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Letter: Not Quite An Endorsement

To the Editor:

The Jan. 20, 2012 letter from the National Park Service (NPS) that discusses the Small Area Waterfront Plan only states “general support for the proposed 2011 Plan.” This is in contrast to what some have labeled an “endorsement.” In political language there is a huge gulf between the two. After speaking at length with Peter May, author of the NPS letter, he made it clear that his real concern was not to put an NPS imprimatur on the Plan, but to state the importance of NPS property interests.

The political hay being made of the NPS “endorsement” is just that — only fodder for ruminating. Taken together with the letter from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the letter from former EPA Director, Reilly, the most obvious conclusion is that great caution should be exercised by the City in devising a Plan that is respectful of history, environment, and citizens’ quality of life on Alexandria’s waterfront. There is no “endorsement” either stated or implied to be found — anywhere.

Looking closely what we find is:

NTHP: “The National Trust respectfully recommends that the City of Alexandria should defer adoption of the draft plan and text amendment in order to continue the planning process and expand its public education efforts to address these substantive issues and public’s concerns for the future of the waterfront.”

Former EPA director: “Plans for the waterfront offer Alexandria the opportunity to shape the city’s future for decades to come. A hotel complex that blocks residents and visitors from the waterfront is the wrong way to go. Far better to embrace a vision as others cities of an open, accessible waterfront for all to enjoy. That would have lasting value.”

NPS: “In closing, I would like to reiterate our general support for the proposed 2011 Plan.”

In addition the political conceit of NPS “endorsement” is further aggravated by the fact that this letter is not part of the City’s public record on the Jan. 21 vote, where it was waved around gleefully by a certain council member. However, the wished for NPS “endorsement” quickly went out under Rob Krupicka’s signature on “Eco-City” letterhead where Mr. Krupicka states: “And I am particularly pleased that the National Park Service endorsed this plan.”

It is clear the City vastly overreaches in calling the NPS letter an “endorsement” and using it to characterize the plan as something that prominent outside organizations and individuals are willing to solidly get behind. It is political promotion at its ripest.

Mark Mueller

Kathryn Papp