Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Countryside and the Future

Today's Roanoke Times had an article today discussing the future of Countryside Golf Course and the likelihood that it will remain a golf course for at least the next five years. Having read the article (and not having been available yesterday to comment) I do have a few thoughts that I thought I would share.

These thoughts do not reflect anything discussed in City Council's closed meeting as contracts are being negotiatied and it was my understanding we should not discuss ongoing negotiations. So here are a few thoughts:

- I do not believe it is fundamentally fair in a city of 93,500 people, of whom maybe 500 residents actually play the course, to spend so much money for the benefit of relatively so few. So we will have nearly 93,000 city taxpayers paying millions of dollars for a very few to play golf - and we have a disproportionate number of golf courses in the area, many of whom, if not all, are struggling financially.

- We cannot assume that this piece of property would not be bought if put on the open market as is said in the article. Yes, the economy is bad, but to commit to spending millions of dollars to keep it a golf course simply because we think it won't sell is not in the best interest of taxpayers. Never hurts to try selling.

- I do not believe that because this topic has been debated for a few years that we should just put it to rest and start spending millions of dollars.

- I do not believe that we should commit to spending millions of taxpayer dollars simply so this does not become an issue dealt with year after year by City Council. To spend millions so that seven of us do not have "to pay the political price" is wrong. The price we should be concerned about is the overall costs to the taxpayer.

In the end, this course will cost us millions of dollars. Period. A solution would be to cut a large portion of acreage off the course and to turn it into a wonderful park for residents of the city and in particular in northwest Roanoke. This would accomplish the creation of open space and a park, the alleviation of millions of dollars of subsidies and capital expenses that will be put into the course, and better represent the interest of the taxpayers of this city.

We subsidize the Roanoke Civic Center, the Market Building, potentially an amphitheather, a golf course... millions and of dollars worth of operational subsidies a year...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Council and appropriate involvement

Last evening, Council weighed in on the proposed merger of the city's recreation teams into four regions. There was much controversy over whether or not teams should be allowed to "stand-alone" or whether it is in the best interest of the children who participate to have the merger go forward.

The truth is that this matter should have never come to Council. I can say without a doubt that a majority of the Council would have liked to have seen this resolved in a way that could be favorable to both sides rather than brought to a political environment, that respected the Youth Athletic Council's decision while also respecting the history of the various other teams who have made huge contributions to the city.

The vote forced upon Council last evening was not on the agenda and was verbally created by a member of Council at the previous meeting. What this tells me is that in the future we need to be more direct in our expectations of Council as a governing body and matters that should rightly be handled at a staff level.

Lesson learned.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Capital Projects

Yesterday at City Council the decision to delay a municipal amphitheater was reversed and the project (design phase) will proceed. There is a maximum $1.2 million price tag for this portion, and hopefully we'll learn well before spending that amount of money whether an amphitheater has any feasibility as a capital construction expenditure in the future.

While I did not support moving forward with this capital expenditure at this time, the decision has been made and a majority of council (now) wants to proceed. I believed and still do that there are other capital needs in the city that currently outweigh a wonderful, though not necessary, amphitheater project. We have major storm water, road, bridge and curb/gutter/sidewalk needs that must be addressed soon for the future prosperity of Roanoke. We also have a lot of residents struggling and pinching pennies every day and felt the city should lead by example and exercise fiscal restraint.

Having said all this, a majority of council has spoken, and though there were extremely aggressive lobbying efforts undertaken by the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce and DRI (which is certainly well within their rights to do), a majority makes the decisions for the policy matters that affect Roanoke and its residents. At this point, we should all hope for the very best outcome as it relates to the amphitheater and that any further information we receive from the management group will help us to best determine how to proceed in terms of the actual construction of an amphitheater.

In short, council never gets boring... and yesterday was a perfect example of just that! Now it's time to move forward and get on with the important work that lies ahead.