Exactly what I meant.

Remember how I said I would be on hiatus until the 2nd, unless something really stupid happened?

Here it is.

Read on, go ahead. I don't think I really need to say much more about this. I mean - makes us look like gold once again.


Ladies and Gentleman, there will be a slight delay.

The Forgotten-Roanoke family is proud to announce the arrival of PVC.

PVC is the first child for the Forgotten-Family, and came into the world claws out. Obviously he shares his dad's sensibilities. But thankfully, he shares his calm, zen-like state with his mother. He is not a pit bull, yet.

Coming in at a respectable 7lbs, 7oz. and 19 3/4ths inches long - he's a cruiser weight baby.

All is well, mother and child are fine. Father is undergoing therapy for being present at the birth, and cutting the cord. Deep therapy. Actually, he has a prescription for a 4 pack of Guinness. We are just hoping he stops mumbling and drooling soon.

We will take a pause for the Holidays, and barring any unusual news in Roanoke - will return shortly after the first of the year.

Merry Christmas, Happy Belated Chanukkah, Enjoyable Kwanza, and a hearty Festivus for those who watch too much tv and refer to pop-culture references far too much.

We'll be back.


DId he just say "dusting"?

Ok - so we can let Robin Reed off the hook for this one. I don't think anyone was calling for any kind of snow, much less accumulations of +-1"

But does it matter? It snowed. The Friday before Christmas, and it snows. Everything was hushed this morning, and it felt like Christmas. And even now, at 9:30 with the now still on the ground and roof - Mill Mountain coming out of the slight fog that held it before - the mountain is capped by white.

It's been a long, yet remarkably fast year - and here in the closing days, things just suddenly slowed down.

Enjoy it while it lasts..


Required Reading for today

If I had more than a 5 hour turn-around from yesterday to this morning, I might have a post ready for you - but for right now, you have some homework.



And have you heard about this? You probably have not, unless you are one of the inside crowd from a certain group. They have been circulating it among themselves, without allowing public comment on it. There was a signature in protest I saw in the early days of this, it has since been deleted. Always good when you remove dissent.

Anyway, I have work. Someone has to serve you people...



I am in the Chatbox (to the right and down a little) until about noon today. Stop by and say hi, or Excelsior, you Fathead!

Oh, and by the way - the Miller's Hill project is not being held due to market weakness, or any of the stuff mentioned in the article - they ran out of money. Plain and simple - but always the hardest thing to admit. ESPECIALLY when you are a government funded agency.

More Quadrants nonsense

Amazingly, I am actually agreeing with the Times editorial board today.

I guess the whole Fire Reporting thing does not bother me near as much as the lack of reporting of Police reports. It's bad enough the actual reports of incidents is slim, but now you are taking away the only thing that connects the crime to the location. A triple homicide, drug related, in a neighborhood is reduced to a triple homicide on some street somewhere. And I could rattle off a list of streets on which you would never know where it happened.

This is just another reason to begin the process of removing the current City Council. Any council that would allow the hired gun of a City Manager (former human resources admin.) to set policy that directly affects the citizens of the city should be removed.

Consider this: The City of Roanoke is ill, and like any ill being - needs to be checked thoroughly. Well, we have checked and identified a mass which is causing the illness. But we are not sure why. So let's do a biopsy.

Take Darlene out, and if - by some chance - the illness does not fade, then we know it is the entire council that needs to be ousted.

Not the most pleasant way to do it, but it beats a full enema flush that would take care of the problem immediately.

I guess Ms. Burcham, holed up in the least city-like section of Southwest Roanoke in her $384k home (which by the way, is valued more than 4 of the Councilmembers homes) feels she rules the roost. And with the way she pulls strings on her appointed candidates (Harris, Dowe, Mason, Trinkle), is secure in the way she runs things.

When a retired city employee has to fear for his pension for crossing the City Manager the wrong way, theres a distinct problem. If you can't figure out what it is, please... Leave Roanoke to those who can.

And as I write this, I get 2 e-mails from MyRoanoke telling me of fires, with just a street - no quadrant. And minimal information anyway.

But that's usually what we have reporters for, right?


Valley Forward makes an assumption.

Find the op/ed piece here.

Or the original posting of the same thing (with additional writer information) here.

I have been biting my tongue on this one for 5 days now.

So I guess the easiest way to do this is to tit-4-tat it, but I do ask that you read the piece alongside the VF document, so you can follow along.

Fiction: Valley Forward wants to destroy and desecrate the Mountain.

Fact (as I see it): Valley Forward does not have the combined brainpower to understand exactly what are the ramifications of what they do want. Each time they are called on the carpet - the definition of what they are trying to do changes - like in this piece. Now it is a "Community Center." Well, I think the mountain has one currently. Two if you count the 2nd floor of the hot dog stand in the zoo. 3 if you consider the picnic pavilion. I could go on, as there are more - hidden meeting places. Clandestine and secluded, but I am sure none of the folks from Valley Forward know where they are.

Fiction: Valley Forward will personally benefit from the Rockledge Plan.

Fact (as I see it): Directly, no they will not profit. But in the long run, as the legal wrangling and day to day operations of the "thing" grow - they will absolutely profit. Certain members of Valley Forward will take their clients up there and woo them to land major contracts, all the while writing it off as a business expense.

And this $2.5 million over 20 years? Thats $125,000 a year. A nice sum, but when split among the Zoo, the Mountain, and the greenways - well - it's equal to a good corporate sponsorship or two for the zoo. And that's still without defining profit for the "thing." Will it be after overhead? Before? Will this be some City/Enron style accounting?

Fiction: Valley Forward doesn't understand the environmental impact.

Fact (as I heard it): That's not what your old Bio Professor told me. LEED certification is nice, but untested in the long run - and means about as much as those EnergyStar appliances that still run up your bill every year. Anyway - if you are going to build something, build it smart - forget the nonsense of LEED and all the rest. Oh - and those 2 parking lots you will be adding? Won't they be on uneven ground? How do you propose to remedy this problem?

Fiction: Citizens are against this plan.

Fact (as I see it): Citizens are against this plan. It's ok to have 2 differing viewpoints on something. The company hired to survey the citizens of Roanoke has a checkered history with polling, and the methodology of this particular poll has not been made public. Put a poll online, and no - a petition does not cut it. But thanks for the strange history lesson.

Fiction: The Rockledge plan is just a restaurant.

Well, it would have been if they did not feel the need to suck up to the Fishburn family, and the public at large. But in that case, they could have kept the Inn too. Meddling public ruins everything! Although I do like the "bike racks and water fountains would be added." Now, explain to me - as a businessman - I get the bike rack concept, but why would you give water away free when you are charging for it inside?

Fiction: A restaurant on Mill Mountain will fail.

Fact (as I see it): Possibly. There are no assurances that you, your franchisee, or anyone involved with the project can give that will say otherwise. What you have is an untested theory, that people will come more to the mountain if you put food on it. A safe idea would have been to test a few hot dog stands up there, or approach the Zoo about a partnership to test the waters. All it would take is one bad winter to sink a project like this. And again, I ask - who will plow the Mill Mountain Parkway? Who will maintain the access roads, and when will Sysco deliver? And how? An 18 wheeler on Mill Mountain 2-3 times a week? 52 weeks a year (barring weather issues)? Thats some wear and tear. Not to mention a supply-side logistics problem. Putting all this on your franchisee and expecting him to be your saving grace? Insane.

Fiction: As a public park, no development was ever intended on Mill Mountain.

And here we go... Fact (as I sarcastically see it): Fishburn himself allowed construction on Mill Mountain!! What's wrong with you people! You'll upset the ghost of Fishburn, a smarter man than you!

Fact (as I see it normally): Fishburn was a smart businessman. He offered the Roanoke Merchants Association (of which he was an influential member) the space to put one giant sign advertising Roanoke for the holidays, at which time they chose the Star. Mind you - that was only supposed to last a year. The Zoo was built to give a "children's area" to the Mountain, as it had always been a popular destination for families during nice weather. It's "fee" was nearly non-existent at the beginning, it was not until the Zoo became a full Non-profit in 1975 that a "structured fee" was enacted. But through both instances, Fishburn had a greater reason in mind. Something for the community. There once was a watchtower atop Mill Mountain. For many years, one could go climb to the top and look out over the Valley. For a time, you could even shine a high-powered spotlight on your neighbors and annoy them from afar. All for a nickel.

Problem was, this tower burned twice after lightning strikes. Generally unsafe at any wind-speed, and a steep hike. Putting a Star up there seemed the next best thing. Gave a lookout point, and soon followed with an actual overlook. The Zoo gave the City community a place to go experience things they might not at home. The Central Park Zoo started much the same way. A way to bring kids into contact with "simple" animals - Cows, goats, chickens, and the like. In your average city, the odds of actually touching one of these before the age of 18 is slim. Thats why all Zoo's have a small domestic animal area, it's part of the reason they exist.

So tell me now, was Fishburn concerned about making a buck while looking good before the future environmental crowd? I say no, he was genuinely interested in giving something to this community it did not have. A place to breathe, get out and stretch their legs. And be above it all. It was an escape from the valley floor, where trains belched smoke and soot - and factories added more of the same. The buildings he would have considered adding would be the bathrooms and such, and as for the old Rockledge Inn? It was a shell.. harmless and useless and utterly defunct. In 1964, when the Mill Mountain Playhouse emerged there - it was a near miracle that the building did not collapse around them. Did he allow the presence of the Rockledge? Sure - like you allow the presence of that decorative rock someone gave you when you moved in. It's there, and until you find a use for it - it's going to stay there.

So Valley Forward, I ask you. Am I not open minded enough to grasp your stunning plan? Do you sleep the sleep of angels at night knowing this is going to be the thing that either saves Roanoke from itself, or condemns it to Hades? Have you considered asking the public directly, yourselves, without fraud or misleading questions (as you have done once before) - or did you just assume that because I am opposed to YOUR concept (not the concept of food and some light service on Mill Mountain, just YOUR concept for it), I must be "one of them" who does not wish to see Roanoke progress.

If you know anything, Lugar & Co., if you have learned anything from the times you have been here to read my blog - you should know better than that. I just try and keep an eye out for everyone's interests.

And one final question, as a non-profit entity (MMCF) would you be seeking a reduction in the property taxes you would owe the city, as the Art Museum has done?

Open your minds on that one.

Fallacies, Inaccuracies, and the Very Modern Ms. Burcham

(if you feel so inclined - check the chatbox to the right as you read this. Im there if there's anything you wish to say)

So the City's own Hillary Burcham, Grand Dame of High Social (t)reason and overall deep-thinker has shown how little she cares to understand Roanoke.

What-Who-How? you ask.

Well, let's start back a year or so. When I was searching for a new location for Forgotten-HQ, I was advised to stay out of certain areas of the city. NW and SE to be precise. But knowing that the city reported crimes online by location, specific enough without divulging the actual address - I knew that the old NW-SE myths were false. And SW and NE had just as many problems as any other sector. It did give a good general guideline as to what specific areas to avoid in each, and combine that with some good old Common Sense - and behold - a happy and secure resident of Southeast.

And I, for one, am glad that the "certain individuals" within the city decided to ignore Ms. Burcham's orders to cease and desist reporting Quadrants. Without that information, it might have taken longer to find a home - might have cost me time and money, and I might not have been so lucky to find the HQ high atop a hill overlooking Roanoke.

What we really need to examine are Burcham's reasons for cutting off the quadrant system.

From the article (and the heretics mouth): Under a directive from City Manager Darlene Burcham, officials are not allowed to provide quadrant designations in news releases reporting crimes or fires.

To include the quadrant portion of the street names, Burcham reasons, could fuel negative racial and socioeconomic perceptions about certain areas of the city.

The city administration prefers to think of Roanoke as one community, she said, and believes that dividing it into quadrants would create barriers.

And these are exactly the leadership skills that got her the job in the first place. Of course, that's not the entire story. I have it on good word that Ms. Burcham quite often gets lost going places in the city, and blames it on the quadrants (as well as whomever gave her the directions). Not that she has the best driving record going anyway. How many city vehicles has it been now? Not to mention the untold amounts of man-hours spent dealing with her bi-polar decrees.

But she means well - with the line about the "perceptions of certain areas of the city." So I guess the West End will be renamed Disney Land to avoid any stereotypes too. Will Old Southwest become the Monarchy of Reichert?

But I digress.

The real story here is the fact that Ms. Burcham has seen fit to quash the free-flow of information coming out of the city. No longer can a citizen get reports of crime, now it must come via official channels - and even those are limited to an e-mail (with little information) or a news story (which is usually just the e-mail copied).

And then there is this gem: A document explaining Burcham's position provided to The Roanoke Times adds that "we do not want citizens to show up at the scene of an accident or crime and interfere with police or fire operations."

Considering the speed at which the city releases any information, the likelihood of someone rushing down to a crime scene, or a fire based on the city releasing information about it is marginal at best. Due to the topographic terrain of Roanoke, it is often hard to determine where an event is taking place. You might hear sirens rushing this way and that - but unless you are in direct line of sight of the event, there is rarely the chance to see what is happening. Our local news stations and news papers sit complacent waiting for the official word from the city, rather than gathering information on their own.

In other words, most citizens do not get the chance to ever discover what all the fuss was about. And thus, we are in the dark. Just as they want it.

I said it yesterday during council sessions - they love the fact that the citizens are so ignorant of what they are doing, they can do what they wish and get away with it.

This is just an extension of that.

Special thanks to reader R. Provolone for the heads up on this. There's still more to be said, but I'll be back later.

check for me in the chatbox today - I'll be there on and off.


And here we go.. 7 P.M. laugh off!

Flabby Harris yapping again.. let's hope the friction from his lips does not set off the fire system again.

Some nonsense about some junket Harris went on, and now a presentation from.. oh god.. this is going to be bad.

Now there's Carlton Banks.. rockin the mic.

Give me a few - this is moving a bit fast and I need to collect my thoughts.


City Youth Leadership

And now High Lord Emperor Harris talking about N.O. and the junket he went on. Why does he feel the need to keep going.. and going... and going.. crap.

Thank god he's over.

Now, onto people who obviously HAVE a thought in their head.


Dowe reconnects? I heard he hires a crew to put up his Christmas lights.

This is too serious.. well spoken kids talking about the future. Obviously, this will not last.


I really should turn this over to the wife - and she is far angrier than I am, but she tends to become incoherent..

SLIDESHOW!!! Grab your popcorn folks.. now we get to see New Orleans.. OH SHUT UP HARRIS...

Looks like the kids had a rip in a big city.. oh wait - now they will never be happy in Roanoke - settling for 2nd best. Unless.. maybe we can make Roanoke more like New Orleans! I know, more restaurants serving Alligator! Maybe at the restaurant on Mill Mountain!

Oh wait... That's not what a "certain" crowd wants.

And look - a university other than Tech! *gasp*

We could use some of those home rebuilders here in Roanoke, drive Patterson Ave. or any of the more extant areas that are not South Roanoke or OSW. There's always a house or two that are boarded up, or something strange.

I give these kids credit though, they went through hell in the Lower 9th Ward. I am sure it has changed them in ways they don't quite understand yet.


And a standing O for the Youth Brigade. Good presentation, although a bit quick at the end.

Franken-Gwen made a funny, but the lovely mics didn't quite get it.

And here we go folks..

Old Firestation #3

Nice sentiment - but if it stays City Property, it will fall to wreckage.

OH NO.. Victory Stadium has been tossed out there. God.. the tears.. the tears.

Old #3 becomes just another revenue source for the city.

Wishneff tired? Taken a Benadryl?


Art Museum asking for a property tax cut, as well as a reduction in the Downtown Service Fee.

Damn near $80 grand lost if they go through with this, after donating a good chunk of property to them? SCREW THAT!

Ok - Wishneff has taken the Robitussin DM again.. I've seen him order a ribeye with more lucidity.

Shock - there goes $80k down the shiatter.


Beginning the Ordinance changes

And this is why Stephanie Moon gets the good money.. I'd like to see any one of you hold up on reading crap like this. Plus - she looks good in white.

Oh - where's the laugh track.

Go Steph Go

Hey - Fitz and Carlton Banks are conferring.. no fair!


I tell ya, if it wasn't for the ignorance of the citizens of Roanoke - the Council might actually have to work!

They keep having no citizens signed up for comments - so why are these folks (save the Victory Stadium guy) hanging around?

806 Marshall Ave. SW - a much condemned building
ARB crap. But, if I may, WHY do you need a Cert. of Appropriateness for the DEMOLITION of a building?

And why was this building not demolished since 1988 when it first was condemned??

Time and time again.. this house should have been blown up by now, made firewood - or found in pieces at Black Dog.

And yet OSW wanted the house saved? And now the ARB wants it saved? I'm smelling asshattery!

So tell me now.. Shall we call this the Victory Stadium house?

Bob Reichert steps up to the mic

BOB - shut the hell up. Seriously - go out with your damn ruler, measure fences.. in some other place. LEAVE ROANOKE.

Sick of you, sick of your nonsense. It's a house thats been condemned since 88.. .


The damn Reicherts, ruining OSW for many years to come!

Oh - do not bring up the leaky ship the Hotel Roanoke is. The that hotel physically will not last another 25 years without serious, and I mean major renovation.


So lets see - we might be talking about 6 total properties on Marshall? Sounds ripe for a housing complex!

Low-income? Sure! Or wait a minute.. how about.. McMansions!

Why the double-L would you need a 3-fold argument to demolish a house? Here we go..

You cannot have a historic district if the PEOPLE.. sorry OWNERS do not care. If you can find a person willing to do the work, thats fine. But odds are, you won't. Get over it. And TEAR IT DOWN.

Oh look, Harris is trying to follow along. Cute.

"A little housing slump"????? Uhh.. yeah. Bill, come back to reality.

Will we have a memorial board give-away like we did with that Stadium?

Bill Bestpitch, unannouced candidate for City Council gives the speech of his lifetime to impress his bosses.


Harris.. for the love of god.. SHUT IT!

Oh good - More OSW nonsense.

Oh god - another mention of Victory Stadium.. this time by Benadryl-Wishneff


Christ Craft steps up to the mic, to rehash what we have heard on - kind of like a live reaction from the public, if only the elected officials actually paid attention.

Chris Craft means well.. really - he does. But he still has not figured out that they just do not care.

Oh.. I'm chuckling darkly at that last comment Chris. (the mayor might have a heart attack while walking into the defib-less Municipal Building)

You know - maybe we can actually pay our mayor to give a damn, as it seems he can't do it for free.

I mean, how dare the city council have sidebar conversations while a citizen is speaking?

Is Trinkle hiding his face in something?


And that ends another barn burning session of the Roanoke City Council. Not affiliated with reality in any way, but fun none the less.

Be back here next time, when the City Council will bring us more joy and comfort.

(edited for clarity at 10pm, when the Novocaine of Harris' voice wore off)

Back in the Chatbox

For a while anyway - liveblogging the city council again. I can't help it - this might be an addiction.

Partial Liveblogging the City Council

Also in the Chatbox to the right there..

Dear Lord God, do we really need to start the City Council meetings with a badly worded prayer?

Wishneff is MIA, Harris is sounding extra jowly today.


Harris is giving out presentations. I wonder if he writes these things himself? If so, I feel bad for those in his congregation when he starts preaching.

Anyone see a puppetmaster in the room there?


Nice display of gratitude by Christine, although it sounded like she got stuck when she was talking about Darlene.

Hey! It's Franken-Gwen! Can the city not invest in a decent lighting system considering this is broadcast?

Uh Oh - the "Harris Glad-Hand" has made an appearance.

Oh - this is the Council session where they will vote to give the AMWV a tax-break on property, personal property...


This is an interesting turn...


Cameraman is on his way back - thats a good sign.

SO reading ahead in the Council agenda - the AMWV tax-break could cost the city nearly $50k this year alone. And that's only in property taxes - the Downtown Service Fee (??) would run nearly the same - for a rough total (after deductions for what they would actually have to pay if/when the city does vote it through) $68k... Let's see if that gets brought up.


Did he just say SERVANT? Sheesh.. what a mook.

Good show for the kid though, with any luck I am sure this will aid him in getting a high paying job someplace other than here. I'm just guessing here.

Hey- I guess that fire alarm was a good way for Wishneff to sneak in. Must have been out to lunch or stuck in traffic somewhere.

Ok - the Roanoke-Allegheny Regional Commission is making a stand here - attempting to be nice about saying NONE of the City Council has bothered to pull themselves out of the nether-regions to talk to them. AANNNDdddd Harris just shoved him off the podium.


I guess the City Council does not do much when it comes to the Greater Roanoke Transit Co. - otherwise known as Valley Metro - even though they are technically the Board of Directors. Otherwise they could have had some small level of a conversation with Wayne.


Here's Rupert. Talking about the Carvin's Cove and protecting it. Just like he did at the Valley Forward press conference. Is there some mysterious developer attempting to build a waterpark there? Perhaps Donald Trump was spotted walking through the woods with a notepad? Nope, so other than the fact that Our Fair City Council has the brains of a school of guppies, why is he so harping on what should be a no-brainer, slam dunk of an easement?

Uh oh - Rupe's lost the thread for a moment there. Wait - Fees - now he has their attention. Although I don't see a reason why we should charge people to use something that has been free and clear for a long time, unless you are going to add some value to the site. Want to raise money from the people going to visit? Get a bunch of Hot Dog stands. Let the City Council staff them, and work for tips.

Oh Harris.. if only you had the conviction of what you said...


Ok - I'm going to take a break while they bore everyone in sight. Although it does amaze me how much they bank on the average citizen not reading the agenda, and staying as uninformed as possible.

Be back in a few - but the council chambers is near empty now. Just a handful of people left.


Oh wait, open mic afternoon.

Helen is talking about trees, and she's not wrong. A few weeks late - but not wrong. We do take down too many trees - but we don't have a comprehensive program for allowing development without losing trees. Oh sure, they can plant new ones - but the attrition rate for new trees is higher than the life of existing ones. But that's just tree talk.


I'm gone for 2 minutes and Darlene is suddenly on? Sheesh - what did I miss?

Oh - accreditation. Right. This matters why? Is the LAPD accredited? NYPD?

Oh no - Darlene is being funny. Crap. EVERYONE RUN!!!

I want the text of this.. this is hysterical. Someone please, stop her. Can anyone on the Council read and speak at the same time?

Oh please, someone else wrote this because Darlene wanted something to read quickly - and this is what they whipped up (under the whip I'm sure).

Oh well - I guess I have to watch the 7pm meeting - if possible.

I just wish something interesting had happened, as it would show some signs of life from this city council. Well - I'll be in and out of the chatbox today - so drop a message and I might be there to get back to you immediately.

Happy Holidays folks. Ask Santa for a better group of Council members next year.

A (3 year early) Christmas Gift

The Blue Ridge Business Journal gives us a gift this year on Page 25 of the Dec. 17th issue.

What could it be? And why would I be writing about it?

It's a infobox titled "Retirement by the numbers in the Blue Ridge Region." It gives us a peek into what the 2010 census will hold for the Roanoke/Lynchburg MSA.

Estimated population between the two? 688,241

Thats nearly 700k (which will probably be more likely by 2010) for an area most companies write off as too small.

Too small? I think not. Those are exactly the kind of numbers that people need to look at. More than that, 289,061 of those near 700k are 65 and older. Whats known as "free money" in the retail industry. Those who most likely do not have mortgages, have money socked away in retirement and savings accounts.. the golden gooses of the world.

The group under that, the overwhelming Baby Boomers? 270,000 of them reside in the area - they are the big wave getting ready to break.

Much like the 2000 Census claims a total of 75 people living in the 24011 zip code, and thats a number we know has grown since then.

I guess we will finally start making some waves after all - especially if we can get the Trans-Dominion Express running, thereby making commuting possible between Roanoke and Lynchburg with ease and comfort.

But, with these numbers comes the realization that only 129,180 people in the combined MSA are under the age of 40. A daunting number when you consider the landslide of retirees just ahead of them.

But it is this small group - 130k strong, that is truly the future of the Roanoke-Lynchburg MSA.

Anyway - I can't wait for the 2010 Census. Might just be a bit of a wake up.

Major businesses, take note.


Hanging around

in the chatbox - stop by and say hi

be there until 9:30 or so

Common Council

Ever hear of a Common Council? In Roanoke?

And no, I am not referring to a council of like-minded rich uppity white people.

Believe it or not, at one time this city had a Common Council, elected from 4 wards (oops. there's that word again).

From 1908:

Highland Ward

Jefferson Ward

Kimball Ward

Melrose Ward

4 Wards - each with 6 elected representatives, 24 total. No city manager. Through World War 1, this city had Wards. It was not until 1918 that the city adopted (by vote) the current Council-City Manager system, and even then - it was for the sole purpose of handling the day to day operations of a quickly growing city.

The Wards vanished sometime after WWI, and the "at-large" system has held sway since. The "at-large" system of elections can be a useful one, when the population is well balanced and altruistic in it's intentions. But once you get an imbalance, as happened when a good chunk of the city lost jobs and housing - and a impermanent population - you have a problem.

At that point it's easy for one group, or one mindset to take control. And thats when the population "at-large" becomes disenfranchised.

With the Ward system, it becomes much harder for an organized take-over like that to occur. Sure you can always buy a vote or two, but in the long run - you will not get the same overwhelming results as you do with the "At-large" system.

Now, that being said - the Common Council vs. City Council, leaving aside the "at-large" bits. Common Council is the preferred label of Syracuse, Buffalo, Madison, Danbury, Racine, And Los Angeles. City Council is the label of Cities like New York City - but the difference between the two is minimal. At least in normal places.

Roanoke's own City Council is, as we said, elected "at-large" across the board. The New York City Council is elected by district, with the Mayor being elected at-large. And a number of Common Council's elected officials are by district, with 2 or 3 seats being at-large for balance. Some of them even separate the election of Mayor from the rest of the Council, for safety purposes.

Probably one of the wisest options of all really. Our own "at-large" council is the very thing that cripples us, singular interests - not even all that special, really. Just singular.

So tell me, which is better? Which would be ripe for growth? The answer is fairly simple.

Coming up soon, an entirely new series of "New Roanoke" articles - otherwise known as Rke2.0

Hide your councilpeople.. this could get ugly.

Good morning.

For anyone interested, I'm live in the chatbox to the right over there for the next hour (til' about 9:45 or so)

Feel free to drop me a message, or say hi.. I might just respond.


Sad news out of the other camp.

For a confirmed ReThuglican like myself, I have to say - the Democrats just got screwed.

Well-Tanned Harris and his crew of "Fleece the City" candidates have now gained control of the City Democratic Party.

Is it just me, or does Harris look like he has high blood pressure issues?

At any rate - now is the time to strike and wipe this sad political machine from the City's wards.

Oops - did I just say that word again?

Folks - there's bad, and then there is bad. And the sheer chance that more "For the City" candidates, or even worse "Forward the City" (if you catch my non-subtle drift) should make your liver quiver, and your heart skip a beat.

Harris claims to be a King-maker in this town. I say we get together and crown him good.

Tonight, and possibly only tonight - this ReThuglican stands with the formerly useful City Democrats - who have now been "outsourced."

But perhaps a 3 way dance is exactly what the city needs....

Delayed entry.

(Sorry about this, I could have swore I hit the publish button - but I found it languishing in my drafts. Ah well. Enjoy.)

Destination No-where.

Valley Forward does not realize it, but at the press conference last Friday for the "Inn/Restaurant on Mill Mountain", they defined their role in the future. First, the "press conference" was not your traditional press conference. There was no moment during, or after, when they took comments and questions from those in attendance. Well, not on the public scale. Any questions or comments were "off-podium" and decidedly away from the camera's lens. They were quickly surrounded by their well-wishers, and the media were kept at bay for a short time. Only when they spawned off into smaller groups did the news stations get a shot at interviewing Fralin, Lugar, and whoever else would stand still. I know I saw a couple of folks shoot straight for the door when the cameras went mobile.

So it was more of a press release, than an actual conference. But it was the meat of the matter that truly set them apart, and laid the path to the future of Valley Forward, and Roanoke.

First off, the new revamped "Restaurant on the Mountain" will boast a "destination restaurant", a cafe, and a public meeting room (affectionately called the Fishburn room, in an attempt to win the family's support). They will actively seek $1 million in public support funds to get the ball rolling on this, and when they have it - will turn around and go to the "5 or 6" banks they have lined up to give them loans for the rest of the money. That $1 million is also known as "community investment," or - in this case "a buy-in" program. Gas prices, higher food costs, and the like are all contributing to the drop in funding of worthwhile things like the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and actual useful and needed services. Those contributions normally come from average folk, poor and rich folk alike. So who will be in the best place to really donate to, and benefit from a restaurant on Mill Mountain?

Wait for it...

Ownership of the physical structure would be by the Mill Mountain Community Foundation. A new Foundation (for profit, or non- has not been specified) consisting of 9 open seats, which will be filled thusly: 1 member of the Fishburn Family (of which there are 4 left), 1 member of the City Council, 1 person from the MMZoo (unclear as to Zoo Board, or Zoo actual), 1 person from the Mill Mountain Committee, 1 person from unknown group, and 4 people selected "at large" by the City Council.

So what they are really saying is, a minimum of 5 people serving the interests of those who support the Restaurant in the first place. And considering the makeup of our current council, I can say with confidence - You would be facing a SoRo, OSW heavy Foundation. Thats a given of course. What really stuns me is the way they intend to operate.

All net profits will be disbursed to the Mill Mountain Zoo, and to improve the trails and greenways. And yet they still claim they will be cash-flow positive in the first year. Must be teaching Enron math at Radford. Let that be a warning to all you parents out there. But here's the "emotional hook." They are basically eluding that if this project fails (due to the public - always the public's fault), the Zoo will not be able to sustain itself. This "Community Restaurant/Cafe/Not An Inn" is the best hope the Mill Mountain Zoo has to survive.

Valley Forward, you're doing it wrong. Usually you show some sort of involvement in something before you go spouting about it's future. Get up there and get to know the folks at the Zoo before you make statements like that. They tend to have more of an impact that way.

The new thing - whatever it's going to be called - will not be visible from downtown. And will have no direct link from downtown. Other than perhaps an ad or two. But it's going to be (at the very least) a tax windfall for the city. I guess in meals tax, or property taxes... if they pay property taxes. If they declare non-profit, there goes that source. Aside from the fact that it is located atop a mountain, with one road access - how often does the city plow that road in the event of a snowfall? No matter what they may claim, it will still cost money to keep this thing open - money from the city, money from the community... Support from a community where you are really engendering none.

And how long before a quicker route is looked for? A back way to get up there. Perhaps something off Yellow Mountain Rd.?

No, something was wrong with this plan. It seemed very thin - rushed. The speeches were obviously very well rehearsed, but the subject was not. They even admitted time was an issue in pulling this together. I wonder if this is the same plan they submitted to the Council back in October, considering they should have had a better concept and presentation in the time allotted. Then again, they have not even bothered to release the actual proposal on their own website. However, you can go and see the original proposal for the Inn, and draw your own conclusions.

So this is it. Valley Forward's path to the future. Talk in a huddle, and expect everyone else to immediately grasp the concept. And pout a lot if you don't get your way. As evidenced by the "Public Park. Public Park. Public Park." statement by Lugar. Although I do give them some credit for trying again. And I still don't mind the idea of having some form of food up there. As long as I don't have to see the golden arches, and proper accommodations were made for the public AT LARGE to get there.

Ah well.. It's worth a shot, right? But maybe Valley Forward needs to take a page from NewVaConnects and engage the public before assaulting them with ideas. Just a thought.


Fire up the kettle, this is gonna take a while.

Market building on the Market?

Good god, how much time do they think I have to devote to this stuff? I mean, what's next? City-subsidized townhouses in the tunnels under downtown?

Now I am sorry I have to be in so early, otherwise I could really have some fun with this. But I'll be back later.

Bet on it.


Roanoke's checkbook.

We are gifted to have such a diligent Council, ready and waiting to pay out money for whatever it wants. Unless the Police want it. Or the Fire Department. Or, well.. unless it's the City Manager or the Council - the book stays closed. Our own civil servants need to apply for grants to get funding for certain needed items. Our public buildings are falling to shambles. Even the Municipal Building is creaking away, plagued with problems and pestilence. Back in the 20th Century, the firemen of Roanoke's FD paid for all their own equipment, to the point where they would do repairs to the fire fighting apparatus (read: fire trucks). In 1935, the Roanoke Fire Fighters decided to start the 'Roanoke Virginia Firemen Federal Credit Union,' to offset the high cost ($500) for all the equipment they needed for the job. With the opening of the new Station 1, the old 1 has seen little beyond a good sweeping and a light bulb or two. Forget it if a pipe should bust, or the roof leak - you might as well just grab the duct tape and pray a lot.

Old Firehouse #6 (the other historic fire station in Roanoke), which the city bought in 1910 for the princely sum of $1,050, has for lack of a better word, been destroyed by the lack of maintenance by the City. Aside from a major boiler bust which makes the basement look like wreckage from the Titanic (once you begin to descend the cast iron spiral stairway, an antique in itself), there's a lovely bunch of water & damage from it - all due to the brilliant strategy of using a piece of plywood to block rainwater and air conditioner drip from a low window. And the damage is major. Several times the basement has had to be pumped out due to standing water over a foot deep. Contractors have said the basement will never really dry out, and the foundation is possibly damaged because of the "lack of repairs."

Is this a problem limited to this one lone firehouse in Southeast? If you have followed the city's recent Parks & Rec news then you would know it has not. Villa Heights, Buena Vista, Mountain View. All places which cost the city nearly nothing - but the city ignored the basics of Home Maintenance and cost itself dearly. On the other hand, for items which the Council itself directly uses. Like SUV's - 3 of them. Long distance towing services? Not a problem. Heavy bodywork and repair to said SUV? No problem. Artwork to hang in Council chambers, or the managers office? Well - we don't have a Picasso yet, but we are getting there. The Roanoke City "Municipal" Art collection contains some outstanding works - the appraised value of the collection must be a nice number. I am sure on any public market the collection would fetch a tidy sum. And no, not all of the works were "donated." But still, the City Council has to show something for it's spending. Right?

Well - put that question to a certain recent city employee, with a heck of a nice salary, who does not even live in Roanoke. The job in question is one with no quantifiable result. There is no set goal, no actual result. It's more of a "feel good" idea for the city. Imagine that, having a job where all you have to do is make a city you don't live in feel like it's doing something. And you don't even have to convince the whole city either. Just a very small portion of it. You get to make good money, organize events as you wish, play with new technology, and never have to show hard proof. But it makes the Council feel like they are doing something, and they can turn to the citizens (who will understand the illusion even less) and say "Look, we are doing something."

So what can we, the citizens, actually see real money being spent on? Studies. Consultants. Infrastructure, in certain regards. Oh, and let's not forget the $880,000 going to the (former) Grand Building so it can become apartments. But all that money thats going towards consultants and such, could it not be better spent on.. oh - I don't know. More police? Improved streets? Lower taxes? Improving the schools??? Well, perhaps in a different city, with a more intelligent council that actually gives a rat's ass - but it's best not to engage in pipe dreams.

Ever think maybe the citizens could ask to see the checkbook? I think we can, and should.


To Valley Forward,




Sorry - could not resist. Be back later, with even more incendiary devices.


The plotz thickens....

This just in..................

This Monday, a petition for scheduling a public hearing on the matter of giving tax-exempt property status for the Art Museum downtown.

I understand they are well within their rights to request this, but seriously now. And it's not just that alone. It's 110 Salem Ave. SE and the storage building at 302 Campbell Ave. SE

Does not one negate the need for the other?

The city has gifted the land under the Art Museum to them, and now they ask for a break on property taxes. Could it be because they are running short on funds, and know that the property taxes would break the bank?

I don't know - maybe it's just me, but it seems fishy. I might be willing to give them one property, but not both.

Untested and unproven revenue from the "tourists" who will come to see the new art museum do not assure the city of any monetary growth. I would think considering all the "bending over backwards" the city has done during the construction of the museum, the least the museum could do is pay property taxes - as an assurance. Even if they asked for reduced taxes, that I might be ok with. But an exemption?

I'm personally not too keen on the idea of giving them anything more without SOME assurance (or insurance) for the city.

My 2 cents.

Eagerly awaiting the Valley Forward press conference, although it is dubiously timed.

That is all....................


I knew I liked that man...

"There are, in the body politic, economic and social, many and grave evils, and there is urgent necessity for the sternest war upon them. There should be relentless exposure of and attack upon every evil man whether politician or business man, every evil practice, whether in politics, in business, or in social life. I hail as a benefactor every writer or speaker, every man who, on the platform, or in book, magazine, or newspaper, with merciless severity makes such attack, provided always that he in his turn remembers that the attack is of use only if it is absolutely truthful."

-Theo. Roosevelt, President of the U.S.

Think about that for a moment. And look around.

I think I see some muck over there.. anyone have a rake handy?

New toys

Go ahead. Scroll down a bit and look to your right.

Harass me all you want. If I am here, I will get right back to you.

I know posting has been light - but I have been active lately. More on that eventually.


The Sentinel reveals himself.

And no longer is the City alone, listening to one voice.

The Roanoke Star Sentinel has launched.

If you are one of the lucky 30,000 who received the first issue - congrats. If not, hit the link and read it via .pdf online.

Things just got very interesting.


Wiley Coyote

Once again, black wins over white - and 2 dimensional thinking succeeds in the face of the future.

Wiley Drive will be closed.

Which is understandable, considering the nature of the issue. However, there is always a middle ground.

Yes, the park - the picnic area - the low-water bridge, all of it - is now off limits to the disabled.

I think we could have done better than that.

Parks and Rec is still going to use some sort of road to get to the inner parts of the park - be it the greenway, or a remnant of Wiley - we should keep that option open for the Handicapped. We do it on Mill Mountain, with the access road to the zoo open as an option for the handicapped, we can damn well do it in the parks.

And we need to. The closest someone in a wheelchair can get to the water itself is the low water bridge.

I'm not disappointed, I actually find myself still hopeful that at some point during the process of the bench cut, someone will speak up and the access needed by the handicapped will be kept.

If not, well - then I'll be disappointed.


Lame. Just Lame.

Roanoke City Council to discuss Mill Mountain and Victory Stadium site in private
City land will be discussed -- legally -- behind closed doors.

I get it. Really, I do. What business would want plans openly debated, for the special interests to rip apart?

In the case of the missing Amphitheater, I really don't care what they discuss behind closed doors. The city will use it's secondary official mouthpiece (the Roanoke Times) to release whatever they want you to see. Pretty images, and little else.

But the Mill Mountain issue is far more important to the future of Roanoke than the Amphitheater. It's the difference between meeting behind closed doors because you need to, and because you can. The definition of "public good" is not all that wide, and in a situation like this I think the benefits of having an open process (especially when the process has been viewed as tainted as this one is) far outweigh any illusionary need for secrecy. One proposal, thats all you have. That's a pretty clear indicator that no other business thinks this is a good idea. As a matter of fact, I would not be surprised if no other business was strong enough to bear the ill will it would receive should it build atop Mill Mt.

Disposition of public property is one thing, disposition of public parks? Well, now thats another thing entirely.

Dear Prudence.... teach these mortals what they cannot know. How to be effective governors.


Oh Ward...

It seems that Valerie Garner, from The Countryside Neighborhood Alliance, has uncovered a slice of the past.

She has laid her hands on an article from Nov. 5th, 1997 about the voting down of a potential Ward system in Roanoke.

You can read the article here, with accompanying map.

What's really interesting is the fear-mongering and dis-information that led to the Ward system being voted down (at least as reported by the article).

"More than any city campaign in years, the wards vote brought the city's establishment into open conflict with scrappy, populist types such as the Roanoke Education Association and the NAACP. Powerful lawyers, wealthy Roanokers and business executives worked hard against wards. They noted that voters who now get to cast ballots for all seven council members would have had just three votes under a ward system - ones for the candidate from their ward and one each for mayor and vice mayor.

Ward detractors also called forth an image of Chicago in the days of ex-Mayor Richard Daley - a city of back-room deals and corrupt, cigar-chomping, ward-healing politicians. They warned that council members would be fighting over provincial matters within ward borders instead of promoting the larger interests of the city."

Well - the only good thing is now we need not worry about the Mayor Daley references, as we are rife with back room deals even without the ward system. But I am saddened to hear the twisted math of 7 votes vs. 3. 7 votes that gain you little, vs 3 that might actually accomplish something.

Must be some of that new math that makes 3 useful votes seem like a bad thing.

You know as well as I do, Roanoke needs some form of locality based representation. This "at large" system is only playing to those with "vested areas." Like SoRo, Old SW, and even to a certain extent NW.

10 years later, maybe it's time to do it all again?



It is with a heavy heart that I take down the Jean Shepherd Odeo Player - hopefully temporarily.

Due to the rising cost of gas around here - I brought back the VirginiaGasPrices.com Gas Buddy.

With oil topping $97 bucks a barrel today, and gas hitting $2.99 on Electric Rd. I thought I would try and help out with finding some deals on gas.

Looks like the Roanoke ShareBike program could not come at a better time. I just do not look forward to attempting to pedal home with Christmas presents.


A few loose ends

I know I know.. I have been lax in executing my duties here. I swear it's with good cause (causes including preparing for an arrival in Jan, which takes precedence over nearly everything else). But rest assured I have been working behind-the-scenes.

The body may stop, but the brain rattles on folks.

First question - Is there any way we can get involved in a 3 way trade for City Managers? Nothing personal, uh.. Hillary Burcham, but seriously. It's time to retire and leave the game to someone more willing to play ball and actually FOLLOW the job description. You are not CEO (despite your self-adornment with that title), you are merely an administrator. But I guess this is what comes of leaving a Human Resources administrator in a role for too long. We are getting a touch laughable at this point - now aren't we?

That is not to say the city is one big steaming hot cup of FAIL lately. By far, the best thing to hit this city in a long time is one example of how the city can partner properly with an outside agency.

(point 2)The Greenways. Specifically, the new one nearing completion along the SE stretch of the Roanoke River. It took being out today, in the warm midday sun and standing overlooking the shallow Roanoke River, then up at the changing leaves on the mountains and hills, to really get it.
I considered it to be just another greenway. But when I realized I can walk (you remember how to do that right?) from SE to SoRo in less than an hour (River's Edge to Wasena Park takes roughly the same amount, at a speedy amble) I was convinced. An evening stroll along the river.. especially in the fall. Not that you could not do that before - but it was a bit more difficult and buggy.

Now what I would really like to see is a use put to the bench cut on the opposite side of the river. A mile long park perhaps, only a few hundred feet wide - but open to the public. Maybe another low-water bridge to stroll over from one side to the other. Or perhaps using the space for something.

(topic 3) Something is a great label for the Art Museum. Recently I had family in town, and the first remark on the design of the building (from someone who appreciates both modern and classical design) was "Oh no."

That's right. "Oh no."

If only we could attract thousands of visitors here so they too could say "Oh no." Wait, maybe thats why it looks like it does! Everyone loves looking at a car wreck, not that anyone would admit it, but everyone looks over when we see an accident on the side of the road. So that must have been the idea all along. Pity. Pity this poor city, to have such a tragic museum jutting like a shard of glass from it's face. Shame. *tsk*

Moving on to more pleasing-to-the-eye items. Hawks! We gots HAWKS!

Oh - but the male's a biggun.. When I get the photos I shall post them, but for anyone on Evan's Mill yesterday around 3-3:30pm.. if you didn't see it you were not looking. Right next to the Consultants in Cardiology parking garage entrance - big hawk. Real big. Eating.. something... bloody with feathers.

Amazing animal, and right there at ground level. Like I said - as soon as I get one of the photos I'll post it.

Oh, and stupid (pseudo-)gang violence in Southeast, but don't worry. What happens in Southeast will be dealt with BY Southeast. Can OSW use the hook they have with the city to pass a law stating that all miscreants and thugs must be appropriate to the history of the area in both look and speech? Make the thugs wear wool pants and jackets with ugly hats, and see how long it takes before they move on.

I wonder what a 21st century thug would think of a late 19th century one? And how fast he would find out about laughing at a 19th century thug.

There's an idea! Let's get the City Council to dress like 19th century thugs! They are fast becoming little more than that anyway. Oh look - I just received the next Council agenda... be back later folks.

Oh - 2 more things.

1. Roanoke Game Fest For those of you so inclined to sit around and snipe at things (hey.. wait - nevermind) this sounds pretty promising.

And B. Anyone seen whats happening out at Towers lately? Pretty soon, the way things are going - it will be Fresh Market and Kroger, and no one else.

3 stores down... who is next?


From high atop a windy mountain, it waits

It watches. Always vigilant, always seeking...

The Sentinel awaits.

But not for much longer.


Gang meeting tonight


Sharks V. Jets: Is the dancing really worth it?

Actually, and in all reality, tonight we get an update from the Roanoke PD on (pseudo-)gang activity in the city itself. It should be interesting.

It's at the Belmont Christian Church, 7pm. If anyone is interested in coming.

Also, Renovate Roanoke is coming up - which promises to be interesting in a wholly different aspect. Seems like the kind of thing that might put a bit of a hurt on Black Dog's business. And improve the call rate for contractors, as those who half paid attention during the classes suddenly find themselves with the need for professional help.

But more important than all that...

It's going to rain.

So forgive me as I have the last bit of quiet time before the busy season and keep my mouth shut for a day or so. I know blogging has been a bit light lately, but that shall not remain so for long.

"So much time, and so little to do." - w.w.


Woulda... Shoulda.. Coulda..

I was going to post something the other day about a poor dead horse that keeps being kicked. When the Times ran it's cover story on the close of the RFP (request for proposals) for Mill Mountain, I laughed heartily - and really wanted to sit down and type out a massive response, but today I am vindicated.

Read this, and laugh along with me.

Valley Forward, who ostensibly had no financial interest in ANYTHING being built on Mill Mountain, was key in the development of the SINGLE proposal that came in.

Lugar: "We were in contact with two major regional firms and a smaller, respected local firm, all of which had interest and had the wherewithal to consummate something on the mountain," Lugar said. But "because of the [political] climate, they lost interest."

It's not the political climate, you lazy minded yuppie. It's the socio-economic climate. Despite all your flawed and skewed surveys, you still failed to realize that your concept is not something the people want. Granted, you would probably have more support from the masses were you to suggest a Mexican Restaurant or a Red Lobster.

You folks over at Valley Forward need to exit your glad-handing circle for a little while and see how the rest of the world lives. Not all of us own moving companies, work as pharma-reps selling to politically connected doctors, or are able to have both a wife and child, and a mistress or two.

Best case scenario? Drop the Mill Mountain thing, and choose a battle that would actually accomplish something. Raise funds for testicular cancer or something, but stop trying to be civic leaders when you live in a world of your own. You do not speak for everyone, work for everyone, or know whats best for everyone. But such is the conceit of the idle class.

Saving the world is a tiring job, let someone else do it.

In short, regroup and come back with something useful. We don't mind you - we just don't like you.


Slob Art

One question to the City Council, and the architects who did these designs:


What a way to start a day folks.. this one nearly had my cereal bowl flying off the table.

Seems to me we have been here before, friends. Anyone remember the idea for a concrete staircase descending into Market Square from.. oh, what - about a year ago? Artist's concepts and all?

In a conversation a year ago, with a recently departed person from a very important Downtown organization, I clearly remember bringing up the idea of the stone staircase (which I had read about in the Times). The reaction was not quite so supportive. But still, the more I thought on the idea - the more I came to like it.

A sweeping stone (or concrete) staircase descending from the pedestrian walkway, depositing people neatly at the base of the city market area would not have been a bad thing. With appropriate lighting and railing, it might even blend with it's surroundings.

Plus - sweeping staircases have a way of becoming public meeting spots. Hang-outs for the local "youts," places for "arteests" to practice their craft, and even a simple place to squat and gobble lunch on a nice day.

But no... not this.

What brains we have leading us, what grand vision for the future of our fair city. To have the foresight to allow the "Wreck of the Hesperus" monument and Art Museum to be built, so it would not look so out of place alongside this.

I guess we should re-name Salem Ave. between Jefferson and Williamson "Slob Art Row."

Of course, this is being done in an attempt to create a European-style Plaza. But whats being missed (and this is an issue I take mostly with the architects, and only deride the council for not being better educated on the subject) is that most Euro-plazas are.. how to say it, vintage? They are simple in design, fairly open with one or two large features. A staircase and fountain, or a statue and seating. The artists, concessions, and all the rest come in time - they aren't programmed in.

To be honest about it - the best example I can think of for a true Euro-style plaza in the USA would be Washington Square Park in NYC. It has a mix of both concrete and green space, and the population one would expect of Greenwich Village. A population which supports the park, and gives it life.

These are things you cannot program in, you cannot pre-plan for.

But far and above, my favorite moment from the article is the sudden redefinition of the "buzzword du jour" for the City Council. Amphitheater. All 3 designs displayed for the council have "amphitheater functions." Well, that and the sudden appearance of a fishing pier in the midst of Downtown Roanoke (see the $3.5 million dollar concept if you wish).

I do appreciate the fact that Hillary Burcham is advertising in advance the "healthy discussion on the markets future in December", but Alfred "I'm not Carlton" Dowe let loose a head-scratcher.

"In general, I really do like the concept" said Councilman Dowe, "but frankly, the balance that I and the rest of the council will have to deal with is wether or not the timing of the use of the funds is the most expedient thing versus the enhancement of, say, the actual market building itself or incentives to lure another hotel downtown (?!? -rf), or a grocery store - some of the things we already know we need versus something we'd love to have."


And our Vice-Mayor and Vice-President of the Vague and Confused branch of the City Council, Mr. Trinkle added this: "I'm a supporter of the concept of doing something that creates more usage of that space and funnels people into the market area, wether this should be done before or after the Market building is something we should probably all need to address."

And some of you folks voted for these people? How did you understand them?

But kudos to Bus-Drivin' Bev for laying out in the open. The Plaza "is a public space that never had any focus. Any way we might go here we're way ahead of where we've been."

I'll provide further clarification on the "Slob Art" concept, should you need it. Just ask. But between these designs and the AMWV - I'd say that pretty much takes care of everything.

I need to go take some Rolaids now, my stomach is still churning.

I wonder if the council realizes the light at the end of the tunnel they seem to see is really New Jersey?


If I may

Please direct your attention to the right side of the page, and scroll down a bit. You will find an Odeo podcast jukebox, which is currently set for the podcast "Shepcast" brought to you by the Brass Figlagee.

Why this addition? I happen to be a big fan of Jean Shepherd, and figure that some of you might want to listen too. Now you can, from anywhere you might be.

I trust that you will find it as enjoyable as I do, and if you don't - well, sorry. It will probably be up there through the fall.

You might also notice I removed the link for the chatroom, which no one had used in 50+ days.

Anyway, just some of the "smoke and mirrors" to distract you all from the work behind the curtain here.


Just something interesting

Don't know if any of you are watching it, but on PBS now - and all week it seems, is The War, by Ken Burns.

It's an amazing thing to see.

It is also followed by Virginia Veterans recollections of WWII.

Not only does it make you think, it makes you thankful.

Although it should be required viewing for all school children. 5th grade at the earliest, but it needs to be shown.

My 2 cents.

125 years

The city celebrates it's 125th with an Arts festival, a housing symposium, and a botched kick-off parade and expo at the newest jewel in the Civic Center.

Wayne Newton is playing the Civic Center for the first time in ages, and it's not even associated with the 125th (it was booked outside the 125th celebration scope). No, instead Crystal Gale is the featured performer for our 125th.

Now word on the street comes that there is nothing else planned of any consequence for the 125th.

No, even though 100 years ago this month, the Great Roanoke Fair was just winding down - a tradition which lasted many years (held on the old Fairgrounds, recently home to Victory Stadium). Why did we not renew this tradition? Why is this the best we can do?

Could it be the ego-tastic CEO of Roanoke's doing? The woman who publicly screwed over Bob Dills, yet now sweetly wants him to be part of YET ANOTHER oversight board?

In 125 years, the City of Roanoke has seen a great many things. The winter of 1887, when snow buried the entirety of downtown and land values fell like stones. The Flood of 1892. The great Roanoke Fairs of years gone past, not to mention the boom of industrious growth, and the vacuum of industrial vacancy. And yet the City has survived.. endured.

We are now a medical mecca (regardless of weather or not you wish to like Carilion), a great attractor for retirees who move to the general area, and a simmering hotbed of creativity (again, you might not want to see it, but it's true).

All this after 125 years of surviving layoffs, downturns, floods, fires, con-men (no one recently, eh Warner?), and the Commonwealth's insane "Independent City" rule.

And apparently this 125th celebration is worthy of all that. This 125th reflects the struggles, the triumphs of this history that is Roanoke.

Everyone, Quick! To the History Museum of Western Virginia - where we might actually glean something about the past!

Before that Juke Joint Jezebel erases that too, and replaces it with her version of things.

Who would have thought that Roanoke would have it's own Hillary Clinton?


It's coming..

The return you have all been waiting for is nearing completion.

It's not going to be the same as it was, but different - some might say better.

But it will be done soon.

Watch in the next 2 weeks for the link.


Shall we try this again?

Did ya hear? Parking rates got the ok. Big shock.

So did a 1 million dollar "incentive" for Cambria Suites (which I think was a smart move, for multiple reasons).

They also changed the date for Walgreens, rightly if they expect growth (and while another drug store does not seem like much - at least it's accessible by public transit - more jobs for those who cannot or do not drive).

Countryside Neighborhood Alliance got a WIN with the extension of the Countryside Golf Course management contract, or so it seems. Time will tell on that one.

But a big ol' Thanks! to the Roanoke Times for posting what I could not find while searching the documents for the City Council agenda. The Market Advisory report. (pdf)

The usual things top the list as goals - expanding the market itself and all the accompanying suspects as one would expect. Some of it seems trivial: Replacing offending Ginko trees (sorry, but they drop fruit - thats what Ginko trees do. Of course, this fruit is edible - so anyone with some foresight could potentially harvest this and use it accordingly), cleaning sidewalks daily (normally the responsibility of the business located upon said sidewalk), and loitering (the city made a choice years ago to allow the homeless to remain downtown, out of charity).

What gets me is the innovative ideas that were put forth. Some are great, and some are blatant attempts at further ruination.

GOOD: WiFi credit card terminals, ceiling fans/ radiant heat, extending tables up Market on Saturdays, and lockers for purchased items to save you multiple treks back to the car.

BAD: A certain restaurateurs play for increased sidewalk space - so he can take that over too. Sure - try walking the Market on a Sunday and see if you don't hit this roadblock (non-ADA compliant roadblock at that), preserve awnings (didn't we just replace them?), and repave the street (you know, under that asphalt is a lovely layer of cobblestone - of course, that might require thought though).

And here is where we get to the HINKY:

Expand current management to night time, 24/7. (DRI or the City of Roanoke? Considering the current trend.. I know who I'm looking at.)
Provide a variety of attractive uses during events, or when Market is closed. (vague? a tad.)
Expand evening use: events, move First Fridays, yadda yadda. (A climbing wall in the parking garage? And would these events not require that Market Square be closed more often?)

These things sound great, for the time being. Problem is, we have an egotistical City Council (and administration - D&b) who think they own the forest AND the trees. The type who know the value of everything, but the worth of nothing.

I am going to admit something for the first time ever. I think the building of a new Art Museum downtown is a good thing.

I still think it's a crowbar to the historical nature of Downtown Roanoke, but yes - it says we are desperate enough to throw money at any crowd that has money. And yet, we cannot keep our own crown jewel shining enough without a major to-do about it.

The market has made leaps and bounds over the years in terms of growth. Part of that is the fact that tourists seem to love it. Kind of like going to a Red Socks game in Boston, if you're in the area - thats what you do.

Roanoke is a very unusual place - like Kansas City without the river as a hub, like Albany without the State Capitol as a motivator, but yet Roanoke refuses to die.

That is because there is vast opportunity for those who refuse to see the negatives, the "can-nots" lead to the "will-nots", and they drag everyone down.

There are a few self-stimulating businesspeople around here who believe they are God's Gift to something (no idea what), and everyone should bow and listen when they speak. Apparently some do, so these folks get even more inflated - until they hit a point where they become so ridiculous - they lock the system up. We saw it with Victory Stadium, and with the Star City Diner (how many of you know Spanker sat on the Library board for the City?) - and we see it again with the Amphitheater crew.

SO what? The city gets a concert venue that's outdoors. As I have posted previously, it's a good idea (as a multi-use facility) to locate it across from Carilion's new Bio-park. 8-12 concerts a year though.. there should be that many uses of the space in a month. Concerts, Renaissance Fairs, flea markets, what have you.

It's the limited scope of the brains behind the project that frighten me. These are our "ambassadors" to others looking for places to relocate. The same ones who cannot figure out what to do with a large section of the city prime for redevelopment, because no one ever thought about doing it there before.

Thinking outside the box is a wonderful thing, especially if you realize what a box is - and not worry about the pretty color of it.

Our Mayor, Hizdishonor, just returned from a trip to Sundance where he learned about Global Warming (among other things, like the joys of being a Hollywood star who near-owns a town). Upon his tanned return, he announces a new initiative: the Clean and Green campaign, which he also mentioned at the State of the City address.

Well, aside from Harris lying to get into the Sundance Summit (apparently, he forgot to mention that Mayor around these parts means City Council member who gets to bang the gavel when he feels like it and not much more), this "Clean and Green" campaign suddenly emerges again.

Gwen Mason, please stand up and tell us all how you "invented" the "Clean and Green Campaign."

Now remember, there is no money behind this effort now - but Mason says she hopes to change that. And get rid of icky cigarette butts.

Oh - Im back folks, and just getting started.

Oh - and to the Roanoke Times, lest you think you get a pass this time. Wonderful reporting on the Gay Pride day in Elmwood park. Great to know the entire day had something to do with Senator Larry Craig. You deserve a Pulitzer for that kind of reporting, and a 2x4 to the cranium if you think that was anywhere NEAR informative.


Be back later..


Parking, Parking - Oh how your're gonna pay...

Center in the Square, Church Ave., Elmwood Park, Tower, and Market garages: $1 per half hour, $6 daily maximum.

Gainsboro: $.50 per half hour, $5 daily max.

Higher Ed lot: $.50 per half hour, $5 daily max.

Market and Williamson
: $.75 per half hour, $5 daily max.

Monthly Center
: $90 reserved, $70 unreserved.

Evening Rate

Church, Tower, Market, Higher Ed lot: $2

Gainsboro: $2, $1 discount for RHEC students "with appropriate student documentation when presented to the attendant on duty."

Center in the Square: $3

Saturday Rate:

Tower and Market
: $2 (4pm-9pm only)
Center in the Square: $3 (4pm to 9pm only)

And I am sure all this money will be well accounted for and going precisely where it is intended to go. To build a garage for the folks buying condo's and lofts down the west end of Campbell Ave.

How much one of those going for now? $149k+ if I remember.. certainly they need city-subsidized parking.

Any council member who thinks this is a brilliant way to pay for the parking garages should be made to work on them. Call it "sweat equity", although I have a feeling Harris could not swing anything other than his jawbone - so it might be a while before the garages would be finished.

Anyway, enjoy folks. Oh - and ignore that they canceled the 7 p.m. meeting for lack of anything to do.

Thats right - nothing to see here folks. Keep moving.


8:46:26 am

I hate to use a generic CNN video, but it's very hard to get your hands on a copy of the live NY stations coverage these days.

With any luck - I will never have that worry again.


Im a bad boy

I know it's been a while since last we chatted. Things here at Forgotten-HQ have moved into overdrive for a bit, and I have been forced to bite my tongue on many an issue, due to the nature of my current dealings.

But, nothing lasts forever. And the delicate phase of the operation is nearly complete - at which point a Hurricane will appear... heading right for our "leaders."

I have been watching these past few weeks, and seeing far too much.

The mayhem returns next week.


Would you?

Need I even say how much this resembles our own Council?

Would you trust this crew (not one of which is a successful business owner mind you - and that includes FITA, which David has little to do with on any regular basis) to handle the business of a city?

Are you really that surprised that there is so little response to the City's request for proposals on various projects?

Is it any wonder when you have to defend a city against statements like: "There is just no available capitol in Roanoke to spend on growth," and "Roanoke will never garner the kind of investments it needs to be a city."

Anyone out there willing to pony up a scholarship to the Higher Ed Center, we need at least 7 - possibly 10, to send the heads of the city (council, manager, and assistant managers) in for a remedial class in Basic Business Economics. We know they already have degrees in creative writing.

As Daffy Duck says: "Deeeesphickable!"


Aubrey and The Win

I guess I should weigh in on the Aubrey Hicks situation, as I have been to many a meeting where the ARB is brought up with contempt.

Congrats to Mr. Hicks and his family, as they now can get on with the business of living in their house leak-free.

I know there are at least 3 other families in the area covered by the ARB awaiting the certificate. And waiting. And waiting.

To anyone who watched, or heard about the City Council meeting the other night (as I watched) - the travesty of the woman from Old SW who installed replacement windows that were 1/10th of an inch too small for the old window frame, which went on for a ludicrous amount of time with no real outcome, only served to highlight the failure of the ARB.

The ARB should be limited in it's powers to approving, and providing guidance to homeowners in the Historic Districts. It should not be empowered to bring charges against the homeowners, nor bully people into making changes they cannot afford. One of the reasons we specifically chose Southeast was that it was NOT under the control of the ARB.

Even though we have a myriad of styles, of home ages, designs - people tend to appreciate what they have, and take pride in the quirks and designs of the homes they own.

That's the key right there though - they own. Renters cannot be expected to care, because in a good majority of cases - the landlord does not care. But that is off point.

Back to Mr. Hicks and the ARB. One of my favorite sections of the story is as follows:

"Architectural Review Board member Don Harwood said the ruling created a "dark day" for the board. It sends a signal to other homeowners that they can do the same thing Hicks did and get by with a slap on the wrist, he said.

He disagreed with the judge's conclusions about why Hicks' certificate was denied, saying the case put the board between a rock and a hard place. Hicks had ample time to come to the board about problems with his roof before he started taking it down, but didn't.

"We have no proof that it was in such bad shape," Harwood said.

The board ruled based on the question of whether the change Hicks was making to the roof would have passed, Harwood said. Had Hicks come to the board, he could have been pointed to possible cheaper alternatives such as repainting the roof, he said. "It's sad that it got to this situation." (rt 08/22/07)

Harwood states they had no proof the roof was in bad shape. Excuse me? You need no proof. It is not up to you to determine the livability of a dwelling you do not own nor live in. It is the homeowner. If my wife decided that she no longer liked the shingle look - and wanted something different - and we had the available money, I see no reason why someone else should tell me that the property I purchased I have no say in. They do not have the right to impose that kind of control.

Now - as to offering suggestions, assistance with choosing materials, or yes - even restricting paint colors (believe me, no one wants to live next to a circus tent) and perhaps speeding up the process by becoming more user friendly - that is the role of an ARB.

Roanoke cannot afford a NYC-styled ARB. We struggle to hold onto the citizens we do have, and yet here we are giving them incentives to leave.

Commercial properties in Historic Districts are quite another issue. They do need to maintain a unified look and style - consistent with the area. Most homeowners are not going to start slapping up awnings, redolent with advertisements on their homes. Commercial properties? It happens frequently.

Perhaps if the ARB went and did some digging, maybe gathered a few historic photos of each house they can, and compare that with the current version of the home - then they might be able to make a case for a 1/10th inch differential being bad, or a shingle roof replacing a tin roof undesirable.

They say that they have no evidence of the roof being bad, show me evidence of it being good.

Oh - and repainting a roof (unless done with tar, or a rubber sealant) will not stop leaks or cracks from developing in a durable, but breakable metal roof. The only roof that has a 1000 year promise is copper. Once the patina sets on it, it is nearly indestructible. Tin has a maximum life of 125 years before replacement becomes the only option.

But you folks go on and paint your roof like the ARB says. That should work well.

Anyway - once again. Southeast is older, more historic, and has no ARB to answer to. All we ask is that you keep the circus tent to a minimum.


As the walls decompose

Another day, another City Council meeting. (go here to watch it live, just click on the city logo on the right)

No small meetings today either. Aside from the change-up taking the Countryside debate to the 2pm meeting, when most of the Countryside advocates had previously signed up for the 7pm one - the city will be tackling the rezoning request of the Rescue Mission.

Anything beyond that is an unknown as of right now - the agenda is set, but porous it seems.

Well, with the exception of the signing of a year-to-year contract with EventZone that is. Wonder what the plans are for that.

The general consensus around town is that the city council is gearing up for another round of "Slam the Citizens" with things that are of no benefit to the average citizen, and create no growth.

Like the new $6 daily parking rate at certain street-level lots. Cancellation of certain monthly parking agreements. Things like that.

This edition of the Roanoke City Council seems to be firmly entrenched in it's own collective ass, as it does not hear the citizens. Well, quite frankly it does not seem to hear anyone, least of all the high paid planners it hires to investigate ideas.

Instead of asking a architectural firm, or a building firm where to put an amphitheater - why not ask a marketing firm? You can build it, but you still have to sell it to performing acts and the crowds that will attend alike. And sure, you can have trolley-style people-movers running every 10 minutes up and down Jefferson to the very spot, but to what end? People who work and attend med school in that area will still have to travel to the pick-up point. It has been stated that running down MacClanahan would add too much time to the trip, but if you have businesses and people willing to use the service - well, can anyone say LeDuh?

We all know the City has brain drain problems, but did you realize it affects those serving it?

The city council, the mayor, and the city manager all need to come out and explain EXACTLY and EXPLICITLY what their plans for the city are. Not this "go see our vision statement and go away" crap.

The City Council is not acting in the best interests of Roanoke at any time. They fail. Plain and simple.


And thanks to the brilliant leadership we have suffered under for many years - now we can see the tangible effects: the walls of the city are beginning to decompose. From the lowest man on the rung, to the people who pay the City salaries - not many are happy about how things are being run.

Even the Roanoke Times is beginning to fumble hard.

The gossip is flying a mile a minute around here about what really is going on. Even Hometown Bank is the subject of major talk.

The only way to quell all the unrest in the city is to come clean, and do your damn job. Tell the citizens whats going on, and listen to them when they tell you something.

Optionally, continue on the way you are going - and act really surprised when your ass gets tossed out at the end of your term. And let the city decay even further.

We have some whip-smart people here in Roanoke, listen to them. Now get back to work.


The heat, and Heat

This is ludicrous. 100+.. I'm ready for winter, skip fall at this point - fall brings with it the chance of an "Indian summer" and I don't wanna hear the 's' word again.

Hopefully this is nearly over, and we are headed into the decline of the dog days.

Which brings me to another thought, why are all the festivals downtown one day events?

Why not have something over a 'month of Sundays' - you know, like real cities do.

We have the Mill Mountain Theater, we have the Star City Playhouse - a virtual ton of local talent, not to mention the nearby college kids.

Why is there no "Shakespeare in the Park"? You know, an outdoor festival of plays and performances that spans the entire summer? Or is our population too old to be outside in the sun?

I recently had to announce (to a) clarify and b) end ) that the city is more interested in attracting, and less interested in retaining the youth.

Mr.s Wishneff and Lea have hit upon a good idea, tax incentives for artistic-type thingys. But here's the caveat to that emptor: Art is organic - and so are art communities. Sure, you can legislate an area to be a haven for the artistic, but that does not mean you are going to get the true artist's community. That's organic.

Remember a few years back, when Roanoke had a thriving and vital punk scene? Well, what happened? I guess the DIY was done in.. somehow.

/old man mode on

Back in my day - Bands pooled money to buy abandoned warehouses and use them for shows. Bosses who owned empty buildings would rent them out as rehearsal space (not that there was ever a crowd there for a impromptu show or anything).

There was a network, and yes - Roanoke was even on the list of places to play. So what happened?

Everyone go shoegazing for a while? Maybe church never let out?

You can say you want to make a multi-generational community center, but that doesn't mean the multi-generations will come.

I'm not sure what to make of the complete and total lack of a visible scene (either I'm too old and have forgotten what a scene is, doubtful).

You never hear anyone describe themselves as 'hardcore', straight-edge, or even punk - but you do hear 'Christian' a whole hell of a lot.

When did that become part of your resume? (WARNING: possible subcutaneous concept ahead - turn back now if you are easily irritated.)

When did a personal opinion on religion become something waved about like a VIP pass, that will get you in anywhere - or let you get away with anything?

And by the way - which version of Christian?

You might already know my religious opinion of choice, or you might not. It's part of what I am, not who I am.

Are the two related? The lack of any appreciable scene & the quasi-religious branding of the people?

Remember - no matter what you do, Roanoke is still called "The San Francisco of the Blue Ridge."

Any ideas why?


Yall lookin for somethin?

All I have for you is a cup of scalding reality, but it's not quite ready yet.

Until then, enjoy some Tom Waits.

Jersey Girl

Heart Attack & Vine

And Holly Cole, I can see clearly now...


Impressive, young ones.

I'd like to announce a new blog has joined the Roanoke scene - one that really does have the ability to change things.

NewVaConnects has started a blog, and is shooting out the gate with 2 provocative posts.


Anyone who pays attention to the Roanoke City Council, should have noticed that Councilman Lea and Councilman Wishneff often vote together. They also seem to be of like mind on various projects, for example, this week I received a newsletter style email from them discussing a proposed development of the former Grand Building on Campbell Avenue.

They wrote: "As you know by now, City Council voted 5-2 yesterday to give an $880,000 grant to the developer of the former Grand Building on Campbell Avenue. We were the two no votes and we wanted to give you our reasons for voting no."

The letter goes on state "City Council was not handed one piece of paper documenting the need. We saw no analysis (slight or vigorous) by staff verifying anything to do with the request. Nor did anyone on Council, except us, even ask to see the Developer’s numbers.
(read more)



Every day we read about the future of downtown Roanoke. Where will a new music venue go? What about apartments? Lofts? Office space? The latest debate, is the future of the Jefferson Motor Lodge - you know, that great looking motel next to Elmwood Park and the library on the corner of Elm and Jefferson.
(read more)

Keep an eye on them, who knows - maybe they are the leaders of the new generation.