Missed opportunity requires soul searching

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Missed opportunity requires soul searching
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To the editor:

As the Monumental Sports & Entertainment deal with Alexandria has officially ended, it is time for our city to reflect on its priorities and how we approach development. The Monumental proposal addressed many of the city’s priorities that progressives have been clamoring for: dense housing, a walkable town center with greenspaces, promised union labor for construction, investments in infrastructure and public transportation and a site for a new public school.

Instead, we are left with an underutilized Metro station, a sprawling shopping center that is mostly empty parking spaces, zero new affordable housing units with Metro access, and a development plan left up to the property owners who have said not to expect a dense layout. Surprise Alexandria residents, you don’t get much of a say in what is built or how it is built there now.

The arena proposal also provided the city with the opportunity to diversify the tax base, 37% of which is property taxes. This is at a time when major investments need to be made in public education. The School Board has called for an unprecedented increase in funding to Alexandria City Public Schools as they are at or above the recommended student to teacher ratio.

“The city dodged a bullet” letter to the editor from the March 21 Alexandria Times makes a fair point about using the funding allocated to the Monumental project for a new school, but this recommendation is not paired with a mechanism to pay for it. Instead of money from the stadium deal, the burden for funding school construction and similar projects would now be placed on Alexandria residents through increased property taxes, affecting low and fixed-income residents most adversely.

Some of the fault in the deal’s collapse rests with Ted Leonsis and Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who failed to bring local stakeholders into the process earlier and conduct effective community outreach.

However, the cacophony that local groups injected into civil discourse and our state representatives failing to negotiate a bill representing Alexandria’s priorities bears the bulk of the responsibility. I applaud our mayor for putting partisanship aside and working to get the best deal possible for Alexandria and our Commonwealth. The result is disappointing, and we have many pressing issues the city must address with limited funds, but hey, at least we got a few memes out of it.

-Stephen Hornbeck, Alexandria

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