Ward 3 voters will make a choice in the April 2 general election between Len Stella and Ken Hussey. The two men are competing for the 3rd Ward seat on the Jefferson City Council, currently held by Bryan Pope, who has opted not to seek re-election.
But neither candidate is new to running for City Council. Hussey unsuccessfully ran against Pope two years ago for the 3rd Ward seat. And Stella previously served four years as a 3rd Ward councilman, meaning he would be restricted to serving two, two-year terms if elected.
The News Tribune has compiled a list of city issues and asked each candidate to weigh in with their thoughts.
Stella said he is for the conference center and, at this juncture, would prefer the Capital Mall site to any other. He said having a conference center in that area would help encourage development, from strip malls to entertainment areas.
"I think it'll stimulate growth for the city," Stella said. "The city's growing west."
Hussey said he supports a conference center and thinks it's an important venture for the city.
"There's a need for more space," Hussey said. "It will help attract visitors to town."
Hussey said there are a lot of advantages to having the conference center in the downtown area because of the walkability and proximity of the Capitol, along with restaurants and shops.
Stella said he supports a multipurpose building as long as the Parks and Recreation Department has the money for it, but noted it should be a simple building.
Stella said having such a facility could be beneficial in attracting state tournaments to the area.
Hussey said he understand the Parks and Recreation Department has a desire for their own space, but he believes private facilities are doing fairly well in meeting the community need for space.
But Hussey said the multipurpose building and the conference center could do well by being placed within proximity to each other and operating on a joint basis.
Missouri State Penitentiary
Stella said if it's possible and affordable to acquire the MSP property, the city should try to do so, as he believes there is a need for developable land within the city.
"It's acreage," Stella said. "It's land, and land is a good thing."
Hussey said the issue of ownership is always going to be an issue with MSP.
"It's just a constant battle with the state," Hussey said. "I think there's a historical value to it."
Stella said the city's budget procedures are in question because of its current $1.68 million budget shortfall. When it came out that the previous finance director had a policy that accountants were not allowed to take part in the budget process, Stella said that was far from appropriate.
"Excluding accountants was silly," Stella said. "It wasn't proper."
Hussey said he was shocked to learn the council members were not already receiving quarterly reports, a practice begun by 2nd Ward Councilman Shawn Schulte this year, or budgeting based on actual numbers as opposed to projections.
"It's concerning," Hussey said. "I think when it comes to budgeting ... you have to be open and transparent."
Stella said the city shouldn't get landlocked, but the council needs to pursue more developable land and be more proactive in annexation efforts.
"There's absolutely nothing wrong with growth," Stella said. "You can't stand still."
Hussey also said the city is always running the risk of being landlocked, but a key component to any annexation effort should be the support of the people affected. He said the city should take a closer look at whether they can properly service a new area before trying to bring it into city limits.
Stella said he views the role of the council as helping to grow the city along cultural and economic lines. Stella said he would like to help encourage growth and more activities in Jefferson City for residents to enjoy.
"Lively activities in a nice downtown area," Stella said. "It can get better from where we are."
Hussey said he sees the role of the council as being available to the public and asking questions, debating issues to ensure a proposal or an idea is thoroughly vetted.
"Just some forward thinking," Hussey said.
Stella said the biggest infrastructure needs in the city likely would be a more orderly, defined way of replacing the city's older sewer system and getting some more modern, up-to-date equipment.
"They're more or less waiting for pipes to break," Stella said. "We're an old city."
Hussey said he believes the existing infrastructure is pretty good thanks to the capital improvements sales tax which enables the city to keep up with some of the infrastructure needs. Hussey said the biggest challenge is making sure the roads stay in good condition.
"Midwestern weather is mean to the roads," Hussey said. "There's always work to be done."
Strengths and weaknesses of Jefferson City
Stella said the largest weakness for Jefferson City is trying to get new business into the area. He said technical centers and IT services are the way to go now, as opposed to manufacturing plants.
"I don't know what the hindrance is to the (Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce)," Stella said. "If there's anything that disturbs me, it's the lack of growth in population."
Stella said the greatest strength of Jefferson City is the people. They are good people, he said, who want to work and are nice to others.
"They're industrious, they're smart," Stella said.
Hussey said the city constantly struggles with economic development and growth, and that's what he sees as the largest weakness.
"There's very limited resources," Hussey said. "Our population is aging."
Hussey said the city's greatest strength is how passionate people are about it.
"People care about it, there's good people here," Hussey said. "People are energetic for the most part."
He added that simply being the capital city also makes Jefferson City special and unique.
Stella said the relationship between Jefferson City and Cole County is doing well because of people who work at it and keep up the spirit of cooperation.
"The cooperation is as good as it can be," Stella said.
Stella said he would like to see some forces of the county and city combine, such as having one police force for the city and county.
Hussey said the relationship between city and county officials needs to be continued as both entities have the same goals and interests.
"We need the whole area to move forward," Hussey said.
To continue the good working relationship, Hussey said, the two entities need to find their common ground.