Tuesday, December 16, 2008

More Touchy Feely

Here's a recent Washington Post story the Growler can't let pass without notice.

As though we haven't heard enough about Alexandria's lavish consulting budget, it appears that the City recently had to hire an "ethicist" at $9,000 to help make decisions about budget priorities.

Isn't this the responsibility of our elected officials and City Manager (who is reputedly the highest-paid local government executive in Northern Virginia)?

Sources quoted in the Post indicated that while ethicists are occasionally consulted to help make difficult patient-care decisions, it is unusual for local officials to seek their advice on budget matters.

At issue: who would be served by Safe Haven, the controversial project in the 100 block of N. Patrick Street that was originally intended to house the mentally ill homeless, many of whom are averse to traditional shelters.

Now it appears the City has decided to house the mentally disabled at the facility instead.

Ironically, our officials could have spared themselves a lot of additional expense had they proposed this in the first place.

Readers may remember that the City fought a lawsuit brought by neighbors who claimed that due process was not followed when the City proposed the reuse of a historic fire house for Safe Haven without requiring a special use permit (SUP). This group, led by Craig Miller, argued that Safe Haven was not "multi-family" housing which was permitted by existing zoning but "congregate" housing, which requires an SUP.

After spending $100,000 in legal fees to fight Mr. Miller, the City finally caved after the courts upheld his arguments. Staff ultimately followed the proper steps, and obtained the SUP after rounding up a flock of activists (including those from communities outside Alexandria) to support Safe Haven.