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Votes

Council Notebook

Recycle or Pay the Fine?

City residents might have people digging through their trash soon, looking for items that should have been recycled. In an effort to increase recycling, City Council will consider a new plan to make recycling mandatory — stepping up the existing voluntary program with enforcement and fines.

Under Virginia law, all municipalities must recycle 25 percent of its trash. Currently, Alexandria recycles only about 20 percent. So something drastic has got to happen if the city wants to meet expectations.

“We need an additional 7,619 tons a year,” said Christine McCoy, a solid-waste planner for the city. “The only way for us to achieve these goals is to require businesses and individuals to recycle.”

Initially, the city’s enforcement would be restricted to warnings. The main source of information would be complaints from neighbors. Eventually, though, businesses and individuals could be fined if code-enforcement workers document consistent negligence.

“We hope the way to achieve this is with technical assistance and education,” McCoy said. “The goal is to get more people recycling.”

The Office of Solid Waste is currently working on language to present to City Council, which is expected to take up the matter in January.

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Old Town, New Techie Tricks

Alexandria’s got Old Town, but it’s also got a new technologies. High school students use laptops to turn in their homework, noonday strollers can use a free wireless Internet service in Market Square and residents can watch City Council meetings from the comfort of their living rooms.

For years, the city government has put technology to work for its citizens, and now the city has received some recognition for its innovation. According to a recent study by the National League of Cities, the city’s e-government initiatives were ranked fourth in the nation for cities of its size. The study focused on how well city governments have deployed information technology resources to deliver services to customers.

“Alexandria has long been a national leader in municipal information technology,” said Mayor Bill Euille. “Our goal is to provide excellent service to our customers, and we are proud to be recognized for the outstanding work done by the technology professionals throughout Alexandria city government.”

The “Digital Cities Survey” noted the availability of City Council webcasts, electronic forms, online payment, emergency preparedness information, interactive job applications and free public wireless Internet access. The city was also cited for its extensive use of technology in law enforcement and strategic planning. Alexandria was the only city in the Washington metropolitan region recognized in any population category.

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Baynard Announces Departure

It started out as a discussion of salaries at last week’s School Board meeting. Board Vice Chairwoman Sally Ann Baynard was supporting higher salaries for the city’s elected School Board members.

“This shouldn’t be a costly public service,” she said, adding that board members receive an annual stipend of $7,500. “Diversity is not just about race; it’s also about socio-economics.”

But then the unexpected happened.

“I have to say that I will not be on the board that has an increased salary,” she said.

Eyes darted around the chamber, wondering if she had accidentally said more than she meant to. But then, toward the end of the meeting, Baynard revised and extended her remarks. She announced that she would not seek another term on the board, which she has served since July 1997.

“In that time, my edges got rubbed off — mostly,” she said. “I can’t even begin to talk about the staff because, if I did, it would be a 20 minute exegesis of excellence.”

Baynard spoke admiringly about several School Board members and administration leaders.

“It was a kind of valedictory speech, I guess,” she said after the meeting. “I didn’t plan to do this. It just sort of happened.”