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Letters to the Editor

Published the week of October 4, 2000

Your story on Tom Sullivan and MSD was disappointing (C.D. Stelzer, "Down the Drain," RFT, Sept. 20). As best I could tell, you used a lot of newsprint in order to make these points: (1) Civic Progress and other big, evil companies want changes in MSD. Therefore the charter changes proposed by MSD must be bad. (2) MSD uses outside engineering contractors. Therefore MSD must be wasting money. (3) Tom Sullivan doesn't like Mike Williams. Therefore MSD is run by crooks. (4) Billie Roberts is a neat lady, and she like Tom Sullivan. Therefore Tom Sullivan is right.

MSD provides a necessary, although hardly glamorous, service to the entire St. Louis region. The rules by which the district is governed were written when the district was first formed in 1954. The charter proposal brings these rules up to date. The proposal creates a commission that would review and approve rate changes, thus adding another level of accountability to the agency. It would indeed allow the district to more easily raise money. This money would be used to address a host of capital needs that MSD has been unable to solve for a variety of reasons (and Tom Sullivan is one of those reasons). These needs include building treatment facilities and fixing sewers in the city that date back to the 19th century.

Tom Sullivan is to be commended for the civic-minded impulse that led him to be a self-appointed watchdog of MSD. Unfortunately, his pursuit of efficiency and accountability at MSD has gone too far. MSD is not run by a bunch of self-interested goons out to line their own pockets and the pockets of their friends. Rather, MSD is staffed by people who are trying to make sure that when you flush your toilet, there is someplace for (the waste) to go. They try to do so in a manner that is fiscally responsible. Their success is in spite of, and not due to, Mr. Sullivan's zealous pursuit of truth and justice.
Mark Fogal

Has the RFT editorial staff reached a point to where they are so hard-up for copy that they have to print "features" concerning problematic pooping and pissing (Jeannette Batz, "Wistful Whizzers," RFT, Sept. 20)? Good Lord! Do you think your readership really gives a shit (well, obviously some do) if grown men and women can't make water or doo-doo in public?

Not to sound uncaring, but I think this is a matter that should be addressed between the person with the problem and his or her doctor. It is not, in my opinion, a subject that should be explored by a publication like the RFT. I know you like to chase lost causes and are diverse, but this should be in medical journals or the newsletter of Potty-Phobics Anonymous.

Ms. Batz is either out of touch with the makeup of your readers or needs to get some assistance when choosing story subject matters. Maybe you can call an editorial meeting, in the bathroom (or, better, under the Arch) ... drop your britches, hold hands, squat together, sing "Kumbayah" and see if, collectively, you can produce something better than "Wistful Whizzers"!
Keith A. Dockins

I appreciate the honor of being anointed Best Local Boy Made Bad ("Best of St. Louis," RFT, Sept. 27). I just wanted to clarify one mistake in the article. I have never lived in San Francisco. I do shoot there fairly often, but I live in Hollywood, Calif. Also, I understand that you had to play up the bad boy angle by writing primarily about my subject matter. I wish, however, that there was some mention of the artistic and aesthetic merits of my work. My book, The Beauty of Fetish, was published by the highly respected art publisher Edition Stemmle. Noted photography critic Vicki Goldberg of the New York Times even wrote the introduction of the book. My prints can also be found in the collections of several galleries and museums.
Steve Diet Goedde

We were thrilled (although not surprised) at your selection of Carol Carter for Best Local Artist.

We met Carol through her husband, Jeff Clark, whom we hired (Metropolitan Design & Building) to remodel the townhouse we bought when we moved to St. Louis to coach the Rams.

Jeff told us about her show at COCA featuring her Belle Glade paintings. We went to have a look and became fans and friends instantly! I had never seen a collection so thought-provoking. Her original style and use of color is fantastic! We are the proud owners of six of Carol's paintings -- we love "living" with them.

We miss Carol, her family and all the good people of St. Louis who believed in us through the tough times to bring your great city Super Bowl champions!
Carol Vermeil

Frank O. Pinion's continued popularity (Best Radio Personality, "Best of St. Louis 2000," RFT Sept. 27) is enigma to me. I listened to his show for a while last year. It was funny for about two weeks. Then it became apparent that his style of comedy is based on two things: beating a joke to death (that must be the "regular running shtick that people anticipate") and racist humor. I haven't listened for over a year, but one of those pieces of shtick was a sound bite of someone saying, "It's good nobody was standin' up under that thang." I presume it was considered funny and worthy of repetition because of his heavy black dialect. That, and the clip of Michael Jackson's response to a search warrant, was in constant use.

The incident that finally repulsed me enough to tune Pinion out was a racist comment he made one day. One of those comedy bits was to have an in-studio guest read a page of Joseph Heller's Catch-22 while the gang made fun of it, presumably because reading a classic is such an outrageous pastime. A guest was reading the book and read the word "snigger." Pinion stopped her and said something along the lines of "You can't say that on the radio. You better say "snegro" instead." It's obvious what kind of individual would even think of a joke like that, not to mention broadcast it over the air. As far as I know, he suffered no repercussions from that bit of "comedy," in which he revealed his true nature to the listeners. This was sometime in August of 1999. It would have been on a Tuesday, because female guests were featured on Tuesdays and males on Fridays. The next day, Pinion read a letter from someone who complained about something on his show. Karen Vail asked him what the complaint concerned, but he avoided the specifics, preferring instead to imply that this malcontent was oversensitive. Then, as if to send a feel-good message, he read another letter praising him from a fan who professed to be black. It was obvious that Pinion was attempting some measure of damage control without admitting to his comment. That was it for me.

At least the RFT's readers picked Roy St. John as Best Radio Personality, but it's disappointing those same readers think that Pinion is the Best Radio Talk-Show Host. I had higher expectations of the RFT and its readers.
George Haberberger

I live directly between the Schnucks stores at Lindell and on Kingshighway. The point you made about Schnucks being the only major chain in the city is an important one that I consider quite often (Ray Hartmann, "Schnucks: Not the Friendliest Weeks in Town," RFT, Sept. 20). I have to think about that fact in order to calm my anger in noticing the major discrepancies in my neighborhood Schnucks and those like the ones on Clayton Road and at Ladue Crossing. Forget the fact that there is less of a choice of items. I understand that in my area there may be less of a market for kosher, ethnic, vegetarian, exotic produce and gourmet items. But why are there fewer cashiers at my Schnucks, resulting in stressed-out, unhelpful employees and longer, slower lines? Why aren't there well-designed carts that are easy to push and fit through register lines well and are shallow enough to lift groceries into and out of easily? Why are there shelves full of unpriced loaves of bread and no employees around who are able and/or willing to give me a price? If I drive out of my way to Ladue Crossing and something goes wrong, it's easy to find employees who are friendly, capable and helpful. The Ladue Crossing Schnucks is cleaner and better organized, and there are almost always free delicious samples. I dread walking into one of my Schnucks stores. I am almost guaranteed that there will be something frustrating and unpleasant about the experience there. I don't feel it's right to say that they're the only chain in the city and that makes them the good guys. They obviously put less money and attention into the stores in my neighborhood and then dare to wonder why sales may be insufficient to operate the stores. I've been angry at them since I've moved here and am also angry at Dierbergs for not being here at all.
Lauren Buchsbaum

As a faculty member at Lindenwood University, I was disappointed to read the letters of alumni concerning the institution's academic standards. Yes, many of us faculty members disagree with Dennis Spellmann and his politics (Jeannette Batz, "The Talented Mr. Spellmann," RFT, Sept. 6). Yes, the teaching load, at five courses per term, is a definite overload. I come home tired most days, if not exhausted. Because the courses are overfilled, there is more and more and more to do; I frequently work 70-hour weeks. I am one who questions why I stay, but yet I do stay. Why? Because I believe the spirit of the school lives on and will outlast Spellmann's regime. Because I love the students and I love my vocation of teaching. Perhaps I am naïve; perhaps I am badly mistaken in still wishing to serve a school whose vocation so obviously serves money. Nonetheless, I stay because I feel I can still make a difference to the Lindenwood students.

The students at Lindenwood are denied some fundamental rights as students and, indeed, as people. Doublespeak becomes their second language. They are given hats and told not to wear them. They are expelled for drinking and for visiting members of the opposite sex but not for plagiarism. For mentors, they have highly educated professionals who fear to speak or to be named. The students cannot publish a newspaper, as the current administration is absolutely intolerant of criticism (and critical thinking), whether that criticism is valid or invalid, real or perceived. Yet many of these students are first-generation college students, given scholarships at Spellmann's bequest. They are given a chance. Some make it; some cannot. Some will not. But those who stay do so for a reason. I think they trust us, the faculty.

I have worked for several other institutions, as a graduate assistant and as a faculty member. The faculty members at Lindenwood, despite their fears and discontent, are more deeply committed to their students and devoted to their teaching than any I have worked with thus far.

We spend time with our students, mentoring them to the best of our ability and teaching them to the best of our ability. I, for one, am proud of our graduates when they walk through the gates each May. I am proud of what I do for a living. Do not misunderstand: Although I acknowledge Spellmann is a brilliant businessman, he is no academic. He has no liking for academics or for what we do, and nor do we for him. I, one among many, do not appreciate his tyrannical methods. Financially, though, Spellmann saved the school. We faculty members, whether through authentic goodwill or wanton hubris, wish to think we can save its soul. The institution has survived others, and it can survive Spellmann.

Spellmann and his administration cannot be and must not be confused with the quality of teaching we offer. Our students still learn to think and to think well. Our vocation as teachers is still valid. I do hope the students who graduate in May will remember there are two sides of Lindenwood University. One is the empire Spellmann has created for himself and his own glorification. The other is the university which many of us, myself included, are proud to serve.

Please withhold my name. I wish to keep my job.
Name withheld upon request

I wonder just how many readers of The Riverfront Times are blind in the mind. What is "blind in the mind"? The recent article (about fundraising in the Missouri Senate race) helps point it out vividly with an excellent graphic about political funding abuses (Melinda Roth, "Filthy Riches," RFT, Sept. 13). While both parties' money-laundering schemes are somewhat alike, there is a real and huge difference.

The "Spin Cycles" graphic that accompanied your article shows that for each $1 million given to incumbent Sen. John Ashcroft, challenger Mel Carnahan received $2.72 million.

While U.S. Rep. Jim Talent and his opponent in the governor's race are close, financially speaking, most Republicans are at a big financial disadvantage, from about a $1-to-$5 to a $1-to-$20 deficit compared with the Democrats -- with funds raised not from middle-class people but from the rich.

All major media (print, sight and sound) drumbeat over and over "Republicans are only for the rich." Yet facts prove Democrats actually control the big money. Democrats have many more millionaires in their controlling hierarchy.

People who believe the media have this blind-in-the-mind mentality. While Republicans have many, many more contributors of small dollar amounts, it is the greater numbers of the rich that want Democrats to control, with their much larger contribution. Somehow, the media have never been curious about this.

Example: U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt raises less than 3 percent from the nonrich and less that 10 percent of his $4 million plus from local support; the bulk comes from the entertainment capitals of our country. Challenger William Federer, on the other hand, has raised nearly half of his funds from 3rd Congressional District voters. It has been over 20 years since Gephardt lived in St. Louis. His three children have been raised in the Washington, D.C. area -- not our neighborhood. He is a Washingtonian -- not what his propaganda machine wants us to believe. His South City and County values have left him.

Blind-in-the-mind people vote straight Democrat because their union, parents or elders say that is best. "Best" is having the freedom of choice to do what you want -- win or lose.
Cleon "Bud" Gilberg

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