Friday, March 12, 2010

Serious issues with lighter moments at candidate forum

Council candidates prepare for neighborhood group forum

About 100 attended the 2-hour Roanoke City candidate forum held in the Fellowship Hall of Christ Lutheran Church Thursday night. The Greater Raleigh Court Civic League, the Greater Deyerle Neighborhood Association, the Southeast Action Forum, Old Southwest  and the Grandin Court Neighborhood Association sponsored the forum. John Carlin was the moderator.

The three Republican candidates waffled on tax increases admitting in some questioning that it would be the last resort.

Republican candidate Mike Powell advocated for smaller government saying the city’s budget is “terribly managed …we don’t need to raise taxes … cut the fat.” Powell has lived in the city for 14 years and owns several businesses.

Republican Tony Walker advocated for proactive fiscal management and reducing waste. Walker lives in northwest city and is working to obtain a doctorate degree in education at Virginia Tech. He is currently a Regional Coordinator for Special Education with Roanoke County Contrary to his Democratic opponents Walker would go through the budget line by line and prioritize. Walker believes political parties at the local level are relevant to distinguishing candidates “core values.”

The third Republican candidate Retired Marine Colonel Robert Craig said his military experience demonstrates his ability to work collegially with his potential council colleagues. Craig also gave some of the more humorous quips of the evening. On a question about consultant studies he said that members of council spend their time saying to each other “what do you think?” The audience murmured agreement with that however. He called the $1.2 million of bonds for 2012 for the architectural and engineering plans for the Elmwood Park amphitheater “financial idiocy.”

Independent Carl Cooper said the city should “stop spending like a drunken sailor on shore leave.” Cooper agreed with Council member Court Rosen’s increase of 2% on the meal tax dedicated to school funding. However he said “the problem is not going away in two years with declining revenue … we have to grow our economy with new business.” Cooper admitted that it might be necessary to raise fees and taxes. He brought a chuckle when talking about council decisions saying “what we have seen in many instances is like a merry-go-round … after they make a decision and before the ink is dry they’re back again revisiting the decision.”

The only incumbent Democrat Dave Trinkle was put in the position of defending his record with the hiring of consultants for studies and school support. He said studies are plans used to make Roanoke more competitive but the budget has placed everything on hold. Trinkle a doctor of geriatric psychiatry at Carilion was not opposed to a ward system saying “we’ve got to be responsive to all parts of the city.” He admitted to needing to better address code enforcement concerns of the neighborhoods. On tourism he was open to increasing funding and consolidating the many different organizational efforts.

Attorney Ray Ferris the only Democrat running who has not served on council took a wait and see stance on the 2% meals tax increase for schools until the budget is thoroughly combed through. He wanted to see what Richmond forks over before committing. In response to studies on the shelf he planned to “dust them off and prioritize” in better times. Ferris was optimistic saying “believe me we have been through tough times before and things are going to get better.” Ferris said he expected to spend 18-20 hours a week as a council member but lamented on his law practice taking 60 hours a week of his time.

Former council member Bill Bestpitch said, “being on council is like being at a square dance. Every two years you get a couple of new partners to swing with.” He believes more citizen involvement and public input should occur prior to a consultant study. Bestpitch repeated his “back to basics and reducing the size of government” message. On tax breaks and incentives for new businesses Bestpitch would look at the jobs it would create before committing. On energy usage he wants to look at every vehicle purchase for fuel efficiency and offset the city’s thermostats a degree or two.

The Democrats held on to the possibility of increasing fees and taxes and chastised Richmond for as Ferris put it “passing the buck to localities.”

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Elections, Roanoke City Politics

Tags: , ,


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