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Thursday, February 21, 2008

To Spend or not to spend

Did anyone read the paper today?
Did anyone get the email about not spending any money?
Did anyone read the paper the other day about the $880k given to a private developer?
Did anyone get the memo on the FD having to cut the budget by almost $500k?

What is going on in Roanoke?

The City Council just voted to hand a private developer $880,000 to build apartments in the old Grand Piano building under one stipulation; they have to offer 17 low income apartments. What a joke. Define low income. Do you really think that someone paying $2000 a month for an apartment downtown will want to have people paying $300 for an apartment underneath them? Or is low income more like only $1500 a month? If you ask me, it is a waste of money when the City, much like every other facet of government from local to Federal, is having money problems. Read the whole story here.

Money problems? That is right. Once again, the FD has to cut the budget...again. I would imagine that the FD budget is probably about 95% salaries.

I will tell you about two people who do not have money problems: Scott Graeff and Ed Walker
Read about Scott here, whereas Ed Walker, a Roanoke redeveloper, owns the Colonial Arms building and has created condominium spaces on the top floors.

But you can't blame them. The City is practically giving away money. Money that they cannot afford to give away.

Do you know where that $880k could have been better spent? Purchasing one of the two much needed replacement ladder trucks in the City.

So you have to ask who is making the decisions? City Council and the City Manager right? Well sure, but what kind of decisions are they making? One Council member spent over $15,000 last year on meals and travel. Compare that to another Council member who only spent $123. That is right, only One Hundred and Twenty Three Dollars.

The best part of the article is this:

"It seems to me that if he had decided to take that challenge on -- to go to lunch with everybody in Roanoke -- he should have at least run it by council," Wishneff said.

That is freaking hilarious.

But what is it being spent on? Read this from one of his friends:

But Michael Ridenhour, a Roanoke audiologist, had a different take on his lunch with Dowe in July at Wildflour, which came to $23.

"We mainly talked about his golf game. He hadn't been playing as much as he wanted to," Ridenhour said.

Dowe did ask his opinion about a proposed amphitheater project, Ridenhour recalled. But he said much of the conversation consisted of Dowe, who is an agent for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, asking Ridenhour if he could be his agent.

"I had high hopes that this was just going to be a friend-to-friend meeting. But as it turned out, he was trying to sell me something.

"I love Alfred; he's a great guy ... but I thought it was a Northwest Mutual lunch," Ridenhour said.

Dowe said he remembered the amphitheater being a bigger part of the lunch conversation. But he also acknowledged that it's not unusual for his full-time profession to come up during a meal over city business.
You can read the entire article here


Anonymous said...

And to say we are just dum fireman. This is a perverbial slap in the back of the head, there Hoback. Will you please do something for us for a change, not the agenda you were given. You are the man in charge, stand up, you sell your pitch to us, sell it to them for us and our behalf. Like EQ. Pay,Benefits. Please do something on the favortism issue with you crew on the top floor of the castle. You know it goes on so nip it.
The ol Grumpy Guy.

Al said...

What's going on in Roanoke? Funny anyone should ask this AGAIN. Seems I have seen this question several times recently. But do you recall the Tribune putting it in print back prior to the last Council elections? I do. And I helped stuff hundreds of copies of that paper in door throughout Roanoke City. But what did the good citizens of Roanoke do but go on and elect Alfred anyhow. All I can say is that you got the brainless one along with another pair of goof balls making a goof ballish majority and a run away redhead still running the city. You got a small opportunity to make a little change this election.
First, while no one is currently running against Harris, it is not necessary to vote for him. Select your candidates for council, just don't vote for mayor. Oh sure, he'll still win but what a statement it would make to see 20,000 voters cast ballots for council and maybe only 2 or 3 thousand for mayor. Harris should be able to see the message in that.
Secondly however consider your votes for Council carefully. To date there is one serious candidate running (Valerie Garner) and that wild guy Lockhard. Forget him, VOTE FOR VALERIE.

Anonymous said...

I'm suprised you haven't written about the city illegally giving our Social Security numbers to a third party.

Anonymous said...

Just curious... How did we find out about the social security # thing anyhow?

And on what grounds would the City think an ELECTIVE insurance company need them?

Anonymous said...

This is crazy. I wonder if the citizens even pay attention to this. The City of Roanoke is "crazy" for lack of a better word. How do you ask to cut the budget in any of the public safety Depts. Guys and Gals of the Roanoke Fire -EMS dept. It would almost be worth the union spending just a little cash to promote a public awareness campaign, just to get the word out. First the man power issue, then the equipment issues, now an apparent freeze on new hires, oh and by the way cut the budget by 500,000.00 but good timing, it's promotion time. That will deflect the undermining of the city administrators. There counting on the inner fighting and back stabbing that goes with the promotional stress. God be with you all. Be safe.

Al said...

Yes, it is crazy and I have begun to wonder about the citizens of Roanoke for not being more active and aware of "What's Going On".
Roanoke city is being run by So Roa and a couple from Salem and Botetourt as well. "Public interest" is defined by those people and City Council policy is similarily established by them. The current theme is to attract "young professionals" so that's where the money is going to be directed. The city manager is also a very big part of the problem. Fire and police are being put way down the list...have been and will continue to be, along with the rest of the city employees. Do you go to City Council? It won't do much good initially, but there is no better and cheaper way to get your message out and EVENTUALLY, if you stick with it, it CAN have an impact. Don't take this personally, but I tend to suspect the firemen are too deeply embedded in their situation. It's understandable but you need to look around and see the big picture. Citizens all across Roanoke are getting the screws. Downtown merchants, Williamsom Road, SE, NW residents, police...and yet with all the abuses, nothing seems to be able to bring these various groups together to address the problem. You can spend money on "public informational messages" but it's not going to be effective. And you can talk of unions but thanks to the good Commonwealth's laws, you'll fail there as well. GET EVERY OFF DUTY FIREMAM AT CITY COUNCIL NEXT MEETING AND MAKE A STATEMENT. And have everyone bring just one "citizen supporter" AND don't just sit there and have one or two people speak, every one of you should sign up to speak. You only get three minutes so be very specific and speak from the heart. Be aware that "selfish interests" tend to tarnish your objectives and thus the need to look beyond just the fire house. Good fortune to all and thanks for what you do.

Anonymous said...

Al, you are right. A message needs to be sent to the City Management and City Council. The firefighters used to be able to press their issues through the local firefighters union, even though we do not have collective bargaining rights yet. However, most of the firefighters that the city has hired in the past 10 years are mainly concerned about their lives and their careers. They only want to do what is good for themselves, and only themselves. They have no interest in banding together for the good of everyone. And then they talk about comraderie and brotherhood.


I hear all these firefighters complain about the equipment, manpower, and other pressing issues, but they can't bother to stand with their fellow firefighters to push the issue. They think they will be blackballed by fire administration or that someone else might benefit from their time and effort. Well, administration cannot blackball everyone, and the administration cannot override their right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. So, until the firefighters start getting together and fighting for their jobs and safety as a group, the city will continue to destroy the fire department and put firefighter and public lives at risk for money.

Al said...

I do understand the concern over the consequences of speaking out but I have seen some very heated comments directed specifically at council members and very honestly nothing bad has happened to the speaker...unless you threaten to shoot them as did Mr. Gravley! Or if you speak up out of turn and disrupt the meeting, as also happened. Speakers should have their facts together and make their points respectfully but firmly and avoid threats. Believe me the biggest statement is one that is never spoken IF they can do it...get 100 or 200 people there all to make simply direct statements. The point being that the NUMBER of speakers sends the message far better than what anyone has to say. If they cannot do that, then it is simply best to tuck the old tail and take whatever come down the pike. Another point about it. The time is right now to do it. Dowe's an embarrassment to Harris and company. As I understand it, Harris is calling for an audit of expenses and there could be more abuses uncovered. Public sentiment fades quickly but right now you can get a lot of mileage out of the situation to underscore your points. The results of the audit may provide more fuel OR it may show this is the worst of it...and the public will quickly loose interest. You also need to get to the current slate of Council candidates for their commentary. You guys and gals have an opportunity NOW to make you case...Dowe's issues, and the elections as well. Sit around and talk about it won't do any good. As they say...time to walk the walk!

Anonymous said...

I understand the next promotions will be without a pay raise. They will institute "Deferred Compensation" as Bank of America recently has done. You will get a raise in 2-3 years. Think about it. Another new scheme.

Anonymous said...

Looks like our fine city councilman resigned amid an alleged scandel. Hopefully he'll be brought up on embezzlement charges and have to refund the money.

Anonymous said...

What a relief. Not ole Bev can be appointed to Dowe's postion and Bev won't have to run as an independent. People just don't understand that we need him even though he can't win the Demo nomination. What a sore loser.

Anonymous said...

Its comical that someone mentioned the union should get involved. Ha Ha. The union never gets involved with issues that may or may not be pertinent to us. I dont believe they have helped anyone EVER.

FireFleitz said...

The last comment shows the complete ignorance of at least one firefighter in Roanoke.

Anonymous said...

What has the union done on the local level lately? Maybe they have been very active, but I am not aware of it. Either way shame on the officers. They are either not acclomplishing anything or not letting people know about their accomplishments!
I understand the lobbying efforts on the state and federal level.I am very appreciative of their efforts!
What I expect from the union is to safequard and try to improve pay, benefits and work conditions for it's membership. Operational issues may affect work conditions, but that is not where the union should be directing the majority of its efforts. That is the job of the cheif and his staff. He will be judged by the success or failure of his policies. Our local needs to shift the focus of their efforts from opertioal issues to personnel issues. Protect the membership, their safety and benefits. If the cheif is willing to let the city manager and her staff f*ck up his department,that will come to rest on his shoulders. The employees are going to continue to show up and do the best they can with what they have.

Now is the time for the union to get involved with our benefits. Give us some leadership, tell us how to effect some change. I dont expect the officers to do it on their own. Organize and inform the memberhip on what we need to do! Provide the leadership we need.

Those of us who have had the misfortune to file claims with AFLAC know they live up to their end of the bargain! So who does it beneit to change to this other company?

FireFleitz said...

To the last anonymous comment.

I appreciate your concerns. The RFFA has been very active on State and Federal levels with the help of extremely dedicated IAFF and VPFF members who want to make change and see that there is change.

The only thing missing on the local level is the members to make change. That being said, we have made great strides on the Local level considering the brick walls we face every day.

The truth is that Rodney Jordan has done more for the firefighters of Roanoke than anyone of you all can imagine. Why is it that he and I and all of the active members always have to prove it to all of the other members. You truly would be amazed at what Rodney is capable of and can accomplish with a couple of phone calls.

Recently, I spoke with a couple of firefighters who aren't blinded by the "what is the local doing for me" mentality and we thought that it would be good to put together a list of what the Local has accomplished.

The truth is that many of us don't have time to sit around and prove ourselves to everyone every day.

The last thing that I can think of that the Local has accomplished was related to one of our retired members. I don't think that I have the right to disclose the information myself, but I am sure that the retired member would be happy to explain what the Local did for them.

Either give me a call and I will put you in contact with him or come to the next Union meeting on the 27th of Feb. and ask.

This is not the time or place for me to talk about Union business because this is the Roanoke Fire Blog and unofficial to the Roanoke Fire-EMS and Local 1132.

Anonymous said...

I don't doubt that the union has helped individuals in the department, I also don't doubt that the union has protected the fire fighters from some of the more asinine things that the command staff has tried to push forward, BUT....
With the issues that the firefighters currently face, (and it's only going to get worse as long as the staff goes unchecked) Why won't they take on the big battles? It's obvious that asking won't work, and the rest of the city isn't going to help. City Council has their own problems right now and they already have a lot of BAD publicity....So, why not add to it? The union needs to take these problems to the street, I doubt the newspaper would be any help, but 10 and 7 are always looking for dirt, start providing it!! If the union were to start putting on a public presence, I am certain that more firefighters would get involved, everybody wants to be on the "Winning" team and lets face it, the union hasn't been the winning team for a long, long time.

Anonymous said...

If you want to be part of a "winning team", you need to get off the bench. The "coaches" (RFFA Officers) can't win the game alone without any players. Go to the meetings, participate on committees, get involved! Sitting back with a woe is me attitude and complaining that nobody is doing anything doesn't help anything. Be that someone that is willing to do something. How many people have taken a few minutes to send an e-mail or make a phone call to city administrators or council members regarding the recent personal information released by HR? When our elected officers take an issue to administrators, one of the first questions they hear is "If this was so important, why are we only hearing a complaint from you?" Let your voice be heard. Register your complaint your complaint in a proffesional and non-inflamatory manner. I sent my complaint to all Council members and the City Manager. I actually had a Council member reply that they were unaware that this was happening. If the wheel never squeaks no one will oil it.
Craig Sellers

Anonymous said...

Get off the bench? I thought that was why there is a union, so no individual had to "Get off the bench" and face retaliation. A business dictionary defines a labor union as "An association of workers for the purpose, in whole or in part, of bargaining, on behalf of workers, with employers about the terms and conditions of employment."
The union is one voice, for many people, "in whole, or in part"

Anonymous said...

Hey Anonymous, While you have your business dictionary out, look up "right to work state". It is merely a courtesy that the City, or any parts of the administration thereof, even recognizes the fact that our union leaders represent an association or group of employees, and is willing to engage in work related dialog. That is why it is so very important that all of us let our concerns be heard. If we lived and worked in a state that recognizes collective bargining, your definition would work. We do not. Do your part! Let the City administrators hear your concerns. I actually got a response from the City Manager. Didn't agree with or like her response but, at least I know that she is aware that we as employees have some legitimate concerns about what is going on.
Craig Sellers