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Letter: Open for Public Involvement?

— To the Editor:

I attended the first meeting of the Beauregard Rezoning Advisory Group on Monday, July 16. As Mayor Euille appointed David Baker chair of this group, the first thing Mr. Baker said was "I'm the guy who knows the least about the Beauregard Small Area Plan." So true and are we in trouble now since Mayor Euille appointed Dave Baker as chair. I can only say from my personal opinion but don't know this to be a fact, that Dave Baker will do whatever Mayor Euille tells him to do so that the BSAP comes in front of the Planning Commission and City Council before the November elections. Mr. Baker is in charge of operations at Goodwin House that is part of the BSAP and supports this major redevelopment. It is clear that the appointments to the Advisory Group were representative of the democratic machine that currently exists in Alexandria and for political reasons, and Dave Baker is part of that democratic political machine.

I met with Mayor Euille on June 26 to try and persuade him to change this group to a community group run by an independent facilitator who would be selected not only by some members of city staff but also some members in the BSAP neighborhood who would know how to find an independent/objective facilitator. Of course it was too late for Mayor Euille to even consider such a change. He and members of the council were not going to listen to citizens concerns who are not anti-development, but wanted more time to discuss the major issues with city staff before another advisory group had to be formed. Many of us, myself included, had emailed the mayor/council members about using a community group forum and also spoke to this alternative at the public hearing when Docket Item #32 was discussed. However, Mayor Euille and all members of the council ignored our request and voted to move the BSAP along as quickly as possible. I reminded Mayor Euille in our meeting and emails that he had stated several times at council meetings that he was not going to push the BSAP forward too quickly. Surprise, surprise.

With regard to the composition of the advisory group, there are five at-large members and during my meeting with Mayor Euille on June 26 he stated to me that all five at-large members live within the boundaries of the BSAP. Wrong. He did not tell me who these members were as this docket item was on council's agenda for their final meeting wherein Mayor Euille would announce the members of the group along with appointing Dave Baker as chair. Well Mr. Mayor, there is only one member of the group who lives within the BSAP boundaries, Hector Pineda, who is a renter at JBG apartments. The other four at-large members, Dave Baker, Carolyn Griglione, Don Buch and Dave Cavanaugh do not live within the boundaries of the BSAP. I did not submit my name for consideration as an at-large member even though I live within the boundaries. Dave Baker may speak to wanting a transparent and open group discussion, but I find this hard to believe. We will see how much Chair Baker allows for citizen input at the end of each meeting since city staff will be drafting the agendas and if these are agendas are anything like the city agendas for the BRAC-133 AG group, they will be stacked, not allowing for any time for citizen input. Stay tuned.

Annabelle Fisher

Alexandria