Updated: Ayouaz challenges Anderson in Crestwood

By Mike Anthony
Executive Editor
news1@callnewspapers.com

Crestwood Ward 4 Alderman Timothy Anderson is being challenged in the April 3 election by resident Ismaine Ayouaz.
Anderson was elected to the Board of Aldermen in 2015. Ayouaz, who was born in Paris, France and became a U.S. citizen in 2015, came in second in 2016 in a four-way race for the Ward 4 aldermanic seat held by Tony Kennedy.
Asked to identify the most important issue in the race, the candidates responded:
Anderson said, “I, along with most everyone in Crestwood, desire a timely, attractive and economically viable redevelopment of the former mall site. The city has done its part to bring about such an outcome by affording substantial incentives to the developer on the condition that it lives up to its agreement with the city. Some progress has been made, the blighted buildings are gone, but actual redevelopment is still on the horizon.
“The Board of Aldermen will be called upon in the coming months and years to make many important decisions and choices regarding the developer and the nature of the redevelopment. The issue in this race is which candidate is the better choice to make those kinds of decisions. Who should you trust and put your confidence in to safeguard your interests and concerns? In answering that question I recommend to you my training, experiences in dealing with complex issues, my understanding of the redevelopment process and my commitment to the residents of Crestwood.”
Ayouaz said, “I believe the most important issue in this race is having an alderman who is willing to engage, listen, learn, and adjust and to bring a new spirit of public service to our community. Crestwood Ward 4 residents deserve the right representation, an alderman who engages them in the public life of our city and community. As the next Crestwood Ward 4 alderman, I will continue engaging our community through social media, email, in person, and with regular town hall meetings.
“I will provide our residents with updates and ask them for their feedback. Our community is rich with talented individuals who can help drive our city’s successes. To be an alderman is to be a public servant, a leader, and a team player.”
Anderson, 64, 9022 Sky Crest Drive, 63126, is an attorney with the law firm Clooney & Anderson. He and his wife, Beverly, have two grown children.
Anderson previously served on the Civil Service Board. He said he is seeking re-election because “I would like to serve the community which has provided me such a great place to live and raise a family.”
Ayouaz, 40, 8915 Rusdon Lane, is an operations and system specialist at Washington University. He and his wife, Isabelle, have two young children.
Ayouaz, who has not held elective office in the United States, previously served on the Park Board and currently serves on the Economic Development Commission.
“I am running for the office of Crestwood alderman because I want to roll up my sleeves for my community and help shape the future of our city,” he said. “I have a passion for public service, solving problems and helping people. I am eager to serve a renewed Crestwood and represent all Crestwood residents with a special attention to the young families who have made Crestwood their home. I would like to provide a fresh and unique perspective and a new spirit of public service. I am grateful for our city. I love our community and I don’t take it for granted. Serving my fellow residents and giving back to my neighbors is part of my American dream.”

Ismaine Ayouaz

The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:

Do you support the city’s decision to sue the Affton Fire Protection District?
Anderson said, “Yes, I believe the existing fire protection system involving Crestwood and the Affton Fire Protection District under which Crestwood is required to pay Affton annually to provide fire protection services to some residents of Crestwood is unfair, unwise and unconstitutional. Crestwood could provide such services more efficiently and at a lower cost.
“This system represents a substantial threat to Crestwood’s budget. At the present rate, Crestwood will have to pay Affton a minimum of $5 million over 10 years.”
Ayouaz said, “I am not pleased to pay so much for fire protection — over $500,000 paid every year to the Affton Fire Protection District — when we have a very competent local Fire Department with outstanding firefighters that could serve and protect residents in Ward 3 for a fraction of the cost paid to Affton. However, I cannot comment on that lawsuit as not much information was provided to Crestwood citizens.
“In 2016, I said that this issue will take greater evaluation and if elected, I would not advocate any changes without detailed evaluation, review of the costs/benefits, and input from public hearings and citizens in every ward. I placed my trust in my elected officials and I hope they made that decision based on a detailed evaluation.”

Do you support the city’s agreement with UrbanStreet Group to redevelop the former Crestwood Plaza?
Anderson said, “I voted in favor of the redevelopment agreement with Urban-Street Group because of the protections and benefits it afforded the city in the redevelopment process. It is up to UrbanStreet to perform as it agreed or face the consequences.”
Ayouaz said, “I do. However, I am disappointed by the lack of information and the lack of progress.”

Tim Anderson

Please explain any differences you perceive between Centrum Partners’ proposal to redevelop the mall site and UrbanStreet Group’s proposal.
Anderson said, “Centrum was seeking a larger TIF and its plan was dependent upon a big-box retailer coming to the site. Urban-Street’s proposal called for a smaller TIF and presented a mixed-use development.”
Ayouaz said, “At the time the Centrum Partners’ proposal was made, I did not live in Crestwood. I cannot comment on an issue that was relevant several years ago and where I do not have all the information to make an educated comment. I am more interested in the future of Crestwood than in its past.”

Did you vote in favor of Proposition C, which was on the April 2017 ballot? Why or why not?
Anderson said, “Yes, I voted for Proposition C, which authorized a property-tax increase.
“I voted yes, because Crestwood was facing a steadily declining stream of revenue from sales and utility taxes. To continue to maintain a high level of services for the residents of Crestwood, I felt it was necessary to seek other sources of revenue.”
Ayouaz said, “Yes, I did vote in favor of Prop C. It is impossible to run a city and have a balanced budget with only 25 cents per $100 assessed valuation on homes while enjoying the great services that our city offers, such as our local Fire and Police departments. Crestwood residents have been clear. They want to keep their Police and Fire departments local, and to continue receiving outstanding municipal services.
“It is interesting to note that the city of Frontenac currently has a property tax rate of 49.7 cents per $100 assessed valuation on homes, and its sales-tax base has been shrinking. Therefore, Frontenac has put on the April 2018 ballot a 35-cent increase proposal to cover the growth of the cost of all their needs, which was previously covered by sale taxes.”

The past year was a reassessment year in St. Louis County. Did you appeal the assessed valuation of your home? Why or why not?

Anderson said, “No, I did not appeal the assessed valuation of my home because I believe the value was fairly assessed.”
Ayouaz said, “Yes, my wife and I appealed the valuation of our home. We had our home appraised (at) $280,000 by a certified real estate appraiser, and the St. Louis (County) Board of Equalization accepted our documentation and appeal. We bought our first home in 2013 — our home was remodeled by the previous owner before we purchased it — and the appraised value was $173,400 in 2013 and 2014, and $197,700 in 2015 and 2016.
“In 2017, the St. Louis County assessor reassessed our home and gave it a valuation of $332,000, an increase of more than 59 percent. This was with no visit to our home and no improvements after our purchase of the home.”

The Board of Aldermen in 2002 voted to record closed sessions of the board involving litigation and real estate matters. Do you support such recording? If so, why? If not, why not?

Anderson said, “I do support taping closed sessions of the board involving litigation and real estate matters so that there

is an accurate record of the proceedings and how the aldermen voted. I believe the contents of said recordings should not be disclosed beyond what is required by Missouri’s Sunshine Law.”

Ayouaz said, “I do support such recordings. I believe that all meetings should be recorded and those recordings made available to the public when appropriate.”

What is your position on the use of tax-increment financing — TIF — and other tax tools, including Chapter 353?

Anderson said, “Philosophically I am not in favor of tax-increment financing for development as it often accrues to the benefit of one new business over and against a similar existing business in the area without materially adding to the city’s revenues.

“However, under the right circumstances I will and have supported the use of TIF or other tax tools when necessary to further a development that has a good prospect of sustainable substantial revenue generation. Given the level of competition for retail development in St. Louis County and the pervasive role TIF plays in that process it is difficult to expect a major redevelopment to occur without the use of some sort of TIF or other tax tools.

Ayouaz said, “I am supportive of the use of TIF and other tax tools, including Chapter 353 on case-by-case basis. TIF and other tax tools are not always appropriate. In the case of the city of Crestwood and the Crestwood mall redevelopment, I believe that because the site was blighted and because the city of Crestwood is not liable for one dime until the area is redeveloped and generates revenues, the use of TIF or Chapter 353 is appropriate.”

Do you agree with the direction the city is moving under the direction of Mayor Gregg Roby?

Anderson said, “I believe Crestwood is moving in the right direction. It has been and continues to be one of the most desirable and affordable places to live and raise a family. Crestwood recently adopted a comprehensive city plan to guide and foster a bright future for the city. The blighted buildings at the mall site are gone. The city’s financial position has been strengthened and there is a balanced budget.

Ayouaz said, “Yes, I do. I have no criticism of Mayor Roby and know him to have a heart for this city and for his duties as mayor and I look forward to working with him, the board members, and our great city staff.

Do you support the performance of City Administrator Kris Simpson?

Anderson said, “Kris Simpson’s performance as city administrator has been outstanding, especially with regard to budgeting and personnel matters. Having someone like Kris in that position is a reason for having confidence Crestwood will continue to be a great place to live and work.”

Ayouaz said, “I am overall satisfied with (City) Administrator Kris Simpson’s performance.”

Would you support the use of eminent domain for redevelopment projects?

Anderson said, “I am generally opposed to the use of eminent domain for redevelopment projects.”

Ayouaz said, “Generally speaking, I am not in favor of using eminent domain. Yet, I would be open to learn more about it and make an appropriate and educated decision based on the context of the issue and facts that are offered to me at the time of consideration.”

Do you believe the city of Crestwood has faithfully adhered to the provisions of the Sunshine Law?

Anderson said, “I believe the city generally seeks to adhere to the Sunshine Law, but there may have been occasions when differences of opinion have arisen over its application to a given circumstance. I support

governmental transparency.”

Ayouaz said, “As a very involved resident in our city, I have several times made requests to get public information and I have always been satisfied with the way my requests were handled.”

The city of Crestwood has declined to release the vote from the Board of Aldermen’s decision to sue the Affton Fire Protection District. Do you believe citizens have a right to know how their aldermen voted?

Anderson said, “Yes, citizens do have a right to know how their aldermen voted. The timing of the release of that information sometimes is dependent on the facts and circumstances surrounding such a vote. For legal considerations, aldermen may be called upon to defer to the opinion of the city’s attorney with respect to the release of such information.”

Ayouaz said, “I wish I knew who voted in favor of the lawsuit, but I am confident that there is a valid and appropriate reason why the majority of the board decided to not release those votes.”

For many years, the mayor and aldermen allowed residents to comment on each agenda item. In 2017, aldermen approved new rules of order allowing for one public comment period. Do you agree with this change?

Anderson said, “Over the course of time, I believe the change regarding public comment has work satisfactorily. The change did not impact the right of citizens to comment at any public hearing on the agenda and also comment on any other agenda items before the noard. The public comment time was increased to five

minutes per person and allowed the speaker to address as many issues as he or she desired.”

Ayouaz said, “I do not. I attend all the Board of Aldermen meetings and during debates and conversations between the board members, it can be frustrating to not be able to speak or add value to the conversation.”

Do you believe Crestwood’s pay for first responders is competitive with other municipalities in the region?

Anderson said, “It is clear that some municipalities in the region can afford to pay their first responders more than Crestwood. This has been a fact for many years. However, benefits and the employee’s share of the cost of those benefits must also be considered in the equation. Therefore, just looking at base salaries does not give a complete picture regarding comparisons with other municipalities.

“In recent years, Crestwood has taken steps to address the issue of wages and salaries. Under the pay plan, many first responders received substantial annual pay increases. Police officers received pay increases around 11 percent for 2018. As an alderman, I recognize how important first responders are to our city and will do my best to make sure they are fairly compensated for their services.”

Ayouaz said, “The city has made some efforts to adjust the pay for first responders but I believe we can do better to be really competitive, retain the best officers and firefighters currently serving our city, and reassure them that we value their work and the risk associated with their jobs. I do not think implementing a merit-based pay plan does this. I would like to mention that I am the only candidate who is officially endorsed in this race by Crestwood police officers and firefighters. The endorsements can be read on my website www.ismaine.com.”

Do you agree with the Board of Aldermen’s decision to levy the full amount of the Prop C 45-cent tax-rate increase?

Anderson said, “Yes, I voted to levy the full amount of the tax increase. The reason is because I felt the city needed the funds to properly operate and budget into the future.”

Ayouaz said, “I do. The citizens of Crestwood have favorably voted in favor of Prop C and gave the city a mandate to continue providing great services. However, this is my belief that the tax burden on our citizens should be eased whenever possible in the future notably when the former mall area will be redeveloped and will generate sufficient revenues.”

In 2007, aldermen voted to have the city clerk’s office distribute meeting notices to media that request such notices. Do you believe the city should continue to provide such meeting notices to media?

Anderson said, “Yes, the city should continue to provide meeting notices to the media.”

Ayouaz said, “Absolutely.”

Do you support the performance of City Attorney Lisa Stump?

Anderson said, “Yes, I support the performance of the city attorney.”

Ayouaz said, “As a resident, I have no complaints with City Attorney Lisa Stump’s work. However, most of her work is done directly with the city staff and the board.”

How would you describe the city’s relationship with Lindbergh Schools?

Anderson said, “I believe the relationship is now on a firm foundation and highly respect and value Lindbergh’s contributions to the city of Crestwood.”

Ayouaz said, “I believe the the city has a wonderful relationship with the Lindbergh community, children, parents, teachers and staff.”

Are you concerned about the rising costs of the city’s legal bills?

Anderson said, “No one likes to pay legal fees and you have to be aware of the increases over time and judge the circumstances giving rise to the increased costs to make sure they are justified. Sometimes in performing governmental functions it is necessary to involve legal counsel and bear the cost of such services.”

Ayouaz said, “The city’s annual budget for legal costs is warranted and in line with other communities like ours. The eight members of the Board of Aldermen review these costs monthly. We have professional attorneys, project managers and very competent individuals who serve as aldermen. I trust each member of the current board to be good stewards of the city’s finances.

“I will personally be a good steward of the city finances. I am taxpayer, and getting elected will not change that.”

What, if anything, should be done to spur redevelopment of the former mall site?

Anderson said, “Crestwood needs to require the developer to live up to the terms of the redevelopment agreement and to make clear to the developer that it expects timely compliance so that development begins on schedule.”

Ayouaz said, “It is a very complex matter involving many legal and commercial aspects. It is interesting to note that according to our mayor, the current Board of Aldermen and the city do not know more than the residents and recently our city administrator asked us to be patient.”