Pevely Incumbent Candidate Forum

27 Mar

On Tuesday night a candidate forum was held in Pevely for board of alderman candidates ahead of the April 8 election. However, the three challengers didn’t show up, so only the incumbents were there to take questions from the moderator in front of about 35 attendees, including a fair number of city employees. Two of the three challengers (David Young and Ed Walters) were planning to attend, but they apparently came to agree with candidate Dave Bewig that the event was going to be some sort of setup, or “snake pit,” so they all stayed away. I think they would have found themselves to be incorrect had they attended.

Aldermen Menkhus, Shackelford, and Markus.

Aldermen Menkhus, Shackelford, and Markus.

The first question of the night was about the potential resumption of fluoride water treatment, and interestingly, all three aldermen said they opposed it, stating that it was “more of a poison” (Don Menkhus), that treatment by the dentist is better (Russ Shackelford), and that the fluoride is bad for the water plant equipment (Steve Markus).

Much of the evening’s discussion revolved around road improvements to Highway Z, Main Street, and the Herky-Horine road to attract more business to the city. It was claimed that developer Dan Drury is ready to build once Z is widened and some stop lights are put in. This retail will bring in more sales tax dollars and, it was claimed, take care of the city’s fiscal problems and could allow for the lowering of other taxes (which I will believe when I see). It was claimed that a big box store was once ready to go in behind Queen’s Market, but that mayor John Knobloch and the then-city administrator (I believe Happy Welch) didn’t want it and thus did not make the necessary road improvements happen. This, incidentally, was the only time the mayor’s name came up all night. There was some debate with the audience over whether the Herky-Horine fixes are necessary, given the small amount of development along the road. However, the I-55 Raceway, a big draw, is along that road.

Some discussion of the city’s lack of a pension took place. Moderator Matt West of KJFF radio (who did a good job) suggested that city police chief Ron Weeks would retire if he had a pension, thus allowing the city to bring in a less expensive chief and save money. I, however, doubt the city would pay much less for a new chief, and I think that years and years of pension payments would add up to more than any salary savings. Menkhus stated that seven other city employees were eligible to retire. Markus seemed to want to get a pension put in place, but said he would not support a tax hike to do so. My own personal idea is that the city should establish a 401-k type of plan rather than going for a traditional pension.

Former JeffCo Tea Party head and former candidate for county treasurer Ken Horton asked from the audience why the city didn’t consider disincorporating, an idea that has been floated by the Show-Me Institute. The number one reason not to do this, according to the aldermen, was that longer police response times would result. Menkhus cited the time his wife recently had a fall, and how a Pevely cop was there quickly. This is a bad example, though, because that is a situation where an ambulance is needed, not an officer. While I imagine response would be a bit slower, Pevely would presumably be located in the East Zone, which is based near the Windsor campus, not too far from Pevely. Quick snow removal and good city employees were also cited as reasons to keep a city government.

Some discussion of spending and taxes also occurred. Menkhus said the aldermen have “cut, cut, cut” but also needed to give raises to keep city employees. He said the city trains employees, who then leave for better pay elsewhere. Markus said the city had to hike water/sewer rates or the systems would have gone broke. Menkhus discussed how the city has gone from a $190,000 deficit to a balanced budget while he has been on the board.

At the end of the night, the aldermen stated that this election has been nasty. Markus and Menkhus claimed that their opponents are backed by “the industries,” who want to roll back recent tax hikes, and who oppose the aforementioned highway projects and retail development. Menkhus said the challengers are “paid by industry to vote the way they want.” I thought these claims were quite explosive, and would like to have heard the challengers’ responses.

In the end, the event was a good discussion of current issues in Pevely, and organizer Erin Kasten should be commended. However, the failure of the challenger candidates to attend caused the event to not be very useful to the undecided voter.

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One Response to “Pevely Incumbent Candidate Forum”

  1. Steve Menendez March 28, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Steve Menendez, and I am the treasurer for a Political Action Committee (PAC) called Progress For Pevely (PFP). Progress For Pevely is a registered PAC with the Missouri Ethics Commission, and exists for the purpose of promoting economic growth in the City of Pevely.

    We fully support the expansion of employment opportunities in Pevely, both in the form of attracting new businesses to Pevely and growth of existing businesses in Pevely.

    As the Jefferson County Penknife, you are providing a valuable service to everyone who is interested in the political activities in Jefferson County. I would like to take this opportunity to say that I appreciate your efforts. I enjoy reading your blog and look forward to new posts.

    Reading your blog post yesterday, March 27th, I was particularly troubled by some quoted statements towards the end of the “Pevely Incumbent Candidate Forum” article. In particular, the following passage was certainly explosive, as you described it.

    “At the end of the night, the aldermen stated that this election has been nasty. Markus and Menkhus claimed that their opponents are backed by “the industries,” who want to roll back recent tax hikes, and who oppose the aforementioned highway projects and retail development. Menkhus said the challengers are “paid by industry to vote the way they want.” I thought these claims were quite explosive, and would like to have heard the challengers’ responses.”

    If the 2 aldermen quoted above were referring to Progress For Pevely as “the industries”, the statements quoted above are completely false.

    To clarify Progress For Pevely’s positions regarding the topics quoted above, and set the record straight, I offer the following:

    1.) Progress For Pevely exists for the purpose of promoting economic growth in Pevely. We have never been opposed to any retail development or road improvement project.

    2.) Progress For Pevely has never, will never, and would never even consider paying any candidate or official for a vote. Any such activity would be unethical and illegal. Doing so has never been an option.

    3.) Progress For Pevely went out of our way to negotiate in good faith the terms of the current Merchants and Manufacturers License Tax structure. We agreed with the passage of this structure for the good of the entire City of Pevely. While we would certainly not object to a decrease in any tax rate, “roll backs” of tax rates are not among our goals.

    Thank you for providing this opportunity to set the record straight with respect to Progress For Pevely, its views, and activities.

    Sincerely,

    Steve Menendez – Treasurer, Progress For Pevely

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