Online drama over Alexandria’s governance has led to some harsh online messages from residents about city staff and elected officials. But Wayne Hulehan, the co-founder and administrator of the Beverley Hills ListServ, is not having it.
Members of the listserv, of which there are 2,200, have of late been going on extended rants about the mayor and city manager, including some name calling. After multiple requests to crack down on the unneighborly discourse, this past weekend Hulehan changed the rules for the forum he created 17 years ago. Subscribers can discuss the issues, but personal attacks are not allowed, including those against city officials.
“You can disagree with people without being disagreeable, and we have more in common than not,” Hulehan told ALXnow. “We’re more about helping our neighbors than talking about who shot John, who did what and snuck it under the table.”
What led to this?
Recently the tone of the listserv changed when the Alexandria City Public School system mistakenly released a feasibility study regarding potential affordable and workforce housing on the grounds of George Mason Elementary School. A subscriber then sent out a note that called the mayor and city manager “fools,” Hulehan said, adding that the political conversations have resulted in an exodus of about 100 subscribers over the last month.
For a while the listserv was echoing the tone of the Alexandrians Against the Seminary Road Diet Facebook group, which is full of heated discussions about city governance.
One subscriber aired a list of grievances against the city.
What’s going on here with respect to city governance lately is just short of lunacy. The Potomac Yard metro fiasco, the Vision Zero implementation efforts, the concealment of the glass recycling problems, the road system reconfiguration with some primary features that 95% of the city residents will never use, the school system buildings and grounds and the latent attempts to repurpose them are a few of the many issues being mishandled by our “Leaders.” There are way too many issues that we find out about here in the City by accident. Not a conspiracy theorist but what else don’t we know about that the City is involved in that which probably doesn’t benefit the residents?
Hulehan, who started the listserv to help spread useful local information after a neighborhood woman was stabbed, said that most topics remain on the table for discussion, as long as cordiality is maintained.
“This is intended to help out our neighbors. People have things for sale, things free on the curb, asking about plumbers and carpenters,” he said. “It was getting more and more into acerbic and caustic flame wars back and forth.”
Now the bottom of all listserv emails includes the message: “Complaining about an elected official by name or by office title or political party for ignoring the neighborhood’s needs or selling out to outside interests is a good conversation to have with friends at St. Elmo’s, but not allowed for this neighborhood listserv.”
The listserv has gotten so heated over the years that it prompted the creation of the “Tales of the Beverley Hills Listserv” blog, which started in 2015 after neighbors started arguing about throwing bags of dog feces in trash cans.
“Look out! The poors are coming!” was the headline of a recent blog post chronicling the George Mason Elementary affordable housing drama on the listserv.