Week of January 24, 2001

Dust Bowl
Does anybody else see a credibility problem? Ste. Genevieve's elected county commissioners are soft on grime. Thanks to C.D. Stelzer for warning us of their dirty little secret ["Cementing a Deal," RFT, Jan. 17]. The metro area will be forced to eat their dust, and we'll lose millions in federal highway funds as punishment for eroded air quality.

Why? Because three rural commissars plan to host what the RFT dubs "the world's largest cement kiln" plus quarry -- a hellhole that will level 4,000 acres of unspoiled timberland and will gouge a Mississippi River harbor from eco-rich wetlands and fish-spawning grounds.

Stelzer predicts 7,000 tons of aerial pollutant annually, based on figures from the would-be builder-operators, Holnam, a Swiss-based multinational corporation. Meanwhile, in the Jan. 17 Ste. Genevieve Herald, a company official is quoted, saying, "There won't be noise. There won't be pollution." Does anybody see a credibility problem?

The EPA is opposed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is opposed. At last count, 12 conservation and environmental organizations are opposed.

Yet the commissioners appear eager to denude the natural beauty of a picturesque wildlife and tourist mecca and to endanger the health of area residents in exchange for 200 jobs (that might not even go to Ste. Gen residents) and $2 million a year from a negotiated sweetheart reprieve until abate-tax formulas kick in.

The largest tract of dense woodland between St. Louis and Cape Girardeau will be a dust bowl in three years if Holnam is allowed to crater Missouri landscape into Swiss cheese. This reminds me of another 'Nam where defoliation exposure had personal consequences -- my son's mental retardation. Take it from one who knows the bitter price: Environmental plunder has an insidious and tragic cost.
Tim Leach
St. Louis

We don't need outsiders expressing their views: This company will raise the valuation of our county and will benefit a lot of people. We lost our Grandpa's store, and it is rumored that Value City did not come in because of the adverse opinions of some people. Well, now we have no store and have to go out of town to buy a lot of things. We don't need a lot of outside people expressing their views about our county.
Name withheld on request
Ste. Genevieve

Tales Out of School
City schools need people like Brother Mac: I just finished reading your story on the St. Louis school system and Brother Mac [Safir Ahmed, "Off Beat," RFT, Jan. 17]. At first I thought this was another racial attack on the city of St. Louis and its residents, and I still think it is, to some degree. But that doesn't undermine the significant and crucial questions and analysis you asked about the school board's tactics on hiring and promoting teachers and substitutes.

They talk about a shortage of funds and then spend a significant amount of money to go to South Africa and recruit teachers there? South Africa is not St. Louis, and these people know very little of St. Louis or what to expect. Who is to say that they won't leave to find better (perhaps, ultimately, suburban) positions? This isn't a one-size-fits-all approach.

The St. Louis school system needs people like Brother Mac and the other dedicated teachers in the school system. St. Louis, like a lot of other (inner-city) school districts, has its own unique problems and disadvantages (and some advantages) that go far beyond the school system itself. You can get a teacher with a Ph.D. and they probably won't make as much of a difference or care as much as some of the teachers and substitutes teachers already in the district. They should not cast these folks aside. While I cannot and will not argue their reasoning behind cutting the retroactive raises, sick pay and leaves of absences for the substitute teachers, why not put some of that time, effort and money into helping them further their education?
LaWanda Wallace
St. Louis

What About Bob?
OK, so I touched the hors d'oeuvres: Yeah, I was there that night that St. Louis didn't have to cross the river to get a peek of pink [Eddie Silva, "State of Arousal," RFT, Jan. 17]. I agree that the organizers of the exhibition, Linda Horsley and Shelley Silvey, could not have foreseen what the evening, given certain variables, might devolve into -- drunken naked people surrounded by sexual imagery should have been a conservative night out, after all. Or perhaps it was a social experiment at the expense of St. Louis' hip art scene?

I wish someone had pointed out that that was Bob Cassilly with the lipstick tube before I shoved him out of my way, drooling. Oh, and in defense of "those who got silly after a few too many glasses of beer or wine" and ate sushi off the nude model, "which was not the intent of the artist": She was covered by a blanket of food just adjacent to the drinks table, for chrissakes. There was no indication that one was not to pluck a sushi roll right off her nipple and pop it in one's mouth (the sushi, I mean).

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