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Votes

Open Space, Mass Transit Get a Boost

New Voting Machines Coming to City.

Anyone watching City Council Tuesday night had to notice the imposters at City Hall.

There was a Clarence Thomas look-a-like in the mayor's seat. The vice mayor looked strangely like a cowgirl, and there was a witch with a pointed hat. And over there, Superman sat with his cape flowing off his back. Other seats were occupied by men wearing masks.

Halloween came early in Council chambers, with members conducting their business in costume throughout the proceedings.

While frivolity took center stage early, it was down to serious business once Mayor William Euille called the meeting to order.

Council approved a memorandum of understanding between the city and the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust to assist with conservation easements. “This is just one of the ways that we can obtain and preserve open space to meet the goals that were set forth in the open space plan that Council approved last May,” said Sandra Whitmore, the director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Activities.

Barbara Ross, the deputy director of the Planning Department, said, “This memorandum of understanding will essentially pay for the staff time and expertise of the Conservation Trust.”

The Conservation Trust is a 501-c3 tax-exempt organization, which can accept donations of conservation easements. “This will allow property owners to grant conservation easements into perpetuity to the Conservation Trust, which will give the property owners tax benefits and will give the city the benefit of obtaining open space.”

The Conservation Trust will monitor the easements to ensure that property owners are complying with the deeds of trust and not modifying the property to decrease the value of the trust.

“This is a great deal,” said Vice Mayor Redella S. “Del” Pepper. “For a little more than $36,000, we are buying the assistance of this wonderful organization.”

“I am very supportive of this memorandum of understanding,” said Councilman Rob Krupicka. “One of the components is public education. The staff from the Conservation Trust will be available to speak to civic organizations about the value of participating in this program and of granting conservation easements,” he said.

Council approved the memorandum of understanding unanimously. The agreement will last through the fiscal year and will be reconsidered at that time.

EACH YEAR, municipalities prepare testimony about the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) six-year funding plan. Council approved proposed staff testimony at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“I wholeheartedly endorse this testimony and believe that it reflects sound transportation policy for the City of Alexandria,” said Councilman Ludwig Gaines.

The testimony included supporting funding for the straightening of Route 1, the widening of Eisenhower Avenue, the completion of a ramp from Mill Road onto Telegraph Road and the Beltway, the building of a new DASH facility, support for Metrorail and bus service and more.

“I believe that what you are hearing from this Council is that we support mass transit and mass transit solutions,” said Mayor Euille. “We support Metrobus and rail, and we support expanding our DASH bus fleet and building a new DASH facility.”

Councilman Krupicka was also pleased. “This is an exciting evening,” he said. “This Council has expressed its support for open space and for mass transit,” he said.

IN RESPONSE to a request by Councilman Andrew Macdonald, Transportation Director Richard S. Baier agreed to provide more details. “There are a number of variables that will go into determining the funding levels that will be required for each of these projects,” Baier said. “VDOT will contribute a portion, the city will contribute a portion, and in many cases, developers of specific projects will contribute a portion. We have a number of charts that will provide more details and will make this much clearer.”

City staff will present the testimony at a meeting of the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Nov. 13.

Council also voted to approve the purchase of new voting machines to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“These new machines will allow all citizens in the City of Alexandria to vote independently in all elections,” said Mark Jincks, deputy city manager. “We are requesting that Council approve the reallocation of funds from the Market Square renovation project to this project.”

“This does not mean that we are making a decision to build the visitors center at Market Square,” Euille said. “I don’t want the public to get that impression. It simply means that the funds are needed for this project so that we can have these machines available for use in the Feb. 10 primary and that the Market Square renovation project will happen later. That is all that this means.”

MEMBERS OF the city’s Board of Elections, the voter registrar’s staff and members of the Alexandria Commission on Persons with Disabilities have looked at several different machines over the past 18 months and have concluded that the machines that are being purchased will best meet the needs of the city’s citizens. “We sat through a training for precinct officials in Charlottesville over a year ago on these machines and were all very impressed,” said Tom Parkins, the city’s registrar of voters.