Alexandria Will Vote Now For A Voice On Council Later
Alexandrias voters have been through a lot recently.
In the presidential election, we were instrumental in altering Virginias political image, adding our footprint to one of the countrys most historic elections.
In December, a sudden decision by former delegate Brian Moran (D) to run for governor left the citys West End scrambling to elect a new state representative. The race between Charniele Herring (D) and Joe Murray (R) was so close, a recount ensued as the General Assembly forged ahead without a West End Alexandria voice.
Perhaps the political landscape was taxing for some, but now is not the time for voter fatigue.
The City Council election on May 5 is the voters opportunity to pick and choose the people that will make decisions directly affecting the everyday lives of Alexandrians.
Whether it is the safety of our families, the chunk of money we fork over for taxes or the way we run our businesses, the voting booth is a direct line of communication between you and the decisions that will be made on your behalf in the future.
This particular election comes with an especially distinct possibility: With two Independents and two Republicans running, the City Council could switch from an all-Democratic governing body to a more assorted, diverse group. The polls could result in a host of different combinations of the six candidates from a pool of 10 qualified individuals, including five incumbents, four political newcomers and a former mayor.
But despite party lines, there are issues facing the city that seem to trump such labels, inescapably linked to the bruised economic landscape. Everyday life has already and will continue to change with the economy. The candidates we elect will help shape that change.
Every economic class in the city is affected in some way by the burdens of a waning economy. Higher taxes are a very real possibility, which could hurt residents pocketbooks even more. The economic decisions the soon-to-be elected body faces are the voters decisions, too.
Because the citys funds have taken a hit, so too have social programs and nonprofit organizations linked directly to the quality of life for every resident. It will be the job of the on-deck governing body to balance social service needs that aid the citys youth, elderly, indigent and general at-risk population with the money available and a fair tax burden on residents.
Transportation is a constant issue in Alexandria and is directly related to the environment, possible development around Metro stations and traffic congestion. Our votes could help dictate whether or not a 10-story building is erected in your backyard or if a Metro train screeches by your house at night.
Quality-of-life services like clean streets, solid public facilities and beautification programs to which Alexandrians have become so accustomed are also at risk. Residents have a responsibility to voice their opinions to elected officials if they disagree with decisions, and such services are perhaps the most palpable alterations to everyday life for many residents.
The citys small business community is struggling and city coffers are taking a hit as a result. Attracting new businesses and maintaining current ones feeds the struggling economy, as does the tourism industry. Our voice can help dictate how these things are done.
Alexandria has an affordable and workforce housing void that has recently been somewhat numbed by the down housing market, allowing for price breaks.
But Alexandria is no longer a city for everyone. In a city where the average per capita income is about $70,000, housing options for lower income rungs are desolate. The future Council has the power to affect this, as does the voter.
Though the city has an elected School Board, the City Council influences educational spending, as well as social programs relating to students and their overall achievement.
The school system has a stark achievement gap between minority students and white students, as well as a dropout rate that is above average for the state. With the projections of increased enrollments and crowding facilities, the citys educational direction is also within the voters realm of power.
In no government is a voters voice heard louder than in the municipal government responsible for decisions that are made just down the street, affecting us so directly. A vote on May 5 represents inclusion in these decisions that will be made on our behalf down the road.
ALEXANDRIA RESIDENT: 58 years
PROFESSION: President, Wm. D. Euille&Associates
EDUCATION: B.S. accounting, Quinnipiac College
NEIGHBORHOOD: Del Ray
William D. Bill Euille, a native and life-long resident of Alexandria, is running unopposed for mayor. When elected in 2003, Euille became the first African American to hold this position in the 254-year history of the city. Re-elected in 2006, Euille previously served three terms on City Council. Prior to his service on City Council, Euille served on the Alexandria School Board from 1974-1984.
Euille, a 1968 graduate of T.C. Williams High School, founded Wm. D. Euille&Associates in 1987, a construction services firm. He currently holds leadership positions with various organizations throughout the city, including the Alexandria Welfare Reform Committee and the INOVA Alexandria Hospital Foundation. He represents Alexandria on the Board of Directors of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the Washington METRO Council of Governments and is a former chairman of the Northern Virginia Urban League.
CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES
Dominic Philip Cefaratti
Alexandria Resident: About 4 years
Education: B.A., English, Catholic Univ. of America; M.B.A., Georgetown Univ.
Neighborhood: Seminary Ridge
Phil Cefaratti came onto Alexandrias political scene in December when he ran in the special election for delegate canvass, losing by a slim margin. A 14-year Navy officer and Gulf War veteran, he has championed West End issues and cutting government positions for efficiency throughout his campaign. He often echoed President Barack Obamas call for change to induce discourse namely in regard to the homogenous makeup of the all-Democratic Council on a municipal level.
I think weve had a City Council thats been together for a long time and I think that when youve grown comfortable and there are not a lot of disparate views, then I think things can get missed, Cefaratti said.
Cefaratti said his voice is one needed for a different perspective, especially in regard to the citys residents. (He said he would not vote to raise taxes, citing the necessity for the citys cost of living to be condusive to the needs of lower-income residents) to Alexandrias cost of living. Raising taxes in terms of pennies could mean one less latte a day for some, he said, but for others it could mean a school lunch or a Metro commute.
Im a firm believer that we should be looking at our city government as employment, not entitlement, Cefaratti said. Our city employees are here to service the residents of Alexandria and not vice versa.
Cefaratti said he is a firm believer in the free market system and is realistic about the affordable and workforce housing void in the city. Recognition of the buyers market is paramount in this economic moment and Cefaratti would offer incentives to city employees who buy homes here, such as real estate rebates, he said.
Kerry J. Donley
Alexandria Resident: 35 years
Profession: Senior Vice President, Virginia Commerce Bank
Education: B.A., political science, Marquette Univ.
Endorsements: Alexandria Police Benevolent Association, Education Association of Alexandria, Sierra Club, and Virginia Partisans
Neighborhood: Seminary Valley
Having served on City Council from 1988 to 2003 (as mayor f
or half of that span), Kerry Donley is no stranger to City Hall. Nor is he a stranger to diversity. The Alexandria politico stepped down as T.C. Williams athletic director last year following a three-year term and briefly flirted with a candidacy for the Virginia House of Delegates. Citing a potentially more potent impact, he decided to run again for Council.
Donley has based much of his campaign this election season on his past successes, often evoking his role in bringing the Patent and Trade Office to Alexandria as a commercial steam engine during a dazed economy. He is keen on diversifying the citys tax base and bridging the gap between the commercial and residential tax bases by fueling the development (akin to the PTO) at Landmark and Potomac Yard.
Our citizens have come to expect and frankly they deserve top flight services, Donley said. And our ability to provide those services would be challenged without a diversified tax base.
Weve got to restore good, quality commercial development will that will add to our tax base without adding demand for public services.
Donley said he would utilize his experience to preserve core services, of which the Council has done a good job, he said, though challenges are going to remain.
Sustaining the citys quality of living throughout the struggling economy is a focus of Donleys but not without looking to the post-recession state of the city. As a banker, Donley said a long-term view of the citys socioeconomic landscape is necessary so that the citys social services and economy can both thrive after the downturn, rather than simply survive it.
You have to prepare yourself for recovery, he said. If you just sit back and wait, you are going be that much more vulnerable when the economy turns around.
Francis H. Fannon IV
Alexandria Resident: 40 years
Profession: Mortgage broker, owner of Suntrust bank branch
Education: B.A., corporate communications, Elon College
Neighborhood: Old Town
A first-time candidate, Frank Fannon has been an Alexandrian since he was born at Alexandria Hospital in 1968. The fifth-generation dweller of the city is on the board of directors of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and is also a recent graduate of the University of Virginias Sorenson Institute for Political Leadership. A year ago, Fannon was instrumental in bringing the Alexandria Aces collegiate baseball team to the city.
Fannons campaign has centered on his strong ties to the community and his background in business and finances particularly in relation to the present economic situation. He sees commercial development as a stimulant to the struggling economy and a way to lessen the residential tax burden on residents, championing the Landmark redevelopment plan.
People ask, Why is commercial development important for me? Fannon said. If businesses continue to leave the city, the shift is going to move much more toward the residential tax rate.
Fannon believes that different voices need to be heard at City Hall competition is good for business, he said.
If the four [challengers] didnt get in the mix, the City Council would have been decided in January, he said.
Competition is good for the citys economy too, according to Fannon, who wants to privatize city jobs, effectively reducing the governments size and payroll while bringing jobs to residents custodial positions being one example.
The free market is currently making homes more affordable, Fannon said, but added that, as the Arlandria and Landmark areas get redeveloped, he would support setting aside some affordable housing projects.
Alexandria Resident: 2 1/2 years
Profession: Patent examniner, United States Patent Office
Education: B.S., Biology, Texas Southern Univ.; J.D., Univ. of Miami School of Law
Endorsements: Northern Virginia Association of Realtors
Neighborhood: West End
Alicia Hughes has campaigned around her diverse background shes been a public school teacher, a land-use and development lawyer and a federal law clerk to appeal to voters.
A theme of her candidacy has been an aggressive take our children back campaign aimed at making [youth] better citizens and making them feel integrated into the community. While it is the schools responsibility to educate the youth, she said, the Council could play a role in improving their place in society.
Hughes has been on the citys Social Services Advisory Board and the school systems Early Childhood Commission which she said will jive very well with what she wants to accomplish.
But while social issues are one of Hughes niches, she is also active in the citys finances. A member of the ACPS Budget Advisory Committee, she wants to push the city to stop wasteful spending (she is on record saying the city would not win its recent bout with Norfolk Southern, which it did not) and favors lessening the residential real estate tax burden on residents. The budget can be streamlined so that revenue is not as necessary, she said.
Hughes does not want home ownership to be something that is punitive, she said. When you start taxing or overtaxing property owners, especially during an economic downturn, thats a little problematic.
Hughes also favors providing tax credits and property tax relief to city workers to expand housing for the teachers, public safety officers and others who cannot afford to live in Alexandria.
I think that as were looking at the trends for the next year and weve got this new development planned, we need to make sure that we put proper incentives in place, she said.
K Rob Krupicka, Jr.
Alexandria Resident: About 14 years
Profession: Business development consultant for information technology and online media companies
Education: B.A., economics, Univ. of Virginia
Endorsements: Police Benevolent Association, Alexandria Teachers, Sierra Club, Democratic Party
Neighborhood: Del Ray
INCUMBENT: 6 years
Part of the City Council since 2003, Councilman Rob Krupicka is running for his third consecutive term. As a relative veteran, he has lent his voice to a plethora of issues over the years while establishing a reputation around transportation issues, environmental stewardship and educational enhancements, especially in the realm of early education. Gov. Tim Kaine (D) recently appointed Krupicka, a self-described businessman, to the Virginia Board of Education.
Krupickas platform this election cycle focuses on enhancing education to bolster students into a global economy, implementing the citys Eco-City environmental sustainability plan (which could be funded in part by the federal governments stimulus package) and maintaining high-quality public safety programs to suppress the crime rate and increase quality of life in the city perhaps obviously with an eye to the economic landscape.
Substantially, we have to do things for small businesses to navigate bureaucracy, Krupicka said. We have to get out of [the practice of] pushing paper for the sake of pushing paper.
Being transparent and predictable is not contrary to being neighborhood friendly.
The city cannot afford to have anything but really clear standards that are equally replicated when dealing with intercity processes, Krupicka said, especially those dealing with local businesses.
Krupicka deems public safety a crux of a successful economy and a high quality of living. If crime rates go up, the city will lose value, and it could have a negative trickle-down effect, he said.
Suggesting the city needs a proactive rather than reactive approach to affordable and workforce housing, Krupicka suggested allocating money to homeownership programs to aid individuals in buying foreclosed homes in the short term and focusing on homelessness prevention and preserving affordable housing units on a standardized basis in the long term.
Timothy Bertil Hoyas Lovain
Alexandria Resident: 26 y
Profession: Vice President and General Counsel of Denny Miller Associates, a government relations consulting firm
Education: B.A, political science, Univ. of Chicago; M.A., politics, Princeton University; J.D., Univ. of Washington
Endorsements: Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education, Northern Virginia Area Labor Council, Virginia Police Benevolent Association, Mount Vernon Group of the Sierra Club
Neighborhood: North Ridge/Braddock Heights
INCUMBENT: 3 years
Nearing the end of his first term on Council, it is Tim Lovains promises-made-good that give him the credibility to help govern the city for another term, according to the father of three.
He has built his campaign around such promises practicing fiscal restraint, attention to the citys youth and transportation issues, of which his profession provides expertise. As the former chair of the citys Budget and Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee, Lovain has been instrumental in inducing fiscal responsibility.
Six years before I got on City Council, the average residential tax bill doubled, he said. Since that time, its been flat. Although its been a team effort, its also not a coincidence.
Lovain was also the only council member to propose a zero percent increase in the latest budgets residential tax burden.
An ardent voice for environmentalism and efficient transit options, Lovain has pushed for everything from plastic bag reform to a trolley connecting the east and west ends of the city with the region. He supports a new Potomac Yard Metro station as well, and is heavily involved in the planning process.
Lovain sees the current residential market rates as a short-term opportunity to provide affordable housing and, along with his colleagues, is determined to provide a little money in the final budget to explore the idea of helping buyers take advantage of distressed and foreclosed homes. He said the city might need to go back to a dedicated budget line for affordable housing in the long run.
Some of us have misgivings about setting aside pennies or percentages of the budget for certain purposes, but its a way of showing commitment to the issue, he said.
Redella S. Del Pepper
Alexandria Resident: 40 years
Education: B.A., philosophy and religion, Grinnell College
Endorsements: Alexandria Political Action Committee Education, Sierra Club, Northern Virginia Association of Realtors PAC, Northern Virginia Labor
Neighborhood: West End
INCUMBENT: 24 years
First elected in 1985, Vice Mayor Del Pepper has been on the City Council for about 24 years, serving twice as vice mayor, including her current stint that began in 2003. She is a staple at seemingly every community event and has served on more than 30 community-based boards and committees.
Pepper has emerged as a leader on environmental issues relatively recently. She co-sponsored the citys environmental action plan and helped push through the Eco-City environmental charter, a written commitment to environmental sustainability and the first of its kind in the region. Though environmental policy is her ends, her means seems to be a new passion for the vice mayor.
It has become very important for me, Pepper said. Its everybodys responsibility, even if all you do is change the lights in your house to energy efficient light bulbs.
Pepper co-chaired the Mirant Community Monitoring Group as well, helping to reach a $34 million agreement with the power plant, resulting in environmental safeguards on the plants tab.
Pepper intertwines the environment with transportation needs (Why does everyone need a car? she said.) Pepper said she supports mass transit, including new Metro stations in the city, but wants to give the DASH bus system its due attention first there are rumblings of service reductions.
I think its untenable for us if were telling people to use buses or Metro as much as you can and then cutting back service, Pepper said. I dont think thats a credible decision for us to [make].
Peppers campaign has, inescapably, focused on the economy. An ardent supporter of implementing the Landmark Mall development to bolster the economy and perhaps create affordable and workforce housing, Pepper said its necessary to implement the plan on the West End.
Paul Connors Smedberg
Alexandria Resident: 20 years
Profession: Director, Policy & Public Affairs, American Society of Nephrology
Education: B.S., economics; B.A., history, Allegheny College
Endorsements: Alexandria Teachers (A-PACE), Alexandria Police, The Sierra Club, NOVA Labor Federation
Neighborhood: Old Town
INCUMBENT: 6 years
Elected to Council in 2003, Paul Smedberg was on the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee for six years before joining City Council. He is also a 2001 graduate of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia.
Smedberg said his experience working on budgets has given him a valuable vantage point in the current economy, which has permeated the race this election season. He has also cited his role in bringing efficiency studies to the attention of the Council in an attempt to streamline the citys programs.
Now, Smedberg says he is focused on retaining and attracting business to the city via policy and not on a one-off basis.
I think you could argue we may not have had an actual plan to [attract business], he said. We were fortunate with the fact that businesses simply wanted to be in Alexandria.
Smedberg has made a reputation on Council as a sharp and thorough questioner from behind the dais, while trying to balance neighborhood nuisance concerns with tourism interests (he is on the motor coach taskforce, which deals with both). He has also pointed to his role as co-chair of the Mirant Community Monitoring group that helped bring the Mirant power plant to spend $34 million on environmental improvements.
I really do try to aim for a thoughtful, balanced approach to these things, Smedberg said.
On improving the citys affordable housing void, Smedberg supports housing programs that help first-time buyers purchase homes, especially in the current economy, though he realizes it is a short-term solution to the citys lack of affordable housing. Smedberg would support using stimulus dollars to perhaps give a small monetary donation for first-time buyers and young families to help purchase foreclosed homes, he said.
Richard Carroll Williamson
Alexandria Resident: 9 years continuously, with high school and college summers living in Old Town.
Profession: Senior Project Manager, Federal Government.
Education: B.A., Foreign Service, Baylor Univ.; M.B.A., Univ. of Mississippi
Neighborhood: Colonial Heights/Seminary Hill
Rich Williamson has been candid both in his disagreements and agreements with the job of the current City Council. A federal employee, Williamson has experience with civic duties, working as secretary of the citys Environmental Policy Commission.
His campaign has revolved around the citys neighborhoods and is adamantly in favor of dividing the Councils representation into wards to improve civic inclusiveness bringing power to the people instead of expecting people to come to the power.
It allows neighborhoods to buy into City Council, he said. If people feel like they are part of the decisions, it makes people more willing to pay taxes and causes less acrimony.
Williamson agrees with certain aspects of the citys affordable housing ideas, but thinks the whole problem is that were trying to get affordable housing in areas that are clearly not affordable, like Old Town. He suggested building transit centers like Metro stations around areas that support affordable housing with apartment buildings like the West End, because the people that cant afford a car dont live near the Metros.
Throughout his campaign, Wil
liamson also spoke against what he sees as wasteful city spending of taxpayer dollars, offering that any city service that can be contracted out we should consider contracting, such as non-management and jobs requiring acute expertise on a subject.
The city is not here to provide employment for people, he said. Were here to provide services to taxpayers.
Williamson, who once ran for school board in Tennessee, believes strongly in financing education to its fullest.
Justin Marshall Wilson
Alexandria Resident: 8 years
Profession: Principal System Engineer for Amtrak
Education: B.S., business information systems, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.
Endorsements: Alexandria Chapter of the Virginia Police Benevolent Association, Mount Vernon Group of the Sierra Club
Neighborhood: Del Ray
Incumbent: 21 Months
Justin Wilson is seeking his first full term on the City Council, having been elected in a 2007 special election. A father of two, Wilson is known for his transportation expertise and his work with youth policy as an appointee by former governer Mark Warner to the Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and Governor Tim Kaine-appointee to the Virginia Board of Juvenile Justice.
Wilsons campaign has been based largely on his abbreviated (almost 2 years) on Council. As the youngest member behind the dais, Wilson has proposed and helped push through a number of revenue-makers outside of real estate taxes, from a dog and cat license fee to an HOV fine, which he has noted throughout the election season.
He has also focused on the dynamics of transportation, development and revenue during his campaign, citing his role in recently revamping the dream of a Potomac Yard Metro station and the development to compliment it, having restarted the planning process with Councilman Rob Krupicka.
Wilson said he wants to focus his possible tenure on advancing transit-oriented development as reality and resources dictate to increase the citys commercial and housing options in a high-demand market.
Wilsons stance on affordable and workforce housing includes a desire for a concrete housing policy because the city does not have ample funds in this economy to deal with it all through social programs.
The problem is so huge that we can only kind of put a finger in the dam, he said. I think the way we as a local government effect the most change on the issue is to have a delay-start development policy how we approve development and what type of development we approve.