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Investing in Infrastructure

For Alexandria to be truly competitive in the 21st century, Mayor Roy believes, first and foremost, we must continue to improve and modernize our infrastructure: roads, sidewalks, lighting, drainage systems, broadband roll-out, fire stations, parks and recreation, and housing, among others.  Infrastructure reinvestment is “king” he often says to civic groups and comments to other elected officials and those in federal and state government controlling infrastructure dollars.

“I believe in targeted, evidence-based funding of our ailing American infrastructure to allow the private sector to do what it does best: create sustainable, meaningful employment and better the quality of Louisiana life.  I believe infrastructure—both physical and human—is the key to success for nations, states, and smaller units of government.  It is the platform upon which successful, capacity-adding private growth and industry occurs.”  Jacques Roy, September 9, 2010 (public forum)

For far too long, Alexandria paid for plans only to have them sit on shelves collecting dust because of a lack of agreement.  When Jacques Roy was elected in 2006, Mayor Roy made a commitment to put the work of Mayor Randolph into action, once and for all.  Within 100 days of taking office, Mayor Roy’s historic transition team’s material, with detailed information from Mayor Randolph, was compiled and released, and only one year after he was elected, Mayor Roy launched the largest infrastructure investment project in the history of the City, S.P.A.R.C. (or Special Planned Activity Redevelopment Corridors).

As its name implies, S.P.A.R.C. is about making major, catalytic investments in public infrastructure; investments that will transform neighborhoods and commercial districts, and also enhance property values, create jobs, and assert Alexandria’s competitiveness as a center of industry and progress.

Importantly, S.P.A.R.C. was created and launched without the need for new or additional taxes and without increasing our overall tax burden, and because of its unique and innovative approach, Mayor Roy and his administration have used S.P.A.R.C. to leverage millions of dollars in outside, competitive funding.  Millions of dollars!

Also, because of the team’s diligence, S.P.A.R.C. was created without paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to consultants for the implementation plan.  S.P.A.R.C. was created “in house” by the Mayor and his team.

More than a century ago, Edgar McCormick, the founder of The Town Talk, frequently referred to Alexandria as “the Future Great.” He believed with the right leadership, ambition, and shared commitment, Alexandria could one day become one of the South’s most treasured cities. 

Today, we are rising to that challenge.  We are investing in broadband roll-out to connect public facilities (and phase 2 would allow every citizen this opportunity), something that is often considered the most important infrastructure investment since the Interstate highway system was championed by members of every political party and philosophical leaning as essential to our shared future.  We are re-building our roads: Masonic Drive, Bolton Avenue, Lower Third Street, Sugarhouse Road, Sixth and Foisy Streets, and North MacArthur Drive.  We are making massive investments in drainage improvements.  We are attracting significant investments in new, quality housing developments.  We are modernizing our police and fire departments.  We are building new parks and walking trails in neighborhoods throughout the City, and we are making major improvements to our existing parks.

And we did this—all of it—without the need for any new taxes, in what was considered the worst economy since the Great Depression.

That’s what leadership is about, not only doing more when times are great but doing more with less when times are tough.  It’s about being on the job, being the last guy to leave work, spending time in the community, and collaborating with more stakeholders than ever before to make the City reflect its people and their wishes. 

Because of S.P.A.R.C.’s unique approach, Alexandria has emerged as an innovator in infrastructure investment.  S.P.A.R.C. projects have attracted the attention and the praise of some of the nation’s leading architects, planners, engineers, and urban studies academics. 

The late architect Frederic Schwartz, a Harvard professor and winner of the prestigious Rome Prize of Architecture, called S.P.A.R.C. the most “concise” vision for redevelopment he has ever encountered.  Mr. Schwartz designed skyscrapers in Shanghai, airports in India, and major housing projects in Africa.  He was drawn to the S.P.A.R.C. project after reading about it on the Internet (following a SPARC in-house created solicitation for developers), and later, Mr. Schwartz lead a team of local and regional professionals in planning the restoration of North MacArthur Drive. 

There is a good reason S.P.A.R.C. projects attracted such talent and praise.  Unlike many urban renewal initiatives, S.P.A.R.C. is not concerned with abstract or top-down planning.  It is, in the simplest terms, a series of construction projects.   

Under Mayor Roy’s leadership, Alexandria does not “plan for the sake of planning”; S.P.A.R.C. is about taking action, putting shovels in the ground, and improving the quality of our built environment.

Again, the difference with promises from politicians is that Mayor Roy offers construction plans, not drawings.  He personally ensures projects move and do not become mere wish lists.  These projects create construction jobs, leading to improved built environments that allow for permanent, private-world driven jobs. 

Hollow political promises or pie-in-the-sky ideas are an easy sell in campaign seasons.  Mayor Roy offers projects that have been funded, projects that Mayor Roy and his administration work on daily.  Ironically, campaign opponents offer the best form of flattery: imitation.  Much of the S.P.A.R.C. initiative can be found on the “push” material of opponents.  The difference is performance.

In addition to the S.P.A.R.C. initiative, under Mayor Roy’s leadership, Operation FastTrack, a package of road infrastructure projects created shortly before he first took office, was implemented on track and on time.  Its implementation occurred nearly 100% under this administration’s direction, having been announced in August of 2006.

We have repaved roads and sidewalks throughout the City.  We replaced water lines throughout the Garden District, some of which were nearly a century old, and we embarked on the largest ever scrubbing of Alexandria’s drainage system, a project appropriately called Operation Clean-Out.  The results of this program have fundamentally altered high-volume rain events for the better—and citizens acknowledge this openly for the first time in years. 

For many cities, it takes years, if not decades, to make such a series of widespread infrastructure improvements, but Mayor Roy believes Alexandria cannot afford delays.  If we intend to compete for 21st century jobs, if we hope to attract and maintain a sustainable workforce, and if we believe in the promise of our shared future, then we must act now—swiftly, cooperatively, and decisively.