Cape Girardeau City Council to have biggest change in eight years

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Cape Girardeau City Council will get at least three -- and possibly four -- new members Tuesday. It will be the biggest change in eight years as term limits push Marcia Ritter, Charlie Herbst and Jay Knudtson out of office.

Ritter's replacement is already settled. Kathy Swan, owner of JCS Wireless, was the only candidate to file in Ward 6. Knudtson's replacement as mayor will either be retired businessman Harry Rediger or former councilman Matt Hopkins.

But more low-key than the mayor's race have been the efforts in Wards 1 and 2. Ward 2, represented by Herbst, will pick either sales representative Meg Davis-Proffer or Procter & Gamble health, safety and human resources employee Stafford L. Moore.

Ward 1 is the only contest where an incumbent is being challenged. Procter & Gamble engineer John Voss, elected in 2006, faces tax accountant Teresa Robinson.

Ward 1

The Ward 1 council member represents northeast Cape Girardeau. Major roads in the district include Sprigg Street, Big Bend Road and Cape Rock Drive.

Robinson said she challenged Voss because she "didn't want to wait four years to make a difference." Taking on an incumbent is always tricky, but she said she isn't running because she's upset with Voss. If elected, Robinson said she will hold town hall meetings in her ward twice a year.

"I think there is a desire there to have that kind of communication," Robinson said.

She also wants more emphasis on sidewalks in residential areas. The need was apparent as she campaigned, Robinson said.

The city needs a more focused approach to economic development as well, Robinson said. Too many of the jobs added in recent years don't pay enough to support a family, she said.

Voss wants voters to consider the achievements of the council over the past four years as they decide how to vote. His list includes a modernized zoning code, a parks and storm-water program that includes the Cape Splash Aquatic Center and projects to reduce flooding in neighborhoods. Other achievements, he said, are completion of an updated city Comprehensive Plan and commitment to the DREAM Initiative Master Plan for downtown, the Broadway corridor and the Good Hope-Haarig area.

The council's job in coming years, he said, will be to implement those plans while making sure short-term needs are met.

"The plans are there and we need to complete implementation of those plans," he said. "There is a balance in every public servant's mind between long-term and short-term needs."

Ward 2

The Ward 2 council member represents southeast Cape Girardeau, including downtown and most of the area south of Broadway and east of West End Boulevard. Moore said he jumped into the race to be an example to people who complain about city hall but offer no solutions. He is especially concerned that residents of areas south of William Street feel neglected by the city.

"We are invisible and forgotten in this end of town," he said.

The DREAM Initiative Master Plan and Comprehensive Plan are both good for the city, Moore said, and have momentum that will carry them to implementation. The same attention should be paid to needs in poorer neighborhoods.

Finding grant money to support housing rehabilitation and implementing a rental inspection program to ensure safe and healthy rental homes would help, Moore said. Like Robinson, he said sidewalks in residential areas are either absent or in disrepair.

But the major thrust of his effort, Moore said, has been to provide an example. "There's an old cliche that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem," he said. "That is where I am at."

Davis-Proffer said she is running because she loves Ward 2 and wants it to prosper. "I am not a politician, but I want to see it survive and flourish and see all these great things happen."

Maintaining the downtown identity and implementing the DREAM Initiative ideas are top priorities. "It is a matter of learning from the city how do we get it done," she said. "I know that money doesn't magically appear."

She said that a rental inspection program is needed to protect both tenants and landlords. "There are certainly people who own property who don't maintain it," she said. "But in some instances, landlords may not be aware of problems."

rkeller@semissourian.com

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Pertinent addresses:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

429 Cooper St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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