To the editor:
Regarding Chuck Hagees article Got Change (September 9, 2010) on the increase in parking meter rates, it is clear the Mayor, City Council and transportation director Rich Baier were once again pulling another secret decision for residents and businesses in Old Town.
Everyone, according to Baier, decided the recent meter rate of 25 cents for nine minutes. As stated in the article, by everyone Mr. Baier meant every member of City Council and admitted that meetings were not held with merchants ahead of initiating the new rates as of July 1.
Further, City Manager Jim Hartmann appointed a group charged with discussing the key findings and recommendations by consultants as an outgrowth of a parking study. Once again, the Alexandria Way was to include only one business owner in the affected area and included an employee of the Patent and Trademark Office not even part of the study group.
How will this ridiculous meter increase impact the potential development of the waterfront? And what impact will this meter increase have on the tax base for Alexandria? I suspect the business tax base will continue to decrease not only for Alexandria, but others from neighboring districts that will no longer spend their money in Old Town and the boundaries affected by this meter increase.
One does not need an MBA from Harvard to know how the increase in meter rates and the need for quarters will drive customers away from Old Town and into other parts of Alexandria where parking is free, like Del Ray, or where meter rates have not yet increased.
It is clear that our elected officials and city offices dont know a thing about running a business. So here are some suggestions I believe should be implemented:
All members of City Council and the mayor, along with the Office of the City Manager and every department head, should pay the going rate for parking in the garage under City Hall rather than get a free pass.
As has been suggested by others, if customers to Old Town businesses use garages for parking, do what Pentagon City, Costco in Arlington and other businesses do by having the business validate your parking after customers have spent a great deal of money!
If I had any plans to open a business in Old Town now, I would run for the hills/suburbs. Alexandria officials are clearly sending the message that we dont want you here.
So let this be another lesson learned for our elected officials and city staff. Take an elementary class in business or start up a business in Old Town and check your receipts after six months to see how much money you have lost. Change this meter increase as soon as possible, pay for your parking in the city garage and start reducing pay for overpaid city administrators.