Short Cuts

 OFF THE RAILS ON A CRAZY TRAIN: Lost in the bedlam of where MetroLink should go, how it should get there and who should have the final say on the route is why it was headed to Clayton in the first place.

"Clayton is the second-largest employment center in the region, and it's getting bigger," says Les Sterman, executive director of the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council. The 33,000 people who work in Clayton include many clerical and service-industry workers who depend on public transportation. MetroLink is a modern, environmentally friendly competitor to the automobile. Connecting Clayton to downtown will help "reinvigorate the core" of the region, Sterman says.

"The idea of bypassing Clayton, in my view, on its face, is absurd. This is where people are working and visiting the county offices and the retail and restaurant businesses in Clayton," says Sterman. "If you're going to have a bona fide transportation system, you have to run it to where people want to go."

So despite a plea by Mayor Clarence Harmon and others to postpone a decision, look for the puff of white smoke to rise from the June 30 meeting of the East-West Gateway Coordinating Council.

The current public filibuster about MetroLink has not been without its surreal humor, though you have to look hard for levity among all the self-serving subplots disguised as civic-mindedness: noise, local control, safety. At an April 26 town-hall meeting at Grace United Methodist Church, a consultant for the opponents of ground-level MetroLink popped in a video of freight trains hitting cars at road crossings. What did that have to do with anything? The light-rail people-movers won't be zooming down like a mile-long freight.

Then there was the June 15 public forum, where state Sen. Lacy Clay and former St. Louis Mayor Vince Schoemehl announced that they wanted East-West to delay the June 30 decision. Schoemehl has long opposed any link to Clayton, saying it would siphon money and people from downtown. Why was Clay there? Well, he's running for office. In the daily paper's account of this, it was noted that the delay was supported by "six former mayors of Clayton." Quick — name three. OK, Ben Uchitelle (and he's not even one of the six). Who else? Thought so. Time's up. Like, who cares what a former elected ruler of that duchy thinks? If they really want to be left alone, why not surround Clay-town with a wall and a moat? That way, they'd only have to deal with the outside world when they lower the drawbridge.

Clay-town doesn't get it. A lot of economic activity happens in 63105, but the economy doesn't stop at the city limits. A regional agency like East-West can't be held hostage by the provincial interests of one of the 92 municipalities in St. Louis County. Best guess on this June 30 Great Compromise is a hybrid comprising a ground-level ("at grade") track up to Skinker Boulevard, a descent beneath the Skinker-Forest Park intersection and then a continuation along the Forest Park Parkway — perhaps elevated, but more likely on the ground — to Clayton. No tunnels. And please — no more whining.

GO AHEAD, PAUL, PICK A JOB: As one of the cognoscenti put it after the latest whiplash from Room 200 of City Hall, Ald. Paul Beckerle (D-25th) didn't know whether to sue the city or hold out for a better job. It appears he did the latter. Word is, Beckerle was offered, in writing, a gig heading the Community Development Agency by Mayor Clarence Harmon's office and was considering the salary and start date when Harmon flipped and, for reasons unclear to many, gave the job to Joan Kelly Horn.

It's been no secret that Beckerle, who has been shepherding Harmon's bills to revamp the St. Louis Development Corp. through the Board of Aldermen, wants a new job. Why Harmon needs to give him one is something else again. Now that Beckerle won't be getting the CDA job, there is talk that he'll be named director of a newly concocted "Planning and Urban Design Agency." In fact, when the bill to set that up was on the floor Friday, Ald. Sharon Tyus (D-20th) bluntly asked Beckerle, "This is not your job, is it?" With the background mumblings of "point of order" from those who didn't want the topic broached, Tyus' question went unanswered. This Friday, when the board bills redoing SLDC are to be "finally passed," there's talk of an effort to prevent any aldermen from getting the top jobs.

A contingent seated in the upstairs gallery, visitors from the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, likely missed this plot line. But give the Azerbaijanis time — they'll catch on to these finer points of democracy.

SURF'S UP AT DARST-WEBBE: In the second phase of what Xanadu will follow the demolition of the Darst-Webbe projects and City Hospital, there are plans for a new city recreation center at 12th Street and Park Avenue, catty-corner from the current recreation facility.

If the feasibility studies by Yarger Associates Inc. become reality, then urban residents might be treated to some suburban comforts. What is contemplated, according to parks director Dan McGuire, is a top-drawer pool and "rec-plex" much like one you might see in Kirkwood or Webster Groves.

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