Thursday, April 21, 2016

April 26th City Council Candidate Debate Hosted This Week At Corned Beef & Co. ~ Don’t Miss It!


REI of Virginia will be hosting the Tuesday, April 26th, City Council Candidate Debate. The debate will take place at Corned Beef & Co., 107 S. Jefferson St., Downtown Roanoke City from 6:30 pm to roughly 8:00 pm.

This is one of the final debates before you vote for your favorite candidate. This is a public debate and everyone is welcome. The questions all pertain to business, jobs and real estate related issues. The media has said that the candidates are very similar and don’t have many differences. The debate questions were designed to draw out the differences so you can select the candidate that most agrees with your perception on how Roanoke should operate.

This year we could coin this election as the neighborhood support election. The candidates have, more than previous elections, made it crystal clear at several of the debates that they all whole heartedly support the neighborhoods. Time will tell if that comes to fruition. At this debate we’re going to find out if they show the same love for business.

A couple of the highlights that have happened so far in the election include all of the candidates stating that they supported Roanoke City being a Sanctuary City for illegal aliens but several rebutted. They also all took a firm stand against a Roanoke company called SafeSide Tactical who legally and constitutionally sells guns. We’re going to find out what other businesses they don’t support if there are any and what types of businesses they encourage in the city.

There are lots of great questions at this debate that will differentiate the candidates. The candidates are going to give you their ideas on neighborhood blight in some of the low income neighborhoods in the city and how to fix it. Do we focus on stronger punitive methods of forcing compliance with state codes or are there positive reinforcement solutions? Is the city taking part in corporate welfare or do we need to give handouts to get jobs?

Both businesses and the citizens have been burdened with higher tax rates over the past few years while times are still tough for most. Do our candidates have any ideas on what we can do to prevent future tax increases or do they have plans to repeat the actions of the past?

We’re looking at the future of Roanoke at this meeting and making plans to undo damage from the past. Our candidates have ideas on bringing more jobs to our community and they are going to give us some hints on how they plan to do it.

This is expected to be one of, if not the largest, debate of the election. Don’t miss it! Get there early so you can get a good spot. The room will hold roughly 150 people maximum. We will start at 6:30 pm sharp.

Be there or be square…

UPDATE:

THE POST ABOVE IS NO LONGER VALID.

I wrote some tough questions but they were mostly stricken from our meeting. Taken out with not a shred of conversation with the officers prior to doing so. The new questions were written up and sent right out with no discussion and an email to me stating they have been changed.

I personally feel that each of the candidates are strong enough to have a real debate with hard questions. They are not afraid to answer real questions. The only ones who may be are the two incumbents as some of the questions bring up questionable history of Roanoke that they were involved with. Ohh well, you make your bed you should have to lay in it. And I’m sure the media would be very curious as to why they didn’t come if they refused to do so especially considering there are questions that they should be answering.

The public wants a real debate. All over Facebook and comments to articles in the paper people are saying so. The candidates also want a real debate. I have been personally told by 3 of them that they want a real debate. And more evidence of this is John Garland actually shared the article I wrote above on his Facebook. He is clearly not afraid of answering difficult questions about how he feels on any issue. Even the Roanoke Times was complaining about the lack of questions that demonstrate the differences in the candidates. Which is as a result of having a bunch of forums instead of debates. The Williamson Rd Business Association even had rules on the candidates such as not allowing them to talk about what has happened in the past or specifically target another candidate in the questioning. Bad, bad, bad!

I created that real debate that would have forced the candidates to show their true colors. To show who they really are and how they will treat business. To demonstrate if they will only be supportive of the neighborhoods or they feel that business plays a very important roll in the health of a city. Unfortunately my questions were largely destroyed. Here I will post my initial debate questions and following will be the new supposed improved forum question.

BTW, I’m not saying that my questions couldn’t have been slightly tapered back even though they probably didn’t need to be at all. I actually encouraged that. But radically changed to weak forum questions that prevent a real debate without a shred of discussion prior to sending them to the candidates. Absolutely not… That was unacceptable!
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My Debate Questions:

1. This election, more than others, there has been a very strong emphasis on support for the neighborhoods. It seems that there has been a lack of the same enthusiastic focus for specific ideas the candidates have to encourage the growth of business. All of the candidates at the Park Dance Club debate came out against the business SafeSide Tactical who stated they would eventually employ 50 people.

Question:
Are their any other types of businesses that you will stand against as a result of your beliefs and what types of businesses do you intend on encouraging?

APPARENTLY IT’S REAL BAD TO SHOW THAT THE CANDIDATES DO NOT SEEM TO BE SUPPORTING BUSINESS AND GET THEM TO TALK ABOUT IT TO GET COMMITMENTS FROM THEM THAT THEY WILL. IT’S ALSO APPARENTLY BAD TO GET THEM TO EXPLAIN IF THERE ARE ANY OTHER BUSINESSES, OTHER THAN A GUN SALES BUSINESS, THAT ARE CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED, SELLING LEGAL PRODUCTS, THAT THEY WILL NOT SUPPORT. THIS QUESTION EVEN GIVES THEM AN OUT ASKING THEM TO EXPLAIN WHAT KINDS OF BUSINESSES THEY WILL BE SUPPORTING.

THE ROANOKE TIMES ASKED THAT SAME EXACT QUESTION I DID. BUT APPARENTLY I AM NOT ALLOWED TO ASK IT AND THE NEW REPLACEMENT QUESTION BELOW IS BETTER. AS IF THEY HAVEN’T ALREADY BEEN ASKED THAT AT EVERY SINGLE FORUM THEY HAVE DONE. THIS IS A DEBATE NOT A FORUM.

NEW QUESTION:
What are your short term goals for the City of Roanoke?
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2. The city has for a long time had a policy of selling tax payer owned buildings and land that often has hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars in value to select investors. Examples of this would be the sale of the YMCA building for 10 dollars of which REI of Virginia had an offer on for 50,000 and the Health Department building sale which was another 10 dollar building among many others.

Question:
Do you feel that it’s in the best interest of the tax payer, who is the real owner of the property, to advertise these properties for sale on the same scale that the city advertises a tax sale and sell it to the highest bidder? And does the local neighborhood have the right to decide what type of business is best suited in the building or on that land? If so, how will that process be enacted?

THE NEW QUESTION BELOW IS SIMILAR. THERE IS A REMOVAL OF SPECIFIC EXAMPLES AS IF THEY ALL MONITOR OUR INDUSTRY AND ALREADY KNOW. AND REMOVAL OF THE QUESTION IF THE NEIGHBORHOOD GROUPS SHOULD BE ABLE TO DICTATE WHAT TYPES OF BUSINESSES EXIST IN A COMMERCIALLY ZONED AREA. I GUESS I’M OK WITH THAT GONE.

NEW QUESTION:
The City has a long standing policy of selling tax payer owned buildings and land to select investors for $10.00. Do you feel this a good policy or should these properties be sold the same way the city advertises and sells tax sale properties, to the highest bidder?
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3. Businesses and the citizens of Roanoke have been burdened by several additional taxes recently such as the raised property taxes, higher meals tax and a brand new rain tax.

Question:
If you were elected to the city council do you feel like there is still room for additional taxation? Have you looked over the city budget to find any areas in particular that you feel we could make some cuts to avoid new taxation or reduce taxes to their original levels? Or do you see tax reduction as not being feasible with todays scope of government?
Second part of the question, How would you replace taxes when there are lost revenues from lower property values or other things such as the Norfolk Southern lawsuit where they are expected to win against the city on gravel being a surface that water will penetrate?
I GUESS WE WILL NEED TO SETTLE WITH THE NEW HIGHER LEVEL OF TAXES AND NOT BE CONCERNED ABOUT THEM GETTING BACK DOWN TO WHERE THEY WERE AS THAT QUESTION WAS REMOVED.

HE ALSO TOOK OUT THE RAIN TAX SPECIFICS WITH THE NORFOLK SOUTHERN QUESTION. IF NORFOLK SOUTHERN WINS THIS LAWSUIT AGAINST THE CITY THERE WILL BE A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF GRAVEL DRIVEWAYS, ETC THAT WONT BE TAXED. IF THE CITY LETS NORFOLK OFF AND CONTINUES TO TAX EVERYONE ELSE I KNOW SEVERAL PEOPLE IN REI THAT WILL PUT DOWN THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS EACH TO SUE THE CITY FOR THE REST OF THE CITIZENS. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN NICE TO SEE FROM EACH CANDIDATE IN THIS SPECIFIC EXAMPLE IF THEY WERE PLANNING ON REPLACING IT WITH MORE TAXATION OR IF THEY WOULD MAKE BUDGET CUTS TO COVER THE LOSS.

NEW QUESTION:
Are you aware that this organization’s members own over 70% of the real estate in the City and are the largest real estate tax payer? In the past few years we have been burdened by several additional taxes such as an increased tax rate and rain tax. If you are elected to the City Council, do you feel there is still room for additional taxation? And have you looked at the city budget to find areas to make cuts and reduce taxes?
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4. Businesses fund the largest portion of the city budget, and are clearly important to the health of the city. It’s commonly discussed among business owners that the city seems to have an attitude of what they can do to prevent a company from doing business by putting continual road blocks in the way of progress rather than encouraging a company to grow their business. These pressures come from various departments including taxation, zoning, building inspections, code enforcement, fire marshals, etc. We have all heard fellow investors say they will never buy another property or open another business in the city as it is much easier to deal with the surrounding areas.

Question:
Do you have any ideas on what you feel will help create a more positive relationship between businesses / investors and the city? And do you feel the economic development department of the city is doing an adequate job at both growing the number of businesses and jobs in the city as well as talking to businesses to see how the city can better work with them to create a thriving environment that they will not want to leave?

REMOVAL OF ALL EXAMPLES SO CANDIDATES COULD REASONABLY THINK THAT THERE ALREADY IS A POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE CITY AND BUSINESS. NATURALLY SOMEONE WHO IS NOT IN BUSINESS WOULD THINK EVERYTHING IS A-OK. WHY IS THIS NEW QUESTION BELOW ASKED TWICE. ONCE HERE AND ONCE IN NUMBER 7? I DIDN’T ASK ANY QUESTION TWICE. WHAT ARE WE DOING THIS IS CRAZY…

NEW QUESTION:
What are your ideas that will help create a more positive relationship between business / investors / landlords and the city?
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5. Cities, counties and towns across the country have various plans in place to bring jobs to their town. It is of upmost importance to our organization that our city council candidates know and understand how to create an environment that brings jobs as a rising population will increase the value of property for everyone. Towns across the country have varied programs they have created to bring jobs. Camden Maine offers 3.5 acre lots to families for free who are willing to bring jobs to the region. Several towns have tax incentives to businesses that will relocate to their area.

Question:
Why do you feel the Roanoke area has had so many large job losses, what can be done to prevent companies from wanting to leave, and what ideas do you have to direct your city manager to implement that will lead to a net increase in jobs for the city?


CUT BACK SOME BUT NOT MUCH. HE TOOK OUT WHAT IDEAS THEY HAVE TO INCREASE JOBS DURING THEIR TERM AS IF THAT ISN’T IMPORTANT.

NEW QUESTION:
Why do you feel that the Roanoke area has had so many large job losses, i.e. Advance Auto, Norfolk Southern? And what can be done to prevent companies from wanting to leave?
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6. The Deschutes Brewery deal which seemed to come just in time includes a 3 million dollar contribution from the states Commonwealth Opportunity Fund and a host of other incentives that sweeten the deal. They were given a tax payer owned parcel of land worth roughly 2.75 million, a grant of about 140,000 from the cities Enterprise Zone Program and a performance based grant from the city through the Economic Development Authority of roughly 1.4 million and a couple other performance based grants that total $225,000. The city expects to spend another million to extend the Tinker Creek Greenway to their facility.

As of now we are looking at giving Deschutes Brewery roughly 7 and a half million dollars in trade for their production of a 85 million dollar brewing facility and 108 jobs for citizens of the area .

Question:
Do you see large donations of tax payer money like this to companies as corporate welfare or a necessary method of attracting jobs? And if this is necessary do you have plans that you will use to continually fund these deals. Or do you feel there are more cost effective ways of attracting large or small employers?

OK SO ANDY HIMSELF ASKED THIS QUESTION. I DID THE RESEARCH ON IT FOR HIM HE THOUGHT WE WERE PAYING 1 MILLION TO BRING THEM HERE AND THE REALITY IS MUCH MORE. MAYBE THE ANSWER IS CORPORATE WELFARE IS A GOOD WAY TO GET NEW BUSINESS TO ROANOKE. IF IT IS I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH IT. NEW JOBS PERSONALLY BENEFITS ME AS MY PROPERTIES INCREASE IN VALUE.  THIS IS SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE DISCUSSED. NOT HIDDEN FROM. MAYBE THERE ARE IDEAS TO BRING EMPLOYERS HERE AND PAY THEM NOTHING THROUGH GIVING MAJOR TAX BREAKS. I DON’T KNOW. ALL I KNOW IS IT IS IMPORTANT AND ASKING ANOTHER OF THE SAME QUESTIONS THEY ARE ASKED AT EVERY “FORUM” IS NOT NECESSARY AND NOT IMPORTANT AS THEIR ANSWER IS ALL OVER THE INTERNET ALREADY. I RESEARCHED THIS BEFORE I WROTE MY QUESTIONS. THE QUESTION CHANGER DIDN’T CHECK TO SEE IF THEY HAVE ALREADY BEEN ASKED.

NEW QUESTION:
How do you differentiate yourself from the other candidates?
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7. Some neighborhoods throughout the city have dilapidated housing. This is a result of a small minority of landlords as well as owner occupied properties which often consist of elderly or people living in poverty who don’t have money to fix up their house or SIMPLY DON’T CARE. 30 years ago the entire Roanoke City Code Enforcement department consisted of 4 hard working people. Today the department has ballooned to over 20 people but the neighborhood blight issue remains.

Question:
What do you feel will be the MOST EFFECTIVE method to get a landlord OR citizen to rehabilitate their property BEYOND the currant minimum state code to create an up and coming “this is the place to move to” type neighborhood? And do you feel that increased punitive measures such as fines are the best way to motivate people or some form of positive reinforcement and please give an example.

FORGET ABOUT THE PAST IN THE NEW QUESTION. I GUESS IT’S MEANINGLESS THAT THE DEPARTMENT HAS BALLOONED IN SIZE. THE NEW QUESTION ASKS THE SAME EXACT THING AS NEW QUESTION NUMBER 4 DOES. WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO IMPROVE RELATIONSHIPS? WHY TWICE? I THINK THAT IS AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT QUESTION I WROTE AS MOST OF THE CITY ALREADY IS FIXED UP TO THE CURRANT MINIMUM CODE.

THE PROBLEM IS THE NEIGHBORHOOD GROUPS ALL WANT TO BE THE NEXT OLD SOUTHWEST. THEY WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE THE PROPERTIES AND TREAT THEM LIKE THEY LOVE THEM. TO PRETTY UP THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND MAKE PEOPLE WANT TO LIVE THERE. THIS REQUIRES TAKING THEM BEYOND CURRANT CODE.

SEVERAL OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD GROUPS WANT TO DO THIS THROUGH PUNITIVE METHODS AND EXTREME FINES TO LANDLORDS AND CITIZENS. THEY ALSO WANT TO PRESSURE OUR SENATOR AND HOUSE MEMBERS TO CHANGE LAWS TO MAKE THEM MORE RESTRICTIVE TO EVERYONE.  I THINK POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT METHODS ARE THE ONLY EFFECTIVE WAY TO GET PEOPLE TO FIX THEIR PROPERTY UP BEYOND CURRANT CODE. ANDY HOWEVER THINKS THIS QUESTION IS BEST OFF BEING LEFT OUT AND ASK THE SAME EXACT THING AS NEW QUESTION NUMBER 4. HE ALSO UNINTENTIONALLY IMPLIES IN HIS QUESTION THAT LANDLORDS ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO HAVE PROPERTIES THAT AREN’T FIXED UP AND THAT SIMPLY ISN’T TRUE. IT IS BAD TO EVEN GIVE THAT IMPRESSION TO PEOPLE.

NEW QUESTION:
There are many blighted areas in the City. Many individuals have stopped renovating these properties due to the extensive government bureaucracy in doing so. What would you do to improve relations with the landlords in the City and improve these neighborhoods?

Apparently there are some people in our group that think all of the candidates are so weak that none of them will come if they are asked tough questions. I honestly think they are strong enough to give a good reason why they believe something contrary to what others believe. There are plenty of people in Roanoke that will be on their side.

These candidates aren’t only here to talk to us. They are encouraged to say whatever they HONESTLY feel. ALL of the media was invited. There will be media there and they should be answering and talking to the public. Not to us. They should be telling the public what they think they want to hear to get themselves elected. Which is not necessarily what you or I want to hear.

These candidates are strong enough to be able to stand behind their beliefs. Treating them like weak timid little children is unacceptable. The DEBATE questions should be asked. Not the new forum questions along with the same questions they have been asked everywhere. And this NEVER should have happened without prior discussion.

OK IM DONE. YES I’M PISSED OFF ABOUT THIS AS YOU CAN TELL. AND I THINK RIGHTFULLY SO.  I WILL GET OVER IT AND WON'T BE MAD AT ANDY FOREVER EVEN THOUGH IT IS EXTREMELY IRRITATING.OVERALL HE IS A REAL GOOD GUY OTHER THAN THIS BIG SHOCKER OF A SURPRISE. I THINK HE DIDN'T THINK THIS THROUGH BEFORE CHANGING AND SENDING THOSE QUESTIONS. THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN SOME DISCUSSION. WE WILL BE BEST OFF SWITCHING BACK. AT LEAST THATS WHAT EVERYONE I HAVE SHOWN IT TO HAS SAID. AND I'LL BET THE CANDIDATES AGREE AS I DON'T THINK THEY ARE WEAKLINGS. AND THOSE THAT ARE I WANT TO KNOW.








Mayor Democrats: Martin Jeffrey Write In or Sherman Lea

Republican City Council Write In: Jim Garrett

Independents:  Michelle Dykstra, John Garland, Dane Howard

City Council Democrats:  Anita Price, Freeda Cathart, Trish White-Boyd

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