Our View: City council wish list

1452

Labor Day marks the beginning of a new year for many.

The end of summer in reality, if not by calendar, is the traditional starting post for a new school year. Thousands of Alexandria children attended their first day of classes on Tuesday. The day was captured beautifully in photos, which can be viewed on page 5.

Our city government has three starting points. When elections are held, the new council and mayor take their seats in January. Our city’s fiscal year begins on July 1, just as council is breaking for the summer. But September feels like the start of the new year in governance, as issues new and old are tackled and a new budget cycle looms.

In this edition, Mayor Allison Silberberg and council members share their priorities for the upcoming council calendar, which kicks off on Tuesday night with a legislative meeting. Below is our take on a few issues that will be considered this fall.

We think it’s time to bid adieu to a business improvement district. The intent behind a BID was to help businesses, but it instead generated overwhelming opposition from the very people it was supposed to help. It appears business owners want to avoid a new tax more than they want the flower baskets and events the BID tax would fund.

We wish council would put their dollars where their hearts appear to be on the issue of affordable housing.

Budgeting is philosophy, and when everyone expresses support but concrete measures don’t materialize, it’s difficult to view the words as more than platitudes. As singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams wrote, “If wishes were horses, I’d have a ranch.”

A few possibilities: hold developers to bigger contributions, set aside funds to pay for rent subsidies and work more closely with nonprofits like Community Lodgings to boost the supply of affordable housing. There’s no shortage of initiatives that would help.

We hope all sides approach the issue of Confederate names with compassion, though that will be more difficult in light of recent events in Charlottesville. It’s encouraging to see police quietly providing protection to the Appomattox statue at the intersection of Prince and Washington streets. A reasonable case can be made for removing the statue and for keeping it in place. What’s not acceptable is removal by mob or vandalism rather than by deliberated consensus.

Finally, we remain very concerned about the dearth of parking in Old Town and Del Ray and stand by our assertion that city policies in recent years are part of an intentional war on cars. As with the issue of Confederate names, policies need to be set deliberately and as a result of community consensus.

Instead, we are in the midst of a march through required processes toward an attempted pre-determined approval of parking reductions for new construction.

Affected stakeholders need to speak up before this is rammed through city council later this fall.

These are our priorities for the “new year”. What are yours?