Is Moderation Dead? Sunday, Feb 5 2012 

Great comments from former Defense Secretary  Robert Gates at the College of William and Mary.  Everyone, please pay attention.  We have to find a way to move forward inclusively.

 

Robert Gates, speaking at William and Mary, said no politician has “a monopoly on real truth.”

By Bill Bartel
The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot

WILLIAMSBURG — The United States is in peril — not so much from foreign threats but from mean-spirited partisan feuds that make it impossible to solve the nation’s problems — former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned Friday.

“We are now in uncharted territory when it comes to the dysfunction of our political system,” Gates said a speech during the College of William and Mary’s Charter Day ceremony.

“It appears that as a result of several polarizing trends in American politics and culture, we have lost the ability to execute even the basic functions in government, much less solve the most difficult and divisive problems facing the country.”

Gates served as defense secretary for President Obama and President George W. Bush, was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and a member of the National Security Council staff of several presidents. He said political fights have always been a part of American politics. But those in power understood that they had to compromise for the good of the country.

Not so today, he said.

“The moderate center, the foundation of our political system, is not holding. Moderation is now equated with lacking principles. Compromise is selling out. Yet our entire system of government depends on compromises.”

Without singling out Democrats or Republicans, he blamed the toxic political climate on gerrymandering of legislative districts that lock in control of one party. It gives too much power to the ideological extremists, he said, and congressional committee chairmen lack the power to reach deals.

“I have worked for eight presidents and known many politicians in both parties for nearly five decades. And I never met one who had a monopoly on real truth,” he said.

“At a time when our country faces too many obstacles at home and abroad, we have too many leaders whose outsized egos are coupled with undersized backbones.”

Gates said America’s leaders should take heed of the actions of the Founding Fathers, who could be brutal in their political debate, “yet compromised when necessary for the greater good.” A Kansas native and a 1965 graduate of William and Mary, Gates was appointed the university’s chancellor, a ceremonial post recently held by retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

State Transit Meeting Update Monday, Jan 30 2012 

As promised, a brief update of tonight’s reception in Richmond given by the Virginia Transit Association for Legislators.

Special thanks to our Delegate, Joseph Yost, for coming by and visiting on this important issue. Nick Rush was also there and I believe Senator Edwards was tied up in Committee meetings. He is usually at these meetings and is a long term supporter of rail and public transit.

The good news is ridership is up. Transit is more essential than ever to help solve some of our transportation needs.

Tbe bad news is financial support is down. There are more systems coming on board that require funding, but the size of the pie is not in increasing. Therefore, the peices will be smaller.

While I was there suporting Transit on a state wide basis, I was able to chat with officials at the Department of Rail and Public Transportation about a direct Amtrak link to Roanoke and hopefully Christiansburg.

This vital link is still in the works and is not a dead issue. These officials shared with me some actions we can take along with the City of Roanoke that may behelpful. I plan on passing these suggestions along in hopes to move this program forward.

All and all, this transit connection, while it is a time committment, has been helpful and I do believe we in Montgomery County have seen and will continue to see some benefit from being involved in this state wide organization.

Legislative Session in Full Swing Sunday, Jan 29 2012 

February is the season for Richmond. Those of us in local government, like many in the business community, keep a close eye on Richmond this time of year. When Delegates and Senators are meeting they can do great good – and yes sometimes great harm to those back home.

We are fortunate to have a Town Attorney and Para Legal who keep us up to date on legislation related to Blacksburg.

Blacksburg is a member of the Virginia Municipal League, and this group looks closely at general laws that affect localities.

And, I am President of the Virginia Transit Association, and we follow closely legislation that affects transit.

My first trip to Richmond will be this Monday when I attend a Legislative Reception hosted by the Transit Association. Many members of the legislature will be there which will give me the chance to talk transit issues with them.

I will try to report back Monday night after my meetings.

The following week, the entire Town Council will travel to Richmond to talk about more general items related to Blacksburg. More on that next week.

Yesterday’s Parking Lot Conversation Friday, Jan 13 2012 

I want to thank everyone who contributed comments yesterday on the Town’s plan to expand Downtown Parking.

Some comments were based on South Main Street. I agree with one comment on the quality of businesses in that area. They are gems in the Town of Blacksburg.

For a while now, I have been thinking about ways to best support and expand those opportunities on South Main. Ideas are still formulating, but you have given me some interesting options to think about.

Look for more information as I work out the details and talk with others.

Thank you.

Town Appropriates Funds to Purchase Downtown Parking Lot Thursday, Jan 12 2012 

As a reaction to continued success of our Downtown and the upcoming College Avenue Improvements, Town Council appropriated money Tuesday Night to purchase an existing parking lot downtown. Below is the News Release issued yesterday by the town:

TOWN OF BLACKSBURG TO PURCHASE DOWNTOWN PARKING LOT

Blacksburg, Virginia, January 11, 2012 – Blacksburg Town Council has appropriated the funds to purchase an existing parking lot in downtown Blacksburg. The property is approximately 2/3 of an acre and located in the 300 Block of Progress Street, behind The Creekmore Law Firm building, formerly Raines Real Estate.

The Town and property owner have agreed upon a price of $650,000. The purchase of this property enables the Town to guarantee that current downtown parking spaces are not lost to redevelopment and consider long term options for how the property can best serve the parking needs in downtown.

The purchase is one of many recent public investments in the downtown area. It allows the Town to address both short term and long term goals by balancing the parking needs of the public, employees of downtown businesses, and downtown residents, while providing the potential for the future construction of additional parking facilities.

Current individual space leases will be extended through June 2012 to allow the Town ample time to develop a management plan for the parking lot. Public input and downtown merchant participation in this discussion will take place this spring.

Council Assignments for 2012-2014 Monday, Jan 9 2012 

Council Assignments for 2012-2014

 

Below are the different committees Council members will serve on in the next term.  These will be finalized tomorrow night (January 10, 2012)

 

As you can see, this is a very active group that is involved in many aspects of government and the community.

 

2012 Town Council Membership Assignments

 

 

Ron Rordam

 

Blacksburg Partnership Board of Directors

Blacksburg-Virginia Tech Liaison Committee

Blacksburg-VPI Sanitation Authority

Town-County Liaison Committee

Virginia Tech/Montgomery Regional Airport Authority

Task Force on Climate Protection & Sustainability

Virginia Municipal League Executive Committee

Virginia Transit Association Board

 

Leslie Hager-Smith

 

Blacksburg-Virginia Tech Liaison Committee

Greenway/Bikeway/Sidewalk Corridor Committee

Town-County Liaison Committee

New River Valley Agency on Aging (Alternate)

Downtown Blacksburg, Inc.

Virginia Municipal League Transportation Policy Committee

 

Susan Anderson

 

Blacksburg Housing and Community Development Advisory Board

Blacksburg Partnership Board of Directors

New River Valley Agency on Aging

Metropolitan Planning Organization Board (Alternate)

Downtown Revitalization Committee

Friends of the Farmers’ Market

Virginia Municipal League Legislative Policy Committee

 

Cecile Newcomb

 

Blacksburg Planning Commission

New River Valley Planning District Commission

 

2012 Town Council Membership Assignments

 

 

John Bush

 

Blacksburg Museum Advisory Committee

Montgomery Regional Economic Development Commission

Recreation Advisory Board

Virginia Municipal League Human Development and Education Policy Committee

Town/Gown Committee

Environmental Management Advisory Board

Montgomery County Regional Chamber of Commerce Liaison

 

Krisha Chachra

 

Council on Human Relations

Montgomery County Regional Chamber Tourism Development Committee

Cemetery Trustee Advisory Committee

First & Main Council Liaison

Virginia Municipal League Community and Economic Development Policy Committee

New River Valley Development Corporation

 

Michael Sutphin

 

Agricultural and Forestal District Advisory Committee

Metropolitan Planning Organization Board

Montgomery-Blacksburg-Christiansburg Development Corporation

Montgomery County/Blacksburg Local Emergency Planning Committee

Virginia Municipal League Environmental Quality Policy Committee

Blacksburg Housing and Community Development Advisory Board

Recap of Meeting on Economic Trends Friday, Dec 2 2011 

I promised I would provide an update on my meetings in Richmond sponsored by the Virginia Municipal League. These sessions were intended to provide an overview of state finances as local governments begin to prepare their budgets for next year.

After spending the morning and part of the afternoon listening to economists and economic trends, I will share what I took away from these meetings and predictions. As almost all presenters said, the crystal ball is very foggy. As you read this, take those words into account!

There is good news and bad news. The good news is that many economic trends point to some small upturn in the economy. This will help state finances.

The bad news from the local level is that those extra revenues will not be shared with localities.

There are many reasons why localities will not benefit right away.

Virginia has borrowed heavily from other funds and neglected many of the state’s responsibilities during the recession. Also, federal stimulus funds were used to plug some of these gaps. The Commonwealth will fill these gaps first, before restoring monies taken from localities.

Hopefully, funding to the localities will slowly be restored, but it will take time. As always, Blacksburg will continue to be prudent with our spending and do our best to deliver the services our citizens expect in the most efficient manner possible.

Virginia Transit Association Meeting Recap Wednesday, Nov 30 2011 

Transit Update

I just finished my meeting with the Virginia Transit Association today in Richmond.

After hearing reports from a meeting with the Virginia Secretary of Transportation and talking with Delegate Joe May of Loudon County and the Director of the Depaertment of Rail and Public Transportation, it is clear that we need to looking to the future. The present is very bleak. This is in reference to funding from State.

Everyone is asking the State for money. Our job as a statewide transit organization is to better articulate what we do. Our mission is to relieve congestion and transport people to jobs, school, shopping, doctor’s visits, etc. Pretty simple. Also, this is a very effective use of public dollars.

It is really a matter of transportation choice, not dictation. If we provide a reliable, consistent transportation option, we take cars off the road. This is a benefit to those who choose to ride public transportation.

It is also a benefit to those who choose to drive themselves, because less people are on the road.

We will continue to focus on sharpening our message and encouraging citizens to support that message when they talk with their legislators.

As an aside, every time I come to these meetings I am impressed with the dedicated employees we have supporting transit across the Commonwealth. And, I am always particularly impressed with our staff at Blacksburg Transit and what they have been able to accomplish.

Tomorrow I attend a Virginia Muncipal League meeting on the upcoming State budget. It will not be for the weak of heart, I am sure. Later………….

Richmond Bound Early Monday, Nov 28 2011 

I will spend Wednesday and Thursday previewing different aspects of the potential upcoming state budget.

On Wednesday I will chair the meeting of the Virginia Transit Association. We will discuss the potential impact of budget cuts to systems across the state.

On Thursday I will attend a meeting hosted by the Virginia Municipal League on the general state budget.

I will try to report back Wednesday after the Transit meeting and Thursday after the VML meeting.

Council Meeting Honoring Community Members Wednesday, Nov 23 2011 

At the Town Council Meeting held on November 22, 2011, we recognized Blacksburg’s designation as the number one place in the country to raise a child. The only correct way to celebrate this honor was to recognize those who are responsible – the citizens of this area who give their time and talents to work with children or programs that impact children. Here is a picture from that meeting.

From left to right:

Rodney Allen. Rodney has worked with Boy Scouts for years as a volunteer.

Keith Moore. Chair of the Corridor Committee. This committee has been the force behind our trail system since it’s beginnings.

Mary Biggs. Board of Supervisor member and teacher at Harding Avenue Elementary.

Ron Rordam.

Kirk Shepherd. Aid at Blacksburg High School working with special needs students and he coaches track. Cecile Newcomb, a council member, was his track coach when he was in High School. This is a real testament to the impact community volunteers make in Blacksburg.

Kim Crannis. Blacksburg Police Chief. The police work with schools including the DARE program and resource officers at the High and Middle Schools.

Bill Newcomb. Bill is a local engineer who has worked with youth athletic programs.

These individuals are representative a so many in our community who give their time and talents to mentor youth. And, this includes all of Montgomery County. This honor reflects the values of our greater community.

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