Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea
Council members were put in a no-win situation Monday as a packed council chamber heard coaches and citizens weigh in on merging youth athletics into four regions. The Youth Athletic Council (YAC) has already successfully merged three of the four regions. Only region one had hit a roadblock.
Region one is the Northwest quadrant of Roanoke City. Inner City Athletic Association objected to the merger and had requested to be considered a fifth standalone region. YAC denied the request.
Inner City then requested to withdraw from region one. YAC again denied the request. Tensions escalated Tuesday with a last-ditch attempt to come together. “The facilitator arrived so late in the process the gap was difficult to bridge in one meeting,” said Oliver Hill Home attorney, Howard Highlander. The attempted mediation failed and City Manager Darlene Burcham became so frustrated she walked out according to Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea.
Joe Ferrell, a coach with Inner City, broke the tension when he compared the “goodhearted rivalry” between a merger of Northwest Recreation Club and Inner City into region one to the rivalry between William Fleming and Patrick Henry High Schools. Ferrell said to laughter, “ I don’t see Patrick Henry and William Fleming merging no time soon.”
Last Thursday following the State of the City Address Lea indicated that he would like to see Inner City remain autonomous for another year as they worked through the impasse. Lea however was the one who made the motion Monday evening to force Inner City to merge with region one. There were moans and groans as Lea stammered through his explanation finally arriving at the point being he favored the merger. Inner City supporters seemed surprised.
Councilwoman Mason seconded Lea’s motion. A frustrated Councilwoman Anita Price abstained from the vote due to her husband Charles being a long time coach with Northwest Recreation Club. She admonished the adults for not working out their differences pointing to the children that are watching their behavior.
The vote was 5-1 in favor of the merger. Prior to the vote there was back and forth with City Attorney William Hackworth as to Council’s authority to make a decision at all regarding private 501(3)(c) organizations that are loosely tied to the Parks and Recreation Department. It would have been a relief to Council had Hackworth advised them that they had no authority thus taking them off the hook. But there was no such luck as Hackworth said there was no document, policy or code to guide him so he was at a loss. This basically left it up to Council.
Council could have just as easily opted out of even taking the matter under their purview. To their credit they did not “dance a little sidestep” but took the matter on directly.
Inner City was clearly unhappy with Council’s vote as they began to leave as votes were still being heard. It became apparent the votes were not there for them. It remains to be seen whether this is the end of their resistance.
After adjournment Mayor Bowers said, “I would have voted for a Region five. It would have made for a smooth transition.”
Rev. Clay Dawson, President of Northwest Recreation Club told Council that if you allowed Inner City to be its own region then you could expect 16 regions as then everyone else would want to be their own region.
Posted By Valerie Garner
Categories: Community, Roanoke City Politics
Tags: city_council, parks