Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Morning Roundup


Mayor Euille's recent statement in the Alexandria Gazette that "Some parents are just not ready to have their kids in an integrated environment" is earning him a long-term trip to the time-out corner in the eyes of many neighborhood residents.

The Gazette published several blistering letters to the editor this week decrying his remarks, and Mayor Euille himself had to backtrack by clarifying his statements at a Council meeting.

According to Gazette reporter Michael Lee Pope, Hizzoner now says that “Parents are concerned about the lack of quality education at certain schools, so they choose to opt out of the school in their neighborhood — not to mention the fact that we’re fortunate to have choices, and you have a choice to put you child in a public school or a private school or a religious institution,” he said.

“Our schools have made and continue to make progress, and we’ll begin to see improved demographics in the near future.”

Let's see if parents continue to shun Jefferson-Houston if and when the elementary school is finally brought up to the same levels of academic performance as Lyles-Crouch and George Mason. Until then, all such gratuitous gibes are beside the point.

Board-Building Exercise

Readers may not have noticed, but there's a lot of change happening with ARHA's board due to recent Council actions.

Earlier this month the Council did not reappoint long-time commissioner Leslie Hagan, who like Carlyle "Connie" Ring and Melvin Miller also had a stint on the School Board in the past and was seeking her final term under the City's recently enacted term limits for boards and commissions.

Instead, Council tapped a newcomer, Stan Vosper, who has many years experience as a HUD spokesman.

Over the last two years the Council has been quietly moving away from appointing civic activists and in favor of candidates with operational experience at HUD and other public housing authorities, in public housing policy, and in real estate development and financing.

Time to give our politicos a pat on the back.

End of the Line

Speaking of appointments, the Growler notes with interest that John Komoroske and Eric Wagner have been reappointed to the Planning Commission, but like Ms. Hagan are in their final terms. Mr. Komoroske and Mr. Wagner have been seen by some in our neighborhood as men with an entrenched and outdated view of our community during their decades-long stints on the City's single most powerful appointed commission.

Let's hear it again for Council, which quietly but courageously enacted term limits a while back to force more turnover and bring fresh ideas and views to advisory boards and commissions.

Vroom Vroom Vroom

It seems the battle over the City's proposed transportation add-on tax is gathering steam.

Vice Mayor Kerry Donley has been advocating for some time now that the City take advantage of recent legislation passed by the General Assembly, which allows jurisdictions in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to tax commercial properties at a different level than residential properties in order to fund transportation projects.

The argument is that this additional tax revenue can be leveraged to obtain federal matching funds for transit projects, and that Arlington and Fairfax County are well ahead of Alexandria in that respect.

However, there are some activists, like gadfly Bud Miller, who are skeptical about the need for such a tax and are concerned about the burden it will place on businesses. Other citizens have been wary about supporting the tax before the City's specific plans about how to spend the money are laid on the table.

The question for our neighborhood is whether the proposed measure is being promoted to solve the West End transportation crisis precipitated by BRAC or whether it is the preliminary measure needed to build up a war chest of revenue that will bring bus rapid transit down N. Henry and N. Patrick Streets in our residential neighborhood.

School Daze

It seems like the School Board and ACPS Superintendent Morton Sherman are once again in retreat in the face of strong public opinion.

The latest cause celebre? A proposal to start school before Labor Day and to extend school hours.

Apparently the idea wasn't well-vetted with parents — the Old Town mom's listserve was buzzing — and a Board vote on the early school year start was "abruptly" postponed, according to Washington Post reporter Christy Goodman.

Given experience with the recent Jefferson-Houston dust-up, one must ask why the Superintendent continues to fail to consult key constituencies before coming out with his sweeping proposals, and why the increasingly ineffective-looking School Board lets him get away with it.