Alexandria Letter: City Fails Its Citizens

Alexandria Letter: City Fails Its Citizens

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

Over the years, I have corresponded with almost all departments within the City of Alexandria’s government. For the most part, I have generally been treated with respect and honest dealings. Lately, however, it appears to me that the city staff and City Council are at odds with citizens on almost every important issue. I can relate two glaring examples that warrant this perception.

For years, the Transportation Department has stated that it has no authority to regulate tour buses coming into the Old and Historic District, and it needs to go to the General Assembly to obtain permission to do so. However, a review of Section 2.04 (subsections d and t) of our City Charter authorizes the city to regulate tour buses in any manner that they choose. If this section had been followed, it would have allowed us to prevent tour buses in the Old and Historic District. Hopefully, the new Tour Bus Task Force will recommend the prosecution of the constant tour bus violations that we citizens face on a daily basis. Even better, they should recommend that tour buses should not be allowed in the Old and Historic District.

As of late, the Bikeshare progam has taken center stage. The City Council has allowed the Departments of Planning and Transportation to put additional Bikeshare stations all over the city, but most egregiously in the Old and Historic District. On July 10 in 2013 a city staff member agreed to return to the Board of Architectural Review (BAR) before placing any bike racks in the Old and Historic District. A few weeks ago, the city placed a new bike rack in front of the Safeway parking lot at the Royal and Gibbon Street, which flies in the face of the city's erstwhile promises. Furthermore, the city's Bikeshare Web Page (under "Engagement" ) states that "Prior to installation, adjacent businesses and civic associations will be notified about the new bikeshare stations." Section 10-103 of the City Code requires that all structures erected within the Old and Historic District be approved by the BAR. A great deal of email has gone back and forth from a number of citizens and different members of the city staff with staff quibbling to get out of the box they have put themselves in. Also, at one point, the staff said that Bikeshare stations are temporary structures therefore no certificate of appropriateness is required by the BAR. How much help with equipment is required to haul away a Bikeshare station?

Other neighborhoods are also facing the spectre of unwanted and unneeded bikeshare stations. This program is a fad that has gone amuck. Since the Bikeshare program is subsidized by the taxpayers, they deserve greater input. Another point to be made is that the Arlington Bikeshare program admits a total cost recovery rate of 51 percent for FY 2015, and also has information for other years that is also publicly available, but where is the information from Alexandria?

I respectfully ask the city staff and City Council to restore some sense of order and honesty in government. To do any less is a disservice to the community.

Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet