Ever since the United States Supreme Court announced its ruling in Kelo v. City of New London in the summer of 2005, city officials have been eager to proclaim that they are not interested in taking property by eminent domain. For example, the city’s proposed list of “Valuable Open Space Sites” makes the distinction very clear.
“In response to City Council and resident concerns, it is important to note that the listed sites are recommended to be considered as currently valuable open space in Alexandria, but with no city intent to acquire unless the owners voluntarily decided to negotiate with the city,” wrote City Manager Jim Hartmann in his recommendation to schedule a public hearing for Feb. 24 on the list.
But not everybody at City Hall is on the same page about the list, which includes open-space properties the city wants to preserve either by purchase or curbing future development. At least one member of City Council is willing to entertain the powers granted in the controversial Kelo decision, which ruled that the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified such redevelopment plans as a permissible “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald said during Tuesday’s council meeting that voluntary cooperation with the city government might not be enough to met the open-space demands in Alexandria.
“I don’t think that’s always going to be possible,” said Macdonald, adding that acquiring waterfront properties was critical to the future of the city. “We may have to think about using eminent domain if necessary.”
City officials know how to discourage bad behavior — put a price on it. This strategy is key to the city’s plan for fighting parking violators, who must now face higher penalties. That’s why City Council is considering a plant to raise the cost of an expired meter ticket from $20 to $25 and bump up the price of most parking violations from $35 to $40.
“The goal for increasing the fines is to modify behavior, thereby turning over the on-street parking spaces more frequently,” wrote City Manager Jim Hartmann in his recommendation for increasing the fines. “The change in parking behavior should facilitate greater business activity for the city’s merchants by encouraging motorists to use parking garages.”
Assuming that parking violations remain constant, with about 82,000 tickets issues a year, raising the fee will generate about $300,000 additional revenue. The plan also includes a one-time expenditure of $40,000 to print new paper ticket books. City officials say that parking fees have not increased since 1992, and elected leaders are planning to vote on the plan during their Jan. 20 public hearing.
“This will make most of the city’s parking fines consistent with those charged in Arlington and Fairfax County,” wrote Hartmann.
After Gerald Ford’s death last month, Mayor Bill Euille announced that he would find a way for the city Ford called home for decades to memorialize the former president. Now that the memorial services have drawn to a close, some residents are approaching the mayor with their ideas.
“One resident of Crown View Drive said that we should think about changing the name of the street to Gerald Ford Drive,” said Euille, in reference to the street where Ford lived from 1955 to 1974. “In the end, we may have more than one memorial.”