Monday, June 04, 2007

Methodology

Next Monday is the “final” public meeting on the Braddock Road plan, and the Growler has at last started to piece together bits of evidence to predict what the City’s new approach will be.

To the Growler it appears that, having been unable to ram the controversial plan home by relying on carefully cultivated cheerleaders (Patricia Schubert, Herb Cooper-Levy, etc.), the Mayor and City staff are trying to find plan supporters anywhere they can scrape them up.

And the question is this: are they planning to organize what remains of the dwindling black community to boost the plan, and will the rallying cry be the protection of public housing?

Here’s the evidence:

First, there’s Mayor William D. Euille's comment about the plan and public housing at the March 2007 ICCA meeting. He stated that public housing “remains – remains but is upgraded,” and added "This is not a gentrification situation with people being pushed out of their longtime neighborhood."

Why was the Mayor so adamant about keeping public housing when there’s been steady pressure and concern from the community, and when many citizens have been urging the Council to follow its own Fair Share policy of dispersal?

That policy is backed by HUD’s own findings over the years that concentrated public housing doesn't work and that scattered sites will lead to the best outcome for the disadvantaged and their children. As an advocate for youth, doesn’t the Mayor respect these findings?

Don't forget that ARHA Chairman Marvin Miller confirmed publicly, low-income families frequently pass up a vacancy in Adkins or Bland because of the crime. Why protect something that the disadvantaged themselves are concerned about?

And who’s being pushed out of the neighborhood? Since there are few apartment buildings here, condo conversions are nearly unheard of and it’s conversions that lead to the displacement of low-income renters in rapidly changing urban areas.

No, the gentrification of Parker-Gray over the last two decades has involved the voluntary sale of single family homes, a trend that has resulted in a massive transfer of wealth to former homeowners and their families.

Given the statistical evidence quoted in the draft Braddock plan, which demonstrates seismic shifts in race, home values, income and educational levels, why does the Mayor want to deny twenty years of change?

Is the real goal to preserve Parker-Gray as Alexandria’s dumping ground for everything from public housing, crime and drugs to BRT and dense development?

Then there is new Planning & Zoning Director Farrol Hamer's statement at the May ICCA meeting: "We need to make sure all voices are heard.” Plenty of voices were heard by staff and politicians at the March and April public meetings. People took time from home, work and family to attend. When’s the last time the politicians cared about citizens who didn’t bother to speak up or E-mail about an issue?

Finally, there’s the P&Z announcement that Kramer & Associates would be conducting "a series of interviews with folks who will speak frankly and who represent diverse points of view. They will start by talking to some of you, and asking you to recommend others for interviews. The information from the interviews will not be attributed to individuals but will be consolidated by the consultants and shared with everyone."

After two years and dozens of charettes, public meetings, and work sessions, why does the City want to spend more time and money seeking secret input?

Why talk to the interviewees privately, then suggest that they recommend friends for interviews? Where's the rigor in this approach —the methodology — if the City is seeking a representative sampling of opinion?

Is the City trying to define the outcome of the interviews and is this approach being deployed to give them control of the process as well as the output? And are the unheard voices being coddled or even cultivated to tell the consultants what the City wants to hear?

Many of the Growler’s readers attended the public meetings on the Braddock Road plan and are on the City’s distribution list. Have any of you been contacted yet?