To the editor:
Letter writers may try to blame staff for city hall’s egregious policy decisions, but staff is only recommending what it has been told to recommend, privately via the mayor-manager meeting and tête-à-têtes with individual city council members. When city council moves to “adopt the staff recommendation,” it is because the staff recommendation reflects what staff has been quietly tasked to recommend.
In a rare or hypothetical instance where what staff comes back with is not what city council wants, I believe it gets quietly sent back for more work and some staffer gets chewed out behind closed doors.
If we examine the past decade’s worth of city council public hearings, at most a thousand residents have spoken at one. Given that 66,000 residents voted in the most recent city election, those who speak at one or multiple hearings constitute less than two percent of the electorate, despite constituting 36 percent of your readership responding to your weekly poll.
Bad public policy emanates from city hall in a steady stream because, as this weekly poll’s result benchmarks, your readership is part of a small minority which pays attention to local affairs.
City hall rarely responds to letters, articles or anything you publish, including your insightful editorials, because it believes your readership is small enough to ignore or, more accurately, non-readers are so much more numerous.
Maybe moving elections back to the spring, when the turnout is smaller and your readers might constitute one-fifth, would improve public policy, but election by district – an otherwise meritorious idea – would not cure the problem of a detached electorate.
-Dino Drudi, Alexandria