Leicht challenges Campisi for County Council seat
By MIKE ANTHONY
Democrat Julie Leicht of Concord is challenging Republican in-cumbent John Campisi for the 6th District County Council seat in the Nov. 2 election.
Leicht once served as an aide to Democrat Jeff Wagener, whom Campisi defeated four years ago to win election to the County Council. Campisi's victory in November 2000 gave Republicans a majority on the seven-member council.
At candidate forums, Leicht has raised the issue of Campisi's character, citing Campisi's 2002 guilty plea on two counts of tampering with a utility for filling his swimming pool with water from a fire hydrant and contending he broke a campaign pledge not to accept campaign contributions from developers.
But Campisi has stuck to the issues, dismissing the fire hydrant incident as a mistake for which he has apologized and re-sponding that he has only taken contributions from employees of development com-panies, not from developers themselves. If he discovers he has accepted a contribution from a developer, the councilman has said he will return it.
Asked to identify the most important issue in the race, the candidates responded:
• "Economic development would have to be the most important issue my district faces,'' Campisi said. "When I took office, Lemay was experiencing some hard times. My challenge was to help those businesses in that area. Using my personal experience as a small-business operator, I talked to those businesses that were thinking about expanding and showed them that Lemay was a community with a tremendous em-ployment base and a significant opportunity for development. All of the businesses that I worked with that have moved to Le-may have been very happy with their ex-pansion or their move into the Lemay area.''
• "Leadership is the key issue in this race,'' Leicht said, "Over the last four years, the 6th District has been lacking leadership from our current councilman. Issues have not been resolved and south county has been fraught with controversy and turmoil. If south county wants to continue along the path of growth and prosperity, then it is critical that the elected councilman have the qualifications and experience needed to address the tough issues currently facing our community. South county deserves to be represented by someone who is willing to make decisions and move our community forward.''
Campisi, 44, 10133 Jeffleigh Lane, 63123, is the owner of Mama Campisi's Restaurant. He and his wife, Lori, have three school-age children.
Campisi, who was elected to the County Council in November 2000, said he is seeking re-election because "I wish to continue to be responsive to the concerns of the residents of south county, continue bringing new businesses into south county, work with the state Legislature to provide tax relief and to ensure that the proposed casino in Lemay provides the goods and services to south county as stated in the legislation. I also want to continue the process regarding the problems with solid-waste disposal and ensure that trash-transfer facilities or trash-disposal sites are not built in residential areas.''
Leicht, 45, 13690 Evergreen Glen Drive, 63128, is a small-business owner. She and her husband, Mark Kiesewetter, have three school-age children.
Leicht, who has served two four year-terms as the Democratic committeewoman for the Tesson Ferry Township, beginning in 1996, defeated Democrat Ron Waggan-er of Lemay in the August primary. She said she is seeking election the County Council because "last summer I was approached by the late County Executive Buzz Westfall and the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch with a request to run for this seat. They were concerned that south county residents were being hurt by the lack of leadership by the current councilman. I was honored that two people who I greatly admired and respected believed in my ability to lead south county.
"I grew up in the 6th District and my husband and I are committed to raising our three children in this community. There-fore, we have a vested interest in the future of south county,'' she said. "Over the last several years, I have been greatly disappointed with the lack of progress in our community. South county citizens have been faced with many controversial issues, but we have not had the local leadership and direction needed to address and resolve these issues. Now it is time for a change. The citizens of this community deserve to have an effective voice in local government; one that will represent and protect their interests.''
The candidates gave the following re-sponses to a Call questionnaire:
Do you believe the Planning Commis-sion is responsive to county residents? How long should appointees serve on the Planning Commission?
Campisi said, "On some of the issues that come before the Planning Commission that I have observed, I believe that the concerned residents were given the opportunity to voice their opinions but their opinions were not considered. Following the recommendations outlined in the area studies or considering the concerns of the affected residents does not seem to be the priority of many members of the Planning Commission. I have experienced the executive sessions where the chairman would ig-nore the opinions of other board members. Members of the county Planning Commis-sion currently have term appointments of three years. However, there is no limit to the number of terms that can be served. I support a limit of no more than two consecutive terms of three years duration.''
Leicht said, "The Planning Commission needs to be extremely responsive to the residents of south county. Most recently a good example of responsiveness was when the commission listened to the concerns of south county residents regarding the proposed trash transfer station and unanimously voted to deny the rezoning request.
"The commission is comprised of nine members each serving three-year terms. The commission members serve at the pleasure of the county executive and are confirmed by the County Council. Of the nine members currently serving on the commission, the County Charter requires that five members live in unincorporated St. Louis County. As a result, the commission is weighted so that unincorporated St. Louis County is well represented and has the majority voice on the commission. The Planning Commission role is to make recommendations to the council member. It is the council member's decision to accept or reject the recommendation. The bottom line is that the buck stops at the council member when it comes to planning and zoning changes. As council member, I will be responsive to the residents,'' she added.
What is your position on incorporation?
Campisi said, "There are more than 90 incorporated municipalities in St. Louis County. That means there are at least 90 separate governing bodies that dictate to the various residents of St. Louis County. Some of the municipalities are the model of efficiency and others are not. South county is one of the largest unincorporated areas left in St. Louis County. If an organized group of residents and business owners from south county wishes to pursue incorporation, I will do whatever I can to help them carry their message to the voters.''
Leicht said, "I am not in favor of incorporation for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the voters of South County al-ready expressed their opposition to incorporation. The 1995 South Pointe incorporation proposal was overwhelmingly de-feated by 71 percent of the voters of south county. I believe that one of the reasons incorporation was defeated was because voters understood that a tax increase would be needed to support this added layer of government.
"If south county or an area of south county were to incorporate, then that municipality would have to provide a tax base to pay for police and fire protection as well as administrative services. In addition, St. Louis County has a nationally recognized Police Department and excellent fire protections districts. If the newly incorporated area chose to contract with St. Louis County for police services, then essentially we would be paying more for services we currently enjoy. Rather than incorporate, the answer lies in electing a council member who is responsive to the citizens and the needs of the community; someone who can make the tough decisions to protect the interest of the citizens of south county.''
If a casino is built at the former National Lead site, what will you do to ensure county revenue will be returned to Lemay?
Campisi said, "I have proposed that the money given to the Port Authority for rent of the site be redirected to the Lemay area for redevelopment of roads or sidewalks. I have also proposed that a school foundation fund be established to provide money to the surrounding schools in south county.''
Leicht said, "The Pinnacle Casino project will bring an estimated $25 million into the general revenue fund. The project is not slated to come on-line for three more years; therefore, the county has not identified how the $25 million will be budgeted. There has been discussion within county government that the revenue should be used only for special projects such as road improvements. I would propose that a percentage of the revenue be devoted to projects in the south county area. Although the tax revenue generated by the project will go into the general fund, the Lemay community will realize direct benefits from the project. The lease with Pinnacle states that $20 million will be set aside for the roadways and community facilities in Lemay. The lease also states that Pinnacle must build the community facilities even if the costs exceed $20 million. These amenities are in addition to the jobs that will be created by the project and the exponential benefit to area businesses.''
What is your position on Fred Weber's proposal to locate a trash-transfer station in south county?
Campisi said, "I have opposed the trash-transfer station by Fred Weber three times since November 2002 and will continue to oppose transfer stations that are proposed near residential areas, churches, restaurants and other areas where residents will be affected.''
Leicht said, "I am opposed to a trash transfer station in south county. Unfortu-nately, the lack of leadership from the current councilman resulted in the problem escalating into unmanageable proportions and sadly an individual speaking out against the issue was sued. The current councilman proposed an unconstitutional ordinance prohibiting trash transfer stations within 1,000 feet from residential property. The ordinance was struck down by the courts.
"Ironically, the favored site by Weber meets the 1,000-foot criteria and has resulted in further litigation. In addition, the councilman's failure to immediately introduce legislation after he received the Planning Commission's denial of the zoning petition led Weber to ask for an extension to reconsider the request. Had the current councilman assumed a more aggressive stance on this issue from the onset, this issue would not have drug on for almost a year and our community would not have been embroiled in controversy,'' she added.
Do you agree with the County Council's 2001 decision to change its meetings to the evening from the afternoon?
Campisi said, "Yes, I agree with the decision. I was one of the councilmen that proposed evening meetings. The evening meetings have proved to be successful. We have a strong participation at these meetings by residents. They now have the time and the forum to make their opinions known and heard without the problem of taking time off from their jobs.''
Leicht said, "Absolutely. Evening meetings allow citizens the opportunity to have a more active role in government. I would not change the meeting time.''