Our View: Being dumped on by Richmond, again

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(File photo)

When we think someone is out to get us, sometimes it’s just paranoia. Other times, there really is a boogeyman under our bed. An objective observer would likely conclude that paranoia is justified if they examined the way the Virginia General Assembly treats Alexandria. Sadly, this session has been worse than most.

The latest offense is legislation that threatens to derail Alexandria’s Internet initiative.

Under a bill introduced by Del. Kathy Byron (R-22), development of broadband Internet in Virginia’s rural areas would be aided, which is a good thing. But the bill has an unfortunate component that would significantly hinder cities like Alexandria that seek to create their own broadband systems.

In Alexandria’s case, the intent is to build a fiber optic network that would connect various city entities such as schools, libraries and recreation centers. Space on this network could then be rented by private companies for commercial use. The public-private partnership would look to foster more competition among providers, as opposed to the monopoly Comcast currently enjoys in the city.

Anyone who lost cable service during Sunday’s Super Bowl knows that Comcast needs a competitor.

Competition does many positive things. It generally brings prices down for consumers while simultaneously improving service. The consumer has an alternative if one company proves unsatisfactory.

There is no legitimate reason for Richmond to deny Alexandria the right to develop our own public infrastructure as we see fit — particularly if we foot the bill ourselves.

After all, one of the key campaign themes of our new President was the need to rebuild our country’s infrastructure. Alexandria is trying to do our part, and Richmond should leave us alone.

This affront to Alexandria’s self rule follows an earlier attempt by state Sen. Richard Stuart (R-28) to impose a logistically impossible three-and-a-half-year timeline on Alexandria to rebuild our sewage out- falls into the Potomac River or face a cutoff of all state funding. Stuart’s bill was ultimately moderated, but the first version was a slap in the face.

The reason for this antagonism toward Alexandria surely has a political component. Both houses of the General Assembly are Republican-controlled, while our entire state delegation and local elected officials — other than the nonpartisan school board — are Democrats.

But the antagonism likely also has a cultural aspect, as Northern Virginia is viewed by much of the state as not really Southern. Our affluence and way of life are both envied and disdained.

So, what is to be done, both short term on these issues and longer term on our relationship with the rest of the commonwealth?

The Internet bill seems on its way to passage in the General Assembly. The best bet for Alexandrians might be to flood the office of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) with phone calls and emails urging him to wield his veto pen if it passes with the local Internet prohibition intact.

Concurrently, our local legislative delegation may need to become more pragmatic while they remain in the political minority. Why continue to advance bills that have no chance of passage — such as a fee for paper and plastic bags — and only reinforce statewide stereotypes about us?

Former Alexandria City School Board chairwoman Karen Graf, who this week announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination to the House of Delegates’ 45th district, is right that Alexandria’s representatives need to seek more opportunities for bipartisan cooperation.

Alexandria needs to fight back when we are dissed, but also give Richmond less reason to dislike us.

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