Week of February 21, 2001

Feb 21, 2001 at 4:00 am
Neighborhood Watch
Placing the blame on the wrong people: I read with dismay your article "Death Trip" [Wm. Stage, RFT, Jan. 31], as I am a resident of the Marine Villa neighborhood. This horrible incident occurred within a block of my home.

I am saddened by the senseless death of this young man, and I want to be clear that my comments to the RFT are in no way directed at him or his family. I feel that the RFT article tried to place the blame for his death on "the mean streets of South St. Louis," and Marine Villa is portrayed as a drug-infested, crime-laden area where no one should venture out at night.

I have lived at my home in this neighborhood for 14 years. I come and go, day and night, and am not afraid to do so. I am not going to say that we do not and have not had problems here, and we as a neighborhood and community have and are working to make this a safer and more desirable area. However, one of the stumbling blocks to decreasing drug-dealing in the area is the fact that people come from their safe neighborhoods in the county, buy drugs from the dealers in our neighborhoods and then leave the law-abiding community members to deal with the problems created by the drug culture.

I can afford to live in the county but choose to remain part of the Marine Villa neighborhood. The housing was built by craftsmen and has features that are unmatched in the newer homes in the county; the people are diverse; local attractions are nearby and easily accessible; several bus routes are within blocks of my house; and city services (for the most part) are responsive to the needs of the citizens.

I am disappointed in the RFT for not reporting a more balanced picture of Marine Villa.
Joanne Curtis
St. Louis

A renaissance is around the corner: The recent article in the RFT painted a grim picture of Marine Villa. Because of its beautiful and affordable old homes, this neighborhood could be the next Soulard or Benton Park.
Anna Ginsburg
Director of Neighborhood Stabilization
City of St. Louis

Persistence and diligence are key: I live two blocks away from where Jason Laboube was shot. Your article depicted the Marine Villa neighborhood in a very unfavorable light. While we have had problems in the neighborhood, there is much good as well. Around the corner from the [location of the] shooting, new single-family homes are being sold for $80,000. On my street, a home that sold for $15,000 four years ago was rehabbed and sold recently for just under $80,000. Four years ago, our street also had problems with drugs and prostitution -- not unlike the area on Wisconsin or along Potomac and Illinois. The difference in our street now and the others mentioned in the article is that our neighbors banded together and organized. We had neighborhood meetings and worked closely with the police department, our alderman and our neighborhood-stabilization officer. We individually and collectively called 314-241-COPS to report suspected drug activity.

To make this sound easy would be a lie. It was laborious and tedious work. At times, it felt as though our calls went unanswered. Yet, in hindsight, I know that during all those phone calls, the police department was gathering necessary information and evidence, and the neighborhood-stabilization officer was checking on absentee-landlord status.

We persevered, and, although it took a lot of hard work, our street stabilized and the price of real estate has significantly increased. To depict the Marine Villa neighborhood in such an unfavorable light is unfair to the residents and those working hard to continually improve our neighborhood. To our neighbors in similar situations, I would encourage you to use the tools already available to help you stabilize your street. You are the catalyst for change, but you will need to make the first call, the third call and the 10th call. Persistence and diligence are key.
Judy Kirkwood
St. Louis

Indecent Exposure
Tell it like it is: Nice job on exposing this public-private fiasco [Ray Hartmann, "Switch Hitters," RFT, Feb. 14]. I imagine the Cardinals would go to East St. Louis or East Gary, Ind., if the Missouri General Assembly says no to public financing of the new park? Tell it like it is and keep us up to date.
Stuart Francis Murphy
Jefferson City

Swiss Diss
We can do well without the Swiss: In reading the responses to C.D. Stelzer's article on the proposed quarry and cement kiln in Ste. Genevieve County, I was struck by the polarization between the letter from Timothy Leach of St. Louis and the anonymous Ste. Genevieve County resident ["Letters," RFT, Jan. 24]. It appears to be a classic impasse between environmentalists and job-seekers, a clash between economy and ecology. Yet these two words have their origins in the same root, from "care of the household." Why, then, is there such a conflict?

An obvious problem is that the Ste. Genevieve resident is afraid to use his or her name. Openness without fear or reprisal should be a prime characteristic of a democracy. The person's statement is a strong "Keep out!" No one should criticize him or her for wanting a good-paying job, a strong local economy and a convenient place to shop. By contrast, the St. Louisan freely identifies himself, yet shows little or no understanding of the serious economic issues facing his fellow Missourians. Likewise, the Ste. Genevieve writer shows no understanding of the St. Louisan's desire for clean air and a healthy environment.

I believe that many, if not all, of the goals of both areas are the same. No one should have to suffer from poverty. Nor should anyone have to suffer from air-quality-induced respiratory diseases.

The root of the problem lies in the bewildering question of why a regional Missouri economy must be dependent on the Swiss-owned Holnam, Inc. I wonder if the parent company, Holderbank, has explained all the health risks to the people in Ste. Genevieve. I do not believe that anyone would willingly expose themselves, their children or their neighbors to the serious dangers resulting from the operation of the proposed plant.

Are we in Missouri not creative enough to find a healthier way to revitalize the economy of Ste. Genevieve County? Is there no way to achieve a strong, locally based economy in Ste. Genevieve along with a clean and beautiful natural environment? The air and water are common to all of us in eastern Missouri, and the economic well-being of each county is critical to the well-being of the entire state. It is every Missourian's responsibility to be part of a viable solution that addresses both economic and ecological needs. Midwesterners can do very well, thank you, without a foreign corporation.
Margaret P. Gilleo
St. Louis

Local residents haven't been informed of negative aspects of project: Thanks for the article about the proposed cement plant in the north end of our county [Ray Hartmann, "Invasion of the Swiss," RFT, Feb. 7].

Being a transplant to this small historic/tourist town on the Mississippi River, I'm concerned about the addition of another pollution-producing manufacturer in this area. I thought the Mississippi Lime Co. was belching out enough polluted exhaust when we first moved to St. Genevieve almost 20 years ago. Since then, we've experienced Tower Rock Stone Co. expansion, Chemical Lime Co. and, now, Holnam Cement Co. Another cement company has met with our city fathers, showing interest in coming into this area as well.

I don't want to sound negative, but the only advantage to this type of industrial development is profit to the owners of these companies. Our schools are doing well, according to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Jefferson City. Therefore a sound educational opportunity will be available to the children of Holnam's employees. But, on the other hand, our community has suffered some recent economic losses in the shopping area. Our citizens must shop out of town due to some businesses' moving out of town or closing.

The longtime residents of this county and communities don't seem to know the negative aspects of this industrial development. Some information has appeared in our local weekly newspaper after a recent informational meeting with Holnam present. Questions at that meeting were from "outsiders" who know about these negative aspects.

I'm glad Ray Hartmann wrote his article for the Riverfront Times; he should submit a similar article to the Ste. Genevieve Herald to inform more of our residents.
Paul Cameron
Ste. Genevieve