Thursday, June 07, 2007

Kraaaamer!

Someone recently posted a comment indicating they thought the consultants retained by Planning & Zoning for the Braddock Road plan were probably Anita Kramer & Associates. Ms. Kramer is former head of the retail division of the Urban Land Institute.

But there's apparently another company of the same name headquartered in Annapolis and from the information in the Washington Business Journal article cited yesterday by the Growler, it appears this is the correct firm.

Click here for a profile of Robert G. Kramer and his company.

Yakkety-Yak

As expected, the Democratic candidate forum on Tuesday night had many moments of yawning predictability. The Party made sure there were lots of big fat slow softball questions thrown at the contenders, including "How do you plan to defeat Bill Cleveland," or "Fill in the blanks: I am Democrat because ....".

Outside of a Miss America pageant, the Growler has never heard so many people claim they're in it because they love people.

It was apparent early on that Susan Kellom and the Party loyalists were carefully pruning the questions. Hence no direct questions on the Braddock Road plan or about policy regarding BRT on Route 1 were allowed to percolate up from the audience. Instead, the discussions that were permitted focused on recent School Board decisions, financing for education, and the City budget and fiscal responsibility. Along the way, the candidates were allowed to air their views on the proposed smoking ban in restaurants, revenue diversification and the redevelopment of Landmark Mall.

The Growler was amused that one of the Party's canned questions was "If you are not elected, what do you plan to do the day after the primary?" Of course, like a row of singing canaries everyone piped that even if defeated they would work hard to help the chosen one crush Bill Cleveland on July 17.

Nevertheless, a few things stood out that had relevance for our neighborhood.

First, when asked which programs would they cut or keep in the City budget, Lenny Harris responded that he would retain affordable and public housing as well as education programs. He then twice stated that he had "seen five communities dismantled due to high taxes, historic preservation and redevelopment." We're not sure which five communities he's referring to. The Berg (now Chatham Square)? Parker-Gray? The Dip?

The subject of concentrated public housing came up in an audience question. Most candidates supported the concept of scattered sites. Mr. Feldheim pointed to the success of Chatham Square. Mr. Wilson said he supported Fair Share, and added that with the recent rejection of ARHA's Glebe Park tax credit application observed it was "time to look at all affordable housing." Mr. Walker talked about the need for a long-term plan for public housing but then waxed eloquent about supporting Safe Haven. Mr. Harris conceded scattered sites might be better but he didn't want to "break up communities."

The most unusual response came from Jim Lay. After a strong start outlining his experience prosecuting the drug docket, he lapsed into a string of descriptives including "vibrancy," "texture," "tolerance," and "inclusion," and then wound up saying "One day we'll wake up and find we are all tall, thin, and white."

The Growler guesses he was trying to say he is all for diversity, but the audience tittered.

The panel was allowed to ask each other a question, and Boyd Walker inquired if other candidates would follow his lead and reject developer donations. That brought the statement from Jim Lay that the elected politicians should not have to recuse themselves from a Council vote on a developer issue, and that "none of us" would be influenced by contributions. Mark Feldheim claimed "it isn't an issue in this City" but suggested a $1,000 limit. Justin Wilson talked about his role in helping rewrite the state election financing laws to require more frequent reporting, somewhat sidestepping his role raking in developer contributions for Mayor William D. Euille.

Overall, Mr. Lay seemed to be most concerned about education and pouring money into the school system. Mr. Wilson talked a great deal about fiscal responsibility; he positioned himself as the candidate with special expertise in transit but also used those code words "transit-oriented development." Mr. Walker staked his territory as the new maverick, outlining a shopping list of neighborhood issues that he joined in opposing, ranging from Virginia Paving to Mirant to the Connector to the All Sports Complex and even the expansion of the DASH bus system. Mr. Feldheim expressed concern about how the City spends its money, throwing $700,000 at a National Harbor but underinvesting in essential infrastructure like phone switches.

Democrats who cannot make the primary vote on Saturday at Minnie Howard School may vote tonight (Thursday, June 7) from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Alexandria Democratic Party headquarters at 618 N Washington Street