To the editor:
Why would the City of Alexandria need to raise money for waterfront development when the city has a good self-funded plan?
In the November 3 edition of the Alexandria Times, there is a discussion on the Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan (“Fighting for the river’s edge”). In the same paper, it is reported that Moody’s has put Alexandria’s AAA rating on credit watch. Would CAAWP propose to either increase the debt load or defer existing projects in order to accomplish its plan? There are currently $150-million worth of approved but unfunded projects in the city’s capital improvement plan. The majority of these are for schools and infrastructure.
And how does City Hall pay for municipal bonds? Through increases in property taxes. By not maintaining Alexandria’s historically conservative debt policies, Moody’s would, as indicated by the negative outlook, lower the rating to AA. This would result in higher interest cost for all projects.
The article states also that the CAAWP plan proposes to raise a portion of the funds for its alternative plan from grants. Virginia is struggling to find money for needed transportation projects. The cost of going to college in the commonwealth has increased because of reduced state funding. The federal government is struggling to bring down the deficit. The city’s waterfront blueprint is solvent and does not need additional state or federal grants.
Is it reasonable to think our waterfront project would be high on any priority list for grants? I think not.
As noted in the Times, the CAAWP alternative plan proposes seeking funds from foundations. The recently dedicated Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial struggled for two decades to raise $120 million. The list of donors includes Boeing, Aetna, Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, McDonalds, General Motors, and as of mid-October, it had not reached its goal. It is not reasonable to think Alexandria waterfront development would attract funds from foundations and individuals when so many worthy causes need funds, and when the city can fund the waterfront improvements without raising taxes.
We need to redevelop our waterfront for all of Alexandria. We need to preserve our debt capacity for schools and infrastructure. And therefore we need to generate the funds for the waterfront improvements from the development itself.
I recommend all Alexandrians let their city council know your position on this matter that could negatively affect the bond rating of the city and delay other critical capital projects.