To the editor:
For seven years I’ve participated in many city development and policy initiatives. This began with the waterfront, where citizens spoke both pro and con at a public session. Then mayor Bill Euille respectfully listened, and council was attentive. Alexandria’s constituents overwhelmingly said they favored green space and a continuous riverside pathway. Businesses wanted more retail and tourism.
That healthy beginning subsequently took the same course as nearly every development in the city, favoring developers’ density demands in trade for “public amenities.” When neighbors have clearly spoken out, asking council to save their neighborhoods and honor standing agreements and original zoning rules … the city has stonewalled.
Council’s long record of block voting, a predictable result of single party dominance and an at-large voting system, has resulted in undue familiarity among council, staff and developers. This frozen political apparatus maintains an insider control. It has left citizens with only legal action, a course few want to take.
How many times has this happened? Repeatedly and with regularity: the waterfront, lights on T.C. Williams stadium, bike lanes on King Street, overturning neighborhood agreements on traffic routing, the BID, developing Beauregard, building a Gateway, chopping down mature trees, etc. The pattern is identical: developers begin within zoning requirements, then soon announce there will be no amenities unless the city agrees to increased density. The trouble is that amenities are often not really available to us. Proposed waterfront amenities included: rooftop gardens (not built) and lobbies and restaurants of hotels.
A tax hike last year produced a double burden by simultaneously raising property valuation and tax rates. Contrary to both City Manager Mark Jinks’ and Mayor Silberberg’s recommendation for a smaller although viable tax increase, council, led by Vice Mayor Justin Wilson, played a mean-spirited, political, non-negotiable game. Time to change the bench to a council that acts equitably.
Give Silberberg, who has fought for neighborhoods, a council that supports her. Silberberg has made an exceptional effort to speak face-toface with neighbors throughout her tenure. “Council on your Corner” has been a refreshing change.
Also, I am proud that Alexandrians for Better City Government is offering voters its first nonpartisan group of endorsed candidates for mayor, Silberberg, and council, Matt Feeley, Mo Seifeldein and Robert Ray.
Vote on June 12 and choose the best four candidates for your neighborhood.