The Opinion Shop

Letters to the Editor: Drugs, Gov. Pat McCrory, ACA, Michael Vick, Steve Beam, Tom O’Brien, Russell Wilson, Jordan Lake, student-athletes, President Obama, Outer Banks, DHHS, Aldona Wos

These letters were not published in the print edition but deserve a look.


Kudos to Eugene Robinson for his eloquent explanation in a Feb. 4 column for how the “war on drugs” leads to so many deaths, including acting legend Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Having visited Colombia myself, I have witnessed the devastation of misguided U.S. policies that dump poison on small farmers, laying waste to entire ecosystems and displacing millions of families. Yet illicit exports from South America have not diminished in the least.

Here in North Carolina, we lose over 1,000 people a year to drug overdose from opiates such as heroin or, more commonly, prescription painkillers. I’d have little reason to hope were it not for the efforts of a few brave North Carolinians who last year pushed for new laws to prevent these deaths. One of the laws protects people who call 911 to report an overdose from being arrested and also makes the opiate reversal drug, naloxone, available to the public. Naloxone can be obtained from the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition without a prescription or from any pharmacy with a prescription.

Hoffman’s death cast a shadow over our country. But in North Carolina, we can be thankful that some people are making efforts to prevent tragedy.

Tessie Castillo



Reading the Jan. 28 news article “No more comp time for Beam,” it sickened me to see that the Raleigh Housing Authority has approved a new contract for agency director Steve Beam (aka: The Magician).

As reported, Beam took up to 11 weeks off per year to pursue his side business as a card-trick magician. Beam, who was hired in 1997, earns a base salary of $240,000 and has an annual total compensation of up to $280,000. Not bad for someone “working” 40 weeks a year!

Not only should Beam be fired but also board chairman Kyle Dilday, who allowed this abuse to go on for so long.

This is just another example of a government official abusing the system and feeling entitled. I commend The News & Observer for uncovering this abuse. It is just a shame that Beam is able to retain his job.

Thomas F. Crudele



It’s not often that I read your business section because I am an ordinary North Carolinian with an income that places me pretty much in line with the majority , but I couldn’t keep myself from reading “McCrory praises state’s economy” about Gov. Pat McCrory’s keynote address to the Annual Economic Forecast Forum.

McCrory held forth on how his administration’s policies are already having a positive effect on the state’s economy. He first noted to this “friendly crowd” of bankers and corporate CEOs that, as a result of his policies, their corporate and personal income taxes will be lower and that his administration “thinks” this will lead to more business activity and growth in the state.

As your article noted, however, he conveniently left out that there will be an overall tax increase on the vast majority of North Carolina residents due to these same policies. In essence he is saying to this “friendly” crowd of bankers and CEO s, “OK, here’s a bunch of money taken from the pockets of the average resident – now go forth and do good.”

Would anyone care to hold their breath with me? Does trickle-down, supply-side (voodoo) economics ring a bell?

Tim Epperson



I was glad to see Barry Saunders take on the recent shooting in a Florida movie theater in his Jan. 16 column “Villain goes off script.” That the shooter let his annoyance with texting escalate to a point that he drew a weapon and killed the perpetrator is distressing.

Every day I am faced with behavior that annoys me, but I ignore it, move away or withstand it until I can escape. Loud and distasteful music, low-riding pants with underwear showing and loud talking and texting on cell phones are displays that are commonplace if we venture out in public. Standards of behavior are fluid and likely depend on our immediate environment. As in this case, standards of behavior and expectations don’t always align.

For sure, there will be no cooling off period with all of the heat being packed by people standing their ground who fear for their lives when faced with an adversary armed with a bag of popcorn.

Philip N. Henry



Recently, Facebook led me to an ad denouncing Kay Hagan for “not getting” that Obamacare was costing a lady more. I think the “get” should be that for most of us Obamacare is working out well.

My daughter was able to stay on my insurance for several years after college. My mother-in-law moved to the U.S. at a late age and hence did not contribute to Medicare. Before Obamacare, she could have bought in to Medicare at age 80 for about $800-plus per month. Through Obamacare, she gets a “platinum” plan for $550 per month.

Two friends were complaining in October that their private plans had been canceled. But checking back with them, they are happy, both are getting better insurance for much less. Their remaining medical worry is they could lose their sources of livelihood, fall below poverty line (and thanks to N.C. Republicans turning down Medicaid expansion), lose insurance. As with most people, my own insurance is unchanged.

But for me there is a bright side. I could retire a couple of years before hitting 65 and still afford medical insurance. Even if I don’t, I appreciate having the choice. So I think Obamacare is working pretty well!

Gary Howell



Regarding Barry Saunders’ Jan. 29 column “To hear Vick isn’t to praise”: While I agree Sen. Bill Rabon should be ousted and animal lovers should show their feelings at the voting booth, to compare these two men is really like David and Goliath.

Everything Saunders said about Michael Vick’s evil acts is true. To compare these two men the way Saunders did reminded me of a child who gets into trouble and points to his friend and says he did it, too. Everything Vick gets from protesters and animal lovers he deserves.

Being the owner of a beautiful German shepherd that was used as a bait dog to train fighting dogs, I am the first to say there should be no second chances for Vick. The psychological damage done to the surviving dogs he fought and the surviving dogs he used to train his fighting dogs never goes away. The NFL can choose to give him another chance, but that doesn’t change what he did.

Ask North Carolinians who Rabon is, and I bet few know him. Ask those same people who Vick is, and very few don’t know him.

Melanie Kohr



It was amazing to watch the Golden Globe awards show recently. The self-indulgent members of the entertainment industry should be largely condemned for their behavior. There are certainly many who do a great deal to help those around them, Bono being a great example.

Then a younger honoree said that he had gone to medical school but that winning the award was “way better than saving a human life.” Really? I can’t imagine saving a human life is less fulfilling than winning an award.

There are incredible, award-winning things that happen every day in classrooms, laboratories, churches and other places of business in our country. The audacity of someone like this deserves comment. Income inequality is not just due to members of the business community. The entertainment and athletic industry probably contribute more than the business community. When will they be held accountable?

Ralph Liebelt



Your Jan. 28 news article “No more comp time for Beam” reported that Steve Beam has a new contract “that curbs his use of comp time.”

It is a shame the Raleigh Housing Authority did not use this as an opportunity to hire an agency director who would be fully committed to the fiduciary duties of creating and preserving safe and affordable housing opportunities for the community’s neediest residents.

People who hold themselves out to be “professionals” do not feel they need to receive compensatory time for every minute they work over 7.5 hours per day. North Carolina public school teachers work 10-hour days (often with no lunch break) and continue their work at home in the evenings, but they do not receive such compensatory time for such dedication . Beam has shown himself to be a “professional” who has not made the responsibilities of his profession his top priority. As such, he is a poor role model for our young adults who choose to pursue fields of public service.

C.P. Mangel

Chapel Hill


With Seattle winning this year’s edition of the Super Bowl, much has been made of Russell Wilson’s career with N.C. State. The football coach at the time, Tom O’Brien, rendered an opinion on Wilson’s status that has continued to draw the ire of some of the Wolfpack faithful.

O’Brien had 100 players on his team. He couldn’t afford to let Wilson or anyone else dictate when he would be available to practice. The team is greater than any one individual, no matter how talented that individual is. Wilson wanted to pursue his opportunities in baseball. By doing so, he forced O’Brien to make a decision.

The former coach made the only correct decision he could have made.

Robert Peele

Rocky Mount


The Jan. 13 Point of View piece “Stirred, not cleaned by SolarBee” by WakeUP Wake County Executive Director Karen Rindge was underscored by another article .

While the North Carolina legislature votes to delay rules regarding pollution in Jordan Lake that have already been agreed to by developers and affected municipalities, hundreds of thousands of our neighbors in West Virginia faced another day of water that was too polluted to drink, bathe in or even use for laundry (“Leak causes concerns, but W.Va. economy needs coal” ).

Unlike the previously agreed-to plan, the noncompetitive contract that state leaders have awarded to SolarBee will do nothing to address chemical pollutants like those that spilled in West Virginia. The McCrory administration is quick to talk about wasteful government spending, but in this case the officials have only themselves to blame. Sadly, we will all pay the price.

Tom Rhodes



I’m writing to protest the use of the too-broad category of “student-athletes” repeatedly referred to in your news articles. Much is being written about student-athletes, about how ill-prepared they are and how poorly they do in higher education. But this is a real disservice to the majority of students who participate in collegiate sports.

In my experience at N.C. State, the roughly 90 percent of student-athletes who are not in the “revenue” sports of football and men’s basketball are above-average students. This is in terms of their grade-point averages and time to graduation. They are motivated and hard-working, and they manage to do well academically even with their heavy practice and competition schedules.

I suggest that we recognize this group and give them credit for how much they are doing and how well they are doing it.

Henry Schaffer



After President Obama’s State of the Union address, he needs to be reminded of several things. We are a democracy, not a monarchy (he is not a king). We have a Constitution, not a manifesto (Thomas Jefferson, not Saul Alinsky, please). We had a messiah in the Bible (have not found any Obamas in the Bible). And I wonder how those 6 million who lost their insurance policies he “misspoke” about viewed this latest State of Obama’s Mind speech?

How many more of these annual self-promotions do we have to bear? When is the next “I didn’t know” or “I promise you can keep this” coming?

Al Slaughter



Your recent Road Worrier article “DOT to air options for Outer Banks highway” about Hatteras Island Mirlo Beach homeowners objecting to a new bridge to Rodanthe would be hilarious if it were not such a terrible affront to the taxpayers of this state.

Sea level is rising, Hatteras Island is moving into the sound and these homeowners will lose their homes. And they are screaming about a bridge hurting their views! And they want taxpayers to pump sand onto their island to keep it from washing away – until the next big storm. Talk about throwing money into a hole!

Bill Thomas

Cedar Mountain


Regarding the Jan. 15 news story “Wos apologizes for error on Medicaid cards for children”: Clearly DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos is in over her head. That is a shame given the adverse impact her failure to lead is having on so many residents of North Carolina. But the even bigger shame falls on the shoulders of Gov. Pat McCrory. His continued support of Wos can lead one to conclude that either he is not very intelligent because he cannot see the damage being done or he is very indifferent to that damage because it falls a distant second to political necessities. This is no way to head a department and no way to govern.

Howard Wasserman



Regarding the Jan. 24 news article “Folt says UNC failed in oversight”: What do the words “I take full responsibility” really mean? In the recent past, we have heard these words from university administrators, politicians and corporation executives. They seem to be either the right thing to say at the time or fillers like “ah,” “you know,” “no problem.”

Poor judgment or lack of oversight should have consequences, but the words “I take full responsibility” seem to absolve the administrator of any consequences. They are magical, powerful words. I would find it refreshing to hear an administrator simply say, “I take full responsibility and will reduce my salary by 25 percent.”

Leonard Zeller