Editorial: Alexandria chamber moves to increase impact on city budget

Editorial: Alexandria chamber moves to increase impact on city budget

(File photo)

A very useful Alexandria institution has just made itself even more helpful to the city as a whole.

The organization is the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, a long-time source of business guidance, networking events and a key player in the city’s drive to attract new businesses. The increased relevance comes courtesy of political activist Dak Hardwick, who became head of the chamber’s government relations committee in early 2014 and immediately set out to align the chamber’s advocacy efforts with Alexandria City Council’s budget process.

The change was a seemingly small one: rolling out the organization’s legislative agenda in October rather than January. Sometimes, though, a small move can have a great impact, and this one should enable the chamber to have a greater voice in decisions that affect Alexandria’s businesses.

We applaud this change for several reasons. First, it always is good to see organizations maximize their effectiveness. Nothing is more frustrating than being right but irrelevant.

As the Times generally stakes out pro-business positions (on issues ranging from opposing an “add-on” tax for commercial real estate to advocating for fewer regulations on businesses) we welcome a like-minded voice getting more engaged. There is strength in numbers.

Although the chamber’s lobbying agenda reflects its members’ views on a variety of issues, it is the proposed Potomac Yard Metro station that has them most excited. Hardwick explained, “Potomac Yard Metro is the single largest economic development tool the city has ever had in its entire history, and we have to take advantage of that opportunity.”

The сhamber sees development around the Metro as the key to providing tax relief to city residents, and skewing the city’s tax base away from such a heavy reliance on residential property rates. We agree this is an admirable goal, although we remain skeptical that city councilors will actually lower the residential tax burden. A spending increase is more likely.

Still, larger and more diverse tax revenues might lead city council to fund issues that should be higher priorities. At the top of our wish list is meaningful spending on affordable housing initiatives rather than token gestures.

We applaud сhamber CEO John Long for teaming with Hardwick to try and increase his organization’s voice in City Hall. The Times likely will not agree with the Chamber on every issue, as we tend to view large development projects with a warier eye and place more emphasis on the impact they have on residents’ quality of life.

But this move means that Long and the Chamber will be more visible, and in all likelihood, more effective. In general, what benefits the business community benefits us all.