Editorial: Right message, wrong venue

Editorial: Right message, wrong venue

Beauregard corridor residents, rightfully upset with plans to redevelop their neighborhood, converged on a town hall meeting — hosted by the city’s housing department — over the weekend to make their frustration known. It was the right message, just at the wrong time and place.

City officials organized the meeting to outline their plans for the expected relocation of thousands of neighborhood residents as older buildings come down in favor of new development. The point of the gathering was to inform residents and elicit their thoughts on the process.

Instead, by all accounts, most in attendance took the opportunity to blast the redevelopment plan, city officials and real estate giant JBG. As Mildrilyn Davis, head of the housing department, told the Times afterward: “It was a little disappointing that we didn’t get much of a response on what we were there to present.”

We do not take issue with Beauregard corridor residents’ grievances. Redevelopment of that neighborhood likely will force a great many people who call Alexandria home out of the city. It will put a dent in the city’s touted diversity and strikes us as unfairly putting the burden of progress on the backs of Alexandria’s most vulnerable.

This is not a new stance for the Times. We critiqued the city’s plan to redevelop the neighborhood as it went through the approval process. We have urged the city’s top-elected officials to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to saving and creating affordable housing. We have never wavered from believing the Beauregard plan has serious flaws or pulled punches when describing the city’s failures in preserving affordable housing.

But Saturday’s meeting seemed an inopportune time to vent frustration. Davis and her staff, though charged with planning for the aftermath of Beauregard’s redevelopment, did not vote to approve the plan. The anger, disappointment and dissatisfaction would be better served directed at city council, not city employees.

We worry the neighborhood’s residents do themselves a disservice by employing the kind of tactics on display at the weekend meeting. We worry they will become known as knee-jerk reactionaries and thus end up easily dismissed.

Go march on City Hall; rally in Market Square. Fill the pews inside city council chambers during meetings. Make sure your voice is heard, just not at the cost of your cause.