March 3, 2010
A special thank you to everyone who helped make Tuesday’s primary election a success. Your support has been a vital “vote of confidence” in my calm, sensible approach to leadership. I am proud to have the opportunity to represent you on May 4th ballot. My resolve is as strong as ever and we need to gear up to win in the general election so we can have the consistency city council needs to find solutions to the challenges we face. Over the next 8 weeks I will be focusing on communicating critical information about the big issues that will differentiate me from others in the campaign including: how to handle an historically difficult budget; specifics on how to support the struggling school system during these difficult times; and how to position Roanoke to emerge from this recession as a healthy and vibrant community through progressive thinking and creative problem solving. I will also communicate how I will help City Council and our new City Manager re-tool economic development strategies to make Roanoke a very business friendly community where people chose to live, work and play!
As always, please reach out to me and share your thoughts and visions of our great city.
August 14, 2009
Well perhaps I am not a great blogger- I should have had a post on this topic over a week ago and my posts are still too long! In retrospect what I write today is much different than probably what I would have written after the latest vote to keep the Amphitheatre A and E design funding in our capital budget. I was glad we returned the project to our capital budget but the process sure wasn’t pretty. I continue to learn a lot about this project and my role on council- especially over the last few weeks. I do believe that council made the correct decision last week to move forward to the next phase of design, usage and operational budgets for this project. We should know fairly soon about potential uses of an all-weather amphitheatre at Elmwood park and how that impacts the design and the operating budget. This will lead to about as accurate an estimate as we can get on what subsidy the city may expect to pay for this commercial amphitheatre with significant community usage. The question is not if there is a subsidy- but what subsidy is acceptable for this state of the art facility with- in my mind- huge economic potential for our downtown, our city and our region. I have heard much over the last week and as I said at the last council meeting this is not an easy decision. Ambivalence and uncertainty are a given with a “new” quality of life project that will change a downtown park, change the entrance into our downtown and change how we are use to doing things. I believe the change will be good, will be positive and offer many new opportunities for all ages from all walks of life. It will improve our quality of life here and will attract visitors and new residents alike. But by how much? At what costs? How different? All very good questions with no certain answers. This project has been the most prepared, studied, scrutinized project possibly in the history of the city- this is good and bad. It is good that people care and want to participate. It is bad because it is much easier from a leadership perspective to be overwhelmed with uncertainty and just shelf it or stop it when its time to make the big decisions. I believe we study too many projects and rarely do any actually happen. I believe we need to scrutinize and examine our entire capital budget process and I will help take a lead on this. However, I believe if we think a project is a good one as we have over many years and over many votes on this one we should not “can it” until we are sure it won’t work. We are getting to information that will help us with this question and I believe that is the right thing to do. There are many questions to come, much more public input and ultimately more votes on council after this phase concludes. We are not building the amphitheatre this year and in this economy but we will be prepared to move forward in better times if that appears to be the right thing to do at that time. Yes that may be a year or so away and may be with a different council- but those concerns should not paralyze this council as fear to make decisions has in the past. I am glad council took the time to study, debate and re-examine the second decision and I support the third decision in this recent debate to proceed to A and E renderings. I believe council as a whole can move forward as a team and continue to scrutinize the project and make the best and most informed decisions as the next phases of this project present themselves. While we disagreed recently, I do believe we would all like to see this project happen if it is feasible. That is what we will learn with this phase of the project. There are many concerns here- have we given enough in capital funds to the schools (I would say given two new HS and the largest capital projects in our history we have), what other capital projects are deserving, should we not spend any capital in this economy, what about Salem, and many more questions studied and not studied??? So please post comments and I will do my best to be a good blogger and respond. - Dave
July 19, 2009
The Amphitheatre was approved and added to the city’s capital improvement plan two weeks ago. Over the last week there has been some thought to revisit the issue again and possibly re-vote on it. Much study has been done over numerous years along with much public input regarding the Amphitheatre. I have now been convinced it can fit into Elmwood park while also enhancing the park and greenspace and the rear of the library. I also believe usage will be better and it will have a more immediate economic impact by being downtown. The plans for the amphitheatre and our potential relationship with Red Light Management can be found on the city web-page.
This is an expensive and bold project but this council and the one before me has been planning for capital funding finally going to the city’s park and recreation dept and facilities in our city. We have focused appropriately for years on Fire and EMS, and School capital needs (two brand new high schools coming on line). Through numerous studies, the amphitheatre has been listed by citizens and staff as their number 2 or 3 priority. In addition to planned capital funding, there is also some funding remaining from the victory stadium saga. The debt service has been budgeted and the debt has been planned.
Two weeks ago council voted 6-1 to move to the architectural and engineering design of the amphitheatre which will include a more refined operating budget and a better assessment of the need for a municipal subsidy year to year. Red Light has given broad estimates of a possible subsidy which all municipal amphitheatres and facilities (eg civic centers, pools, etc) carry (if they didn’t the private sector would be in this business).
The question that is causing some council members to rethink their vote is the extent of the subsidy- which is not the $500,000 that some are saying- this figure was the high end for a larger amphitheatre by the river without the revenue stream that Elmwood creates (outdoor concessions daily for the downtown lunch crowd, coffee/cafe for the library etc)- we will learn this early in the A and E process and design the amphitheatre to best improve the operating potential for the venue. The A and E contract can include budget requirements including construction and operating budgets that the design will predict. The other concern is the time line- the A and E will take about 14 months and the construction about 2 years- both phases will spread over two years- currently construction in our capital plan would not begin until 2013 but given phased construction- the construction process can certainly follow soon after the A and E process. The other time line issue is the worry that new city councils may come on board and change direction- I think we all know this can happen, Roanoke has a good history of this. Does it mean we should be afraid to start any project- I certainly hope not.
The other big concern is the timing- it doesn’t look good to do such a bold project in the middle of a recession- while I could go into detail and there certainly could be a healthy debate on all these issues, this my simple answer: what better project to do during a recession- we have the funds, spread over three years, will link the Taubman, the new market building (the highest capital priority), a renewed Center in the Square to an awesome star shaped Elmwood Performing Arts venue and park and central library at the other end of downtown. We will be set to ride the recovery out of the recession, attract young people to visit and live here to enjoy our growing arts, cultural and music vibe at a lower cost of living with more quality of life potential. We cannot use this money in the operating budget and say give it to the schools- this is planned debt in a separate capital budget. There are many studies out there showing that cities that continue capital projects during a recession come out of that recession much healthier. It is obviously good for our local economy both immediately and in the short and long term to have capital/construction projects underway in a recession. Citizens also look locally for more quality of life and entertainment options during a recession. And again- what we are voting on is just the A and E design, so we can be ready to build in a year or two.
If we decide to revisit the vote, the options are to re-vote on it- table or can it, possibly re-allocate the money to non-park and rec projects, etc. Our infrastructure plans and bridge projects are doing well and even those departments have said they do not need re-allocation of funds. Storm water management is going to require a fee eventually due to federal and state legislation and should not come out of our capital or operating budget.
Council has been studying and discussing our capital improvement plan for months and discussing some projects for many many years. I had hoped we made an informed vote two weeks ago. While it never hurts to follow-up with these very real concerns and request more information, I would have hoped most of this had happened prior to the vote. I am out of town this week and will miss the vote Monday. Other council members will be gone at other meetings later in the summer as well. I have tried my best to stay in the debate and make my points, especially about the importance of moving to the next long planned phase for the amphitheatre project- the A and E design that would be consistent with specific operating budgets. I am hopeful council will have a healthy debate and go on to make a decision.
I am strongly in support of the vote we already took to move forward on the market building and amphitheatre and also support a renovated Washington park pool. If the vote changes because of the above very real concerns but answerable in my mind or due to political fears- I don’t plan on pushing the projects and will live with the votes. As I have said before- I ran for council to help bring healthy debate to issues but vowed to not continue the Roanoke habit of revisiting issues year after year without making a final decision on them. If it is voted down, I will not be the one continually bringing it back up but instead will look at other important capital projects and continue to focus on the many other issues that I have been supporting.
Many thanks for listening! What are your thoughts?
June 11, 2008
While I certainly supported Nelson Harris’ bid for re-election based on all the good accomplishments he has participated in for this city over many years and his progressive viewpoints, I am excited to get to work with this new council. One thing that clearly seems positive to me at this point is that there are no camps, no automatic majority and no clear predictability. I feel this is healthy for us on council and for the citizens, though I am very aware of behind the scenes attempts, even by those who lost, to form such camps which is unfortunate.
As for myself, I plan to continue as I did when I first got on council though hopefully a little more mature and aware of Read more