By E. Duane Howard
Howard is a longtime city activist and president emeritus of the Southeast Action Forum.
Since I first ran for office in 2000, I don’t recall after any elections that there was not some form of discussion on changing our election from May to November. It seemed that after every discussion nothing ever happened and the talk or action just faded away.
When I first got wind of this latest talk, there was no reason to pay much attention to it for I figured it would play out the same as every other ones in the past and just fade away. I thought if the mayor and council were serious, they would be holding public input session all over the city to help inform and educate their constituents, as in every other major, controversial issue that has come before the public in the past.
Having been in three council elections, I can’t recall one candidate that didn’t espouse the importance and need for communications with neighborhoods and the public in general. Now, on the most important issue of our time, a “small” group of Democrats have decided what they want and be damned with the rest of the city. What the mayor is doing and how he is acting and speaking is a textbook example of “Trumpism.”
Of all the mayors we have had, the public should expect more from only the second black mayor in the history of the city. Would our first great black mayor, Noel C. Taylor, had shown such utter disrespect for his constituency?
There are very sound arguments for moving elections to November. I’ve been for it since my first run in 2000. I’ve listened and watched the council. Having listened to both sides of the issue, I’m swayed toward odd number years, but it does not affect me one way or the other.
One of the most outspoken concern for odd or even years is that our council elections will be lost in the fray of national politics. No one has brought out what I consider to be the most important factor no matter which cycle is chosen, be it odd or even years, and that is the “weather factor.”
As it is now, our elections are not in full gear until after the holidays and the first of the year when weather conditions are at their worst, snow, sleet hail and leftover ice on sidewalks and steps make for campaigning hazardous to one’s safety and well being. Trying to go door to door with umpteen flights of stairs with snow and ice makes campaigning near impossible until April when election day is upon us.
With November elections, candidates would have the entire spring and summer for a longer campaign and be able to easily reach all quadrants of the city. Candidates would have more time to be seen and heard. Think of the overabundance of opportunities for candidates’ exposure with the countless outdoor events over this period of time, festivals, concerts, exhibits, races that make our city the great place it is. There would be an endless opportunity to get their message out there and to be seen and heard with little to no cost for their campaign. This would be a huge plus for the candidates to have plenty of time in getting their message and campaign signs out to the public so that they are not drowned out by national elections, be it an odd or even year.
In his commentary of Nov. 3, John D’Orazio, chairman of the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce, was simply “SPOT ON” with all the excellent points he made. He closed with this statement which bears repeating:
“At the end of the day, we can debate on the best course of action for Roanoke City elections. But that’s exactly what we need to do. Debate, discuss, deliberate. Give it time it needs and deserves. If it truly is the right way to go, another month or two, or another year or two will not matter. We urge Mayor Lea and members of the Roanoke City Council to continue the conversation rather than rush to make any final determination on a potential city election date change.”
Please come out this Monday night, 7 p.m., sign up to speak, even it just to ask them to slow down and have input meetings for the public to hear the pros and cons. The public has been totally left in the dark on this most monumental decision concerning our voting rights.