Three candidates seeking election to Crestwood Ward 2 aldermanic seat
Two candidates seeking the Crestwood Ward 2 Board of Aldermen seat in the April 6 election believe that the city's fiscal condition is the most important issue in the race, while a third candidate believes the most important issue is the protection of citizens' rights.
Daniel Himebaugh, James Kelleher and Jeffrey Schlink are seeking election to the Ward 2 aldermanic seat currently held by Gary Vincent, who did not file for a third, three-year term.
Two candidates — incumbent Bernadine "Bernie'' Alexander and Jerry Miguel — who are seeking the Ward 3 seat, will be featured in next week's Call.
Two other candidates — Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding and Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe — are unopposed in the April 6 election.
Asked to identify the most important issue, the Ward 2 candidates gave these responses:
• "The protection of citizens/owners' rights,'' Himebaugh said.
• "We need to return Crestwood back to a healthy financial position. Because of improper or unauthorized accounting procedures, Crestwood now has a deficit. We need to restore trust in Crestwood and resolve this crisis,'' Kelleher said.
• "The single most important issue for the city is improving our financial condition. The forensic audit will identify the errors in accounting and tell us exactly what our financial condition is. We are not 100 percent sure of the balances of our accounts. Once that is determined, we must work with the residents of the city and understand that our spending will be limited. I would be against the Board of Aldermen utilizing money from another fund to pay for our problems. For example, I would be against utilizing the parks and stormwater tax to pay for problems in the general fund. I believe that residents passed that tax with one purpose for the money, parks and stormwater expenses,'' Schlink said.
Himebaugh, 41, 1130 Tahiti Drive, is the owner of Himebaugh Home Repair. He and his wife, Mary, have two children.
Himebaugh, who has not held elective office, said he is running because "I want to protect the rights of property owners.''
Kelleher, 40, 17 Jo Ann Place, is self-employed as an independent technology consultant. He and his wife, Anne, have one child.
Kelleher, who serves on the city's Planning, Zoning and Architectural Commission, has not held elective office. He said he is running because "I believe Crestwood is a great place to live and raise a family. I want to do my part to help make Crestwood even better.''
Schlink, 35, 1128 Capri Drive, is manager of supervisory systems in the compliance division at Edward Jones. He and his wife, Kim, have four children.
Schlink, who is making his third bid for a Ward 2 aldermanic seat, said he is seeking election "to help improve our trust and confidence with our city's government. Unfortunately, our city has large financial problems. The first phase of recovery is identification of the problem and complete understanding of the problem. The current forensic audit will accomplish those objectives. Our next phase is just as important, intelligent spending. We have debt. We must not make this problem worse. We must regain control of our financial situation.''
The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:
Do you agree with the direction the city is moving?
Himebaugh said, "The city has taken on much growth through annexation and so forth and provides the citizens with great parks, fire and police and other service. I would like to see some more planning in regard to real estate development.''
Kelleher said, "Given the financial issues that have arisen in the last year, I believe we are in recovery mode. (Former) Mayor (Jim) Robertson, the board and the staff have focused hard on digging Crestwood out of this mess, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. It will take time, and once we have this behind us, we can continue to grow and improve as we should. Then, we will be able to focus on the right direction again.''
Schlink said, "At this time, yes. Currently we are moving toward identifying our financial problems and determining our financial health. This should be our No. 1 priority. When we look at spending, we should not just spend the money because it is in the budget. The budget is out the window. We should ask if the product or service is important to our residents and do we have the money on hand.''
What is your position on the use of tax-increment financing — TIF?
Himebaugh said, "I think that TIFs are used too frequently. I would like to see the practice stopped, but that may not be possible.''
Kelleher said, " I don't like to pay extra taxes on my purchases either, but I think TIF has its place if stringent guidelines are met. TIF must satisfy certain requirements, and the monies must be used for specific applications. If done right, it can move along development. Without opening up the whole pool issue, I think it's safe to say that we could still have the shuttered Schnucks instead of Kohl's at Watson and Sappington without TIF. Some people talk about TIF and the misuse of TIF. I believe it should be used cautiously, but can be very powerful when used correctly. And, so that we don't have any secrets, my family is a member of the Crestwood Pool.''
Schlink said, "Along with many people, we have seen TIFs abused. TIFs will continue to be a controversial topic. The important issue for Crestwood is whether TIFs can even be an option. If everyone gets a TIF that asks for one, we are not increasing tax revenue for ourselves. We are increasing revenue for someone else. Our city cannot overuse TIFs. All the Watson Road projects will ask for a TIF. I bet the mall will ask for a TIF when they renovate their location. Each request must be evaluated individually to determine why a developer should receive a significant amount of money vs. a cash-strapped city. We must look at this differently because we are in a completely different financial position.''
In view of the city of Crestwood's financial problems, should the city proceed with construction of a new police station, projected to cost roughly $7.8 million?
Himebaugh said, "Since I don't know how bad the need is, it may not be right, but I would like to see this project delayed until we have righted our financial boat.''
Kelleher said, "It's my understanding that the certificates of participation already exist for this project, so this is essentially a done deal. The current station is described as unsafe by the chief, and since there is no stopping this train, the city must proceed.''
Schlink said, "First we need to know the environment that we are operating. When the new police station was approved, our finances were not known to be bad. We are still awaiting the balances of accounts and funds. Important factors have changed and those changes need to be evaluated. We need to know what our options are with the money. We need to understand what we can do to protect and serve the residents of Crestwood while spending their money wisely.''
What did you think of Mills Properties' proposal to redevelop the southeast corner of Watson and Grant roads?
Himebaugh said, "I am opposed to the city taking property by eminent domain. If a developer can develop a property through his own devices and his development fits the area and the citizens want it, fine.''
Kelleher said, "This project is on hold currently, but I just don't know what to think. I believe I would like to see other proposals, but the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance is not helping matters at all. I need to hear more to get my arms around this one. I need more information, but also want to see other bids.''
Schlink said, "That is a big and expensive project. I am in favor of adding residents and increasing tax revenue if it is in a package that benefits the city. As I have mentioned before, we cannot overuse TIFs, especially expensive TIFs. We must always ask how does this benefit the residents of Crestwood.''