By Bill Reagan
Maya Angelou once wrote, “What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
City management issues are complex. There are no quick fixes, and even the best solutions may have tradeoffs or unintended consequences. Problem solving takes careful study and forward thinking. Those who sit on the sidelines and write NIMBY letters to the editor make for curious reading, but they don’t move things forward.
Alexandria and other high-growth areas universally have the same difficult conversations about traffic, parking, rising rents and development. As frustrating as these challenges might seem, they are infinitely preferable to the dire circumstances of communities that are on the decline with no hope in sight.
Cities and their business districts are either growing or waning. We all can agree that we want Alexandria to prosper, so we should be working out the kinks instead of blocking progress.
Alexandria’s distinct character and history is owed, in part, to the high level of engagement of our business owners and residents. They take time out of their busy lives to volunteer for task forces and commissions and to serve on boards of business and community organizations. They focus on thorny problems like parking, wayfinding improvements and development plan implementation. They work to make Alexandria better for the good of everyone.
Volunteers are supported by our talented and dedicated city staffers, who work each day to solve problems and create innovative solutions. They then spend many evening and weekend hours gathering community input and briefing residents on the intricacies of city planning and management. Volunteers and staff serve our community with integrity and deserve our respect, but they often receive a small but vocal public outpouring of rancor as thanks.
We know the few voices that decry progress and fuel discontent are not representative of our citizenry. Alexandria is distinguished as a community that cares deeply and lends a helping hand when problems arise.
Recently, a three-alarm fire devastated Al’s Steakhouse on the very of its grand re-opening. Neighboring restaurateurs immediately jumped in to host a fundraising event — going to great effort and expense to serve the very cheesesteaks that were Al’s feature.
Reflecting the true Alexandria spirit, this is not an isolated incident. We’re a small town at heart, and our business owners and residents demonstrate that every day. They speak with their actions, which are always louder than words. We cannot allow the drumbeat of the few to drown out the true pulse of our city.
Alexandria is a city steeped in history, in a beautiful riverfront setting, strategically situated at the core of one of the nation’s most dynamic metropolitan areas. But what makes it such a great place to live and work is the character and commitment of its engaged and active residents and business owners. Let’s show everyone what Alexandria truly embodies.
The writer is the executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.