Unpacking lessons learned from the primary

Unpacking lessons learned from the primary
(Graphic/Jessica Kim)

To the editor:

Interpreting the disappointing primacy results as any kind of mandate or referendum for continuing the aggressive urbanization agenda favored by most of the City Council incumbents is both a big mistake and a major wake-up call.

The witches brew of dangerous outside financial influence, limpid voter turnout and the unwillingness of those angry with the status quo to adequately assist, support and fund candidates for change, has now ushered back into Council chambers many of the imperious members who dismiss opposition to their urbanist vision of rampant densification for the city as “otherism.”

One unsuccessful candidate sadly told me that voter turnout rates were pathetic in districts vociferously opposed to the “density projects,” such as the proposed arena proposal and Zoning for Housing. It really struck home for me when the candidate lamented that “running against bad policy is easy; running against apathy is hard.”

So, if we in “the resistance” want a standard bearer who will be a voice for reason in the colossally out of touch City Council and help end the 7-0 “Stepford” votes the Council usually produces, we have the civic obligation to be the “army” behind the standard bearers. We have to be willing to do the hard work – organizing, writing checks, volunteering – and most importantly, voting.

But all is not lost. Really smart, engaged and hard-working candidates emerged who we hope will choose to run again, such as Charlotte Scherer, Jimmy Lewis and Jonathan Huskey.

Since we have failed to see reasonable city planning and development policy from the current Council, we have resorted to the circuit and appeals courts to try to rein in Council’s abdication of its responsibility for a consensus long-term city vision to the commercial interests of developers. When do we think that it will dawn on Council that, when virtually every development and zoning policy is challenged in court case after court case, something is badly wrong with Alexandria’s fundamental approach to governance and interaction between the Council and the citizenry?

City Council does not have to be decided by the Democratic primary. Led by the impressive Roy Byrd, a few Independent candidates are running for Council in November. Byrd’s voice alone would dramatically change the quality of Council deliberations. But electing him and others will require a massive effort and involvement, so we don’t have a reprise of the anemic voter turnout we just saw in the primary. Those of us who want urgent change must be willing to be an active part of Byrd’s campaign by volunteering, writing checks, holding fundraisers and getting our hands dirty. Otherwise, we will collectively deserve the City Council we get in November.

Remember that, regardless of who we prefer in the national election in November, our problems in Alexandria are really neither Democrat nor Republican. They are community problems, quality of life problems and livability problems that can only be addressed collaboratively with a City Council that learns to value – not denigrate – thoughtful and responsible citizen input.

-Scott Corzine,