds with social media trolls and armed paramilitary organizations.” Perhaps they will inform us about the Antifa destroyers since they are not social media trolls or a paramilitary groups. Those terms are reserved for organizations that are conservative or right wing. In describing Antifa I think we can start with “criminal.”

Shirley Slaughter,



What freedoms are being lost?


To the Editor:

I read, with more than a little confusion, the letter from the March 25 edition of The Sylva Herald, titled “Are we losing freedom of speech?”

Writing a letter to the editor is a perfect, longstanding example that this freedom still exists. How ironic to voice that opinion in this format.

While I agree with the writer that this is something we need to protect, it is important to remember that this does not mean freedom from consequences, and it also carries a responsibility to do no harm. The age old rule to not yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater being a primary example.

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but everyone is not entitled to their own “facts,” especially if those “facts” are harmful.

A perfect example is the attack on our Capitol on Jan. 6, which was brought on by a “fact” that was not a fact at all. Just because “many Americans believe there was election fraud” as stated by the writer does not make it so. This is the 21st century, and facts and truth are not that difficult to come by with a little effort and an open mind. Tremendous harm was done in the defense of a belief/opinion that is simply not true. Reputable media reporting and 50-plus court cases have verified that.

In addition, no political group caused the retraction of some Dr. Suess books from the market (pesky fact), and boycotting a product, such as Goya Foods is in itself a freedom of speech or expression which is still alive and well in America. Again, how ironic.

Lastly, the media has a responsibility to report the truth, and we have the responsibility to hold them accountable for that truth. In this 21st century, it’s not that hard if we try, and a lot of anger could be eliminated.

Mark Ballinger,



The people your God created?


To the Editor:

Calling Ken Burns! Calling Ken Burns! We need you to get busy on a new documentary. It should cover two current movements in America.

One: What is the prevalence of interracial families in America today? We dwell on events as though they are clearly black or white. But,the faces and skin we see on TV are seldom predominantly black. Most are light brown, tan or almost white. Show us what happens inside the families where one parent is black and one is white, or other mixes. What do relatives feel? What do they say? Is there some chance that racial tolerance is progressing in spite of daily stories of prejudice and hatred? What effect are contemporary interracial commercials having on people’s attitudes toward race?

Two: What is happening to wealth in America as a function of interracial children? Please show us that love trumps racial prejudice when people die and leave money to their mixed-race descendants!

Your documentary, Ken, will help people see that America is rapidly becoming a country unlike any other in history.

Most Americans will understand. Most will embrace our new destiny.

In John Steinbeck’s 1952 classic novel “East of Eden,” we are reminded of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. As told, Cain may have felt rejected by God and, in anger, killed his brother Abel. In the novel, Adam Trask’s Cantonese servant Lee said this to him: “The greatest terror a child can have is that he is not loved, and rejection is the hell he fears.”

Is Lee’s statement not just as true for those who are born in America and yet must bear the weight of knowing that some people believe they are superior to them simply because they have a different set of genes (over which they had no control)? Is prejudice not actually a form of rejection like that which Cain felt?

For those who profess to be Christians are you sure you want to take part in the rejection of some of the people your God created? Get on it, Ken!

Dave Waldrop,