Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Dems Strike Back ... at Parker-Gray?

The debate over the Braddock Road Metro Small Area Plan has taken an intriguing twist. It looks like the Democratic Party wants to squelch public discussion and concerns about the plan.

And the $64,000 question is why?

If you recall, shortly before Christmas Alexandria Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald wrote to the Alexandria Gazette questioning the frequently asserted assumption that new dense development will ease everyone's property tax burden.

Mr. Macdonald's letter was skeptical about the cost-benefit of dense development, but mostly summarized the concerns and wants that many residents have voiced about the Plan in public meetings as well as in this blog and other venues such as the Gazette. The list of concerns touched on building height and mass, sidewalk widths, public housing, crime, traffic and parking. He also referred to residents' desire for more open, usable park space and better retail. (In fact, some of the issues Mr. Macdonald raised like retail are not unique to Parker-Gray but have been echoed publicly by neighbors in newly developed communities, such as Carlyle.)

He concluded by simply noting that it was unclear what we were really going to get in return for dense development.

Now it appears Mr. Macdonald has been taken to the woodshed over this very temperate letter by the Democratic Party.

On Thursday, the Alexandria Times printed a letter from one Justin M. Wilson. The tone was equally temperate, but the message was clear

The vice mayor presents these [planning] tools as part of a zero-sum game, as if we can either have appropriate density near the Metro in line with transit-oriented principles, or we can have “historic residential neighborhoods;” open space versus workforce housing; smart growth versus clean air; public housing versus safe communities; small community retail versus economically viable retail."
Well, yes, this is exactly what we are all debating.

Mr. Wilson, however, concludes that "This collaborative community effort should be applauded, not criticized," though Mr. Macdonald was simply echoing the input of the community, which includes their worries and hopes. Isn't that the essence of collaboration?

But who is Justin M. Wilson and why is he taking such interest in our affairs?

The Growler did a little sleuthing and discovered a Justin M. Wilson lives on Sanborn Place, off Mt. Vernon Avenue near Arlandria. It's unlikely this person is going to be affected in the least by any of the development here, more than a mile and a half from his abode.

There's more. A Justin M. Wilson is listed as the former President of the Del Ray Citizens Association, who succeeded Rob Krupicka after his successful run for City Council in 2003.

Even more intriguing is the fact that a Justin M. Wilson is included among the key players in the Alexandria Democratic Committee. On the Dems' Web site he is listed as the contact for the Leadership Circle, which the site describes thus:

The members of the Leadership Circle support the ADC headquarters. Their contributions ensure that we can pay our rent and keep our office running. Dues categories begin at $125.
So in this letter is the Del Ray mafia once again telling us Parker-Gray residents to put up and shut? (Don't forget, the Growler has already pointed out that the draft Plan was revised overnight last month to include as one of its goals the "protection" of Del Ray. How many small area plans are so overt and tender about the "protection" of neighborhoods outside the development area?)

Or is Mr. Wilson, the Democratic Party's money man, taking the Vice Mayor to the proverbial woodshed because Mr. Macdonald is jeopardizing the goose that lays the golden eggs? Developers such as the Monarch's Diamond Properties happen to be among the most prominent contributors to Mayor William D. Euille, who made his fortune in construction and is most successful at local fundraising.

What some Alexandrians may not realize is the synergy that Mr. Euille's fundraising involves. His campaign receives donations from developers and zoning attorneys and but in turn sprinkles the funds on the campaigns of the other Democratic candidates, including Council members and candidates for state office. Visit this link if you'd like to look at the Mayor's campaign donations and expenditures.

So the Growler concludes with this riddle: are Parker-Gray residents being quietly sold out to developers in order to fill the coffers of the Democratic Party? And is that why our voices are being discounted?

Cue that steamroller again, boys!