To the Editor:
For those who are unaware, the tree lights along King Street are scheduled to be turned off March 31 just as Alexandria's tourist season begins. I am an advocate to keep those lights on as long as is reasonable because lighting up our city to market it as illuminated, friendly and safe is the message they send for me and many businesses as well as citizens.
I have been Googling the connection between city lights and income. Sales seem to be tied to more taxable income everywhere I find the topic.
According to our city manager's office, it costs $9,667 to keep the lights on for the 60 days past the end of January. According to Planning and Zoning, it costs around $4,000 per month to keep them on. I recently proposed to some members of council that we try to come to some feasible agreement to keep the lights on at least through June when they all have to be restrung anyway. They suggested that if the businesses and citizens want them on perhaps the city would consider matching funds. In the first few hours after that conversation took place, I have already raised more than $2,000 for that fund. I have spoken with citizens and businesses about it. Everyone wants the lights kept on.
My evaluation is that a beautiful city like ours will sell better if the lights are kept on. My store and many others will benefit and the total image of the city will sparkle and thrive. That counts in an economy like we have today. Look at the percentage of what $9,000-$12,000 is to the total budget — a drop in the bucket. But think of what that might do to the total taxable dollar, how many more people will eat out and how many more tourists will walk the mile to the river or go to theater. And how many more stores would stay open later? The best cities in the world know this and we do, too.
I would never turn off the lights in my jewelry cases to sell what I have in them. May I suggest that if you want to step up to share this cost with me and other citizens and businesses, call me (703-683-0333) or someone on city council as soon as possible and let's see if we can come up with a doable plan and get results. Nothing speaks louder than money, except maybe me.
David M. Martin