You provide a valuable service, and I wanted to express my gratitude for getting to be part of it.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Political sign pollution and proliferation


This post is by Roger Carlton, columnist for the Graham Star Newspaper. Thank you, Roger, for contributing to this site.


We tend to think of pollution in terms of air and water quality. After all, we need to breathe, drink clean water and be protective of our pristine Lake Santeetlah. Noise pollution like dogs barking incessantly or loud machinery can add to our woes. Visual pollution is an irritant to some folks. One person's business necessity like sky high triple billboards along I-75 in Georgia is another person's ugliness blocking scenic views.  Additional forms of pollution barrage us with spam, phishing scams, unsolicited phone calls, junk mail and messages left on our windshields.

This column is about political signs. NCGS 14-156, 136-18 and 136-32 all deal with political signs. NCDOT Rules which are as long as the Blue Ridge Parkway also give guidance on the subject of signs. If your local jurisdiction is into regulation, there may also be county or city rules. Don't worry about that in Graham County.

Distilling all this with detail would require far more space than available. Here are a few key rules.

  • Signs advertise candidates or issues that will be on the ballot. The content cannot be controlled as this violates the First Amendment.
  • Signs cannot go up until the 30th day before "one-stop" voting begins. That means that political signs can start to be planted on September 15th in North Carolina. Expect an apocryphal locust plague of these signs to be planted in the next few days. 
  • Signs must be removed within 10 days after the election by the candidate. 
  • Signs must be at least three feet from the edge of the pavement. Signs placed on Duke Power poles are placed on private property which must have permission.
  • Signs must not block the view and are limited in height to 42 inches above the pavement. The sign cannot be bigger than 864 square inches. That is six square feet. Anything larger on public right of way is illegal.
  • No sign shall block or replace another sign. Tell that to the people placing the signs in front of Walgreens.

Here is the big deal. It is a Class 3 misdemeanor to steal, deface, vandalize or remove a political sign that is lawfully placed. This infraction carries a fine of up to $200 or 20 days in jail. Marijuana possession in small amounts or hunting without a license are Class 3 misdemeanors so be careful when you are hunting without a license, doing up a doobie or political sign stealing. To our Legislature, they are all equally egregious violations.

Be patient all you folks who get torqued over political sign pollution. Anyone can take down the signs if they remain 30 days after the election without fear of paying the fine or going to jail. Let's hope the candidates do that on their own.


Monday, September 7, 2020

Eugene Z. Hirsch 12-18-31 -- 9-3-20


This post is written by Mary Ricketson



Dr. Gene Hirsch, poet
Gene Hirsch, MD, a poet of our mountains, died September 3, 2020, after a long struggle with cancer.  He was a well-known writer in western North Carolina.  He taught poetry at John C. Campbell Folk School for many years, and helped Nancy Simpson start North Carolina Writers Network West 25 years ago or more.  He regularly attended critique groups, read at organized events, and taught small groups of poets at his home in Murphy.  Gene was teacher and mentor to be remembered.  He lived in Pittsburgh PA and in Murphy NC, and visited Murphy often, until May 2019.

Gene was known as a loving man who listened deeply to every poem from any kind of writer, rustic beginner to polished expert.  He cared about the craft of writing and also cared about the person writing the poem.  As a physician, he had a long career practicing medicine.  In later years he taught doctors and medical students to provide the best of medical and human help to dying patients.  The following is a quote, introduction to his long essay, Intimacy and Dying, written earlier this year, unpublished.
I am a retired geriatrician who, for thirty five years, taught humanistic values in Clinical Medicine to medical students and doctors. From 2000 to 2010, at Forbes Hospice in Pittsburgh, I guided students through the ancient clinical art of responding to struggles and needs of dying people. Among other curricular activities, with permission, we (2 -4 students and I) visited patients in their homes, not to learn procedures for obtaining medical histories, but for the specific purpose of listening to their thoughts, feelings, ordeals and supports. They understood that they were being placed in the role of teachers rather than patients. This proved to be important to all.


Gene kept his illness private, made no apology for that request.  He asked me to talk with him late in his dying process, asked me to be “ears to listen, for some day my dying to be worth my life.”  I will have more to say about that after I have settled enough to review the scratchy notes I kept of this time.  He also asked me to organize a memorial after his death. He said he wants to be remembered in our mountains.  Once the world is safe to gather in person, when the pandemic is over, we will have a memorial for memory, poems, and a celebration of his life.

His body has been cremated.  At some time, in respect for his request, his family will spread his ashes privately at his former home in Murphy.  He gave that home to his wife’s son and family, a family who loves the mountains and the privilege to vacation there. 

During the final months of Gene’s illness, he engaged the help of a friend and poet in Pittsburgh, Judy Robinson, to organize and seek publication of his poems.  The result of that effort is indeed a book, published 7-15-20, available from Amazon, details below.

Cards and words of sympathy may be sent to Gene's wife, Virginia Spangler, 139 Overlook Drive, Verona PA 15147.

In fond memory of Gene Hirsch,  
Mary Ricketson



Dr. Eugene Hirsch, Gene, to all who know him, has extended to me the privilege of editing his poetry, an assignment I accepted with pleasure. This collection, “Speak, Speak,” is the culmination of Gene’s long career of writing, and reflects the complexity of his mind and experience. As a physician/writer he joins a distinguished list, and in my opinion as a reader/editor, he earns his place among the others, notably Maugham, Chekhov, William Carlos Williams.
Judith R Robinson, editor





Saturday, August 29, 2020

Voter suppression is alive and well





Roger Carlton



  Roger Carlton writes about a subject on the minds of all of us at this time. He is columnist for the Graham Star Newspaper in Robbinsville, NC
The right to vote is so important that it appears in Article 1 of the Constitution. Responsibility for keeping the voting process fair was granted to the legislatures in 1787. The goal of suppressing votes began in earnest nearly immediately.


African American men were not granted the right to vote until 1870. The southern Jim Crow laws, poll taxes and literacy requirements, took that right away. 

Women were not granted the right to vote until 1920. Young people 18-20 could not vote until 1971. Prior to the amendments to the Constitution that removed these impediments to voting, millions of folks were kept from the polls due to race, gender or youth.

The effort by the Postmaster General to make the Post Office more "efficient" is putting lipstick on the pig of voter suppression especially given the inevitable disruptions impacting timely delivery of millions of additional mail-in/absentee ballots caused by COVID 19 fears. In the 2016 election, 20,000 military ballots were rejected mostly due to late delivery. There were more than 550,000 ballots rejected in the 2016 primaries for a variety of reasons.

Mass purges of "inactive" voters are a form of voter suppression. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 16 million voters were purged from 2014-16. That's a lot of purging given that 137 million voted in the 2016 election. In the recent close Governor election in Georgia, 70 percent of the purged voters were Black. Suppose you show up at the polls and are told you have been purged. States have removed the "same day" ability to register to suppress the purged voters from regaining their right to vote.

Requiring voters to vote at their home poll is a form of voter suppression. It is tough for hourly workers to leave their jobs early to vote so they should be able to vote at a poll near their work site. Reducing the number of days of early voting, eliminating polling places and not removing physical barriers to access are methods to suppress voters.

The White House has been casting unfounded aspersions for months on the security of the upcoming election. The remedy proposed a few days ago was to place police and sheriff deputies at the polling places to ensure security. What a smart way to keep people of color away from the polls. Even worse, police presence at the polls is a first sign of a totalitarian state.

The Tennessee legislature just passed a bill signed by the Governor that makes protesters camping on State land felons subject to six months in jail if convicted. Being a convicted felon eliminates your right to vote in Tennessee. The British Magna Carta granted the right to seek redress from government in 1215. The First Amendment of the Constitution grants the right to petition without fear of reprisals or punishment. It won't be long till the new Tennessee form of voter suppression is tossed by the courts.

To ensure that the feared problem of millions of absentee ballots clogging the Post Office is minimized, our local Elections Board should make a loud and clear statement that their staff will do everything legally possible to mail ballots early and go to the Post Office frequently as deadlines approach to pick up ballots. The Elections Board should hold its canvassing (validating and rejecting ballots process) open to the media and public in a large, open and socially distanced room. Shedding some light on the criteria adopted by the State Elections Board for rejecting ballots would be informative to any doubters of their fairness.

To close, blaming foreign intervention, creating fear of vaporous threats, failed efforts to limit the capabilities of the Post Office and a plethora of voter suppression techniques will not keep Americans from protecting their right to vote by the simple act of voting. The real threat is lethargy and procrastination. 

Request your absentee ballot early and submit it with plenty of time to be delivered. Saving our right to vote in a fair and honestly managed election is our own responsibility and there is no excuse for failure. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

PANDEMIC DISCOUNT ON THE WRITING DIALOGUE WITH CAROL CRAWFORD SEPTEMBER 24

CAROL CRAWFORD


On Thursday, September 24, 2 - 4 PMCarol Crawford, published writer and editor, will teach a class via Zoom for those who want to improve their writing of dialogue.

Bring your characters to life with dialogue that is authentic, clear, and compelling. Capture the flavor of personality and culture through speech that sounds real. In-class exercises will cover word choice, tone, action beats, what to leave out, and format in this interactive workshop. 
Register no later than September 19. 


Email gcbmountaingirl@gmail.com to receive instructions for registration.

Fee - $25

Sponsored by NCWN-West and Writers Circle around the Table.