Two vying for Crestwood Ward 2 board seat

Stephen Knarr

Stephen Knarr


Two candidates are vying in the April 3 election for the Ward 2 Crestwood Board of Aldermen seat being vacated by Jim Kelleher.

Stephen G. Knarr and Danielle Oettle are seeking the Ward 2 aldermanic seat. Kelleher, elected three years ago, did not file for a second three-year term.

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

• “Encouraging private commercial development throughout Crestwood while keeping the existing businesses from leaving the city,” Oettle said.

• “Sustaining the economic recovery. Things are going well, but must be aggressively pursued, especially the mall,” Knarr said.

Oettle, 30, 1320 Samoa Drive, 63126, is a paralegal at the Danna McKitrick law firm. She and her husband, Randall, have a 3-year-old daughter. Oettle has two stepdaughters who attend Lindbergh High School.

Oettle, who has not held elective office, said she is seeking election to the Board of Aldermen because “I would like to contribute to my community and I enjoy talking to others and listening to people and their concerns.”

Knarr, 53, 1028 Banyon Drive, 63126, is an architect with Arcturis Inc. He and his wife, Barbara, have three children — one in college and two who attend Lindbergh High School.

Knarr, who has not held elective office, has served on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission since 2002. He served on the city’s Public Works Board from 1994 to 1996 and was chairman of the city’s Stormwater Committee from 1996 to 1998.

Knarr said he is seeking election to the Board of Aldermen because “I believe my nine years’ experience on Crestwood boards and commissions gives me the insight to be an effective alderman.”

The two candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:

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?

Oettle said, “I do support tape recordings of closed sessions of the board involving real estate and litigation matters so that there will be an indisputable record of what occurred at those meetings. While the city certainly has the right to hold closed executive sessions, the public should always be able to hold elected officials accountable for their actions.”

Knarr said, “Yes. Taping is the method used to record minutes for all public meetings. I see no need to deviate from this practice for closed meetings.”

Should the city fund the cost of strategic planning on an annual basis or should the sessions be done in-house?

Oettle said, “It is definitely feasible to conduct strategic planning on an annual basis in-house. However, it would not be unreasonable to fund an outside strategic planning project to look at a more long-term plan every five to 10 years.”

Knarr said, “I think the benefits outweigh the minimal cost of the facilitator. I’ve gone through strategic planning with several firms and found it to be successful only when revisited each year.”

Do you agree with the direction the city is moving under Mayor Roy Robinson?

Oettle said, “I believe the city is generally moving in the right direction and taking necessary steps on its path to financial recovery, but more work needs to be done, particularly in the development of the business community along Watson Road and throughout the city.”

Knarr said, “Yes. I’m glad to see so much redevelopment of vacant properties. We can’t become complacent, however, and the future of the mall is still a question.”

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

Oettle said, “The bottom line is that something must be done. The status quo is not an option. The city has lost revenue because of stores leaving Crestwood Plaza and new merchants are not willing to move there because of the lack of business. I think that the city should continue discussions with Westfield and indicate a sense of urgency in moving forward with plans to revitalize the mall.

“Westfield has a good reputation and has beautifully and successfully reconstructed the West County mall. While the city alone can not revitalize the mall, it can certainly talk with the current owner and prospective buyers about the city’s vision for the property and citizen input is essential. Perhaps a survey of the community to get a feel for what they would like to see happen with the mall would be beneficial.”

Knarr said, ‘I think we need to be creative with the new buyers to build on the mall’s assets and diminish its weaknesses.”

What is your position on the use of tax-increment finance — TIF — and other tax tools?

Oettle said, “TIFs, Transportation Development Districts (TDD) and Community Improvement Districts (CID) can be beneficial to a community in certain instances.

“The idea behind the use of these tools is that public improvements in the area with the help of something like a TIF spurs economic development and in the long run the development that was made possible by a TIF or TDD will end up paying for the public improvements and more while adding great value to the community through more revenue, job creation and city image over time. I would, however, be skeptical when considering whether a developer has the means to complete a project without the help of an incentive in an area that is not in desperate need of redevelopment,” Oettle added.

Knarr said, “I think we have to think what is best for Crestwood in the long term. If a TIF will spur development realizing long-term benefits that outweigh short-term sacrifices, I support it.”