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Candidate Q & A

April 20, 2010

Below is the Candidate Question & Answer series published in the Roanoke Star Sentinel on April 8 and April 15.

1.) What is your party affiliation?  democratic

2.) Who influenced you as a child? My dad. His active involvement in the community was and his grace at over-coming a disability was inspirational. It shaped me as a man, a father, a business owner, a citizen and as a leader.

3.) Who do you admire now? Many people – but at this juncture in our city’s history, I’ll say Superintendent Rita Bishop and the Roanoke City School Board. They are facing huge challenges head on – and are getting results. They understand the huge implications of the success of our schools – both on the lives of our children and the vitality of our city.

4.) If elected, what are your top 3 priorities? Balancing the budget so we can be on track for future growth and opportunity. Supporting our most critical economic development driver – the public school system. The best way to ensure a vibrant future for any community is to foster a creative environment and build a strong, educated workforce.  Helping to lead our city out of this recession through progressive thinking and reasonable, positive growth.

5.) Why do you believe you are qualified for this position? I am interested in what other people have to say. I am interested in hearing every possible side of an argument so we can arrive at the best solution for everyone. I am involved and active in our community as a father of children ion the public schools, as a business owner, as a civic leader, and participant in arts and cultural activities.

6.) What do you consider your greatest accomplishment in life so far? I have worked hard my entire life to be certain I am giving back to my community as much as it has given me. I am proud of the volume, breadth and substance of my volunteer and public service – to the Roanoke Region and beyond. That intense desire to give back is clearly reflected in my professional life as well – as I passionately serve the medical and emotional needs of our aging population. Last, but certainly not least, is my family. I am humbled by the wonderful spirit and grace of my wife and three children. The love and happiness of our family is truly my greatest accomplishment.

7.) What is the last book you read? A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines — as part of the Big Read Roanoke Valley and Percy Jackson and The Olympians by Rick Riordan with my daughter!

8.) How would you try to balance the budget? Balancing a budget is about three things: managing costs, eliminating wasteful spending and sustainable revenue streams. First, we need to carefully evaluate current spending to be sure every dollar is yielding a maximum benefit to the citizens and businesses in the community. Are there projects/programs/initiatives currently being funded – that are no longer appropriate considering the changes in the economic landscape? We need to consider both the long term and short-term impact of these expenditures and perhaps make some changes. Secondly, we need to adhere to strict fiscal accountability – to make certain we are not wasting money unnecessarily. I also believe we need to evaluate the systems and structures throughout the city government and make sure they are efficient – especially considering advances in technology. Lastly, we need to accept the realities that state funding will not likely return to the levels of the past. Therefore, we need to be creative in finding additional – and sustainable — revenue streams for the city that do not apply un-due burden on our taxpayers.

I am committed to ensuring Roanoke’s government is fiscally responsible - with a balanced approach to meeting current needs while still preparing for a positive future.  We must pay close attention to public safety, infrastructure, and most importantly our schools so our city can offer a high quality of life to all of our citizens.  As a father, educator, businessman and citizen – I have always been a vocal about the idea that our schools are our most important economic engine and are the most important measure of our success as a whole.

9.) How will you attract new business to Roanoke? The advent of new technologies has changed the face of business, allowing the spirit of entrepreneurship to grow and small businesses to prosper. Furthermore, it has allowed business owners to choose their hometown based on quality of life more than ever before. This shift allows Roanoke – with its vibrant arts and cultural scene, spectacular natural amenities and abundant outdoor and recreational opportunities — to move ahead of the competition. I am steadfast in my commitment to continuing the city’s progress in being a fun, livable city with a high quality of life. In addition, we must continue to create a more open and business friendly city hall to foster the relationship with new and exciting businesses.

10.) Would you vote yes or no on the 2% meal tax? As you already know, I voted in favor of a 2% meal tax increase for the next 2 years. The funds will be used to help public schools cover the shortfall created by the state levels cuts.

As a city resident and restaurant owner, you can imagine this was a very challenging decision.  I share many of your frustrations and am concerned with the idea of additional support coming on the backs of one single industry — especially an industry so important to our quality of life, vibe and local labor force. While I ultimately supported the tax – I vigorously proposed more sustainable options during the debate and wish we could have taken more time to discuss the overall idea and long term impact of the program.

However, I have learned a great deal through the successes and challenges of my first term.  Most importantly, I have learned patience and better understand why we cannot always expect things to happen exactly as we might like.  There are many considerations and implications to each decision – and this must not be taken lightly.

Moving forward, I will continue to scrutinize the budget to find inefficiencies and other — more progressive — ways to support the schools after this two year period when the meals tax will automatically revert to current levels. If re-elected, I look forward to continuing as a member of the Joint Services Committee and playing a vital role – in cooperation with the schools — to find innovative and sustainable ways to support public education.

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