Your View: Alexandria needs referendums for capital projects

Your View: Alexandria needs referendums for capital projects

By Jimm Roberts, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:

The city council-created mega-spending tsunami has begun. Unless you and your neighbors replace this mayor and city council with fiscally sensible people and demand the city charter be changed to impose a spending restriction on our elected officials, there is nothing you can do about the enormous wave of debt soon to engulf you. It is pointless even to hold on to your wallet.

This is because our current mayor, the three announced candidates for mayor and the current city council are poised to spend upwards of three-quarters of a billion dollars for a single, new Metro station. Consider this: The city does not have any of this money set aside for a new station. In fact, its spending already exceeds its revenues. But this will not stop our spendthrift mayor and his city council think-alikes from making ready to burden you and unborn future residents with a debt so massive it will span generations.

You may think I am exaggerating, but how’s this for evidence of a mind made up. It’s a quote contained in the March 27 city public service announcement declaring that the Potomac Yard Metrorail station planning has reached a major milestone with the completion of the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

In it, Mayor Euile said, “This is a significant point in a critical project. The draft EIS reflects extensive community input and staff expertise, and will help city council make the best decision regarding a new station and location.”

By now you probably are wondering, “If only the location is to be decided, then what’s the benefit?” And there’s the crux of the matter. From my perch, there is no benefit: zip, zero, nada. But our mayor and other elected officials would have you believe a new Metro station will take traffic off U.S. Route 1, a ludicrous assertion. Doubt me? Go to Tyson’s Corner and stand near its new Metro station, especially during rush hour.  You don’t need to be a traffic engineer to discover the congestion there is as acute as it ever was. And so will it be on Route 1, the cut-through route for Fairfax County residents.

Here’s another purported benefit, but not for thee or me: Our tax and spend mayor and councilors see the new Metro as a pot of gold. Why, you ask? Because they candidly admit it will allow them to raise the property valuations on nearby structures, both current and those they believe will be built. These increased property valuations mean the occupants will pay more property taxes than they would sans Metro.

Our mayor, our elected officials and mayoral candidates are oblivious that the more something is taxed, the less there will be of it. And not a single one even has made a guesstimate of the delay a new Metro station will add to current Metro commuters, much less explained alternative spending options. Just think about it for a moment. If the city is going to borrow this much money, what other alternatives are there to purchase with this enormous sum?

Three that pop into my mind are: Forever fully fund every non-profit providing social services to city residents; provide in perpetuity four year scholarships to every graduating high school student; or give electric bicycles annually to everyone in every Alexandria household. And there will be money left over too to bury overhead electric wires and even to pave the streets, some with gold.

Finally, don’t waste your time appearing before city council to express your reservations. The fix is in. The only options are to cap what our elected officials can spend without citizen approval or to replace them all with people who know how to create wealth, not just more debt and taxation. If at least you do the former, then our next mayor and city council will perforce be required to persuade us why their spending schemes will enhance our quality of life. Other Virginia cities require referendums for costly projects. Why not Alexandria?