By Kathryn Papp, Alexandria
To the editor:
If it were possible to lower the level of trust that already exists for city officials held by residents — who voted overwhelmingly in favor of Virginia’s tough eminent domain constitutional amendment — that happened November 19.
It occurred when the mayor singlehandedly crafted a motion to mediate the dispute for the Old Dominion Boat Club’s parking lot. This motion included a directive to the city manager, asking him to start eminent domain proceedings before a framework for the talks was agreed upon and before a jointly chosen mediator was named.
It is much to Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg’s credit that she tried to detrain mediation from this threat. Going into sensitive negotiations with any hope of success requires good faith be demonstrated at the very beginning by both parties.
And make no mistake: This is a threat, pure and simple. Eminent domain remains an option no matter when it’s engaged, but to attach it to a motion for a mediated solution is a display of staggering power and political guile.
Any hope of avoiding legal wrangling is now seriously undermined. The likelihood of city officials going to the state Supreme Court in defense of flowerpots and a fountain has reared its ugly head.
A counterbalance requires that, except for the most sensitive sessions, mediation results be reported to the public and, at the very least, on a monthly basis to the waterfront commission, as requested by its chair, Charlotte Hall.