Smart green planning
If I become a member of City council, I will (and encourage my colleagues to) engage and be swayed as much as possible by civic associations and volunteer organizations of good will. The first result would be that those groups impacted by a specific project would have a greater say in mitigating the externalized costs of development. A second benefit from this strategy would be the encouragement of the growth of such organizations, which strengthen the bonds of our communities. For the same reasons, I would maximize the opportunity for appointments from these organizations to City commissions, committees and task forces.
Among those organizations which deserve to be heard and encouraged are those that direct themselves toward the care of the environment, the establishment of parks and the planting of trees.
Parks are important for our City. Parks oriented toward children with active playscapes encourage activity and health in our young. For example, I am an admirer of the work done by the local organization Running Brooke, which raises money for building and maintaining parks for kids.
Green residential spaces are gathering places where neighbors form social ties that produce stronger, safer neighborhoods. Those communities with public green spaces have fewer crimes per capita. Access to welcoming parks with natural environments benefits all our citizens.
Poor environmental policy is in the long run poor financial policy. For example, the riverfront mixed waste and storm water problem. In the 1970's, the former Councilwoman Ellen Pickering advocated to make an important environmental policy change. She made everyone aware of the uncomfortable fact that the mixed waste and storm water drains dumped raw sewage directly into the Potomac River and so the Chesapeake Bay. She advocated for a fund to be used make the streets, alleys and walkways that are in the watershed of the mixed system more permeable when ever work was done on them. That policy would have slowed the storm water surge from overwhelming the old system. She lost that battle. Almost 50 years of inattention later, the City has an obligation to the State to fix the problem fast and it will be expensive, more than $300 million and I have heard 400 million. If we had set aside a small amount each year for the project, consistent with good environmental policy, we would have avoided budget busting expensive remediation project we have now.
City government has the job of urban planning. State law, however, directs that if the designs for a development are within the zoning codes, the development may be built by-right. The way Alexandria affects the built environment is to barter with developers. We offer for example, an extra height allowance for more open space, more trees, affordable housing and other needed infrastructure. Strong zoning codes and implementation ensure that we can maximize our influence on the built environment. Consequently, I opposed the City relaxing of the current codes, for example the recent reduction the obligation of commercial property to provide parking. I also support firming up the implementation of those codes during the entitlement process. Development will come; we need the leverage of strong zoning to shape our city.
Lastly, the set aside program for open space should never have been terminated. A new open space set aside program should be established. Our population continues to grow; the city continues to become more intensely used. Saving up to purchase special natural sites and also open spaces near young people should be a priority. Lets give the owners of important property an option besides selling it to developers.
Together, let's shape our future for a greener, healthier Alexandria.