Sounds dangerous, no?

While poking around the Roanokegov.com site, you might see a small link to City Clerk Online.. takes you here. Ze deadly LaserFiche!

Allright, it might not seem interesting at first glance, but keep poking around.
This is the actual, scanned minutes from a City Council meeting from December 8th, 1874. Mayor, John Trout. It includes information on the formation of a committe for creating public sidewalks and curbs. Taxes (natch.) are also created during this meeting.

From 1784 straight on through to this past Monday's meetings.. all information is available.

I bet there are few who realize (or remember) that we are now paying LESS in real estate taxes than we were back in the early 80's. The rate then was $1.35 per $100, and thanks to the Mayor at the time - reduced to $1.25 per $100, and now it is down to $1.21 and falling to $1.19.

And the best part, it's all right there in black and white.

Although, in looking over the details of the meetings myself, I do wish for a bit more detail, more accurtate reporting of discussions and conversations held on matters.

And all these closed meetings to discuss appointments to certain vacancies on various boards - well, I'd like to know who is being considered for appointment to what BEFORE they are appointed.

Certain conflicts of interest might not seem important at the time, but upon further digging, could be potentially problematic in the future.

I make no claims of impropriety here, but a certain high-profile architecture firm located downtown is working on a large scale project - and one of the members of this firm recently ran for city council. Again, not that there is anything wrong with that - but it certainly COULD be viewed as improper should any actions come before the council that deal with the site, or even topics similar.

Think of the city market building, and the "no competition" clause they seem to live under. Imagine if that were taken to the City Council.

By the way, is $3000 a month for 450 sq. ft. in the City Market building a bit high? Or is it just me?

There are times the City (and State I might add) hover on the border of certain federal laws regarding business and such things. In a sense, what the ABC is doing with Mango's down at the lake could fall under the RICO act, especially when you read the comments of the "investigator." As such an individual working for a state comission, you are charged with upholding the law, not telling a business that the particular type of band they wish to host is one that attracts those who wish to drink heavily and be obnoxious. Thats not your place, not your role. And that IS legally actionable. It might not be as clear as some might like it - but to exert undue influence upon a (legal)business as to sufficiently reduce it's ability to engage in its business, or to cause a business to suffer due to remarks made by an agent of the government outside it's legal bounds.. well, it's not good.

Not good at all.

But regardless, theres much to be learned about how the City operates, or doesn't - and much that we can discover to set the course for proper representation and accessability for all citizens of the city, create the business climate which is so frequently touted yet rarely seen, and develop the "young adult" lure that is a favorite topic of conversation, and in short - get this City back on track and rolling full steam again..

Did you know.. In 1899, the city was accepting bids for medicine for the Public Doctor, and the contract went to one Chas. D. Fox. There were 3 bids that came in for this contract. One of the other 2 bids was Johnson & Johnson.

Could this be why, all these years later J&J does not have a presence in Roanoke, other than a sign on a building? Perhaps Roanoke is located in the Karma Valley, and what goes around comes around.

I'll be back later - I have to go out and see if Chas. D. Fox makes cotton ear swabs, as obviously the J&J products are not nearly the quality of the Fox stuff.

Less than, Greater than (<,>)

Since the inception of Big Lick - the changing of the name to Roanoke, and on through 2002 - the Charter of the City of Roanoke has been changed, amended, added to, and subtracted from no less than 50 (fifty) times.

The greatest and most substantive changes to the Charter(.pdf) came in 2002.

2002, c. 685 (§§ 1.1, 2.1, 2.2, 3, 4 through 18, 20 through 24, 25.1,
25.2, 26, 27.1 [repealed], 29 [repealed], 31, 32, 33, 35, 36,
37 through 42, 44, 45, 47, 48 [repealed], 49 [repealed], 51,
52, 53, 54, 55 [repealed], 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 62, 62.01
[added], 62.02 [added], 62.1, 63, 65, 66, 67, 72).

It's hard to know exactly what was changed, although some things can be assumed when reading through the Charter.

What cannot be assumed, or understood, is the ability of the city council to find the worst possible way to carry out the charges of the Charter.

Example: (7.1) To own, manage and operate a city auditorium, civic center, coliseum, convention hall, stadium, theater, exhibition hall, or combination thereof, or other place of public assembly, and to permit the use of the same by others upon such terms and for such charges as the council may prescribe; and in order to further the best interests of the
public and lead to greater use of any such facilities, to do all things necessary and proper to encourage the use thereof by arranging or engaging shows, plays, exhibitions, performances and all other entertainments of whatsoever nature.
(emphasis mine)

Best interests of the public? That statement alone could cause decades of debate. "But that costs money.." some might cry.

"The council may appropriate funds to a special or revolving account in order to engage, advertise and promote any such entertainment and to operate any of the foregoing facilities,"and of course, then appoint someone to oversee this blah blah red tape red tape.

Oh - and it might interest you to know, this City originally had a Mayor.. not a mayor. There was a time when there was no City Manager, the Mayor worked with the council to set policy, and life actually still went on. Thats called Leadership.

Was the City in better shape under the guidance of a strong Mayor? Given the projects that were undertaken during the years before a City Manager - and those after: It could be so. Perspective, thats where it lies.

Theres more today, as we delve into the facts the City itself publishes online... and how many of you knew they were online?

Anger. Hostility. Bad Blood.

June 22, 2006
State reduces Mill Mountain Zoo funding

"Nina" is one of the zoo's newest attractions.

"Nina" is one of the zoo's newest attractions.

Mill Mountain Zoo did not receive quite as much
money as it hoped in the latest state budget. The zoo requested
$200,000 but found out this week it's being allotted $40,000 in the
two-year budget, less than it received in recent years.

Director Sean Greene says, "Well it wasn't what we expected,
hoping for a little bit more, then again, when you get $40,000,
you can't be sad about that. It's better than nothing."

In past
years, the zoo has received more than $80,000 in the state budget.
Greene says the zoo is paying down debt from the winter when the zoo is
staffed, but visitors don't come out.

The zoo does have a new
cougar, Nina, new paint, and some other improvements. Greene says
that's helped bring more people out. (via. WDBJ7.com)

$20k a year to run a zoo. Thats the equivalent of giving $200 bucks per school kid per year to educate them. What kind of outcome are you expecting when you decide to be that pig-headed and ignorant. That's not funding, thats an outright insult.

All local communties, governments, and businesses must dig deep now and make this a record breaking year for donations to the Zoo. People need to go, and break all attendance records, show some love for the Zoo. Perhaps the Zoo could be named a "possible terrorist target" and get some federal funding, I mean - if New York is no longer a target - then something else must be.

This is a disgrace, at which we can only lay the blame on the ignorant jackasses in the State legislature.


Funny that...

Im off tomorrow, which means I can do quite a bit of catch up on the blog and site..

Save your strength.. I've been waiting for a day like tomorrow.. Clear your schedules, lock the doors and windows, and put the phone on silent...

Tomorrow seems the spark that starts the firestorm....

No great revelations, no scathing discoveries - just plain facts.

"When you kill a king, you don't stab him in the dark. You kill him where the entire court can watch him die.


Whose Vision?

We all know the Vision 2020 plan the City has, the first part of which being the recently passed new zoning laws, but how far has the City actually come?

All we have is an old report to go by, as the City as not issued a new scorecard for those playing along at home.

Recently, the City sat down with 3 different groups: Realtors, Home owners, and City Officials and Organizations to find out what they thought about the fate of the City. Interesting list from the Realtors:

What threatens the future of the City?
• The loss of neighborhood schools as schools are consolidated
• A loss of jobs in traditional industries
• Periodic flooding
• The spectre of increased interest rates
• The Dillon Rule that limits what the City can do
• There is a growing “no growth” mentality
• Many residents want the City to stay the way that it is
• The City’s housing court is viewed as a threat by landlords
• The perception that the City is overrun with crime and violence
• City participation with non-profits is considered a drawback for private investment
• The population is aging and fewer people will be available for the work force.

And those are just the Realtors, the citizens were far less reserved.

What has the City done that has not enhanced its livability?

• Widening of major streets, such as Gainsboro Road, has had a negative effect on pedestrians
• Transportation engineering has tended to disregard neighborhoods in favor of moving vehicular
• Poor code enforcement
• Allowing boarded/condemned/vacant structures and lots to accumulate
• Insufficient penalties for owners of derelict properties
• Insufficient regard for alleys
• Inability to reduce crime
• Inadequate enforcement on building maintenance
• Limited success in encouraging home ownership
• Disposal of open space and parks to the detriment of certain neighborhoods
• Parks that do not encourage users
• An overall sense of apathy
• There is a need for increased design standards
• Commercial and industrial development has encroached on traditional residential neighborhoods
• A need for more village centers
• There is no policy establishing equity in housing
• Vacant land is poorly used

What are some of the needs that the City could address?

• More design district overlays
• Enhanced rental inspection program that would assure better maintenance
• Development of jobs to attract people
• Move back to alley collection of solid waste wherever possible
• Provide more streetscaping

What does the City need in order to attract those who are choosing to live in the suburbs?

• The city needs more entertainment opportunities
• There needs to be more housing choice
• The perception is that the City schools are not as good as the suburban schools
• Too many social services serving low-income persons are located in the City
• The City is perceived as being neither responsible nor responsive to issues
• The City needs to acquire and develop more open space, greenways and parks

Then, the City Officials (I'd like to know who, personally) and Housing Organizations gave input.. (mind you Im not cutting and pasting the entire text of each group report - just the common parts, so you can see the similarities)

What are the weaknesses of the City?

• The infrastructure is old and decaying
• The housing stock is older
• The City is landlocked and cannot annex additional property without concurrence from the Counties
• Short commuting times encourage people to live in the suburbs
• Regional attitudes cause fragmentation of services
• There is a high demand for social services
• There is a general perception that the schools are bad
• Resident above the LMI are left out of the redevelopment efforts
• Redevelopment costs are high
• The housing stock is obsolete
• The region has a relatively high real property tax structure
• The airport is not a hub
• There is a lack of imagination and vision
• There is a high percentage of rental units
• Peoples lifestyles have changed in ways that it is difficult for the City to effect, i.e. a desire for one-story living
• There is a resistance to change in the community
• The population is aging
• Diversity is undervalued

What opportunities exist for the City?

• The tax abatement program is good and could be used more
• The City should look at the New Jersey Rehabilitation Code
• The City has been proactive in housing development but could increase its efforts
• The City should market itself more
• There are opportunities for regional conversations on housing issues
• There exists a need for more elderly housing
• The City needs to continue to market its lively downtown
• Public housing is geared toward self-sufficiency
• The City needs to continue to prioritize the use of its federal funds
• There are many areas where street improvements would enhance the neighborhood
• There is a need for partnerships with housing lender
• Commercial centers could be developed in many neighborhoods
• The zoning ordinance revisions could incorporate changes to improve housing development

What are the perceived threats to the City?

• There is a perception that Roanoke is a place for poor people
• There is a difference between the cost of improvements and the cost that is realized at time of
• There are reduced funding resources from both the state and federal government
• VDOT supports sprawl with its road policies
• The population is aging


Now if you read through all 3 of those lists, and think about it - we are at a stalemate of inane proportions and assumptions. It goes back to what I always say about asking more of your elected officials. They figure you dont care - you figure they dont care, and guess what - no one cares!

Amazing how that works, ain't it?

For every civic minded person in the city, there are at least 20 who can't be bothered with anything more than complaining. At least.

But these lists were conducted as part of the Housing Strategic Plan, which is part and parcel of the Vision 2020 plan. Again, something which the average citizen has no way of marking the progress on.

I think maybe its time the City Council left its hallowed halls, and went out into the streets - public Town Hall-style forums, in each and every neighborhood. Maybe a few big ones at the Civic Center.. Time to really embrace each and every citizen and engage them in the business that is Roanoke.

Might just be my idea though...

A Lil Somethin Somethin

A freebie for you all, just click and enjoy



Da Forgotten-Roanoke podcast is here!

Or here.. actually.

The Podcast emergent.

Brought to you by Studebaker! Makers of the finest in American automobiles.

And... We welcome our newest sponsor,
For the boldest, cleanest, most refreshing Ale available today. Aren't you an Ale Man too?

The Pod will be available later this evening, as the engineers work out some technical glitches in the transmission.

Allow for some obfuscation

Hey! Look over there! He's making a point, and has pictures to show it!
(as usual, link good every day - todays message only lasts till 12:30am)

Good - that should buy me enough time to finish todays page for Forgotten-Roanoke.com, the 2nd part in the continuing "Remember, Roanoke" series.