Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Response from Alfred J. "Fred" Wessels, Candidate for City Treasurer

1.  What do you view as the key role, and/or attributes needed for this position?  What experience/attributes do you have that qualify you for this position?

Ideally, the City Treasurer will have management and supervisory experience; have a working knowledge of City government; have an educational background that includes some exposure to finance and have a record of personal credibility.

I have all of the above. I have years of experience in management in the healthcare industry. My experience in City government includes not only my work as an alderman but also as a member of the City Planning Commission and the Board of Directors of the St. Louis Development Corporation. I also have an undergraduate degree in Commerce and Finance; a Masters in Urban Affairs and have worked with various budget directors and financial professionals in City government.

The credibility issue is very important. I have established a reputation as being honest, fair-minded and one who works in the public interest – not self- interest.

2.   Why do you think you are the best person for this position?  What differentiates you from your opponent(s)?

I think my combined experience and education are clearly better than my opponents, though all have something to offer in both education and experience. I have successfully managed both large and small organizations. I hired and fired people; negotiated contracts; worked with professional and non-professionals. As an alderman, I have worked with aldermen from all areas of the City to pass legislation. Clearly, my experience is more varied and comprehensive than any of the other candidates.   

3.   What do you feel are the most pressing issues currently facing this office and what plans do you have to address these issues? (please be specific)

There are quite a few issues. Administering contracts is a big problem. Often there is no request for proposal or bidding on professional services or banking services. In some cases vendors have been hired and paid without a signed contract in violation of state law.

The Parking Division clearly needs some change. There are good people working there but they need some leadership help. Williams has been MIA for some time and it shows. I look forward to working closely with them to turn the operation around. I would take a close look at all costs including consulting contracts; personnel; debt service; vehicles and vehicle maintenance and other costs. I think that parking revenues can and should contribute to the City general fund.

4.   If the St. Louis City Earnings Tax would ever fail to be renewed, what broad-based, stable source of revenue would you recommend  to fund quality, public services?

The earnings tax will be renewed. I was a vocal leader in the effort to continue the tax. In Missouri, voters must approve tax increases. Voters will not increase the sales tax; real estate taxes; the utility tax and other taxes that would have to be raised to cover the loss of the earnings tax. The earnings tax is not paid by retirees and is paid by city workers living in the county. City voters get it. That’s why they overwhelmingly defeated the proposal and will do so in the future. The alternatives are unacceptable.

5.   In your opinion, should the office of the Treasurer be in charge of the City of St. Louis Parking and/or the funds generated from the City of St. Louis Parking?

I believe that, for better or worse, the Parking Division will be part of the office of the Treasurer for sometime. First, it would be a mistake to transfer a subpar operation to another department with little or no experience. There are seven garages, 9,600 parking meters and many surface lots. It needs to stay where it is at least until the operation has been straightened out.

A second, and perhaps more important issue, is the $68 million debt carried by the Parking Division. The bond trustees, I’m told by legal counsel, may require the Division to remain in the Treasurer’s office.

Finally, there is a State statute governing City parking which may require it to remain part of the Treasurer’s office. Obviously, State statutes can be changed.

6.   Describe how you work with, or will work with, others to address your priorities.

I have a record of working with others to identify problems and get results in both the private and public sector. At the Peregrine Society, I work with health care professionals to identify and meet the needs of cancer patients. As an alderman, I work with aldermen from across the City to pass legislation to improve conditions for all of our citizens.

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