Letters to the Editor 

NO SMALL TIF(F)

To the Editor:
Let me understand this: The greedy slimeballs over at the Sansone Group get free taxpayer money to glut already overdeveloped areas with strip-mall complexes, essentially stealing desperately needed funds from school districts and truly blighted communities -- and they don't even have to pay income tax ("Easy Money," RFT, June 2)?

The most offensive thing about that isn't the nauseatingly flagrant abuse of the system by a bunch of good ol' boys or even the disregard for the best interests of citizens and cities. It's the fact that the middle class, by its complacence and love affair with all things convenient, doesn't do a damn thing to stop it.

Shannon Shepherd

To the Editor:
In an article that explained TIF matters very well, C.D. Stelzer noted that PGAV Urban Consulting is a St. Louis-based firm "specializing in TIF-related matters" and that such firms "have honed the art of defining large tracts of land ... as blighted or in danger of blight.... " PGAV is no stranger to St. Charles. The company makes campaign donations to local candidates and is often hired as a consultant to the city. PGAV helped the St. Charles Station Casino get a TIF for redevelopment so that the city could get a convention center. The TIF passed for the casino, but the city still doesn't have a convention center.

Last year, PGAV conducted a workshop for a St. Charles city TIF commission considering another convention-center site. When that passed, PGAV walked the city council through a positive take on the plan, which, at its core, would benefit certain developers. In that deal, the city paid top dollar for a site off I-70 that turned out to be "topographically challenged," in the words of PGAV spokesman John Brancaglioni.

The site is on a slope, but, as I pointed out to the city council, so is most of the city. Branson would be ecstatic to own such a slope. Incidentally, Brancaglioni also presented the architectural plans for the site to the TIF commission.

Cities -- elected officials -- pay experts like PGAV thousands of dollars to argue the merits of TIFs to local boards, commissions and elected officials, but I was given three minutes to tell the city, for free, why I thought the TIF was nonsense. The TIF passed, but St. Charles still doesn't have a convention center. If we get one, current plans call for building it on a "topographically challenged" slope overlooking scenic I-70 instead of in downtown St. Charles, where the convention attractions are located.

I believe that, if he'd been paid to do so, Brancaglioni could have easily argued the merits of a TIF to build a convention center in downtown St. Charles.

Peggy Bradbury

GUN METTLE

To the Editor:
I am a gun owner and fully appreciate the purpose and meaning of the Second Amendment. I am also a strong supporter of gun-control laws. Why? Because I am "reasonable."

The NRA's absurd new PR campaign, "Be Reasonable," offends and infuriates me ("Commentary," "The NRA Goes 'Reasonable,'" RFT, June 2). How reasonable is the NRA when they oppose all legislation that would not affect 99.9 percent of all law-abiding gun owners? Another industry whose products require responsible use is the auto industry. I haven't seen them fight seat-belt or child-safety-seat laws. If mandatory-air-bag laws were proposed, would they fight them tooth and nail? The answer is no. The auto industry is responsible and reasonable enough to voluntarily research and implement new ways to make their products safer for the public. Why shouldn't the gun industry have safety regulations like similar industries? If they aren't responsible or reasonable enough to do it themselves, then the government needs to.

The only purposes a law-abiding citizen would need a gun for are self-defense, hunting, target shooting and collecting. Any other purpose probably would not qualify you as a law-abiding citizen. How would safety locks or not owning an assault rifle inhibit any of those activities? Do we really need armor-piercing or exploding ammunition for self-defense? Is waiting a week for a new handgun to go target shooting really going to inconvenience us that much? I will buy more guns in the future. But I am reasonable enough to know that a mandatory safety lock or a week's wait isn't going to change what kind of gun I buy or infringe upon my right to bear arms.

I understand that gun-control laws won't solve the problems we face today, but they are a part of the solution. I challenge every member of the NRA to think hard and long if they really agree with the propaganda and rhetoric that the NRA controls its members with. Think about it. And be reasonable.

Dave Colvin

To the Editor:
I would like to tell you a little about myself. I am female, Jewish, pro-choice and an environmentalist. I am also a member of the NRA. And after reading your editorial "The NRA Goes 'Reasonable,'" I thought, "I don't send them enough money!" So tonight, after sending this note to you, I am sending a letter of thanks to the NRA, along with a check.

Carol A. Fuhr

RUSSIAN ROULETTE

To the Editor:
I was saddened to read in "Russian Unorthodox" (RFT, June 2) that Webster University is to lose a gem like Nikolai Zlobin. As a prospective student I was drawn to Webster because of small classes, study-abroad opportunities and knowledgeable professors. Now industrial-park-style signs at every entrance declare Webster the world headquarters, and the ambitious 20-year master plan calls for 15 new structures. Tuition is going up, and I'm afraid classes will grow and full-time faculty numbers will fall to pay for the "new Webster." The administration has made a big in mistake in letting Zlobin get away.

Amber Floyd

JUDICIAL REVIEW

To the Editor:
We as Midwesterners are always complaining about being stereotyped as unsophisticated. We do, however, have a certain amount invested in our "simple folk with good ol' American common sense" image. Our "common sense" often defies logic. I am referring to the statements made by jury foreman Marc Childers about the statutory-rape case detailed in Jeannette Batz's enlightening article "Presumed Guilty" (RFT, May 26). Our legal system will always be as imperfect as we are, but this does not make the lack of self-awareness on the part of a grown man entrusted to be the foreman of a jury any less frightening.

Childers all but admits that he voted for convictions not based on the evidence but because he himself would have committed statutory rape if faced with similar circumstances. Childers' adolescent attitudes about sex and human nature may have helped convict two innocent people of the most heinous of crimes.

The conventional wisdom (especially in the Midwest) seems to be, if you're going to err, err on the side of conservatism. People see too much sexual liberation as very dangerous, while too much good old-fashioned sexual repression "never hurt nobody." Ms. Batz's article shows that this is not the case. Our puritanical attitudes about sex do claim victims, from gays and lesbians who enter doomed heterosexual marriages as a reaction to societal pressure, to innocent people convicted of sex crimes because the torrid nature of the accusation obscures the facts. If the defendants in this case are innocent (as I believe them to be), my heart goes out to them.

David Dandridge

To the Editor:
In "Presumed Guilty," you describe Judge John Kintz "blocking evidence" from the jury. Just one example of obstructions practiced by judges in courts throughout the land. "He who controls the evidence controls the outcome": This simple truth has been lost on the lawyers who have allowed the judges to gain almost complete control over what evidence can be admitted.

In support of this practice, it was argued that only the judge should and could decide "relevance," that only he can protect the jury from "prejudicial" information. Behold the contempt they have for you as a juror! You are so emotionally immature, so easily manipulated, so lacking in objectivity that the whole truth can never be revealed to you. Never mind that as grown adults you make daily decisions that affect your destiny and that of your family. You vote for senators, presidents, bond proposals -- you even vote for judges, but somehow in a criminal trial you are so emotionally immature that you cannot be trusted with all the pertinent facts. So Judge Kintz concealed Jenny's past from the jury, violating all principles of common sense and simple justice.

Study after study reveals that most judges are biased in favor of the prosecution. Why is that a surprise? After all, the judge is just another employee of the government.

Other abuses: Judges routinely instruct jurors that they "must consider only the facts and not judge the law. You must follow the law as I explain it to you, whether or not you agree with it." This instruction is false. Jurors have always had the legal power to use their conscience in coming to a verdict and can legally ignore the judge's instructions and vote "not guilty" if their sense of justice so dictates. Yes, jurors can judge the justice of the law. For example, if the jury feels a mandatory 35-year sentence for smoking marijuana is unjust, they have the power to vote "not guilty," even if the prosecution proves its case and the judge (falsely) instructs that they must follow that law. Guess what? Judges are now (falsely) instructing juries that they must ignore the sentence in their deliberations. Really! How can jurors come to a just verdict without taking into account the potential punishment?

Frank Nugent
Missouri Coordinator
Fully Informed Jury Association

To the Editor:
I already told the police, the grand jury and the jury in my trial that I did not have sex with this girl. Obviously it hasn't been enough for me to tell anyone that I didn't have sex with this girl. Whatever emotional and financial pain I have endured throughout this ordeal is completely irrelevant to the people who do not know me. I do not want to make this a public-relations battle and still hope this can be solved by the Court of Appeals and not by public opinion.

The girl has accused others of sexual abuse, including a family member. Assuming that she was telling the truth, it would only be fair to investigate all her claims of sexual abuse. According to her prepared victim's-impact statement, which she read during sentencing, she has proven that the justice system can work for victims. If that is the case, she now has a clear way to bring everyone that ever molested, raped and beat her to justice. The prosecutor who claims to be here to save the children should now go after the numerous people who, according to my accuser's official and unofficial statements, have abused her. I am sure that the other accusations won't get as much press time as a teacher/student case. But if this is about the truth and justice, they still should be investigated. The prosecutor was allowed to demonize Michele and I to the jury. She won the case by saying that Michele was unprofessional and immature and I was an intimidating Latin guy. Those were both facts, but they do not prove what was supposed to be proven that day.

I can't imagine that any of those jurors can look us in the eye and say they were convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that we had sex with the girl. Do they even know what reasonable doubt is? Do they know what burden of proof is? But can they convict me because they think I am arrogant? Can they convict me because they think my family is well-off? Was it the time for the jury foreman to get revenge on whatever is missing in his personal life? Jurors need to understand the law so they can make decisions based on the law and not on their emotions. Being educated on the legal system allows people not to be manipulated like marionettes. "Why would anyone make this up if it wasn't true?" says the prosecutor. "They didn't prove they didn't do it," says the juror. That is the exact opposite of what this country is about. The meaning behind the jurors' statement is something that everyone following this case should be concerned about. Is the American justice system about having to prove that you didn't do it?

Luciano Silveira

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