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Letters from the week of February 8, 2001

City Limits
Chain reaction: Fine with me if KC's VIPs don't have the cajones to fix downtown (C.J. Janovy's "Chamber Maids," January 18). Is it really an improvement that Denver's downtown is now homogenized like the rest of this country? I hope when they do fix downtown they do it KC-style, not Denver-, NYC-, Minneapolis-, Chicago-, Dallas-, Orlando- or L.A.-style.
Carrie Hardt-Smith
Bloomington, Illinois
Ballpark franks: C.J. Janovy's assertion that Kansas City needs a downtown baseball stadium was ill-conceived. New stadia are quick fixes and do not alter the problems plaguing the sport. The revenue disparity between big- and small-market teams does not arise solely from people sitting at the game but also from people viewing from home. Texas wasn't able to spend $250 million on Alex Rodriguez because there's a new stadium in Arlington but rather due to a relationship with cable conglomerates in the Dallas area.

Furthermore, the small- to big-market transition, once instantaneous with new ballparks, has failed to materialize of late. For example, despite a new big-salary player, Detroit failed to perform and by June -- despite the new ballpark-- the Tigers were (again) playing in front of empty seats. The Tigers had good reason to build Comerica. Tiger Stadium was 100 years old, dirty, dangerous and seriously lacked amenities. Kauffman Stadium needs only a face-lift and an upgrade of luxury boxes. Yes, Ms. Janovy, it is more practical to spend $150 million than $400 million; $250 million is a significant amount of money -- even when it belongs to other people.

Ms. Janovy claims a new stadium will "buy a whole new downtown." It darn well better, because there isn't any place to put a new park in the old one.

The main source of revenue from new ballparks is luxury boxes. It is difficult to believe a $400 million tax-sponsored subsidy to keep the wealthiest 1-2 percent apart from the rabble is one of Kansas City's priorities. It is particularly galling to see this idea being propagated in what is supposedly an alternative press.

Ms. Janovy decries Kansas City's "cannot do" mindset. I suggest that a "cannot do" mindset is not the problem but an "other cities are doing it" mindset. The bistate cultural tax, if approved, should help refurbish Kauffman and Arrowhead. More important, some of the money should be used for mini- and micro-grants to help enterprises such as live theaters, galleries, dance and music venues, film production and other cultural nonprofits.

The fact is, the most crucial element in revitalizing downtown is good roads, good sewers, good public services. A school district that educates its children might be a nice start. With these elements in place, people will have reason to live, work and play in the city, thus increasing tax revenue and maybe allowing us to consider a big-ticket item like a new park for our boys in blue.
Hampton Stevens
Overland Park

Rush Judgment
Basketball diaries: About a month ago Tony Moton wrote an article on Ernest Brown and his hopes, his dreams and his talent ("Knights School," December 21). Yet in his recent column, Greg Hall made it seem like JaRon Rush got his shot blocked by a punk ("Drooped Dreams," February 1). Not only is Ernest Brown pretty darn good, but he's 7 feet tall!

And let's examine Greg Hall's description of ABA players as "NBA has-beens and never-will-bes." Is he smoking crack!? We've got three University of Kansas alumni who have a shot right here in KC. More than a few of the guys in this league will ball in the NBA -- count on it! But back to Rush: I just love the way Hall kicks a guy when he's down. Hell, Rush may as well just quit and get a job at McDonald's. What a bunch of crap! His talent isn't gone; it just doesn't work that way. He's had better days, but it ain't over 'til it's over. My guess is that he's gonna have a lot of people eating crow someday. Yeah, playing for Williams would have made a difference, and I'm not even a Jayhawk fan, but it's too late. He made mistakes just like we all do, and what's done is done.

JaRon, keep your chin up and don't listen to crap like this! I'm not a Rush zealot or anything. I just think this article is unfair to him and to the ABA. Tell you what, Greg, I'd love to see you explain your "never-will-be" philosophy to the Knights personally!
Frank Webber
Lee's Summit

Class Warfare
High school confidential: Tony Moton's reporting of the failure of Southwest Charter School manages to skip the Westport Edison charter high school ("Unchartered Waters," February 1). Our assigned school was Southeast High School. We were aware of its rough reputation and refused to send our daughter there. We were also aware of the rough reputation of Westport High School. However, we were told that "new" Westport was going to be completely different. Ha!

I talked to the administrators about my husband's and my concerns. We recalled seeing students standing around outside smoking, fighting, etc. and loitering outside of the front of the neighborhood convenience store in packs. The administrators assured me that type of behavior would not occur anymore. I asked about the kids with discipline problems who previously attended the school; I was told that students who fought or displayed discipline problems were to be expelled immediately because as a charter school, they had the right to do that, whereas KCMO school district schools could not do that.

We later learned that everything they said was hogwash! The outside loitering continued. The classrooms were just as overcrowded. The kids were even more out of control because the administration did not expel the problem students. (Edison was a business after all; they got paid per student.) Our daughter was assaulted, and we were not even contacted by the administration. During parent/teacher conferences, we learned the teachers were frustrated with the alternative lesson plans that was mailed from their owner's (Edison's) headquarters. Our daughter could not focus in the unruly classrooms because of the fights, the "bad" kids and the constant classroom disruption, disrespect of the teachers and other students and the lack of control in the classrooms.

Our daughter attends a private school now and will never, ever attend another KCMO school district or charter school. I am angry at the school district and specifically the charter schools for not educating our kids. I am angry that idealistic teachers are forced to try to teach disrespectful, rude children who haven't been properly raised and have no intentions of learning. I am angry that KCMO school board members are angry at charter schools, because if they had done their jobs, charter schools could not exist. I am angry at some of the charter schools for not being better than the school district. I am angry because I have to pay taxes to support inadequate, nonteaching schools and still have to pay a fortune in tuition so that my daughter can learn and go to school without the threat of being assaulted or watching the teachers being disrepected.
Name Withheld Upon Request
Kansas City, Missouri

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