Your Views: Rebuilding trust in our elected leaders

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Your Views: Rebuilding trust in our elected leaders
Alexandria City Hall. (Photo/Missy Schrott)
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To the editor:

In the past three years, the residents of the City of Alexandria have experienced a trust deficit with the city’s bureaucratic staff and its elected City Council members. Some city blocks have yard signs that read: “Don’t Bulldoze Chinquapin Park!,” “High Rises in Old Town?” “#Open ACPS!” and “STOP Alexandria’s UNNECESSARY Flooding.”

Residents have voiced their concerns about the city’s decisions to reduce lanes on Seminary Road, expressed outrage at the lack of transparency regarding the Potomac Yard Metro and called out one city elected official’s perceived conflict of interest in the Hugo Black house case.

Since January 2019, the list of concerns by city residents has increased. Many residents feel marginalized and disrespected that their voices are not heard by city leaders. Even after earnest appeals and petitions by residents on city policy decisions across a broad range of issues, residents frequently feel that their appeals fall on the deaf ears of City Council and the city manager.

At issue is the decline in values-based trust between city residents and elected leaders along the lines of integrity, openness and fairness. At issue is the city residents’ trust deficit with its elected leaders where constituents feel that the city failed to properly address the quality of life in our neighborhoods, the appropriate decorum between city leadership and civic associations and the preservation of Alexandria’s historic districts.

A group of concerned Alexandria residents formed For Better Alexandria Government, which recently launched its website at https://www.betteralex.us, calling on all 2021 mayoral and City Council candidates to integrate values-based trust into their campaign platforms.

Our group desires a City Council that actively engages, listens and collaborates with their constituents to make the City of Alexandria a better place to live. For Better Alexandria Government contacted every mayoral and council candidate requesting their signature pledging to support the Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights. This document reflects the inherent, basic rights of every city resident, and the pledge seeks to establish early accountability among City Council candidates to uphold those rights.

For Better Alexandria Government posted signed pledges of mayoral and City Council candidates who agreed to uphold the Bill of Rights. However, the story is not which candidates have signed, but which candidates declined to sign. To improve the governance of our city, we need mayoral and City Council candidates who demonstrate the courage, leadership and empathy to serve as active listeners to city residents, to fully integrate residents into city policy decisions and to rebuild the trust between the governors and the governed.

-Stafford A. Ward, spokesperson, For Better Alexandria Government

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