In her last official act as a member of the City Council, Joyce Woodson offered the motion to adjourn after midnight on Wednesday morning. As the first African-American woman to sit on the City Council, Woodson has been no shrinking violet. She was frequently outspoken, asking difficult questions and demanding answers — usually in an effort to champion the needs of poor, disadvantaged and minority citizens. Her farewell capped six years at City Hall, and her colleagues on the council gave her some parting thoughts Tuesday night before letting her leave the building.
“I think Woodson will be remembered for the glamour she brought to City Hall,” said Vice Mayor Del Pepper. “She set the standard for hats.”
As a former member of council, Woodson plans to form a new group called the “Parent Leadership Training Institute,” a joint cooperative effort between the Connecticut Commission on Children, Hopkins House and the city government.
“Not agreeing is one of the hallmarks of democracy,” Woodson said. “Every opportunity to participate in democracy is something we should take.”
The City’s Spies
Things are not always as they appear in Alexandria. Take real-estate customers. Some of them are spies for the city government.
According to a report presented to City Council at Tuesday’s meeting, the city’s Fair Housing Testing Program dispatched several “walk-in testers posing as interested homeseekers” to make sure that the local real-estate market wasn’t violating federal fair-housing law. Nine real-estate offices were tested for racial discrimination and three were tested for discrimination based on national origin.
“No differential treatment was identified,” wrote City Manager Jim Hartmann in the memorandum announcing the test results. “Testers were given comparable information regarding the value of homes for which they were qualified, available amenities and the areas of the city where available homes were located.”
This year’s result was an improvement over the 1998 Fair Housing Testing Program, when five of the 19 real-estate offices indicated “potentially differential treatment.”
“Attitudes are changing,” said Vice Mayor Del Pepper. “I like to think that people are understanding that we are all each other’s keeper.”
Joining the National Register
After being ignored for generations, the Parker Gray Historic District is finally coming into its own. The City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to proceed with a nomination for the neighborhood to obtain National Register status, which would give homeowners there access to federal tax credits for renovation.
“While the state and federal process for the National Register process is time consuming, we anticipate a favorable decision on our nomination, resulting in the listing of the Parker Gray neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places,” wrote City Manager Jim Hartmann in his recommendation of the nomination.
The neighborhood is named for two early 20th-century Alexandria educators: John Parker, longtime principal of the Snowden School for Boys in the 600 block of South Pitt Street, and Sarah Gray, longtime principal of the Hallowell School for Girls in the 400 block of North Alfred. When the two institutions were combined in 1920, a new school was created in their honor: Parker Gray, which became the center of the black community in the city until it closed in 1965.
“Finally,” said neighborhood activist Leslie Zupan after the meeting. “Justice for Parker Gray!”
The $9 million Loan
After years of talk about increasing affordable housing options in Alexandria, the City Council put its money where its mouth has been at its Tuesday meeting. Council members voted unanimously to approve a $9 million loan to Wesley Housing Development to help it acquire ParcView Apartments at 5380 Holmes Run Parkway.
“The loan, which would be formally reviewed and approved when the council convenes again in September, would be funded from the Affordable Housing Initiatives account,” wrote City Manager Jim Hartmann in his recommendation of the loan. “For the length of WHDC’s ownership, but in no event less than 40 years, 80 percent (117) of the units shall remain affordable to households at 60 percent of the area median income.”