The Shame of Our City

Week of November 14, 2001

The Shame of Our City
Symptoms of gross neglect:As a 15-year resident of Old Town Fenton, I watched in tears as the "Pyramid" (as we called it) was excavated [Jeannette Batz, "Grave Losses," Oct. 31]. Over and above the crimes against human history perpetrated by these predatory developers, we also have to swallow hard the fact that our government paid them to do this. We have kicked three of the city jerks out but are still stuck with six of the good ol' boys, so in essence we still cannot stop dishonest city management despite a new, terrific mayor.

It has been obvious for some time that the city of Fenton mishandled the Gravois Bluffs project. I have a few questions: Perhaps Fenton's planning-and-zoning man, Franz Kraintz, will explain why Fenton paid [developer] G.J. Grewe to destroy the burial mounds. Cal Rea, working for the state, told me at that time he had spent most of his last several years in office almost exclusively riding herd on what he considers the mishandling of the human remains unearthed on one of these sites or trying to prevent the destruction of the known unmarked burials. Why did he have to? These are all symptoms of gross neglect on the part of some Fenton board members, as well as some present and former city officials. I am growing tired of apologizing for my community instead of boasting about it as I once felt able to do.
Marlin Mackley
Fenton

We feel guilty for working on that project:As someone who worked on that particular project, I was pleased to read a tempered, relatively balanced discussion of that fiasco. So many of us who were there carry substantial guilt at being present for the project. It was nice to finally hear something that didn't blame everything on the archaeologists, who tried to do the best possible work in the worst possible circumstances.
Name withheld by request

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I'm never going to the Fenton Wal-Mart:I have lived in Fenton all my life. I love this town, but after reading the article "Grave Losses," I feel cold and sickened at the sight of my own street. It is very important to me that everyone knows that we, the citizens of Fenton, did not know what was found on that hill in February of 1999. I have always thought my little river valley is so beautiful and truly believed that we were not the only ones to enjoy its splendor. I cannot believe our own natural history was destroyed because Wal-Mart wanted a new building. I refuse to ever go to that store, and I would bet that if more people were aware of the travesty, I wouldn't be the only one driving the extra five miles to Kirkwood for my shopping needs.
Patrick Moran
Fenton

Laws aren't enough to save our heritage:The flattening of these mounds may be the most poignant symbol of our increasing ignorance and disrespect for history, elders and a sense of the sacred. This blindness and cultural arrogance is not the fault of any individual but a symptom [identified by] Robert W. Bly.

In his book The Sibling Society, Bly points out the historical events culminating in our destruction of "vertical" relationships. He writes: "Our society has been damaged not only by acquisitive capitalism, but also by an idiotic distrust of all ideas, religions, and literature handed down to us by elders and ancestors.... If colonialist administrators begin by attacking the vertical thought of the tribe they have conquered, and dismantle the elder system, they end by dismantling everything in sight. That is where we are. We are the first culture in history that has 'colonized' itself."

If this is true, legislation alone will not save our cultural heritage. We will need to reconstruct the minds and hearts of youth, but adults have to take primary responsibility for this.
John Stone
St. Louis

Bad Hair Piece
Let me have his job: In D.J. Wilson's "Short Cuts," we have a unverified nonstory about a nonincident to which this erudite writer was able to devote an entire column ["Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow," Nov. 7]. When you catch on that you are being taken by a columnist who writes nonstories about nonissues, can I have his job?
Joseph Reichert
via the Internet

Who's Unlucky?
No pity for this murderer:As a close friend of Angel Walker, the murder victim of Quentin Davis, I feel compelled to respond to last week's cover story [Bruce Rushton, "Unlucky Seven," Nov. 7]. In November 1999, Davis committed first-degree murder, confessed to the crime and handed over the weapon to police. While incarcerated, he was not suffering from any pre-existing psychological conditions like some of the other individuals mentioned in the article. Rather, nine months after killing Walker and realizing the severity of his situation, he was simply suffering from a bad case of self-pity, which led him to seek out a way to end his life. The fact that he obtained this "how-to" material from within the correctional institution is just a stomach-turning side note.

It was not only ignorant but completely unacceptable of the author to label Quentin Davis as "unlucky." The only unlucky people in this case were the innocent victim and her close friends and family who did not get to see Davis' punishment justly carried out.
Name withheld by requestJail officials have to get serious: The Mental Health Association of Greater St. Louis has long been concerned that suicides continue to happen within the jail system. We met several months ago with local jail officials, purchased a jail-suicide-prevention curriculum and then sought funding to provide this training to all of the jail employees. To date, we have found no one interested in funding such training.

A large percentage of the people in the system should not be there. They have a mental illness, and, in all probability, their situation has been exacerbated by the unwillingness of the state of Missouri to provide proper funding for treatment. Notwithstanding the fact that the Department of Mental Health never requests full funding for our mental-health system, the prisoners have a double stigma: They are mentally ill and they are prisoners.

Our association requested that funding for a model program be included in the next DMH budget. Not only was it not included, DMH officials failed to respond to the request. When we sought federal funding earlier this year for a jail-suicide-prevention program, we could not get a letter of support from the city jail system, even though the mental-health community, Sheriff Glenn Boyer from Jefferson County and other officials endorsed it.

There have already been federal suits involving the withholding of medication from prisoners with resulting suicides. A Cape Girardeau family was awarded $781,000 for this practice. The family not only won the suit, they also sent a powerful message to the jail officials involved. I would advise Loretta and Willis Lloyd to find an attorney, file suit against the city of St. Louis and also file a federal civil-rights complaint against the city. Jails and prisons have an obligation to provide medical services to prisoners; to read that Mrs. Lloyd had to hand-carry medication to her son is outrageous.

Until city jail officials become serious about suicide prevention, the families, the prisoners and our society will suffer while people die needlessly in our jail.
James E. House II
Executive Director
Mental Health Association
of Greater St. Louis

Self-Made Man
I'm not waiting for a handout:Ray Hartmann, "This Modern World" and the rest of the ultraliberal bilge is why the Riverfront Times must give away its "news." Hartmann, you're an idiot! Why do you think the mostly Democratic-controlled Missouri population is leaving? Ray, people don't like the government unfairly overtaxing them. Seventeen percent sounds high to me. People who are achievers are not going to keep staying where they're getting ripped off. When liberals raise taxes, wealthy people and businesses don't keep spending, they cut spending and relocate to places like Florida, Nevada and Arizona -- or, worse, they close their American plants and reopen in places like Mexico.

When I become successful, I promise you, I will not own property anywhere in Missouri. I'm a libertarian. I believe in not waiting for the government to hand me shit! I make my own way.

The Riverfront Times does more harm than good when it seeks to punish success and makes excuses for lazy, criminal underachievers.
Byron Motley
St. Louis

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