Steamrollin' Swoboda

Week of February 20, 2002

Steamrollin' Swoboda
Don't take his word for it: Thank you! You have captured the essence of our mayor [Eddie Silva, "A Mayor Runs Through It," Feb. 13]. His "I'll scratch your back, but you must scratch mine" politics are one of the reasons I did not vote for [Mayor Mike] Swoboda! This fast-paced decision-making is not in the best interest of the citizens of Kirkwood. Swoboda states that so many of the citizens are for this development, [but] that's probably because they don't know how this zoning change and lack of traffic studies will affect the future of other commercial sites in our city! It is refreshing to see this issue reported with an open eye to what's really going on in our mayor's office!
Molly O'Brien

Other than all that follows, how'd you like the story, Mrs. Mayor? Although I am tempted to correct the many errors in your story about Kirkwood and its mayor and council, I will confine myself to one area. The mayor, my husband, does not own "a row of 19th-century shops" with me. I am one of the owners of the gift shop called Down by the Station. I have two equal partners, Vicki Short and Phyllis Phelps. We have been in business for 19 years. The caboose is an extension of our shop and is not a "boutique." Phyllis, Vicki and I are very proud of Down by the Station. We three women have worked hard, and well, for 19 years to build a successful business, and we want to take all of the credit.
Sue Swoboda

Grace Under Fire
Tough medicine for those who doctor the poor: "Hard to Heal" [Elizabeth Vega, Jan. 30] was truly hard to read. The tale of Dr. Fred Rottnek's tribulations in caring for the homeless population in St. Louis and the closing of [the clinic at] Harbor Light are a grim reminder of what is in store for the poor and underserved populations of our inner cities. Dr. Rottnek should be commended on his commitment and perseverance. He is a model for the kind of health-care providers we need to improve care for the poor of our country. As a physician working for Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Centers, the article was both sobering and inspiring and should be a call to all who provide care to the poor and homeless to rekindle our efforts at increasing quality. Whether child, prisoner, homeless or wealthy, we all deserve the highest standard of health care, regardless of where we seek it. Thank you for highlighting this important issue, and good luck to Dr. Rottnek.
Nadim Kanafani, M.D.
St. Louis

Slant and spice and everything that isn't very nice: Your article "Hard to Heal" started out to be about the work of a dedicated physician. It is unfortunate that you decided to give it a political slant in order to spice it up, especially since facts had to be distorted or left out in order to do so. Grace Hill has been serving the homeless and the under-served for almost 100 years. Our teams of nurses, assistants and dedicated volunteers have been providing health services to our homeless patients in shelters long before Dr. Rottnek started and will continue even though he has accepted a position elsewhere. Dr. Rottnek's decision to separate from the Homeless Coalition in 1999 and to set up an independent clinic at Harbor Light, run by the Institute of Family Medicine, is understandable in light of his comment "I wanted to be my own boss." Unfortunately, being one's own boss carries with it certain responsibilities, one of which is to procure needed supplies to serve one's patients. Although Grace Hill would love to fill prescriptions for all physicians who serve the underserved, state and federal regulations prohibit us from doing so. We could not jeopardize our grant and service to over 10,000 homeless patients in order to cater to one physician's need to be his "own boss." Why, then, blame Grace Hill and politics for the consequences of these deliberate actions? Grace Hill's nursing staff continues to visit shelter patients daily, and clinicians under the dedicated leadership of Drs. Doerr and Hastings have volunteered to cover Harbor Light. Grace Hill's Respite Care program at Harbor Light continues to provide bed rest and nursing care to homeless patients released from the hospital while they recuperate, and much-needed dental care is provided to the homeless at Harbor Light and seven other homeless shelters by Grace Hill's Mobile Dental Team. But then, cluttering up a story with such facts may not make for interesting reading. After all, David versus Goliath just does not sound as exciting when Goliath turns out to be the good guy!
Villie M. Appoo
Associate Executive Director
Grace Hill Neighborhood Health Centers Inc.

Head Slap and High-Five
Maritz story keeps the right time: I worked at Maritz for just under six years and was laid off, as you put in your article [Jeannette Batz, "The Graveyard Whistlers," Feb. 6], in one of the "spurts" in October. I was curious as to where you got your information, and it was surprisingly accurate. I have no ill feelings towards Maritz -- I made a lot of good friends over the years there and they are a wonderful company to work for -- but I was not at all pleased at how some of my co-workers and I were let go.... There was no rhyme or reason -- not on seniority, pay or service records. I thought perhaps from your sources for this article you might be able to shed some light for some peace of mind.
Chris Hoffman
O'Fallon, Ill.

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