Week of October 15, 2003

Paper Trail
Night school: I write to correct an error in Ben Westhoff's October 8 article "Can You Get a Witness?" Washington University does indeed have a flourishing Communications and Journalism program -- with more than 220 enrollments in more than 20 courses this fall -- in University College, the evening division of Arts and Sciences. Students may take individual courses, or study for an associate's or bachelor's degree in Communications and Journalism, or for a certificate in Business Communications. All are welcome (full information on our Web site: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~ucollege/).
Robert Wiltenburg, dean
University College in Arts and Sciences
Washington University

The Great Tear-Down
Stonehenge it ain't: I read with interest the article discussing the "greening" of McRee Town and have one very pointed question: When are the "historic preservationists" in this city going to wake up to the fact that these old buildings aren't the Missouri equivalent of Stonehenge [Shelley Smithson, "The Greening of McRee Town," October 8]?

These structures weren't built to last forever, and when they're allowed to deteriorate way past the point of being saved, why do we have such an outcry against pulling them down? The story acknowledges the human problems of derelict housing, and from living in a historic district I can preach quite effectively about not only the scoundrels lurking within but the vermin, wildlife and the stench of rot that filter from abandoned structures to neighboring housing.

And who appears to make up the numbers of those who protest demolition? Are they people who are actually willing to buy these structures and try to work them? Uh-huh -- I didn't think so.

The best use for these buildings is not in continuing to board them up and let them sit, waiting for buyers. Why not consider dismantling them, recycling the reusable building materials and letting them live again in a new structure? This city is in desperate need of revitalization, and the property-tax money that comes from new housing would be much more effective than the negative numbers that come from structures left abandoned to accrue tax liens.
Anne C. Young
St. Louis

Celluloid Heroes
Cusack trumps York: Ben Westhoff didn't do quite enough research ["They Lost It at the Movies," October 1]. Dick York is not the most famous "star" to appear in social guidance films. In the late 1980s I worked for the Crider Center for Mental Health and had a wonderful time working with sixth graders in schools all over St. Charles County, involving them in a workshop called "Changes and Choices." From time to time I used "human relationship" films as part of the presentation, and the kids were delighted that one of the actors in several of the films was the young John Cusack.
Barbara Bennett
St. Louis

Metropolis Redux
A Metropolis primer: What Metropolis is about and how it works has always been misunderstood to some degree, and when not misunderstood then at least debated. Mike Seely's article reflected this, and while I am not the Voice of Metropolis, I'd like to grab the mic for a sec ["Metropolistless," October 1]:

First, the mission statement: "To create and promote an environment in the City of St. Louis that attracts and retains young people." I can't speak for the founding members, but if I thought Metropolis was about attracting and retaining young people because twentysomethings are "hip and exciting" -- or sexy or whatever you like -- I never would have joined. I and lots of others saw our city going down the drain because so many people go away to college and they don't come back. So we have to keep them here by changing things to make it more attractive to them. Also, young people tend to be shut out of the traditional institutions of change, because decision-making in those places is left to the few people who plod up through the ranks to become the top dogs. In Metropolis, any member of any age or duration who has an idea can turn that into a project, make decisions and change things to whatever extent that project bites off and chews. That is how anything Metropolis has ever done has happened.

Second, a huge and overlooked aspect of Metropolis is that these projects are completely driven by unpaid members. The president and the steering committee don't deploy or withdraw troops of volunteers to or from this place or that. All we can do is approve a project or not, based on whether it furthers the mission and seems doable, then try to promote it once it's approved. We can also start projects, of course, but we would just be doing that as members ourselves. This structure is what separates Metropolis from so many other nonprofits. It is grassrootsy almost to the point of anarchy, which is really the thing that makes it hip and edgy and exciting, not whether the president wears suits or capri pants, or even how old the average member is.

The article makes it look like Metropolis has sold out to The Man or something -- or become The Man -- but that's impossible because the structure prevents that sort of Animal Farm-type of story to happen. There's nothing to sell out because the membership isn't owned or controlled. It's just a vehicle for people who care about the city to gang up with like-minded people and do things they otherwise wouldn't or couldn't on their own. If you think we should recruit younger members or focus our efforts on this, that or the other, then join and help.
Phoebe Love, membership chair
Metropolis St. Louis

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