One Last Look

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Aren't ya glad you don't have to hear this? (and you thought Victory Stadium was long)

Since Matinecock Court was proposed in 1978, area residents have
fought to stop it. Lawsuits were filed by Housing Help Inc. against the
town, the state and the parcel's owner. After the third suit was
settled in 2002, the process to develop the 15-acre site on the corner
of Elwood and Pulaski roads has moved slowly as Housing Help Inc. tried
to comply with government agencies and appease community concerns.

current plan calls for 77 owner-occupied apartment units and 78 rental
units. Renters can earn no more than 60 percent of the median family
income for Nassau and Suffolk counties, currently $91,000 for a family
of four, and owners no more than 80 percent. (Via Newsday)

Why all the consternation and problems? Well, local residents feared the housing project would lead to crime, drug dealing, increased traffic, an increased burden on the schools (by folks who would not be paying the local school tax most likely). And aside from the traffic issue, which even they admit is possible, it seems like it was the first civil meeting ever held on this issue. Until..

Shades of our own Victory Stadium nonsense ensue. One individual rose to speak: An outburst of groans and boos from the crowd of 250 or so greeted one
resident who said, in part, he feared residents in the development
wouldn't be able to afford the area's lifestyle, forcing their children
into drug dealing

Wow, thats some smarts right there. And before you think its absolutely ludicrous, think again. Some of the statements made from both supporters of, and detractors of Victory Stadium had the same problematic grasp on reality.

But the leap from one civic issue (VS) to one neighborhood issue is not that far. Similar sentiments are being expressed in relation to the development of the Countryside Golf course. Rather than being thankful theres been no move to expand the airport across 581 (not unheard of either, the technology is called a tunnel and a bridge) which could bring us the capability to land 747's in Roanoke (and allow them to take off as well!), and wanting to see city designs on how to make best use of greenspace in the "new" community - some folks have jumped the gun.

I understand, the noise from the construction would be a burden, and there would be no more letting your dogs poop on someone elses grass - but the city is not getting any larger - and it needs to expand beyond the glut of available rental housing it currently has.

I recently read a story on a trend developing in larger cities wherein landlords, who own homes that have been converted into apartments, are now looking to sell the homes to the tennants. Why? Personally, I don't think its worth it. Owning multiple properties can be a labor, and having seen some of these properties come available on the market recently.. well, if you think an extra Five Grand a year is worth the Twenty Grand you have to put into the place, then go for it. Someone suggest that when the new Forgotten-Roanoke HQ is selected, should the need or opportunity become available in the future, rather than sell the home - rent it while you buy another home.

I was appalled. But again, thats a me thing. I'd rather take my homes, one at a time please.

But take a good look at those numbers again. As long as you are a family of four, and make less than Ninety One Thousand a year, you can live there.

And that causes people to worry?

Mythbusting time folks: YOU DO NOT MAKE MORE MONEY LIVING IN A MAJOR CITY. Actually, Im just slightly above par with what I would be making up in NY living here, and my money goes further. My working conditions are better, and my commute is much easier.

Unless your a) killing yourself, b) a graduate with a masters, or c) working multiple jobs - it's not easy to hit that $91,000 mark anywhere. Ask folks living in Hawaii - the highest Cost-of-Living state anywhere in the US.

If you would like to read the entire article, click here. Otherwise, feel free to leave me a comment - I'd seriously like to hear from people on the whole Myth of Money and Countryside Golf thing.

Watch the brains at work (Part 3)

News from The Roanoke Times-Roanoke city budget includes tax relief:

Bullets from the new budget:

"n An average pay increase of 4 percent for city employees totaling $3.1 million in new money. The council, however, chose not to raise its pay. Its annual salary amounts will remain unchanged at $14,816 per year for council members and $19,050 annually for the mayor. (A good thing overall, council was wise not to reward itself for the elections and all.)

n A $777,000 initiative to create more than two dozen new positions, including 10 police officer jobs. (10 more cops can't hurt, but what are the other positions?)

n A 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment for city retirees.

n A raise in the income threshold for the elderly and disabled to qualify for real estate tax exemptions from $30,000 to $34,000 in annual income and from $100,000 to $125,000 in net worth. (Is that not the nicest thing you've heard of? Of course, this is geared ever so slightly towards the retirees - except they make tons more than that. Expect these numbers to rise as Roanoke pushes for more retirees to live here.)

n An amendment to the city code to link the city's mileage reimbursement rate to the Internal Revenue Service's. That rate stands at 44.5 cents per mile. (Well, with today's rising gas prices... But does that include the idea of eliminating unnecessary travel as well?)

n A reduced cut to the tourism-related Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau. The city administration had recommended a $60,000 cut, but later settled on a $30,000 reduction approved by the council Thursday." (Still not the smartest idea, by a long shot. The city has problems on its own selling itself to the world, shouldn't they be glad to pay for someone to do it right?)

Whats not included in these bullet points is the City Real Estate Rate dropping by 2 cents, an estimated $30 dollars per year (on a home assesed at $150,000). Or the recovery of those 2 cents, plus a bunch extra in the raising of the cigarette tax which will indeed double on July 1st.

Thanks to the Roanoke City Council, for giving us all guidelines as to what to expect in terms of revenue, now let's see where the expected revenue will be spent.

Oh - and what happens if a good number of people give up smoking? What tax to raise then?


Watch the brains at work (part 2)

City budget cut sends message about tourism
Roanoke's city manager says other beneficiaries don't pay their fair share to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Read this article, and wonder. The petty fighting with Roanoke County is really taking us places. And I can understand the "city manager" having a role in the CVB, but being a member of the board? And the Salem Director of Civic Facilities, being treasurer?

Oh lead us, grand Sachem.. In the name of St. Tammany.

Nope, I guess I wasn't far off base when it comes to the bizzare corruption(*) inherent in local politics.

*- While not exactly corruption, per se; it all does smack of conflict of interests, insider information, and bad politics. Take it for what its worth.

Watch the brains at work (part 1)

Fateful stadium decision Monday

The mayor plans to ask the city council to put the demolition process into motion.

Yep, this Monday the vote will come down. Now watch as city leaders miss out on a financial windfall of memoribilia and "pieces of history" (bricks and stuff from the stadium).

Much like the current demolition going on in preparation for the new Art Museum, which is slated to slit the throat of the Lonesome Dove restaurant this Saturday - another missed opportunity at money.

Sorry there has been little posting over the past few days, including the website - in the days following Mother's Day, I'll be getting back in the game. Until then, its a crunch of time for me..


Word to the Sachem...

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Little did I realize when I grabbed these 2 shots off the net, how similar they would be in angle, style.. kinda spooky.

(lithograph courtesty of pbaldwin, photo of the Muni building from the City website)

Tammany Ring, by Thomas Nast Allright, we don't specifically have our own Boss Tweed, although Im sure there are several people who could bear that name working for the city these days.

Oh, you don't know Tammany? The Tammany Society (a alleged Native American saint, though who canonized him no one is sure) was founded in 1789, as a patriotic and charitable organization. A few years later, it became politcal - under the leadership of Aaron Burr. Within 25 years, it would become the dominant political force in the emerging Manhattan. In 1868, William "Boss" Tweed was elected the head of Tammany, or Grand Sachem. It was under his rule Tammany became the model of corruption and civic improvement (yes, you read that right).

Why do I bring this up? And how does this relate to Roanoke? Well... it was a post on the Roanoke.com messageboards that caught my eye.

The post: deaconjones on 5/5/2006 6:01:30 PM wrote:
Don't stop with Victory Stadium.

Roanoke Parks and Recreation should be abolished as it provides no real value to

the recreation of valley citizens , but is actually a welfare program for the connected.

Most of the recreation and league programs could very well be handled
by the sports participants, parent or volunteer organizations. Speaking
from my own personal experience my best tennis partner who is most
likely the best tennis player in the valley was targeted by Parks and
Recreation for giving free tennis lessons to kids at the main city
courts. He was blacklisted by P and R and physically removed by police
from city tennis courts.

Let's shut down the P and R bums and convert their buildings over to real recreation.

Now granted, this could be the ramblings of a nut on the messageboards, and with no substantial facts to back it up - what are you gonna do? But I asked around, and as Forgotten-Roanoke.com and the blog you are reading have wormed their way into the hearts of dozens, I now find myself with grapevine. I never had grapevine before, it's interesting.

But still, that post doesnt give much in the way of info does it? Well.. from my understanding - the Parks and Rec Dept. has employed nearly everyone in this city at one time or other. Which kinda makes it hard to come down on them. Everyone needs a job as a teen, lifeguard - snack bar attendant, what have you. But then came the harder-to-dispell rumors. Jobs gained in Parks and Rec through family working for the city, relatives, friends.. I heard of one story in which certain people were hired because of attractiveness - and who wouldn't want a good looking *fill in the gender* in a bathing suit all summer? There are deeper storys, but those are not for me to tell. Suffice it to say, it's not the "wholesome summer job" we would want for our children.

But then rumors started flying from other branches - department heads who were inept at the job being kept on simply because they had a friend in the city council, or were related to someone higher than them. A solid "no comment" policy on the demands placed on a worker.

Back in the days of Tammany, it was $300 bucks for a badge. The average weekly wage was $5. Tammany "loaned" you the money, after which you repaid them with interest and deed. I wonder if the price of a badge or appointed job these days is higher. Perhaps your soul.

Again, I have no specific truth to any of this, and I am not making any claims. All I am doing is asking, is Roanoke the new home of Tammany Hall?

I am not judging, not without further information anyway. It's just something to think about.