Doubting Thomas

Alderman Tom Bauer's stealth schemes are raising eyebrows

"You mean to tell me there's not a damn thing in the 24th Ward worth preserving?" fumes Cavin. "He didn't do anything to help the neighborhood understand what he was going to do. The politics of this blows my doors off."

The Nashville-Wade redevelopment poses a different set of challenges for Bauer, who is listed on James Adler's will as the attorney of record for the deceased's personal representative, Richard Torack. Torack is a close friend of Bauer and head of the Franz Park Neighborhood Association.

Aldermanic President Jim Shrewsbury sees a potential red flag in this arrangement.

"I would not act on both sides of the transaction," elaborates Shrewsbury, a probate attorney. "I have told Tom that I believe that is wrong. I believe it is a conflict of interest to be the attorney for an estate that has real estate in your ward and, at the same time, as an alderman, sponsor legislation doing some governmental action on [the] property. The conflict is easily resolved: You simply withdraw as the attorney for the estate."

Counters Bauer: "I don't think it rises to a conflict level. I won't be taking any action as an alderman pertaining to any legislation that may be introduced."

But this potential conflict of interest isn't what concerns Rob McKendry, who lives next door to the Adler property. It's the density. Four townhouses is two too many, McKendry says, and he was willing to buy the property himself for up to $125,000, or $30,000 more than Western Continental paid.

"I talked to Tom about it after Mr. Adler died," McKendry recalls. (Adler left the vast bulk of his $7 million estate to charities and churches, including St. James the Greater Catholic Church in Dogtown.) "Tom said he was probably going to sell it for $125,000. That was a little more than I wanted to pay for it, but I probably would have anyway -- just to build two houses on that land instead of four. I asked him to give me a call when it went up for sale, and the next thing I know [Bauer's] at my house asking what I think about four houses going in. They never asked me if I wanted to put a bid on it."

Bauer denies speaking with McKendry about the sale.

The Nashville-Wade site falls within the jurisdiction of the Clayton-Tamm Community Association, which has taken two non-binding votes on the project. After voting 47-2 to oppose the townhouses in January, the CTCA's February meeting drew a younger crowd, which resulted in a favorable 31-28 tally. A third, binding vote will be held in March.

Bauer feels opposition to the project is motivated by the personal politics of CTCA president Patricia Verde, a Republican who was trounced by Democrat Rachel Storch in her 2004 bid for state representative in Missouri's 64th legislative district.

"She's using her office to try to organize the ward for a possible Republican candidacy for alderman," says Bauer. "We've got some people who've become active in neighborhood associations just to create a political base."

Bauer adds that many of his constituents just don't get it.

"They see all this change and are reacting to it, while not understanding that it's helping them financially by raising property values," the alderman says. "And it's helping the city enormously by strengthening the tax base."

Whether Bauer will have time to bring skeptics around to this point of view depends upon the success of the recall petition. Should the recall efforts fail, Ellendale president Jan Kuhl has a plan B for 2007, when Bauer will be up for re-election.

"When in doubt, I always write in Porky Pig," says Kuhl, who voted for the animated swine instead of Bauer in 2003. "I grew up with the old 24th Ward politicians who didn't have to take credit for everything. Just watching what Bauer's done, everything has to have his name on it."

Clifton Heights' Lorie Cavin concurs.

"It's always too late for us," she says, "because he's maneuvered it to where we have no access until everything's already done. The citizenry is awake now, and boy, are we ready to not ever have this happen to us again."

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