Crestwood needs to remember: Perception becomes reality

By BURKE WASSON

If you want to make an omelet, you’ve got to break a few eggs.

But when the well-being of Crestwood residents is cracked open just to change policy, you get something far from tasty.

Last week, Alderman Chris Pickel questioned whether the city is becoming “difficult.” He said this in a discussion on revenues from fines and court costs being budgeted 45 percent higher in 2007 than 2006. Between this proposal and a recently tabled plan to raise pet-license fees, Pickel said residents have told him there is a “perception” that city officials are “cracking down” and “trying to milk every dime we can out of people.”

It’s highly doubtful that city leaders are willingly “cracking down.” In fact, aldermen are working to improve the city. Pending development projects at Big Bend Crossing, Crestwood Square and Sappington Square are all progressive steps to rally around.

And it’s true that Pickel spoke of a “perception” that the city is becoming more difficult.

But to residents, perception is reality. It’s clear from recent events that Crestwood leaders, at the very least, have some residents nervous. Just ask those who’ve protested against the animal-control proposals.

There’s no way of sugarcoating an increase in fines. City Administrator Frank Myers says he is holding police to “a higher standard.” That’s commendable, but I also see another effect — more traffic tickets. For a city that’s trying to bring non-residents back to its shopping centers, more tickets just might be a deterrent.

Raising the city’s annual license fee 15 times for residents who own four or more cats and dogs is a roundly bad idea. What is now $10 a year would be $150 a year under a proposed change to the city’s animal-control code.

Frankly, how can you defend that?

And allowing the city’s animal-control officer to enter “onto any lots or lands and the right of entry to any property or premises” looks more like Big Brother than a resident-friendly code. Thankfully, aldermen tabled the animal-control issue, and a town-hall meeting is expected.

While I applaud Mayor Roy Robinson for suggesting the meeting, much more is needed. Whether it be through denial of an increase in fines and fees or an outreaching education effort, city officials need to find a way to ease citizens’ minds.

If not, Crestwood’s relationship with its residents will be as messy as the proverbial egg on its face if nothing is done.