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Letters to the Editor

Bravo, Bob Burtman

Bravo to Bob Burtman for another outstanding piece in the Indy ("Duke and Durham: The Blue Devil is in the details," Dec. 6). If Duke discussed the details of its Central Campus rezoning with the community back in the spring, we wouldn't be in the middle of this rezoning drama now. Instead, Duke submitted a mostly blank development plan—ignoring three years of input from the community.

What university officials would like us all to forget is that Duke's new campus shops wouldn't have to pay property taxes—undermining nearby businesses that do pay such taxes.

The tax advantage campus businesses enjoy would be compounded by Duke's unwillingness to expand the use of its DukeCard off-campus. While UNC, Elon and N.C. State cards can be used off-campus, Duke's policies deprive local jurisdictions of tax revenues.

The community stakeholders are trying to limit these unneighborly acts by 1) asking that the DukeCard be used off-campus and 2) placing a clear cap on Duke's on-campus retail.

In response, Duke's PR office tries to dismiss community concerns, suggesting in Burtman's piece that "town-gown tensions are the norm ... [and] come with the territory." Rather than working toward a fair solution, the university's PR office focuses instead on spin and shaping public opinion.

The Princeton Review ranked Duke's town-gown relations as fourth worst in the nation. Duke contributes far less to Durham than Brown, Princeton and Harvard provide their host cities.

It doesn't have to be this way. Duke should stop papering over disagreements about campus retail by dismissing them as expressions of normal town-gown tensions.

We all have a vested interest in the successful redevelopment of Central Campus—and in healthy businesses and neighborhoods in Durham. Hopefully, we can walk into City Council chambers with an agreement in January. But we certainly didn't need to wade through this three-year mess to get here.

John Schelp

Thanks for LatinBeat coverage

Thanks so much for the beautiful write-up on our LatinBeat Film Festival ("Art, miracles and cons" by Sylvia Pfeiffenberger, Dec. 6). Your review and feature brought the festival to the attention of many Latin American film aficionados who would not otherwise have known about the event and drew many other adventurous moviegoers. We regularly hear from Galaxy Cinema patrons who rely on the Indy for their film news and reviews. Thanks for the consistently knowledgeable and engaging articles you offer. See you at the movies.

Kim Yaman and Neal Scanlan, Galaxy Cinema

Give Woods a rest

Buried in Byron Woods' grandiloquent musings is a simple confession: His reviews don't represent the facts. The clearest message from "When dreams fade" (Dec. 6) is Woods' admission that his review of the 1998 production of Einstein's Dreams fell short. Indeed, now he tells us that the review he wrote back then did not capture the true essence of that production. The next clearest message is that he preferred the original to the remake.

Achieving clarity does not appear to be an easy task for Woods. I've toiled through his review so I will simplify it. Byron had some life-changing epiphanies when he saw Burning Coal's first production of Einstein's Dreams in 1998. He hoped to recapture those emotions with the second. And why not? he cries, many of the elements are the same. The obvious problem with Woods' paradigm is that these "elements" are artists. Furthermore, these artists are working in a new context both physically and temporally. Woods would have no doubt been among the hecklers of Bob Dylan when he picked up the electric guitar. Others did and still do appreciate the many different versions of "The Times They Are A'Changing." It's hard to reconcile Woods' obvious desire to see the same play eight years later combined with his distant hope for "new, strikingly original theater in the region."

Woods defines evanescence as "something never to be exactly repeated" then mourns everything that's changed. My advice to readers would be to go and see the play. As long as your mind is open, then you are likely to enjoy it as I did. You may even find it as enlightening as Woods found the 1998 production. My advice to the Indy is to give Woods some rest. His seams are the ones that appear to be showing.

Bill Rowan
Wake Forest

'Facts optional'

While the "facts optional" approach in some Indy articles enhances their entertainment value, recently quoted statements by Professor Robert Malkin (in "Ideas don't have to cost an arm and a leg," Dec. 13) that U.S. patent rights were regularly violated in the late 1800s without redress are bunkum, misleading any public policy discussion as to the historic reality of exclusionary rights. One must simply read the history of the AC/DC wars and the Westinghouse air brake.

A "public domain" engineering design policy is magnanimous, but is dependent upon access to "free" engineering and development risk capital. As an extension of the ever-growing, but unaccountable, power of tax-exempt foundations to alter public policy through their capital grant programs, the Indy's inaccurate and uncritical presentation of such a policy is understandable.

Brian D. Voyce
Chapel Hill

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