Opinion: Andrew Macdonald is wrong; Mick Jagger is right

(File photo)

To the editor:

In response to Andrew Macdonald’s January 26 letter, “Waterfront plan approved long before city council voted”: Kudos to him for his fantastic work of fiction, contradiction and omission. I too was at the 10-hour city council meeting on the Alexandria waterfront plan. But I saw and heard the proceedings much differently than Mr. Macdonald purports in his letter, so please allow me to correct the record.

I witnessed patience, not disregard, by city council members who listened to more than 100 residents speak for and against the waterfront plan. Residents, pro and con, spoke eloquently, thoughtfully and respectfully. Too many spoke against the plan, however, disrespectfully and rudely to the mayor and council. To use Mr. Macdonald’s word, that was shameful.

Former City Councilman Dave Speck did speak in favor of the plan and he did speak beyond his allotted time — because council members had questions for him based on his previous experience. In particular they asked him to relate the debate to anything similar in Alexandria’s past, which he did, speaking about the Carlyle area where I live. In contrast and omitted in Mr. Macdonald’s letter is that without questions, prompting or permission, more than half of those speaking against the plan went over their allotted three minutes. But who’s counting?

Regarding contradictory information, I find the term “development-hungry Democrats” if not a contradiction then perhaps a misquote. If we’ve learned anything from the exhausting stream of Republican presidential candidate debates, isn’t it the Republicans who are pro-business and, therefore, pro-development?

Judy Noritake, park and recreation committee chair, was kept at the podium as well — to field questions from the council. I recall her saying nothing about the waterfront having “too much green space.” Instead, she praised the plan for apportioning more green space than found in other comparable city waterfront areas. As indicated in the January 26 letter, open space is good but only to a certain point, after which it becomes wasted space better used for commercial or residential purposes. The green space we have requires improvement, and a woefully and embarrassingly underdeveloped waterfront needs to become the proud attraction from which we’ll all benefit.

Implicit in Mr. Macdonald’s letter is that residents who spoke against the plan were somehow more entitled than the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and Waterfront for All residents who spoke in favor of the plan. When business visionaries such as Chef Cathal Armstrong speak about improving the city for all residents and visitors, the council needs to listen. When residents speak about improving the city for all residents, as well as for visitors and tourists whose money spent in Alexandria helps support Alexandria, the council should listen. These arguments present the interests of the common good, benefits for all Alexandrians, and not just the special interests of the relative few living near the Potomac, wishing to preserve that space for themselves.

True, many against the plan wanted more time to study issues. But as explained by the mayor, those studies are forthcoming as part of the detailed development of the approved general plan. And how much time equals “more time” after almost three years have been spent listening to and accounting for the concerns of all residents?

Contrary to Mr. Macdonald’s claim, the council did listen to all residents who spoke January 21 as evidenced by a change made to the plan by the council at the meeting, lowering the potential number of hotels and hotel rooms allowed by the plan. I personally disagreed with this change, but it represented the type of compromise necessary to promote progress and thus I support it. To paraphrase Mick Jagger, we don’t always get what we want, but if we try, sometimes we get what we need.

On January 21, I witnessed the political and democratic process in action; I listened as passionate residents spoke for and against the plan, I winced at the rude and disrespectful treatment levied by some speakers at the mayor and council members; and I applauded when the council displayed leadership, vision and commitment to Alexandria’s long-term progress and enduring regional relevance by approving the plan.

– James Pelkofski



  1. Ramming a plan dow nthe throats of about 50% of the voters is hardly somethingto celebrate. Senator Ticer said it eloquently at hte hearing — it is obviously not ready for prime time. HOwever, the supporters had the votes and that was that. While you talk about “listening,” 250-300 people signed a peition in accordance with law. Perhaps it was valid, perhaps not. A judge will tell us that. What we do know is that the city schemed and maneuvered to avoid giving citizens due process under law. It is really hard to top the “we are closed” story told at the hearing.

    I also admire your naivete. Ms. Noritake and Mr. SPeck were engaged in what is known as Kabuki theater. That was choreographed to the hilt. Nothing wrong with that but please spare us the bromide that plan supporters were sweet innocent victims of those mean, mean people. Please. Plan supporters had every Democratic Party officeholder, big business, and business lobbying groups, not to mention a ton of money to work with. Nothing wrong with that either but the vicitim routine is tiresome.

    Finally, wake up my friend ot the reality of modern politics and turn off the cable TV. The Democratic Party (at least in Alexandria) does not represent taxpayers but tax consumers. To keep delivering goods and services to tax consumers and grow government, it must cultivate big business to keep elevating tax revenue. Residential homeowners just cannot generate enough cash for the government to grow like it wants. Hence, an alliance between Big Business and the Democratic Party. Big Business also appreciates regulation because it reduces competition. Think the CIty would approve a future SUP for a restaurant next to Virtue Feed and Grain? Don’t be such a partisan that you cannot see it for what it is.

    • Just to clear up the record, I did not have any prior conversation with Councilman Krupicka regarding his question after my testimony relating to the allocation of open space funds for waterfront purchases already complete or underway. If I had, I would have had a better set of facts – exact numbers – in my reply. So no, no Kabuki Theater.

      And as far as Mr. Macdonald’s assertion that I stated there was too much green space on the waterfront, well that is a complete fabrication on Andrew’s part. Go view the clip – I’m at 7 hours and 9 minutes into the video on the City web site. Mr. Macdonald would do better making his case on a difference of opinion with what I actually said rather than making something up to suit his purposes. In doing so he is casting aspersions on good people who spend their volunteer time working tirelessly to procure more open space and recreational resources around the community…the 10 other Park and Recreation Commissioners who live in all parts of the City and who’s views I was charged with bringing to City Council’s attention on this matter. His untruthful statement given as fact takes a swipe at all of them.
      Judy Noritake

  2. I am sorry but I have repeatedly viewed nasty and disgruntled comments by Haunches all over every public site possible. If you are too much of a coward to use your real name to back up your comment…your statements have no credibility whatsoever. For all I know you could be some editor drumming up controversy on the site for controversy sake. More likely you are leader of the opposition trying again to mislead the public into believing your opposition is widespread….kinda along the lines of the robo call. You should know, 200-300 people vs widespread city support, does not a majority make.