All Alexandrians should share in the goal of making city government more efficient, more friendly to job-creating businesses and more focused on results not process. When we create a city that strives to meet these objectives, everybody wins.
Luckily, were headed in the right direction.
Last month, staff at City Hall made stellar proposals to reduce government bureaucracy in Alexandria by streamlining regulations for small businesses, particularly regarding the issuance of so-called Special Use Permits. These proposals are a logical next step in the citys streamlining operation a program that saw the creation of a one-stop-shop for permits and better signage programs in Old Town.
These proposed regulations do not cut the citys essential oversight functions, but they do create more effective avenues to help small businesses like restaurants and shops serve the public.
For one, the proposals make it less bureaucratic for small businesses to enhance their services. For example, restaurants that might want to offer a few tables outdoors can apply and receive permits via city staff without having to wait for a vote by City Council.
Why does this matter?
For one, it helps lessen the burden and the bottleneck that can occur when every major SUP decision is forced upon Council. The city invests significantly in salaries for talented staff members and these individuals deserve to be empowered to do their jobs and issue the permits as they see fit.
Moreover, Councils focus should be on more pressing matters such as our crushing budget and transportation challenges not on whether a local restaurant wants to offer residents the opportunity to eat outdoors.
The citys proposal also calls for eliminating regulations that the city itself has deemed onerous and duplicative. We believe that cutting unnecessary red tape is a step in the right direction for businesses and for residents who seek to maintain their current tax rates and quality of life.
In particular, the city staff recommendations would help breathe new life into the business sector at Cameron Station, an area that has been particularly hard-hit by the economic downturn. This, too, is a smart decision, helping to ensure that no area of our city is without services for residents.
It also provides a larger commercial tax base to offset what would be, without businesses, even higher taxes for residents.
The entire community will benefit from streamlined regulations at City Hall not just small businesses and Chamber members.
For example, these proposed recommendations mean that citizens will be able to enjoy a more diverse array of business services in our community, including additional outdoor dining and different types of shops, while ensuring that appropriate regulations remain in force and are enforced by city staff to ensure that residents are not adversely affected by the issuance of new permits.
A smart balance between efficiency, regulation, and prompt, consistent decision-making is essential to a healthy city economy. Thats why the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce wholeheartedly supports these changes, which will be decided upon this weekend by City Council.
Sadly, some members of our community oppose these new plans. They would rather subject local businesses which seek only to grow steadily and create jobs to lengthy City Council hearings and expensive deliberations as seeming punishment for wanting to enhance the services they offer residents. We are very pleased that the Planning Commission disagreed with such naysayers and approved the proposal with a few minor amendments last week.
When city staff makes a recommendation to reduce bureaucracy at City Hall, we should take note that times are changing. When that recommendation is solid and would help Alexandria prosper, it deserves our support and encouragement to continue in that direction. Accordingly, the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce calls on all efficiency-loving Alexandrians to voice their support for the citys newest proposal to cut red tape and help our city create jobs and regain its economic footing.
The writer is president and CEO of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.