Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Strange Bedfellows

If the Growler has been unusually silent the last week, put it down to sheer shock.

Because participatory democracy in Alexandria has reached a whole new level when crackheads start turning out for public meetings.

Of course these folks had every right to be present. They are long-time residents of the neighborhood and are entitled to express their opinions.

But there’s only one word to describe their presence: chutzpah.

Last week Planning & Zoning thoughtfully held a meeting with nearby residents to discuss the issue of the Queen Payne Market, a dialog that proved inconclusive. But as various business owners and residents were discussing such arcana as special use permits and ABC licenses, who should walk in but several of the Spa Court poster boys?

And the Growler is not tossing out these labels lightly or pejoratively. Some of these attendees have accumulated criminal records over 30 years, including convictions for drug offenses. If you don't believe it, ask P&Z for the names from the attendance roster and trot down to the Courthouse to check it out on the automated ACJS system. They are precisely the reason many in the neighborhood fear that if the market is allowed to offer carry out food as well as alcohol the site will again after 13 years become a hot spot for loitering and crime.

The arrival of this troupe was all the more interesting since community police officers Michael Sprague, Walter Greene and liaison officer Captain William Johnson were also present and seated at the table. They took a position of strict neutrality on the market and the Growler was impressed that their faces showed no reaction when the late arrivals filed in. Indeed, the Growler wonders if this trait makes them killer poker players.

The Inner City Civic Association has thus far chosen to take no vote to either stand behind or oppose the Queen Payne Market’s SUP request. That’s a wise decision, considering the background of the supporters who turned up.

By the way, the Growler is puzzled: don’t you lose your right to vote if you are convicted of a felony in Virginia?