Meet the Candidates: Clayton Candidate Forum liveblog

Globe Staff

The Clayton community, including CHS students and staff, is invited to meet all of the Aldermanic and School Board candidates at a Candidate Forum hosted by the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council.

Head to the CHS Commons on Thursday, March 31, 7:00-8:30 p.m. if you’re planning on voting in the April 5 election or are just interested in local politics. After brief speeches by the candidates, questions from the audience will be solicited.

Check back throughout the event for live updates and up-to-the-minute coverage!

7:00 p.m. We will have two parts to this debate: First–Board of Alderman Candidates– Second–Board of Education Candidates.

7:05 p.m. Mayor Linda Goldstein is delivering an introductory address thanking the candidates for coming and the students on the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council for their participation and we should be getting under way pretty shortly. Seated left to right are Andrea Maddox-Dallas (Ward 1), Cynthia Garnholz (Ward 2), Jim Holtzman (Ward 3), Steve Singer (Ward 3), and Mark Winnings (Ward 3).

7:08 p.m. Each candidate will be giving a three-minute speech providing some personal background and briefly discussing his or her platform before we begin the debate. Andrea Maddox-Dallas is first up…

7:10 p.m. Questions this evening will be generated by the audience members and should be pretty wide ranging.

7:26 p.m. Extremely impressive résumés from all 5 candidates. Each really came out firing in their introductory addresses—if they were any indication, we should have a spirited, intellectually engaging debate tonight.

7:26 p.m. First question of the evening—How do you plan to address the city’s current economic and retail situation? What is your position on the $ 12 million budget reserve?

  • Holtzman—“I’m agnostic at this point on the reserve.”   Holtzman wants to create a more dynamic interaction between local businesses and Clayton citizens, and feels more could be done to promote the dynamic business opportunities in the city.
  • Singer –The budget reserve seems a bit “excessive.” The economic development issue is “complicated but simple…We’re doing a good job of retaining businesses.” However, Singer feels that the city is not doing a good job of retaining retail, such as restaurants. Cites parking as a major issue in this respect.
  • Winings—“The City of Clayton is very well positioned to rebound…” Clayton has a great project to sell, including a fantastic location. The city needs to make sure that the downtown area is a place people want to come. “The retail will follow the people.” City also needs to maintain infrastructure to maintain retail opportunities. On suggestions the budget reserve is excessive: “I, for one, like having that big reserve…[In this time of crisis] We don’t need to do anything drastic because we have those reserves.”
  • Garnholz–“I am also relieved that we have a healthy reserve…While it’s a healthy reserve now, it may not be healthy in a few years. I would not want to draw down the reserve unless we absolutely have to.”
  • Maddox-Dallas–Lauds the hiring of a new economic adviser for the city, laments the fact that he was brought on board right as the economy got worse.

7:35 p.m. How do you think the city should handle the Presbyterian Church’s plan to knock down Davis Place homes to provide parking for their parishioners?

  • Singer–Points out that religious institutions are exempt from zoning ordinances. The city cannot do much to restrict the church’s actions.
  • Winings–“Because the city has got its hands tied legally…what we’re left with is the political process… [and our only option, really] is to apply some political pressure. I wish they weren’t tearing down those houses but that seems like the direction their heading in.”
  • Holtzman–“I’m hoping that some of the residents can be more involved…I’m still going to hold out that maybe they can come up with a solution…maybe it can be the parking garage across from the church…” Tearing down the houses “would honestly be a real shame.”

7:39 p.m. What strategies do you recommend to attract business to Clayton–especially in available vacant locations?

  • Maddox-Dallas: “We’ve already taken the first step” by having an economic developer to aid us in our attempts to promote Clayton businesses. Maddox-Dallas also feels that the city could do a better job of attracting people to the downtown area.
  • Garnholz–“Supporting our chamber of commerce is very important.” Garnholz cites the fact that many people are in downtown Clayton are her during the day but don’t leave their office buildings may be creating the lack of retail profits in the city. Suggests developing more events to bring people to the city after-hours.
  • Holtzman–“How ’bout we talk to the county about swapping police stations? They can have our old police station, we can have that site…That can become the city’s new civic center…If home was downtown, [people] would stay there…There is plenty of room there and I think it is something to be looked at. “
  • Singer–Encourages focusing on communities with similar demographics which have had retail-related success–such as Ladue and Kirkwood. “The reality is, St. Louisans will simply not pay the park for retail, and we need to address this to attract viable retail….We’ve got to create an infrastructure where [high end businesses] can be successful.”
  • Winings-“I think housing downtown would be great. None of this is going to happen overnight, but my visions for Clayton would be to have more residential space downtown…I would love to have some family housing downtown…Again, that’s a longer-term solution…but that would be something I think we should strive for…” Also insinuates that parking lots do nothing for the city’s streetscape and are hurting retail.

7:47 p.m. We’re now moving to more specific questions for individual candidates……

7:49 p.m. Singer on Wydown School Plan: “The Wydown Plan… is probably the most carefully constructed building that has ever been built in Clayton…The motivation that I voted for…we ask ourselves, what is in the best interest of children? Frankly, that’s how I voted [on the issue]. I’m quite proud of the building that’s going to be built…It’s an example of the great things our community can do.”

7:51 p.m. Winings on balancing family and political life: “That’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to…Life is what you make it, and it will definitely require some time management skills, but I’ve always been busy….Luckily, I’ve got a wife who’s fantastic and very resourceful and I think we can make it work…The upside here, for me just as a father, is that, by doing this, [I feel} I’m setting a good example [for my kids]. It’s not a decision I made lightly, but I think that with the right care and the right attention I can do both jobs well.”

7:56 p.m. Aldermen candidates are done talking…The Board of Education candidates are now taking their seats…That debate should be beginning in a few moments….

7:58 p.m. Board of Education Candidates seated left to right…Sonny Buttar, Omri Praiss, and Kristin Redington…As with the previous segment, each candidate will give a three-minute introductory speech.

8:07 p.m. Alright… First question for the BOE candidates…What is your plan of response to the Turner vs. School District of Clayton lawsuit?

  • Buttar: “I think we are pretty aggressive about this…We have recently hired a lobbyist in consortium with other area schools…We are taking it one step further and saying that because this is such a great threat–that any number of students can come to our school district as the statute stands right now–that we must control our population..”
  • Praiss: “I think they’ve [Clayton School District’s law firm] done a fine job…We cannot accept thousands of students; we don’t have the facilities. It will probably take another 1-2 years” before a legislative solution is reached.
  • Redington: “I concur with both Sonny and Omri…As long as we can maintain that control [controlling the student population of the School District] that is what is most important.”

8:13 p.m. What qualities are you looking for in the new Superintendent? What will the search process by like?

  • Praiss: “We’ve been through the process twice and have learned a-lot…As a community, we all had shared values that we’re looking for…Personally…a great deal of integrity is a quality that is foremost in my mind…[the person must be] a great listener and an effective communicator..”
  • Redington: “I know that if parents want to have a voice, if students want to have a voice, if community members want to have a voice, they can. Letting them [the new superintendent] be innovative…so that they can be strong leaders…can excite the principals in the schools and in turn give the power to the teachers…to ensure that our students have an appetite for learning for life…”
  • Buttar: “There’s a whole wider world out there, and other districts like us…We don’t always have to [use] the Clayton way…We are always looking to improve…We are very fortunate that Sharman Wilkinson will be stepping in for either 1 or 2 years, and right now we’re focusing on making a smooth transition from Mary [Dr. Mary Hermann] to Sharman.”

8:21 p.m.

  • Praiss on the District’s Math Policy: In Praiss’ opinion, this has been one of the most challenging curriculum reviews the District has taken on in the last 6 years…”There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”…Praiss remains hopeful in the next 2 months the School Board will be presented with a new curriculum that will recognize and state openly the math curriculum’s deficiencies and state clearly how the Board of Education can l make changes that will address these deficiencies.
  • Buttar added that she hopes to have a curriculum that the whole community can willingly support. She also feels that while it has been a difficult issue to deal with and has many complications, that a much improved curriculum is now within reach.

8:31 p.m. Reding on Nutrition: “I sort of see the nutrition committee hopefully taking on a larger role [with respect to educating kids about healthy eating habits]…The middle school will be having a new committee…The cafeteria [at CHS] has to be committed to whatever else is out there [with respect to restaurants that kids can eat at due to the Open Campus Policy]…”

8:34 p.m. All in all, an extremely informative event. Don’t forget to vote on April 5th!

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Comments

One Response to “Meet the Candidates: Clayton Candidate Forum liveblog”

  1. Jake Jones on April 1st, 2011 9:58 pm

    Great job Ben! That’s pretty amazing that you did this all alone. You must be a fast typer.

    [Reply]

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