It seems odd that the all-Democrat members of the Alexandria Planning Commission and the Alexandria City Council would want to borrow from the playbook used by the Republican majority members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee recently.
Both the Senate members and the Planning Commission and council members promoted the false sense of urgency, rushing ahead without the necessary facts on hand to make an impartial decision. In the Senate, they wanted to get Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court before the Nov. 6 elections, in case the balance of power shifts.
With the council, the June 12 and Nov. 6 elections also play a major role in the scheduling. Why should the council make this decision right now, when 4 of the 7 voting members are lame ducks, and won’t be around to provide any accountability for this decision?
With the Senate, the majority withheld thousands of pages of documents related to Kavanaugh. And the three-day FBI investigation only produced more questions and fewer answers.
With the Planning Commission, they had only one public hearing on the T.C. Williams lighting controversy. Yes, the meeting went on until 2 a.m. but working people can’t stay that late and head for work early the next day. Both the Senate and Planning Commission behaved as though these were “done deals” and they didn’t want any interference by outsiders.
For the commission and the council, they are ignoring the cost of vastly expanding the lights beyond TC, to other parks, and the burning question of how will the city pay for it. As the Packet notes in its Sept. 27 headline. “ACPS fiscal forecast shows widening budget deficits.”
How did the cost for this project balloon to millions of dollars? And why was not sufficient thought given to the George Washington Middle School site, where lights are not a major an impediment to the neighborhood. The major financial beneficiaries are not Alexandrians but the many outside organizations in Northern Virginia who are salivating at the prospect of renting out a stadium, night after night, to the dismay of our local residents who will foot the bill for its maintenance and suffer from the parking problems.
There is not an academic benefit to adding lights, in a time when the school population is increasing and sports should not be driving this decision, especially when football causes so many injuries to young players.
The most troubling aspect of this project is the lack of transparency and integrity in the process. Do we simply throw out verbal and written statements if some time later some city representatives disagree with them? They are appointed, not elected, and they are ignoring citizens who don’t share their assumptions.
I strongly disagree with Planning Chairman Mary Lyman and the four commission members who voted with her. She states that, “A condition in a SUP [special use permit] is not a promise. “(Packet, Oct. 4, 2018). I take that as her personal opinion. What kind of a city will Alexandria become if we walk away from our written and oral commitments?
Instead, I urge the current council members to pursue the comments from Phyllis Burke, on behalf of the Alexandria chapter of the NAACP, who emphatically stated for the record that “the city and the School Board should honor its commitment to the African American community,” as she spoke about an agreement in place for over 10 years between the city and residents who were displaced when TC was built. Frances Terrell, president of the Seminary Civic Association, added that “several city documents refer to a ‘no lights’ promise so an agreement is in place.”
This is simply dishonest on the behalf of the Planning Commission. The council should explore options which do not ignore precedent and its legal obligations to all its residents.
Kathleen M. Burns