U.S. Conference of Mayor’s notes Saturday, Feb 2 2013 

January 16 through 19 I was in Washington.  The U.S. conference of Mayor’s met and below are excerpts of emails I sent to council.

Today (January 17) has been filled with meetings, information, and sharing of ideas.  One thing that has impressed me about the US Conference of Mayors is the level of conversation and interaction with the Administration here in Washington. There are eleven Cabinet Members who are here over these few days as well as the Vice President’s talk today at lunch. 

For instance today I was able to interact with the Secretary of Energy and President Obama’s Chief Adviser on Climate Change.

One of the top people in Yelp was in one meeting and I heard his view on start up companies.  The Mayor of Salisbury NC talked about running fiber and I intend to follow up with him on the structure they used.

So many ideas come from just networking and interactions.  The idea I shared with Larry was just one conversation.  The Mayor of Chapel Hill, Gainesville Florida, and I spent a great deal of time comparing notes and reactions.

Another idea that came from my discussion with the Mayor of Chapel Hill is to start an ACC forum of Mayors that meet periodically to discuss common problems.  We talked about places like College Park, Clemson, Winston Salem coming together to explore challenges and possible solutions.

I am finding that it is so different being with Mayors from around the country.  The solutions and initiatives they present are exciting.  From Oregon to Vermont, these are contacts that can serve Blacksburg well.

This is just a short summary of the several days of events but gives you an idea of opportunities at some of these conferences. 

While in Washington I also interacted with the First Selectwoman from Newtown as well as the Mayors of Oak Creek Wisconsin, Aurora Colorado, and Tuscon Arizona.  The opportunity to talk with others who have lived trough the same types of horrific events we have was very powerful.  We agreed to look for ways to use our experiences to help others.

WELCOME HOME VETERANS Tuesday, Apr 10 2012 

I am proud to live in a community that says thank you to our veterans. Please come out on join us to “welcome home” veterans of all years of service. See the information below for more details.

Welcome Home Veterans Parade, April 29

Join the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program and the Town of Blacksburg for a Welcome Home Parade for local veterans of ALL eras, Sunday, April 29, 2pm. Parade participation is highly encouraged and open to all military: active, retired, guard, and reserve. Participate as an individual or organization.

The parade will start along Eheart Street, turn right on South Main Street, left on Alumni Mall and end with a right on Stanger Street.

Sunshine Week Sunday, Mar 11 2012 

There were several articles in the Roanoke Times about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Sunshine week. Transparent, open government is something to be celebrated.

The Roanoke Times printed an example of an official FOIA request. It is our policy in Blacksburg that, if someone gives a verbal request, or sends an email, it is our duty to fulfill that request. No extensive verbiage required.

Yes, if the request is extensive, there will be a charge. It is important how taxpayer money is spent. If an employee spends two days researching such a FOIA request, that is time away from the employee’s duties with the town. And, the charge never covers the total cost to research and supply the information.

Therefore, we try our best to work with the person making the request, to focus on the information they want, and give it to them in the most thorough efficient manner. But we always strive to supply the information they think they need.

And, unlike the cartoon in the Roanoke Times, it does not take months to deliver the requested information.

I have always taken the position, that as elected officials, we need to not only adhere to the letter of the law, but also the spirit.

Blacksburg MSA named a “Top Metro” for second year Friday, Mar 2 2012 

This is great news for the region. It shows what happens when localities work together. For more, go to the:

Montgomery County Economic Development Page

Sign Up for the Big Event Wednesday, Feb 29 2012 

The Big Event is coming again to a yard near you. Sign up and participate. This is a great way to interact with the Virginia Tech Students and a great way for them to meet residents of the place they call home for four (or five) years. The help they give is important – but meeting the students is what makes this special day worthwhile.

Please visit their website and SIGN UP!

The Big Event

Governor McDonnell Please veto HB 940 Monday, Feb 27 2012 

As you know, I try very hard to limit my comments to issues directly related to the Town of Blacksburg. HB 940 has so many ramifications for Blacksburg, the Commonwealth, and the Country, that I felt a response was required.

Currently, a buyer can only purchase one handgun a month. HB 940 would remove that limit. Seriously!

Below is a letter I have faxed to the Governor asking him to veto this legislation:

February 26, 20122

The Honorable Bob McDonnell
P.O. Box 1475
Richmond, Virginia 23218

Dear Governor McDonnell:

As Mayor of Blacksburg for the last six years, I am painfully aware of the power of handguns.

Having seen the devastation caused by gun violence, I echo the concerns expressed by the families of the April 16th victims. I join those families in their request. I too ask that you veto HB 940.

If you veto HB 940, which would remove the nineteen year old law restricting handgun purchases to one per month, you are not putting the Second Amendment in jeopardy. Your veto would simply confirm your support of the 1993 legislation that limited handgun purchases. You did the right thing in 1993 and I hope that you will do so again in 2012.

Thank you for your consideration of a veto of HB 940.

Respectfully,

Ron Rordam,
Mayor

South Main Street Revitalization Task Force Tuesday, Feb 21 2012 

The post I published dealing with the purchase of a parking lot downtown attracted a great deal of attention and comment. Good, constructive, comment.

For the last year or two, we as a council have struggled with the best approach to take vis-a-vis First and Main and the entire South Main retail area. Your comments made me think that the best way to support this area was to establish a South Main Revitalization Task Force much like the successful Downtown Revitalization Task Force.

And that is what we are going to do. Council Member Krisha Chachra and Blacksburg Partnership President Diane Akers have agreed to lead this group. Both have been very involved with the merchants at First and Main. They have demonstrated their desire to see this area succeed through their actions and support of the merchants.

Krisha and Diane are in the process of contacting stake holders in the area and asking them to serve. These stake holders will be comprised of business owners and property owners. This will be a citizen group, bringing practical ideas to the table. As in the Downtown Revitalization Task Force, a town staff member will attend to bring ideas back and forth, but the body will be run by the Task Force.

We are fortunate that both Krisha and Diane have agreed to serve and I look forward to reporting on their progress.

Secretary Ray LaHood and Peter Rogoff visit Blacksburg Saturday, Feb 18 2012 

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s visit to Blacksburg yesterday has been reported in the media. I had the opportunity to welcome the Secretary when he landed. To have a Cabinet Secretary come to your community is always a special event.

But, what was not reported, was Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff accompanied the Secretary. Mr. Rogoff did not go to the Transportation Institute, but wanted to talk transit with Blacksburg.

I was fortunate to be able to accompany Mr. Rogoff as our Transit Director, Rebecca Martin, gave him a tour of Blacksburg and Blacksburg Transit. We discussed the issues faced by smaller transit sytems such as ours. Becky did a great job representing Blacksburg.

We learned more about some of the larger issues facing transit from a Federal Perspective. We were also able to talk about some of our long range goals and I was again able to put in a plug for stready funding streams and, what is becoming a recurring theme in these last few weeks, Amtrak!

It was a morning well spent.

Written Friday Morning after Richmond Legislature meetings Monday, Feb 13 2012 

I was so glad to be back in Blacksaburg after a day and a half in Richmond, I forgot to post this entry/em>

How to Pay for Roads and Rail

Yesterday’s meetings with legislators did not reveal any startling new ideas. The House and the Senate continue to try and piece together legislation to fix our broken highway system that is running out of money. They are not meeting with much success.

Fortunately, it looks like the idea of taking money from schools to pay for roads is dead for now. It is frustrating when you are glad to play defense rather than ask that previous reductions be made up. Some floated the idea of indexing the tax on gas. That appears to be dead also.

So, where will the funds come from? No one knows.

You’ll remember that after my meeting with the Virginia Transit Authority last week I was encouraged about rail coming at least to Roanoke in a reasonable time frame. After discussions yesterday, I remain optimistic that rail is on the right track!

Many thanks to Senator Edwards and Delegates Yost and Rush for spending time with us. I know they have busy schedules and we appreciate their willingness to meet and talk about the issues.

Richmond for More Meetings Wednesday, Feb 8 2012 

This week I am here for the Virginia Municipal League’s Legislative day. While it seems like our legislators have only dealth with giving greater access to guns and less to voting rights, there are other bills floating around. Not many seem to be good. After tomorrow’s update from Municipal League staff, I will provide more information.

In the morning I have a meeting with the Municipal League’s executive Committee.

One of speaker’s tomorrow is the President Obama’s Deputy Director for Intergovernmental Affairs. The President has been very good about reaching out to localities. In the afternoon, I have been asked to meet privately with the Deputy Director. I appreciate a White House that is willing to seek input.

After that meeting, I will try to visit legislators that I know to promote issues that affect Blacksburg. While I am doing this, Council Members will be visiting our Delegate and Senator.

We have a joint supper scheduled with the County and Christiansburg tomorrow eveing. I have been coming to Richmond to visit with legislators for sixteen years. During those sixteen years, Blacksburg’s Delegate has always been with us. Most other representatives for the County and Town of Christiansburg also attend. If they can’t, the always send a staff member.

I will let you know tomorrow if this tradition continues.

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