Week of February 21, 2001

Neighborhood Watch
Placing the blame on the wrong people: I read with dismay your article "Death Trip" [Wm. Stage, RFT, Jan. 31], as I am a resident of the Marine Villa neighborhood. This horrible incident occurred within a block of my home.

I am saddened by the senseless death of this young man, and I want to be clear that my comments to the RFT are in no way directed at him or his family. I feel that the RFT article tried to place the blame for his death on "the mean streets of South St. Louis," and Marine Villa is portrayed as a drug-infested, crime-laden area where no one should venture out at night.

I have lived at my home in this neighborhood for 14 years. I come and go, day and night, and am not afraid to do so. I am not going to say that we do not and have not had problems here, and we as a neighborhood and community have and are working to make this a safer and more desirable area. However, one of the stumbling blocks to decreasing drug-dealing in the area is the fact that people come from their safe neighborhoods in the county, buy drugs from the dealers in our neighborhoods and then leave the law-abiding community members to deal with the problems created by the drug culture.

I can afford to live in the county but choose to remain part of the Marine Villa neighborhood. The housing was built by craftsmen and has features that are unmatched in the newer homes in the county; the people are diverse; local attractions are nearby and easily accessible; several bus routes are within blocks of my house; and city services (for the most part) are responsive to the needs of the citizens.

I am disappointed in the RFT for not reporting a more balanced picture of Marine Villa.
Joanne Curtis
St. Louis

A renaissance is around the corner: The recent article in the RFT painted a grim picture of Marine Villa. Because of its beautiful and affordable old homes, this neighborhood could be the next Soulard or Benton Park.
Anna Ginsburg
Director of Neighborhood Stabilization
City of St. Louis

Persistence and diligence are key: I live two blocks away from where Jason Laboube was shot. Your article depicted the Marine Villa neighborhood in a very unfavorable light. While we have had problems in the neighborhood, there is much good as well. Around the corner from the [location of the] shooting, new single-family homes are being sold for $80,000. On my street, a home that sold for $15,000 four years ago was rehabbed and sold recently for just under $80,000. Four years ago, our street also had problems with drugs and prostitution -- not unlike the area on Wisconsin or along Potomac and Illinois. The difference in our street now and the others mentioned in the article is that our neighbors banded together and organized. We had neighborhood meetings and worked closely with the police department, our alderman and our neighborhood-stabilization officer. We individually and collectively called 314-241-COPS to report suspected drug activity.

To make this sound easy would be a lie. It was laborious and tedious work. At times, it felt as though our calls went unanswered. Yet, in hindsight, I know that during all those phone calls, the police department was gathering necessary information and evidence, and the neighborhood-stabilization officer was checking on absentee-landlord status.

We persevered, and, although it took a lot of hard work, our street stabilized and the price of real estate has significantly increased. To depict the Marine Villa neighborhood in such an unfavorable light is unfair to the residents and those working hard to continually improve our neighborhood. To our neighbors in similar situations, I would encourage you to use the tools already available to help you stabilize your street. You are the catalyst for change, but you will need to make the first call, the third call and the 10th call. Persistence and diligence are key.
Judy Kirkwood
St. Louis

Indecent Exposure
Tell it like it is: Nice job on exposing this public-private fiasco [Ray Hartmann, "Switch Hitters," RFT, Feb. 14]. I imagine the Cardinals would go to East St. Louis or East Gary, Ind., if the Missouri General Assembly says no to public financing of the new park? Tell it like it is and keep us up to date.
Stuart Francis Murphy
Jefferson City

Swiss Diss
We can do well without the Swiss: In reading the responses to C.D. Stelzer's article on the proposed quarry and cement kiln in Ste. Genevieve County, I was struck by the polarization between the letter from Timothy Leach of St. Louis and the anonymous Ste. Genevieve County resident ["Letters," RFT, Jan. 24]. It appears to be a classic impasse between environmentalists and job-seekers, a clash between economy and ecology. Yet these two words have their origins in the same root, from "care of the household." Why, then, is there such a conflict?

An obvious problem is that the Ste. Genevieve resident is afraid to use his or her name. Openness without fear or reprisal should be a prime characteristic of a democracy. The person's statement is a strong "Keep out!" No one should criticize him or her for wanting a good-paying job, a strong local economy and a convenient place to shop. By contrast, the St. Louisan freely identifies himself, yet shows little or no understanding of the serious economic issues facing his fellow Missourians. Likewise, the Ste. Genevieve writer shows no understanding of the St. Louisan's desire for clean air and a healthy environment.

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