Friday, April 30, 2010

Exercise your right - vote

THis Tuesday is the Roanoke City Council elections that will determine the make up of Council for at least the next two years. It's an important election and one that will significantly impact the way the city does business and how we'll weather the current financial challenges we face.

I won't encourage you to vote for any candidates in particular - though I have my preferences. Instead, I'll simply encourage you to vote. Participation in the electoral process is the most effective way to shape your government and the way it operates.

Exercise your right and please vote Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Emergency Measure to Aid Schools Passes

Yesterday, Roanoke City Council passed an emergency measure to help offset the massive funding cuts being leveled by the state to aid the Roanoke City Public Schools for the next two years. This occurred in the form of a temporary 2% increase in the city's prepared food tax, and will raise more than $4 million per year over the next two years to protect such critical urban educational programs as summer school, Spanish for elementary students, and most importantly the maintenance of reasonable class sizes, among others.

Nobody likes to raise taxes. And without question reduced spending and targeted cuts should be undertaken. But it's important that we remember that we have made massive cuts, reducing spending last year by nearly $10 million (the schools cut nearly $5 million last year). Additionally, the city will cut another $10 million this year and the schools will cut an additional $5 million. To say that the city has not cut and reduced spending and seeks only to "tax and spend" is simply not true.

The future of our city, I'm convinced, is directly linked to the success of our schools. Adding $1 to a $50 meal, with the resulting revenue this will generate, is a small price to pay when looking towards the economic and social prosperity of Roanoke.

Council deserves kudos for the courage and foresight to make a very tough decision (the state limits our ability to make these sorts of local decisions) to temporarily raise the meals tax to stave off the devastation of our schools. It's a tough decision in the short-term but I believe, if approached correctly and with our planned marketing campaign, that our restaurants will benefit from increased support from residents who recognize that without a solid school system the future holds less promise. And as a temporary measure, the city and schools will have the opportunity/necessity to restructure how we conduct our affairs and find more efficient ways to deliver better outcomes for cheaper.

I know that there are many who hear the word "tax" and automatically oppose it. I understand this philosophy, but I don't believe that it leads to good government. And when it comes to education, sometimes we have to make the tough decisions that make our long-term future that much more promising.