For seven years I’ve participated in many City of Alexandria development and policy initiatives. This began with the waterfront, and I was delighted to find myself sitting in a public session attended by citizens who spoke both pro and con. Mayor Euille respectfully listened, and council was attentive. Early research among Alexandria’s constituents overwhelmingly favored green space and a continuous riverside pathway. As expected, business wanted more retail and tourism.
Over two plus years, that healthy beginning took the course that nearly every other development in the city has taken, favoring developers’ density demands in trade for “public amenities” with city officials failing to compromise with citizens for a creative middle ground. When neighbors have clearly spoken out and written to enjoy and rightfully save their neighborhoods, honor standing agreements and original zoning rules … the city has stonewalled. No way to run a city.
The City of Alexandria’s long record of block voting, a predictable result of single party dominance and an at-large voting system, has resulted in undue familiarity among council, staff, and developers. This frozen political apparatus maintains an “insider” control that diminishes neighbors’ ability to achieve livable landscapes and worthwhile changes. It has left citizens with only legal action ... a course few want to take.
How many times has this happened? Repeatedly and with regularity. The waterfront, lights on T.C. Williams stadium, bike lanes on King Street, overturning a neighborhood agreements on traffic routing, the BID, developing Beauregard, building a Gateway, chopping down mature trees, etc. The pattern is identical: developers begin within zoning requirements, then soon announce there will be no “amenities” unless the
city agrees to increased density. The trouble is that “amenities” are often not really available to us. Proposed waterfront amenities included: rooftop gardens (not built) and lobbies and restaurants of hotels.
More? A tax hike that produced a double burden by simultaneously raising both property valuation and tax rates. Recently, and contrary to both the city manager and Mayor Silberberg’s recommendation for a smaller,
less pounding, although viable tax increase, council led by Vice Mayor Wilson played a mean-spirited, political, nonnegotiable game. Time to change the bench to a council that acts equitably.
Give Mayor Allison Silberberg, who has fought for many neighborhood people, a council that supports her. Mayor Silberberg has made an exceptional effort to speak, face-to-face with neighbors throughout her tenure. Council on your Corner has been a refreshing change to long, sometimes unintelligible, email strings with certain city officials.
Also, I am proud that the City of Alexandria, through Alexandrians for Better City Government, is offering voters its first nonpartisan group of selected candidates for mayor and City Council: Allison Silberberg, Matt Feeley, Mo Seifeldein, and Robert Ray.
Finally, the city’s extreme, hard-ball, block voting, and aggressive legal maneuvers makes it clear that they care more about maintaining power than finding humane and economical solutions.
Vote on June 12 and choose the best four candidates for your neighborhood.