When Lake Ozark voters head to the polls on April 2, they will have a choice for mayor. Paul Sale is challenging incumbent Johnnie Franzeskos. Both were asked questions of importance to Lake Ozark. Here are their responses:
Do you feel the city is headed in the right direction?
Johnnie Franzeskos: Yes, I am thoroughly convinced the city is headed into the right direction.
We have corrected a lot of our past mistakes and we are making every effort to continue moving the community in a progressive manner. By refining our planning and zoning guidelines and SIC codes, we have been experiencing carefully managed growth in both residential and commercial areas. By working with developers to allow creative financing measures, we've continued to see economic development when growth across much of the nation has remained stagnant. By updating and improving our water and sewer system, we've been better serving our residents while being good stewards of the environment. By bringing on talented, insightful and responsible people for key positions, we've been able to constantly improve the way our city is run while also enhancing the quality of life for our residents. By adopting better bookkeeping techniques and more transparency and by following a more conservative approach to budgeting we've been able to better meet the city's financial needs while also avoiding unnecessary and costly audits.
I actually believe the city has been headed in the right direction for the last six years. While we have experienced a number of "bumps in the road" because of the way business was conducted in the past, I believe we made the necessary corrections when problems or issues arose. Under my watch, we cleaned up numerous areas of the city to include fiscal matters supported by positive audits; we addressed issues in public works by improving the water and sewer issues; and we made necessary changes in the way our police conduct business. During the last six years, I have put a lot of time in as your mayor and I pledge to continue doing so, if re-elected. I will make darn sure that we continue to improve, get better at solving problems and grow and prosper under my leadership in the future.
Paul Sale: Not right now, because we are just surviving day-to-day, emergency-to-emergency. We have no long-term plan to follow for growth of our businesses and our services to citizens.
The city has refused to lift the open container law for special events, and has recently toughened its disorderly conduct rules. Do you think those decisions are in the city's best interests and why?
Johnnie Franzeskos: Although I support people coming to our community and having a good time, I feel strongly that we also need to have rules in place that help people maintain themselves in a manner that does not offend other visitors – especially those folks who have families with them. We have always seen ourselves as a tourist community and I think it is important to treat our visitors in a manner that makes them want to come back.
Page 2 of 4 - The open container issue was put in place because public drinking led to inappropriate and often wild behavior which gave the city a negative reputation – a reputation that I don't think most people want to see us stuck with again.
We've often played host to large events that included people consuming alcohol. I certainly have no problem with that, but I want to feel like when we do have our events we do so with a sense of safety with public order in mind. I thoroughly support laws we've adopted that allow bars and restaurants to provide beer gardens so patrons can sit outside and enjoy drinks while listening to music and I think the city has demonstrated its desire to support local events by the number of picnic licenses and beer garden permits it has issued each year. However, I also support laws that allow our police to arrest those who are acting irresponsibility and attempting to disturb others' peace. We must help our police maintain public safety.
It is unfortunate that we felt the need to have a misconduct ordinance, but it would not have been put before the board if it hadn't been needed. The disorderly conduct ordinance was enacted to help our police and give them additional resources to use when dealing with difficult situations. Our police are being trained to use this resource with discretion and as a last resort when all other remedies have failed to maintain safety or control.
The goal of the city has always been to have fun. However, I'm sure we all want visitors shopping and walking on the strip to be able to do so without fear of impaired persons being destructive or disruptive. We host numerous events each year that are family related and we want people to feel good about coming to our city and not to worry about an environment that is not user friendly. Ultimately, the boards of alderman make the final decisions on all ordinances but I like to think that we are all on the same page and if ever we have or need to make any changes we do so collectively as a body for the good of all.
Paul Sale: First of all, I have raised a lot of kids and grandkids around the Strip. I don't like driving my own kids past a bunch of drunks or people cussing at each other. But I can see that same behavior anywhere―it's people, not the place.
What worries me about the disorderly conduct ordinance is that the current administration talks about it being used selectively. This type of talk means that the enforcers choose who to arrest and who is ok. That type of selective enforcement is very dangerous to all citizens―and to our tourists. If you look "right," you are ok, but if you don't? I worry that this type of ordinance will draw the city into expensive lawsuits. I have already seen large groups of noisy, profane people on the Strip, with no arrests. This ordinance needs to be revisited and either re-written to make it fairly enforceable or taken off the books.
Page 3 of 4 - As far as the open container law, I think that a regulated and controlled area allowing open containers would be a great revenue builder for certain events. If we acknowledge that some people are going to drink at events, and control the area where they are, then we eliminate all of the groups of people walking around with disguised bottles. Drinking of alcohol on the Strip is happening now, we just don't acknowledge it. Why not acknowledge it, and say "you guys are fine in this area." Then anyone who does not want their family around alcohol can stay away from the open container area. This type of ordinance lets everyone win, and allows our police an enforceable ordinance.
The city created a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district that resulted in the creation of The Shoppes at Eagles' Landing. Do you favor the use of TIFs to encourage commercial developing within Lake Ozark? Why or why not?
Johnnie Franzeskos: Yes, I favor the use of a TIF where it is appropriate and when the area meets all of the legal requirements for establishing a TIF. Although the city may not see as much revenue growth in terms of sales and property taxes as we would without the TIF, it's important to keep in mind that the project probably wouldn't have happened without the TIF incentives and the accompanying jobs wouldn't have been created.
I have to admit, when I was first elected, I wasn't a big fan of TIFs. I felt that our city had plenty to offer and didn't need to "buy" development. Then I took off my rose-colored glasses and took a long hard look at the city's progress. I realized that although Lake Ozark had decades to attract new business, that hadn't happened. In fact, the city's coffers hadn't seen any substantial growth in sales tax revenues for years and had little hope of seeing any in the future. That's when I realized that TIFs could be a painless way to turn that situation around. The TIF for The Shoppes at Eagles' Landing has done just that by not only providing a shot in the arm for our city's finances, but also by providing several hundred jobs for the entire community.
Paul Sale: Yes, I do favor TIFs with the understanding that they are administered according to the rules of the TIF commission and state law. In the pure sense of a TIF, it helps the landowners, the citizens, the developers, and the city because it assists in the installation of infrastructure and the whole city can benefit from it. TIFs have a bad name because a lot of people think that it takes away all of the sales tax revenue from an area for a long time. In reality, it can be set so only part of the sales tax revenue is pledged for the development and part goes directly to the city for operating expense. Again, a well-designed TIF can be a win-win situation for everyone.
Page 4 of 4 - Please add anything else that might be of interest.
Johnnie Franzeskos: I think if residents will compare Lake Ozark today to Lake Ozark of six years ago, they will see that we are better off in every way. Although I am not taking credit for these improvements, I am proud to say that I have provided steady leadership for a board that has allowed us to have Rt. 242 ― a beautiful thoroughfare that opens up hundreds of acres of land for development and provides quick easy access to a major highway; a board that has approved measures that allow the city's water and sewer system to actually pay for itself for the first time in history and dramatically improve collection of real estate taxes. I'm also proud to say that during my time as mayor, our city has been able to move into a spacious building that provides adequate work space for our employees and a safe, clean, modern facility for our police department. I'm also pleased that during my tenure as mayor, we implemented the first phase of an early warning system designed to inform residents of approaching tornados and we adopted technology that allows us to instantly transmit such things as weather warnings, road closures and Amber Alerts to our residents through their cell phones. I believe that our future is brighter than it's ever been and hope our residents will show their support for my efforts by voting for me on April 2.
Paul Sale: In the past, I have proven that I can work with anyone ― providing they do their jobs. I have no personal interests in major personnel changes, I just want the opportunity to give the citizens of Lake Ozark the leadership that they deserve.