Your View: Keep public-private partnerships off the table for Jefferson-Houston


To the editor:

Your opinion that Alexandria City Public School officials should reconsider entering into a public-private partnership with developers to fund construction of a new Jefferson-Houston School (Reconsider a public-private Jefferson-Houston, June 2, 2011) is based on unsound reasoning, possibly due to your failure to appreciate that my neighbors and I were not solely concerned about a lack of inclusion during last years planning process.  
While most of my neighbors and I understand that public-private partnerships are reasonable undertakings in many situations, we believe such a partnership to redevelop Jefferson-Houston is no more than a Faustian bargain.
To be clear, our primary concern is that a public-private partnership will lead to development that will fundamentally alter our neighborhood, which likely will negatively affect our quality of life. We understand that developers, as rational businesspeople, will seek to extract maximum profit out of the valuable land on which Jefferson-Houston sits. To do that, they most likely will need to build high-density residential property, large commercial buildings or both.  
My neighbors and I understand that more density in our neighborhood will only worsen the already horrific traffic situation on our narrow streets. In addition, we most likely would lose the playing field and other recreational areas we have in the neighborhood. Most of my neighbors and I do not want to sacrifice our quaint, relatively quiet neighborhood for some developer-created mega-development that resembles Clarendon. 
The use of taxpayer funds to build a school ensures the costs of a new school are spread more evenly among those who would reap its benefits. You suggest a public-private partnership would lower tax burdens while enabling Alexandria to pay for a bigger, better school, which is necessary because citywide student enrollment is predicted to keep swelling. Indeed, tax burdens would be lowered, but my neighbors and I would bear the costs associated with high-density development (e.g., congestion, loss of green space, plummeting quality of life, etc.). This, in effect, is a tax.  
We would shoulder this burden directly even though most of the students populating a new Jefferson-Houston would live outside of our neighborhood.  Our neighborhood should not be forced to bear a disproportionate amount of the costs of the school; a public-private partnership would yield that outcome. If all of Alexandria benefits from a new school, all of Alexandria should pay for it.