Svoboda challenges Hunzeker for Sunset Hills mayor

First-term alderman takes on incumbent mayor

John Hunzeker

John Hunzeker

By BURKE WASSON

In his re-election bid, Sunset Hills Mayor John Hunzeker will square off in the April 8 election against Ward 4 Alderman Mike Svoboda.

The seat carries a two-year term.

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

• “Rezoning. I believe we must protect our low-density residential zoning. Our goal must be to celebrate and enhance the residential character of our community by strict residential zoning enforcement and protection and expansion of green space,” Hunzeker said.

“Redevelopment. I believe we should do all that we can to improve the location advantage of our commercial core. Taxes on commercial interests keep property taxes low. We should provide the necessary funding to achieve our goals by using appropriate public policy to improve the competitive advantages of our commercial core while remaining fiscally conservative.

“Revenue. Over 80 percent of city revenue comes from sales tax, business licenses, business fees and utility taxes. If we want low residential real-estate taxes, we must have a competitive commercial core to improve quality of life issues, such as public works, public safety, parks and recreational facilities,” he added.

• “The single most important issue in this race is proper development in Sunset Hills. I oppose the use of eminent domain for private development. I stand to protect the rights of property owners and believe their voice should be heard when developments affect them. Proposition P spending must be used for its intended purpose,” Svoboda said.

Hunzeker, 58, 12741 Weber Hill Road, 63127, is the owner of Lindbergh Watson Co. He and his wife, Mary Anne, have three grown children.

He first was elected mayor in 2006.

Asked why he is seeking office in a Call questionnaire, Hunzeker did not respond.

Svoboda, 61, 10231 Kennerly Road, 63128, is retired from Southwestern Bell. He and his wife, Claudia, have two grown children.

He was elected in 2007 as a Ward 4 alderman. Svoboda said he is seeking the office of mayor “to create more transparency in government, restore trust, lead Sunset Hills towards a more fiscally sound future and ensure that future developments do not infringe on the rights of others.”

The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire.

In your opinion, has the Board of Aldermen complied fully with the Sunshine Law? What will you do as an elected official to ensure compliance.

Hunzeker said, “Compliance with the Sunshine Law is not a problem in Sunset Hills. If a problem existed, a suit would be filed to seek compliance. As no such suit has been filed, logically the city is in compliance with the law.”

Svoboda said, “I believe the Board of Aldermen has complied fully with the Sunshine Law. As mayor, I would insist on periodic review of compliance.”

What is your position in the use of tax-increment financing and other tax tools?

Hunzeker said, “I am opposed to the misuse of tax-increment financing. TIF is frequently used in redevelopment of property in older urban areas. It is a useful tool when properly used to redevelop ‘blighted’ property. TIF is generally misunderstood, particularly in Sunset Hills. Although the city has used TIF successfully on two previous occasions, its most recent proposed use could be characterized as a misuse.”

Svoboda said, “TIF, TDD and CID are development tools that should be used cautiously and with strenuous review. Studies of TIF projects throughout the county have shown the return to be 1 percent over those projects not using TIF. I do support the use of these development tools, but not at the expense of existing businesses and residents.”

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

Hunzeker said, “I am opposed to the misuse of eminent domain. I am opposed to municipal officials providing public funds to private developers who are granted the right to take private property for private use. Many times, people confuse the use of eminent domain and TIF.”

Svoboda said, “I do not support the use of eminent domain for private development. I have seen the toll on human life/health and the consequences of bad decisions made by city officials. Property rights are an inherent right guaranteed by the Missouri Constitution. I do support eminent domain for its intended use, i.e. streets, parks, public facilities, et cetera.”

Should voters be asked to extend the capital-improvement sales tax so bonds can be issued to fund stormwater projects?

Hunzeker said, “Recently, staff at the city of Sunset Hills compiled a list of deferred public works projects. Funds for addressing these identified deferred stormwater projects could be provided by monies allocated annually as available as planned in the 2008 budget. This action would require at least 10 years to complete just the list of known projects and longer for any additional identified projects. An alternative to the above would be to issue city municipal bonds using our capital-improvement sales tax as the funding source. Residents of Sunset Hills would be asked to vote in extending this existing sales tax beyond the year 2016 expiration date. By approving the extension to the year 2030, all identified deferred projects could be addressed and completed by 2010 with no in-crease in residential real-estate taxes.”

Svoboda said, “Voters should not be asked to extend the capital-improvement sales tax to fund stormwater projects until 2016 when it runs out. Sunset Hills just passed a half-cent sales tax, which would be used for parks and stormwater. Bonds issued against the capital-improvements tax now could negatively impact Sunset Hills’ operating funds in the future and necessitate a property-tax increase for residents/business owners in Sunset Hills.”