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Mayor Gives State Of The City Address: “Big MAC” Is Back Though Revised

Mayor David Bowers

by Valerie Garner

 “Witness for yourself the ‘revival of Roanoke,’” said Mayor David Bowers at Thursday morning’s State of the City address. Gone was the ambitious “Big MAC,” replaced by a lesser lofty goal for the “AC.”

In his 2010 State of the City address Bowers said Council needed to “jump-start our ‘Big MAC’ capital improvement program.” The Mayor delivered his speech at the “Big M” – the renovated third floor of the Market Building named “Charter Hall.” A renovated Elmwood Park, with a less costly stage than the proposed 2010 amphitheater, is being designed by out-of-town consultants so the “Big A” becomes a “Small a.”

In 2010 the Mayor said Countryside Golf Course should remain an 18-hole municipal course, with tennis and a swim center. Though there is a new plan now he says “we need to keep the ‘Country’ in Countryside.” By all appearances the “Big C” will become a ‘little c” in 2011.

This year after thanking Joyce Waugh, President of the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce, Bowers heaped praise on all the historic restorations in downtown. “We’ve got something for everybody here in Roanoke. ‘Revival’ is what we are seeing right outside the window today,” he said.

He checked off the revival list: The Patrick Henry, the Medical School, the Cotton Mill, Fork in the City and the new homes and community gardens in Hurt Park, Belmont, Nazarene and Jackson Park neighborhoods.

He praised the Old Southwest neighborhood and recognized their designation as “the number one neighborhood in the nation.” He touted the downtown traffic jams as a sign of revival.

“Most importantly of all, let’s think about our schools and our safe neighborhoods where we live,” said Bowers.

“Graduation rates are up, schools are clean and safe and our teachers are staying in the school system,” he said. He thanked School Board Chairman Dave Carson and Superintendent Rita Bishop for their dedication.

He admitted that “maybe we didn’t pick up the leaves” but Bowers still sees a sense of pride in the residential neighborhoods.

Bowers recognized the new police chief, Chris Perkins, for his new innovative crime-fighting techniques – walking neighborhood streets once considered unsafe and neglected, but are now on the rebound. “They are part of the revival,” he said.

He hopes the SmartWay bus connection will receive continued funding and looks forward to completion of the Valley View I-581 interchange that will bring $100 million to the city coffers as a town center. “We’re just not downtown Roanoke anymore,” said Bowers.

Bowers called for expanded pre-kindergarten, daycare and education for youth as he recognized Kris Meyers from Smart Beginnings. Smart Beginnings has had a positive impact on child development in our community.

The Mayor’s second challenge was focused on health, saying, “there is no shame in getting exercise in the fresh air.” Roanokers need to be good citizens and he called on Nancy Agee, the new President and CEO of Carilion Health Systems, to join in a community initiative for good health. “I challenge each [Roanoker] to lose a few pounds,” said Bowers.

Bowers said people want to move to Roanoke. “They like the diversity of our people – there is much to do. They like the restaurants and the stores, the festivals. We have turned the city around – steady as she goes – people are noticing,” said Bowers.

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