Alexandria officials expect quiet end to lame duck session

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By Melissa Quinn

With four members departing in January, Alexandria City Council is in the midst of its lamest-duck session in recent memory — but don’t expect any major, last-minute legislation.

Typically, the short session acts as a catalyst for a host of new referendums, as city councilors hurry to pass initiatives topping their agendas. But this year may be different, said outgoing City Councilor Frank Fannon.

“I think this lame-duck session won’t be as exciting as the last when major changes were made,” he said, referring to the 2009 session when the all-Democratic council voted to move city elections from May to November — a controversial decision at the time.

Fannon and fellow Republican City Councilor Alicia Hughes lost their seats during the Democratic sweep earlier this month. When they vacate the board, they will leave with Vice Mayor Kerry Donley, who announced his retirement from politics earlier this year, and City Councilor David Speck, a judge appointee who filled Delegate Rob Krupicka’s open seat after the summer’s special election.

This is the first time since at least 1985 that Alexandria will see such a substantial turnover in City Hall, said former City Councilor Lonnie Rich. Like Fannon, he doesn’t expect too many sweeping initiatives before the new council is sworn in January.

“I’ll be surprised if there’s anything done before the new council meets other than what’s in the normal course of business,” Rich said. “I don’t think they have time for those kind of games.”

Issues like land use and appointments for seats on various boards come before the council as they arise and will continue throughout the lame-duck session. It also is rare for budget changes to happen before the councilors’ departures.

“I think there’s a certain flow of council business that’s relentless and always there,” Rich said.

Fannon certainly doesn’t have any particular legislative ax to grind in the scant few weeks left before his tenure ends.

“I think we’re going to play out the session here, and there aren’t too many initiatives that are going to come forward,” he said.

But Fannon worries about the incoming slate of city councilors. Two former members, Democrats Tim Lovain and Justin Wilson, regained their old seats and will be joined by newcomers Allison Silberburg and John Taylor Chapman.

Though the next council will include five members with experience serving as Alexandria’s top-elected officials, Fannon pointed out the danger of having just three of seven councilors — including Mayor Bill Euille — return to City Hall.

“You have a big turnover and a huge learning curve for the people coming in,” he said.

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