We need to exercise our electoral muscles wisely; consider the stakes

To the Editor:

The very thought of a fair election in Russia is both amusing and sad, but guess what? It could happen here. How? How many times have we heard, or said, “I don’t like either choice in this year’s presidential election”. Did we do anything to help pick our choices? Sixty percent of us don’t even vote!

Former President Harry Truman once said that the highest rank in this country is not president, but “CITIZEN”. True power and responsibility in America has always been in the hands of its citizens, but just like certain muscle groups in our bodies, if we don’t use it, we lose it. Only we can give it away, and we have slowly been doing that over many years. More and more we hear people say “I don’t get involved with politics,” and they say it with great pride like they have done something noble or important. Why? We exercise our hearts and bodies to maintain our existence, and to thrive. Lack of physical exercise results in loss of muscle mass, brain function, ability to do the things we like, and eventually just withering away. Lack of political exercise achieves similar results.

While we stay silent, we have had our election results questioned by the very folks that want to control elections to their benefit. That effort continues today, counting on our lack of interest, and if those efforts prevail, our elections will begin to look like those in Russia. Rights that we have had for decades are gone not because we voted for a change, but because we can be counted on to not get involved. We have a Supreme Court on the verge of making new law, instead of merely ruling on the validity of law. Even though presidential immunity is not granted in our constitution, the Supremes are considering granting that, if the act is within the scope of his or her official duties. How messed up is that? Why would our president NEED to do something illegal to lead our country??  It hasn’t been necessary in over 200 years. Why now?

Not everyone is thrilled about our choices this November, but we still need to exercise our choice so that we can continue to do so. We can choose to be active, and to encourage our fellow citizens to do the same, and to lift each other up to regain what we have lost due to inactivity. Our vital signs are still good. Choosing a good, experienced personal trainer who has our interest at heart will be necessary.

Conversely, choosing one who offers no plan, but who tries to instill fear that exercise is bad for you, and that the personal trainer is your enemy will be disastrous to our nation’s health.  Don’t be fooled. No one will be healthier or happier by choosing someone who says “only I can fix it”. It doesn’t work that way.

Choose wisely. Our nation’s health depends on it.

Mark Ballinger, Sylva

Hats off to Jeff Miller, others for Honor Air Flight for local veterans

To the Editor:

I can’t say enough about the man, the legend, the man who makes veteran visits to memorials in Washington, D.C., possible.

He is Jeff Miller, CEO and president of the Blue Ridge Honor Flight. He is an amazing human being to make local veterans’ dreams come true with a once in a lifetime experience in the Honor Air flight to Washington, D.C. on April 27. Thank you for allowing we Guardians to share in the tears, smiles, remembrance, freedom, patriotism, to serve them on the flight, to hold their hands, and to respect of all these veterans that we love so much.

We appreciate Jeff to infinity and beyond! Thanks for all the planning, organization, the staff, Joann, Lynn, Chris, and Izzy are rock stars!, medical teams, volunteers, bus drivers, the food vendors (McDonald’s, Arby’s and Chick-fil-a) the pilots, everyone in Maryland and D.C. and the manpower it took to pull all of this together; it is truly remarkable. We thank God for Jeff – he is a hero serving heroes.

It’s an experience we will carry for the rest of our lives. You made a difference in the lives of these three veterans and mine and so many others. We were just truly humbled and blessed by this experience!

Sheila Crumpler, 

Jackson County Veterans Officer

Get to the polls to vote, and to help

To the Editor:

There is a second primary for the Republican nominations for N.C. lieutenant governor and N.C. auditor. Your vote helps determine which candidate will be on the November ballot. If you are registered Republican or registered Unaffiliated and voted the Republican ballot in March, or either of those who didn’t vote in March, you are eligible to vote during this runoff.

Early voting has started. All precincts vote at the Board of Elections (876 Skyland Drive, Sylva) during early voting. Hours are Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through May 10, and Saturday, May 11, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. There has been no wait, so please stop in!

On Election Day, May 14, you must vote in your precinct. All precincts will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Photo ID is required.

It has been a privilege to be a poll worker during Jackson County elections since November 2022. The training provided by our Board of Elections staff for those working the polls makes it clear how the built-in checks and balances keep our elections fair and safe. It gives us the opportunity to work with experienced staff, both permanent and temporary, who are knowledgeable and supportive.

During the March primary, the Jackson County Board of Elections made a seamless transition from the retiring director, Lisa Lovedahl to the incoming director, Amanda Allen. Amanda has subdued the firehouse of information she encountered upon arrival and is able to answer questions like she’s always been there. That is due to her prior experience as a poll worker, as well as the expertly trained staff Lisa left behind. I truly enjoy working with this team. You would too! When poll workers walk through the door of the voting place, we drop our political affiliations, and we are all just Board of Election employees who work cooperatively. Our goal is to make sure all eligible voters can cast their vote and know that their vote matters and that it counts.

You can be a poll worker, too! There is no better way to build confidence in our elections than to be a part of them. Poll workers are your neighbors. Even if you can’t work full days, you are needed! There are several ways to apply to be a poll worker – a paid position (currently $11/hour). Jackson County election workers: must be registered voters and residents of Jackson County, cannot be an elected government official or manager/treasurer for a candidate or political party, and cannot be a candidate or near-relative of a candidate or elected official. Application and job descriptions are available at jcncelections.org/get-involved or you can fill out the “Democracy Heroes Form” online at ncsbe.gov/about-elections/get-involved-elections/become-election-official. You can stop by the Board of Elections to fill out an application and meet some of the staff with whom you will be working. The Board of Elections is open year-round to answer questions, register voters, change registrations, etc. You can reach them at 586-7538. 

Kristin Kane, Sylva

Let’s make every day Earth Day

To the Editor:

Earth Day ’24 was April 22 so yes, it’s over. The theme was planet vs plastics. Here are some of the reasons we must make every day Earth Day:

Scientists tell us that there are at least 75+ million tons of plastic in our oceans and that could increase to 53 million tons per year by 2030. Why is that important? Plastics account for 85 percent of all material waste, are a threat to all marine life, people, and influence climate. Costs to tourism, fisheries, aquaculture, health, and cleanup are enormous. That cost could rise to $250 billion by 2040 if things don’t change. Ninety-nine percent of plastics are made from chemicals derived from crude oil and natural gas. When these fuels are burned, they send about 400 million tons of climate-warming greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere every year. The U.S. emits about 25 percent of global greenhouse emissions and our individual carbon footprint is about 18.6 tons of C02 – the highest per capita in the world. About 8 percent of the world’s oil is now used to make plastics. Without major action, that percentage could rise to 20 percent by 2050.

So, what’s the health impact on us? Plastics break down into micro and nanoparticles that are incredibly small and are in our air, drinking water and food causing a multitude of serious health issues. It’s estimated that each of us takes in the amount of plastic in a credit card every week! So, what can we do individually?

1) Reduce usage of single-use plastics: refuse single-use plastics you don’t need – plastic straws, plastic bags, takeout utensils and containers; take your own reusable substitutes; and tell business owners you want them to go green.

2) Support lawmakers and legislation to reduce plastic production and waste locally, at the state level, and nationally. Vet candidates on their positions regarding the environment. Signing petitions is easy and it has been proven that when decision-makers receive thousands of petitions they take note. This might be the most important action you can take. Our present congressional members score embarrassingly low on voting for our environment. Lifetime League of Conservation averages for Sen. Budd: 4 percent; Tillis, 11 percent; and Rep. Edwards, 6 percent. Our delegation average is 3 percent – only Florida and Missouri score lower. We can’t let this continue!

3) At present only 9 percent of plastic is recycled worldwide. If you don’t recycle, start now.

4) Participate in cleanups beside and in rivers and lakes.

5) Support organizations that are fighting all forms of pollution and environmental threats. Do an online search by your area of interest but here are few that are successful and highly rated: Climate Reality, Interfaith Power & Light (many petitions for people of faith); Friends of the Earth; Earth Justice (legal action on policy); Dogwood Alliance (trees and forests); Care 2 (variety of petitions); Ocean Conservancy; Beyond Plastics; The Union of Concerned Scientists.

For the sake of our children, grandchildren, and future generations, please do your part to make every day Earth Day.

Gene Tunnell, Cullowhee