Today the front page of the Roanoke Times featured a story I wrote on David Trinkle, a two-time city council member who is expanding his Fork in the Alley/City restaurant chain into a new location, even as he finishes out a term as vice mayor. (That position is determined by the top vote-getter in each council election, meaning a new vice mayor takes office in July, even as Trinkle’s term continues for another two years.)
I wrote the story to give readers some new information on the Fork in the Market expansion, but also to provide some insight into a sort of council faction that consists of Trinkle, Ray Ferris and Court Rosen. The three all own businesses and therefore bring that philosophy to their decision-making process on the council dais.
One thing that’s notable about the “faction,” though, is that it isn’t necessarily obvious to a first-time observer of the council. In the past, council factions split and fought regularly. This council, however, is much more collegial and cooperative.
That’s a good thing if the observer wants a stable governing body; it’s not so positive, however, for people seeking election next May.
Mayor David Bowers is up for re-election, as are council members Rosen, Sherman Lea and Anita Price.
There had been a glimmer of hope for prospective candidates last year, when Lea (a former vice-mayor after the 2008 election) was openly considering a mayoral run against Bowers. That would leave a council seat without an incumbent and potentially open the door for a third mayoral candidate if the Bowers/Lea battle shed enough blood.
But earlier this month, Lea backed off that idea and said he’d stick to running for his old council seat. That would seem to suck a lot of air out of the room for other potential candidates. Neither Bowers, nor council members Rosen or Price have yet announced their plans for the council election in May.
Conventional wisdom, however, would dictate that they’ll all run for re-election, probably together with Lea on an incumbency ticket. That seems like a challenging prospect for an alternative candidate, regardless of party affiliation. There don’t seem to be any polarizing citywide issues floating out there that a challenger may be able to use to get traction. And with regard to those incumbents, who’s the weak link? It’s not immediately apparent who a challenger might target to pick off.
I would note a couple of caveats, however. First, there’s a lot of time until the May elections, and issues can pop up unexpectedly. If the council passes a stormwater utility that suddenly adds a new tax for residents and businesses, for example, all bets are off.
There’s also the issue of the two-year, two-cents-per-dollar meals tax increase. It’s scheduled to sunset on June 30, just in time for a new budget year that with state cuts and the end of federal stimulus money could mean tough fiscal times for the school system. Despite requests from the Roanoke branch of the NAACP, I’ve not heard any of any momentum or substantial council support for extending that increase or making it permanent. Doing so would make some people happy, but it could be taken by the restaurant community and its customers as a breach of trust, which could create a political problem for council members running for re-election.
What do readers think? Am I wrong in thinking there’s no big wedge issue in Roanoke right now? Who are you hearing may run, or who do you think would make a good candidate?
– Mason Adams