Mayor's State of the City Address with FULL TEXT.
“Witness for yourself the “revival of Roanoke” said Mayor David Bowers at Thursday morning’s State of the City address. Gone was the ambitious “Big MAC” replaced by a lesser lofty goal for the “AC.”
In his 2010 State of the City address Bowers said Council needed to “jump-start our ‘Big MAC’ capital improvement program.”
The Mayor delivered his speech at the “Big M” – the renovated third floor of the Market Building named “Charter Hall.” A renovated Elmwood Park with a less costly stage then the proposed 2010 amphitheater is being designed by out-of-town consultants – the “Big A” becomes a “Small a.”
Countryside Golf Course he said in 2010 should remain an 18-hole municipal golf course, tennis and swim center. Though there is a new plan now he says “we need to keep the Country in Countryside” – the “Big C” becomes a ‘little c” in 2011.
This year after thanking Joyce Waugh President of the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce Bowers heaped praise on all the historic restorations in downtown. “We’ve got something for everybody here in Roanoke. ‘Revival’ is what we are seeing right outside the window today,” he said.
He checked off the revival list: The Patrick Henry, the Medical School, the Cotton Mill, Fork in the City and the new homes and community gardens in Hurt Park, Belmont, Nazarene and Jackson Park neighborhoods.
Mayor taks with Council member Anita Price
He praised the Old Southwest neighborhood and recognized their designation as the number one neighborhood in the nation. He touted the downtown traffic jams as a sign of revival.
“Most importantly of all, let’s think about our schools and our safe neighborhoods where we live,” said Bowers.
“Graduation rates are up, schools are clean and safe and our teachers are staying in the school system,” he said. He thanked School Board Chairman Dave Carson and Superintendent Rita Bishop for their dedication.
He admitted that “maybe we didn’t pick up the leaves” but Bowers still sees a sense of pride in the residential neighborhoods.
Bowers recognized the new police chief, Chris Perkins for his new innovative crime-fighting techniques – walking neighborhood streets once consider unsafe and neglected but are now on the rebound. “They are part of the revival,” he said.
He hopes the SmartWay bus connection will receive continued funding and looks forward to completion of the Valley View I-581 interchange that will bring $100 million to the city coffers as a town center. “We’re just not downtown Roanoke anymore,” said Bowers.
Del. Dave Nutter
Bowers called for expanded pre-kindergarten, daycare and education for youth as he recognized Kris Meyers from Smart Beginnings. Smart Beginnings has had a positive impact on child development and ability.
The Mayor’s second challenge was on health saying, “there is no shame in getting exercise in the fresh air.” Roanoker’s need to be good citizens and he called on Nancy Agee the new President and CEO of Carilion Health Systems to join in a community initiative for good health. “I challenge each [Roanoker] to lose a few pounds,” said Bowers.
Bowers said people want to move to Roanoke. “They like the diversity of our people – there is much to do. They like the restaurants and the stores, the festivals. We have turned the city around – steady as she goes – people are noticing,” said Bowers.
- Evelyn Bethel and Helen Davis look out from second floor of Market building after State of the City address.
Full Test of Mayor’ David Bowers’ State of the City Address – August 23, 1011
A hiker stopped me on one of Mill Mountain’s trails earlier this summer. He said “I’ve got to tell you something, Mr. Mayor, you folks have really turned Roanoke around!” I replied, “Yes, we’re witnessing the “Revival of Roanoke in 2011!”
Ladies and gentlemen, I get to present this State of the City speech each year, but I’m very well aware that you are the ones that write the speech every year. Roanoke is the story! So again this year, I want to think the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce, Joyce Waugh, and her staff and all those others who have helped organize this annual report to the people of Roanoke.
We are, despite a struggling national economy, witnessing and creating the “Revival of Roanoke.”
It is not any more evident than right here today in Charter Hall of the City Market as we are about to cut the ribbon next weekend for the grand opening of this gem of our Market area, the centerpiece of our downtown, a point of historic relevance for all Roanokers. As we look out of this gleaming $7 million renovation, you can see the new Wells Fargo signs amidst the preserved buildings of an historic district, high rises and 100 year old buildings right across the street from each other, with the oldest continuous farmers market in the Commonwealth of Virginia right at our doorstep, and new restaurants, shops, art galleries, a new building for the Community School. We have everything from New Orleans oyster poboys at The Quarter to filet mignon at Frankie Rowlands, fish and chips at Flanary’s Irish pub, and chicken and waffles at Thelma’s. We’ve got something for everybody here in Roanoke. “Revival” is what we are seeing right outside the window today.
Witness for yourself: The “Revival of Roanoke.”
Witness the re-opening of the Patrick Henry down on Jefferson Street and you’ll be a part of the “Revival of Roanoke”. Witness the 42 new medical students at Virginia Tech Carilion Medical School further down Jefferson Street and you’ll see the “Revival of Roanoke”. Witness the developments around the YMCA, the Jefferson Center, the Cotton Mill and Fork in the City, and you’ll see the “Revival of Roanoke”. Witness the new homes and the community gardens and a new sense of neighborhood in Hurt Park and in the Southeast neighborhoods of Belmont, Nazarene, and Jackson Park, and you’ll see the “Revival of Roanoke”.
Witness the further preservation of homes and the new dog park and cleaned up businesses in Old Southwest, which has been designated the #1 neighborhood in the nation, and you’ll see the “Revival.”
Witness the traffic jams in downtown Roanoke on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and Saturday afternoons at the City Market, and you will see the “Revival of Roanoke”. Witness the crowds pouring into the Grandin Theatre and all those great restaurants in Grandin Village and you will witness the revival in that neighborhood.
And most importantly of all, let’s think about our schools and our safe neighborhoods where we live.
Under the leadership of Chairman Dave Carson of the School Board and Superintendent Rita Bishop, we are seeing graduation rates go up. We are saving students who are having academic difficulties at Forest Park Academy. We are graduating 800 graduates at Patrick Henry and William Fleming, and they are going on to the military, trade schools, or college. Our schools are clean and safe and our teachers are staying in the school system.
Roanoke City Council has committed to our schools by promising to raise $8 million by an increase in the food tax, which is sunsetted to end in July, 2012. But that money helped to fund some of the difficult financial solutions that the schools needed to face during this slumping national economy. It was the right decision at the right time and it helped to keep the positive momentum going on for a “Revival” in Roanoke’s schools.
Take a look at our neighborhoods. Okay, we don’t pick
up the leaves like we once did, but I sense a new pride in some of our residential neighborhoods, where people are making investments in their homes and trying to raise their families.
Thanks to our new Chief of Police, Chris Perkins, we are seeing dramatic investment in new police techniques through the drug marketing initiative, community policing, and our police walking the streets or bicycling in the neighborhoods. I’m proud to tell you that for 6 years running we have had a decrease in the crime rate in Roanoke and that helps the “Revival” of our City.
Neighborhoods once considered unsafe and neglected like Mountain View and Hurt Park, Rugby and parts of Williamson Road are on the rebound. They’re part of the “Revival.”
The Southeast neighborhood, I’m convinced, is soon to be one of the best real estate investments in the region for young professionals and working class folks who want to live within the City, fix up an old home, have sidewalks on their streets, and a true connection with their neighborhood school. Southeast is finally becoming a part of the “Revival of Roanoke”.
By now, I’m sure you’ve picked up the theme of my talk that we are in the midst of a “Revival,” but we are not through yet. The passenger train has not yet come into Roanoke, but we now have the Smart Way bus connection to the passenger train in Lynchburg, thanks to state Senator John Edwards. His help in additional funding from the General Assembly for the SmartWay bus was essential to its inauguration last month.
You heard me talk about “Big MAC,” the Market, Amphitheater and Countryside,” three important capital improvement projects for our city. The Market Building is opening next weekend, and I’m pleased to tell you that Roanokers, not just out-of-town consultants, are going to be involved in the process of updating and renovating Elmwood Park with an amphitheater that can be used by the many festivals and programs already there. The shag dancers and Woofstock, the Strawberry Festival and Local Colors, and Festival in the Park, all the different groups that use Elmwood Park, are going to be able to use it again. We do not want them to go out to Green Hill Park, we’re going to keep them in Elmwood.
In regards to Countryside, a nice residential neighborhood that the city has struggled with since 2004, we have completed a good plan and a good process in coming up with a new vision for that neighborhood. We continue to struggle to have a positive, community oriented vision for the “Revival” of the Countryside neighborhood here in Roanoke. We are going to keep the “Country” in Countryside! Roanoke is in a “Revival” in other areas, also.
Needless to say, the expanded south Valleyview interchange on I-581 will open 100 acres of currently undeveloped, inaccessible land with an expected investment of $100 million in the Valleyview West/Evans Spring town center development. New office buildings and condos projected for South Jefferson Street between downtown and the medical school will create millions of dollars of investment, new jobs and residential living. We’re not just downtown Roanoke anymore, we’re looking at a vibrant, dynamic center city all along the I-581 corridor, north to south, from Valleyview to the medical school.
I do want to speak to two challenges for the future. These are not government initiatives, but community initiatives.
First, I want us to become more aware as a community of the need for expanded pre-kindergarten/daycare and education of the youngest children of Roanoke. Kris Meyers is here from Smart Beginnings, a part of the United Way. Smart Beginnings is a statewide initiative similar to Smart Start in North Carolina, founded by their former Governor Jim Hunt, who realized that the involvement, the investment, and the increase of education and daycare for children from early infancy up until the time they enter kindergarten can have a big and positive affect on those childrens’ development, educational ability, and discipline as they grow older. The psalmist writes that “The seed that falls on good ground will yield a fruitful harvest” (Psalm 65). I encourage you to become more aware of this well grounded program known as Smart Beginnings, which is growing here. Just a year ago, we had four locations in the City with about 200 children involved. Within a short time, we now have 10 locations at churches and civic groups and other areas here in the city and, now, about 800 students. That’s a big increase, but it is still not enough. There are 4,000 pre-kindergarten children in Roanoke, so I want to challenge our community to become more involved with the Smart Beginnings initiative in every neighborhood of Roanoke.
The second challenge has to do with our health. The Mayor could stand to lose about 10 pounds! Each of you could probably stand to lose about 10 pounds! America is the land of milk and honey. We sure do seem to like our milk and honey and our weight is getting worse, not better. As you know I like to hike the mountains and the trails here in our part of Virginia, or Roanoke’s greenway, and I’m encouraged to see people who are not just athletic, but overweight, getting out and getting a little bit of exercise. There is no shame in getting exercise in the fresh air! We have to do better as a community and we have to do much better as a nation, stemming the tide of overweight children and overweight citizens. I’m delighted that in her first day on the job, Nancy Agee, new president and CEO of Carilion Health Systems, who is here today, talked about the need for a community health initiative. There is not much new under the sun in this regard. Diet and exercise are still the keys to good health. It’s just that we Roanokers, we Americans, aren’t being the good citizens, the good people that we should be to look after ourselves. We should be strong and healthy Americans! I’m going to be calling on Carilion President Nancy Agee and others in the next several days to join in a community initiative for good health. I call it “Oh…See…RED,” which stands simply for “Oh…See…Roanokers Exercise and Diet” campaign. Call it what you will. While we’re witnessing the “Revival” of a great city, we have to begin the “Revival” of a great people, and the good health of our people must come through better diet and exercise. So, I want the restaurant industry, the fast food industry, the grocery stores, our schools and our corporate employers to join in an effort to improve the health of our precious people and our beloved community. I challenge each of you, as I have to challenge myself everyday, to lose a few “lb’s”. I have to convince myself that my shirts aren’t shrinking around my neck, and I sure would like to get back into that tux on New Years Eve and be able to button it around my cummerbund. Oh…See…Roanoker’s excercising and watching our diet.
Ladies and gentleman of Roanoke, I’m going to end now as I began. I told you a story about a hiker on the trail from another jurisdiction who complimented us Roanokers on what we’ve done to turn our city around. Let me tell you about a couple other conversations that I’ve had recently, all the same, all summer long. People at the grocery store, or at meetings or receptions, have come up to me and said that when they moved to Roanoke from out of town, the realtors took them out to southwest county and told them that’s where the nicest neighborhoods are and the nicest schools. Well, they do have nice neighborhoods and schools out in southwest county and in other parts of the suburbs. But, on several occasions just recently, people are now telling me that they are thinking of moving into the City. They like the activity. They like the diversity of our people. They like the housing diversity and safe neighborhoods. They are assured of the “Revival” of our school system. They like the restaurants and the stores, the festivals. There is so much to do in this town, you just can’t put it all on the weekly calendar. Those folks who have moved out into the suburbs have seen for themselves the “Revival of Roanoke” and, for a change, some of them want to be a part of it.
- I say to you all:
- “Steady as she goes!”
- We’ve got a good thing going!
- We have turned our City around!
- People are noticing!
- Roanokers are very proud of being a part of
- Western Virginia, and, hopefully, we are witnessing all of Western Virginia becoming proud of Roanoke, the “Star” of the Blue Ridge.
Posted By Valerie Garner
Categories: Community, Local Events, Politics, Roanoke City Politics