To the Editor:
I was not at all surprised, sadly, by the 5-2 vote in favor of the City’s waterfront plan on Saturday. What continues to astound me is the total disregard of the Democratic majority on City Council for citizens who don’t agree with them.
The hearing was a shameful pretense. It was an orchestrated event from start to finish to give the appearance that the plan could still be changed. That was never going to happen. Those from the community who spoke so eloquently and thoughtfully against the plan and asked for more time to consider alternatives and impacts like traffic, might as well have not bothered to speak at all.
Former Councilman Dave Speck came out of retirement from Nantucket to speak in favor of the plan — and was asked all sorts of leading questions that kept him speaking far, far beyond his allotted three minutes. He reminded everyone that once things have been done that no one likes, they are eventually forgotten. That’s progress, folks!
The message Speck delivered on behalf of Council was that our taxes will go up if we don’t have this development, and we won’t be able to support other things like schools. These connections are misleading — designed to prop up the views of a development-hungry Democratic Council. Have your taxes declined lately? This is an example of yet more partisan, misleading rhetoric designed to divide the community further in an election year.
Judy Noritake, chair of the Park and Recreation Committee, spoke for three minutes and was kept at the podium much longer, giving pre-scripted answers to the Council’s questions. From Ms Noritake we learned that there is too much green space on the waterfront, and that we must buy more land elsewhere. The need for more open space is always elsewhere, and yet the reality is that on a per-capita basis Alexandria has well below the minimum amount of open space (based on national standards). And the amount of open space we do have per person is declining. As all great cities are learning, open space improves property values and is a great asset that attracts tourists too.
Over 100 people spoke on Saturday. Half were for the plan and were mostly Chamber of Commerce or Waterfront4All members. The other half were citizens, who actually live here, and who asked for more time to study important issues like traffic, density and uses.
This was never going to happen. The majority Democratic City Council had made up its mind long ago — three years ago in fact — and this was a day to pretend that they were listening to citizens. The five Democrats listened all right, but they listened to the "half" that they consider their constituents for November.
The Mayor and Council had a chance to show leadership by helping the community work toward a plan that would bring the town together. Instead, they chose partisan self-interest as their goal. Everyone in Alexandria was a loser on Saturday.