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A more inclusive Alexandria? That's the goal of city's newest committee

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The city of Alexandria is forming a new committee to start the new year on a welcoming note - a cultural inclusiveness committee.

The committee, which has already had two organizational meetings, will advise the city council on developing policies and programs to foster a community that is "welcoming, vibrant and inclusive of diversity," according to a preliminary amendment the city council approved Monday.

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The committee includes seven members, appointed by the council, who will serve one and two-year terms. They are Oscar Bohorquez, Beatriz Hadler, Mary Ann Maameri, Steve Pederson, Marian Sanchez, LaTresse Snead and Carol Wenner.

The city's personnel director will serve as the city's staff liaison for the committee.

The committee's responsibilities include:

•Improve communications between the diverse groups and city leaders to offer broader input to community issues and to encourage discussions of differing viewpoints.

•Promote an environment and philosophy that recognizes that a neighbor is a person who is aware of other cultures.

•Establish strong communication networks between city leaders and diverse communities to promote public awareness and relationships of trust.

•Provide a process of assessment and evaluation in order to ensure that the promotion of inclusiveness continues to be a focus of the city.

•Address perceptions and realities in dealing with diversity issues.

•Explore methods to ensure that residents of all cultures are welcome in Alexandria, have equal access to city services and programs, and to encourage civil engagement of all community members.

•Support staff efforts to build relationships with cultural groups and leaders.

•Investigate cultural inclusiveness-related study issues for the city council's consideration.

Council member Owen Miller suggested the committee change its name to a "cultural advisory committee" to allow it to address more options. His suggestion will be passed on to the committee before a final motion is approved.

Some city fees

increase;

new fees also added

In other action, the council approved a final reading establishing city fees in 2010.

Most planning and zoning fees will increase. New rates are (existing rates in parenthesis): conditional use - $250 ($150), variance/appeal - $250 ($175), zoning district amendment or rezoning - $250 ($175), subdivision - $350 plus $10 per lot ($250), planned unit development - $450 plus $10 per lot, property split - $50 (no change), a new after-the-fact fee - base fee plus double the base fee, street vacation - $100 ($50), zoning text amendment - $75 ($50).

Another big change could affect garbage haulers. Right now, companies pay a $35 fee for hauling garbage. Because of the wear and tear the trucks put on streets, the city is considering charging a $50 fee per truck every year.

Council member Elroy Frank made a motion to put the fee in place. Miller, however, was concerned about the city making such a drastic change so suddenly without contacting the garbage companies. He was also worried that the companies would just pass on the increase to their customers. Miller made a motion to postpone a $50 per truck fee until July 1, 2010 to give the city time to meet with the haulers and determine how many trucks they have. The amendment passed, 3-2, with support from Sara Carlson and Dave Benson. Frank and Cindy Bigger voted against it.

Another change is a new $75 fee to impound illegally placed signs and an additional charge of $1 per day storage fee. The fee mainly applies to temporary advertising signs businesses place in right-of-ways. Political signs are exempt from the fee. Other fee changes include a $500 fee to implant microchips in dogs that are deemed dangerous; a $250 fee for a zoning variance appeal; $100 fee for a street vacation; a $15 fee to reserve the city park's shelter (up from $10); and a new $30 fee to install 911 signs.

More council news will be printed in Wednesday's issue.

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