Editor's Note: The following letter was submitted by Charles Pavlack, a member of Ellisville's Planning & Zoning Committee and a former Ellisville City Council member.
As someone who has been involved in Ellisville municipal government for almost a decade, it was disappointing to me, but not particularly surprising, to see the light turnout at the this past Tuesday evening. With the ongoing gnashing of teeth and rending of clothing that's been going on over the TIF/Wal-Mart issue, I had hoped that more of those who have spoken out on that matter would have shown a little more interest in finding out more about the candidates. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.
Let's be perfectly clear on one thing: The final vote on the will likely be taken on Wednesday, April 4, the day after the election. This means that regardless of the results of the election, the vote will be taken by the current council, not by the winners of the election. So, other than in the abstract, the election on Tuesday is not about Wal-Mart. It's about who offers the vision, the experience, and the skills to lead Ellisville for the next 3 years.
There are . Two are current City Council members, each finishing up the second year of their second 3-year term. Two are political novices. One experienced candidate and one novice have expressed support for the TIF, with the other two candidates opposing it.
To that end, I am supporting Michelle (Shelly) Murray in her campaign for mayor, despite the fact that she and I were on opposite sides of the TIF debate. In my opinion, Shelly's experience both on the Council and as a marketing executive, positions her best to continue Ellisville on the track that the current administration has set it upon. Adam Paul has cast Shelly's TIF position as that of a "sacrificial lamb", voting against what she truly believes for political posturing, but I can say with assurance based on numerous conversations with her (conversations that I guarantee Mr. Paul has never had with her) that this could not be further from the truth. Mayor Pirrello will tell you, and numerous people can verify, that Shelly was never one of the 5 people that the Mayor counted as "yes" votes. Mr. Paul says that at one point Shelly tried to explain to him what a bond was, and he took offense at that. And at that point in time, Shelly might have been leaning toward a "yes" vote. But a depiction of her as always having been a "yes" vote does a disservice to her, and minimizes the fact that Shelly listened to her constituents and revised her opinion based on feedback.
One of the things I respect about Shelly is her conviction, and her open-mindedness. It is this ability to evaluate and re-evaluate positions that makes Shelly so effective a representative of—and voice for—her constituents. Shelly recognizes the good things that the current Council has achieved, but has new ideas to diversify and expand Ellisville's business community within the context of the current comprehensive plan and direction that has been supported by voters repeatedly over the last several elections.
Dawn Anglin, who joined the Council at the same time Shelly did, is, in my opinion, almost as good a choice as Shelly. She has been involved in a variety of other organizations and initiatives in Ellisville and its surroundings. I'll be honest and say that I haven't worked as closely with Dawn as I have with Shelly (Shelly and I represented District 3 at the same time), but with a couple of slight disagreements (which are natural in the course of city government), I respect her efforts and her energy. In fact, my main concern about Dawn's candidacy is that she and Shelly might split votes, allowing a less qualified candidate to become mayor.
Robert Srote comes to the mayor's race with no municipal experience governing but with a wealth of academic knowledge. He is an architect and the author of a book tracing the legislation at the heart of the recent recession. He has been respectful and reasonable in his public discourse and has offered details of what he hopes to achieve if elected. My main concerns about Mr. Srote are his lack of experience in governance, and the fact that, when put on the spot at the forum, he voiced support for continuing the county's sales tax redistribution methods. If voters find the need to embrace a "throw the bums out" mentality, Mr. Srote would be the way to go. I sincerely hope that if he is unsuccessful in his mayoral campaign, Mr. Srote will consider "getting his feet wet" in Ellisville government via a position on one of our boards or commissions. He has suggested an Economic Development Commission, which Ellisville already has, though not perhaps in the form of what he's suggesting. Perhaps he would be a great choice to head up some new/revised commission of this sort.
Which brings us to Adam Paul. People who know me will tell you that I normally go out of my way to avoid conflict, until I'm at the end of my rope (as with my comments to the county representatives at the TIF Commission meeting). I thought of not commenting on Mr. Paul's candidacy, under the "Thumper" rule ("If you can't say anything nice..."), but eventually decided that the future of the city I love and have served for so long is too important for me to be politely demure.
So let me state this as bluntly as possible: The thought of Adam Paul as mayor of Ellisville frightens me. In the extreme. Mr. Paul has oodles and oodles of youthful enthusiasm, and I believe that he believes his views are what's best for Ellisville. There. I said something nice. The problem is, Mr. Paul has been unable to coalesce what he wants to do for Ellisville beyond a bunch of generic platitudes and a "No Wal-Mart" campaign. And make no mistake, as much as Mr. Paul protests that he didn't want to make his campaign about Wal-Mart, no one held a gun to his head and make him put "No Wal-Mart" on every one of the signs he has planted around the city, often on private property without permission, in violation of the law.
Mr. Paul has engaged in the worst style of politics in his campaign, posting repeatedly on the Patch with incorrect information and misleading interpretations of data. He has shown a lack of respect for his opponents, both those running against him and those who dare question what he posts online. He has been irresponsible in postings, and immature in his attitude ("I know the answer, but I like to see the lawyers squirm"). He has repeatedly displayed a lack of understanding of what exactly the city is responsible for, and what the City can do. (He praised the removal of the old McDonald's building, but asked why "we" didn't do it sooner, ignoring (or ignorant of) the fact that the building was on private property.) And, in the last days of the campaign, he has removed all of his comments from The Patch and placed them on his campaign web site, where his inaccuracies cannot be corrected nor his false equivalencies pointed out. For example, the pages of the 2012 Ballwin budget that Mr. Paul repeatedly directs people to do not prove that Ellisville will be responsible for shortfalls in the TIF, as Mr. Paul has claimed repeatedly, even after he's been corrected by more than one legal authority; it proves that Ballwin made a spectacularly bad deal as part of its TIF agreement, a bad deal that Ellisville will not be repeating.
Mr. Paul's performance at the candidates' forum inspired even less confidence. He continually circled back around to Wal-Mart (even when the question started with the phrase "Other than Wal-Mart..."), giving him the appearance of a one-note candidate. His answers on questions were inconsistent with each other; at one point he spoke about tightening the Ellisville budget in light of the decrease in revenue we've been experiencing, then in answer to another question he supported we should pull out of the Great Streets Initiative and handle infrastructure upgrades ourselves. This is on its face ridiculous, as the money which is paying for these infrastructure upgrades is coming from a federal grant that was granted to the Great Streets project, and he gives no indication of how he'd pay for them if we're doing it "ourselves" (along with the fact that MoDOT, one of our Great Streets partners, controls Manchester Road, and "we" can't really do a whole lot on it without their approval). At another point, he speculated on turning the corner of Manchester and Kiefer Creek into a park, saying it would be nice to have a centralized park at the heart of our city. This, of course, neglected the facts that that intersection is arguably our most valuable piece of commercial real estate and we were sitting in a large park int he heart of the city. He also wistfully suggested that we could return to the good old days when (his supporter) Ed O'Reilly was mayor of Ellisville, either not knowing or not caring that the behaviors of Mr. O'Reilly's administration were the reason that the people of Ellisville felt they needed more controls over its elected officials and adopted a city manager/charter form of government.
Mr. Paul warns that if we elect Shelly Murray or Dawn Anglin, it will be "business as usual". But think about it. Other than the TIF issue, what has been controversial about the current administration? Property taxes haven't been raised since before anyone who's in city government was on the Council. (Clark Compton may have been, but they haven't been raised during his current tenure). A new aquatic center replaced a dangerous old pool. A new Public Works facility was built after the project languished for nearly a decade. And in the worst economic downturn in nearly a century, no services have been cut. And Mr. Paul considers this a bad thing?
And really, do we want a mayor whose campaign web site is redirected from the URL ellisvilleisdying.com? The image on his campaign web site is of a desolate, abandoned K-Mart in another city. Really? This is the bold vision for the future? Mr. Paul can't give concrete examples of what he would do if elected mayor. He can only talk in vague generalities and hope to scare the residents into supporting him.
I could go on, but it already feels like I'm piling on.
Let me reiterate: The TIF issue will be resolved prior to the new Council being impaneled. Even if it somehow isn't, the votes do not exist to prevent it. You can do the math with the new Council as easily as with the current Council, and the simple fact of the matter is that even assuming that Michelle Murray or Adam Paul is elected mayor, it would simply change the mayor's vote from a "yes" to a "no" and one of the District One votes from a "no" to a "yes". So Wal-Mart and TIF are off the table. Ellisville needs a new mayor who will draw on experience and concrete suggestions for how Ellisville should move forward.
Ellisville needs Shelly Murray.