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Roanoke City Manager Bob Cowell’s Departure Is Good News

The sudden resignation of Roanoke’s City Manager, Bob Cowell, is indeed good news for taxpayers. His unbridled expansion of the city staff…five Assistant/Interim/Intern City Managers (three work directly for him)…with varying titles is appalling.  For decades we operated with one assistant manager; over the past 24 years there were 2 assistant city managers.  It’s a regrettable fact that out of this corral of senior managers not even one was deemed to have the ability to act as Interim City Manager.  This indicates that Mr. Cowell either hired unqualified staff, was too lazy himself, or is inept to do the job for which he was hired.

Council member and mayoral candidate Joe Cobb’s statement that he thought Cowell had done a good job is revealing.  We have higher taxes, one of the highest rates of violent crime in the Commonwealth, roads are shamefully neglected, and too many roads that are being paved are leaving manhole covers two to four inches too high or too low.  This isn’t a new complaint from citizens, but did Cowell hold the department in charge accountable? Did Cowell not notice the shoddy work himself?  Are any city employees held accountable for the quality of work?  It doesn’t appear so.

Why is it no longer a requirement that city employees, especially those in management positions, must live in Roanoke City?  Shouldn’t they pay their fair share of Roanoke’s bloated City taxes?

About a year ago, Cowell proposed a 3% across-the-board raise for all management level positions, which the City Council cheerfully approved, unanimously!  But those picking up trash or sweeping streets got ZIP – so much for City Council Democrats looking after the little guy.

Roanoke is landlocked so the ability to grow the tax base is limited; therefore, the residents must bear the financial burden of mismanagement.  Instead of a leaner and more efficient government, Cowell along with the City Council’s approval just raised our taxes.  That is not a budget; it is grabbing the taxpayers by the ankles and shaking vigorously. Roanoke City has one of the highest property tax rates in the entire state.

Roanoke has been controlled by a Democrat Council for decades and nothing has improved.  Why do voters continue to cast a vote for Democrat candidates for City Council?  One would think if you are getting hit in the head with a hammer repeatedly, you would eventually try to get out of the way.

Cowell lives in my neighborhood and I drive by his house daily and at various times of the day; at least two or three times a week his truck is in the driveway during work hours.  Maybe he is working at his second job of teaching remotely — something else the City Council allowed.

The selection of a new City Manager should be open to any Roanoke City resident, not just nominations from sitting council members.  The criteria for selecting the new City Manager should be that: he/she should have kids in public school; be engaged in the community FULL TIME – no second job, and that he/she should not be paid more than the average salary of city mangers in the state of Virginia which is $114,628 and the contract should be for three years.

Some of Cowell’s bad management is the responsibility of City Council.  They haven’t held him accountable, questioned him, or asked for supportive data; they just rubber stamp everything.  They are equally responsible for the mess the City is in.  We can only hope that voters will wake up and maybe cast their vote for a candidate who is not a Democrat. 

Things couldn’t be any worse, so take a chance and get out of the way of the hammer.

Suzanne Osborne, Roanoke City




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