Politics is relatively new to me. I enthusiastically entered politics to help Roanoke get away from its stalled approach to debating issues to death and overturning decisions with every election- in other words help the City of Roanoke become more progressive and focused on a healthy future. Win or lose on specific issues, my hope was to move Roanoke forward to an ever more exciting future for all age groups and for all parts of our culturally rich and diverse population. Our new high schools and high school stadiums are two recent examples of Roanoke proudly moving forward. I primarily believe in using quality of life amenities (outdoor attractions and activities, arts and cultural amenities, entertainment, the river and the mountain, retail, restaurants) and an improved school system as our primary economic drivers.
After a fairly progressive first year on council, the second year was filled with accusations (almost solely from our local paper) of this council doing too much behind closed doors, not entertaining public input, and of being elitist. This was pretty discouraging to me as a huge investment of my time was given to meetings throughout the city with any group requesting one and being as open and available through media outlets about issues as possible. I often initiated meetings with groups and individuals that were clear stakeholders on certain decisions, like the amphitheatre. I wrote op-ed pieces and emails were answered daily.
Clearly, I have learned some lessons in my first couple of years in politics- I can absolutely do more for public input and can be more vocal during council meetings as issues are developing. I also believe council can get by with fewer closed meetings and I will only support those that relate to contract negotiations and personnel matters. In addition, closed meetings on the same issue should be limited and with deadlines. For that matter, I believe lingering issues should generally be resolved by council in a more timely matter- though of course the catch here is to have enough time for public input; which at times can be difficult to navigate. I plan to support more briefings in council chambers, not small meeting rooms, regarding sensitive issues so that more citizens can come and sit comfortably and I would like to see more briefings and public hearings on RVTV as we did recently with our planning commission meetings.
In an effort to combat perception while at the same time being more sensitive to public input on small and large issues, I have developed this blog. I plan to dedicate time as often as needed to discussions on particular issues as I post them and to use the information I learned from these discussions in my council decision making process. I also hope to use this web page/blog to tell the great stories occurring daily in our city and the actions by many that are leading the city into an exciting and healthy future. Finally, I hope to use the interactive abilities of this blog for media interviews and to respond openly to both positive and negative comments from anyone so that my full view point will be readily available to those who wish to see it.
My commitment to Roanoke City Council remains the same as it was when I ran two years ago. To be energetic, fair, accessible, informed and enthusiastic in my pursuit of a progressive and economically successful future for our great city. A pursuit of a city that has a rich history, a present full of opportunity for all walks of life and all families, and a future that keeps it vital and competitive for our children. A city that is a fun place with opportunity for all now and in the future to live, work, be educated and entertained, and to raise a family. I do not intend to sit back and let go of that vision.
Ultimately, this blog will be successful if open communication leads to an improved decision making process for me and others, more public awareness of the multiple sides to any issue and if others in leadership roles opt to participate in a similar process- which I certainly hope they will.