Monday, May 5, 2014

Voting Tomorrow for a City Council That Works

Bungled City Market Building renovations were a negative.
Tomorrow we get to vote on whether we agree with Roanoke City Council's directions and my vote will go against most of the incumbents. I'm not sure we have strong alternatives, but there are a number of votes over the past few years that have troubled me, especially tearing down Huff Lane School and replacing it with two hotels and a restaurant--in a residential neighborhood (and yes, my neighborhood).

This may make me a NIMBY, but I reject that. I do not disagree with the need to bring in more income in order to keep city taxes low (yes, they are low), but I don't think that in this instance two more hotels and another restaurant in an area already saturated with both was the best choice. Council could have chosen to take Frank Longacre's below-market value offer for the school, so he could turn it into a Roanoke campus of American-National University, his business school and one that produces  employable workers in a short period.That would mean an infusion of tax-paying citizens and/or entrepreneurs who would provide jobs. It would not be the instant gratification of taxes from hotels/restaurants, but it would have been a lovely investment for the future.

I have disagreed (loudly upon occasion) with the renovations to City Market Building (bungled at best, because council chose against a local architectural/engineering firm with a wonderful design and plan), the selection of an artist from outside our city to highlight the building, the apparent lack of planning downtown for the amount of construction that was devastating to many businesses, and several other neighborhood-specific votes. I think building apartments on top of the city's garage downtown near Fire Station No. 1 will prove to be a mistake (if the building will even hold the additional load of four floors).

I wonder at the wisdom of spending $7 million to overhaul Elmwood Park and another $1.2 million on a plaza on City Market's core. I know the market merchants are grumbling about both projects and several have left, for good, they tell me. Both projects produced lovely, useable spaces, but didn't we already have that? I certainly thought so. If you put the same $8.2 million into infrastructure in Old Southwest, or other "city center" spots around Roanoke, my guess is the result would be spectacular.

The city has accomplished some good things in recent years, but in my book most of the credit goes to a very good city manager, Chris Morrill.

In any case, my vote won't go for Bill Bestpitch and Ray Farris, two of the three incumbents. I will vote for Dave Trinkle--at least partly because of the class he showed when he lost a hair-thin General Assembly race to Sam Rasoul recently. And, no, I'm not voting for one of the three Republicans (the Dems had the good sense to run as Independents, all of them). I fondly recall the comedic reign of Mayor Ralph Smith, the last Republican on Council (unless Bill Carder lasted past him and Bill was a good one, a man who has come over from the dark side).

My vote will go to Freda Cathcart, Valerie Garner (because she'll make it all much more interesting) and one more to be determined in the booth.

No comments:

Post a Comment