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Arena opponents drop in on General Assembly

A trio of opponents to the arena proposal in Alexandria.
Brad Kutner
Radio IQ
A trio of opponents to the arena proposal in Alexandria.

Lawmakers in Virginia are hearing from opponents of a proposal for a new arena in Northern Virginia.

"Vote no! Vote no! Vote no!"

That's the sound of about two dozen opponents of a proposal for the Virginia General Assembly to create a new authority that would own a sports arena in Alexandria. Donna Gehlhaart came here from Alexandria with an artfully drawn sign.

"I've drawn a picture of Mr. Moneybags from the Monopoly game, and he's holding up a real dollar, real money," Gehlhaart said.

"You have an actual dollar bill on your sign," noted reporter Michael Pope.

"Yes I do," Gehlhaart replied.

"Why did you do that," asked Pope.

Well, I thought it was more effective," Gehlhaart said. "And I wanted to show money because I think this is real money coming from the taxpayers of the Commonwealth."

Former Alexandria Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald helped organize the rally in Capitol Square.

"It's an opaque structure, very powerful," Macdonald said. "It would be able to issue bonds. It would be able to basically control Alexandria's future if you want to say that."

"Control Alexandria's future? Come on now," Pope replied.

"Well, in the sense that it would provide an enormous amount of money to a developer, to a private developer, to a billionaire to build something that it is not at all clear is in the best interest of either party," said Macdonald.

Supporters of the arena say it'll create 30,000 jobs, but they have yet to provide details about how they arrived at that number, what kind of jobs are included in that total and how many of them are existing jobs in DC that will be taken by Virginia.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.