Happy birthday, Alexandria


Admit it. Though we all like to grouse about things that arent exactly as wed like, its a pretty great thing to live in Alexandria, Virginia. Its fun to live in a city that, as it turns 261 this week, is older than Washington, D.C. In addition to our history, we have many other positive attributes: Our proximity to the cultural attractions of the most unique city in the country, a highly educated and ethnically diverse population, wonderful neighborhoods and parks and, yes, a ringside seat to the political machinations of our nations capital. 

In Alexandria, its even possible to run into John Warner or James Carville in the Safeway.
Birthdays are a time to look back and forward and to take stock. This is true of people, businesses, organizations and cities. What have we accomplished this past year? Where are we headed?  Do we like ourselves? How do other people view us? 

The answers to some of those questions are local in nature, but some are national and even international. The U.S. economy remains at a precarious place, as does much of the world economy. Most Americans saw our stock holdings steadily recover last year only to drop again in recent months. Though our property assessments are down in Alexandria by 7.5 percent from 2009, we havent been as hard hit as much of the rest of the country. 

Similarly, the city has lost fewer jobs than the country at large. Unemployment continues at alarmingly high levels nationwide, as the U.S. jobless rate is just under 10 percent a number that is deceivingly low because many people have given up looking for work, which shrinks the number of the technically jobless without swelling the ranks of the employed.  In  metropolitan Washington the unemployment number is only 6 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Politically, we saw diversity come to our City Council one year ago this month, as two Republicans joined five Democrats (including Mayor Bill Euille) on our local governing body. Although the greater range of political voices produced a more spirited volley of views than in recent years, the city budget looked lamentably familiar. An array of tax and fee hikes were enacted to increase spending despite the recession.

The issue that most riled up our community this past year was that of the Department of Defense project at the Mark Center. Scores of Alexandrians turned up at community meetings to denounce the proposed traffic ramp that would have destroyed significant parts of our citys beloved Winkler nature preserve. Though the final traffic solution remains elusive, community protest and effective leadership from our congressman, Jim Moran, at least put the most egregious proposal on the shelf.
During the 2009-2010 school year, Alexandrias school system successfully divided G.W. and Francis Hammond middle schools into multiple campuses within each building, though not without a few hiccups along the way. ACPS also dealt with a series of embarrassing and troubling lapses in its bus system as several young children were erroneously dropped off at the wrong location.

Looking forward, the Jones Point Park renovation, and issues surrounding the parks accessibility during the project, promise to keep us occupied in the coming months. Likewise, we all must deal with the implications of Alexandrias rapid population growth that the 2010 census has revealed.

What do you think was the citys biggest accomplishment during this past year? What do you think is the most significant issue city residents will grapple with during Alexandrias 262nd year? Send us a note or e-mail (letters@alextimes.com) telling us your thoughts and well share them with our readers. And by all means, head down to Oronoco Bay Park this Saturday for the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra concert and fireworks that will take place between 4 and 10 p.m. Lets all celebrate the fact that this is a pretty great town.