Opinion Your Views — 01 March 2012
Opinion: Democracy drowned out on the waterfront

To the editor:

Normally, the terms “dense” and “impervious” refer to inanimate objects — things that are dead.   However, they can also refer, entirely accurately, to human beings who are dead to what surrounds them. This strange phenomenon has made its full-fledged appearance at City Hall, where it has chiefly characterized the waterfront development fiasco.

I would like to be kinder, but that luxury is not supported by the track record of a cynical public process, ramped up misinformation campaigns, and as Bert Ely has so accurately put it, “a plan that is nothing but a marketing plan for hotels on the river.”

The Democratic machine has been as densely wound and impervious as its city representatives since the start. The nuts, screws and balls are winging right along on a pathway strewn with platitudes, sound bites, serious gaps in key information and a group of people who abandon the dais and pop peanuts while constituents speak. I saw one elected official glance up with a look in his eye that seemed to say, “Haven’t they gone home, yet?”

In fact, the mayor scheduled a business trip that coincided with an important vote on the contentious waterfront issue. In a stunning display of power, one councilman, after the “rules on expanding a Montessori school” were handed down by the city, told the group of earnest parents that should there be any disagreements on street blockage, they should work it out among themselves.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton make sure we spend hundreds of millions of dollar a year bringing democratic process, dialogue, and equity in crafting policy positions to countries around the world.  Given the amazing show of arrogance, bullying, fact twisting and simple incompetence in the once-in-a-century development of the waterfront, you would think President Obama’s example would be one we strive to emulate.

Perhaps we need a grant for a refresher course in governance and democratic ideals. Right now, city irregularities are being taken care of through a system of internal monitoring. It bears resemblance to the already tight network of committees and commissions that are city-appointed to oversee and ensure city-recommended programs and procedures might be rocketed past residents. Hm.

Given today’s low level of public trust of the city, as evidenced by the number of lawsuits, can we really afford to trust multimillion dollar projects to a tightly wound, well-oiled city machine? Riding on President Obama’s coattails in the fall elections won’t save those whose decisions clearly run against their constituents’ opinions. Personally, I will once again work on the Obama election campaign … but I will not mark my ballot for those local officials who have so cavalierly treated those who entrusted them with good governance of the City of Alexandria — regardless of party. The waterfront is my guide.

- Kathryn Papp
Alexandria

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