Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Roanoke City YP Forum Recap

As I mentioned on this Blog earlier, 3 area Young Professional groups hosted a Forum for Roanoke City Council candidates last night. As the President of a participating group (The Roanoke Jaycees) and an organizer, I was very pleased with the event and want to congratulate all that were involved. Now for the recap.

To me, there are really 5 serious contenders for Council (3 Spots open) and 2 for Mayor. Brian Wishneff was absent so I will focus on the 6 candidates in attendance.

To my surprise, I actually found Mayoral candidate David Bowers to be a likable guy. You may remember a post I wrote several weeks ago denouncing some in the Republican party who wanted to endorse Mr. Bowers. I still don't think that is a good idea, but I was surprised that I actually liked some of what Bowers had to say. He seemed to have a handle on the issues. That being said, I still have serious disagreements with him on many issues and cannot think of him as the change candidate in this race--simply because has already served as Mayor for 8 years.

Mayor Nelson Harris also demonstrated an understanding of the challenges facing our City and seemed in touch with the young folks in the crowd.

Looking at the Council candidates, I thought Court Rosen stood out from the rest. He spoke intelligently about the issues and, I think, was on the same page with most of the Young Professionals in the audience. This was his crowd and he did well. I was also impressed with Anita Price. She doesn't come across as a politician, which may be a good thing, but again, she presented her ideas well and has the background to deal with what I see as the biggest challenge facing Roanoke--the schools.

Sherman Lea didn't make an impression really. As a sitting Council member, he knows the issues, but I didn't feel the same connection to the audience that the others had.

I consider Valerie Garner a contender since she has aligned herself with Bowers, who has a chance to win. Garner was pleasant enough, but did not come across as someone who will fight for issues of concern to the younger demographic. She seemed more "old guard". She actually answered my question about downtown living (should we have more affordable options like apartments and what can the City do to encourage it). She supports the concept but would have opposed incentives for the Hancock building--the developers were going to turn this historic building into lower margin apartments if they received City incentives. Without them, it's another high end condo development. I believe this is an important project that deserves incentives.

All 9 candidates were given a chance to talk about the Virginia Museum of Transportation--a close partner of the Jaycees. To my delight, all voiced support for helping the Museum.

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