To the Editor:
Recently a new group, Democrats for a Better Alexandria, has suggested that the City needs an Ombudsman (or Ombudswoman). According to Wikipedia, an Ombudsman is a person who acts as a trusted intermediary between government, and constituents, representing the broad scope of constituent interests. I would definitely support developing this idea, because as I travel around the city, I am often stopped and presented with a concern, or I find myself communicating to a constituent something happening in the city.
I am sure this happens to a lot of people running for office, because it is ultimately elected officials who have to be responsive to constituent concerns. For instance the other night a neighbor stopped me because she was concerned with the parking area being proposed around the new Jefferson Houston elementary school. Or at a meeting of the Affordable Housing Advisory Board, a member interrupted to ask what my opinion on the revised proposal for affordable housing in the Beauregard area was. Luckily I was knowledgeable on both these issues, and was able to have constructive dialogs on the topics.
It is hard enough being a candidate to keep up with all the issues in the city, but citizens need elected officials with the experience and willingness to look into a variety of issues that are affecting our city, and not just provide simple answers to complicated issues. I went to both the Transportation meeting on the Beauregard Small Area Plan and the Affordable Housing meeting on the Beauregard plan because I know these meetings are the preliminary steps before the planning commission meeting. It is important to track issues through the whole process.
I am always leery of creating of creating another layer of bureaucracy that is an expense and a barrier between government and citizens, but clearly better communication is needed in Alexandria, and an Ombudsman could be a bridge between citizens and government.