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.