To the Editor:
During the mayoral debate on Oct. 2, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Old Dominion Boat Club, the North Old Town Independent Civic Citizens Association, and the Rosemont Citizens Association, I was struck by Mayor Euille’s unexpected frankness about the importance of the proposed Metro station for the Potomac Yard developers. He said in effect, “the Metro station at Potomac Yard is essential; otherwise that project will never be successful.” For those who were unable to attend this important debate and may want to hear the Mayor’s exact words, video clips of the entire debate are posted online at http://www.youtube.com/user/MacdonaldforMayor.
After the City Council meeting on Saturday, Oct. 13, however, we now know why Mayor Euille said this. At that meeting, Alexandria resident Poul Hertel read into the record portions of a two-year-old Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city government and the Potomac Yard developers. While I was not at this meeting, as I understand it, this MOU — which was never released publicly — states that unless the city adopts the Metro route through Potomac Yard that the developers want — regardless of the recommendations from the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for which the process is just now getting underway — the developers are under no obligation to contribute to the construction of the Metro station. I find this outrageous. Never mind that the developers’ preferred option also threatens the scenic easement along the George Washington Parkway. And I believe it is also true that the current city administration is already proposing to siphon off some of the next 30 years of tax revenues to help build this station — and that’s without having to absorb additional costs if the EIS ultimately recommends against the location that the developers prefer. No wonder the city never released this MOU, and no wonder the mayor is so adamant about the Metro station being essential to the project. One can only speculate as to how many other secret backroom deals may have been negotiated by the current Mayor and City Council.
This is yet another example where the deal is already done, and input from residents and environmental planning is just a sham. Examples like this clearly demonstrate that a thorough housecleaning at City Hall is long overdue. It is astounding to what lengths the current city administration is willing to go to encourage developers — even if it ends up saddling the city with additional costs.
Fortunately, on Nov. 6 Alexandrians will have the opportunity to vote for a fresh alternative and reset City Hall. This election is vitally important for the future of the city we love. Will Alexandria continue to be turned over to developers, as it has been throughout Mayor Euille’s nine-year administration, or will it be returned to the citizens? The choice is yours, Alexandria.
Hugh Van Horn