To the Editor:
I write this letter in response to David Speck’s commentary here in Opinion (Aug. 16) regarding dominance of the Democrat party in Alexandria City. He made several points, with which I respectfully disagree.
He begins by suggesting that the reason why there are more Democrat office holders these days “may have less to do with Democratic domination and more to do with Republican abdication.” In support of this statement he mentions the competitive local politics of the early ‘80s, and opines that Republicans were more moderate back in those days — the era of the Reagan Revolution (?). He explains that “the word ‘moderate’ attached to a member of today’s Republican Party has now become something of an insult.” Oh, really? To whom? Not to Mr. Frank Fannon, and not to Ms. Alicia Hughes — both quite moderate voices on Council.
Mr. Fannon is serving his first term, yet he has already brought balance and moderation to our city. Indeed, Mr. Fannon has not only stood up against the Commercial Add-on Tax, he has also worked to preserve Alexandria’s historic character — opposing the current waterfront development plan — to keep our city a great community in which to work and live.
Ms. Hughes is serving her first term, too, yet her service to our community began long ago, and she has no plans to quit. She is not only a civic leader, but she is also a mentor for our children. In addition to her leadership on Council, Ms. Hughes is a role model for our young people. She is very involved with children through her work with childhood centers, young girls, and literacy. In fact, she regularly visits schools to encourage students, to promote reading, and to support teachers. At the same time, she is a big proponent of recycling and gardening. In short, she is a role model for our children and our politics — a clear example of moderation in voice and action. Without leaders such as Mr. Fannon and Ms. Hughes, our city and Council would be less moderate.
Indeed, Mr. Fannon and Ms. Hughes have not abdicated anything — which may in fact be the real cause of concern for some. They offer dynamic leadership for the future — and they have only just begun. To be sure, in the interest of “moderation,” they are surely worthy of a second term.
Mr. Speck goes on to claim that the fact that there are more Democrat candidates than Republican “is deeply disappointing to anybody who values two-party politics.” But, oddly, he then contradicts himself by accusing the Republicans of “gaming the system” by running candidates and offering a choice. He calls it a “plunk”; that is, should voters decide to stand with the loyal opposition, consider an alternative to the status quo, actually vote for change, it will be reduced to a “plunk.” That is truly the insult in Mr. Speck’s piece.
We are all aware that City Council is and has been overwhelmingly controlled by the Democrat Party. And, in turn, all appointments to city boards and commissions, all taxing and spending, and all patronage and largesse are in the hands of Democrats. Mr. Speck is simply wrong to conclude that such a situation justifies more one-party rule and less diversity. And Mr. Speck is wrong to reduce voters to mere plunkers and to hurl insults at the loyal opposition — of which Alexandria clearly needs more, not less. Thus, I believe that he inadvertently illustrates the need for a stronger two-party system — and, thusly, for the re-election of Mr. Fannon and Ms. Hughes, as a good place to start.
With Mr. Speck and others, I’d like to share my view that perhaps the best way to keep our politics and our city government “moderate” would be, in the first place, to respect and to regard different people and divergent points of view. By simply shutting out new people and new ideas — because they are not among the “in” group, the exclusive club, or not considered fashionable — is not healthy and not good for our city. Moreover, putting a derogatory label on people or proposals — simply because they are new and different — does not help the level of discourse or collaboration among the diverse groups of people within our city (and nation). While this might be an easy device to use to dismiss challenges out of hand, or to diminish opposing points of view, it also creates divisions and weakens our public purpose — the very things that Mr. Speck observes. I should think that we can all be bigger and better than that — and more inclusive. I should think that by standing by our beliefs, and respectfully exchanging them with others, we can all grow and get more done. But most of all, by challenging the power and prerogatives of one-party control of Council, we can most effectively ensure the balance, accountability, integrity — and moderation that our city needs.
In closing, I’d like to point out that, as an Independent voter and a teacher, I know that no one has all of the answers and no one can do it alone. We are all in this together — and we should all encourage more participation and involvement. We all benefit from give-and-take. Yet, as a resident of this city, I recognize the reality of one-party rule — and a three-term mayor going for a fourth term, in a state that limits governors to one term, and in a nation that limits presidents to two. And even as he runs for an unprecedented fourth term, he dodges debates and challenges to his rule. This is not moderation. And this is not good for our city.