Saturday, January 27, 2007

“Those who denounce state intervention are the ones who most frequently and successfully invoke it. The cry of laissez faire mainly goes up from the ones who, if really ‘let alone’ would instantly lose their wealth-absorbing power.”

Lester Ward

Merriam-Webster - ad nauseam: to a sickening or excessive degree.

The question arose Tuesday night why certain members of council support Whittaker Homes but have been less receptive towards T. R. Hughes, especially. Almost certainly, quite possible, just maybe this will be the last time that the clear difference has to be drawn for those at the Post and for some on council who don’t get it. While Whittaker Homes has presented plans, laid out their goals, never attacked city officials nor paid for recall efforts of duly elected officials for no other reason than to have a stacked council – this still isn’t the crux of the difference. The sole meaningful difference is that Whittaker Homes opted to become a part of the St. Charles community and chose to work with our City rather than withhold its development from our town and simply ask for our sewer and water. Nor did they run to the state for a special law that applied only to St. Charles after they didn’t get their way, then in turn raise a couple hundred thousand dollars for the boys up in Jefferson City as a, “Thank You.” Also, to clear up something that the St. Peters newspapers got quite wrong, the council never, not once, considered cutting off the residents of St. Charles Hills sewer service. What the council did say was that new development sent to our treatment plants via a private company (ECM) would need city approval due to the fact that our treatment plants are reaching capacity and need millions of dollars worth of upgrading and it wasn’t clear if we would have capacity for our own city growth. That said, I am very glad that the council gave a green light for redevelopment of one of the greatest eyesores in our county – Noah’s Ark. This passed six to three and the sponsor, Councilman Brown, was in support, however, couldn’t make the meeting to vote due to a computer crash at his business. The School Board was divided; the TIF Commission was divided – and yes, the Council was divided. In the end our Schools got more than $1.2 million in a single payment and will only realize more revenue each year from the redevelopment of this site. Only Councilman Weller voted not to give the schools this money while Councilman Reese, who served for many years on the St. Charles City School Board, voted in favor of the payment. I do listen to comments and read emails from residents and take the input serious. If someone is concerned enough to write, then they have thought about the issues and they are thinking about their hometown, after all. Even if my vote had been cast based upon this input, the result would have had to be a “Yea” vote because more residents called or wrote to support the blighting of Noah’s Ark.

Next, I would like to thank those of you who have taken the time to write regarding a campaign letter illegally sent to your house regarding the TIF matter. Unfortunately, those who feel they have an inherent right to run the City do not believe they have to follow campaign finance disclosure laws. These folks would have you believe that 1) the ends justify the means, and 2) they want to end acrimony at City Hall by creating acrimony and running campaigns that don’t follow campaign rules and regulations.

For those of you who follow City Hall, things immediately calmed down once the hired guns removed themselves from City Hall and allowed the elected officials a chance to work without threat of recall and lawsuits brought on by certain developers and hired citizens both inside and outside our City. You should expect to hear in the next months how the fighting has to end and how embarrassing it is. Again, the true fighting stopped when big money bowed out of the day-to-day dealings of council. Furthermore, St. Charles, lest you forget, didn’t have its mayor removed from office for taking a bribe. In the same time, O’Fallon was having just as many issues as our town. Fact of the matter is, this council and mayor worked together more often than not but it has been a few major issues of serious disagreement that has kept many of us at odds. These issues are now mostly history. The real sore spot regarding a chief of police has been settled. The recall was rebuffed. The council has saved on employee health insurance; reduced city dependence on gaming funds for on-going expenses; cut utility taxes as pledged, and seen some unexpected growth just south of and north of highway 370. For the past few years we lead in housing permits – a feat that is pretty impressive considering the relative age and remaining potential growth areas of our town. To continue, Mark Twain Mall has grown and improved more and more over the past couple of years and now we have a first-rate development planned at the entrance to our town where currently a blighted site rests. This site that has been vacant for fifteen years now has plans that go beyond a K-Mart or Wal-Mart surrounded by a sea of asphalt. The Noah’s Ark site is an investment reaching over $400 Million with Show-Me Aquatics figured into the figure. This investment amount for such a development is unique to the entire county. I am truly excited about the direction our city is going. Certainly there is much more to do, but the cooperation of the current council set aside differences to support our City as we usually do in spite of what certain circles would have you believe.

Some people have asked what is planned for the animals at Noah’s Ark. I thought maybe it would be fun to consider what some at City Hall would want to do with them. I only had time to think about a few before bedtime. Bob Kneemiller and Mayor York will want the elephant for Party reasons. Rory might want them all for the Children’s museum. John Gieseke will want to take the elephant, paint it white, and then blow it up to signify the end of such white elephants as the Goldenrod Showboat or toy museum.

I don’t know what the plans for the animals will be... maybe they can be donated to, “Art Around The Town.” Maybe you can write to the First Capitol News with your ideas for those indelible creatures.

Regardless, if you think about it, please consider having a big bowl of clam chowder for dinner one night this week in honor of the passing of a St. Charles landmark. A few of you may even still have one of those long, orange-plastic, giraffe drink mixers hidden away. You could get that out and mix yourself a drink. I’d recommend you do that even if you don’t have the giraffe mixer still.

Let’s conclude with an appropriate poem - Recipe for a Hippopotamus by Shel Silverstein:

A hippo sandwich is easy to make.
All you do is simply take
One slice of bread,
One slice of cake,
Some mayonnaise,
One onion ring,
One hippopotamus,
One piece of string,
A dash of pepper--
That ought to do it.
And now comes the problem...
Biting into it!