Your View: City should stop running unprofitable ‘businesses’

Your View: City should stop running unprofitable ‘businesses’

By Jimm Roberts, Alexandria (File photo)

To the editor:
It was very disheartening to discover the men and women elected to the D.C. council have decided to the minimum wage for employees of privately owned businesses. Like their counterparts in Alexandria, they were elected to tend to safety, streets and schools. They were not elected to run, even partially, businesses they don’t own.

Their rationale for arbitrarily specifying a new and significantly higher minimum wage: it’s too expensive to live in D.C. Hourly workers need more money. But when businesses pass on the higher minimum wage to consumers in the form of higher prices, the consequence will be to make it even more expensive to live in the city.

Alexandria is not immune from government overreach. Our cost of living is higher than it needs to be because the Alexandria government runs a string of businesses at a loss. Among them are DASH, Capital Bikeshare and a batch of public swimming pools. Unable to operate these enterprises profitably, it is forced to use your tax dollars to subsidize them. And there’s more to come: A new swimming pool for use by a minuscule number of competitive swimmers in Alexandria will cost taxpayers $15 million, more or less. Although residents are raising money to help pay for its construction, their contribution is dwarfed by yours.

In addition, we now have a new parking enforcement program that requires a full-fledged court appearance to dispute a parking ticket. I suspect if someone did a cost-benefit analysis of this program that it would reveal the city has created another money-losing enterprise.

All the cars, gas and maintenance; the new personnel including training, uniforms and equipment plus wages, benefits and pensions cost heaps of money. To pay for these costs, parking enforcement officers need to issue a lot of tickets. For example, to generate just $2 million in parking fines requires roughly 140 tickets per day, including on snow days at $40 a pop. That’s a lot of parking tickets.

It’s hard to believe this enterprise covers its overhead, much less produces a profit. And how about the hidden costs? The tourists and day shoppers who get a ticket they can’t contest unless they appear in court will think twice about returning to Alexandria. Even D.C. permits tickets to be contested by mail.