Alexandria To the Editor:
In the page-one story of your Sept. 20 edition, you state that “Alexandria officials actively encouraged the Department of Defense to consider the Mark Center site” for its gigantic new office complex. Yet you provide no credible evidence to support this statement.
You quote part of a letter from Deputy City Manager Mark Jinks that you presumably believe supports your assertion. But this letter appears to be simply a staff assessment of the adequacy of the transportation infrastructure to support the new development.
In the current political campaign, some current and former City Council members are being accused of somehow facilitating DOD’s move to the Mark Center or not doing enough to stop it. But without evidence, these charges appear to be baseless.
It appears that at the time, City Council members strongly supported an alternative site for the development, the Victory Center, and were given assurances that this site would be chosen.
But they could not have anticipated that the owner of the Mark Center, seeing the opportunity for a big financial windfall, would offer a deal that was much cheaper than that offered by the owners of the Victory Center. Not surprisingly, the Defense Department took it, setting off a major controversy in the city.
The mayor, City Council, and U.S. Rep. Jim Moran strongly opposed the decision, and have worked very hard, especially Moran, to mitigate possible problems. As a result, the traffic nightmare that was widely anticipated has not occurred.
It is important to understand that the owner of the Mark Center had the legal right to build as much development for a private sector office tenant as the DOD has built at the site. But the City Council also had the power to reject this level of development if it determined that the transportation infrastructure was inadequate. But the federal government can override city regulations and build whatever it wants, as it did in this case.
If anyone is to blame for a decision that placed 6,000 employees at a complex in a heavily congested area without easy access to pubic transportation, it is the Republican administration of George W. Bush. This is the same Republican administration that bequeathed $1 trillion-plus budget deficits and an economy in free fall to President Obama.
In their zeal to protect military and defense employees after 9/11, the Republicans, led by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, decided to move employees from what they believed to be inadequately secure locations. In doing so, they created yet another mess as well as, ironically, a new, big fat target.