The Rec-ing Crew

Week of April 16, 2003

The Rec-ing Crew
Anywhere but here: I'm glad you ran Matthew Everett's story about the opposition to the "community center" in Carondelet Park ["Not in My Park," April 2]. I am a South City resident who resides on the north side of the park, and the comments of Alderman Matt Villa surprised me. I feel that he is trying to bring up the issues of social class and race and cover up for all the political antics city officials are notorious for pulling. I also believe that if Alderman Fred Wessels would make a visit to other wards in the area, he would see that more signs do exist.

I am in favor of the community center, but I, like Friends of Carondelet Park co-founder Birgit Spears, believe there are enough "blighted" areas of the city that could use an uplift with a center like this, other than a historic park.
Diane Santiago
St. Louis

Party at Matt's house! Alderman Matt Villa stated that the residents of the Holly Hills neighborhood who are opposed to a community center being built in Carondelet Park are against it because "they don't want poor people or African-American people in their neighborhood. They're afraid of both race and class." If I use Matt's logic and attempt to read minds like he does, I could deduce that Matt doesn't like poor people or diversity in race and class, since he resides in a $400,000 home on Holly Hills Boulevard.
Michael Szerzinski
St. Louis

The race card: Thank you for "Not in My Park." It certainly helped generate greater awareness about the potential community center in South City. But while the article served to highlight an important development issue for South City and potentially Carondelet Park, it unfortunately only focused on the same ol' angle: class, race and all of the traditional St. Louis city hot buttons. As the piece pointed out, the issues raised by individuals opposing the development are very diverse, as diverse as the people who oppose it. It is important to point out that opposition to the park's development comes from residents of multiple-stakeholder communities, not just Holly Hills, and from people with multiple cultural backgrounds.

It's a sad fact that when concerned residents challenge the city's decision to proceed with an idea, officials often present the opposition as racially motivated -- a classically divisive tactic used to divert attention from some of the core issues. In that light, Alderman Matt Villa's comment was very disturbing. In his support of the development, it seems Villa has decided to use the "race card" by saying that anyone questioning the city's ability to take care of its rec centers is doing so because of a racist or classist subtext. While Mr. Villa may very well have experienced this in discussions with some of his constituents or neighbors, he should be aware of the more pragmatic and legitimate concerns voiced by the opposition in his constituency -- concerns such as the loss of public park land, cost, maintenance, capacity and a spoiled opportunity for further development surrounding the facility. These are the concerns that are widely held by individuals who are opposed to this potential park development, and they are not motivated by anything other than pragmatism.

The article was correct about the difficulty in judging the degree of opposition. But the notion put forth by Carondelet resident Pat Eby that opposition might be "manufactured" seems superfluous, since the only manufactured aspect of the issue is the signage, and it speaks for itself.
Birgit Spears
Monica Groth Farrar
St. Louis

Bombs Away
Hit us where it hurts -- in the pants: The article on St. Louis' being a potential terrorist target gave a few good areas which dearly need to be hit ["Unreal," April 2]. Allow me to add a few more:

Walgreens drugstores: Just like those annoying Canada geese, they seem to be everywhere. There are so many, in fact, that even a dumb bomb, launched haphazardly, would hit at least one.

Potholes: Again, a dumb bomb could do the job. Just launch one in the general direction of St. Louis or St. Louis County and stand back. With any luck at all, the thing would hit an empty parking lot, where it would throw tons of debris into the air. The chance of filling any given pothole with this debris is a certainty.

Gasoline price boards: Yet another job for a dumb bomb. Trying to figure out when the price is right to buy gas is enough to drive the average motorist nuts. To protect our sanity, these signs have to go.

Oversize trousers with crotches that drag the ground: This is a job for a smart bomb. It must first figure out what it is that holds the trousers from falling all the way to the ground, then demolish that device without harming the clown who is wearing the trousers. On second thought, instead of a smart bomb, make that a brilliant bomb -- and lots of them.
Harvey Meyer
Green Park, Missouri

Hoosier Corner
Show us your hoosiers! To the parents who were offended by the "Hoosiers" cover [ Letters, April 9]: Shame on you for missing a perfect opportunity to teach your kids an important cultural lesson. Anyone knows only a hoosier would flip a kid the bird in front of his parents.

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