No. 257, Dec.18-24, 2003



To read an article, click on the headline.

Group calls for boycott of
Grove Park Inn

Teacher fired for making
anti-war comments


Group calls for boycott of Grove Park Inn

By Charlie Thomas

Asheville, North Carolina, Dec. 16 (AGR) — On Saturday, People Advocating REAL Conservancy (PARC) called for a boycott of the Grove Park Inn. They are calling on the public to stay out of the Inn’s spa and restaurants, and to not reserve rooms for out-of-town visitors or book special events there.

Grove Park Inn proposes to erect a ten story building on a public park downtown, between the County Building and the Biltmore Building. They would pay $650,000 for the land, and build a $25 million high rise with 44 luxury condominiums that start at $700,000. The ground floor would be commercial space; the building would have underground parking.

Their proposed site is across from the Cottonwood Cafe, and encompasses the grassy area and trees where the green clock is located, part of College Street, and the trees and land where the Energy Sculpture now sits.

Julie Brandt, speaking for PARC, said that when her group started a few months ago, almost no one knew that the land was being sold. “We took to the streets with a petition, asking City Council to hold a referendum on the proposed plan. Most people were outraged to hear about the plan, and the few who had heard about it thought that it was already a done deal.”

She said the group quickly got signatures of over 1500 registered voters.

“What did the Mayor and City Council say to those 1500 citizens who loudly opposed this sale? Nothing. They had nothing to say to us.”

The law does not require Council to hold a referendum, regardless of how many citizens object, so PARC started publishing newspaper ads signed by citizens opposed to this building. Brandt says they have twice run full page ads full of names, and that neither the Council nor the Grove Park Inn seems interested.

Brandt continued, “Last week, we asked PARC supporters to write the Grove and Sammons (owner of GPI), urging them to find another spot downtown to build. Over 125 people did that.

“Yesterday, we met with Craig Madison and Jay Winer of the GPI to see if they would withdraw. Mr. Madison stated that his decision is strictly a financial one. He is waiting on a final report on the feasibility of the project, and if the numbers add up, they will build. He plans to announce his decision by Dec. 31.”

Brandt then addressed the Grove Park Inn directly, asking, “What will it take for you to listen to us?”

She continued, “If the Grove Park Inn ignores the wishes of the citizens of Asheville, why should we patronize them? Why should we eat at their restaurants? Why should we go to their spa? Why should we make reservations there for our out of town guests?

“We should NOT.

“We are asking everyone to oppose the sale of our parkland by boycotting the Grove Park Inn, and to phone and write to let them know why you are taking your money elsewhere.”

City Council votes next spring on selling the land if the Inn does not withdraw. Joe Dunn and Carl Mumpower, City Council members who favor the sale, claim the new high rise will increase both the tax base and the downtown green space.

PARC members reply that the Grove Park Inn should build on a vacant lot or unused building like everyone else does, thus providing the same tax base without appropriating a public park and destroying needed green space and mature trees.

“The second argument is basically a lie,” said PARC supporter Jennifer Kontz. “To figure that the building would increase green space, the people who favor it add in the project in City/County Plaza which will eliminate the access roads and parking spaces, and will increase green space. But that’s a separate project, and it’s going ahead anyway. So, as common sense would indicate, the building will indeed decrease green space.”

PARC supporter Laura Thomas adds, “We need to let to the Grove Park Inn know that our parkland is NOT for sale. We think these trees look just fine here, and that another building to crowd this area is not appropriate. We think that the opinions of the people who live here, who use the park, and who enjoy the view here, are important. If the Grove wants to build downtown, there are plenty of sites available.”

Brandt says that PARC is looking for allies: “We invite other groups who oppose this project to make it publicly known and to join the boycott.

“And if you want to know more about this issue, please visit our website, at,” she said.

Teacher fired for making anti-war comments

Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Dec. 11-- Elizabeth Ito, an English teacher who lost her position at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, NC after making anti-war remarks in class last March, will present her case to the Forsyth Tech board of trustees on December 18. That meeting follows an October hearing of the Forsyth Tech personnel committee during which the college refused to reinstate Ito even after it withdrew its allegations that she was incompetent and unprepared.

“This is not an isolated employee matter,” said Anita Earls, Director of Advocacy, Center for Civil Rights, University of North Carolina School of Law. “Forsyth Tech’s indefensible and unconstitutional treatment of Elizabeth Ito demonstrates that the repressive spirit of the PATRIOT Act has a very wide reach.”

One of Forsyth Tech’s chief remaining charges against Ito is that she had “difficulty in accepting the view of [her] supervisors that class time should be devoted to matters germane to the curriculum of the class.”

Ironically, when President George W. Bush visited Forsyth Tech on Nov. 7 during a fundraising trip to Winston-Salem, classes were cancelled for the entire day on one of the college’s two campuses. Students were not invited to hear the president speak.

On Friday, Mar. 28, 2003 Ito, held a ten-minute class discussion about the Iraq war, during which she expressed her opposition to the US policy.

After two students complained, Susie Keener, Chair of the Department of Humanities/Communication, told Ito that she should not have shared her personal opinions with the students, who might have felt uncomfortable disagreeing with her. “Nothing could underscore more dramatically the way varying political views are handled at Forsyth Tech,” said Ito. “I spent ten minutes of class time criticizing U.S. policies in Iraq and I lost my job. The architect of U.S. policies in Iraq comes to Winston-Salem and students are done out of a full day of class time. The argument that politics had nothing to do with my dismissal is simply ludicrous.”

At FTCC, prior to criticizing the war in her class, Ito’s performance evaluations were satisfactory to excellent.

One month after the incident, she received an overwhelmingly negative annual evaluation.