Virginia Paving has started polluting not only the West End of Alexandria, but now the East End. In fact, it is polluting Alexandria all the way down to City Hall, where it is sponsoring the 2nd Annual King St. Mile, which begins at Market Square.
It is true that Virginia Paving might seem to be an appropriate sponsor of a road race, but I think it would be wise to think twice about accepting their sponsorship for community events. They already have enough influence at City Hall. Two of the council members who supported their Special Use Permit (SUP) to continue and expand their operations next to residents in Cameron Station will be running in this race with them. Of the three Council members who voted against this SUP, Andrew Macdonald is no longer on Council, and Ludwig Gaines will be leaving Council. I will run against Virginia Paving and will continue to be a thorn in their ability to keep running.
As one of the biggest polluters in Alexandria, it is an ironic sponsor of an event that promotes health and fitness. The deeper you breathe this grape juice, the less healthy Alexandria will be. We already have difficulty meeting regional air quality standards because of our coal-fired power plant on the waterfront, but it is also because of our other polluters. Pacers and First Night Alexandria, the two organizers of the event, put out a flier saying that, You should feel minimal, if any, impact.
Pollution not only affects the immediate local residents, but the entire city and region, and soft pedaling support through sponsorships will not change the tremendous impact Virginia Paving has. They were fined $74,160, and their State Operating permit is up for review by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
If Alexandrians want to transform the West End with the Redevelopment of Landmark Mall, and by building transit to the new BRAC location on Beauregard and creating a transit corridor down Van Dorn St., Virginia Paving will be standing in the way.
The next Council will have to face this issue again and address whether, if we want to enhance the residential West End of the city with shopping and amenities to make it more livable and improve the quality of life, we can do so without eliminating some of the industrial uses. The East End and every area of Alexandria should care as our tax base decreases because of this poor planning, and as a result, their tax rate goes up. If we can build a sound economic base in the West End we can achieve a balance of commercial and residential taxes that will help the entire city.
The only good news for the environment is that the race will eliminate parking for a short period and all traffic for an equally brief period. Perhaps the air will clear and we can see clearly for these car-free moments. Breathe deep for these few moments, and when the three current City Council members run past, think about how they will vote the next time the issue of Virginia Paving comes up. I know how I will vote.
The writer is a City Council candidate