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Letter: City Needs Ombudsman

To the Editor:

If ever there was a time for Alexandria to have an ombudsman, now is the time with the majority of Alexandria residents lack of trust with our elected officials and department administrators. Van Van Fleet has discussed this issue for years at public council meetings along with letters to the editor. City Manager Young has "reorganized" his office staff, but has not really made any changes in personnel except to appoint Bruce Johnson as his chief of staff to guide and advise him about the workings of Alexandria. Mr. Johnson could not be a better choice to mentor and assist Mr. Young and giving him the title of chief of staff is probably the same as assistant city manager. My understanding of the responsibilities of a chief of staff is to protect Mr. Young and/or any other person in Mr. Young's position from the public, do most of the work and prevent real citizen involvement thus creating an atmosphere of lack of transparency from the City Manager. Former City Manager Jim Hartmann did his reorganization and moved many senior level staff to the city manager’s office, but he did not reduce high paying positions, reduce salaries, eliminate senior staff positions, did not request early retirement from many senior staff and continued to pay salaries to other staff members making over $100,000+ who continue to be over-paid.

Now is the opportunity for Mr. Young to do the right thing and appoint an ombudsman position. This could be a full time or part time position wherein an independent, bi-partisan citizens group would be involved in selecting the right person. One only needs to see how our mayor and city council are taking actions on such things as BRAC-133, the Beauregarad Small Area Plan, the recent vote to move forward with the Waterfront Plan, Potomac Yard, traffic/transportation issues, along with other development issues. By having an ombudsman, citizens’ concerns can be heard by an impartial person, getting some matters resolved, but obviously not all and finally feel part of the future of Alexandria as it develops. It has become clear recently that our elected officials are not listening to citizen concerns and just giving us the "talking points" to make us feel good. But its no longer working and Alexandria residents are crying out for transparency and objectivity from our mayor and council along with staff administrators. If any or all Alexandria residents agree that we now need an ombudsman to represent our interests along with working with the mayor and council, then I would suggest you either email or contact the mayor, all members of the council and city manager Young as soon as possible so that we can get this person in place by February or March of 2012. Spending taxpayer dollars wisely should be a primary priority for Mr. Young along with making certain that all Alexandria residents have a voice and representation in our city government.

Annabelle Fisher

Alexandria