Patriot Games

Home sweet homeland: C.J. Janovy’s “Your Homeland Security Dollars at Work” (Kansas City Strip, April 17) was both funny and sad.

I agree with the sentiment of the piece, but isn’t this kind of crap just what the American people deserve for giving in to fear and allowing this “homeland security” gig to get started anyway? It seems to just be par for the course: elections decided by courts, putting a sculpture-covering Bible beater in the AG’s office who was beaten for governor by a dead person, forming one big bureaucratic quagmire out of several quagmires that didn’t work before …

Couldn’t libraries help alleviate some of the ignorance that spawns this fear? A person (who’s been taught to read and think critically) can walk into a library and become better educated about the world. A person could learn about how this country has helped create great things in some countries and terrible regimes in others. Hell, I even think some of the folks wandering around Wal-Mart filling their carts with ridiculous Mexican/Taiwan-made shit could eventually figure out “why theum Muz-lims and A-rabs hate uhmericuns.”

Even with this, though, there’s a catch. Thanks to the “Patriot” Act, the list of books that you check out can be tracked without your consent and without a court order.

Andy Stevens

Canon City, Colorado

Area Codes

Picture imperfect: I don’t have any civic high-mindedness. It was cheap and I am not afraid of black people. — As seen in giant type next to pictures of Susan Wiegand and her firehouse.

I am debilitated with sorrow at Ben Paynter’s article the Pitch published about the doings on Troost Avenue (“Troost Colors,” April 17). Aside from the countless factual errors, the myriad misleading misstatements, the description of my dreamy fire-fortress as a crumbling, graffitied hellhole — and, of course, putting aside the wholesale misspelling of my name and the fact that steel doesn’t tarnish — the careless layout juxtaposing a bitter and racist statement made by someone else next to pictures of me and my building was worse than negligent.

I am mortified that I would be presented in such a false and degrading light, but far more distressed that you should have in your journalistic bloodthirst insulted thousands of my neighbors. I woke this morning with a broken heart, wanting to go door-to-door to apologize to everyone in the city for a vile comment I didn’t even make, but which your amateurish art direction has placed in my responsibility.

Fanning the embers of fading racial strife is a criminal act. You should be ashamed of yourselves. You owe me and the community an apology and a retraction.

Meanwhile, something wonderful, artful, warm and full of joy is happening on Troost and you missed it.

Susan Wiegand

Kansas City, Missouri

Editor’s note: The Pitch regrets misspelling Susan Wiegand’s name.

Troost or consequences: I am entirely unclear about Ben Paynter’s motivations and objectives.

I am clear about the value of his subject matter. Maybe not intentionally, but Paynter authors portraits of people who are integral to the increased viability of this city. Artists, church and community leaders, developers and residents are making this city a more habitable, integrated and creative place. They devote their money, sweat and soul to a place that for several decades has suffered the dry rot of indifference and apathy.

I do take issue with Paynter’s statement (or paraphrasing) describing the Troost Corridor Community Association as “a bunch of white property owners plan(ning) the future of a historically black neighborhood.” Seven of the sixteen current TCCA board members are African-Americans — a percentage mirroring the composition of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Troost Avenue, prior to the 1950s, was almost exclusively white retail and residential occupation. The African-American community was circumscribed to the east of Paseo Boulevard. The dissolution of the streetcar system and the advent of sprawl contributed to a “white flight” from the Troost Avenue corridor. It was only after the property had been devalued by white divestment that African-Americans were able to raze the Paseo wall, despite the abhorrent (and still current) practice of banks redlining home loans for minorities. It took a handful of white developers virtually no time to rebuild that wall. This time they called it Troost Avenue. The TCCA, neighboring community associations and people investing in the corridor are taking hammers to that wall, and landing significant blows on behalf of this city’s health.

Scott Hartley

Kansas City, Missouri

Troost agreement: Ben Paynter got the impression of Troost right. I’ve lived here for 25 years, and am an artist, resident, property owner, investor and landlord. I have been active in the Troost Midtown Business Association and Hyde Park and Squire Park neighborhoods at times.

I’ve been cited for code violations — not always of my own causing — and I’ve been a city code inspector trying to be fair to people when other people are trying to use city codes as a threat over their neighbors.

One of the great things the Troost Corridor has is this great diversity of people, many of whom are working in their own way to improve the area. Thanks for this snapshot of my neighborhood and some of the people who are making it a better place.

Walt Wells

Kansas City, Missouri

Home to Troost: What a horrible place Ben Paynter must think the Troost Corridor is. I can only assume that he lives safely away from Troost — say, somewhere near 135th and Anywhere, a place where all paranoid, white, nonartistic people would naturally want to congregate.

This article has done nothing but reinforce the misperception of this area as drug- and crime-infested and racially segregated. I get the impression Paynter thinks area residents should be grateful that artistic people are “brave” enough to venture this far east and that we should just leave them alone, regardless of the condition of their property.

Property codes are laws — not suggestions — on how properties are to be maintained. Negligent property owners rob responsible neighbors of millions of dollars in real estate values, regardless of how artistic those owners might be.

Greg Hugeback

Hyde Park