Opinion: City Hall has a record of picking losers

Opinion: City Hall has a record of picking losers

To the editor:

The February 16 edition of the Washington Express panned Del Ray’s Pork Barrel BBQ as “pretty to look at, but the cuisine falls flat.” Wasn’t this the restaurant that insisted on subjecting its neighbors to a smoker, which City Hall, in usual fashion, fell all over itself to grant?

City Hall more often picks losers, like the DoD building at Mark Center and Alexandria Academy, which won waivers from the city but went insolvent in its first year. If City Hall didn’t have such a consistently bad track record, folks might be willing to trust its judgment on more complex planning initiatives, such as the waterfront plan.

The city’s development strategy of parlaying its strict zoning to wrest amenities from developers in exchange for waiving restrictions is doubly dishonest. Zoning is a protection upon which the general public relies when investing in a location. Further, offering to waive it functions as an extortion to wrest amenities from developers.

The petition to stop the waterfront plan signed by affected property owners is a check against undermining their zoning protections. So when City Hall refused to cooperate, it conceded zoning in Alexandria is merely a sham to wrest amenities from developers and to let the government pick winners and losers.

By contrast, when President Barack Obama bailed out General Motors, he swept aside creditors’ concerns, compelled concessions from GM’s unions and propped the company up with public funds. But this bold, controversial initiative, which stood free enterprise on its head and gave rise to the Tea Party, saved this most iconic of American corporations. In 2011 GM posted its highest profit ever.  President Obama understands that, if you are going to pick winners and losers, you really have to know what you’re doing, unlike Alexandria City Hall.

Most folks will tolerate a modicum of legerdemain if with it comes competent government. Conversely, they will tolerate inept bumbling, if with it comes clean, accountable, open government. But few beyond a favored inner circle tolerate the “perfect storm” of legerdemain and ineptitude lately on display at City Hall, such that even the esteemed former vice mayor felt compelled to speak out against the waterfront plan.

– Dino Drudi