Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Re-thinking of Roanoke's Priorities Organized

Three Roanoke activists who are among the new media leaders in the area have finally jumped into the political fray, but without party affiliation. It’s an effort to create an active citizen base in the Star City and it’s being called rethink Roanoke.

The organization is being led by Legal Aid lawyer and new journalist Hank Bostwick, Beth Deel of MyScoper and upUpPeriscope and Jeremy Holmes of Ride Solutions.

Says Bostwick: "People tell me that maybe at no other time in recent memory have the grassroots and netroots been so active in Roanoke. Every night in the Star City one community group or another is meeting, organizing, entertaining, or educating," says Bostwick. "An energy emanates from our City and people from all walks of life are starting to feel it."

Think Roanoke’s founders stress that they will work across party lines to create an open forum designed to spur creative commitment to civic responsibility regardless of party affiliation; so long as citizens understand the power they have to shape their communities, the group will be a success.

"We want participation," says Holmes. "We understand that, at the local level, party politics play a very small role. At this level, our leaders are also our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends and family members. They should be chosen because they are the best qualified to address the problems and opportunities that face us. But first, we all need to talk about and decide on what those opportunities are."

To get that discussion started, reThink Roanoke is organizing its first Star City Summit on Tuesday, December 1, 2009, at The Water Heater, 813 5th Street SW in Old Southwest Roanoke.

Those attending should begin to gather at 7:45 p.m. with the forum to start around 8 p.m. More information is available at, or the reThink Roanoke Facebook group.


  1. Looks like it is just the City, not the County or surrounding areas...which is why I think Roanoke has problems in the first place. Good old South Roanoke and good old SW! Same old same. I used to live in north county...nuttin' ever happens there...

    Would be nice if they could meet somewhere besides old SW and maybe cover ALL of the "Roanoke" Roanoke

  2. Ib: Fact is, Roanoke County wants absolutely nothing to do with the city and never has. Very different populations, interests, politics and goals for the localities. This group makes sense, though, frankly, I agree that it would be far, far more productive if people in the Roanoke Valley (Salem excepted) would talk to each other. Dan

  3. Pathfinder: The first summit we've scheduled is in old SW because we could get the venue easily on such short notice, but you're right that forums need to be held all over the city and perhaps even outside. We want to do our best to make sure everyone has a chance to get involved.

    Dan: You're exactly right; working in transportation, I can tell you that most people see the boundaries between jurisdictions as arbitrary ("Why does the bus have to stop here when everyone works just a half-mile away?"), and the Valley would be better served by stronger coordination among localities. Regionalism is something we want to address.

    -- Jeremy Holmes

  4. Thanks for the excellent post, Dan.

    Pathfinder, if we could somehow create a 'Valley culture' where the City and the County worked cooperatively instead of at odds, it would indeed be "nice."

    Part of what this informal association may spur is a conversation about the issues you raise.

    You should come out on December 1 and share your perspective!

    Thanks again, Dan. Jeremy, Beth and I hope to see you at the Summit.

  5. Another point on the localities working together (and a shameless plug for my employer): The Regional Commission may be one of the few places where City Council members, Board of Supervisors members, VDOT administrators, city managers, and other elected and appointed officials all get together on a regular basis to address regional issues, and our meetings are always open to the public. This would be a great place to tackle this issue of regional cooperation.

  6. If any of you can convince Morgan Griffith that Roanoke is worthy of his attention--some kind of concrete gesture would be good--I'll kiss you full on whatever part of your body you want to be kissed on in Market Square. And if that doesn't work, I'll talk my wife into it.

  7. Great Comments thus far and I would like to add that we do have people contacting us from the county who want to come to the summit, which I think is exciting. This summit is for people who want to mobilize positive ideas into action. I can see where people think things are happening in the same neighborhoods but I am seeing a very different Roanoke with events crossing geographical and cultural boundaries. To see a glimpse of how I see Roanoke please visit (shameless plug yes but it's all about the community!

  8. Well, actually, the late 1960s (just awhile back...) were a darned fine time for community organizing,too--and hooray for those coming around again!