Robinson seeks to unseat Fagan in race for Crestwood mayoral post
March 23, 2005 - By MIKE ANTHONY
While both candidates seeking election to the Crestwood mayoral post in the April 5 election agree that the city's finances are the top issue, each has different ideas about how to solve the city's fiscal woes.
Incumbent Tom Fagan is being challenged by Roy Robinson, a former alderman, for the mayoral post, which carries a three-year term. Fagan was elected mayor last August, defeating Robinson and two other candidates in a special election to fill the remainder of the term of former Mayor Jim Rob-ertson, who resigned in January 2004.
Asked to identify the most important issue in the race, the candidates gave these written responses to a Call questionnaire:
• "Crestwood's finances are obviously the most important issue at this time be-cause of the problems we have had with the general fund. The capital improvements fund and park and stormwater fund are both in a better position than the general fund at this time, while the general fund is in a precarious position. There is no doubt we have to continue rectifying this deficiency,'' Fagan said.
• Stop spending and reduce the debt. If something isn't accomplished in this area, the future of the city and its services will be in jeopardy,'' Robinson said.
Fagan, 37, 8715 Red Oak, is an attorney with Wuestling & James. He and his wife, Kathy, have two young children.
Fagan served as a Ward 4 alderman from 1993 to last August when he was elected mayor. He said he is seeking re-election because "I am uniquely qualified to lead the city based on my professional and personal experience as both an attorney in private practice, as the mayor since August '04 and as a member of the Board of Aldermen since 1993. I believe I am the most pro-growth-oriented person seeking this office.''
Robinson, 62, 9165 Cordoba Lane, is re-tired. He and his wife, Joan, have two grown children.
Robinson served as an alderman from 1988 to 1992 and twice ran unsuccessfully for mayor against the late Pat Killoren. In his last bid for a Ward 3 aldermanic seat in 1996, Mr. Robinson was defeated by Pat Duwe, who now represents Ward 4 on the board. He said he is seeking election be-cause "I am a candidate that has experience, ability, integrity and commitment to restore financial responsibility to our city, thus reducing the debt and saving the services we have grown to expect.''
The candidates gave the following re-sponses to a Call questionnaire:
Do you support the $6 million bond issue the Board of Aldermen has placed on the April 5 ballot? Why or why not? If you do not support the bond issue, elaborate on what you would propose in the alternative. Please be specific.
Fagan said, "Yes, but it will not necessarily be $6 million. This figure is a 'not-to-exceed figure' and the board will ultimately decide the exact amount of the bonds to be sold, which I expect will be less than $6 million. In addition, the bond issue allows the city to rectify the financial difficulties we have experienced.
"Specifically, it allows us to pay off our line of credit, it puts money in a non-ex-pendable trust which will be used to assist in cash flow, and it allows the general fund to pay back the capital improvements fund and park and stormwater fund which it owes money to,'' he added.
Robinson said, " I am not actively supporting the bond issue, but I do recognize the need for additional funding as a means to re-store financial stability and ensure our services are not affected. The present administration has shown by their past performance they cannot be trusted to take care of the present monies. I am afraid what they will do with $6 million to spend as they wish.''
The Board of Aldermen recently voted to seek bids for the "retrofitting" of City Hall to include a new police facility. Do you support this decision?
Fagan said, "Yes. Our current Police De-partment facilities are undersized and the retrofitting of City Hall will alleviate this difficulty.''
Robinson said, "I do not support the Board of Aldermen's vote on the retrofitting of City Hall. This is not the time to continue this project. The renovation needs to be reviewed and changes need to be made to the Police Department portion. The new Police Department project is absolutely more than a city the size of Crestwood needs and it looks like a Taj Mahal, which is out of character for our city. Saving, not spending, is what is needed on this project. We can do a renovation, but not like the one the board approved. Monies saved can be spent on the street program.''
Do you support the defeasing of the certificates of participation — COPs — issued to fund the retrofitting of City Hall? Why or why not? If you support defeasing the COPs, do you believe the half-cent capital-improvement sales tax should revert to its original sunset — 2008?
Fagan said, "No. The citizens of Crest-wood voted for the extension of the capital-improvement sales tax with the understanding a new police facility would be constructed.''
Robinson said, "I believe defeasing of the certificates of participation — COPs — to retrofit City Hall should be considered as an option if the city can do it without losing a large amount of the tax revenue. If the city continues a renovation but reduces the size of the police building portion, to a more realistic size, the savings could be used for other capital improvements then the tax should not revert to the 2008 sunset.''
Do you believe Don Greer should continue to serve as city administrator and police chief? Why or why not? If you do not bel-ieve he should serve in both positions, how would you fund hiring someone else?
Fagan said, "Yes. I believe he has done a good job in both capacities. In addition, it has saved the city in excess of $100,000. I do not believe it would be the best solution in 'regular' times, but because of our fi-nancial difficulties, this is the best option for the city at this time.''
Robinson said, "I do not believe that Don Greer should continue to serve as both police chief and city administrator because there is a potential for a conflict of interest and provides too much power for one individual without proper checks and balances. By reducing the number of lawyers, consultants and studies being paid by the city there should be more than enough funds to hire a new chief or city administrator.''
Has the current administration responsibly managed the city's finances? Please elaborate. Would you have done anything differently?
Fagan said, "Yes. Revenues are now projected to be greater than expenses. The number of employees has been reduced. Ex-penses have been maintained at a constant level for over two years, which is extremely difficult to do.''
Robinson said, "The current administration has been irresponsible for the handling of our city's finances. They have continued to hire new personnel whenever the city administrator requests, even though a hiring freeze had been agreed to by the board. They buy new software for $113,000, when they are not sure it can be used effectively. I would have asked the board to reconsider doing the spending as stated above.''
What, if anything, will you propose to maintain the vitality of the Watson Road commercial corridor?
Fagan said, "The market feasibility study is the first step to tell us what we need and what we have too much of. After getting the results of the market feasibility study, we will meet with Westfield regarding renovations for the mall.''
Robinson said, "Work to improve the relationship between the city and the business community. Have an open-door policy to the business community to provide input and suggest ways the city can help their businesses to be more successful. I will also work to gain support from our state elected officials to support an effort to have the center median on Watson Road removed. This will im-prove access to our business community.''
What is your position on the use of tax-increment financing — TIF?
Fagan said, "I am in favor of TIFs if they are used in the right manner. Specifically, if a project will not be accomplished without the use of TIF, then the Board ought to consider the use of TIF. Furthermore, our neighbors use this tool, so for Crestwood to not use a tool which it is authorized to use would be a serious mistake.''
Robinson said, "TIF should be used only after all other avenues have been exhausted and the development is absolutely essential to the needs of the city.''
Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance? Should this organization re-lease its membership list to the media and the public? Have you ever attended a meeting of this organization?
Fagan said, "No. There is no doubt this organization should release its membership list. They make broad accusations which are unsubstantiated. They claim they will re-lease their membership list, but they have never done so. One must question why they are opposed to certain policies, but one will never know the true intent of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance without the membership list being released.''
Robinson said, "I have never been a member of the Crestwood Smart Growth Alliance. The release of its membership is up to that group and it doesn't bother me one way or another. I have never attended a meeting of that group/organization.''
Did you sign the petition calling for a state audit of the city's finances?
Fagan said, "No, because the City hired Brown Smith Wallace to perform a more thorough and in-depth audit. Also, the city will now have to pay more than $40,000 based on the state's charges, the money spent for the forensic auditor, and our em-ployees' own time.''
Robinson said, "I did not sign the petition for a state audit. No one contacted me that I can recall, and at the time, I did not know what their position involved or the purpose.''
The Board of Aldermen is moving toward an occupancy permit program for residential rental properties. What are you thoughts about such a proposal?
Fagan said, "I am in favor of such a program because Crestwood needs to maintain its appeal to potential homeowners and ensure our city continues to look nice. One way this can be accomplished is with an occupancy permit program.''
Robinson said, " I support an occupancy permit program of residential rental properties, but it should be enforced and conducted by Crestwood, not St. Louis County or private companies. I am against this program being extended to the homeowner who lives on the property.''
Should the southeast corner of Watson and Grant roads be redeveloped?
Fagan said, "Absolutely. The best use for this site would be a residential area because the area is in the 'annexed' part of Crest-wood. As such, even if a business which generates a large amount of sales tax moves there, the city will realize very little gain. As such, the best thing from an economic standpoint for the City of Crestwood is for it to be redeveloped into a residential area.''
Robinson said, "If it can be obtained without the city using its power taking the property. Any business or high-quality homes or condos that will produce long-term revenue to the city would be acceptable to me. Any development should have the support of the residents who live around it.''
What are your thoughts about eminent domain?
Fagan said, "Obviously, I do not want to use eminent domain if we do not have to. However, I believe it is another tool which the city has to use or be able to use if the city is going to redevelop some areas that have been neglected.''
Robinson said, " I am against the use of eminent domain unless all other avenues have been exhausted and it is the only way to achieve something needed by the entire city. The Supreme Court will decide this summer if it has been abused and it will probably be a moot point after the decision.
Do you agree with the direction the city is moving?
Fagan said, "Yes. For fiscal year 2005, our revenues are projected to be greater than our expenses. I have had numerous conversations with representatives of Westfield and other businesses. A market feasibility study is in the process of being completed, which will assist the city in redevelopment and growth.''
Robinson said, "Crestwood is moving in the wrong direction because the growing debt which is putting our future in a position where the board can only ask the voters to raise taxes in order to pay the bills. It is easy to keep borrowing, but it takes a long time and effort to pay off the debt. Plus, these are short-term fixes and they will be back in two or three years asking for more or your services will be cut.''
What is your "vision" for the city of Crestwood?
Fagan said, "My vision is a city where people want to stay in Crestwood or move to Crestwood, we continue to have strong police and fire protection, our taxes are low, and businesses can remain and relocate to because we are friendly and open to business.''
Robinson said, "Bring Crestwood back from financial disaster and get our business community back on track by filling the empty stores. The success of the business community will assist the city in providing the services as we have grown to admire.''