Letter to the Editor: Councilwoman Hughes on BFAAC
Alexandria City Councilwoman Alicia Hughes responds to a letter to the editor published last week concerning her representation on the city's budget advisory committee.
An opinion was written last week by Susan Kellom entitled "Budget Advisory Committee Is Missing a Key Member." The title is catchy, but the implications of the allegation are inaccurate. It is true that I have not made a formal appointment to the city’s Budget and Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee (BFAAC) in 16 months. So what? That’s my prerogative as a member of the Alexandria City Council.
According to Mrs. Kellom, “BFAAC’s budget analysis and yearly report are major vehicles for resident involvement in the budget process.” The sound bite implies that members of the public are lining up at BFAAC public hearings to opine on recommendations to give to the city council on the budget and budget guidance to the city manager. Untrue. While I appreciate BFAAC’s report, BFAAC’s work, and my BFAAC representative’s role as a personal advisor on the budget, BFAAC does not control or dictate our budget process and council hears directly from the public through written communications, in person and at our public hearings. We do as members of the city council. And we each avail ourselves to meet with the city manager and CFO to discuss budget concerns… unfiltered.
Mrs. Kellom is entitled to her personal opinion, but she is no more poised to tell me how to run my office as a city councilwoman, including my appointments, than I was to advise her on how to run her affairs as the Chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee, a position that after my election found members of her organization calling publicly for her resignation. When Mrs. Kellom publicly insists that a fellow council colleague of mine, a Democrat mind you, who went without a paid council aide for 10 months or went for months without a BFAAC representative owes the public an explanation, or maybe insists that the tons of unfilled vacancies on other city boards and commissions and even vacancies of city staff that aren’t filled… and for years, once people resign, are filled, then maybe I can take her seriously as an objective concerned citizen.
The fallacy in Mrs. Kellom’s opinion is that my voice is missing in the budget process. While not always, agreeing, citizens of Alexandria have heard me loud and clear. My voice was loud enough on the first budget in May 2010 that the same resulted, in response to a memo that I crafted questioning a recurring $30 million-plus line item, in a council resolution passed concurrently with the budget that took a hard look on dollars spent on contractual services and consulting. It took more than a year for staff, working with BFAAC, with my then-representative Matt Tallmer, a 15-year BFAAC veteran, leading the charge on the committee and working with staff, to sort out what was being spent. Unsurprisingly, given the media coverage and attention to the matter, everything budgeted in that line item was not spent and we even had a budget surplus. And that is but one example.
Alicia Hughes, Alexandria City Councilwoman