Ward 2 alderman seeks wider array of Crestwood officials on tax-incentive boards

By BURKE WASSON

With concerns about appointments to tax-incentive boards raised at a recent Crestwood Board of Aldermen meeting, city leaders are continuing to discuss how they will be structured in the future.

Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel asked fellow aldermen Sept. 12 if they would prefer a wider distribution of city officials and aldermen on boards overseeing tax incentives like transportation development districts, community improvement districts and tax-increment financing districts.

Pickel noted that Board of Aldermen President Jerry Miguel of Ward 3, who was appointed Sept. 12 to the city’s CID and TDD boards for Crestwood Point, already is a member of various boards and commissions and wondered if the city would be better served with a wider array of city officials and aldermen serving on those boards.

“I just think that we have a talented board with a range of experience,” Pickel said. “I think we have very talented and very dedicated city staff. And I just think, I feel that we need to be utilizing all our resources and not placing excessive responsibility on any one office or individual. It’s not personal. Jerry Miguel has served the city very proudly, and I’m not at all questioning his abilities to make those decisions for the city. I just think it’s an opportunity to look at that distribution of decision making.”

Miguel said Monday that he agrees some changes need to be made to appointments on tax-incentive boards in Crestwood and added that Mayor Roy Robinson is also on board with possibly appointing a wider array of city leaders to future boards and commissions. One way Miguel proposed this could be accomplished would be to increase the membership of each board to allow up to seven members.

“I have some opinions and some thoughts on these CIDs and TDDs in particular,” Miguel said. “And the city’s at the point where it’s going to be discussing a CID for Sappington Square. So what the mayor has said twice to me and once to Alderman Pickel is that let’s make the changes on a going-forward basis. I’m willing to accept that position and look at these entities on a going-forward basis and I do have some thoughts there.

“One of the thoughts I believe I expressed is that I think these boards should be larger. I really don’t have any thoughts as to who should be on the board. The thought that I expressed is that I feel that the city might want to consider a board of seven members with five members representing the city. And perhaps the additional members could be people from the community that are more knowledgeable and experienced in these types of entities. And that way, it would provide some continuity to these boards as other members rotate in and out.”

On Sept. 12, Robinson, Miguel and Marian Nunn of THF Realty were appointed to the Crestwood Point CID board and Robinson and Miguel were named to the Crestwood Point TDD board.

The appointments were approved by a 3-2 vote, with Pickel and Ward 1 Alderman Richard Bland opposed. Ward 1 Alderman Richard Breeding, Ward 4 Alderman Steve Nieder and Miguel voted in favor of the appointments.

Ward 2 Alderman Jim Kelleher, Ward 3 Alderman Gregg Roby and Ward 4 Alderman Pat Duwe were absent.

Pickel said his votes against those appointments to the CID and TDD boards for Crestwood Point had nothing to do with the individuals selected for the boards, but was made on the principle that he does not agree with the city’s current methodology of making those appointments. Both boards consist of the membership of the mayor, city administrator and Board of Aldermen president.

“It’s the principle,” Pickel said. “This was a decision-making point, let’s say. We had an opportunity to renew the positions that make up these different boards, and I saw that as an opportunity, as I said, to look at the distribution of decision-making responsibilities. Albeit, these boards were established by city ordinance some years ago. And to change those, we would have to redraft new ordinances. But I think in serving the citizens of Crestwood, we at least have to consider those options.

“This is not personal towards any one individual,” he said. “You know, the ways things are structured, at least this year, we have the same individual (Miguel) who votes on Ways and Means (Committee), who votes on these tax-incentive boards, he has influence over votes on Planning and Zoning (Commission) and he votes as a member of the Board of Aldermen. If you think about it, that’s more responsibility than even the mayor because he only votes in the case of a tie situation within a board meeting.”

Robinson said Sept. 12 that rather than amend the ordinances for the city’s current tax-incentive boards, it would be easier to keep the membership of those boards in mind when they are being formed.

“If we have to have new CIDs, TDDs, anything in the future, that’s the time to start making your changes and start structuring these boards the way you want them,” Robinson said to Pickel. “To go back and change just for one person I think is a lot of effort for little or nothing. And I would like you to come out to one of those boards and sit and watch them. It’s all done before they get there. It’s not something that anybody would aspire to be on those committees other than somebody from the city has to sit on those.”

“But the city attorney said there is some arbitrary process in play,” Pickel said. “I’m just wondering strategically is it a better decision to have, for instance, the economic development director (Ellen Dailey) involved in all of these? Because she really is the expert for these incentive programs.”

“Well, the thing about it is, we just changed to make her the executive director of one of them so we can bring these things in house,” Robinson said. “The administrative part will be done by another firm. So that she will have more control over and will be able to … So if you would like to find something out about that particular TDD or CID, you can just quickly ask her and she should be able to give you that information.

“The only reason you see Alderman Miguel’s name twice is because there’s a CID and a TDD. It just so happens that’s the only one he’s on. He’s not on any of the other TIFs or anything that we have. It’s just because it’s the Kohl’s project. They had determined at that time, they wanted the mayor, the board president and the city administrator.”

Pickel said while he is not sure whether he has formed an opinion on the exact structure of the city’s tax-incentive boards, he at least sees some flaws in their current design and simply wants to start the discussion.

“I was just raising the issue,” Pickel said. “To me, I saw it as an opportunity to just kind of look at the distribution of decision-making responsibilities within the city. And at least to me, it seems a little bit skewed under the current structure. And I just wanted to raise that issue and see if anybody else shared that concern or if maybe I was off on my own.”