By David Bowers
Bowers is the former mayor of Roanoke.
While I thank Roanoke City Council for holding a public hearing on the issue of moving the Council elections to November in odd or even years, the 5-2 outcome for even years revealed clearly a RAM, a SHAM and a SHAME.
The public should remember that this all started just recently with a council inquiry, resulting in a City Attorney recommendation to move the city elections from May to November in odd-numbered years, to coincide with Virginia elections. The Council readily ignored that advice.
That proposal would allow for the upcoming May 2020 election (just six months from now) to be held, but whomever would be elected would serve a shortened 3 1/2 year term so that future city elections could be held in November along with statewide elections. This would prevent our local elections from becoming “nationalized” by powerful presidential election influence, and keep the focus on “local” issues. I cite, for example, that a recent school board election in Northern Virginia in 2018 came down to “Are you pro-Trump, or anti-Trump?” Wow! What does that have to do with local leaders having to deal with educating local students in local schools.
On the other hand, we just witnessed this past week the election in an odd-numbered year of Democratic governors in Kentucky and Louisiana because the winning candidate emphasized “local” and “state” issues, despite the influence of national politics.
We do need to move Roanoke City Council and Mayoral elections to a November date because of the increasing costs of several elections in the same year, the increasing challenge of finding qualified election judges, and the number of voters in November always exceed those who vote in May. The question is whether to move them to even years during presidential/congressional elections of odd-numbered years during Virginia’s statewide elections. I suggest our Roanoke interests are more aligned with Virginia.
All that being said, Roanoke City Council RAMMED this even-numbered proposal through without a much needed study, further public comment and due deliberation. What the majority said they were going to do last month was quickly done this month, so the entire episode of appearing to be considerate of city voters’ views and careful consideration of a complex and impactful decision was just a SHAM.
And, finally, their partisan, politically motivated and self-serving cancellation of the city election this coming May means that they get to extend their term beyond what we, the people, voted to allow them to serve back in 2016. Thus, come July 1, 2020, the City of Roanoke will be governed by an unelected Mayor and unelected majority on our City Council because they cancelled the May election.
Roanoke City Council thus has become “The Grinch That Stole Our Election” and, therein, lies the SHAME of it all.