I’ve always wondered why people want to run for Roanoke City Council. It seems to be more of a political sink hole than a stepping stone. And yet, every two years a multitude of candidates run.
On Monday, the Roanoke Times ran a profile piece on those seeking seats on Council and the four running for Mayor. I was struck by one thing. Several of the candidates (not all) either have some type of government job or work for a company dependent on government dollars. Sherman Lea works for the VA Department of Corrections. Anita Price works in public education. Brian Wishneff owns an economic development consulting company. Who hires economic development consultants? Roanoke City has certainly employed its share. Wishneff is also a part time professor at Virginia Tech. Again, tax dollars.
Recently appointed Council Member Alvin Nash (whom I know and like) is the President of the Blue Ridge Housing Development Corp, also dependent on government funding.
Those dependent on government funding for their living are clearly the most interested in serving on Roanoke City Council. This dual interest is what leads to the questions about conflicts of interests. It’s only natural and almost impossible to avoid, even if someone hasn’t done anything unethical or wrong. Just today, the Times ran an editorial questioning why Council chose Nash, citing the potential conflict of interest as the reason.
It is my hope that the future brings more candidates from the private sector to serve in local government. But again, they don’t have as much self interest in doing so.