Week of November 5, 2003

Strike Out
When is a strike not a strike? I have to applaud Shelley Smithson's coverage of the grocery-store issue ["Strike Three," October 22]. This was the fairest story to date.

I've been following the dispute with great interest. What I have to wonder is why the St. Louis Post-Dispatch continued to call it a "strike" against Shop 'n Save, Dierbergs and Schnucks, when in fact the Dierbergs and Schnucks owners chose to lock out their employees. This is an obvious ploy by all three companies to break the union.

The only mention of the fact that the St. Louis County Health Department gave newly hired workers 30 days to be in compliance with health regulations concerning hepatitis shots was in the Riverfront Times. My God, people, these new workers were handling our food.

Why did the media focus on four dozen disgruntled union members and neglect many more newsworthy items?
David Sladky, co-coordinator
Gateway Green Alliance

This Ain't LA
Let us now praise NetFlix: It should be noted that all three movies discussed in Ben Westhoff's recent article "Hollywood Homies" [October 22] are available for rent through the online rental service NetFlix. Ever since WhizBam left us, it has been a sad state of affairs for video rentals in the St. Louis area, and it is too bad that I have had to turn to NetFlix just to find local titles such as Defiance.
Ryan Fagala
St. Louis

Still Toking
Bud men: Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed Jess Minnen's interview with Brewer and Shipley ["Just One Toke?" October 22]. Mike and Tom have been friends of mine for over 30 years, as they used to come to D.C. two to three times a year during their "glory days." Got to see them last year at Wildwood, and we stay in touch. I'm glad they're still saying what needs to be said, and doing it with a wonderful sense of humor.
Len Jaffe
Springfield, Virginia

Smother McRee
How does your Garden District grow? Shelley Smithson's article on the demise of McRee Town was a typical story of the disinvestment of poor, black neighborhoods in the St. Louis area ["The Greening of McRee Town," October 8]. We might call this process "decay by design." It has been going on in St. Louis for the 33 years I have lived here and continues in many cities across the country.

The Garden District wanted all areas surrounding the Missouri Botanical Garden to be clean and neat with a preponderance of homes in the $120,000-to-$180,000 range. Where does that leave the many renters who cannot afford to buy a home at that price? They are booted out of their neighborhood into areas which are usually substandard in a never-ending cycle.

These families need stability in their present neighborhood. Why doesn't the Garden District do what some other neighborhoods have done successfully? That is, to rehabilitate the good homes that remain and build new homes on vacant lots where dilapidated homes were demolished. This has been done in the Gate District nearby and, as Smithson describes, in Old North St. Louis.

Some of us can remember the "Team Four Plan" of the 1970s, which talked about allowing certain neighborhoods to die when they seemed to be too far gone. Why didn't the city infuse McRee Town with the massive housing assistance and police protection before it got to such a state of disrepair? One must wonder about the motivations of the city fathers and groups like Civic Progress.

As a housing volunteer in low-income areas for many years, I feel that there must be a better way.
Joan Botwinick
University City

Campus Chronicles
In defense of Student Life: Ben Westhoff failed to take into account Student Life's and the Washington Witness' different purposes in his article "Can You Get a Witness?" [October 8]. The latter is an admitted publication of conservative views; the former strives for fair and balanced reporting. I very much enjoy reading the Witness, but they don't cover campus news like SL does. I'm not even sure the Witness reports any news in the strict sense of the word. SL does run wire stories, but so do many newspapers in the country. The wire stories it does run are relevant to the student body. The Witness can afford to have all original pieces since it publishes one-sixth as many issues as SL.

While SL might run opinions on "weighty" matters like cell-phone etiquette, it is important to note that the ridiculed op-ed was written by a student not on SL staff. SL's Forum pages represent the views of a broad cross-section of the student body, not only of a minority conservative population. While Westhoff might find the war on Iraq more important than cell phones, clearly there is some concern among students about cell phones that needed addressing.

Not only was Iraq well-discussed in Forum, but so are many other controversial topics. A staff editorial recently addressed Missouri's new concealed-weapons law, Forum editors have written about the new abortion law and race relations, and contributors have opined about everything from the ridiculed cell-phone etiquette to broader topics like the importance of a multilateral U.S. foreign policy.

In short, Westhoff failed to respect the distinct niches of the two campus newspapers. He also made hasty generalizations on the contents of Student Life, misrepresenting much of its content in his story.
Roman Goldstein, co-editor
Student Life Forum

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