Slapped Down

Week of December 4, 2002

Slapped Down
Answer this: Your article on the political conflict in Creve Coeur [Geri L. Dreiling, "Slaphappy," November 20] missed the boat, and the cover graphic accompanying it was misleading and unfair. As a resident of Creve Coeur, I know that some of our city officials have endured with great forbearance a campaign of harassment and accusation that has lasted for several years. There have been scurrilous lies distributed in secret, anonymous newsletters. Paranoia city! As you note in your article, these idiots even chased the respected chairman of the Creve Coeur Ethics Commission out of his position because they acted so outrageously. You seem to think that good government consists of letting mean-spirited troublemakers destroy the reputation of our leaders and obstruct the ability of the city to get on with its business. I don't. I think that it is government of the mean, by the mean and for the mean. Why did these troublemakers continue making their accusations after they had been repeatedly proven to be without merit? At what point does the intentional repetition of accusations you know to be false stop being fair participation and become deliberate harassment? Those are pretty basic questions here. Your reporter didn't ask them. Why not?
John May
Creve Coeur

Good plan, flawed process: As a former Creve Coeur planning-and-zoning commissioner, I read your recent article "Slaphappy" with great interest. Your article implies that Creve Coeur citizens basically have been left to defend themselves in court against politicians who would rather sue than answer uncomfortable questions. It is indeed unfortunate that the suits were filed. But our system avidly defends the rights of its citizens to exercise their rights and defend against alleged infringement of those rights. While seated on the Creve Coeur Planning and Zoning Commission, I recall thinking that the comprehensive land-use plan is, inherently, a good document that would provide citizens, businesses, planners and developers a clear vision and guide future development of the city. My opinion is that while the plan itself is good, the process by which it was made may have been flawed. It was those questions that seemingly went unanswered and ultimately led to my voting against the plan (that indeed did pass with a majority vote, 4-2 and one abstention). It is sad that such a well-intentioned and much-needed plan has, as an unintended result, precipitated this litigation. Political aspirations are hard to release. But it is a tribute to those defendants who did not wish to stick their heads in the sand. Citizens of all Missouri communities should pay attention to this outcome.
Larry Kaplan
Alton, Illinois

Hound Dog
It's the bottom line, stupid: D.J. Wilson is barking up the wrong tree with his criticism of Richard Callow's effort in Maplewood ["Wal-Mart World," November 20]. Since when is the scope of one's business restricted by his partner's occupation? Ironically, it wasn't so long ago that St. Louis Marketplace was criticized for derailing plans for an expanded Kmart in Maplewood. The truth is, St. Louis Marketplace was an ill-conceived project from the start. Retail is thriving elsewhere in the city, but this center has never been able to draw a crowd. Were it doing well, Sam's Club would be staying there and new tenants would've taken over the long-vacant Builder's Square store. Perhaps when Sam's leaves, the center can be reused for some better purpose than a few marginal retail outlets and a bunch of vacant space.
Nick Kasoff
St. Louis

One more traffic-stopper: Oh great, another string of stores in an area already congested beyond belief. Has anyone in our local political world calculated how much time you need to drive through the Hanley-to-Brentwood strip of stores [on Manchester]? Why don't these muckety-mucks have the moral and ethical turpitude to say no to building what we do not need? Add more stores? Sure. Let's make all the SUVs twice as big, too. Oh, that's right, we're not talking about the economy anymore, just the impending war against the has-been in Iraq. I keep forgetting.
Robert Saigh
via the Internet

We the People?
They protest too much: Regarding Bob Koff's letter [November 20] in response to D.J. Wilson's recent article ["Professor Schoemehl," November 6] on next spring's school-board election -- in particular the involvement of the Danforth Foundation in a group called the Education Caucus and its alleged intention to run a slate of candidates in the election. Mr. Koff and the Danforth Foundation have been and continue to be great friends of the St. Louis Public Schools, but Mr. Koff's continual protestations that the Danforth Foundation's involvement in the Education Caucus is minimal are somewhere in between disingenuous, mendacious and laughable -- methinks he's having a little fun with the truth. Actually, he's having a lot of fun with the truth. The Danforth Foundation is part and parcel of this group, integral to its formation and development. It wouldn't be happening without them. Moreover, the group's original intention was to rate candidates ... and disseminate these ratings. To me, this is tantamount to endorsing a slate, and that group seems very unqualified to do so. As late as last week, I asked Mr. Koff if the group still intended to rate candidates, and I have yet [to receive] the courtesy of a reply. I have no dog in this fight other than a fair election next spring without the imprimatur of the Danforth Foundation and money it's raised behind a nonrepresentative group of self-serving citizens purporting to be otherwise. Two final points: The Danforth Foundation is risking a challenge to its tax-exempt status by its ill-conceived involvement, and if it rates a slate that loses to other candidates, no one should be surprised if the victorious candidates don't want to work with school-district projects ... of which the Danforth Foundation [has] a part.
Bill Haas
St. Louis Board of Education

Rebel Publicity
Press agent for terrorism: Recalling your review of the Jesse James biography by T.J. Stiles [Eddie Silva, "Rebel With a Cause," October 30] and Robert Arnold's letter on the subject, published November 13, I cannot resist comment. First, Silva's review, while well done, merely scratched the surface of this important book on Missouri history. However, Arnold's letter can only be described as outrageous. My initial reaction was to send him a copy of the book since clearly he has not even glanced at it. His comment that "few defended" slavery back then is to deny the reality of the hundreds of thousands killed and wounded on the side of the Confederacy. He almost makes me think that his next leap into history will be a denial of the Holocaust. His assertion that "there is little reason to believe" that the United States could not have abolished slavery without a war is just plain anti-historical. The final outrage is his commentary on the barbarism of the James gang compared to the acts attributed to John Brown. I sincerely recommend that Mr. Arnold read at least the first 150 pages of the [Stiles] book to gain a better understanding of the radicalism on both sides of this bitter war in Missouri over slavery dating from the mid-1850s on through the James gang's exploits well after the Civil War. A careful reading may educate Mr. Arnold to the historical facts of the times as well as the motivations of the Missouri Ruffians and bushwhackers, "Bloody" Bill Anderson, Quantrill and the James family. While Mr. Arnold may not relish the role of apologist for these homegrown terrorists, that, in fact, is the essence of his comments.
Paul Gray
St. Louis

Gossip Central
Should have dug deeper: The article by Jeannette Batz "The Reluctant Archbishop" [November 13] had the appearance of journalistic investigation, even historical research. But on further reflection, it seems to contain information obtained from one or two sources who supplied "observations" and not facts. In other words, there was a lot of gossip in this column. A story concerning the archbishop's pastoral style and sensitivity should have included the following: recently installed Archbishop Rigali standing on the sidewalk in the early-morning hours with parishioners of St. Anthony Church as their church was burning, bringing them comfort and hope for the future; visiting flood-ravaged residents of Valley Park in 1993 to offer the support and assistance of the church; and, participating in the funeral mass at Sacred Heart Parish in Florissant of a girl murdered in a restroom at McCluer High School, bringing the sympathy and consolation of the entire local church. These are just a few examples of the generous pastoral heart of the archbishop. I guess it depends on whom you talk to.
Reverend Bruce H. Forman
Sts. Peter and Paul Church