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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Need vs Nice To Have
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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Need vs Nice To Have

Dan Brendel’s commentary [“On Leadership,” Gazette Packet, March 8] distinguishes between “critical infrastructure” and “nice-to-have,” implying that a Chinquapin swimming pool is less critical than new schools and affordable housing.

A new pool is most critical of the three because learning to swim saves lives and young adults who know how to swim serve critical needs in our military and emergency services. The U.S. has had a navy and coast guard since the Republic’s early days, whereas public education did not become an expectation of government ’til the late 19th century and affordable housing ’til the New Deal. Defense of our country and its interests requires many recruits who have the ability to swim. Alexandria’s Old Town Pool is nearly a century old — predating the city’s “affordable housing” program.

Parents of public school children typically support increases in school funding freighted by the general taxpayers, but expenditures for subjects not subject to “standards of learning” annual assessment exams are not critical. An “art cart” because a classroom is needed for basic learning, for example, is a prudent economy below the high school level.

“Affordable housing,” where free market pricing dictates otherwise, is a “nice-to-have” so long as transportation networks support commutation from more affordable parts of the metropolitan area. An “economically diverse” population is a “nice-to-have,” not critical. Many places do fine without such.

Ironically, education expenditures lead to locales having top-quality schools which attract residents which bids up housing prices, making housing less affordable.

More money spent on schools generates a “need” to spend more on affordable housing. Alexandria’s cost-of-living is under one-and-a-half times the U.S. overall but we throw at schools more that double the U.S. average per student expenditure. Places which spend far less find they have plenty of affordable housing.

Dino Drudi

Alexandria