Aping the president
Jenny Warburg's excellent photo of George Bush on page 5 of the March 5 issue of The Independent Weekly uniquely captures Bush in a moment of morose contemplation. His pronounced frown creates shadows on his face that make him resemble alternately Lincoln and a gorilla. Such ambiguity accurately reflects both ways in which our sharply divided nation views Bush, as strong leader and as numbskull. Too bad the photo wasn't chosen for the cover.
When John Walker Lindh was arrested in Afghanistan and accused of treason, Time magazine ran a cover story on the ordeal. One of the accompanying photographs showed Lindh, apparently shortly after his arrest, surrounded by a battery of faceless, armed men leading him toward his fate. In the photo, Lindh's eyes were tinted red. With all of the photographic technology enabling them to manipulate their pictures, Time's publishers had either neglected to clean up the flash effects or had purposefully added the red. They demonized and thereby persecuted this misguided young man in a pathetic act of sensationalist journalism that pandered to a public in need of a scapegoat.
The Independent sinks as low by portraying Bush as though he were a bumbling drunk on its cover in a blurred photograph in which his eyes are half-closed and his mouth is half-open. This is hardly emblematic of the award-winning journalism for which I read The Independent. In fact, it seems the magazine is pandering to its liberal-minded readership by persecuting the ultra-conservative president. The photo might have been appropriate as accompaniment to Onion-style satire, but serious journalism it is not.
Diagnosis: bad docs
In reference to the article "Defensive Medicine" [Burtman, March 12] and the issue of malpractice insurance--NPR ran a similar commentary some weeks ago. I didn't catch all of it, but two of the reasons I heard given for soaring costs were: 1) the fact that insurance companies invest the premiums in the stock market. When the market is good, premiums are low, and when the market is bad, as in recent years, the premiums are high (i.e. the premiums are not based on lawsuits or rewards, but on how well the market is doing). And 2) a very small percentage of doctors ever get sued, but of the ones who do, quite a few are "repeat offenders" (i.e. really bad and dangerous doctors who shouldn't be practicing medicine). Yet their licenses are never revoked or even suspended. If these bad doctors were not allowed to practice, then the number of lawsuits would go down, and, more importantly, the number of people injured.
Thank you for continuing to cover development and land use issues in Raleigh. In the March 12 cover story "Making Raleigh into a Real City," the article covered the negative side of the current Planned Development District (PDD) ordinance, but neglected to highlight the positives.
For example, the PDD is the only zoning that requires a developer to create a detailed master plan at the rezoning stage and prepare a traffic impact study. As another example, the PDD prohibits the retail component of a mixed-use center from being completed until a percentage of other uses are constructed, insuring that the area will not become "stripped out." One of the most important features that the PDD allows is for the buildings to face the street instead of a parking lot. Other zoning categories contain setback regulations that encourage a parking lot to be constructed between a building and the street--hardly the walkable environment Raleigh is striving for. Further, a pedestrian-circulation plan, integrated with the mandatory open space inherent to the district, is required in every PDD proposal.
A successful PDD project is under way on Falls of Neuse at I-540. The developer cooperated for many long months with area residents and the Planning Commission to craft a mixed-use village center. This would not have been possible without PDD zoning.
The PDD is not perfect, but it is a tool in the planning tool box that should be sharpened, not thrown away.
I look forward to the presentation of ideas to improve the PDD process. It is an important issue, and worthy of constructive debate.
Jamie S. Taliaferro
Raleigh Planning Commissioner
An item in last week's "Front Porch" section about gay-friendly schools (see "Making the Gay Friendly Grade," March 19) gave an incorrect title for Louann Pope. She is a student at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business and president of Fuqua's Gay, Lesbian, Straight Alliance.