Special thanks to your reporter Samiha "Scoop" Khanna for her excellent article on Reyn Bowman's rather hefty retirement package of $275,000 ("With a parachute this golden, the landing must be good," Jan. 13). This was an insightful piece on a legitimate issue that was missed by our two daily newspapers.
The public is entitled to know how their tax money is being spent, be it for the head of the ABC Board in Wilmington, N.C., who makes more than $300,000 a year; or for the former director of the United Way in Charlotte, N.C., whose public contributions paid her $500,000 salary; or for public school teachers, who can work tirelessly in our classrooms for 20 years and still not make $70,000 annually.
Reyn negotiated his retirement when the economy was perking along rather nicely. Recently, hotel occupation taxes have dropped by more than 30 percent, and DCVB has been forced to lay off five staffers. Reyn can drive his Harley off into the sunset with the thanks of many for a job well done. The referendum on his severance package, however, may come when the convention bureau approaches the city/ county with a request for more funding.
For the record, although an elected official, I was not a member of the convention board that approved his severance. And, as a City Council member, I make $18,000 a year for what is practically a full-time job. Our severance is usually in the form of a plastic plaque for what we hope the majority of our citizens will consider a job well done.
Eugene A. Brown
Durham City Council
Nuclear waste safety
Thank you for publishing the Project Censored review of key issues underreported by the mainstream media (cover story, Dec. 23, 2009). The article on the Triangle's Shearon Harris nuclear plant, stemming from a 2003 piece in Counterpunch, remains mostly on target about the dangers of cooling pools containing "spent" nuclear fuel rods (nuclear waste).
The author correctly noted that Harris' pools are the largest in the U.S. In my opinion, such waste pools represent the greatest risk factor at U.S. nuclear plants because they contain millions of pounds of highly irradiated material. And, due to industry's cost-cutting pressures, the pools are quite modestly defended against a wide range of malicious acts.
In 2005, the National Academy of Sciences confirmed the concerns of scientists and citizen groups across the U.S. and endorsed a proposal that would reduce risks of catastrophic pool fires by dispersing the waste and moving most of it into bunkered, dry storage. But the industry balked, preferring to sink millions into exploring construction of new reactors.
One clarification: Progress Energy indeed had shipped spent fuel by train to Harris from its other plants and intended to do so until 2030. That was the subject of a contentious five-year fight that NC WARN instigated in 1998 along with Orange County, with help from other local governments. Although Progress won approval to open two new pools at Harris, in 2003, the power company agreed to phase out its shipping of waste, and did so over the next few years as it added storage capacity at the Robinson and Brunswick plants.
Harris' four pools remain an even greater risk than were the nuclear waste trains. And with a long-plagued national disposal project at Yucca Mountain, Nev., virtually dead, nuclear plants are becoming de facto permanent waste dumps. This increases the need for the safer storage plan advocated by watchdog groups and scientists.
Jim Warren, Executive Director, NC WARN
The destruction of Chatham County by a small group of developers in league with a not very bright, environmentally unconscious board of commissioners—totally the opposite from our present board—left us with a zombieland that will take a hundred years to recover ("Welcome to Zombieland," cover story, Jan. 13).
The hundreds of acres of wasteland, denuded of trees and any form of natural environment, stand as a permanent monument to man's greed and corruption at the highest level. The payoffs, the manipulation of planning board codes and the ignoring of public outcry created huge swaths of environmental degradation that will erode the soil over time and that already look like desertification in some areas.
Shame on our state government for not allowing our present commissioners to rectify, through the planning and ordinance process, the damage that we have been left with in this county. But, of course, they operate most of the time from greed also.
Barbara Beye Lorie
Bowhunting on target
Regarding your story about the proposal to bowhunt deer in Chapel Hill ("The buck stops here," Jan. 13), I hope folks will follow our president's lead and stick with science-based decision making.
More deer in N.C. are killed by people with driver's licenses (i.e., with their car) than by bow hunters or by hunters on public lands. And those deer/ car collisions killed nearly a dozen people in 2008. Hunters with firearms on private land kill the most deer—about 176,000 or so in 2008, or very roughly a tenth of a still-growing population.
In your story, Mary Mendell is right in her contention that there are two separate but related issues: 1) Deer do damage gardens, and there are some steps homeowners can take; and 2) The more serious issue is one about safety (of deer and drivers) and health (many deer are undernourished and succumbing to disease, and they are also vectors for diseases that can harm people).
Horticulture magazine will run in March (meaning it's probably on the stands in February) an article I wrote about how to minimize deer damage to your garden, but those options don't address the larger problem of an exploding deer population without predators. If a bowhunting season can be managed safely, it's probably the best thing for people, deer and gardens.