To the Editor:
For those who saw the City Council’s Public Hearing on Feb. 20, followed by a second meeting on the 23rd, they witnessed a group in total disarray. As of this date, the City Council has not found an alternate solution to the decaying Ramsey Homes in the Historic Parker Grey District. If these City Council sessions are a precursor of future meetings, we are in for a tumultuous three years.
As an example, at the Saturday Public Hearing meeting, Councilman John Chapman’s attempts to demean the new mayor were absolutely uncalled for. His remarks should have been directed to the source of the problem, which is the Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority (ARHA). Mayor Silberberg has only brought different parties together to solve the city’s critical issues, which is what former Mayor Bill Euille did in the past. Mayor Silberberg reminded Mr. Chapman that she had been respectful toward him, and that he owed her the same courtesy.
At the second council meeting, Councilman Smedberg reversed his dissenting vote, which proved to be just as contentious. In addition, Councilmen Wilson and Lovain castigated the mayor for questioning the city attorney’s veracity, when it appeared that many of the council members and the city attorney were privy to Smedberg’s intent to reverse his vote. It is very apparent that the six council members are doing everything in their power be unsupportive to the new mayor. This tactic was used previously against the then Vice Mayor Andrew MacDonald who ended up resigning after being endlessly harassed by his erstwhile colleagues.
We are very disturbed that ARHA has all but ignored these 15 public housing units, resulting in their current “demolition by neglect” status. Current residents complain of having no heat, no air conditioning, and malfunctioning water pipes. These public housing units (and others having similar problems) need to be taken away from ARHA and managed by a more responsible entity, since ARHA has been an unsatisfactory landlord. The residents of these units continue to be treated in an inhumane manner, which is an absolute disgrace to our city. It is debatable whether the city and ARHA can work out a viable solution before their next public hearing on March 12.
If the former mayor of Charleston S.C., the Honorable Joe Riley, had been our mayor, he would have ensured that those 15 historic units were rehabilitated in an adaptive-use mode, thus preserving these units and their history. Former Mayor Bill Euille had plenty of time to address this, but he let this unresolved issue carry over to the new council.
Although voters had the chance in the last election to add more rational voices, they chose the status quo, and must now live with it. Since this City Council will never entertain the establishment of a ward system, and since this appears to be a one-party town, there is only one solution. In the next election, everyone must run as a Democrat. In this manner, perhaps voters will be more likely to choose some more responsive candidates, instead of voting for the incumbents. Drastic times call for drastic solutions.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet