Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vice Mayor Sherman Lea and today's story

I received a call this morning from Roanoke Vice Mayor Sherman Lea letting me know that news would be appearing sometime today regarding an inquiry his employer, the Department of Corrections, undertook based on a hotline phone call received earlier this year. My understanding is that Vice Mayor Lea and his employer have resolved the issue, and any differences were reconciled.

As someone who also has to balance my professional life with my work on City Council, it seems pretty easy to me that administrative mistakes could occur in recording time and distinguishing between professional work and council work. For instance, I'll be driving back from a meeting in the New River Valley for my own business when I get a call asking me to swing by the City Building, so I've confused the two. Or I'll get a phone call or email that takes up a half hour on an issue relating to the City and that gets thrown into the mix. For someone like the Vice Mayor, who serves in a senior capacity with the DoC, I can imagine that confusion occurs when trying to administratively account for time.

I've known Vice Mayor Lea in a working capacity for 2.5 years, and have worked especially closely with him for the past two years. He is an honest, decent, hardworking and good man. There's no doubt in my mind that any mistakes that were made in accounting for time between his work on City Council and for the Department of Corrections were entirely unintentional. Mr. Lea has provided leadership during times when we desperately need it, and I have immense respect for his genuine love and concern for Roanoke and his willingness to work tirelessly on behalf of its residents.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A tough year is ending

I've not posted in a while on this blog, largely because it's a relatively slow time in terms of city council business. We adopted the FY 2010-2011 budget in May, and after lots and lots of meetings and work leading up to adoption, June is a slower time.

It was a difficult year, with major reductions or eliminations of services, reduced school funding and a generally difficult financial period. City staff worked dilligently, with an eye towards efficient delivery of services at reduced funding levels. Staff carried out this task with optimism, seeing opportunities during this time to create a more streamlined government focused on the core services that government should provide residents. There's more work to be done, but difficult times force us to think outside the box.

It's also important to recognize that, by and large, taxpayers have recognized that expectations for services and programs like they were only a few years ago is unrealistic. Having the community understand the difficult task of simply balancing the city's budget has made the process immeasurably smoother. Protecting the city's school system from debilitating cuts in funding, and largely supporting the temporary 2% increase in the city's prepared foods tax to help offset these reductions to our schools, was a real testament to the priorities Roanokers have set for our community.

The next fiscal year's budget will be as tough, if not tougher, than the one we just adopted. The practical effects of the national recession have caught up to Virginia and caused localities to endure the brunt of the revenue reductions that are passed on by the Commonwealth. We should continue to work as a community to maintain realistic expectations and to make sure that the priorities of residents are also the priorities of the city government. Let's find more opportunities to better serve residents with a disciplined, responsible government.