Opinion Your Views — 27 March 2014
A few real suggestions to improve civic engagement in Alexandria

By Jim Roberts, Alexandria
(File Photo)

To the editor:

I am troubled. I can’t fathom whether our city councilors are aloof by design or by nature. Whatever the reason, apart from Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg, their collective disdain for the residents they purportedly represent strikes me as arrogance, pure and simple.

But they are not beyond detecting community discontent. To placate it, more of our money — and an enormous amount of city staff time — was used to concoct a manual explaining how we, the residents, can interact with them.

They should write one for themselves. It would explain the methods an elected representative should employ to gauge the taxpayers’ desires and concerns.

Come on! We pay them to work for us. Creating a manual telling us how to work for them is symptomatic of a serious disconnect in our body politic.

I can understand why our city councilors comport themselves as overlords. It’s much easier to get things done if you have the supreme authority to do what you want rather than sort through the multiple views of residents.

It’s necessary to truly empower the people to invigorate our hobbled democracy in Alexandria. Toward that worthy end, do away with the at-large system by which city councilors are elected. Replace it with the format used in 99.9 percent of America whereby voters elect representatives from their communities

Also, it would be very modern and inexpensive — certainly less costly than the goofy civic engagement manual approved by our city councilors — to establish an online polling process to plumb the sentiment of residents. For contentious issues, an online poll would help us residents become informed early on and let us register our opinion in the form of a nonbinding vote.

There could be any number of topics at any given time posted online. Their sole purpose would be educating the public, so that they may make informed online votes. This would enable our elected officials to be responsive to the views of the people. Isn’t that what democracy is all about?

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