By Eileen Cassidy Rivera, Alexandria (File photo)
To the editor:
A year ago, my friend, Allison Silberberg, was sworn in as Alexandria’s mayor. Having served as vice mayor in the previous term, and following more than 25 years of experience in community leadership and public service, Allison knew what she wanted to do during her first term as mayor. As I reflect on her first year as mayor, it is truly remarkable what she has accomplished.
Immediately after taking office, Silberberg took action and set a new tone of transparency in Alexandria by advancing an ethics initiative. In the spring, city council approved a code of conduct and an ethics pledge for all city councilors to sign. This was an important pillar of Silberberg’s campaign, which gained wide support in the community and across our region.
Focused on the city’s finances, she and City Manager Mark Jinks met with the bond rating agencies in New York. This resulted in being able to get bonds at the lowest interest rates since 1960.
Silberberg’s commitment to affordable housing led her to focus on rebuilding the city’s relationship with the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, known as ARHA. She and city council voted to redevelop Ramsey Homes, providing more units for low-income residents. After decades of a strained relationship between the city and ARHA, her leadership has set a new tone and a more collaborative course.
The issue of sewer outfalls into the Potomac River has been an environmental problem in our city for decades. Since 1994, the city has been required by state regulators to take steps to fix it. I am proud that Silberberg and city council are moving forward, taking action on the first three outfalls and accelerating mitigation efforts at the fourth outfall at Oronoco Bay. As a lifelong environmentalist, Mayor Silberberg is committed to doing even more.
Her kindness and compassion
for people can be felt in a new culture she has helped build at City Hall and throughout Alexandria. She is working hard to emphasize inclusion, civility, acceptance and respect.
This passion led her to initiate the city’s first-ever statement of inclusiveness, issued by city council in collaboration with the human rights commission. This statement affirms our core values — that Alexandria is “a city of kindness and compassion.” In addition, she created the clergy council, which brings together all faiths to discuss concerns in our community.
For more than 40 years, Alexandria has had a long-standing tradition that at the beginning of every Saturday public hearing, anyone can come forward to speak about any issue for up to three minutes. At times, there were a few speakers, and at others there were dozens, but the important thing is that people of all backgrounds had a chance to be heard.
This tradition has been a sign of a vibrant democracy. Unfortunately, without any public notice or input, city council voted 6-1 to change this and limit the number of speakers during this portion of the meeting to 15. Now, with this change, if there are more than 15 speakers they will have to speak at the very end of the meeting, which is usually many hours later.
No other item at the public hearing has such a time limit. Silberberg spoke out against this and was the lone dissenting vote. She will continue to fight for more civic engagement, not less.
Having known Mayor Silberberg for more than 35 years, she puts her whole heart and mind — and an incredible amount of energy and time — into this responsibility. She will continue to build bridges of understanding among our citizens and move us forward on a host of issues in the years ahead. We are lucky to have Allison leading our city during such challenging times in our country.