Election 2012 Voter Guide

With a fiercely waged presidential campaign, a hotly contested U.S. Senate race and a slew of other decisions on the ballot, it’s easy to overlook the bevy of mayoral, city council and school board candidates competing for their shot at running Alexandria.

And while Washington may seem close, these are the people, who —someday soon — will make the decisions that affect Alexandrians most. They will craft the budget, vote on the next controversial redevelopment plan and lay out education policy.

Please find our voter’s guide below, outlining each candidate’s plans for tackling a few of the largest issues facing the city in the years ahead. And remember to flip over that ballot on Election Day.

Some answers are edited and condensed to fit. 

 

 

FOR MAYOR

 

William “Bill” Euille
Incumbent (D)
Age: 62
Occupation: Contractor
Alexandria resident for:  62 year

Top three priorities:

1) Affordable housing.
2) Redevelopment of Landmark Mall.
3) City’s aging infrastructure.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

We have the opportunity to develop a world–class waterfront for every Alexandrian to enjoy as well as our many visitors and tourists. The plan as approved by city council provides the footprint for connectivity and accessibility from end–to-end; increased open space for passive and recreational use, including water/boating/fishing use; restaurants; small boutique hotels; and museums while protecting our history and ambience.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?

I believe this is the most challenging issue facing our city, despite all of the efforts during the past 10 years. We need to explore many more public-private partnerships with property owners as new redevelopment and development projects move forward in order to ensure that we have affordable housing for everyone at every income level while protecting our racial and ethnic diversity.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add.

First, the city council has cut more than $40 million dollars from the budget these past four years, and I do not see a need to make any further cuts or add any new programs at this time. That must wait until we begin to see a full economic recovery.

Second, continued support for our public schools’ needs and challenges as well as social services — our safety-net programs — should take priority.

Endorsements: Northern Virginia Realtors Association; Virginia Police Benevolent Association Inc.; Education Association of Alexandria (EAA); Alexandria Times

 

 

Andrew Macdonald
Non-Incumbent (I)
Age: 56
Occupation: Earth scientist, conservationist, artist and former small business owner
Alexandria resident for: 52 years

Top three priorities:

1) A more transparent and participatory city government.
2) Comprehensive planning to ensure Alexandria remains a livable and fiscally sustainable community.
3) Preserving our historic character and maintaining and enhancing our parks and open spaces.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

Letting hotels or more residential development dictate the look, feel and use of the waterfront is absolutely wrong. We have one waterfront. It’s a historic place, albeit one that has changed over the years from an industrial area to a more park-like setting. I think we should encourage development along the waterfront that would make it a more publicly oriented space, strengthen our connection with the river and Chesapeake Bay, and enhance — in a historically centered way — tourism.

The city began with a question about how much revenue could be generated by redeveloping the waterfront rather than what the long-term value of the waterfront is to the community. Planning for the waterfront began on the fifth floor of a hotel, so to speak, rather than with the community’s vision for the waterfront. I believe we must focus on creating public-private partnerships of the kind that will bring a tall ship and Potomac River museum to the waterfront. I support having small waterfront businesses, such as restaurants, along the shoreline and adding parking where we need it. In short, the waterfront should be a place that reflects Alexandria’s unique historic and environmental character. Those elements are part of our economic capital.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?

I believe strongly that our community should not be a gated one, composed only of the highest income earners. We must implement a comprehensive plan to preserve and expand a wide range of affordable housing. In particular, housing that is affordable to families, young professionals and seniors on fixed incomes. The city has developed a draft housing master plan, but it has not yet been approved. Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority also is developing a master plan for public housing. The city is good at putting together plans but less skillful at implementing them.

Meanwhile, we are losing affordable housing, including more moderately priced rental apartments affordable to lower-income residents and to teachers, policemen and young professionals. I think the No. 1 goal needs to be creating a permanent stock of sustainable work force housing.

As it now stands, we give developers “bonus” density if they provide for some of this housing, but it is only preserved for about 30 years. We need a more permanent solution to the problem of maintaining a balanced stock of affordable housing in Alexandria. Done right, this can be accomplished in a more fiscally sound way.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add.

First, I think we should look at the entire budget and see what things are bringing a good return on investment and what things need to be cut back or removed altogether. This kind of discussion must be based on a thorough analysis of the budget, which is the city manager’s responsibility. The final decisions should involve the entire community. I am personally concerned about the rise in pensions and salaries for some employees, like the superintendent and city manager. I would cut the number of costly consultants and lawsuits against residents.

Second, I would begin by analyzing the entire budget. The budgets of some organizations, like the Alexandria Economic Development Program and the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association, may need trimming. We might consider reducing their budgets to fiscal 2011 levels.

Third, I believe we need a full review of the entire budget before we add any new service or program. We must involve the community in that discussion. I think we should do more to support our local parades, since they are partially responsible for the roughly 8-percent increase in tourism dollars we have received last year. We should support our libraries and consider rehiring a city historian.

Endorsements: Alexandria Committee of Police, Local 5

 

FOR COUNCIL

 

John Taylor Chapman
Non-incumbent (D)
Age: 31
Occupation: Building use program specialist
Alexandria resident for: 31 years

Top three priorities:
1) Partner with the school board to ensure fiscal accountability and increase coordination of services.
2) Standardize communication and resident involvement in local government.
3) Push for the adoption of an affordable housing plan with significant resident input.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

I believe that the waterfront should continue to be an intersection of small business development and open space, where Alexandrians and those visiting the city can enjoy the recreational opportunities that open space, such as fields and trails, provide. There also should be an opportunity to take advantage of the small businesses that help make the waterfront such an attractive area in our city and in our region.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?

In speaking with past city councilors, many of them wished they had been more aggressive and creative when it came to opportunities to preserve quality affordable housing. I believe we are at a critical juncture where we need to be extremely strategic in order to take advantage of further opportunities to ensure quality affordable housing in Alexandria. I would push our city to be aggressive in identifying public-private partnership opportunities and engaging residents in the conversation about how we can work together to preserve quality affordable living in Alexandria.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

I would look to scale down the King Street tree lighting program, which costs the city roughly $93,000, to just the winter and summer holiday times and work with businesses on King Street and the business community to develop a partnership to support year-round street lights.

I would look to lower the business, professional and occupational license tax for progressive and forward-thinking Alexandria businesses that work with our seniors, a growing population in our city. I would do the same for businesses that provide clean fuel services, thereby working to improve air quality and environmental health in Alexandria.

This reduction, estimated to cost the city $10,000 in lost tax revenue, will attract and promote the development of new businesses, large and small, and develop the important industries in our city’s not-too-distant future.

Endorsements: Democrats for a Better Alexandria; Securing Alexandria’s Future; Virginia Police Benevolent Association; Education Association of Alexandria; Northern Virginia Association of Realtors; Virginia Young Democrats; Laborers International Union of North America; LGBT Democrats of Virginia; Mayor Bill Euille; Vice Mayor Kerry Donley; Delegate Rob Krupicka; former state Sen. Patsy Ticer; former City Councilor Ludwig Gaines; former school board member Gwendolyn Lewis; former school board member Sally Craft; former Police Chief David Baker; Alexandria Times

 

Glenda B. Davis
Non-incumbent (I)
Age: 64
Occupation: N/A
Alexandria resident for: 28 years

Top three priorities: 
1) Review the budget to identify possible ways of more efficient funding.
2) Study the waterfront plan in more detail.
3) Ensure that each city employee is held accountable for their ethical behavior.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

I would like for city council to be more innovative with its selection of commercial or retail projects. A daily open air market that would sell fresh vegetables and original crafts as well as open space, in addition to a few restaurants and hotels, would provide an attractive place for tourists and residents to visit.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?

Since most of the properties developed in Alexandria are not owned by the City Hall, incentive-based negotiation must be in place to allow officials to bargain for a larger percentage of affordable units or homes. The city could do a study to acquire an area of land and contract for an affordable housing development as well.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add.

There is a $32 million item on the budget for inflation allowance or additional projects. I would decrease that to $25 million and use the additional $7 million to launch a Drop Back In Academy in Alexandria. The academy is designed for teens and young adults who dropped out of high school to enroll in a computer study program to complete the requirements of a high school diploma. This program also might inspire some young people to attend college.

 Endorsements: Virginia Police Benevolent Association Inc.

 

 

Frank Fannon IV
Incumbent (R)
Age: 43
Occupation: Banker
Alexandria resident for: 43 years

Top three priorities: 
1) Continue to promote sound budgeting practices.
2) Advocate for smart development with ample green space and efficient transportation.
3) Work closely with the Alexandria School Board to improve our schools.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

The proposed plan had many positive aspects regarding economic development and job growth but lacked details on parking, traffic flow and flood control. A strong cost-benefit analysis addressing the true economic costs remained unanswered as we were voting to fundamentally transform Alexandria’s waterfront. Additionally, there has been a tremendous amount of concern from our community about the detrimental impact of overdevelopment on our city’s historic waterfront.

The plan endorsed the seizure of private property through eminent domain. I am not against development, but it must go through the proper channels and not include eminent domain. We must protect private property owners.

It is important that the city and developers work together on specific proffers for each parcel and assess proposals piece by piece. It is essential that we have a complete and thorough understanding of what the impact on the community and the environment will be before proceeding.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?

Of Alexandria’s roughly 140,000 residents, approximately 50 percent are renters and 50 percent are homeowners. The advantage of being one of the most prosperous communities in the country is that our property values have remained strong through the recession. The average noncondo home is assessed at $620,000 in the city.

One of the disadvantages, however, is that Alexandria is an expensive place to call home.

Housing has become a challenge for many people, and the city council continues to do what is within our control to provide affordable housing. Virginia does not have rent control, which means the government cannot tell a private landlord what to charge for rent. The city’s role comes into play during negotiations with developers. Recently, council approved developments in Arlandria, near the Braddock Metro station, Eisenhower Valley and the Beauregard corridor, where millions of dollars have been negotiated to preserve affordable housing for hard-working Alexandrians.

With thousands of additional market-rate apartment units in the construction pipeline, increased competition for new apartment tenants will likely keep rents from rising rapidly. In the meantime, city council will continue to negotiate with developers for more affordable housing options for our residents.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add.

First, I am concerned with the cost related to the constant appearance of new city vehicles and the fleet of vehicles we already own. Last year, I called for an inventory and needs-assessment of city vehicles to make sure that all city vehicles are used fully before they are replaced.

Second, Joblink is a beneficial service the city has to help residents find employment. However, the city budget for this program has increased by $1.2 million from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2013, and the number of adult residents served has dropped by 42 percent. I would like to see funding based on results. This would reduce the amount of taxpayer dollars allocated to Joblink for an overall savings.

Third, I would add to the traffic-calming program with pedestrian safety at the forefront. Last year, 5,000 new cars were registered in Alexandria, and we have a growing problem with traditional residential streets being used as alternate routes.

Endorsements: Northern Virginia Association of Realtors; Alexandria Times

 

Alicia Hughes
Incumbent (R)
Age: 38
Occupation: Intellectual property law and life sciences consultant
Alexandria resident for: 6 years

Top three priorities: 
1) Keeping the tax rate low while retaining essential social services.
2) Pre-K education access for every child.
3) Improved transit and infrastructure.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

Incremental, site-by-site development as owners come forward with individual projects.  We must be careful to balance the rights of individual property owners with the needs and desires of our community. No plan that requires the use of eminent domain to be realized is acceptable. Most importantly, we have an obligation as a city to provide effective flood mitigation, better sewage systems and other infrastructure needs before making any massive changes to the waterfront. It is untenable to expect developers to come in and pay for existing problems that essentially are core functions of city government.

We have a capacity issue. Many have an appetite larger than our stomach. For example, water rises on Union Street when there is a high tide and no rain, without new development. I support public amenities that incorporate art and history through proffers we can get one project at a time and include a linear park along the waterfront. I also support mixed-use development that does not increase density substantially higher than what is currently allowed. If one size-appropriate hotel — that adds to our historic character and includes self-contained parking — is presented, I would consider supporting it.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?  

The situation in Alexandria does need to be rectified. Affordable housing includes affordable living, for renters and homeowners. With regard to affordable home ownership, limited government growth should be a priority. In the prior decade, tax bills have doubled, rising with an approximate 7.5-percent increase annually, substantially outpacing inflation, salary increases nationally and population growth locally. Services have not expanded relative with the tax bill expansion. As a result, there are second; third- and fourth- generation residents who do not live below poverty and own their homes but can’t afford their tax bills. Many of the residents who add to the rich and diverse culture of our city are being forced to sell their homes. We should consider programs that permit a deferral in payment of tax liability with an alternative lien on the property until the properties are voluntarily sold. Then the city can collect its tax debt.

I also encourage incentive programs for developers with a background and interest in affordable housing development, such as EYA, to partner with ARHA and the city on projects that set aside greater percentages of affordable housing units or develop projects that are wholly affordable.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

First, cut planning and zoning work budget programs that create small area plans and tie together all existing small area plans as a comprehensive development master plan for the entire city. There are net savings in excess of $1 million annually, and it can be done in less than nine months.

Second, refashion how we manage volunteer programs. Allow a philanthropic community, rather than government, organize itself and integrate programs across social and cultural barriers. The city could save about $2 million annually.

Thirdly, create a volunteer bureau and director, allowing volunteers to assist with workflow in city departments similar to the model in other Virginia municipalities. It could provide thousands of work hours and save government millions annually in salaries. Also, create city council offices with regular and posted hours. Government does not work optimally, as evidenced by multiple lawsuits.  City employees are accountable to the city manager, who is accountable to city council. City council is directly accountable to you, the electorate. If the city manager can locate his employees in their offices and we can locate him in his office, you should be able to locate your employees — us — in ours.

 

Robert Steven Kraus
Non-incumbent (L)
Age: 47
Occupation: Director of operations for the Libertarian Party’s national headquarters.
Alexandria resident for: 10 years

Top three priorities: 
1) Target and remove failed programs and needless spending.
2) Restore spending to 2007 levels and reducing the average homeowner’s property tax bill.
3) Re-evaluate the waterfront plan.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

We need to re-evaluate the waterfront plan and put everything on hold. The city must stop making the same mistakes over and over again, like the Washington Headquarters Services fiasco. We must put the interests of voters first and stop giving special favors to developers. Developers need to pay for infrastructure improvements first, not hand the bill to taxpayers after the fact. The voters say we need a mixed-use project that fits into the neighborhood. They want to see art space, residential, eateries and open space. In addition, the riverfront should be accessible to all.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?

As I said during the debates, what I want is affordable living for Alexandrians. Let’s stop the city’s addiction to spending and return an average of $1,400 in property taxes back to every homeowner. That will go a long way to make Alexandria more affordable for everyone. I want to get low-income families into home ownership and take advantage of the historically low condo prices in the West End as well as low interest rates. I also want to see a return of the affordable homeownership preservation grant program the city cancelled in 2009.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

As I mentioned, I want to restore 2007 spending levels and return $1,400 each year in savings to homeowners. You can call this Robert’s affordable living rebate program.

I will do this by using my 24 years of business, accounting, financial management and proven cost-cutting experience to audit Alexandria and eliminate the low-hanging fruit of waste and pork, off-budget items, administrative overhead, and failed programs and projects. In particular by outsourcing, reforming benefits, restructuring pensions and cutting administrative expenses.

Here is one example: The city is leasing some very expensive property in Old Town and along Eisenhower Avenue. I would repurpose buildings already owned by the city — like Minnie Howard — and move offices out of leased space where possible.

I’ve already mentioned the bringing back of an old failed program, the Del Ray Trolley. I would like to see this cut before the city spends too much.

If the city were to bring back a program, it should have brought back the affordable homeownership preservation grant program. I almost find it laughable that the city appears to be concerned with affordable housing and yet does everything possible to make living in Alexandria less affordable.

Endorsements: Gov. Gary Johnson and local, state and national Libertarian Parties

 

Timothy B. Lovain
Non-incumbent (D)
Age: 64
Occupation: Government relations consultant
Alexandria resident for: 29 years

Top three priorities: 
1) Commit Alexandria to the principles of smart growth.
2) Implement a more interactive public participation process with greater use of online resources.
3) Bring the city council and school board closer together through increased communications.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

Our waterfront is a civic treasure. Any changes to it should be undertaken carefully and incrementally. I thought the city’s original waterfront plan went too far, but over time, with extensive community input, the plan was greatly improved. I think two small boutique hotels would be far better than townhouses or the current warehouses. They will contribute to a vibrant waterfront and produce revenues that can be used for flood control, which will be an increasing problem in Old Town as the tidal Potomac rises. Any new buildings on the waterfront should be carefully designed to fit well with their surroundings.

I would not favor any other development on waterfront land that is open space, and I support the increased open space in the waterfront plan.  In keeping with smart-growth principles, any new development or redevelopment should include transportation infrastructure and plans to support it.  We need to consider clean, small and frequent circulator buses in Old Town and do a better job with shared parking.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?

One of the city’s best assets is its economic and cultural diversity. In order to preserve that diversity, we need to have an adequate stock of affordable housing. Affordable housing in Alexandria is declining not because units are being torn down, but because units that were once affordable are no longer. Because of skyrocketing rents, this has become a regional problem. Virginia law doesn’t allow its municipalities to do inclusive zoning, mandating developers provide a certain amount of affordable housing.

Fortunately, Alexandria has been able to secure affordable housing funds from a wide variety of resources. Looking forward, we should make affordable housing a bigger portion of proffers obtained from developers. We should focus developer contributions and other affordable housing funds on preserving units because that’s cheaper than building new units. We also need to make sure that these funds match up well with private and nonprofit contributions toward affordable housing.

We should also try to mix in affordable housing with commercial and public use buildings, as the city did with the new fire station in Potomac Yard. We should also strengthen the city’s efforts to secure affordable housing for more of the city’s employees, especially teachers and law enforcement personnel.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

We should revive the intensive, agency-by-agency audits that produced real savings during the term I was on council. I am very proud that during my term the average tax bill stayed flat. I found that the best way to find efficiencies was through active participation in budget work sessions, going over the city budget line-by-line, employing performance measures and asking staff a lot of tough questions. It is detailed work and produced results that were rarely dramatic, but it’s the best way to find overlaps and gaps and programs that deserve to be cut back.

We should also expand cooperation with local nonprofit organizations to better harmonize efforts. Nonprofits can provide services more cost-effectively, often on a contractual basis with the city.  I served as the chair of the city’s budget and fiscal affairs advisory committee, which gave me great insight into Alexandria’s budget, which I used as a city councilor and hope to do so again. I look forward to breaking out my sharp pencil and fine-tooth comb.

Endorsements: Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education; Sierra Club; Democrats for a Better Alexandria; Securing Alexandria’s Future; Alexandria Times

 


Jermaine Arnez Mincey
Age: 28
Occupation: Patent examiner
Alexandria resident for: Five months

Top three priorities: 
1) Government accessibility.
2) Gather and circulate ideas among the community.
3) Look for innovative ways to solve our problems.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

In terms of the waterfront redevelopment plan, I do not believe in going back and redoing an already approved plan. However, we need to listen to the residents during implementation of the waterfront plan. As a community, we should ensure that there is a part of the waterfront that will be developed with hotels, a part that will be used for arts and parks and recreational pursuits, and a part of the waterfront that is to remain untouched so that future generations can further decide its use.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?

The heart of the problem with affordable housing is that Alexandria does not have the legal authority to enforce landowners to set rent at affordable rates. At best, the city can entice developers to provide affordable housing by allowing them an increase in the amount of units. We need to come together to have an honest discussion about how we will address this situation because, in terms of affordable housing, somebody has to pay for it — either the developers or the residents.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

As a city councilor, I will make myself accessible to the people so that as a community we can decide what programs need to be cut. I think it’s important to include residents in an honest look at our services and deciding as a community those programs we feel are lacking and can be eliminated.

Endorsements: None

 

Redella S. “Del” Pepper
Incumbent (D)
Age: 74
Occupation: Homemaker
Alexandria resident for: 43 years

Top three priorities: 

1) Maintaining the city’s triple-A bond rating and supporting responsible and fair budgets.
2) Preserving and creating affordable housing.
3) Continuing to work to expand transit, bicycle and pedestrian options.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

I voted in favor of the city’s waterfront plan because I believed that it provided sufficient activity to be interesting without being too intrusive to residents. I was looking for that kind of balance. I especially liked the idea of preserving the Beachcomber building, and I believed that a boutique hotel, if appropriately sized, could fit in with the neighborhood. During the final vote on the waterfront plan, I was able to win support for limiting potential hotels to two.

For years, I have been concerned about the flooding at the foot of King Street and the sewage runoff that occurs with almost every rainstorm. The plan addresses these issues.

By allowing some commercial development on the waterfront we will be able to realize sufficient revenue over time to pay for many of the amenities and needed improvements. I liked the idea of 100-foot setbacks along the waterfront and the emphasis on art and history within the plan. Lastly, it will be very important, of course, to follow closely the various studies recommended in the plan, as well as the implementation of the plan.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying? 

Preserving affordable housing is one of Alexandria’s most urgent challenges. It is also a regional problem, with every local jurisdiction trying to solve it. Since 2000, the city has lost more than 10,000 affordable housing units. Continued loss of affordable rental units and affordable homes can impact our ability to attract a broad spectrum of workers, foster a thriving economy and maintain Alexandria’s diversity.

Compounding the difficulty in replacing these units is the fact that fewer federal and state dollars are available to assist localities. Before the recession, the city was able to dedicate 1 cent of the real estate tax rate for affordable housing but can no longer afford to do that. I am a strong advocate of looking for innovative ways to solve this challenge.

I support forming partnerships with nonprofits, for-profits and the development community. In the case of the Beauregard small area plan, the city secured more than 800 long-term, committed affordable housing units for 40 years by working with the neighborhood’s developers. In other instances, we are able to obtain contributions to a trust fund and then work with nonprofits to build or buy units.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

First, during the last three years of the recession we cut services to the bone — to the point where there is little left to cut. We postponed, eliminated, and/or reduced programs; didn’t fill vacant positions; and cut services. Employees did not get cost-of-living raises. Every year we review all programs to see where possible cuts can be made. Even so, we need to continue to look for cuts and efficiencies.

There are many things I would like to add that would help us ensure a more secure future in the long term. For example, I’d like to add funding to develop affordable housing initiatives, incentives for economic development, the arts, youth and senior programs, improvements to our libraries and so on. Unfortunately, these things must wait until the economy improves and we are on a more solid footing.

Endorsements: U.S. Rep. James P. Moran; state Sen. Dick Saslaw; state Sen. George Barker; state Sen. Adam Ebbin; Mayor William D. Euille; Vice Mayor Kerry Donley; Delegate Charniele Herring; Delegate Rob Krupicka; Sheriff Dana Lawhorne; Alexandria Circuit Court Clerk Ed Semonian; Alexandria Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel; former Vice Mayor Mel Bergheim; former state Sen. Patsy Ticer; former City Manager Vola Lawson; Virginia Police Benevolent Association Inc.; Virginia Partisans; Securing Alexandria’s Future; Sierra Club; Northern Virginia Association of Realtors; Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education

 

Allison Silberberg
Non-Incumbent (D)
Age: 49
Occupation: Writer/communications consultant
Alexandria resident for: 23 years

Top three priorities:
1) Ensure transparency and more public involvement.
2) Work with the school board to ensure effective use of taxpayer dollars.
3) Scrutinize the city’s debt and reduce it.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

The waterfront redevelopment plan, which improved over time, is not visionary enough. The original plan called for three large hotels. The final version allows for two hotels with up to 150 rooms each, which would change Old Town’s character.

We all are the temporary stewards of this national treasure called Alexandria. First, we must have a core vision of who we are as a city and then focus on a plan rather than the other way around. Our leadership must have that commitment in the marrow of its bones.

As I wrote in a Washington Post column, our waterfront should have a small, permanent band shell in Oronoco Bay Park for cultural events to enrich our community. As most agree, the waterfront needs flood mitigation, a public walking path and small cafes. The dormant food court building next to the Torpedo Factory is a prime spot that needs a new vision, one with small food stalls and an open-air structure full of picnic tables. My column is at: www.allisonsilberberg.com.

I am honored that former mayor and state Sen. Patsy Ticer has called me “voice of reason.”

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?

As the chair of Alexandria’s Economic Opportunities Commission and a EOC member since 2004, I have spent this past decade focused on affordable and work force housing issues and am deeply concerned and outspoken about the city’s loss of 12,000 affordable housing units. The EOC serves as an advocate for the most vulnerable with a focus on job creation and affordable housing.

Affordable housing is a national issue, especially as the federal government continues to cut back on funding. We need to create public-private partnerships with nonprofits, such as the Enterprise Foundation and Manna, to create and/or preserve affordable and work force housing. Further, we need to create a roundtable of committed, local nonprofit and business leaders to help the city achieve our civic goals for housing.

Last year, the EOC, in partnership with community action agencies across the commonwealth, pushed the governor and General Assembly to fund the Virginia Housing Trust Fund. Together, we secured $7 million for the fund, which will help meet low-income housing needs. If elected, I would continue to push Richmond to allocate monies for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

I am deeply concerned that the number of consultants has mushroomed in the past decade. This cost to the city needs to be examined and cut a great deal.

As the chair of Alexandria’s Economic Opportunities Commission, I know our city is very compassionate, offering a wide range of programs for our most vulnerable. I would like to see us continue to support these existing programs.

I am concerned that our city staff — including teachers, police and firefighters — have not received a cost-of-living increase in the past five years. This was mainly because of the economic downturn. I would like to see the city fund the COLA for city staff.

Endorsements: Former mayor and state Sen. Patsy Ticer; state Sen. Richard Saslaw; state Sen. Adam Ebbin; Delegate Charniele Herring; former Vice Mayor Mel Bergheim; former City Councilor Joyce Woodson; former Alexandria School Board member Eileen Cassidy Rivera; former City Manager Vola Lawson; EMILY’s List; Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education; Alexandrians for a Livable City; and Alexandrians for Sensible Growth; Alexandria Times

 

Paul C. Smedberg
Incumbant (D)
Age: 51
Occupation: Director of government affairs and advocacy relations, Affymax Inc.
Alexandria resident for: 26 years

Top three priorities:
1) Maintaining fiscal soundness.
2) Enhancing the city’s infrastructure.
3) Supporting quality public education.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

I supported the waterfront plan because it offered the best way to effectively manage the redevelopment of this key historic area. It provides guidelines for designated properties that will mitigate neighborhood impact and provide amenities for local residents. The single most compelling issue in assessing proposed waterfront development, in my opinion, is that it enhances the natural beauty of our river and historic city.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply.  What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?

Substantial efforts by Alexandria to preserve an array of affordable housing options only address a small percentage of the problem. Alexandria must constantly re-examine how land-use restrictions and development proffers are effectively addressing the issue. I think establishing a set of reasonable targets for the preservation of affordable housing units should be a goal. However, we must always keep in mind the financial realities facing us in attempting to achieve these desired goals.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add.

I have repeatedly stated that budgeting is about balancing priorities. My principal priorities are public safety, quality education and increased quality of life of residents. With the ever-changing financial landscape, including unfunded mandates from the state as well as changes in federal formulas, I find it difficult to unilaterally suggest cutting specific programs at this time. To meet the needs of residents through community programs and services requires us to continually look to minimize waste, inefficiency and always seek ways to align programs and services to these changing needs. I have been a strong and constant proponent of efficiency studies and have seen reorganization of city departments that have resulted in saved dollars and better services.

Endorsements: U.S. Rep. James Moran; state Sen. Richard Saslaw; state Sen. Adam Ebbin; Vice Mayor Kerry Donley; Delegate Rob Krupicka; Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel; Sheriff Dana Lawhorne; former state Sen. Patsy Ticer; former City Manager Vola Lawson; George Pera; Michael Porterfield; Lauren Garcia; William E. ‘Bill’ Clayton; Meg and Murray Bonitt; John and Susie LaValle; Mount Vernon Sierra Club; Virginia Police Benevolent Association; Alexandria Education Association; Northern Virginia Association of Realtors; The Victory Fund; LGBT Democrats of Virginia; Alexandria Times

 

Justin M. Wilson
Non-incumbent (D)
Age: 33
Occupation: Principal system engineer, National Railroad Passenger Corp. (Amtrak)
Alexandria resident for: 11 years

Top three priorities:
1. Protecting the fiscal and physical infrastructure of our city.
2. Ensuring that every child has an opportunity to succeed.
3. Expanding and improving transit options within the city.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

Our waterfront is a treasure that has shaped our history and will shape our future. It is what makes Alexandria unique among our neighbors and what attracts visitors from around the world to visit. Elections are about the legacy that we wish to leave to our children, and I want to ensure that a first-class and sustainable waterfront is what this generation leaves to the Alexandria of the future.

My guiding principle for the future of our waterfront is public access. Any development on our waterfront should enhance the vitality and accessibility of our unique feature.

Ultimately, I believe Alexandria’s waterfront should have a diverse variety of active and passive uses — uses that bring people to our waterfront and support the economy of our city, as our waterfront has done for hundreds of years.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?

When I voted along with a unanimous city council in 2008 to reject a proposal to allow high-density development at Hunting Towers in exchange for an uncertain proposal for the preservation of affordable housing, I talked about the incompatibility of the city’s land-use policies and our desire to preserve market rate affordable housing.

We have limited our supply, and prices have risen.

The city’s affordable housing efforts are largely dependent on federal and state funds as well as development proffers. Our efforts only impact the margins of a massive problem in our community.

We should continue to work with the city’s affordable housing nonprofit, as well as private providers, to maintain the affordable housing stock within our borders. However, to address affordable housing in any large-scale manner, we need to have a community conversation about the consequences of our land-use restrictions and how those may exacerbate our affordable housing crisis today.

In the 2010 Census, we learned that Alexandria was among the slowest-growing jurisdictions in the region. With limited supply, it was no accident that Alexandria suffers from an acute affordable housing crisis. Turning the tide on this issue requires the creation of new supply.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much? Name a program or service you would add.

First, all funding decisions should be made in the context of the overall budgetary situation, but I would continue to push for reductions in our street sweeping program.

Second, I would continue to push for savings in the city’s share of the regional Metro access program, as well as opportunities to reduce duplication between City Hall and the school district — namely in administrative operations and legal services.

Third, I believe that clearing the waiting list for low-income children awaiting pre-school services should be a high priority for our next budget.

Endorsements: Virginia Police Benevolent Association; Education Association of Alexandria; Northern Virginia Association of Realtors; Sierra Club; U.S. Rep. Jim Moran; Mayor Bill Euille; Sheriff Dana Lawhorne; Clerk of Alexandria Circuit Court Ed Semonian; Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel; Vice Mayor Kerry Donley; Delegate Rob Krupicka; state Sen. Dick Saslaw; former state Sen. Patsy Ticer; former City Councilor Lonnie Rich; former City Councilor David Speck; former City Manager Vola Lawson; former Police Chief David Baker

 

John R. “Bob” Wood
Non-Incumbent (R)
Age: 62
Occupation: Management consultant
Alexandria resident for: 48 years

Top three priorities: 

1) Restore common sense and integrity to city planning and government processes.
2) Control spending and refocus tax dollars on strategic ends that benefit all our communities.
3) Achieve education excellence for all our students.

What kind of development — if any — should be encouraged along the waterfront?

Alexandria’s waterfront must be redeveloped in a way that celebrates our history, opens this natural treasure to broader public access and use, integrates public benefits and private commercial interests, and accounts for environmental and resident concerns. Revenue must adequately support, not replace, city requirements to repay public investments.

Residents were presented an uninspired plan that fails on many levels. Flood mitigation is minimal. The traffic study is irrelevant to Union Street. Hotel viability was discounted by the landowner’s own experts. Underground parking for hotels in this flood zone fail common sense and engineering experience. The proposed marina blocks the shipping channel. Eminent domain will not succeed in taking of boat club land.

There is no reason to change zoning on the waterfront. If present landowners want a special use permit to go beyond scale or uses, city processes are entirely adequate to determine historical needs and appropriate scale as well as uses based on proposed site plans and other considerations presented by developers.

I co-authored the resident review of the plan, but too much is wrong to correct this rush to failure. The city’s plan threatens to make this gem of a waterfront simply generic.

Affordable housing is in notoriously short supply. What would you do to rectify the situation, if you believe it needs rectifying?

Affordable housing is a problem we need to address in a studied, deliberate manner in all matters of zoning and development. We need to have a clear strategy within the city on where, how and how much affordable housing we seek to have and sustain. The interests of private property owners and city tenants must be understood and considered in any solution, well ahead of developer proposals.

This is another capacity question the city must handle carefully and completely. We must sustain affordable housing within the city for our work force and residents. The diversity and economic health of our city depends on a mix of residents and types of homes in relatively close proximity to jobs. We want residents to remain in our community as they make decisions about housing choices.

As this economy improves, the rental rates for housing likely will increase, causing added financial pressure on residents attempting to stay within Alexandria city limits. If financial incentives or developmental requirements or tenant assistance can be used effectively, we can sustain or increase the amount of affordable housing in our city. It will likely take a mix of all three to accomplish this objective.

Name a specific City Hall-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add.

First, I would reduce or eliminate proposed spending on high-capacity transit corridor A and stop proposed spending for redeveloping the King Street Metro station. All future light rail investments should be halted pending further review and discussions. There is inadequate analysis to support suggested increases in traffic or reduction in congestion to warrant these expenditures.

Second, within the transit and transportation budget of $481.6 million for fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2022, I would ask for savings equal to an average of $500,000 per year for the first five years and $1 million per year for years six through 10. These savings would total $7.5 million. There is flexibility and discretion built into these accounts because of potential unexpected costs. Annual savings or losses would be determined against budget and adjustments made to expected savings. Accumulated savings would be leveraged to support Alexandria’s history, arts and tourism activities.

Third, I would fund the incorporation of a City Hall annex within the proposed fire station at the intersection of Sanger Avenue and Beauregard Street to offer services and assistance to West End residents and businesses.

Endorsements: Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education; Northern Virginia Association of Realtors; Sierra Club; Alexandria Times

 

SCHOOL BOARD – DISTRICT A

 

William E. “Bill” Campbell
Non-incumbent
Age: 50
Occupation: Program engineer
Alexandria resident for: Seven years

Top three priorities: 
1) Raising student achievement by establishing more meaningful connections.
2) Preparing a short-and long-range capacity plan.
3) Establishing metrics for leadership accountability for staff.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly under way, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do — or propose — to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?  

This is a critical priority for my campaign. I’m convinced that establishing real and meaningful relationships with students and families is the key to making sustained achievement gains.

First, we must dramatically improve connections to the minority, English language learner and special needs communities. These communities have an incredible amount of distrust for ACPS and therefore reluctance with interacting.

I will personally commit to establishing a relationship with each and every family who struggles to navigate ACPS. I will work to ensure that every student is aware of all of the support services available to them.

Finally, I will work with established community organizations to ensure that information is timely, repetitively and adequately conveyed. Partner organizations will include fraternities and sororities, Tenants and Workers United, churches, Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, NAACP, civic associations, and recreation centers.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

We need to improve the relationships between ACPS and city departments. Improvements in these areas would not require new starts. I would support new initiatives designed to improve teachers’ and parents’ ability to interact with each other and our children.

Before spending additional dollars on new programs, we need to review current programs and be certain of their effectiveness. We need to show the community and city council data-driven decision-making and clear assessment metrics. We need to recognize that Alexandria is a majority minority and a majority low-income school district. We need to not be afraid to acknowledge this and to analyze exactly what this fact translates into in terms of programming and pedagogy. If we don’t first clearly identify many of the achievement barriers, we might be applying dollars to the wrong programs or areas.

We need more highly qualified special needs teachers and paraprofessionals to support all of our IEPs. We should explore reductions in high-level central office personnel, ineffective programming and consultant usage. We also should look more aggressively at collaborating with city services, such as contracting, after-school services and legal supports.

Endorsements: Mayor Bill Euille; Vice Mayor Kerry Donley; state Sen. Adam Ebbin; Delegate Rob Krupicka; City Councilor Paul Smedberg; City Councilor Frank Fannon; City Councilor Alicia Hughes; former City Councilor Joyce Woodson; former City Councilor Ludwig Gaines; former school board member Ferdinand Day; former school board member Melvin Miller; former school board member Lynwood Campbell; former school board member Eileen Rivera; school board member Charles Wilson; school board member Blanche Maness.

 

Karen A. Graf
Non-incumbent
Age: 42
Occupation: Wife/mother
Alexandria resident for: Eight years

Top three priorities: 
1) Achievement gap.
2) Capacity issues.
3) Teacher retention and professional development.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly under way, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do — or propose — to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?

Schools receiving Title I funds must demonstrate parent involvement by having a jointly developed and approved parent involvement policy that includes convening an annual meeting of parents. The policy also should include developing a school-parent pact that outlines actions to be taken by the school and the parents to improve their child’s performance. I think we should institute a similar approach in every school, regardless of demographics or test scores.

When parents are fully involved, including in the decision-making process, student achievement for disadvantaged children not only improves, it can reach levels that are standard for middle-class children. The children who are farthest behind make the greatest gains. Adopting this approach across ACPS could close our achievement gap and enrich our curriculum and programs.

We don’t have to recreate the wheel. There are programs in the United States that help define best strategies for involving parents. These range from approaches for developing parental comfort with the school to including parents on the decision-making team for curriculum and programming. Establishing effective communication channels, teaching parents to use in-school resources and partnering with parents in student learning can bring significant gains across all grade levels.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add.

I would move to cut the high spending on products like Success for All, when we have more targeted intervention models we could be using that are much less expensive. This product mortgages other subject areas, does not target English language learner students, violates special education inclusion, eliminates or undermines TAG programs, and uses a progress measurement system that isn’t compatible with common measurements in literacy.

Continuing literacy as an example, I could find savings in schools by executing a resource management function. ACPS has spent a lot of money on books and learning products but doesn’t track their use or inventory schools’ needs across the district. If we could figure out what we have, we could stop ordering new products and gain a return on the ones we have already purchased. The SFA model requires a school to buy a whole new library, much of which duplicated what we already had in the school.

Over the past few years, ACPS developed a new curriculum and a balanced reading and literacy manual. I would like to support the work that was done on this project because it raised the standards, had teacher input and actively solicited feedback. However, last summer, when it was rolled out in the schools, it was not fully supported. The curriculum did not include the balanced reading piece, which was the hallmark of the curriculum and a trend in modern education.

Instead, new guidelines were developed and rolled out in September tightly modeled after SFA. One part of the guidelines requires teachers to produce more than five hours of reading curriculum per week, without coaching or additional resources. Having teachers do this across grades and at the different schools in the district feels largely experimental given that we are trying to support our teachers to be successful in reducing the achievement gap. I want to add back the balanced reading and literacy manual to every subject, including the encores.

Endorsements: Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education; former school board member Henry Brooks; former City Councilor Lonnie Rich; school board member Mimi Carter

 

Stephanie Amann Kapsis
Non-incumbent
Age: 29
Occupation: Education nonprofit manager
Alexandria resident for: three years

Top priorities:
1) Prioritize teacher and school leader quality.
2) Expand early childhood education.
3) Increase family and community engagement.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly underway, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do – or propose – to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?

I believe that the school board and superintendent’s office intend to have strong communication with families and community members, but there is currently a gap in execution. New initiatives are launched without consulting or informing families and teachers. When there is communication, the sentiment is often that it is form over substance and that decisions have already been made.

I would propose that the school board and superintendent’s team map out a yearlong communication plan that details regular intervals for system-wide and school-wide information sharing/gathering, as well as proactively plan out a few reserve meeting dates to have on the calendar for discussion of the reactive issues that will emerge. There will, of course, be time-sensitive decisions that must be made, but a decision-making protocol should also be set and shared so that stakeholders know how such decisions will be made and what role they will play.

If elected, I personally commit to help increase transparency by holding weekly office hours to discuss key issues and hear community questions and concerns. I also commit to share thoughts and concerns during school board voting so that content discussed becomes part of the public record.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

There is no line item cut that I would currently propose.  Rather, I would look to increase efficiencies through thoughtful collaboration between existing expenditures.

One example of a possible place to find savings is in reducing dollars in curriculum services and design, and materials and supplies from base allocations by instituting clearer processes for changing curricula within a certain time frame, i.e. less than two years. A number of schools have changed curricula or bought new resources while strong — and often new — curricular programs already exist in a building.  Implementing a data-based request process for new resources and professional development would ensure thoughtful planning at the curricular level as well as fiscally responsible spending. Precise savings would vary, but one new curriculum purchased this year was more than $100,000.

I would add early childhood capacity to ACPS. The budget currently has a below the line full time employee for early childhood education. I would add this position fully into the budget. While preschool is described as a shared priority with the City of Alexandria, access to early childhood education is fundamental to making our school system reach its potential.

Endorsements: U.S. Rep. Jim Moran; School board memeber Mimi Carter

 

Helen Morris
Age:
46
Occupation: Part-time education policy professional; stay-at-home mom
Alexandria resident for: 10 years

Top three priorities:
1) Closing the achievement gap.
2) Addressing capacity issues across all grade levels.
3) Improving engagement of parents, community members and businesses in our children’s learning.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly under way, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do — or propose — to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?

Effective and ongoing communication is a struggle, and we absolutely need to step up our work in this area. ACPS has strong evidence of progress that the community needs to know about. When I am in the community, I find it hard to tell our story of progress because of old, inaccurate myths about our schools and our students. Educating key community groups is vital to changing this dynamic, and we need to start with the media, our PTA and community leaders, and civic groups.

The board has begun working on communication using the Baldrige performance excellence model, and it is making a difference in how we communicate. I would propose that the new board learn and embrace the Baldrige model, reach out to stakeholders in the first six months of the new term and build proactively from there.

Principals are key to getting information out to our broad parent communities and school neighbors. The new board must direct the superintendent to provide principals the resources, communications plans and support they need to build strong relationships with their key constituents.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

Our budget is a reflection of our strategic plan. During the past three years, I have supported our budgets because they are on target with our priorities and support academic success. I will look for efficiencies in the coming budget year that will not degrade the instructional program we have built.

I would look for budget savings by moving our central office location. Two years ago, we renegotiated our cost down to $800,000, and we are on a year-to-year lease. We must work with the city to find much more affordable office space so we can use the bulk of that $800,000 to support our students.

I would add a financial literacy strand throughout our middle and high schools. We know our students must be more knowledgeable about their personal finances, budgets and credit. A financial literacy strand would be multidisciplinary and would build on our academy of finance program at T.C. Williams.

Endorsements: None

 

Joyce D. Rawlings
Non-incumbent
Age: 62
Occupation: Program coordinator at Alexandria Redevelopment Housing Authority
Alexandria resident for: 34 years

Top three priorities:
1) Engaging families who are underrepresented in ACPS.
2) Improved communication between home and school.
3) Improving academic performance for all students.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly under way, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do — or propose — to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?

If I were elected to the school board, I would increase Internet accessibility to the families that do not have a computer in their home. I would also ensure that information is translated in languages that represent the student population. I want families, staff and students to feel comfortable and free enough to communicate concerns to the school system without fear of retribution.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

I would first have to assess and evaluate the programs in place to make an informed decision about what should be cut and/or added.

Endorsements: None

 

Heath E. Wells
Non-incumbent
Age: 43
Occupation: Attorney
Alexandria resident for: Six years

Top three priorities:
1) Support teachers and integrate technology into the classroom.
2) Crafting a simpler and more specific budget.
3) Put parents’ and residents’ concerns above school administration concerns.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly under way, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do — or propose — to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?

If elected, I promise to put parents first and empower students. I will put parents first by attending PTA and community meetings as often as my schedule allows. I will ensure that parents know what is going on and listen to how they think problems should be solved. I will also listen to students and teachers by regularly visiting schools and school events. Moreover, I will make sure the concerns of parents, students and teachers are on the agenda to be solved.

For example, Jefferson-Houston School recently announced implementation of an extended school day to address consistently low Virginia Standards of Learning scores. I have heard a great deal of complaints about extending the school day.

I believe the administration should have held a series of meetings, similar to what it did to explain its decision to extend the school day. Except those meetings should have been to explain what alternatives exist to an extended school day, and let teachers, parents and students choose among the alternatives. While I believe that an extended school day would have still been chosen, I also believe in letting people make choices.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

The school budget is a byzantine maze that needs to be simplified and standardized to match the city budget. I have been looking at the school budget for some time now. While it is easy to understand an individual line item, it is very hard to understand the impact on the overall budget.

By simplifying and standardizing the budget, it will be easier to identify where money is being spent and highlight wastefulness. This would enable the expenses to be re-prioritized so the money can be used effectively.

Endorsements: None

 

SCHOOL BOARD – DISTRICT B

 

Kelly Carmichael Booz
Non-incumbent
Age: 33
Occupation: Director of civic education at the Center for the Constitution at James Madison’s Montpelier
Alexandria resident for: Six years

Top three priorities:
1) Closing Alexandria’s achievement gap through more access to pre-K education.
2) Attract and retain top educators and administrators.
3) Restore the community’s trust in ACPS through a transparent process for policy decisions.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly under way, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do — or propose — to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?

The school board needs to be more transparent and better at communicating its decisions. To accomplish this, I want more upfront community involvement about policy decisions before the board takes action.

Likewise, the school administration needs to keep its website current with important information for students and families about upcoming events, dates and changes. I met many families on back-to-school nights who were new to ACPS and felt lost due to a lack of communication.

As an informed candidate, I have found the ACPS Twitter feed more up-to-date on upcoming events and calendar items than the ACPS website. This is unacceptable. School websites and the ACPS website need to be updated to better serve the needs of our community.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

While many new programs were implemented in Alexandria in the last couple years, very little measurement data exists on how these programs are improving student achievement. Without a baseline understanding of how these programs are improving schools, it is difficult to make an informed decision about what programs are underfunded and necessary or what programs warrant expansion.

As a school board member, I will insist that we inventory and evaluate all programs funded by the school system so staff can better allocate resources to programs that close the achievement gap and raise the standards for all students, while finding savings in programs that are not meeting the needs of our students.

Endorsements: Virginia Young Democrats; Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education; state Sen. Adam Ebbin; state Sen. Chap Peterson; Delegate Bob Brink; former Delegate Jim Dillard; Falls Church City Councilor Phil Duncan

 

Michael Brookbank
Non-incumbent
Age: 64
Occupation: Certified financial planner
Alexandria resident for: 25 years

Top priorities:
1) Restoring confidence in the school system.
2) Reasserting the authority of the ACPS School Board.
3) Ensuring every voice is heard.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly under way, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do — or propose — to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?  

First, communication is a two-way exchange of information and ideas. Far too often the ACPS administration simply broadcast directives, policies and decisions without first listening to the parents, teachers, staff and the community affected by them.  The Jefferson-Houston extended day directive is the most recent example and there are many others.

Bureaucracies often are guilty of suppressing dissenting voices and failing to listen to constituents. Teachers feel they have no voice in decisions that affect them. Parents say that their concerns are dismissed by the board or superintendent’s office. There is a feeling that program initiatives and changes are promulgated without considering their impact on those directly affected. I know that to lead one must listen. I have that leadership experience and will work to make ACPS listens to every voice.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add.

I have already begun reviewing the ACPS financial statements for last year — the executive summary alone is 46 pages — and in preparation for serving on the board, have begun drilling into the budget. However, it would be premature to commit to cutting programs without observing them in operation.

Some programs work in one school but not in another. Some have not been in place long enough to fully evaluate. I am sure that a thorough and detailed examination of the budget will identify many areas for savings and efficiency. My background managing the capital budget for 72 Navy ships, my MBA, and experience as a financial planner uniquely qualify me to identify waste and inefficiencies in the ACPS budget.

I will seriously look at the so called residency loophole and work to continue reducing non-teaching, out of school labor and consultant costs. Just a 2 percent savings in our budget will yield over $5 million. I would use these savings to increase our Pre-K programs and pay for full time special education employees.

Endorsements: Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education

 

Chyrell Dyanna Bucksell
Non-incumbent
Age: 28
Occupation: Patient services coordinator
Alexandria resident for: 25 years

Top three priorities:
1) Success for every child.
2) Overcrowding.
3) Community engagement.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly under way, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do — or propose — to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?

It is very important that we meet the community where they are, which is at the fairs, festivals, recreation centers, library, sporting events, etc. We have shown improvements with communication. I think the Jefferson- Houston project has shown the community that we matter. The way information was received by staff for the new building showed real engagement. The new school is something the community decided. They community and staff also showed it during the extended learning process at Jefferson-Houston.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

Since I have not seen the budget I honestly cannot say what I would like to cut or how savings can be made. I can, however, discuss adding more after-school activities as well as more options for electives in upper grades. I would love to see a full-time parent liaison in every school, someone who is solely responsible for connecting with parents. Most importantly, we can all benefit from more pre-K options.

Endorsements: None

 

Justin P. Keating
Non-incumbent
Age: 36
Occupation: Attorney/partner, law firm of Beins, Axelrod, P.C.
Alexandria resident for: Seven years

Top three priorities:
1) Look at short- and long-term solutions for serious capacity issues in ACPS.
2) Making the school board more of the face and voice of ACPS.
3) Let the teachers teach, without imposing new programs every year.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly under way, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do — or propose — to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?

The ACPS website and other social media need to be refocused more on communication about these issues than on public relations. Personally, I’m thinking about sending regular emails and/or posting social media updates on things going on in ACPS that these groups should be aware of. And, as I have been promising people while campaigning, they can simply call or email me to find out what’s going on. In fact, I encourage this. Communication is not as difficult as highly paid consultants sometimes make it seem.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add.

This is a difficult question to answer in this format. First, the category descriptions in the ACPS budget are vague. On the board, I will ask for more detailed explanations of what is included in each category and finding ways for ACPS to make these matters more transparent to interested residents.

Second, this question raises how I will approach ACPS issues in general and spending priorities in particular. For all budget items, the department or school needs to be prepared to explain why the purchase is essential and why it cannot be bought for less money. For some budget items this will be an easier discussion than for others. I won’t harass administrators about obviously essential purchases that common sense tells me have inelastic prices. I will pay close attention to use of contractors for matters that might be more efficiently handled in-house. This is often fertile ground for savings.

I will note that the budget includes about $150,000 for bakery products and ice cream. In today’s world, is there a place for these items in our schools? They are simply unhealthy. If anything, the $165,000 for fresh produce should be increased at the cost of the ice cream and bakery products.

Endorsements: Alexandria Political Action Committee on Education

 

Marc Williams
Incumbent
Age: 53
Occupation: Governmental Programs Executive, Intellectual Property, IBM Corporation
Alexandria resident for: 20 years

Top priorities:
1) Continue to drive to give each student what he or she needs to succeed academically.
2) Continue to address the need for classroom and associated learning space.
3) Continue to be a good steward of tax dollars while ensuring that ACPS has the resources it needs.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly underway, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do – or propose – to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?

Communication has improved in the past year. For example, the Jefferson-Houston community has been engaged consistently throughout the planning process for the new school. The the design of the site and building has been done with a great deal of stakeholder input, including teachers. This should be the model for engagement as we move forward with other major building projects.

In addition, the revamped ACPS website provides a great deal of useful information, as does the education digest sent to all families and the community at large. This year, board also added two student liaisons to the school board to gain a student’s perspective and to open up a channel of communication with T.C. Williams High School students. The board has set a goal of broadening communication with certain civic groups this fall. In addition to speaking with parents, staff, students and residents, I believe that the board should consider formal surveys of these stakeholders to make sure we have the best information when making decisions.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

While program evaluation is ongoing, every year during the budget process the board and the superintendent examine programs and their effectiveness for achieving the board’s strategic plan goals, especially with respect to raising student achievement. Because of the board’s responsibility to be a good fiscal steward, difficult choices must be made. For example, since my election in 2008, we have moved spending away from central administration and toward directly supporting classroom instruction.

Savings may be achievable in the operating budget with respect to leases for office space housing central administration and adult education/interim education programs, which will expire this fiscal year. Not renewing these leases and finding more cost-effective space for these functions is a priority for me. The savings from this action can be used to support classroom instruction to raise student achievement. Also, the persistently lowest achieving grant for T.C. Williams will be expiring this year. The board – as with all changes — will continue to evaluate which reforms have been most effective before deciding whether to continue funding them.

Endorsements: Current and former PTA Presidents; former school board chairs; current and retired teachers; community leaders

 

SCHOOL BOARD – DISTRICT C

 

Ronnie Campbell
Incumbent
Age: 56
Occupation: Sales service associate for the U.S. Postal Service
Alexandria resident for: 26 years

Top priorities:
1) Ensure all our students are challenged to succeed and have support.
2) Support teachers and staff through professional development.
3) Work to build better communication between the district and the community.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly underway, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do – or propose – to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?

I feel — having two appointed students participate in the school board meetings and activities — there is a greater opportunity for students, as a whole, to be informed.  Also, by having the FACE centers up and running, the community has more of an opportunity to be informed and involved. I would like to propose more involvement in the community by board members. This would include civic association meetings, town hall meetings and increased participation at PTA meetings.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

Being that I am currently serving on the school board I am required to support any and all ACPS-funded programs or services that the current board has put in place. However, with many new board members soon to be elected I am sure many programs now in place will be re-evaluated.

Endorsements: Education Association of Alexandria

 

Patricia Ann “Pat” Hennig
Non-Incumbent
Age: N/A
Occupation: Corporate controller, Council on Competitiveness
Alexandria resident for: 37 years

Top priorities:  
1) Assure that only proven and evidence-based programs are implemented.
2) Improve school board and administration accountability.
3) Insistence on clear, concise and totally truthful communication with stakeholders.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly underway, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do – or propose – to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?

All communications must be clear in the message. The school board must review all proposed communications or announcements that pertain to policy, changes in curriculum, changes in staff, transportation changes — anything that affects the students, parents and staff. No communication — written, email, newspaper articles, columns or interviews — that relate to these subjects should go out without board review and permission.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

First, I think that it would irresponsible to name a program or service without a clear and in-depth picture of content and proven results of all services and programs. I am an experienced accounting professional, and I do not guess or even “guesstimate”, without facts.

Of course, cutting the dollars that have been spent on consultants and putting those dollars into the classroom might be one good place to start. As to the total savings, it is impossible to give an exact dollar amount until a thorough review of such expense is done.

Finally, an expansion of STEM education in Alexandria City Public Schools is, to my mind, essential for the success of our students in a changing world. The National Science Foundation has an excellent program — ITEST — that has a proven track record in several states, including Arizona, which saw higher cognitive skills in their students as a result on introducing this program.

Also, expansion of the STEM program could be funded through the “America COMPETES Act (PL110-69), which has funds available for STEM education from kindergarten through graduate school. Expansion could be achieved with these funds and at a lower, or minimum, cost to the system.

Endorsements: Education Association of Alexandria

 

Christopher J. Lewis
Non-incumbent
Age: 33
Occupation: Vice president for government affairs, Public Knowledge
Alexandria resident for: Six years

Top three priorities:
1) Improved academic achievement for all students.
2) Greater community engagement in our schools.
3) Administrative accountability and transparency.

With new initiatives, programs, staff reshuffling and reforms constantly under way, school officials often stand accused of failing to effectively communicate with stakeholders. What would you do — or propose — to better keep residents, parents, staff and students informed?

There are several actions I support to improve communication about initiative and policies in ACPS. First, I will push for basic expectations for accuracy and timing of public information from ACPS’ central office. Too often online event calendars that are relied upon by parents are not up to date.

Second, I will not accept major policy or programmatic changes without adequate time for input from the community and adequate time for effective implementation after decisions have been made — including teacher training. We cannot continue to make progress as a school system without rebuilding the trust deficit between the board, superintendent and the larger community. Oftentimes it has been the process that has eroded that trust rather than the changes themselves.

Name a specific ACPS-funded program or service you would move to cut in the coming budget season. Name a program or service you could find savings in and explain how and how much. Name a program or service you would add. 

ACPS has seen the implementation of a flurry of new programs and services over the last few years as we have focused on the top priority: reducing the achievement gap. I think that it will be important for the new school board to emphasize the evaluation of the effectiveness of many of the new ACPS programs in reaching that goal and then expanding or cutting those programs accordingly.

Endorsements: Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(3) Readers Comments

  1. Wow! Lots of wonderful choices!

  2. The schoolboard “District C” section is incorrectly marked as “A”,
    but I figured it out.

  3. Pingback: Election night blog | Alexandria Times

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