To the editor:
In the March 28 Alexandria Times, Bill Goff wrote a letter, “The solution to a residential nightmare,” highlighting why the enormous BRAC building contributed to awful traffic congestion and cut-through traffic on Seminary Road. In his letter, he wrote:
“It is hard to understand how Mayor Justin Wilson, a ‘transportation expert,’ and others, like former mayors Kerry Donley and Bill Euille and former Congressman Jim Moran, could have embraced such a structure.”
In your April 4 edition, Donley wrote a letter, “Former mayor defends his record,” challenging this assertion. He denied he ever supported the BRAC building and attacked Goff as being entitled to his opinion but not his own facts. Because we were heavily involved in the issues, I checked the records to see who had the more accurate facts.
At the outset, despite public posturing, the city supported the Mark Center as a site. During site selection, it wrote to the Department of Defense in August 2008 that “[t]he City of Alexandria supports the location of the Washington Headquarters Service (WHS) to either the Mark Winkler or to the Victory Center site. Both sites are quality locations which can well meet WHS requirements now and far into the future.”
The letter goes into great detail about why the city supported the Mark Center as a site. The letter was signed by the city manager and copied the mayor and entire council. The Mark Center was selected as the site in September 2008.
Donley was not yet back on council when the letter was signed. However, when he assumed office, he took steps to support the Mark Center and make sure it got built. For example, when Donley, Euille and Allison Silberberg were campaigning in the Democratic primary in 2015 for the mayoral nomination, the city’s decisions regarding the BRAC building were a hot top- ic of discussion. At a debate, Donley attacked Euille for supporting BRAC 133. As recorded by the Alexandria Gazette on April 30, 2015:
“Donley criticized the density of the building and the lack of transit infrastructure to support the facility’s 6,400 work force. However, Euille noted that Donley was on the city council at the time and voted in favor of the added density. Donley acknowledged his vote in the favor of the development, but said the project did not proceed the way city council was told it would.”
In 2011, the DoD Inspector General prepared detailed reports on site selection and transportation management. The DoD IG verified that the city did all it could to pursue the BRAC building at Mark Center after Donley assumed office.
For example, the DoD IG stated that “City officials, though well aware of the existing congestion conditions and the potential future impacts to I-395 and other primary arterials, had approved the proposed zoning and development . . . It should be noted that the City issued a Development Special Use Permit for the density of development and traffic projections of the BRAC 133 Project…” “the City of Alexandria has already issued permits and approvals for the development of over [sic] 4 million gross square feet of additional space in the city’s west end.” All this occurred, according to the IG, after Donley assumed office, and as noted above, Donley admitted he voted in support of these measures.
The records show that Goff’s sentence fairly and correctly stated a fact, not an opinion. Donley was campaigning to return to council when the site was announced. I could not locate any expression of support or opposition from him between then and his re-election in 2009. After assuming office, he voted in support of the Mark Center site, and also worked hard to mitigate the traffic catastrophe that we are now experiencing.
-Frank Putzu, Alexandria