Opinion Your Views — 12 December 2013
City Hall might have gone crazy, but don’t blame the city attorney

By Dino Drudi, Alexandria
(File Photo)

To the editor:

I don’t understand why City Hall’s critics keep going after the city manager and city attorney. We don’t know what they tell the city council in closed sessions. The city attorney’s job is to advocate for his client — the city council — so he’s only doing his job if his client wants a particular policy, such as with Wales Alley.

If the best argument he can come up with to defend the city’s position is a non sequitur, then under legal ethics, he’s obliged to make that argument and let the courts rule.

How many of those criticizing the city attorney for wasting tax money would be upset at President Barack Obama’s Justice Department? The issue is the same: The people’s representatives voted in those laws, and they expect the top legal person to defend their laws.

The elected officials — not City Hall’s critics — represent the people, so the city attorney is properly obligated to defend what City Hall has wrought. Blaming the city attorney is counter-productive because it diverts blame from the real culprits, the ones whom folks elected.

That doesn’t mean those of us who are complaining lack a legitimate beef. City Hall has to be off its rocker on a lot of things. When 67 folks show up to oppose using eminent domain for the Old Dominion Boat Club — versus two supporters — and 58 percent of the electorate voted for a state constitutional amendment to prevent the kind of taking that city council is contemplating, a good case can be made that City Hall is overreaching.

But how about upper King Street where repaving the road has become the administrative vehicle for taking away neighbors’ parking spaces for bicycle lanes? If that isn’t the tail wagging the dog, what is?

That decision should have been made before the street was repaved or the status quo ante should stay until the next time the roadway is redone. It’s too late for a proper discussion about street widening (which might take a few feet of folks’ front yards) or other proper compromises, such as sizing parking spots for compact cars only to make more room for a bicycle lane.

Besides, city council recently allowed bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk in that segment of King Street. And the sidewalk fulfills all three conditions of appropriateness for bicycles: It’s 5-feet wide, not in a commercial district and averages fewer than 150 pedestrians an hour. Why does City Hall also need to install bicycle lanes?

 

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