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Week of May 9-15, 2001

What Counts
He wastes his talents: Poor, poor Stuart Ziglin. He thinks himself some suave, sophisticated James Bond, tiredly turning his paltry income into a fortune in British sterling [Najeeb Hasan, "The Count," RFT, April 25]. Bond didn't have much of a life outside his work, and neither will you, Stuart, until you spend more time with your family instead of in casinos. You will not be a stylish raconteur or a swinging playboy, just a lonely old guy, constantly pursuing a selfish goal.

Poor, poor Stuart. He has all that wonderful analytical talent, and he wastes it pursuing the perfect blackjack method. All that glistens is not gold, Stuart, and your Midas touch with the cards will never make you really happy, especially after you have rejected your family and friends for the fleeting pleasure provided in glittering neon gaming palaces.

Poor, poor Stuart. Telling your sad story to the RFT, those tireless champions of the downtrodden. Who can empathize with a man whose greed and avarice serve only to further separate him from the rest of humanity? How can he compare to those who are truly suffering because of an uncaring world? Don't blame the casinos, Stuart, because the real problem lies within you; that insatiable need to win is a Pandora's box that you may never have the strength to close.

Poor, poor Stuart. Get a life!
Dave Mosblech

Eyes on a Prize
Certification should be worth waiting for: The city's goal is to have 25 percent minorities and 5 percent women involved in all city projects. We are fortunate to have someone of Percy Green's stature, history, integrity and qualifications in the position of overseeing and enforcing procedures to certify minority enterprises toward meeting the goal [Peter Downs, "Certifiably Mad," RFT, April 25]. Any group not so certified can still get contracts with the city, can still do business with the city, but not as a certified minority business enterprise. Such certification ought to be the product of detailed and in-depth investigation, for, as the article documents, attempts to gain such certification by political manipulation or by outright fraud are an ever-present threat. That a time-taking procedure is in place, that these aren't easy to get, should give comfort to all of us as citizens who applaud the goal of our city to encourage the participation of certified, for-real minority contractors. And since we are now a truly more diverse city with African-American, Latino/Latina, Asian, and American Indian [citizens], those percentages of minority contractors ought to move up, quite naturally, to above 25 percent. And many Latino/Latina enterprises have gained certification (a fact not made clear in the article).

The call for expediency is appropriate only if there is no sacrifice of thoroughness. These certifications ought to be a prize worth waiting for. To want it now, or even soon, is possible only if we spend more money for the necessary personnel that still allows for the thoroughness of investigation that Percy Green has put into place. The deceptive appearance of minority control is not what we seek to reward. Such veils can be lifted only through thorough investigation.

To create several "gates" of certification (state, federal, airport) would surely dilute the process in favor of finding the least stringent path. The people who would be hurt by a weakening of the process in favor of expediency, or multiple gates varying in criteria and stringency, would be the people for whom the process was set up in the first place -- genuine minority contractors seeking to get a leg-up in establishing viable minority enterprise.

We applaud Percy Green's efforts to assure the best outcome for minority contractors, and urge minority contractors to give him the support he deserves; and we ask Mayor Slay to commend, not chop, this public servant and these efforts.
Rev. Ed Heininger
Rev. Ben Martin
Rev. Bill Stickney
Rev. Michael Vosler
St. Louis

Green is being attacked for his integrity: I'm sure activist Percy Green II no longer is surprised by character assaults such as Peter Downs' unfair portrayal of his work in the city's minority-women business-certification program. After all, Green has experienced far more serious personal attacks over the years, not the least of these being the federal government's rumor-spreading COINTELPRO project, which sought to undermine every credible black leader in America.

In any case, the premise of Downs' article was particularly unfair. The main allegation seems to be that Green has discriminated against a Hispanic business owner and, by extension, all Hispanic business owners. But the body of the story contains very little documentation to support the allegation.

There is one encounter during which Green is depicted as a racist. He is alleged to have said that he served "the African-American male" exclusively. It's hard to believe that the accuser didn't immediately seek legal redress if this serious and unseemly comment did indeed come out of Green's mouth. On the other hand, the comment doesn't ring true, given that Green embraced racial and cultural diversity light-years before the concept became fashionable and before he got involved in city government work.

The article raises a good point in noting the length of time the city takes to certify vendors. Granted, part of the delay stems from the rigorous certification procedure adopted by Green's agency. But the real question the article didn't address is how much of the delay is due to the agency having insufficient staff to certify businesses more quickly.

As the article noted, some observers favor an automatic-certification process under which a business that's approved by the Small Business Administration's program, for example, would have to be certified automatically by the city. The implication is that all certification programs are as rigorous as Green's. That's not necessarily the case. In some SBA programs, the agency relies on complaints from competitors in determining whether a certified business should be investigated and disbarred for not meeting all the requirements. That approach may be justified if an agency has insufficient staff, but it can open the door to cheaters. Let's not forget that cheaters are the reason the city's certification standards were made more rigorous.

It is ironic that Green is being attacked primarily for his integrity. I cannot imagine the same questions being raised about either a white official or a mild-mannered black official who has rocked no boats, made no waves, kicked no ass. Such officials, naturally, would be praised as color-blind gatekeepers who are preventing corruption from seeping into the city's contracting program.

Which raises questions about the motives and timing of your article. Fair-minded readers might rightly assume that your article's sole purpose is to give the new mayor, Francis Slay, an excuse to fire Green in order to appease a handful of Hispanics. That I find particularly disturbing and quite out of character of an alternative newspaper. Mayor Slay, I'm sure, is too smart to fall into this trap.
Bob Joiner
St. Louis

God's Temple
Stop forcing your morals on me: Jesus did in fact get erections; he was a carpenter and knew all about "morning wood" [D.J. Wilson, "Media Whores," RFT, April 25]. The major difference between their sex lives is, Tom Wahl is having sex with his wife of 17 years and Jesus never married, choosing rather to surround himself with men and prostitutes. Preacher tells me I am God's temple and God lives inside me, so, yes, God has had some awesome heterosexual sex! I'm sick to fucking death of some self-deluded, self-proclaimed holier-than-me forcing their morals onto me. Fuck everything that you stand for.
Lawrence Herzog
St. Louis

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