Vote For Bob Sears

Leadership, Respect, Dedication, Truth, Reason Kirkwood City Council

June 2, 2020

Bob Sears for Kirkwood City Council 2020

Please join the Virtual Forum sponsored by Kirkwood Library and the League of Women Voters. Watch LIVE on KirkwoodPublicLib YouTube Channel  TODAY at 7:00.  I have added the flyer below.  Check it out.   


Also, please scroll down to read my thoughts on various Kirkwood issues and, at the bottom, take the opportunity to send me a question.   I still need funds for the campaign and I need locations to place my signs so that people can see that I am running.  Let me know if I can place a sign in your yard.


Thank you and stay safe from all viruses and thank you for helping to keep us all safe.


Bob


Contact Me

COVID-19 and its implications 

A candidate's experience becomes critical with tough economic conditions at hand.  I have proven through my long-time service to the City of Kirkwood, that I am capable and have the EXPERIENCE to lead through this time.  


I will not use this space to discuss the disease, its past, its future, its related health concerns, nor politics.  Those are not areas over which your Kirkwood Council will have much to do.  However, I do want to express that regardless of anyone's feelings about it an how we got here, its implications for Kirkwood are significant.  Whatever your view on the topic, there was a shutdown that has and will continue to reduce the Kirkwood's revenues from sales tax.  This reality cannot be ignored and you need leadership on Council ready and willing to make hard economic decisions and choices for the time being.  I am that candidate. None of us has an accurate crystal ball that will tell us when and how the economic situation will stabilize and grow.  We are all hoping for a relatively robust recovery but those on Council have a responsibility to consider worst-case, best-case scenarios and those in between.


Therefore, all of my comments below that depend on investment by the taxpayer need to be tempered with a serious consideration of the economic conditions.  I am committed to assessing every expenditure in these new conditions.  I am committed also to ensuring that the basic services that we all depend upon for quality of life, health, and safety need to be maintained and all discretionary spending must be held back and delayed for the time being.  When that income stabilizes, we must get back to the projects and investments that Kirkwood wants to take on to make for a vibrant and enjoyable future.  High quality streets, fire and police protection, trash collection, and the day-to-day city operations central to our community must be maintained throughout the downturn.  Afterward, when the economic condition brightens, will be the time to turn our attention back to investments in those things that are amenities beyond the basics.  I don't know when and I don't know how quickly the rebound will occur, but I cannot help but be optimistic in our City's resilience and dedication to make sure the favorably economic condition returns.  I know it will happen!

Our true destiny...is a world built from the bottom up by competent citizens living in solid communities, engaged in and by their places.

- David W. Orr

Priorities

Here is a set of priorities, you or I may put them in a different order but they have all been points of discussion for years.  To read my views, click on the item you would like to know more about.

Useful Links

We will neglect our cities to our peril, for in neglecting them we neglect the nation.

-John F. Kennedy

Streets

   Since I first ran for Council in 2008, nothing has been at the top of the list of complaints more than street conditions.  I get it.  So does the Council.  We need to continue to increase our attention to ALL of our streets until we can be proud to call them all Kirkwood streets.  When I first started on the Council, our annual investment in street repairs was about $1,000,000.  When I left, that number was more than $3,000,000 and I supported every move upward.  All without raising taxes.  

     During my time on Council, we initiated a professional inventory and grading of every street in Kirkwood.  Each street now has a grade and is on a plan for maintenance or replacement.  There is no "favorite" street.  There is a neutral program that improves streets as they are graded rather than who might live on them.  Now that we have cycled through all the quadrants of the city, with the northwest left to do this year and Geyer to be finished this summer, we have a chance to review our system to see if there are tweaks to be made.  First up, should we ask the citizens whether they want a  full-fledged all-out effort to repair and replace all streets more quickly?  If we do, that means a bond issue that will have economic impact on all of us.  There is discussion of putting the question to a vote as early as this November.  

   Since citizens feel so strongly about this issue, and have for many years, I am in favor of putting it to a vote.  That way, the people can decide whether the plan we now have in place is satisfactory or whether a more aggressive approach is needed. Either way, in order to promote safety and the pride of community induced by quality streets, I am in favor of putting street repair and quality at the top of our efforts.

Back to Priorities

It is not more bigness that should be our goal. We must attempt, rather, to bring people back to...the warmth of community, to the worth of individual effort and responsibility...and of individuals working together as a community, to better their lives and their children's future.

- Robert F. Kennedy

Infill Housing

The intersection of individual and community interests

Kirkwood has a strong and varied history of housing design.  We each have our favorites and a few that don't impress us.  There is a deeply subjective quality to our feelings about architecture in our neighborhoods and what may or may not be appropriate.  I hear a great deal about concerns over "infill housing" and it has taken me a while to understand what is meant by the term.  Few of us can say that we do not live in infill housing.  There are the original homes built in the early subdivisions as Kirkwood farms were turned into the neighborhoods we know today.  After those were established, homes were built on lots in between the original houses at various times.  Many of the infill houses were built in the 1940s and 1950s and many of us live in those fine houses today.  Many of those replaced earlier homes as they saw the end of their lives.  That sort of activity continues today and will continue into the future.  Every generation struggles with whether the new designs are compatible with the "feel" of Kirkwood.  The current concern over "infill housing" seems to be that "perfectly good affordable houses are being taken down and replaced with McMansions - houses that are too big for the lot."  If that is the definition, then I support the city's efforts so far and will support it also to use our building codes to limit homes that are too big, too tall, and of low architectural quality.  We can do that, and have been doing that, by continuing to review our codes and making reasonable changes so that new construction is quality in materials and architecture, correctly proportioned and does not contribute to the problem of water run-off.  All of these concerns must take into account that our mission is not to limit the value of the property when our residents want to sell their properties.  If our limits are too narrow, Kirkwood homeowners will lose out when they need to sell.


Back to Priorities

Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how.

- Edward T. McMahon

Zoning/Building Code

Keep it Rational and Enforce it

As homeowners and citizens in our community, we must be able to rely on standards to which our neighbors adhere.  The normal course is that our biggest investment is in our homes.  We need to be able to rely on standards set by the community to keep our investment intact. Tastes change, safety protocols develop, shopping and housing choices are different now than they were 60 years ago, lifestyles and habits develop over time.  Our zoning and building codes must reflect how people actually live and must include safety measures as they develop.  Since my first time running for Council, I advocated for a review of our zoning and building codes with a view to make sure they reflected the best in safety guidelines, protected our treasured neighborhoods, and allowed for the needs of modern families.  Once that review was completed and enacted, I advocated for a strict adherence to the agreed-upon code.  Any request for a variation from the zoning and building requirements must be accompanied by a real and verifiable need caused by the unique property and NOT by the desire of the developer or the homeowner to have a certain luxury or amenity.  Beginning from when I was on the Council and continuing to today, the City has done just that.  It is time for the second part of my recommendation - a person asking to build something beyond the limits of our codes, must face a high hurdle before any relief will be granted.  

I believe that recent changes to the building height restrictions sufficiently protect us from tall buildings not in character with our community.  We need to hold developers to those limits.  Water run-off is a serious issue that the Council has tackled and must continue to review and stay on top of the situation.  The citizens appointed to review zoning recently approved a new zoning code that will be presented to Council for final approval soon.  Many of the changes limit the size of houses compared to lots and directly address the issues raised by citizens.  I look forward to diving into its contents and gathering additional citizen input through the hearing process at the Council level.  

Back to 

Priorities

Living in a small town...is like living in a large family of rather uncongenial relations. Sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s perfectly awful, but it’s always good for you. 

- Joyce Dennys

Community Center Renovations

Work to Make it Better

Our Community Center is in need of significant repairs and remodeling.  It no longer reflects the quality we expect in Kirkwood.  It is tired and well-loved.  We certainly need the building and it deserves our focus.  Several years ago, Mayor Art McDonnell appointed me to work on a plan to give much-needed focus on improvements to the community center.  A great deal of work went into the potential project and views by the community were all across the board.  But there was one thing on which everyone agreed -- we want a community center that is the quality that we expect from any of our city buildings.  While there was a strong desire for indoor fitness facilities and even a pool, there were those who felt such amenities would put the much-loved YMCA out of business.   There were those who felt residents could go to Des Peres or other nearby facilities and we did not need to spend the tax dollars to accommodate them.  These are valid points as deserving of respect as the opinion that we should invest in the community center as a central place for our citizens to recreate.

Whatever the plan, it became clear that the theater needed to leave the site and rebuilt elsewhere.  Rebuilding the theater was a part of the plan from the beginning.  A decision was made to focus on creating a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center and come back to the Community Center once that project was completed.  It appears that there will be some funds available to put into the Community Center to bring it up to a serviceable and shining center we can be proud of. That level of funding will not provide the fitness center and other amenities that many wanted in that space, but that does not mean we abandon the effort there.   While I am a unrepentant supporter of the Performing Arts Center, I will continue to press for serious attention to the other important asset that is the Kirkwood Community Center.

Return to Priorities

The object of art is to give life shape.

- William Shakespeare

Kirkwood's Performing Arts Center

In going through my parents' things I found a Kirkwood Vision Plan from the early 1960's that called for a performing arts center in the downtown area.  Now it is happening.  This beautiful and important new center will be a place of community.  We will see Broadway quality shows produced by our local but Nationally reknown Stages.  We will witness captivating performances from local actors when Kirkwood Theater Guild puts on a show.  There will be opportunities to show-case local talent or to bring in acts that we would like to see from around the world.  In addition to the main stage, there is a "black box" theater in which other shows can be presented in an alternative-type atmosphere. In my view, this building will also be a sought-after jewel of a meeting place. 

In addition to the main stage, there is a "black box" theater in which other shows can be presented in an alternative-type atmosphere. In my view, this building will also be a sought-after jewel of a meeting place. 


There are rooms for receptions, holiday parties, business and club lunches, birthday parties and so on. The value of the PAC stands alone, but it cannot help to bring a renewed interest around it -- spaces for an all-in arts experience surrounding the building, potential businesses that match well with a theater and meeting space like fine dining, boutique hotels, shops and residential spaces. I was proud to support this project from the beginning and to see it through its many stages of development. I would sure like to be there to see it through the last steps until opening.



Back to Priorities

If you are happy in the station, then the station becomes your train! In other words, if you are happy where you are, it means that you are already travelling! Happiness is a great journey!

― Mehmet Murat ildan

Train Station

An Icon of our Community

This beloved and revered building is owned by the City of Kirkwood.  As such, we are honor-bound to keep it in great shape.  The station needs restoration and some rehabilitation.  I completely support protecting our investment by providing the much needed repairs.  That includes HVAC, asbestos remediation, a new roof, tuckpointing, painting and on and on.  It is such a treasure that we should seek private contributions for additional aspect of a beautiful and historic restoration effort to bring it back to a building that would be recognized by the users of old.  There are plans in the works that could make that happen.  The bottom line is that the taxpayers must be prepared to make those needed repairs but private donors interested in the heritage of this icon must step up to bring it back to its historic glory.

Back to Priorities

The smallest patch of green to arrest the monotony of asphalt and concrete is as important to the value of real estate as streets, sewers and convenient shopping

- James Felt

Downtown Business

Having spent 8 years on the City Council, it would be irresponsible of me to understate the importance of a vibrant business community.  Sales taxes keep our property taxes low (yes, the portion paid to the city of Kirkwood is surprisingly low - check it out). Our community spirit is higher when there is activity downtown.  Our enjoyment is enhanced when we have local restaurants, boutiques, a hardware store, and other unique shops to visit - including convenient banking.  

   I remember in the late 60's and 70's when our downtown was inactive.  It was depressing.  Empty shops and few people made a near ghost town feel.  Careful planning by the Councils back then brought it back.  They recognized that businesses need foot traffic and a greater density of people living nearby.  So they allowed and planned for multi-family around the core of downtown.  It worked.  The same is needed today.  New residents will want it because they would rather walk to the places they want to do business.  Businesses require it because more of a family's spending is being done online.  As a community, we need to plan for the fact that people are changing from an automobile-centric lifestyle to one of more walking and local shopping.  We need to plan for the fact that brick and mortar businesses are attracting a shrinking percentage of spending by shoppers so they need more shoppers to make up the difference.  Local businesses in our community have always been extremely important but the community needs to change to allow them to succeed.  That said, we don't need to abandon our neighborhoods and feel to have thriving business.  However, in support of our people and neighborhoods, we need to keep an eye toward making Kirkwood a place good business want to come and be good neighbors.  


Back to Priorities

Small businesses deliver community character and economic advantages to the town they are positioned in, but also strengthen partnerships among neighbors, residents, other small business owners, community leaders and even schools by offering social and economic relationships. Many also support local causes, creating even more good within a community.

- Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle

Affordability

I support any reasonable effort to make our community a place that is welcoming and affordable to many income levels.  That becomes a more difficult proposition when the value of our land continues to increase.  If the land is expensive, even an inexpensive home on that land will be hard to afford.  I support requiring developers of large projects to build a percentage of housing below the average on site or in other parts of Kirkwood.  I think restrictions on the size of buildings on residential lots will help.  Multi-family housing and apartments seems to be the best available option to reach the goal. When the land is expensive, greater density shares that cost among the residents.  Whatever the solution, we must insist on high quality architecture and quality building.  If we desire affordable housing, we must be flexible in our thinking.  In any case, we cannot ask those who want to move from their home to take less than market value in order to achieve affordability.  There is the quandry.

Back to Priorities

To play catch on an evening, to smell the river, to hear the train pass. These little towns were once the bold ramparts meant to shelter just such peace.”

― Marilynne Robinson


Statement of Diversity, Inclusion & Equity

I was proud to bring this idea to the Council and prouder still that the entire group jumped right in to improve my draft and adopt it as well as to display it prominently at the entrance to City Hall.

OUR STATEMENT OF DIVERSITY, INCLUSION & EQUITY

City of Kirkwood, Missouri

  • Diversity is the variety of human differences.
  • Inclusion is valuing and respecting those differences.
  • Equity is the equality of opportunity that comes with true inclusion.

In Kirkwood we believe that through diversity we will excel; through inclusion we will draw each person into our circle of community; and focused on equity for all we will serve each person.

Our citizens are respected based on individual strengths regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, religion, age, sexual orientation, disability, life experience, geographic background, skills or talents, and other valued differences.

We strive to ensure that all who are present in this building feel safe, welcome, and respected. We desire that our embrace of diversity, inclusion and equity be extended throughout our community and beyond.


Adopted July 20, 2017

Back to Priorities

What is the city but the people?

- William Shakespeare

Listen to Public Presentations of the City's Planning Project

Kirkwood By Design

note that these are just suggestions and have not all been adopted

Part 1 - Introduction


Part 2 - Side Set Backs - B2 Building Height


Kirkwood By Design

Part 3 - FAR (floor area ratio), lot coverage, Architectural Review Board


Part 4 - Principal and accessory uses


Kirkwood By Design

Part 5- Other topics


Part 6 - Question & Answer


Contact Bob

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You can help in many ways.  You may give a cash contribution to the campaign which would be very helpful.  See the Paypal button near the top or send a check to: Committee to Elect Bob Sears, 308 Altus Pl., Kirkwood, MO 63122


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