Web exclusive: Baebler faces challenger in bid for Sunset Hills board seat

Dee Baebler

Dee Baebler

By EVAN YOUNG

Private streets becoming public is a major issue facing Sunset Hills, according to the candidate challenging incumbent Ward 1 Alderman Dee Baebler in the Tuesday, April 5, election.

Jim Rode and Baebler are vying for one of the Ward 1 aldermanic seats, which carries a two-year term.

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

• “I am asking to be elected by the people to serve them. I believe it is my job to serve the needs and desires of the residents in Ward 1, to consult them and give them a voice,” Baebler said.

• “Recent interest in taking over private streets in the city has resulted in pressure on the city to disregard or modify the current requirements for city streets so that the city could assume responsibility for the streets and their maintenance,” Rode said. “I have no problem with the city assuming responsibility for private streets which meet the current codes. However, streets that do not meet the city’s codes should be brought up to code prior to consideration for acceptance by the city to limit the city’s liability.

“Developers who avoid conformance to the city code when developing private streets should not be encouraged by the city’s acceptance of such street deficiencies.”

Baebler, 45, 9347 Caddyshack Circle, 63127, works part-time in marketing and development for law firm Bauer & Baebler. She and her husband, Drew, have five children.

Baebler was appointed to complete Bill Nolan’s unexpired term on the board after he was elected mayor last year. She previously has not held elective office.

Baebler said she is seeking election to “continue to move the city in a positive direction — to save Ward 1.”

Rode, 80, 551 Rotherwood Court, 63122, is retired from ABB Combustion Engineering. He was married to the late Huldah Rode and has three grown children.

Rode, who has not held elective office, said he is seeking election “to improve the government of our city.”

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 with the Sunshine Law?

Baebler said, “Since I have held this office, yes. I am very mindful of this law. I think government should be transparent and residents should have knowledge of all meetings which can affect their lives. We need to make sure all officials know what the law requires.”

Rode said, “I am not aware of any problems in this area. I will of course obey the law.”

What is your position on the use of tax-increment financing, or TIF, and other tax tools?

Baebler said, “I believe that many politicians portray TIFs as a great way to boost the local economy, but there are hidden costs they don’t want taxpayers to know about. Cities by and large assume they are not really giving anything up because the forgone tax revenue would not have been available in the absence of the development generated by the TIF. That assumption is often wrong. If it was something our residents would greatly benefit from, i.e. a grocery store, perhaps TIF could be reviewed. It is my opinion that these tools should not be used frivolously.”

Rode said, “I am concerned that it is overused and works to the detriment of our school district.”

Do you agree with the direction the city is moving under Mayor Bill Nolan?

Baebler said, “I do. He is a smart businessman and tireless worker. I am convinced he has the best interest of our city and its residents at heart. He is very positive and proud of Sunset Hills.”

Rode said, “We seem to be drifting into a confrontation between the Board of Aldermen and the mayor. This won’t work to the advantage of the city.”

Do you support eminent domain for redevelopment projects? Why or why not?

Baebler said, “No, I do not. I believe it is plainly wrong. For what cause would we displace our residents, uproot their families and their lives? There is none. Sunset Hills exists to benefit the residents first and foremost, not to displace them for business purposes.”

Rode said, “In my view eminent domain should be restricted to government projects. Eminent domain may be used, if needed, for highways, airport construction and other government-only projects. It is now used frequently for private gain, often to favor one business or use over another. I believe the latter should be determined by the free market system.”

What is your “vision” for the city of Sunset Hills?

Baebler said, “I would like to see the city attract more substantial retail businesses and fill the empty office spaces with viable businesses. I am anxious for everyone to visit and join the new Community Center, which is simply outstanding. I found through my experience with the Tornado Assistance Fund that we have a solid core group of individuals and a kind spirit in our city. Everyone came together and took care of their neighbors.

“I would like to see that community spirit continue to grow. This sets Sunset Hills apart and makes it a wonderful place to grow up, raise a family and live out your golden years.”

Rode said, “I hope to see city officials work together as a team to develop businesses along the Lindbergh/Watson corridors producing more sales tax revenue for the city budget, resurrect the Sunset Manor district and correct the traffic problems on Lindbergh between Watson and I-44.”

Should private streets be accepted as city streets?

Baebler said, “In a perfect world, it would be great if all our streets were public and we were all equal and deserving of this benefit. Realistically, we must reach a compromise where all residents may enjoy the benefit and the city can afford the cost.

“For those that desire to dedicate their streets to the city, I believe the city should endeavor to consider each request individually and determine if the streets substantially comply with the specifications for public streets. This is a work in progress.”

Rode said, “Private streets should be accepted as city streets when the change is requested by the trustees, if the streets comply with the city’s street code. If they do not comply with the street code, they should be acceptable if the deficiencies are corrected. Leniency on compliance would encourage other developers to ignore the city codes and create high maintenance costs.”

Are you pleased with the city’s response to the New Year’s Eve tornado? Please elaborate.

Baebler said, “My ward was the hardest hit by the tornado. I began working with my residents shortly after the tornado struck. I met them at the Community Center on Dec. 31 and continue to assist them today. I started the needs assessment process that afternoon. When I arrived at the center, I found our director of public works, director of parks and recreation and familiar police officers present and taking charge. They secured the areas, made sure the residents were safe and started working on cleanup right away.

“There was food and necessities available immediately. Our mayor was on the scene handling crisis after crisis for what seemed like 24 hours a day. These people worked around the clock and always answered the phone day or night when I called to get help with a particular issue from a tornado survivor. Some people may not know how much it affected everyone at City Hall. Phones were ringing, emails and voice mails were filling up, everyone had a heavy workload — all done with a smile.

“I was greatly impressed with the way our city took charge and handled everything with grace and fortitude. I was also extremely impressed with the generosity I saw from residents in Sunset Hills toward their affected neighbors and the help shown by our neighboring communities. It made me proud to be a resident of such a caring city.”

Rode said, “Many emergency responders, merchants and charitable organizations responded and did a fine job. However, it appears that the city currently has no disaster response plans and is unprepared to deal with a disaster.”