Week of January 24, 2001

Dust Bowl
Does anybody else see a credibility problem? Ste. Genevieve's elected county commissioners are soft on grime. Thanks to C.D. Stelzer for warning us of their dirty little secret ["Cementing a Deal," RFT, Jan. 17]. The metro area will be forced to eat their dust, and we'll lose millions in federal highway funds as punishment for eroded air quality.

Why? Because three rural commissars plan to host what the RFT dubs "the world's largest cement kiln" plus quarry -- a hellhole that will level 4,000 acres of unspoiled timberland and will gouge a Mississippi River harbor from eco-rich wetlands and fish-spawning grounds.

Stelzer predicts 7,000 tons of aerial pollutant annually, based on figures from the would-be builder-operators, Holnam, a Swiss-based multinational corporation. Meanwhile, in the Jan. 17 Ste. Genevieve Herald, a company official is quoted, saying, "There won't be noise. There won't be pollution." Does anybody see a credibility problem?

The EPA is opposed. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is opposed. At last count, 12 conservation and environmental organizations are opposed.

Yet the commissioners appear eager to denude the natural beauty of a picturesque wildlife and tourist mecca and to endanger the health of area residents in exchange for 200 jobs (that might not even go to Ste. Gen residents) and $2 million a year from a negotiated sweetheart reprieve until abate-tax formulas kick in.

The largest tract of dense woodland between St. Louis and Cape Girardeau will be a dust bowl in three years if Holnam is allowed to crater Missouri landscape into Swiss cheese. This reminds me of another 'Nam where defoliation exposure had personal consequences -- my son's mental retardation. Take it from one who knows the bitter price: Environmental plunder has an insidious and tragic cost.
Tim Leach
St. Louis

We don't need outsiders expressing their views: This company will raise the valuation of our county and will benefit a lot of people. We lost our Grandpa's store, and it is rumored that Value City did not come in because of the adverse opinions of some people. Well, now we have no store and have to go out of town to buy a lot of things. We don't need a lot of outside people expressing their views about our county.
Name withheld on request
Ste. Genevieve

Tales Out of School
City schools need people like Brother Mac: I just finished reading your story on the St. Louis school system and Brother Mac [Safir Ahmed, "Off Beat," RFT, Jan. 17]. At first I thought this was another racial attack on the city of St. Louis and its residents, and I still think it is, to some degree. But that doesn't undermine the significant and crucial questions and analysis you asked about the school board's tactics on hiring and promoting teachers and substitutes.

They talk about a shortage of funds and then spend a significant amount of money to go to South Africa and recruit teachers there? South Africa is not St. Louis, and these people know very little of St. Louis or what to expect. Who is to say that they won't leave to find better (perhaps, ultimately, suburban) positions? This isn't a one-size-fits-all approach.

The St. Louis school system needs people like Brother Mac and the other dedicated teachers in the school system. St. Louis, like a lot of other (inner-city) school districts, has its own unique problems and disadvantages (and some advantages) that go far beyond the school system itself. You can get a teacher with a Ph.D. and they probably won't make as much of a difference or care as much as some of the teachers and substitutes teachers already in the district. They should not cast these folks aside. While I cannot and will not argue their reasoning behind cutting the retroactive raises, sick pay and leaves of absences for the substitute teachers, why not put some of that time, effort and money into helping them further their education?
LaWanda Wallace
St. Louis

What About Bob?
OK, so I touched the hors d'oeuvres: Yeah, I was there that night that St. Louis didn't have to cross the river to get a peek of pink [Eddie Silva, "State of Arousal," RFT, Jan. 17]. I agree that the organizers of the exhibition, Linda Horsley and Shelley Silvey, could not have foreseen what the evening, given certain variables, might devolve into -- drunken naked people surrounded by sexual imagery should have been a conservative night out, after all. Or perhaps it was a social experiment at the expense of St. Louis' hip art scene?

I wish someone had pointed out that that was Bob Cassilly with the lipstick tube before I shoved him out of my way, drooling. Oh, and in defense of "those who got silly after a few too many glasses of beer or wine" and ate sushi off the nude model, "which was not the intent of the artist": She was covered by a blanket of food just adjacent to the drinks table, for chrissakes. There was no indication that one was not to pluck a sushi roll right off her nipple and pop it in one's mouth (the sushi, I mean).

Fortunately, when I made my own attempt at this, I was stopped by a curt "You're not about to do that!" -- the very phrase that most who attended that night were loath to hear.

Because whatever "that" was, a lot of us did.
Hunter Brumfield
St Louis

Celebrate the breadth of experimentation: A great showman once said, "Bad press is better than none." Funny how that still holds true. Having once been reviewed by Eddie Silva as exhibiting work "more mundane than revelatory," I have since followed his reviews with some interest. Eddie has inverted art criticism and invented "cryniciscm" -- the flavor of his disdain seems to linger on the palate long after the reader has absorbed the critic's qualitative judgment.

The idea that the Arousal exhibition espouses a singular didactic that seeks to "make St. Louisans act grown-up about sex" is, of course, absurd. Besides the surprisingly overlooked "emperor's new clothes" aspect of mutual back-patting at this show, Mr. Silva overlooked what seemed obvious parallels in a show of symbols. The individual's degree of pleasure is directly connected to the strength of accompanying residual guilt. Just as this connection exists, voyeurs and exhibitionists represent both halves of a community. Within the context of the Arousal show, delineation between the two was clearly defined. One's identification of sexual persona is the result of experience or trial and error. The Arousal exhibition is notable as the first of its kind in this town and should be celebrated for its failings as well as the breadth of its experimentation.
William Morris
St. Louis

Tales of the City
Wake up and smell the moving-van exhaust fumes: I loved D.J. Wilson's article about the St. Louis promotional ads [D.J. Wilson, "Short Cuts," RFT, Jan. 10].

If, as Scripture says, "a threefold cord is not quickly broken" [Ecclesiastes 4:12b, New King James Version], then St. Louis is a prime example of the converse. The problem isn't that we lack civic self-esteem, it is that we lack civic cohesion! It is 2001, St. Louis has once again lost population, and now perhaps the county has as well. Wake up and smell the moving-van exhaust fumes! Rather than mock other cities, we should do something about the problems that have our population and industry leaving to them. We can't do this unless we do it together -- without the racial strife, parochial provincialism and institutional inertia which have marked and marred our region. We don't need a civic cheer; we need a civic spirit such that the leaders of each ward and rump municipality stop squabbling over their piece of an ever-shrinking pie.

Make sure to laugh real hard about the ad attacking Dallas, Texas -- the home of American Airlines -- some of your friends and neighbors may soon be moving there.
Rev. Peter A. List
St. Louis

I'm outta here: Excellent article. "In other words, they don't know any better" speaks volumes. St. Louis definitely has its good points, but the prevailing attitude is, as the author alluded, things could be worse. I prefer to think that it could be better. And, yes, I do plan on leaving for a warmer, more scenic area as soon as I am able. St. Louis is a great place to be from.
Marc from Ballwin
via the Internet

Here's one ex-St. Louisan who thinks we have it good: Hey, St. Louis is fabulous, and you guys better stop whining and claiming it sucks. I spent the years from birth to age 18 living in St. Louis. Since then, I've lived in Iowa and West Virginia, and currently I'm in South Carolina. And I've traveled to all the big cities, such as New York and Chicago. Let me tell ya, nowhere else will you find a free world-class zoo, museums, science center and parking! I would happily move back to old St. Lou if only for Forest Park.

St. Louis has a bit of everything: an abundance of culture, affordable shopping of all sorts and music. Please reconsider your evaluation of St. Louis. It isn't perfect, but it's closer than most. Try finding an awesome record store like Vintage Vinyl anyplace else, including New York! And St. Louis lacks the snobbishness abundant in many a large town.
Rebecca Young
Mount Pleasant, S.C.

Raving Mad
Plenty of people go just for the music and to meet people: I was upset when I read the article about St. Louis raves [Randall Roberts, "Radar Station," RFT, Jan. 17], because I am a rave attendee, and I do not think that just because a person goes to raves means they do drugs. Just because a person has a set of glowsticks, some candy and some Vicks doesn't mean they're on drugs. And just because a person drinks large amounts of water does not mean anything, either, because I know for a fact that when you dance, you lose a lot of fluid from sweating, and you need to replace it. The more I hear about raves on the news and in the papers, the more it makes me mad, because they do not accurately depict the rave scene.
Jamie Roberts
Waterloo, Ill.

On the Radar
The hardest-working guy in the world: This is to all you readers jumping down Randall Roberts' throat: Give him a break [Roberts, "Radar Station," RFT, Jan. 10]. First off, the man has the hardest job in the world -- covering the St. Louis music scene, which is pretty much Nelly, Chuck Berry and other bands jumping on the bandwagon of whatever MTV tells them is cool at the moment. There aren't too many trailblazing acts here. Second, his opinion is just that -- one man's opinion. Third, he usually is about 50-50 on his take of things, but the RFT should have an entire page every issue devoted to only local reviews (like Pitch Weekly in Kansas City)

If all else fails, do like Sarah Cloud and Gypzy Blvd. have chosen to do -- move to Los Angeles or focus your energies and shop your demos there. I hear the scene there is pretty good still.
Tim St. John
Bassist, Gypzy Blvd.
St. Louis

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