Talk of the Towns

Talk of the Towns: 1.29.14

With all the back and forth in the County Council over the Complete Streets initiative, you’d think we couldn’t get there from here. But we may just yet. To many, a ‘complete street’ includes a bike lane, it’s engineered to be safer for pedestrians. To others, it’s much ado about nothing, and all that ‘ado’ comes with a price tag. Some communities here are among the 600 across the country to have adopted the program already, including Clayton and St. Louis. Simply put, it’s an eye to making things better for cyclists and walkers on the roads. In a word: paint. There is not a plan to put a bike lane on every county road; that could narrow traffic lanes prohibitively. But the issue has been batted back and forth for months, and by the time you read this, it may finally have cleared the council. Cyclists, rejoice! Now, go back in the garage and put on that blasted helmet.

[creve coeur]
An elderly man suffered hypothermia, but was expected to recover, from an icy plunge in an attempt to rescue his dog from Creve Coeur Lake. Using a rope, Maryland Heights firefighters were able to pull the victim safely to shore, but initially had trouble communicating with him because he is hearing-impaired. Firefighters didn’t have to rescue the dog, which managed to scramble back to land by itself. Does any of this sound the least bit familiar? Firefighters, of course, undergo rigorous training for such mishaps: In our first issue of the new year (Jan. 8), we happened to run two similar items. In Ballwin at a pond in Queeny Park, firefighters from West County EMS and Fire Protection District got wet and cold while training for rope rescues. A few days later, Pattonville and Maryland Heights firefighters fished out and warmed up an unfortunate canine that had fallen through the ice at Creve Coeur Lake.

[town & country]
It was back to the drawing board for BJC HealthCare, whose rezoning request for a pediatric outpatient center was denied a few months ago by Town and Country city officials. (Rezoning, as you may have seen or heard here and elsewhere, is a very touchy subject in this fair ’burb.) The request would have required, and still will, a new zoning classification for the nearly 16 acres now occupied by a onetime Missouri Highway Patrol district facility. Now zoned suburban estate, it would need to fall under the newly developed classification: planned medical office district. The first time BJC ran its concept past the city’s zoning body, it was denied. But the provider pulled in its horns, opting for only a single medical building and replacing a garage with surface lots. Those revisions passed muster in December. At a recent public hearing, reaction was mixed. In any case, at press time the zoning body had yet to make its recommendation; from there, the city council will have to decide.



Since a reporter for KSDK-TV with a hidden camera scared the wits out of students and administrators at Kirkwood High by walking into the school unexpectedly, asking to speak with security, then vanishing, one question remains: Why? The school went on lockdown, teachers cowering with their classes in the dark for nearly an hour after the reporter left, and cops went into SWAT mode to search for someone who was not on the premises and had no ill intent—other than do a story ostensibly showing how lax school security is. The ‘anonymous’ reporter also showed up at schools in other districts. Parents remain outraged, and many wonder how seriously the station considered whether the assignment might push the ethical boundary. KSDK must have wondered, too, because just before running the story, the station defended its reporting, and afterward, the station issued a non-apology, a statement that reads, in part: “NewsChannel 5 will continue to be vigilant when it comes to the safety of our schools and your children within.” Three days later, the station changed its tone, opening a newscast by acknowledging that the piece caused stress and fear. This is what used to be called ‘yellow journalism,’ reporters causing some sort of ruckus—which itself becomes the ‘story.’ A thought: Who should be held responsible for the expenses required to mobilize that unnecessary tactical response?

[university city]
This wake-up call, courtesy of one of our legislators in Jeff City, Rep. Rory Ellinger, a Democrat who represents U. City: It’s illegal to text only for drivers under 21. (Who knew? I was under the delusion that it was illegal for everyone … and it’s been an annoying habit of mine to honk at any driver I see texting.) Ellinger is among legislators who would make it verboten for anyone from 16 to 96 to text while driving. Good! We should tighten restrictions to those as draconian as California’s, where it is forbidden to use a cell phone in the car except in hands-free mode. Is this another ‘right’ government could take away? Heck yeah. Some of us can’t walk and chew gum simultaneously, so consider the consequences. Seriously, folks: Regardless of how ‘important’ you or the purpose of that message is, most calls … and all texts … can wait until you pull safely off the road.

[webster groves]
Welcome back, knuckleheads, to the second semester of Criminal Intent 101. I keep trying to help you achieve your dreams of a life of crime by pointing out what doesn’t work. Our first case study comes from the Reliance Bank robbery on Watson Road in Webster Groves. Remember, dress for success. Do you want to look like a scuba diver or a minion from the Despicable Me films? Then go ahead and wear all black, including a stocking cap with one big oval for your eyes, which will be captured on surveillance video. Yes, you’ll be famous among local law enforcement, but this look doesn’t inspire fear, only pity. To his credit, this particular crook was still on the lam a few days after simply handing the teller a note demanding money. No gun, so nobody got hurt, which means he’ll spend less time in prison. All you knuckleheads out there, keep showing up for class; I’m sure we’ll have more examples for you as the year progresses.

Unless everyone who lives along the country lane known as Old Slave Road wants to change its name, that’s what it will be called into perpetuity. A flap began about this time last year when a resident or residents of an upscale neighborhood in Wildwood expressed the desire to change the ‘insensitive’ name, which irked those who felt that was tantamount to rewriting history. (As it happens, an insider says the name has existed probably only since the mid 1970s, when the area was being platted for residences on lots of 6 acres or so.) The street is how residents get from their driveways to the main drag, Wild Horse Creek Road. Indeed, slaves of the plantations that once sprawled here are buried nearby, their headstones unmarked, which calls to mind part of our area’s—and that of many others—shameful history. A suggestion for a new name was Elijah Madison Lane, in honor of a freedman who’d served in the Civil War. But when that name was put forth via a motion during a city council meeting last summer, there was no second. Then, at a subsequent meeting the council put the controversy to rest by a 14-2 vote: A street name may be changed only if 100 percent of the residents who live on it want it to be changed, and clearly many of the two dozen or so people who have an Old Slave Road address are not inclined to ‘rewrite history.’



Had it up to your nostrils with ordinary scents like bayberry, cinnamon, even lavender? Well, mix it up a little. White Castle restaurants carry a novelty candle that supposedly smells like onions, sliders, and more onions on the grill. Before you put a match to it, it just smells kind of like lard—but I wasn’t about to spend $15 to find out whether a flame would unlock that heady aroma many folks can stomach only after 2 a.m. Then, in the east end of Maplewood, you can find candle fragrances only a gearhead could love, at Flying Tiger Motorcycles: ‘Open Road’ purports to be the essence of suede and sea air. How liberating. ‘Two Stroke Smoke’ includes real two-stroke oil mixed with what’s billed as a ‘high octane’ fragrance. (Would the sniffer require a helmet?) Perhaps more, uh, fragrant candles are blended at Maven, purveyor of bath oils, candles and other luxuriant goodies with names such as ‘Don Draper’ and ‘Little Black Dress’ … plus ‘Cheap Date’ and ‘My Boyfriend’s T-Shirt’. Looking for that special V-Day gift, anyone?