Letters

Week of August 1, 2001

The Means Must End
Why is it good to disperse communities of poor black people?The residents of St. Louis are constantly imbued with messages of "revitalization" by the media and rhetoric of politicians. The trend of revitalization follows a philosophy called new urbanism in which developers focus on "mixed-income" and "integrated" community economic development.

The McCormack Baron empire sweeps through St. Louis neighborhoods like the Roman army in the name of community development but instead creates aesthetically pleasing enclaves of American individualism and partners with the government through the social engineering of those dependent on government resources. If the core of democracy is self-rule and self-governance, then none of the revitalization efforts in St. Louis are an archetypal effort in community and housing development.

New urbanism is teleologically oriented; thus current development efforts in St. Louis see good ends but can be harmful or even oppressive in the means to achieve those ends. Any harm done to persons -- for example, in the displacement of the low-income families in Najeeb Hasan's article "No Place Like Home" [RFT, July 18] -- is not justified by good intentions. I'm amazed that we describe low-income African-American neighborhoods as having "density" problems that have the potential to be turned around into "vibrant" neighborhoods, but not when we describe new-immigrant neighborhoods or dense white neighborhoods. The lives of the people, and especially the children, reveal how vibrant these communities already are. As a former tenant organizer in the Darst-Webbe complex, I saw firsthand how the planning process was not open, and when it was, it was creatively designed to manipulate the perspectives of these families. All these new-urbanist efforts, when carried out, have little to do with improving the economic opportunities or quality of life of the local residents and are often abject failures in revitalizing metropolitan cities.
Joe Squillace
St. Louis

Of Crusts and Crumbs
Jerry Berger is my hero:D.J. Wilson's recent column about Jerry Berger was very interesting and largely accurate ["Jerry's Stringer," RFT, June 27]. But a negative letter to the editor depicted Berger's reporting as being focused largely on our town's top "movers and shakers." The writer neglected to mention that Berger often gives a voice to the less powerful and fortunate among us.

Many times, Berger writes about those who are overlooked, who espouse minority or unpopular political positions or who can't afford their own public-relations flacks. He also devotes considerable space in his column to do-gooders who work long and hard for needy families (and would otherwise toil in total obscurity). Finally, he reports on many fundraisers on which worthy nonprofit organizations so heavily depend.

Read Berger's column carefully. He does indeed write about the exploits of the upper crust. But he also includes (and helps out) many of the rest of us.
Laura Barrett
St. Louis

Reverse Snobbery
We're conservative; we're predictable:I am not a big fan of modern art, but I disagree with Ray Hartmann's assessment of the proposed Forest Park gates and the debate over them ["And Now, Gategate," RFT, July 18].

What began as a discussion of how the gates look has evolved into a silly form of reverse snobbery, with Hartmann and other commentators tripping over each other to criticize the gates to prove that they are members of the "great unwashed." As editorial chairman of a publication that recently featured a 10-page story on the "royalty" of the St. Louis polo scene, Hartmann's credentials as a regular guy are suspect.

I can respect the people who think the gates are ugly, but much of the criticism can be summed up by saying, "It's not usual!" As Hartmann puts it, it's not what you expect to see in a "Midwestern park." Note the emphasis on "Midwestern." That's right: We're conservative, we're predictable and we don't want anyone to think we are open to new ideas. This from a publication that constantly criticizes the region's pedestrian nature.

The local media have done a good job of promoting the controversy and a poor job of showing what the proposed gates look like. Anyone who has seen the display at the History Museum knows what I mean. They look pleasantly organic, and I like the rustic green they would be colored.

If this makes me an art snob, so be it. I'll be the only factory-worker art snob in the city.
Chris Otto
St. Louis

Send the gates to Phoenix:If St. Louis allows this to happen, no matter who pays for it, you deserve Bill Bidwell and his stadium back there! Come on, citizens, let's start fighting back to beautify our surroundings instead of getting fleeced again and again.
Florence Portell
Sun City, Ariz.

A rube weighs in: I couldn't care less if private funds are being used to fund this project: Forest Park is still a public treasure, and even us uncultured rubes deserve a say in the matter.
Name withheld by request
St. Louis

Shrink Rap
There's a difference between feeling better and getting better:I believe strongly in the psychoanalytical approach used by Dr. K. Lynne Moritz [Jeannette Batz, "Mind Over Matter," RFT, July 25]. I have been treated continually over 17 years for those childhood, adolescent and adulthood issues. I had to fight for treatment and fight the medical system to receive the type of help that I needed. I have fought HMOs and state agencies. If I had not taken direction with my treatment from its inception, I would have been institutionalized and never would have been able to accomplish anything higher than minimal functioning. I went on to change the system, receive my degrees and even run the family businesses.

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