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 thathave 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-Westcan'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 Azerbaijanistime — 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.

"We're shooting for a state-of-the-art place," says McGuire. That might mean a small admission charge like the ones some suburban complexes assess. "There would probably have to be some fees involved, which we don't normally do in the city."

That's a bit complicated, because the new "mixed use" concept aims to have people of various economic classes living side-by-side. McGuire thinks there is a way to pull it off.

"In no way would it be any kind of an elitist kind of a thing," says McGuire. "The public-housing residents who live there need to have access, probably without a fee."

McGuire says the new center would be the city's "flagship rec center," pulling residents mainly from nearby Soulard, Lafayette Square and downtown but also from the rest of the city. Though the center would be publicly funded, private management is being considered. That's OK, as long as they don't make it a theme park based on something ancient like the World's Fair or the last time the Cardinals won a World Series.

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM:Details, details. David Harpool's running for Congress from the 2nd District, the West County seat that Jim Talentwill vacate in his mad ambition to move to Jefferson City. The educated Harpool appears to have more degrees than a thermometer, what with his being a Webster Universitydean, vice president, lawyer, Ph.D. and all, but he may need to invest in a dictionary. In his brochure he states that he "supports the elimination of the CapitolGains tax." Unless Harpool thinks there's a tax on anyone who wants to gain the Capitol, as in going to Washington, D.C., as a congressman, we think he meant a capital-gains tax, as in tax on capital (money) gained from investments, sales and so on. Wearing one of his other former hats — political analyst — what would he have said about that miscue?... Frank Cusumano, calm down. On his Friday-morning KFNS show, he stressed that of the "75 stories" he's done on NBA homie Larry Hughes, only one was negative. Earlier in the week, it seems, Frank criticized Larry for being a no-show at the CBC and St. Louis Universitybasketball camps. Cusumano says Hughes had made a verbal commitment by phone, but because his agent didn't know about it and hadn't included it in the faxed schedule he sends Hughes, the appearances never happened. So the kids were let down. Sad. But the city's Board of Aldermen on Friday passed Resolution 101, sponsored by Ald. Irving Clay Jr.(D-26th), congratulating Hughes on his first year in pro basketball. The only glitch in the resolution was the description of the Philadelphia 76ers, Larry's team, as "legendary." Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Wilt Chamberlain were legendary as 76ers, but that was many, many moons ago. Give Hughes and Allen Iverson a few more years, and next time, uh, fax his agent about anything, OK?... Nothing is forever, but it was unsettling to discover, in the midst of scanning the beer specials at the QuikTrip at 10123 St. Charles Rock Rd., that a new ploy by Anheuser-Busch, our town's and the world's largest brewer, featured a caselike box of Budweiser longnecks that contained just 20 bottles. Was the idea to keep the price about the same but hold back 48 ounces of beer? What's next, five-packs of Busch? Caveat emptor.

Contributor: D.J. Wilson E-mail your tips and comments to "Short Cuts": shortcuts@rftstl.com.

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