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Creve Coeur City Council Election Preview: Ward One

Incumbent Beth Kistner defends her 8-year record while challenger Tony Kardis says it's time for fresh leadership.

The first ward covers the eastern section of Creve Coeur, an area trying to balance new development, old infrastructure and the concerns of longtime residents.  It features some of the most mature residential neighborhoods in the city. 

Beth Kistner has served 8 years on Creve Coeur city council.  If elected this year, her next term will be her final term; Creve Coeur has 10 year term limits for its council members. Kistner is a 16-year resident of Creve Coeur. Her career background is in telecommunications and presently she serves as a consultant in corporate telecommunications and government relations. She sees the institutional knowledge gained from nearly a decade representing Ward One as an asset. "I want to put that knowledge to work one last time for the citizens of Creve Coeur before term limits force me to retire from council," Kistner says.

Tony Kardis has never held elected office in Creve Coeur. However, he says he has been actively involved in numerous political campaigns in his 30-plus years as a Creve Coeur resident. Nevertheless, compared to his opponent's long political track record, Kardis admits some see him as an "outsider." It's a position he embraces.  He says he decided to run for council to shake things up and bring a fresh voice to City Hall. He is a retired science teacher with a life-long interest in environmental issues.  "I was recycling before recycling was even cool," says Kardis.

Creve Coeur Patch sat down for face-to-face interviews with both candidates, and, in the interest of fairness, featured the same three questions:

  • What is the most important issue facing ward 1?
  • What is your position on the history and future of Transportation Development Districts (TDD's) as development tools in Creve Coeur?
  • What is your vision for the proposed "Downtown Creve Coeur?"

TOPIC:  ISSUES FACING THE WARD

Kardis:  "My wife and I like to walk and in so-doing, we get to see up-close the efects of development along Olive Street Rd (Olive Blvd). That's this ward's biggest concern: How potential building along Olive might encroach on the lifestyles of people who live right behind it."  Kardis specifically noted the stretch of older vacant buildings on the south side of Olive just west of Spoede Rd., running down toward Mary Meadows Lane. "This entire area has long been talked about in terms of new development," Kardis says. "Those lots are very narrow. There are houses no more than 250 feet back and there's concern from residents about what's going to happen." Kardis says the key is balance. "We need to build good business relationships, but it also has to fit in well with the neighborhoods."

Kistner: "In Ward One, and the whole city for that matter, our biggest challenge is making sure we keep our financial house in order. The next two years will be a challenge for Creve Coeur in terms of rising costs and flat revenues," Kistner says.  "I will keep working with our administrative staff to reduce unnecessary expenses and generate revenue growth without raising taxes or compromising the first-rate services Creve Coeur residents have come to expect."

TOPIC:  TRANSPORTATION DEVELOPMENT DISTRICTS (TDD'S) IN CREVE COEUR

Background: A Transportation Development District (TDD) is a separate political entity authorized by state law and formed by local municipalities.  It use special sales tax assessments within a defined geographical area to pay for transportation infrastrucure improvements in that area. Such improvements must be approved by the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission before any extra TDD taxes can be collected.

Creve Coeur presently has two TDD's; both along Olive Blvd. The eastern TDD (Graeser-Olive TDD) was created to pay for road improvements and a new traffic signal at the intersection of Olive Blvd. and Graeser Rd in conjunction with a new Walgreens. The new signal has been operational since Tuesday. This so-called "Graeser TDD" is viewed by both ward 1 candidates as an example of how TDD'as are supposed to work.

The TDD to the west, the so-called "Olive Blvd. TDD" (Olive and New Ballas) has not enjoyed such broad-based community support. It has been fraught with cost overruns that have forced a rather significant scaling-back of the original plans. In addition to her seat on Creve Coeur City Council, Beth Kistner also serves on this TDD board.

Tony Kardis: "Finish the work in progress, wrap it up and let's get out of it. There have been too many tax dollars wasted; money turned over to the TDD is loss of control. My opponent has been on that TDD board since its inception, so she's had plenty of opportunities to clean things up. There are so many promises that never came through in terms of streetlights, landscaping, to name but a few," Kardis says.  "There should be no more TDDs unless the city becomes controller of the TDD.  When you put developers in control of the board, which is exactly what has happened in this case, it's like the fox watching the chicken coop."

Beth Kistner: "You know...most of the constituents I talk to don't share that opinion of the Olive TDD. For them, it's a non-issue, but politically it has become a sort of flash point issue. If you want to harrass a political opponent about something, it lends itself to that," Kistner says. "What went wrong with that Olive TDD was our initial estimate that was provided by a top-notch transportation engineering firm. It looked like a great project, but they were off by a million dollars. That's a serious order of magnitude." Kistner says she does not support calls to immediately "wrap up" work on the Olive Blvd. TDD. "We need to at least look for additional sources of funding, but if that funding source does not become apparent in a matter of months, yes we may have no other choice but to wrap it up...but not just yet."

TOPIC: MASTER PLAN FOR "DOWNTOWN CREVE COEUR"

Background:  In 1969, before I-270 was created, Creve Coeur city government adopted a master plan that included a vision of a "Downtown Creve Coeur" centered near the intersection of Olive Blvd. and New Ballas Rd.

One of the key recommendations in that plan was to "establish a city center, with high-rise, multiple-use buildings containing a mixture of commercial, office and residential uses; commercial service establishments such as cinemas, restaurants and lounges; and a community center with a library and meeting rooms, as well as a community open space complex" (’69 Plan, p. XIV).

In the subsequent four decades, little of that original plan has materialized, other than a sizeable office component at the Creve Coeur Corporate Center and City Place campus. 

Patch wanted to know if the candidates had a vision for a "Downtown Creve Coeur."

Kardis: "First of all..no new TDD's to do anything with downtown.  It needs to be something planned by the city staff so we're not spending money on planners. It must be budgeted out of the current budget. If private contractors want to do things, they need to fund their own projects. Again...and I can't say this enough...no TDDs."  Kardis went on to describe a walkable/bikeable Creve Coeur: "As I mentioned, my wife and I love to walk. We need more destinations that walkers can go to; shops, bookstores, coffee places, pizza places...we love ...things like that. Creve Coeur is trying to artificially create a downtown where none existed before, and that's fine but we can't just have office buildings. We're not like Kirkwood or Webster Groves. They are much older cities and they grew up around long-established downtowns. We have a plan in place (based on the 1969 master plan) and we just need to implement it."

Kistner: "That (New Ballas) area known as downtown Creve Coeur is over-ripe for development. The city does not need to force it to happen. It will happen. We do have a master plan, a plan of vision, and we'd like to direct development in such a way that it will bring some nice benefits to Creve Coeur and make it an even more desireable location, but ultimately downtown Creve Coeur will come out of the private sector. We can't force it and we're not looking at things like eminent domain. It will eventually happen though."

 Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday April 5, 2011.

 

 

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