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Votes

Poetic License

Roses are red. Violets are blue. The city’s looking for a new poet laureate. Could it be you?

“This has been an idea that came to me through an investigation of best practices,” said Councilman Ludwig Gaines during Tuesday’s City Council meeting. “It’s been used in a number of communities to bridge cultural and ethnic lines.”

If Gaines gets his way, the city could name an official City Poet Laureate later this year. He or she would be stepping into the long-lost shoes of Jean Elliott, who was voted the city’s “poet in residence” back in 1979. She died in 1999, and Alexandria has been without an official poet ever since.

The term of the poet laureate would be three years, and it would include an honorarium of $500 a year. If the City Council decides to approve the program, it would need to allocate $3,500 from the city’s contingent reserves to the Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities budget for fiscal year 2007. At Tuesday’s meeting, Gaines said that he hopes the city could find private donations to fund the endeavor.

“I pledge to help lead that campaign,” Gaines said. “I will publicly pledge $500 for the first year of the honorarium.”

The idea is set for public hearing on May 20. A preliminary “call for nominations” form lists Sept. 5 as the deadline to receive manuscripts.

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Mystery Applicants

After Councilman Paul Smedberg raised a ruckus at several City Council meetings that applicants to the city’s boards and commissions were somewhat of a mystery, the city’s Office of Citizen Assistance created a new application form. The new form is basically the same, expect for one new sentence: “All applicants are encouraged to contact council members and introduce themselves.”

“It’s helpful to hear from folks,” Smedberg said. “If we’re going to be appointing people, it would be nice to have as much information as possible.”

Other than snappy new graphics and the new sentence, the form is pretty much the same as the old one. The “statement of interest” has been moved from page 3 to page 1, which Smedberg says will give it more prominence.

“Having it right up front gives it more value,” he said. “I think on the old form, it was simply overlooked.”

Mayor Bill Euille said that he like the new application form, but he would like to see one small change.

“It would be helpful to know how long they’ve lived here,” Euille said. “That would help to weed out those who need to spend more time getting to know the city.”

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The City’s New Flack

At the end of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, City Manager Jim Hartmann announced that the city has a new public face. Brian Hannigan has been named as Alexandria’s new director of communications. He will coordinate the city’s public information and community outreach efforts, and serve as the city’s chief spokesperson.

“I’ve lived in Northern Virginia for almost 30 years,” Hannigan told council members. “I’m looking forward to helping you tell your story more effectively than you have in the past.”

Hannigan is a native of Wakefield, R.I., and a 1969 graduate of St. Louis University, where he studied political science. After college, he worked for several campaigns — including Jimmy Carter’s successful 1976 bid for the White House. Hannigan came to Washington in 1977 to work for the Carter administration and has become a Washington fixture ever since.

He has served as chief deputy director for the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, managing director of a public-relations firm and associate director of association relations for a pharmaceutical research and manufacturer organization. In 1998, he took a position as director of communications for the Virginia Baseball Stadium Authority.

“I’ve got no regrets, no hard feelings,” Hannigan said of the decision to locate a major league baseball team in the District of Columbia. “The region got the team, so we’re all winners.”

He describe his new position as a dream job.

“It was almost too good to be true,” he said after Tuesday’s meeting.