Bland, Wallach seek Crestwood Ward 1 seat

Richard Bland

Richard Bland

By MIKE ANTHONY

Two candidates are vying for the Ward 1 Crestwood Board of Aldermen seat in the April 4 election.

Richard Bland and Darryl Wallach are seeking the seat held by longtime Alderman Richard LaBore, who is ineligible to run because of term limits. The seat carries a three-year term.

Asked to identify the most important issue in the race, the candidates responded:

• “Representing the citizens of Crestwood, specifically Ward 1, by being fiscally responsible, keeping the city’s expenses in check and increasing revenue,” Bland stated.

• “The top priority is to restore the city’s financial health. Crestwood has struggled financially to obtain a balanced budget. We need to operate within our available resources. Foremost, we must develop an overall present and future financial plan. Proper planning will enable us get our City Hall and Public Works properties back from our creditor,” Wallach stated.

Bland, 42, 9609 Cornish Drive, is a training officer for the Missouri Department of Corrections. He and his wife, Amy, have one child.

Bland, who served on the Crestwood Charter Commission, is seeking election to the Ward 1 aldermanic seat because “I want to represent the citizens of Crestwood, and specifically Ward 1, to ensure they have a voice. I intend to act on behalf of the citizens and I will keep them informed about what is happening in their ward. I believe with the proper representation, the informed citizen will be able to make decisions on the future of Crestwood.”

Wallach, 42, 1004 Briarton Drive, is employed in the Risk Management Department of Enterprise Rent-a-Car. He is married to Laurie Wallach.

Wallach, who serves as chairman of the Crestwood Public Works Board, said he is seeking election to the Ward 1 aldermanic seat because “I am concerned with the spending mentality by our previous administration. We need aldermen who will strive for fiscal responsibility and who will work together for the best interest of Crestwood and its citizens.”

The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:

What is your position on the use of tax-increment financing — TIF?

Bland said, “While I am not a proponent of TIFs, I would not rule them out if absolutely necessary. These are issues that would have to be reviewed as they come before the BOA (Board of Aldermen).”

Wallach said, “This particular economic development tool has been abused, and legislators are considering changes. It is difficult to have any opinion until the legislators have decided on the changes in the statutes on this subject matter. It should be noted that surrounding communities have utilized TIFs to attract economic development. The concern is that it takes away money from our school districts.”

Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Crestwood Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility? Have you ever attended a meeting of this organization?

Bland said, “No, I am not a member nor have I ever attended any meetings of this organization.”

Wallach said, “Yes, I was a member of the CCFR and proud of the work that it accomplished.”

Do you support Proposition S, a 20-cent tax-rate increase on the April 4 ballot?

Bland said, “I am not taking a stance on Prop S, as I have spoken to several people in Ward 1 and they are skeptical about the proposed increase. While an increase may be necessary, I am concerned about how it is being presented to the citizens.”

Wallach said, “Yes. We have relied on the Crestwood mall and its sales taxes. There has been a steady decline in the sales-tax base and increasing cost-of-living expenses. This is not uncommon with other communities that are facing similar struggles. The surrounding communities will continue to have a higher property tax rate even if the measure passes.”

Should the charter amendments proposed by the city’s Charter Commission be placed before the voters?

Bland said, “While I may be biased as a member of the commission, yes. The amendments were proposed for the consideration of the good citizens of Crestwood. Unlike the special interests working to keep this from happening, I have confidence that the citizens of Crestwood are well informed and will be able to make intelligent decisions regarding the amendments.”

Wallach said, “Yes, although I disagree with a majority of the recommended changes. It is possible that if they were on the April ballot, there could have been negative overtures affecting the Prop S vote.”

The Westfield Shoppingtown Crestwood for years has been the city’s economic engine. What should be done to revitalize the mall?

Bland said, “While Westfield has been a good commercial neighbor, I would ask them to take a leadership role in the community and announce their vision for the future of the mall. After this is accomplished, I would anticipate the EDC (Economic Development Commission) would work with the Westfield management to provide any appropriate assistance.”

Wallach said, “It is essential that we encourage Westfield for their complete renovation plans to determine their commitment/intentions of redeveloping the mall property. Melaniphy & Associates provided Crestwood and Westfield a market feasibility analysis of the Watson Road Commercial District including Crestwood mall. Westfield should closely review this report to make sound redevelopment plans.”

What are your thoughts about the use of eminent domain for redevelopment projects?

Bland said, “I oppose the taking of private land for private development. This sends the the wrong message to the citizens. The issue of eminent domain is being debated at the state level, and I think it would be prudent to not use this tool until the laws are revised. If elected, I would ask for a moratorium on the use of eminent domain. I do not have any examples of misuse.”

Wallach said, “Eminent domain is also being discussed with the Legislature. Eminent domain is OK if all parties benefit.”

The Board of Aldermen in 2002 voted to tape record closed sessions of the board involving litigation and real estate matters. Do you support such taping?

Bland said, “Yes, I am in favor of having the sessions recorded. While the sessions are closed, having a record is prudent. The fact that the sessions are taped, even though not released to the public, sends a clear message that the matters being discussed are vital to the operation of the city.”

Wallach said, “I am not opposed to the taping. It is good record of our past. The taping should be made available after a specific period of time.”