Originally published by the Alexandria News at http://www.alexandrianews.org/…
The Waterfront Plan
By Libby Garvey, candidate for Virginia Senate
Note: In the time since this editorial was published yesterday morning, City Council has voted to postpone any decision on the waterfront plan until September.
Early last Saturday morning, I joined almost 200 people gathered at the foot of King Street to voice their opposition to the City Council’s adoption of the Alexandria Planning Department’s plan for waterfront development. This plan has been in the works for years but these Alexandrians feel ignored, believing that the majority of City Council members have not listened to their concerns about the troubling commercial development focus in the plan.
As I spoke with many of the Alexandria residents in attendance, I heard the same refrain again and again: “No one is listening to us.” These residents deserve to have a voice in how their neighborhoods are developed and, most important, deserve to have their views receive more than lip service. I truly sympathize with them as I’ve heard the exact phrase before on the Mark Center/BRAC-133 issue.
To be fair, in this case – unlike with BRAC-133 – it seems that the City Council has made some effort to give the citizens of Alexandria the opportunity to voice their concerns. However, residents feel that some members of City Council have consistently turned a deaf ear to their concerns, suggestions and alternatives. As alexandrianews.org highlighted in the editorial on June 6th, any decision this important to Alexandria’s future must receive “very careful and open analysis.” I believe that analysis must include the public presentation of good faith alternative plans in order for residents to make certain the plan chosen is the best plan possible. Indeed, the Alexandria residents I met on Saturday agree. I understand that an alternative plan was presented by the Planning Department at Saturday’s meeting, which left the crowd largely underwhelmed. True public outreach and inclusion could avoid the need for resident protests and, instead, help create a waterfront of which everyone can be proud.
Good government practices demand no less. Over the past 14 years, in addition to establishing regular office hours for the Arlington County School Board, I have also helped oversee the reconstruction or renovation of nearly all of our schools in Arlington. At every point in the planning process, we actively sought and listened to the concerns and advice of citizens and nearby residents. We made changes where valid concerns were brought to our attention, and did so without hesitation or rancor. In fact, last Thursday, we broke ground on the new Wakefield High School project, a new LEED-certified, school facility that will be finished over 2 years earlier than originally thought and with projected savings of over $30 million to taxpayers. We never would have been able to produce this wonderful result if we had not worked closely with the neighborhood, the parents of Wakefield students, and other residents of Arlington County from the very beginning of the planning process.
“Government-by-Land-Developers” is a term I’ve heard often used by Alexandria residents. After BRAC and now the water front development plan, I can see why they would think that. It should not happen and if this is indeed occurring, it ought to be stopped. The residents of Alexandria and the Greater Alexandria Preservation Alliance have a right to expect elected officials to listen to, take seriously and respond to their concerns about the neighborhood in which they chose to live.
In the upcoming August 23rd Democratic Primary for the State Senate, voters in Alexandria have the opportunity to make their voice heard loud and clear. As your next Senator, I pledge not only to listen to the multitude of voices in our community and the entire 30th District but also to bring people together to find creative solutions to the many serious problems faced by our communities. This election should not be about who’s from where. Instead, I believe it should be about which candidate will go to Richmond with the vision and ability to achieve real results to make our entire community stronger. That’s how I have always worked and that is why Alexandria’s own Senator Patsy Ticer has endorsed me to take her place in the State Senate. I hope very much that you will honor me with your vote, that you will lend your voice to our campaign and join me in helping us bring to the Virginia General Assembly a new leadership that both listens carefully to constituents and gets results.