Letters to the Editor

Published the week of June 21-27, 2000

 LET THE SUNSHINE IN
Your article on the violations and lack of enforcement of the Sunshine Law, especially in Olivette, was well done ("Where the Sun Don't Shine," RFT, June 14). However, no such article can be complete without mentioning the all-time champ of Sunshine Law violators -- the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District.

Many of the ways public bodies use to violate the Sunshine Law were pioneered at MSD. The article mentioned that state auditor Claire McCaskill believes a $25-an-hour charge to copy documents could be illegal. MSD wants at least $55 an hour, sometimes a lot more. The district once charged me $128 for a copy of a report that might have taken five minutes to copy.

At other times, MSD refuses to provide records that clearly should be available to the public. In addition, the sewer district violates the Sunshine Law by holding numerous closed meetings for disallowed purposes. Of course, the reason for this is to cover up all the crooked and illegal activities the sewer district is well known for.

After receiving repeated complaints about MSD's violations of the Sunshine Law, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Dee Joyce-Hayes has decided to act. Assistant Circuit Attorney Tim Finnegan attended MSD's June 8 board meeting and reminded the trustees and management of their responsibility to follow the law. If not, he said, they could be meeting him in another venue.

So we will soon find out if the circuit attorney is blowing smoke -- as the attorney general so often does -- or if she is serious about enforcing the Sunshine Law.
Tom Sullivan

Unless you are trying to ingratiate yourselves with the hoosiers of South St. Louis, your headline of June 14 was grammatically incorrect. It should have read: "Where the Sun Doesn't Shine."
Bill Moushey

AND THE HORSE HE RODE IN ON
Dang. Is that Eddie Silva the most thoughtful, erudite and virtuous person that Eddie Silva knows, or what? In his most recent "State of the Arts" (it really should be retitled "Silva in a State"), he took something that might have made for a genuinely interesting discussion -- why a proudly independent, liberal bookstore decides to pass on a booksigning by Henry Kissinger but later holds such an event for the ex-president of the notorious Oakland Hell's Angels, Sonny Barger -- and managed instead to write a downright pissy piece on what he apparently perceives as the hypocrisy involved. And, as ever, Silva wants us to let his shaky sense of conscience be our guide.

And despite what he so sanctimoniously suggests, the difference between the two men is greater than merely the "economy of scale" (whatever that means, exactly) of their mayhem and murder. As outsider, Barger knows that all outsiders share at least a time and place they're outside of; disenfranchisement is a real thing, too, whether or not the disenfranchised feel like bunking together. A kindred spirit isn't necessarily a blood brother. On the other hand, Kissinger was The Franchise for years on end.

And just as grating as Silva's condescension (especially in the rendering of his conversation with Left Bank co-owner Kris Kleindienst) and glibness ("The Angels were on best behavior. Nobody got stomped.... Their bikes were noisy but beautiful.") is his hallmark insistence on showing us how nimbly his mind can caper. This time around we're treated to his consideration of Wallace Shawn's play Aunt Dan and Lemon (I'd call it a lead, but it just keeps on going -- by my figuring, nearly 30 percent of the piece, and this before we get to the presumed subject at hand), a carefully positioned recollection of a Richard Pryor recollection and a dash of commentary on Milton (you know, the one about how it's Satan that gets all the good lines ... so what does that leave for God or Silva?). By the time he's done, it's like Robin Williams (contemporary pop-culture reference!) doing Elmer Fudd (latter-day/retro pop-culture reference!) doing Conrad's troubled Kurtz in Heart of Darkness (solid, if no longer PC, literary reference!): "The hahwuh! The hahwuh!" The difference? Robin Williams is trying to make us laugh.

Silva clearly believes in his fault-finding mission when he writes, "Left Bank is selective about the social history it represents." No kidding -- and bless 'em. Their events are various, engaging, even provocative; seldom are they dull. And as for Silva's ham-fisted implication that Barger was invited only for the attention-getting, money-making, oddly romantic potential of the occasion, I say: P'shaw, Junior. In this town, the good Dr. Henry Strangelove would have filled a few more strong-boxes, and Left Bank would have received more press (well, maybe not in the RFT -- it's pretty selective about the social history it represents).

I'm afraid there's nothing remotely attractive about the high horse Eddie Silva rode in on. If he could have managed even a Vespa, at least readers might have had a little something to distract them in the midst of all that noise.
David Clewell

Regarding last week's "State of the Arts" on Sonny Barger's appearance at Left Bank Books: Isn't that last paragraph just beautiful? Too perfect, really. In a rush to underscore the "significance" of the title of his set piece, Eddie Silva judges the content of that book unworthy of mention. For those who don't know, the title (The Death of Outrage) is a 170-page "impeach Clinton" work by former Secretary of Education William Bennett. I can't help but think that the New York Times' review of that book -- "Mr. Bennett tends to oversimplify the arguments of his adversaries, reducing them, in summary, to paper tigers he can easily shoot down" -- can easily be applied to Silva's article as well. But we've all had enough cheap irony for one topic, haven't we?
Philip Barron
Left Bank Books

DESKBOUND ON DELMAR
Could it be that D.J. Wilson is jealous of Charles Jaco? Jaco is or has been a novelist, war correspondent, network-news anchor and a radio talk-show host. And having heard him speak on several occasions, I might add that he is a dynamite presenter as well.

What have you been doing with your life, D.J. Wilson? It sounds like you are deskbound on Delmar with maybe an occasional trip to the East Side's strip zone.
Bill German

I am a great admirer of D.J. Wilson. His article two weeks ago on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch was a gem.

However, it distressed me to note his sarcasms against Charles Jaco ("Short Cuts," RFT, June 14). In my opinion, Mr. Jaco is the only local newsperson/interviewer on radio who possesses competency and impartiality, and St. Louis is lucky to have him here.
Justine Eiseman

MISSING THE BOAT
Melinda Roth, like many writers who write about the city of St. Louis, really needs to get away from her designer clothes and well-kept straight blond coif and really find the city. Live in the city -- tens of thousands of people her age and income bracket do.

Her lack of knowledge of the city is best seen in her article about the Admiral ("The Albatross," RFT, June 7). That boat was a great success from 1937 (I'm sure that's the inaugural year) until it developed the "unseaworthy" hull. For more than 30 years, it was the main attraction of the riverfront during that time. Of course, she doesn't know; she's too young. A primary item to consider is that the repairs on the hull could have cost only $1.5 million. The subsequent owners have sunk, I guess, over 50 times that much, judging from the article, to have something much less than it originally was.

Oh, where is that calliope? Where are all those things that made the Admiral the Admiral (which it really isn't now)? Ms. Roth should investigate more. And there's the item of gambling -- as if people are obstructionists who oppose it. Hey, lawyers working with bankruptcies see a huge increase in these since riverboat gambling came in.

Imagine the support all the rest of the economy would have had without this.
Dale M. Cannon

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