There was no hope for a sophisticated conversation about Hensley Park

There was no hope for a sophisticated conversation about Hensley Park

To the editor:

Former City Councilor David Speck insists that residents too quickly condemned The St. James Group’s public-private partnership proposal for a sports mega center on city parkland (“Negative response to sports center proposal was disappointing,” September 5). I sat through the organization’s presentation but emerged skeptical as to its commercial viability.

Why didn’t the company do due diligence? It would have revealed that Hensley Park wasn’t a feasible site.

Speck — who temporarily filled state Delegate Rob Krupicka’s open council seat last year — had previously served on city council during a long golden age, when Alexandria was led by titans like James Moran, Charles Beatley and Patsy Ticer. But it would be a mistake to apply a golden age modus operandi to today’s “iron age” of city governance, where resident petitions are dismissed with legal legerdemain; public property and prerogatives are treated like poker chips at the casino to be bet on public-private partnerships; quid-pro-quos are accepted from developers; and city committees’ informed and well-considered recommendations are insouciantly ignored.

Today’s city council is incapable of the sort of sophisticated conversation Speck seeks because it is too reflexively concessionary to developers. Resident opposition was quick out of necessity.

The bloc of well-informed civic activists who dominated spring elections until a lame-duck city council shifted it to November adapted their tactics to the new political environment. They figure that opening with a hard tackle is the most successful strategy for operating in today’s iron age of city government.

Those titans who secured that $117,000 federal grant in 1977 protected us from City Hall’s machinations.

– Dino Drudi

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