Letters to the Editor: Week of Nov. 13, 2013

Explaining opposition  to Veolia contract 

There has been much discussion as to whether St Louis City should utilize Veolia North America to provide consulting services to the City of St Louis Water Department.  As the President of the Board of Aldermen, my role is to render decisions as a representative of the people.  I opposed the contract between the city of St. Louis and Veolia North America based on a host of domestic factors that could potentially leave our water department in a diminished state.

Prior to the proposed Veolia contract being submitted for approval to the city’s Board of Estimate & Apportionment, a five-member selection committee, including one representative appointed by me, was formed to review the four responses the city received to the Request For Proposal (RFP) for water consulting services. 

One requirement set forth in the city’s RFP was for each bidder to supply five references. Only two of the five references for Veolia North America responded to the committee’s request for the company’s performance history. Because this information couldn’t be obtained my representative abstained from voting, citing lack of information on contractor’s past performance. Despite the lack of response from Veolia’s references, the selection committee voted 3 – 1 in favor of Veolia and forwarded the contract on to the Board of E & A.

In the weeks following that vote my office received additional information related to Veolia’s environmental track record, which included multiple instances of pumping raw sewage into domestic waterways, class action lawsuits for overcharging consumers, and the company’s overall poor contract performance in cities all across America. This information solidified my stance against selecting Veolia Water as a consultant for the city of St. Louis.  My objection to hiring Veolia Water was based on their poor performance in cities similar to St. Louis and their poor environmental track record in the U.S.

Other matters were raised regarding the international parent company of Veolia Water North and conflicts outside of U.S. borders.  Although concerns of international conflicts were brought into the discussion, deliberations on hiring a municipal water contractor isn’t the forum for addressing such issues.

Lewis Reed, President, St. Louis City Board of Aldermen

Pew study’s call to action

The recent Pew survey of U.S. Jews confirmed what anyone concerned with Jewish continuity can see in the Light’s Opinions section on Oct. 30.

No, not the Light editorial’s exhortation that, “Only after professional and lay leaders can meld the data with their own practices …will we know whether the study makes any difference whatsoever.”

First there is a letter-writer’s plea to follow Bob Costas and object to the Washington Redskins name; an example of Jews worrying about everyone else but Jews, encouraged by the “professional and lay leaders,” we are asked to trust with our Jewish future — again.

Second, J. Martin Rochester’s masterful commentary on Page 11 contains the following: “As one professor at HUC in L.A. puts it, ‘What’s the point of getting your 200 or 300 closest friends and family members together and having your kid read a text they don’t understand in a language they don’t understand?’”

Apparently, some rabbis “believe the traditional bar/bat mitzvah ceremony should be replaced by a ‘social action’ project that would be more engaging…” Solving the problem that our kids can’t read Hebrew or follow a Shabbat service by eliminating the events is the same  “dumbing-down” approach that has decimated the Reform and Conservative movements for 50 years. Clearly, the Pew study demands an immediate and dramatic commitment to provide serious Jewish education of all Jewish children. If not, there will be only Orthodox Jews in 30 years, and the current “major Jewish institutions” will be only a memory. 

Richard Senturia, Director, Citizens for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East