Friday, May 29, 2009

Statement on Personnel Matter

I have received nearly two dozen calls or emails regarding the piece that ran in today's newspaper concerning the future of City Manager Darlene Burcham.

I am a true believer in an open and transparent government and believe that the citizens of Roanoke deserve and should expect that information be shared with them by their elected officials in a timely and succinct manner - our government is only as good as the citizens that support it and the faith that they have in their decision-makers.

Out of respect for the City Manager and the Office of the City Manager, however, I will not address current discussions surrounding a highly sensitive and important personnel matter. Ms. Burcham deserves the professional respect and courtesy to have public comments withheld until the appropriate time.

Thank you.

Court Rosen

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Memorial Day

I haven't posted in a little while as I have been decompressing from the long, protracted city budget work period. It had been quite intense for several months so it's been nice to have some quieter time to spend with our son, family and friends.

I hope everyone has a nice Memorial Day. It's a good opportunity for a long weekend and a time to reflect on and think about the hundreds of thousands of soldiers stationed overseas, both in areas with peaceful relations and areas entrenched in war. While we relax for a deserved day off, there are American men and women abroad working seven days a week to keep America safe.

Memorialize them on this day.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pools Will Open, Schools a Bit Less Fortunate

Earlier today Roanoke City Council met for what is known as Budget Study. Essentially, Budget Study is where the Council finalizes the next fiscal year's budget before it goes to a formal vote to be adopted into law.

During this meeting, we discussed an item that I believe to be important to the youth of the City. We decided, after weeks of debate and searching for the resources, to open both the Fallon Park and Washington Park swimming pools for the upcoming summer. At one point there was talk of a public/private partnership that would have kept Fallon Park open and seemed to be the only financial way to do so. That fell through, however, and during the course of those negotiations the City projected a slight increase in revenue and other resources that could be available.

I would have had trouble supporting the opening of one pool and not the other. Though public/private partnerships can be a model for good government, in a City as divided as ours, opening one pool without the other would have sent the wrong signal to our residents. So I'm happy we were able to find the resources that will allow children from various parts of town to have recreational opportunities this summer that will hopefully keep kids busy and out of trouble.

On another note, we did not agree to provide the schools with additional resources to help boost enrichment in summer school offerings, stave off elimination of teachers' assistant positions or fill ten empty elementary teacher positions. I believe this is a mistake and, if you recall, made a proposal a few weeks back that would have provided $1.6 million of taxpayer money from the Budget Stabilization Fund (rainy day fund) to accomplish just this (

Our school division is ranked second worst in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We have suffered from declining achievement for years, and while efforts to attract new business and create new jobs have been many, until we make fundamental changes to the way we educate our children and prioritize our schools, I simply think these efforts will prove to be less than effective. We cannot make small, incremental changes in the way we educate this City - we must make a tidal wave of change to turn around a system that has not improved in many years.

I appreciate my colleagues willingness to increase City funding to the schools... I truly do. The state did not fulfill their financial obligation, and as much as we choose to blame the state for shirking its responsibility, these are still our schools whose success will affect the future of our City. Major policy changes and programs have been enacted over the last couple of years with the by a dedicated school board and superintendant. And it is my belief that until we dedicate ourselves to seeing through a major overhaul of our school division, a tidal wave of change, we will fail to see a major turnaround in our economic climate here and our ability to create new, highpaying jobs for our residents.

Education is the key to fighting poverty in our City and to improving the quality of life for everyone. I'm disappointed that we did not do more to avoid the programatic elimination that RCPS has been forced to undergo. But I know that they will do the best they can with the resources they do have. And we should be grateful for their dedication.