Crestwood Ward 2 candidates say voters have a clear choice
By MIKE ANTHONY
The two candidates seeking the Ward 2 Crestwood Board of Al-dermen seat say voters have a clear choice in the April 8 election.
Jeffrey Schlink, who is challenging incumbent Alderman Tim True-blood, believes Ward 2 residents are ready for fresh ideas and a change of leadership. But Trueblood believes now is not the time for a change of leadership as Ward 2 residents will continue to benefit from the experience and leadership he brings to the seat.
The candidates’ comments about the upcoming election were made last week during a forum at the Community Center at Whitecliff Park. About 25 people attended the March 12 forum, which was sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Call Newspapers.
Schlink, manager of supervisory systems at Edward Jones, is challenging Trueblood, an account executive with Con-Way Cen-tral Express who has served as a Ward 2 alderman since 1993.
Asked to identify the biggest challenges facing Ward 2 and the city, Schlink said, “I think the single most important issue for the city, which would obviously then have an impact on Ward 2, would be the potential and now we’re experiencing some of that with the decreasing revenue that we’ve seen. We know that the mall is our primary source of revenue and the Watson corridor is very critical to the success of our city as well. Most people, that’s the only part that they know of for Crestwood is what they see when they come down and they visit the mall. It’s nice that the state is starting to do some work on the Watson Road for us and it will improve what people see as they come to our town. And, as we go forward, we need to understand that we’re not always going to be in robust times and we’re not always going to have revenue exceeding our expenses and we need to take a very, very close look at what our expenses are.”
Trueblood said, “I believe that the largest challenge this city faces, and it does include Ward 2 since the majority of the commercial district of our city is in Ward 2, is that balance between the commercial area and the residential area. We can’t have one without the other. My firm belief is that the city of Crestwood needs to grow their population within the present city limits … It provides a greater share of tax revenue back from the county courthouse in Clayton, which en-riches us as a city providing the services that we all come to expect and need.
“The next thing I think our city needs to do and it affects directly Ward 2 is be very careful in determining what exactly are the needs and services that we are expected to provide as a city – which ones are really needed and which ones aren’t? We have to be slim, we have to be trim as we face these issues and the budgetary crunches of the future. That is what I think are the two major challenges that face our city and our ward – a balancing act and the trimming down of our government, but yet still provide the services needed,” he added.
Asked about the Mills Properties’ proposal to redevelop the Hillside Village site at the southeast corner of Watson and Grant roads, Trueblood said, “My thoughts are that that’s a piece of property that has had for years a pretty rough way to go when it comes to commercial and it’s not showing any indication right now that it’s doing any better. I believe there’s some real potential there in its redevelopment. The question is, is what is that redevelopment going to be? So far we’ve had one proposal and it addresses the issue that I mentioned earlier, which is increasing the population within the city limits, which enhances our revenue flow back from the county. Right now, that’s the only thing before us and it does have the best way of responding to the city’s needs. It doesn’t cost us any more as a city from the standpoint of streets and (police ) patrols, than what we have there now … I’m waiting to see what Mills comes back with. They haven’t yet come back with the paperwork to show us what their expectations are in the way of revenue, what they see needing in help from the city, if any at all. They’ve alluded to that, so we’ll wait and see until that time.”
Schlink said, “I think that that parcel of land with the size that it is, I think that it is a very difficult piece of land to do much with. I think that at certain points, regardless of whether it’s a piece of property or whether it’s something that you do in business, you have to ask yourself the question: Can we continue to do things we have been doing for awhile? In other words, can we continue to think that a larger or a medium-sized single retail outlet is going to support a piece of property that’s that large?
“And I think that with the other properties that we have within the Crestwood area along Watson that it is not as practical as it had been maybe in more robust times. I think that the proposal for residential property is a good one. Specifically with Mills, I think that we do need to see exactly what they want to do and we should take a look at how they treat the residents that are near the area during construction. How they like to treat them afterwards, whether or not they feel responsible for that or if they like to come in and then just leave right away.”
Asked why a new police station is needed, Schlink said, “Well, I didn’t vote that we should get a new police station, so I don’t know if we need one. You know, a lot of people have been asking that question and they certainly come back to the dollar amount that’s tied to that development for the city. With the city boundaries the way that we are right now, we certainly have been stretching our police force that we have and we do have a great police force and I hear a lot of people provide many compliments on that. I don’t know that it is an absolute requirement that we have that.
“I think a lot of people themselves are starting to look at the money that they spend at their homes and maybe not purchasing new homes or maybe not buying a new car right now and just kind of holding off and waiting to see what is going to happen. As I mentioned earlier, that we do have to take into consideration that a lot of our future spending is based on revenue that we’re anticipating and if there’s a po-tential of that going down, then we have to have some issues as far as where’s that money going to come from?” he added.
Trueblood said, “Part of the issue with the police station, quite simply, is we’re going to be forced to do something shortly because of federal regulations requiring us to police and house people we detain, let’s use that terminology, in facilities that we presently don’t have. Now adding on tothat (City Hall) footprint, it just isn’t physically possible. Plus, there’s the issue of having the actual cells inside of a building that really isn’t designed for that at today’s levels. To add on, the footprint, again, does not work for that. We have, many of our departments presently are in the basement of that building. That’s their only offices and we’re looking to put them in locations, not because it’s more glamorous, because they need the space. They’ve outgrown what we started out with in that, what, 30-year-old building, 40-year-old building. That’s another part of the situation we’re faced with with the police station. And the coverage the police give us from that station will be enhanced because of this. We are not reducing anything in coverage from their having this new station.”
Asked about the city’s use of eminent domain, Schlink said, “The use of eminent domain, in general, is something that the reason it’s there is so that a city or municipality or state can do what they see best for the residents as a whole. Unfortunately with eminent domain, there is, you can consider two sides of it – there’s a winner and there’s a loser. And typically you have that situation because there is something that is contested. And relative to our area, obviously we have some property that is not easily given up at this time with one of the developments that we’re interested in. We always hope that things work out the way that they should, but we have to understand that typically people that own this property are business men and women and they’re not in it for the work of donations. They’re not in it to give everything away at a very discounted rate or it’s something that they want to keep in their family or the business because they believe it has potential. If worse comes to worse, unfortunately sometimes it’s something that has to be utilized.”
Trueblood said, “I’m not crazy about it, mainly because it usually ends up in the courts when it’s all done and said. But it’s on the books for a reason and it’s got to be reason that we have to examine as those issues come before us on redevelopment of properties within the city. That pretty well sums up how I feel about it. I’m not crazy about. It’s there for a reason. If we have to use it, we will, but to use it as a club to threaten people at this point? No, I’m not comfortable with that.”
Asked if he supports the direction in which the city is moving under Mayor Jim Robertson, Schlink said, “With regards to political careers specifically as mayor, it has been relatively short. I think in the short period of time that we’ve seen, I think that the city overall has a kind of a rejuvenation kind of a feeling that things are changing now. The previous mayor had been in for quite some time and I think that just by the simple nature that we had a changing of the guard, that I think it shifted everybody’s attention and it kind of got you back from leaning in your chair to sitting forward a little bit more.
“I like a lot of the things that the mayor says. I like a lot of things that the board says. I do agree with the mayor on most of the issues and I do agree that we should have opportunities like this where folks can come and talk and listen to what we have to say as well as any of the meetings that we have. And I would support that any of closed sessions are also taped so that we don’t have any problems recalling any of the specifics that might have been discussed in a meeting.”
Trueblood said, “Absolutely. The current mayor has opened up the doors to the City Hall of Crestwood to the citizens of who live there. I have been on the board for 10 years and some of the biggest frustrations I’ve had during that time was the fact that I couldn’t get information from the people that were supposedly responsible to me. And I, of course, was re-sponsible to the folks in Ward 2, so I couldn’t give them hard and fast information. That situation has changed with this administration. That information is available to us. You can see that already with the information and the knowledge we now have regarding our budget. That’s not something I’m real crazy about saying it’s there, but we know it’s there. It was always there, but we were kept from it. That change is a vast, vast improvement on the direction where the city is going.”
Asked to address in their closing statements why they are seeking election, Schlink said, “I believe that the residents of Ward 2 are ready for a change. We talked about some of the changes in attitude of the city members themselves as well as the residents for the change that we had with the new mayor. I think that if we have a new alderman I think we can enjoy some of those feelings as well. I think that one of the ways I mentioned earlier … when I talked about one of the reasons why my wife and I decided to stay in Crest-wood, and that was because we felt in such a short period that the city had given a lot to us. And one of the reasons that I am running is so that I can attempt to give back to the city itself …. If I’m fortunate to be elected alderman for Ward 2, I’m not magically provided with all the answers to all the questions that we have. It’s something that, the only way for something like that to work and for myself to be successful as an alderman would be to communicate with the residents as much as possible and I think that folks are ready to see a new face and to shake hands with a different person and just to see how things can operate under a different person. Just like we’ve been able to see some of the changes that we have the way that the city operating under different leadership of the new mayor that we have.”
Trueblood said, “I am running again for re-election in Ward 2 as alderman because I believe Ward 2 needs the experience this time more than ever as we go into a new era and open up our government to the citizens. I have the experience of working with the folks at City Hall. I understand, very, very strongly understand, the needs of the citizens of Ward 2 and I don’t think Ward 2 can afford the learning curve. I believe we’re in that situation where this is the time where we must continue the course set forth. It is not the time to make a change for the sake of something new. New does not always mean better changes. The success rate that we’ve had in Ward 2 has been because of the efforts of your aldermen who listened to what you folks have told us needed to be done. Have we been able to get it through every time? No, I’m one vote of eight. But we know what has to be done and I contend to you that the learning curve in a three-year spell is at least a year to 18 months. And I don’t believe that we can accept that in our city, in our ward. That’s the reason I want to represent this ward again … their needs, their issues, their concerns.”