On the Street Where I Lived
While attending law school at St. Louis's Washington University, circa 1970, I lived with a family in a large house on Washington Terrace, a private street which had been established in the 1890s. (Washington Terrace is not marked on the map in your August article but is located one block south of Delmar and extends west from Union Boulevard to Clara Avenue.)
Washington Terrace is actually a subdivision that has various restrictive covenants running with the title to the subdivided lots. A Homeowners' Association was created by the developer at the time of subdivision. It is governed by a board of trustees which has the power to impose regulations, to enforce the restrictive covenants, and to levy association fees. Some of the restrictive covenants are no longer enforceable (for example, restrictions on the race and the religion of the persons who can be homeowners).
Of those that are left, one of the most significant is the requirement that the properties can be used only as single-family residences. This restriction has maintained the single-family character of the street. (The fact should be noted that the homes on Washington Terrace average between 15 and 25 rooms and could have been converted into multi-family units, as has occurred on Washington Boulevard, across Union Boulevard to the east, in the absence of such a restriction.)
The limitation of public access to the neighborhood is the key which has made Washington Terrace and the other "private places" oases of suburbia in a desert of urban decay. By means of the restrictive covenants and the ability to limit public access to the common areas of the subdivision, the homeowners can control their immediate neighborhood.…In addition to the fences and walls, the Washington Terrace Homeowners' Association employed a watchman who patrolled the street with his nightstick and Weimaraner, a factor which added to the security. The sense of security was also enhanced by the communication link that was provided by the homeowners' association newsletter and the annual "block party." Thus the residents were able to know who their neighbors were and who belonged there and who did not. Moreover, the newsletter, as well as the association meetings, provided a forum where homeowners could discuss matters of interest to the neighborhood.
Although the closing of streets to public traffic is a step in the right direction, it is not enough by itself to fully protect the neighborhood. Restrictive covenants and the enforcing mechanism of a homeowners' association are also required. Unfortunately, the creation of such covenants and associations after subdivided lots have been sold to diverse owners is a difficult thing to accomplish. Among other things, the consent of each owner must be secured—and such unanimous consent is almost impossible to get.…
I am pleased to learn that the "private places" are continuing to flourish and that the concept is expanding to new neighborhoods in spite of the legal difficulties. The existence of private neighborhoods in the "near West End" area of St. Louis makes it possible both to enjoy those wonderful old homes which exhibit a building art that no longer is seen in contemporary construction and to tolerate living amid unbelievable urban decay.
Peter M. Kuetzing
The Costs of Waste
Professor Beckmann's article, "Nuclear Waste: Can We Contain It?" (Sept.), was truly refreshing. There is, however, an additional point which ought to be brought out in the comparisons. That is the relative worth of energy per unit of wastes produced. A coal-fired plant using 9,000-BTU lignite produces one kilowatt-hour of electricity (worth about a nickel) alongside one to two kilograms of wastes. That doesn't allow much money for dealing with the disposal problems. Ordinary light-water nuclear reactors yield over 228,000 kilowatt-hours per kilogram of wastes produced, and that much electricity sells for $11,400 at the rate mentioned above.
That is the main reason we can afford to go to extremes in the waste disposal process for nuclear plant wastes and still show a profit in dollars as well as lives.
Your July 1981 edition contained an article by John Baden and Richard Stroup, "Saving the Wilderness." In it, there were two references to the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) wilderness program that were incorrect. In the interest of keeping you and your writers up-to-date, I'd like to supply you with the correct figures.
On page 32, in column two, is the following statement: "In 1976 the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was brought into the recommending process. By 1980, a total of almost 80 million acres had been set aside as wilderness." Although it was probably not intended, this implies the Bureau has set aside 80 million acres as wilderness during that four-year period. In fact, only 12,206 acres of public lands administered by BLM are currently designated as wilderness.…
In column three is the statement, "Likewise, 60 million acres in the comparable BLM programs have been set aside as Wilderness Study Areas." As of June 1981, we currently have only 25 million acres in wilderness study areas. At this point, no recommendations have been made to Congress as to whether these areas are suitable or unsuitable for wilderness area designation. We are beginning in-depth studies which will compare each area's wilderness values with all other resource values and uses. This information, combined with public views and comments, will be used to develop our eventual recommendations to Congress. Only Congress has the power to designate land part of the National Wilderness Preservation System.
Chief, Division of Wilderness
and Environmental Areas
Bureau of Land Management
Mr. Baden replies: The first statement quoted by Mr. Riecken occurs at the end of a paragraph discussing acreage set aside as wilderness since passage of 1974 legislation. Hence, we are confident that the concluding sentence of the paragraph—"By 1980, a total of almost 80 million acres had been set aside as wilderness."—does not imply overzealousness at the BLM.
And we are pleased to note that the BLM has, by June 1981, reduced the number of acres in Wilderness Study Areas to 25 million. Although it is up to Congress actually to designate wilderness (as noted in our article), all lands in study areas must, by law, be treated as wilderness until Congress makes a decision (it has up to 11 years). That means that all development is prohibited on the 62 million acres under study by the Forest Service and the 25 million by the BLM (revised figure). Right now, therefore, 167 million acres—80 million wilderness and 87 million wilderness study—are unavailable for mineral development.
As we note in our article, only a small portion of this would have to be opened up to mining in order to alleviate the strategic minerals problem. Under our proposal—to turn wilderness lands over to environmental groups so that they could weigh the potential revenues from development against ecological merits—any such mining could be done under the watchful eye of the landowners/environmentalists. We would "get our minerals and keep our wilderness too"—but not, it is true, a bureaucratic/political decision-making process.
Regarding Robert Poole's reply (Letters, Sept.) to a criticism of his editorial on El Salvador, he too, apparently, was using as sources the articles in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. However, Human Events (July 11 and August 22 issues) claims that the articles' authors—Jonathan Kwitney and Robert Kaiser, respectively—had "admitted they had seen Agee's paper before they had written their articles." Human Events then goes on to enumerate a number of instances where the two articles closely parallel Agee's criticisms and "despite the remarkable agreement…Agee was never cited in either paper as a source or even a critic" (shades of the "plagiarisms" found in Braestrup's The Big Story?).
And who is this Agee? Of course, none other than the Philip Agee, persona non grata in Britain (at least). As for Agee, Human Events relates his assertion of how "he has personally 'destroyed the White Paper on El Salvador' " and reports of an interview in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner (July 1) where he refers to "news dispatches…in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post" and claims that "all of this reporting was based on my analysis of the State Department's White Paper—published in February." Is he lying now about his influence but not about the "truths" in his original analysis—or both? Is it only the government which is lying? Or are there shades of mendacity with everyone? (Sounds a little like the old syllogistic saw: Socrates says all Greeks are liars; Socrates is a Greek.…)
And what about the State Department's rebuttal, released June 19? Human Events claims that "the Post buried an incomplete story on the rebuttal on page 29″ while "the Journal, on the other hand, has refused to carry a word on the rebuttal" (more reminiscent of something out of The Spike; the Wall Street Journal no less!).
Several points: (1) One supposes that communists and their ilk may, on occasion, utter the "truth" (e.g., "The earth is round," or Mr. Agee's publishing of the identity and whereabouts of one station head Welch—this "fact" quite likely was true enough, as Welch was duly murdered by terrorists…in Greece). (2) Perhaps the thing most apparent in all of this is that Mr. Poole could stand to dig a little deeper still before he so hastily utters any more claims to gullibility. And (3) as a new subscriber (that was only my second issue), is it un-Reason-able to expect as much of your highly touted contents?
Kenneth L. Mathias
San Angelo, TX
Mr. Poole replies: A quite thorough response to the charges made by Human Events and Accuracy in Media was made by Frederick Taylor, executive editor of the Wall Street Journal, on that paper's editorial page on August 21. The essential points are these: (1) The first published critique of the White Paper was by John Dinges in the Los Angeles Times on March 17; Dinges says he prepared it independently of Agee. (2) Agee issued his 46-page critique on April 9. (3) The WSJ's Jonathan Kwitney used a number of sources, including those two, but relied heavily on an interview with Jon Glassman, the State Department analyst who compiled the documents discussed in the White Paper. While Mr. Glassman admitted to Mr. Kwitney that some of the White Paper's conclusions were based on "guessing" and "extrapolation," he continues to defend the White Paper's overall conclusions, falling back on classified documents for support. Thus, it is difficult to make an accurate assessment of where the truth actually lies. My comments on Mr. Childs's letter did indeed rely on Mr. Kwitney's WSJ article, which seems to have been carefully researched and hardly an instance of KGB disinformation.
(Other) Impressions of Guatemala
I was keenly interested in Tibor Machan's "Impressions of Guatemala" (Aug.), having lived there in my early childhood and visited there once again last February. I too visited the Universidad Francisco Marroquín, a fine example of private education. I was told that the university is having a positive effect on the country through example and education, rather than any political involvement.
I concur with Machan's general impressions, but there are a couple of points that could be commented on.
I think the use of the term superstitious to describe the Mayan Indians is unfortunate. Superstitious in what sense? The Indians have retained a pride in their Mayan heritage. I once gave an old, crippled Indian woman some money, and in return she offered a prayer and a blessing—keeping a sense of dignity even in her pitiful condition.
Though we too received warnings of danger before leaving for Guatemala, strangely enough we felt very safe in the country. Most of the violence is directed at particular targets, and the general visitor is not really in danger. In fact, we walked around Guatemala City late at night with no fear of being attacked. Tikal, where the largest Mayan ruins are located, is one of the safest jungle places in the world. The violence between the right and left forces is a startling contrast to the reserved and peaceful nature of the Guatemalan people themselves, who are among the sweetest people on earth.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Letters".