The Democratic primary for mayor is not so much about Athens versus Burke as Tim Lovain [Letter, “Well-Informed Judgment,” May 31] would have us believe; rather it is about the centuries-old idea of the people versus the political elite.
Silberberg stands with the people, Wilson presides over the elite.
Lovain’s rosy picture of internationally renowned experts wisely guiding little ol’ Alexandria through the thorny thickets of public policy is a bit too rosy for reality. In reality, the system is set up to elect one party, at-large, which simply serves to nurture the closed minded group-think that plagues public discourse here. When one party rule is threatened, as it was in 2009 when Wilson lost his seat on council, the elite simply changed the dates of city elections to cement their advantage. Was it legal? Yes. Was it politically savvy? Sure. Was it guided by principal or sound public policy “expertise”? No. It was a power grab. Nothing more.
If Lovain would take off the rose-colored lenses for just a second, he would see that so many of the decisions in this city which impact residents are made by appointed (read unelected), unaccountable commissions and boards. Members are appointed by the elite, claim expertise, and make decisions that the people must abide by (many times at some significant cost to residents or at some restriction of their liberties and property rights). Aside from being a thorn in the side of taxpayers, these entities offer little more to the city than giving the elite plausible deniability for unpopular decisions. The scary thing is, they wield real power.
Finally, Lovain’s picture is a rosy one because, while “world-renowned” experts in the metro area and our city may be well versed in the academics of public policy, they can’t manage a budget or implement spending in any responsible manner. If they could, I submit to you Metro wouldn’t be shutting down our stations next summer (for that matter, Amtrak would be much better managed, too); our public safety personnel would be better paid; council would not feel the need to conduct the city’s business behind closed doors, and they would have voted for Silberberg’s ethics reform measures versus Wilson’s watered down “Sense of the Council;” Wilson would have been amortizing his massive tax hike for infrastructure improvements over the 10 years he’s been on council rather than in one non-election year budget cycle; there would have been some discussion of what to cut in order to accept the city manager’s reasonable recommendation on tax rates; we’d have a parking policy that would protect residents and encourage visitors to spend money in our shops and restaurants (Arlington does it); and a bunch of residents on King Street would not have been forced to give up street parking in front of their homes so that six people could ride their bikes to work each day.
It is folly to claim that Wilson or any long-standing member of the City Council, Lovain included, strikes a balance between self-proclaimed expertise and listening to the people. Why would they? They’ve never had to.
This city is not just a budget document or a case study; people live here. Allison, for all of her quirks, gets that. She’s the dissenting vote on so many critical issues because she understands that someone has to represent those of us who foot the bill. I’m with her and I encourage all Independents, Republicans and frustrated Democrats to join her as well.
George G. Demetriades, Jr.