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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Noteworthy Ironies
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Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Noteworthy Ironies

The debate and vote on increasing the restaurant meals tax for “affordable housing” abounds in noteworthy ironies:

  • Restaurant representatives insisted the proposed use for the tax increase had nothing to do with their industry even though some acknowledged that their workers face housing affordability challenges.

  • Speakers noted that the public hearing was a sham because the funds city hall believes the tax increase would generate have been included in the already approved budget.

  • All seven council members favored the tax increase despite the business owners’ detailed explanations of how harmful it would be, the Economic Development Agency’s sitting silently in the back (presumably because this agency shared the businesses’ concerns, but city hall told it to be silent), and the lack of an economic elasticity study (maybe the Economic Development Agency had done one, but it showed the business owners, rather than the City Council, were right about the increase’s impact). Council member Bailey blithely assured us that people would still keep coming because we’re a top tourist destination as if recently opened National Harbor and the Wharf didn’t exist. Having told the Potomac Yard neighbors he didn’t care about how densification affects them, but cares only about affordable housing, while idly standing by as Alexandria’s firefighters’ pay sunk to the lowest in the region epitomizes a one-issue candidate like some of the lions of the waterfront fight six years ago. At least now, thanks to Mayor Silberberg’s tie-breaking vote, his one issue has been addressed.

  • Addressing it, though, fractured the usual 6-1 bloc against Mayor Silberberg. Several of her colleagues, desperate to navigate the affordable housing conundrum, weary of selling out their constituents’ interests for “onesies and twosies” of affordable housing in new developments in exchange for shredding existing land use protections residents implored them to honor, sided with her tie-breaking vote for a dedicated affordable housing funding mechanism.

  • The electoral contest between Mayor Silberberg and Vice Mayor Wilson, a titanic contrast of priorities and philosophies whose outcome is still unclear, a critical inflection point nonetheless reached, a defining moment likely to determine the outcome. In their first debate, Vice mayor Wilson accused mayor Silberberg of voting against affordable housing. So, by his standard, he voted against affordable housing by opposing the tax increase he favored because he opposed dedicating it to affordable housing. He did not make an amendment to delete the dedication proviso, then vote reluctantly reluctantly for the ordinance when the amendment failed, but voted “no.” Mayor Silberberg voted against affordable housing projects over concerns about how specific features impacted neighbors and future residents, whereas Vice Mayor Wilson voted against this one over concern about how dedication compromises carte blanche “to the victor belong the (political) spoils.” This sets in stark contrast how the two are different, and how different are the two.

Dino Drudi

Alexandria