Gloves come off in second Alexandria mayoral debate

Mayor Bill Euille went on the offensive against challenger Andrew Macdonald during their second development dominated debate in as many weeks Monday night.

“For all the things you, Mr. Macdonald, and a few folks in the community are raising Cain about … if you go and attend events you will hear from people who are very pleased,” Euille said, responding to his rival’s questioning of the benefits of new construction in Alexandria.

Euille, a Democrat, has consistently taken heat from Macdonald — a former Democratic vice mayor running as an Independent — for redevelopment efforts undertaken during his nine year tenure. Macdonald launched his bid for mayor after leading an unsuccessful months-long effort to block the controversial waterfront plan from passing.

Poorly planned redevelopment is a narrative he’s pushed on the campaign trail as well as in prior debates. In the wake of the GenOn power plant’s closure, Macdonald alleged Euille and city staff had begun planning the site’s future without input from the community. He held up a meeting with the North Old Town Independent Citizens Civic Association a day after the plant’s shut down as an example.

Macdonald kept up the drumbeat inside the George Washington Middle School auditorium on Monday evening.

“We have not been thinking ahead,” he said discussing the Potomac Yard development and proposed Metro station north of Old Town. “We’ve been thinking, ‘let’s have a lot of development and think about [infrastructure needs] later.”

But where Euille largely trumpeted his years of service to the city and achievements under his tenure on the same stage two weeks ago, he pushed back on Macdonald’s assertions during their second head-to-head debate. When Macdonald criticized the Potomac Yard plan for lack of parkland and putting an additional strain on city services, like already overcrowded schools, Euille pushed back.

A redeveloped Potomac Yard would boast open space, he said, and land already was set aside for a new school — to be built if and when the school board decided the time was right.

The two sparred again on affordable housing — the mayoral and city council races’ other main issue. Macdonald cited Alexandria’s poor track record of holding onto housing for low-income residents while Euille pointed to a project to build 77 units of affordable apartments on East Reed Avenue.

The former vice mayor called for an investment into “permanent” affordable housing and for pushing developers to contribute more money to that end. Euille argued advocating Richmond for rent control would go further toward solving the problem.

When the debate focused on the burgeoning student population, the candidates lit into one another. Macdonald called the overcrowding at district schools the result of “a real lack of planning.”

“If you want to be mayor, you ought to be involved early on and be there,” Euille shot back. “[Planning a new school] is a long process. It has to be carefully planned … This council is committed to supporting the schools.”

Moderator Drew Hansen of Patch sparked the night’s most contentious confrontation, asking the two men to critique each other’s leadership style.

“Would [Macdonald] be a team player?” Euille asked. “To be mayor you can’t be independent. You have to be a team player… I don’t think you did that when you were on the council.”

“I think it’s a little hard to say I wasn’t a team player. There were certain members of council who had a very strict agenda of working with developers,” Macdonald replied. “I would argue I wasn’t given much of a chance to be a team player.”

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