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Letter: Flouting Public Opinion

To the Editor:

I would like to thank Councilmember Alicia Hughes for standing by the citizens in Saturday’s waterfront vote, particularly in her remark that she sees her role as an elected representative to implement the public’s wishes on a matter where an informed public has formed a view. This is called the "delegate theory" which views elected officials as standing in for the public, to act as the public would under such circumstances, because all 80,000 Alexandria voters could not fit into the room. Referendum is another iteration of "delegate theory" whereby the public can act as ultimate sovereign and enforce their will over a legislature which has flouted it.

The alternative "trustee theory" that public officials are expected to consider the public’s wishes on a matter where an informed public has formed a view, but are nevertheless expected to decide on the merits of that matter as they see best because the public has entrusted them with matters of judgment. I believe that the trustee theory is tantamount to an inversion of our constitutional system where "we the people" are the source of government’s authority and legitimacy.

I would also like to thank Councilmember Frank Fannon for framing the concerns many of us have with the waterfront plan rushed to enactment even though the GenOn/Mirant plant’s retirement greatly changes the underlying circumstances, traffic studies have yet to be done, creative solutions for more public amenities have yet to be seriously considered, and questions have been raised about the flood mitigation engineering approaches contemplated. BRAC at least did a traffic study, even if a skewed one, whereas the city council enacted this plan, claiming the matter had been studied enough, yet as an admission of the opposite, kicked the can down the road on a Union Street traffic study.

Lastly, I am very much worried about Councilmember Rob Krupicka’s "just cause against just cause" characterization of the waterfront plan controversy because such circumstances inevitably lead to imbroglios and often fiascos. The best example of such a "just cause against just cause" is the intractable Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The UN surely thought in 1947 that it had "studied the situation sufficiently" when it decided to partition Palestine, but the consequence of the partition has roiled world news and international relations for the 63 subsequent years with no resolution in sight. "Just cause against just cause" circumstances prove the most intractable and require the utmost caution and thoroughest scrutiny. For the city council to believe 2 and a half years is enough study fatuously ignores history’s wise guidance.

Dino Drudi

Alexandria