The Times shows its true colors with waterfront plan coverage

The Times shows its true colors with waterfront plan coverage

To the editor:

The Alexandria Times bills itself as the city’s only independent hometown newspaper. An independent newspaper should, however, maintain its objectivity. Your reporting of the March 16 city council hearing on the waterfront plan (“Water under the bridge”) maintained neither objectivity nor accuracy.

The Times voiced its opposition to the approved waterfront redevelopment plan appropriately in its March 21 editorial (“Old Town must be protected from consequences of redevelopment”). In the article “Water under the bridge” (a curious title) covering the hearing that reconfirmed, in a supermajority vote, key aspects of the already approved waterfront plan, the Times inappropriately displayed its bias against waterfront development.

The Times’ reporting dealt almost exclusively with the minority opposition’s arguments against the approved waterfront plan. In only one sentence did it mention the goal of “creating a more vibrant waterfront and allowing for flood mitigation efforts” — worthy objectives for any progressive city council.

But the Times disingenuously introduced that goal with the backhanded criticism that “officials hope to leverage developer dollars for public amenities,” thus tacitly endorsing the minority opposition’s claims that this development plan is not about Alexandria’s best interests but about money and greed.

The minority opposition’s ongoing legal battles are stalling tactics designed to delay and deny the mandate of the vast majority of residents who support replacing the neglected, decrepit waterfront with a vibrant, attractive and functional waterfront. The Times neglected to mention, in highlighting Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg’s unsolicited compromise proposal of reducing waterfront hotels from two to one, that the approved plan already included a compromise proposed by City Councilor Del Pepper at last year’s hearing reducing hotels in the plan from three to two.

And “dozens” of residents did not speak out against the plan at the March 16 hearing. I was there — I spoke in favor of the plan — and I counted 22 speakers voicing their opposition. That’s two short of two dozen by my count.

The city needs a waterfront that can compete regionally with the waterfronts at Georgetown, National Harbor and, most recently, the Anacostia riverfront’s Riverwalk Trail, lest Alexandria continue its descent toward obsolescence and regional irrelevance.

But this is exactly what the minority opposition wants. As I stated at the hearing, the sound of silence along the waterfront is music to the opposition’s ears. The majority spoke in the November election. We want the type of destination waterfront City Councilor John Chapman referred to. We want the waterfront the Times clearly does not want: A waterfront Alexandria can be proud of and one we can all enjoy.

– James Pelkofski