Furrer says he ‘probably’ will seek re-election in April

Resident now regrets voting for Furrer in April ’14 election

Mayor Mark Furrer, right, exchanges words Saturday morning with Court Drive resident Ann McMunn, second from left.

Mayor Mark Furrer, right, exchanges words Saturday morning with Court Drive resident Ann McMunn, second from left.

By Gloria Lloyd

The same week Sunset Hills Mayor Mark Furrer came under fire from Court Drive residents who say he has gone against his campaign promise to protect citizens from unwanted commercial development, he said he plans to run for re-election.

In an email last week to Ward 1 Alderman Dee Baebler about Court Drive, Furrer wrote, “By the way, I’m going nowhere. I look forward to my April win.”

Furrer was first elected to a two-year term in April 2014, and lately he has clashed with Baebler and Court Drive residents about whether the tornado-damaged property along Court Drive, South Lindbergh Boulevard and West Watson Road should be rezoned commercial for a grocery store.

Furrer was not invited but attended a meeting Saturday morning with the Friends of Court Drive at the Community Center.

Both times the mayor got up to speak, the exchanges turned into a shouting match between him and residents.

The first time Furrer got up in front of what he later told the Call was an “admittedly hostile crowd” that included his chief critic in the city, Baebler, he asked them not to “light the torches and get the pitchforks” and offered to stay afterward to talk to residents so he could explain his side of the story about his efforts to get a grocery store in the city.

Court Drive residents believe the mayor has ignored their concerns to side with commercial developer Dr. George Despotis, who has options to buy some of the tornado-damaged sites along Court Drive and South Lindbergh Boulevard.

When Furrer won as a write-in candidate against former Mayor Bill Nolan last year, he opposed a QuikTrip proposed for the Interstate 270 commuter lots near his house and also emphasized a commitment against the encroachment of commercial development or alleged back-room city deals.

Court Drive resident Ann McMunn got applause from the crowd of roughly 20 at the Oct. 17 Friends of Court Drive meeting when, in an exchange with Furrer, she accused the mayor of betraying his campaign promises.

“We would love to see a grocery store, we’re not arguing that fact — we don’t want it at the end of Court Drive and West Watson. You don’t live there, you don’t have to drive it,” McMunn said. “You opposed a commercial development over at the commuter lot — do you not live near there? Did you not say that that would create traffic problems? Is that because that was in your front yard? You ran on a format where you were going to protect the residential rights of Sunset Hills residents, and you have thrown us under the bus!”

The second contentious exchange kicked off when the mayor said the city needs to raise tax money in part because the “most expensive, wealthiest” subdivisions in the city, the Tapawingo subdivisions where Baebler lives, want the city to take over their private streets.

“From an economic standpoint, the city’s under some pressure to raise tax money,” Furrer said. “Ten houses, as nice as that is, produces about $450 in revenue to the city … We then as a public street have to maintain it, so ten houses, as wonderful as it sounds, as a revenue source really does nothing for the city.”

Finance Committee Chairman and Ward 4 Alderman Pat Fribis, who attended the meeting, told the Call afterward that the city is in good financial condition and does not have an immediate need to approve commercial development to raise revenue.

When Furrer continued to talk about Tapawingo’s private streets, Baebler interjected, “This has nothing to do with — this is our meeting. We have the room until 10.”

Baebler said he could talk with residents outside, but Furrer continued to talk over residents about Tapawingo.

“This is not about Tapawingo, this is about Court Drive and West Watson,” McMunn said.

“We will talk with you afterwards, or would you please leave?” Baebler asked Furrer.

Furrer told the Call he tried to explain himself during the meeting, but the residents and Baebler weren’t interested in what he had to say.

“I go into the lion’s den, offer myself up to these people so they can ask me whatever they want, they can call me whatever, I can take it,” he said. “They all turn tail and run — not one of them has the nerve to stay and ask me a question. I was there, I could have explained it, and she (Baebler) tried to throw me out of the meeting. It’s just insane.”

Although Furrer predicted a second mayoral victory to Baebler, he told the Call that he is still debating whether to run again.

“I haven’t totally made up my mind, but I probably will,” he said.

Furrer faces a Dec. 14 jury trial for two felony charges of assault and property damage and despite eyewitnesses who told police they saw him hit Fenton bicyclist Randy Murdick last year, he believes the jury will clear him. But, he added, many innocent people are sent to prison. The two charges could carry up to an 11-year sentence.

“I’m an eternal optimist and I know what happened, so I’m pretty confident,” the mayor said.

If the jury convicts Furrer of either felony, he would be unable to hold public office under Missouri law. An attempt by aldermen to impeach Furrer for the charges failed in February.

At the Oct. 17 Court Drive meeting, some of the Friends of Court Drive said they voted for Furrer but now regret it. One woman told Furrer that she wishes the city cared as much about its residents as it did about building a dog park.

“I was against the dog park, that was Mayor Nolan,” Furrer said.

The woman turned to Nolan, who was also at the meeting, and said, “Well, Mayor Nolan, I wish you were still mayor, and I wish you would take care of the dog park and us, too.”

“I was against the dog park,” Furrer repeated.

“Oh, I thought you wanted your name on that (dog park) sign,” the woman replied.

“I did want my name on that sign, but that was because the former mayor never welcomed me or congratulated me on my win,” Furrer said.

“I voted for you, too,” the woman said.

“Thank you,” Furrer replied.

“And I regret it,” the woman added.