Two years ago my husband and I spent 23 days traveling throughout many parts of China. In every city in every region, we noticed with dismay many unfinished or vacant high-rise buildings, erected by developers for a fast return on their capital investment and without much thought to the future loss or benefit to the citizens of those towns.

I am not equating the magnitude of China’s building craze to Auburn’s recent rush to build more and more student and other housing. But I do think there is a lesson to be learned from the comparison.

Since Auburn University plans on capping student enrollment at 25,000 (see Auburn’s CompPlan 2030), does a need for more student housing exist? Are we already overbuilt?

Will the city’s infrastructure support more construction? What will happen to our town if the occupancy rate of rental property declines significantly? How will our school system be impacted? Will public safety be compromised? These and other questions come to mind.

Mayor Ham is correct in noting that we must all collectively plan not only for Auburn’s near future but for what we would like our city to look like in “50 or 100 years.” I urge our civic leaders – council members, entrepreneurs, religious leaders, educators -- to commit their efforts to the thoughtful and conscientious planning for Auburn's long-term public good. Goldsmith wrote of “Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain.” Don’t we all want our town to continue to deserve that moniker?

Louise Katainen


Auburn should update zoning ordinances

The OpEd by Doug French in this morning’s paper was disappointingly biased. He made it sound like a death knell for property owners had been struck by the City Council.

What he, and apparently the Auburn Planning and Zoning Board, fail to consider is balanced zoning restrictions that protect ALL property owners. It is naïve and unimaginably selfish for residents like Mike Williams to believe they should be able to do anything they wish with their property. Does Auburn want to be like Houston where a lack of zoning has permitted topless bars to be built next to day care centers?

This is not about big versus small government; it is about balance within the community. It is not anti-growth, it about properly planned growth and protective restrictions.

The Ross Street development wouldn’t have happened had there been density restrictions. Commercial encroachment into residential districts can be controlled with proper zoning.

The Heart of Auburn development eliminated houses, so replaced character with commercial and created an unmanageable parking issue, both of which could have been avoided with proper zoning. Hopefully, the six-month moratorium will be used by the Planning and Zoning Commission to update decades-old zoning ordinances.

Bill Caskey


Tide fan celebrates new Auburn oaks

A momentous event recently took place in Auburn: a multitude witnessed the planting of live oaks at Toomer’s Corner. The corner of College and Magnolia has been empty too long, thanks to a lunatic who fancied himself an Alabama fan.

I know there are some in West Alabama who might say, “What’s the big deal? It’s only a couple of trees.” I say, however, the Toomer’s Oaks were no more “just a couple of trees” to Auburn than houndstooth is just a cloth pattern to Tuscaloosa. Those oaks were icons. They represented all that is good and tradition-rich in Auburn, just as much as that checkered fedora does to others. I should know; I grew up there.

I followed my job here nearly eight years ago. At first, when asked where I’m from, I would reply, “My home is Tuscaloosa, but I live in Auburn.” Yet after eight years, I have come to love these people who have become my family and the community that has become my home.

When asked that question today, I simply reply “My home is Auburn.” So after eight years, have I changed my allegiance and become a Tiger fan? A very wise man once said, “I may spend the night in a garage, but it won’t make me a Buick.”

Last weekend, I was happy for my hometown. I pray that the oaks at Toomer’s Corner thrive for generations to come, as new icons of tradition, and provide the framework for victorious celebrations for many, many years to come – at least 11 weeks out of the year.

John M. Stephens, III


Grandparents deserve visitation rights

Our family is seeking a law that would allow grandparents to have visitation and a relationship with their grandchild, a relative connected by blood or affinity.

It is unconstitutional, against the civil rights of an individual, to be denied to be a part of their grandchild’s precious life, a gift of God. It is equally unconstitutional and against the civil rights of the child to not be permitted, by an individual or the courts, for one side of grandparents and relatives not to be an active part of the child’s life.

There is heredity of characteristics from parent to child, making it of vital importance to know your mother’s and father’s parents when it is possible – the way you look, walk and sound. Not only to know where you came from, and that you are loved, but also for medical purposes on health issues, in case of an emergency or a sudden unexpected occurrence demanding immediate action and attention. This needs to be taken into consideration for all concerned of the innocent child. They are unique, one of a kind and special, and need all the love they can get.

It is unconstitutional for grandparents not to be allowed not to be allowed to visit their grandchild. It is a direct hit of a violation against mankind by the Supreme Court of Alabama. Alabama is among only eight or nine states that do not have any recognition of identification or equality of grandparents, and also some cases of natural parents.

Please support this important cause along with Governor Bentley, representatives Harry Shiver and Steve McMillan and others. Grandparents’ visitation will be brought up in March.

I love, care for and miss my granddaughter very much.

Martha Leonard


Vaccines among greatest medical gifts

In the 215 years since Edward Jenner observed that Cow Pox protects people from the ravages of smallpox, vaccination (Vacca, Latin for cow) has prevented more human and animal diseases, suffering and death than any other single medical procedure. The world experienced the last case of smallpox in 1977, because vaccines eliminated this disease that plagued human populations for thousands of years.

When I was a boy, my parents would not allow me to swim in the community pool because poliomyelitis was crippling and killing thousands of children. Vaccines have virtually eliminated this once dreaded killer from Earth.

The list of terrifying human and animal diseases prevented by vaccines would fill this newspaper. With this incredible history, why is there any discussion today about the merits of vaccination. Because ironically, vaccination has been too successful, leaving most people ambivalent about diseases that once threatened large populations.

This year that dangerous ambivalence was broken by the outbreak of hundreds of cases of measles, ignited by one sick child spreading this wildfire contagion to unvaccinated children. Why are children not protected by safe and effective vaccines? Because, despite all facts to the contrary, a few vocal, uninformed celebrities protest vaccination. At very least the tragic consequences of this ignorance and neglect has focused appropriate attention back to infectious diseases and their prevention by vaccines.

Even with their success, vaccine development is not done. Spectacular advances brought by molecular medicine and immunology make possible a new generation of more effective and safer vaccines designed to conquer other deadly infections like influenza and Ebola. It is time to celebrate vaccines as one of the greatest medical gifts that make us healthy and safe, and take advantage of routine vaccination provided by physicians and veterinarians.

Henry J. Baker, DVM


Gun regulation could save lives

In his Feb. 6 article “Can You Handle the Truth?” regarding gun violence, Tom Cordi got it right: young black males offend at a higher rate than young white males; and both groups tending to victimize their own race.

In mass shootings, he’s correct: the perpetrators tend to be disturbed young white males. These are the groups whose gun crime causes so much concern. Mr. Cordi points to poverty as contributing to this violent behavior. Again, the facts support this; and no one doubts the mass killings at Sandy Hook, Columbine, Arora and in Tucson were the work of extremely disturbed shooters.

What are we to do about this?

At the end of his article Mr. Cordi suggests, “The truth is, there is no easy answer to gun violence in America. We owe it to our youths to seek out the answers and to give them every opportunity to grow and prosper in this great nation. For their sake, we must be able to handle the truth.”

But his implication seems to be that the real “truth” about gun violence is grim, complicated and probably unsolvable—it involves steering our youth away from gun violence by supporting the nuclear family, the church, education, anti-drug programs, and anti-gang programs (all of which we are and should be doing)—BUT don’t bother about better controlling who gets guns. This part of the solution, per the NRA, is off the table.

The truth that most members of the NRA need to handle is this: there are many lives that could be saved were guns better regulated. We all know this to be part of the answer, but the NRA membership chooses to deny that (usually with vehemence), sharing none of the responsibility for crafting a solution.

No member of the NRA should be denied the guns he wants to own. But I do say, “Man up: support legislation for universal background checks, gun registration, and passing title when you sell a weapon.” A bit of trouble, yes; but isn’t it worth it if it will help save even a few hundred lives by better controlling who ends up with guns?

Fred Bennett


America’s ‘gun love sickness’

Any American man can look back on his youth and recognize—each in his own generation and his own way—the cultural toxins he absorbed growing up. For me the 1950’s and 1960’s meant Hollywood movies, and from them I learned such apparent truths as that a woman will struggle—beating her little fists against the hero’s chest--but it’s all part of the game. We knew what she really wanted.

More glamorous were the men of the Nazi SS, with their black leather coats and boots, the inevitable Iron Cross, and their cap with the death’s head insignia. Evil, of course, brandishing their Lugers, but rakish, elegantly evil; and I saw so many of those films.

TV of the period offered home-grown models for young viewers: “The Rifleman” I remember as a single father, who always managed to calm the quivering lip of his boy—by shooting whoever needed shooting; then they embraced. By contrast the cool Mr. Paladin--in “Have Gun, Will Travel”—was a ladies’ man who flashed his business card. Rouse him from a party at his San Francisco hotel and, for pay, he will clean things up in your pathetic little town, by killing several people.

The respected hero of “Gunsmoke,” decently waited until after the last ad, to shoot whoever needed shooting. And we can’t forget the slick suit called Peter Gunn, to pound home the point. I grew to adulthood watching this Gunn and gun garbage, not knowing it was garbage. Night after night, as months and years unfolded. And today we celebrate “The American Sniper.”

This gun love sickness runs deep in our country. It infects both domestic and foreign policy. We watch movies and television, and we think -- if only we can kill enough of them, we can be safe.

D. W. St. John


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