To the editor:
I attended the appeal of the Board of Architectural Review hearing heard before Alexandria City Council on May 14. The original expectation was that this public hearing would be held on a Saturday in April at the usual time for a council public hearing. I am unclear as to the reason to postpone. At the beginning of the hearing Mayor Justin Wilson described the need to reschedule as a “snafu.” That part was very clear. It was only the first of three related to this matter.
The city government in recent years has endeavored to interact with citizens online, including encouraging them to sign up online to speak at public hearings. However, no one at city hall remembered to re-program the online sign-up system to allow signing up on Tuesday, when normally council does not hear public hearing items.
This hearing had the largest public attendance of any I have participated in recent years. Many citizens who had never spoken before at a public hearing tried to sign up online and got a message that no public hearing items would be heard on May 14.
Naturally these involved citizens attempting to exercise their rights as Americans, and they were livid. Luckily, some of us who had previously participated in public hearings were able to get the word out that anyone who called the city clerk’s office could sign up by speaking with one of the efficient employees there. We averted what could have been an ugly incident at the public hearing. That was snafu number two.
Finally, the lack of imagination by the mayor or City Manager Mark Jinks caused snafu number three. The Tuesday legislative meeting is used to honor the out- standing work of the city’s volunteers and employees such as the fire chief with ceremonial presentations and to hear reports on important issues such as the coming Metro shutdown. These matters were scheduled well in advance and could not be rescheduled.
The one public hearing did not begin until around 9 p.m. and continued until close to 1 a.m. Wilson complained about the lateness of the hour several times. Either the mayor or city manager should have been able to set this public hearing for a special night, such as May 16.
The annual public hearing on spending in the city budget is always held separately, on a Monday night. By exercising just a little imagination, the mayor and council and all the citizens present could have gotten to bed earlier on Tuesday night, rather than early on Wednesday morning.
-Katy Cannady, Alexandria