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Letters to the Editor 8/8/12

— Heading for Fiscal Cliff?

To the Editor:

According to Mark Williams’ Aug. 2 letter ("Misreading Rating Agencies"), a good credit rating today apparently guarantees our future financial health. I do not agree, and in fact, when Moody’s issued its rating, it said as much. It attached a negative outlook to their rating, and made it clear that there are number of real issues — including the fiscal impact of new development on school enrollment, which has been largely ignored by elected officials — that could easily result in a lower credit rating in the future, not to mention higher taxes. Our growing debt burden concerns me too.

The idea that we should base our future prosperity on the credit score we receive today strikes me as quite unwise. Instead, I think we should be looking much more closely at the costs and benefits we expect to receive from developments like Potomac Yards metro, and the redevelopment of the West End and the waterfront to make certain that these are good investments for our future. I don’t think we are making good investments. We are relying increasingly upon future tax revenue to pay for infrastructure improvements that should have been paid for by developers. Or upon closer examination are not great investments.

I certainly understand that we must improve our city’s infrastructure — roads, transit, sewers, parks, schools etc. — but I’m not convinced that simply more development, and a good credit rating, will automatically produce the tax revenue needed to pay for such improvements. We seem a heck of a lot more interested in giving developers what they want then in empowering citizens who might think differently, and Mayor Bill Euille, who is seeking a fourth term, is the first to pick up a shovel.

In short, I think we are headed for a real fiscal precipice unless we change how we go about planning for our future growth.

Andrew Macdonald

Andrew Macdonald is an independent candidate for mayor of Alexandria.

Consider Impact Of Proposed Hotel

To the Editor:

A hotel on the corner of Duke and Union Streets is a mistake on any scale.

Considering a plan that does not conform to current zoning regulations is an affront to proper legal procedure governing development on the waterfront or anywhere else.

Nevertheless, a meeting was called, Carr presented, and the public was invited to voice their opinions about the project. BAR members repeatedly cautioned speakers to address only issues related to architectural style and scale of the plans. That left a very big elephant in the living room, a project that should not be located at the foot of the 100 block of Duke Street, one of our finest historic, residential neighborhoods. One only needs to stand on that block as I have done several times since the meeting, and imagine the impact of a 121-room, five-story hotel with associated traffic, garbage, and noise, to conclude that families who have maintained those beautiful homes and enjoyed some protection from the brunt of King Street commercialism will soon be looking elsewhere to live.

The architect was led to believe that history lovers prefer a style that mimics what used to be on the waterfront so they created an imitation warehouse. We don’t need pretend warehouses. We have authentic ones that are successfully renovated for contemporary use like the Christmas Attic. What history lovers want are structures that complement the older buildings and are scaled to feature, not dwarf them. Waterfront buildings should showcase Alexandria’s greatest treasure, our stretch of the Potomac. The Seaport Foundation building is an excellent example of a structure that in both form and function, celebrates the water and draws us to it.

The hotel design features a courtyard and one speaker assured us that the hotel owner would love to have everyone come and join hotel guests there. My guess is the first family to stroll in with three crying kids and seats themselves in the courtyard would quickly generate "hotel guests only" signs, like those that line the Newport R.I. waterfront where hotels and condos have turned a public waterfront into a private, black-topped mess.

Proponents of waterfront hotels said the Torpedo Factory is tall, and that the old warehouses were even taller. This is not the warehouse era. We are not trying to perpetuate the blight of past centuries. We seek contemporary solutions to development that recognize the Potomac as a great draw for citizens and visitors, but also as a fragile environmental entity that needs to be reclaimed from post-industrial Alexandria, revitalized and protected from further damage. That protection includes the water, wildlife, river banks, flood plain and wetlands. That is the legacy of the 21st century. Mirant fouled our river, air and soil and will soon close down. Areas along the waterfront continue to have toxicity issues that must be addressed.

So what should replace the current structure and protect the integrity of a residential neighborhood adjacent to the bike path, a volleyball court, playgrounds for small children, parks, playing fields and dog walking areas?

Not a big hotel. Not even a little one. Nothing that significantly increases congestion, obscures water views and adds to the environmental degradation of the river. Keep large hotels clustered at the King Street metro. Invite guests to stroll down King Street, patronize our shops and restaurants and when they get to the river, treat them to a variety of small cafes, bike and small boat rentals to enjoy the bike path and river, art and artisan shops tucked in some of the existing structures that are renovated to reflect a unique blend of truly old and charmingly new.

Do we really want to live up to our Eco-city reputation? Include an environmental resource center similar to Alexandria Archeology that educates visitors about environmental responsibility. Show with thoughtful, moderately-scaled development how Alexandria strives to preserve its flood plain area for the health of the river and the safety of all visitors and residents. Work with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups to be the first city to show the world what stewardship really looks like.

I oppose waterfront hotels and zoning changes because economic stability does not have to be gained at the expense of our residential communities or the Potomac. To protect the waterfront and all Alexandria neighborhoods, I will vote for Bob Wood, Andrew MacDonald and Allison Silberberg, a Republican, an Independent and a Democrat, because the pivotal issues in our local election relate to policy, not party. These capable candidates will lead us into an era of economic prosperity and historical and environmental integrity. Vote!

Nancy Morgan

Alas, Poor Democrats

To the Editor:

I read "Disservice of September Election" (Gazette Packet, Aug. 2, 2012) with amusement. I do so enjoy watching Alexandria Democrats when things don’t go their way. Although that is a rarity, it is no less entertaining. Advantageous election scheduling is nothing new to them. When they lost two council seats in the last local election to be held in May they did not hesitate to manipulate election dates in order to make it as unlikely as possible that such an electoral shock would befall them again.

David A Norcross

Alexandria

Must Work with Republicans

To the Editor:

Congratulations to Rob Krupicka for winning the nomination in the Democratic Primary for the 45th District House of Delegates. It is widely anticipated that he will win the Sept. 4 election against his Republican opponent in this heavily Democratic district.

As an independent voter in Alexandria, I am disappointed with Krupicka’s early attacks on his future Republican colleagues and Gov. Bob McDonnell for having the Special Election on Sept. 4. There are two special elections that day in Virginia, and due to the fact that the delegate in Norfolk should win the nomination for the Senate, his delegate seat will need to be filled on the Nov. 6 ballot. That is the reason Sept. 4 was the statewide date.

If Krupicka goes to Richmond with a partisan attitude, he is already showing he will achieve nothing as a minority member in the House of Delegates that is 68-32 Republican.

As an Alexandrian, I want my elected leaders to work for the people they represent and not the party. I only hope that Councilman Frank Fannon, who received the most votes in the last City Council election of any candidate seeking re-election, gives Krupicka some advice on how to work across party lines before he leaves for Richmond. If Krupicka cannot learn to work with Republicans in Richmond like Fannon works with Democrats in Alexandria, his predicted victory on Sept. 4 will mean nothing.

Sarah Shellock