Wednesday, November 29, 2006


The EYA Saga Continues

Tonight the Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority (ARHA) will hold a special board meeting on EYA's proposal for the Glebe Road redevelopment. The meeting will be held at Ladrey Highrise (300 Wythe Street) at 7:30 PM. The Growler will report back to faithful readers on the ever-morphing plans for the Andrew Adkins and James Bland projects.

Changing Times

Helen Miller's house at 1301 Queen Street is now for sale, although no realtor's sign is posted. The property where the late community activist lived for nearly 50 years is being listed for $525,000, which apparently was upped from the original listing at $475,000. Mrs. Miller died a few days before Christmas 2005. Word on the street was that one of her daughters was going to move in, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen now.

Rose-Colored Glasses

The City has been crowing about the results of the recent 2006 Community Survey, sending out a press release stating that "Over 97 percent of Alexandrians believe they enjoy a “very good” or “good” quality of life and over 84 percent give similar ratings to the level of City services they receive in relation to the taxes they pay, according to a telephone survey of 1001 residents completed in late September by a leading market research firm."

But buried in the survey results were a few nuggets to chew on.

Participants were asked about any unmet or under-met community needs and in response most frequently named needs related to street maintenance, more recreational centers, more law enforcement, and more traffic control.

When asked to rate various City departments and services, respondents gave Code Enforcement and its building permits operations even lower marks in 2006 than in 2004 -- a 61.2% "good" rating, down from 68.1% in 2004.

The Cranky One is surprised the code cops got even this measure of approval. Anyone who has dealt with Code Enforcement recently know what it is like to be driven nearly mad by the inconsistency of its inspectors.

The Department of Real Estate Assesment fared worst of all in the survey. Little more than half (59.7%) of respondents ranked their services "good" in 2004 and that mediocre rating sank slightly to 58.3% in 2006. The Growler wonders if this is a valid reflection of poor service or if some misplaced angst is involved. It's only human to want to have one's property optimistically valued when it comes to calculating net worth, refinancing and borrowing on equity. It's also only human to grouse when the tax bill reflecting the higher value of the home finally arrives.

Most intriguing of all the survey findings: the ranking for "courtesy of City government and staff," which sank from 72.4 "good" in 2004 to 62.1 "good" in 2006. Sounds like there's a real need for mass customer service training down at City Hall.

The problem as the Growler sees it is that the City has a highly entrenched bureaucracy that is not goal-oriented but process-oriented. In addition, City staff have never had a good shaking up or RIF to thin out the ranks of the underperformers. Perhaps that's something to look for on the horizon, with prospect of flat or declining tax revenues for the next few years.

The Fenty Playbook

Has anyone at City Hall been drawing a lesson from the recent fall of D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey? D.C. Mayor-elect Adrian Fenty, who won election in large part due to his scrupulous attention to constituency issues, has made a restoration of true community policing a priority in the District. Chief Ramsay took the brunt of his displeasure and is now history.

Hmmmmmmmm ....