Your Views: Accountability or an end to trust

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Your Views: Accountability or an end to trust
Taylor Run (Photo/Missy Schrott)
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To the editor:

It’s important city leaders hold people accountable for what they do. A case in point:

In 2018, city staff informed council members they’d sent letters and held a meeting with residents living adjacent to Strawberry Run’s proposed stream restoration, but “If the City receives negative stakeholder feedback, the City may rescind the [grant] application” to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality.

VDEQ was informed differently: that no resident responded to letters for a meeting. Residents couldn’t respond because only a year later – after the grant was approved – did staff actually send letters and hold a meeting.

Staff told VDEQ the natural channel design done in Strawberry Run in 2010 was “a good example to the residents of its benefits.” But the 2010 NCD had actually failed.

When staff told residents, “there was no stream restoration done there,” residents sent staff the city’s own 2010 presentation. The staff then contended the damage was minor, so in 2021 residents showed each council member the blown-out boulders with erosion worse than before the stream’s restoration.

Staff next claimed 2020 flash floods caused the failure, but those living alongside the stream confirmed it failed within a few years of completion, with seven storms since 2010 that were worse or equal to 2020.

Residents also requested the five key assessments Chesapeake Bay’s Expert Panel says to conduct for a NCD supported by the BANCS model.

For example, the Panel states BANCS is ineffective if there’s an “active head cut” – a drop in the just disappear or get better at some point when the weather gets warm is not a resolution. It’s putting off confronting a life-threatening situation. And situations like Tom’s resolve themselves, one way of the other.

One of the city’s responsibilities stream bed – downstream of the proposed NCD. Each council member has seen the downstream waterfall created by the failed 2010 NCD.

Today, despite residents’ repeated requests over seven months, staff has not provided the assessments VDEQ requires.

Strawberry Run residents are not asking to stop the stream’s restoration, but to restore it correctly. Residents have therefore requested a council resolution not to award a contract prior to June 2022 – after a proper review is conducted. The grant won’t be lost because VDEQ extended the grant’s contract date until then and the city won’t even use Strawberry Run’s “pollution credits” until 2028.

This is about accountability, not just NCD. Will it work this time where it failed before? Why? Do you follow the Expert Panel and actually do required assessments, or are there alternative designs? Do you honestly include citizen input and return to them the year taken away by staff misrepresentations to both council and the Commonwealth while providing documentation that citizens request?

I and others were sent to Iraq because of the claim of weapons of mass destruction. No one questioned the assertions. The loss to this nation was a lot worse for that decision than tons of sediment placed in Strawberry Run in 2010 having eroded and polluted the Chesapeake Bay, because our nation’s elected officials did not examine the facts or integrity behind the policy.

But accountability by Alexandria’s leaders for the city’s process is the same.

-Joe Sestak, Alexandria

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