Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Unintended Consequences

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Unintended Consequences

Virginia tourism studies show that visitors who travel to historic sites stay longer, spend more money and return more frequently. So instead of concern for restaurants, which are often incidental to a trip to the Historic District of Alexandria, we should be doing everything possible to leverage our true treasures: Carlyle House, Christ Church, the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, the Apothecary, Freedman's Cemetery, Black History Museum, our wonderful waterfront and, of course, the Torpedo Factory.

What the BID will do is lead to the replacement of existing small, independent businesses with more and more bars and chains. This will eat at the historic fabric, which in turn will result in fewer visitors. Why bother to come here then when there's National Harbor with restaurants, bars and gambling? Instead historic tourists will stay in the District with side trips to unique sites, such as Arlington Cemetery and Mount Vernon. Alexandria will look like every other American town and travelers don't leave home to see more of the same.

All the hard work and wonderful legacy of Mayor Beatley, the creation of the Historic District and its protection by Ed Braswell, Ellen Pickering, Charles Trozzo, and Poul Hertel will be replaced by "any town" Alexandria. This council and the ones in the recent past have amassed a large debt that our current administration is choosing to answer with large, dense development and more and more taxes. Already Old Town has a parking problem, with expensive parking meters and reduced parking requirements for new developments. A BID can't fix this problem yet it also negatively affects tourism.

And now there's this proposed BID. Another guise for taxation because the city doesn't want to spend any money maintaining Old Town. They want to pass it off to small businesses who need to begin questioning the lack of serious metrics; that is, ask what specific value this BID is going to provide. Amazon and Walmart would never have stayed in business if they didn't provide value for the dollars exchanged for their goods.

It's time for all of us taxpayers to demand value. We work hard and choose to live in this wonderful city. We cannot let mismanagement continue — our streets are rubble, our schools not performing, we're driving out those seeking affordable housing, BikeShare subsidizes a very few and now Visit Alexandria and AEDP despite large staffs and big budgets are saying they can't do what they were created to do. This has got to stop and stop now.

Linda Couture