Performance highlights the value of children

It was with great anticipation that I attended the world premiere of "The North Star -- A Musical Journey" at Mill Mountain Theatre. And it is with a full heart and spirit that I write to you about it.

Mill Mountain is to be commended for being courageous enough to proclaim that which many of us know to be true: Every child has a unique constellation of gifts, talents, abilities and intelligences, and these are to be recognized and celebrated.

As Roanoke's educators work to meet the demands of an often one-size-fits-few piece of federal legislation, it's refreshing to consider this truth, and to remind ourselves to work toward it.

Thanks to former Mill Mountain Theatre resident director Mary Best Bova, who's no longer our best-kept secret, and the incredible talents of composer Tim Beckman, Roanoke is gaining a reputation as a place that puts kids first.

And I hope we'll eventually agree that we adults cannot forget to think (and, yes, maybe even occasionally act) like kids ourselves.

Wade Whitehead


An explanation is due on creeping gas prices

OK, what's the deal with gas prices now?

No hurricanes to blame on damage to the refineries; the holidays are over, and it was reported a while back that crude oil prices were at a five- to six-month low.

So, why is gas at the pumps working its way back toward $3 a gallon?

Are the stations now all pricing equally so they can make tons of money? Or is the government behind something that we don't know about?

Mark Habberfield


Efforts wasted on frivolous debates

I've discovered that one of the problems that we have is what I would call a "spirit of pettiness."

We spend unlimited time and effort on matters that could be solved quickly, yet our major and serious issues are sadly ignored.

We intensely debate the issue of a "holiday tree" over a "Christmas tree" and fire shots at the mayor. We disrespect our political leaders in public and beat them with threats of not re-electing them.

We've spent countless hours vigorously debating a stadium.

Yet, a forum was held on the number of domestic violence murders that this city experienced in 2004 and 2005 and no one stormed the civic center.

We have youth and possible gang violence in public places and in our schools, and we choose to ignore it.

Drugs haven't gone anywhere, yet we pretend they don't exist.

We still have homeless people in this community, and we choose to ignore them.

We have nonprofit programs that benefit this community that are losing funding.

We have major and established companies shutting down. That means thousands will be unemployed, possibly increasing homelessness, and more families will leave the area.

When are we going to wake up and realize what's really important?

Lee Pusha


Take a tourism page from Eugene's book

Right on. Your editorial critical of (the lack of) tourism and outdoor opportunity is a bull's eye (Jan. 11, "A new vision of Roanoke tourism").

I have lived here in the heart of the Roanoke Valley for eight years now. Progress is painfully slow.

I have decided that in two years' time I will evaluate Roanoke's progress. Either I will stay, if things look promising, or move to Eugene, Ore.

Here's an excerpt from Eugene's government Web site:

"It's no wonder Eugene enjoys a national reputation as one of the most livable cities in the country. Nestled like a gem between the majestic Cascade Mountains and rugged Oregon coast, Eugene is that rare kind of place where small town charm and big city sparkle mesh perfectly to form a real community. With a thriving and eclectic arts scene, informed and active citizenry, world-class sporting events, and unsurpassed natural beauty, Eugene truly offers something for everyone. We invite you to take a closer look."

mark petersen


Possible to find common ground with beavers

I am writing to express my disappointment regarding Blacksburg Town Council's decision to euthanize two beavers residing in the Brown Farm Heritage Community Park and Natural Area.

According to the news article (Jan. 12, "Town to kill 2 beavers"), property damage, public safety and flooding were the impetus for the decision.

While the distress of the affected landowner is real, I agree with Suzie Leslie's point that trying to work with the landowner should have been tried first.

There are techniques that will minimize the negative aspects of beaver-caused damage.

Landscape tree trunks can be wrapped with metal hardware cloth or chicken wire. Beaver pond drain pipes (beaver foolers) have been developed that allow people, rather than beavers, to control pond water levels.

The wetland habitat that beavers create supports a diverse array of plant and animal life, making beaver ponds and their associated wetlands excellent sites for observing nature.

For example, think of the increased values associated with hiking, photography, nature study and wildlife observation when you can count on seeing ducks and geese, amphibians such as toads and frogs, and numerous wetlands-associated birds and mammals.

Weren't these some of the important reasons for creating this natural area?

Susie Marion


Scoring a point for Virginia justice

After reading your Jan. 13 headlines on the Roger Coleman case, "DNA confirms guilt," I was wondering:

Did Gov. Mark Warner order the tests on his way out of the governor's mansion to prove that the Virginia legal system works and was correct in sentencing the death penalty?

Or, was he hoping to ride into the national spotlight with evidence showing an innocent man was put to death?

It would have made for a good presidential run, wouldn't it? If this was the case, then score the Virginia legal system 1, Gov. Warner 0.

Hopefully, Gov. Tim Kaine will not put his personal beliefs on the death penalty ahead of the Virginia judicial system.

Remember, Gov. Kaine, the people who had to relive painful memories over a slim chance of Coleman's being innocent.

To all involved in this case, I hope they find peace. And now, may Wanda McCoy rest in peace.

Wayne Hall


Payday lenders' goal is to make money

In response to Vicki Woodward's commentary about payday lending businesses (Jan. 12, "Payday lenders offer a valuable credit option"):

In my life, I have been in a position where my options included using a payday lender. They are a necessary evil.

I do not wish to outlaw them, condemn the people who work with them or force them to change their business with more laws.

With that said, Woodward should consider work at a public relations firm or within a political party. Her spin on the industry is cyclonic.

She states that they are helping "hard-working middle class families" by extending credit at rates of "391 percent APR."

This is not a public service. This is not a charity. This is a for-profit business aimed at people who are already having serious financial problems.

Woodward compares the service offered by payday lenders to the rates and expenses of bounced checks, credit card late charges and utility reconnect fees.

Are these the services her business competes with? If so, payday lending is not in good company.

Tony Valencic


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