Council Notebook

Council Notebook

A Hole on King Street

The recent demolition in the 1500 block of King Street has left a gaping hole in the day-to-day life of upper King Street. The old townhouses, built in 1913 by two local grocery store owners, are gone. And some are questioning the process that led to the destruction.

"It’s a shell game," said historic preservation advocate Boyd Walker, who fought to preserve the buildings. "This process is flawed."

The city’s Code Enforcement Bureau granted the demolition permit. City Council did not review the demolition application and no public hearing was ever held for officials to receive input on the matter. A concept plan for the development has yet to be considered by the Board of Architectural Review.

"I think this is a tremendous loss," said City Councilman Andrew Macdonald. "The city did not attach enough importance to these buildings."

Because the building was outside of the city’s historic district — and because it was not quite 100 years old — there was no legal protection for the structure. The process that led to demolition was met with few hurdles, and some eofficials defend the process.

"That decision was based on the law," said City Councilwoman Joyce Woodson. "I’m not a proponent for tearing down buildings, but we’ve got to follow the law. So many people fail to appreciate that we are a nation of laws."


Leadership with Attitude

The council chamber resembled a Hollywood studio during the City Council’s meeting this week, with elected officials transforming into actors playing themselves. Paul Wilson, co-founder of Wilson-Grand Communications, brought a crew to film a segment that will be shown during the annual Chamber of Commerce gala on Jan. 21.

With cameras rolling, Wilson asked each council member to record several takes. After each performance, he would offer suggestions to elicit a perfect performance from the elected leaders. Then he would yell "rolling" and film another attempt at perfection.

"We need a little more attitude," Wilson told City Councilwoman Joyce Woodson after her first reading.

"Moi?" she said, eliciting laughter from her colleagues. Woodson is regarded as a passionate and frequently outspoken member of the City Council.

Later in the filming, when Councilman Ludwig Gaines was struggling to bring life to the script, Councilman Paul Smedberg offered a suggestion: "Put a little Joyce into it," said Smedberg, the only council member to record his line in one take.


Using the Right Words

Monte Dawson is a number cruncher for Alexandria City Public Schools. As executive director of the division’s department of Monitoring and Evaluation, Dawson is frequently presenting statistics and data to School Board members. Last week, for example, he presented an evaluation of the modified school calendar at Tucker Elementary School.

He speaks slowly and methodically, carefully crafting his words to be specific and accurate. During his presentation on the modified calendar, School Board member Sally Ann Baynard expressed her pleasure with Dawson’s exacting nature.

"I always love hearing from you," she said. "You are one of the few people in the commonwealth to use the words ‘data,’ ‘datum,’ ‘criteria’ and ‘criterion.’"

Without missing a beat, Dawson smiled and resumed his presentation.

"Satisfaction, or at least tolerance, with the new calendar was evidenced by both parents and staff," Dawson said, adding that only 3 percent of those surveyed thought that the modified calendar should be discontinued. "No staff suggested returning to a traditional calendar, although they did suggest improvements."