In January of 2019, I took the oath as Alexandria’s mayor. I promised to chart a course of “bold, persistent experimentation” and define a more inclusive form of growth for our community. Our city was bracing itself for a summer shutdown of our Metro stations, a project we feared would paralyze commuters and wound our small businesses. With careful planning, flexibility and thorough communication and engagement, our city endured.
Yet, no one could have foreseen the pandemic that has shattered our economy, threatened our health, safety and financial security and highlighted the very real inequities faced by Black and brown residents of our community. In the face of the pandemic, we have demonstrated that we could build the partnerships to preserve public health, protect our residents and keep our small businesses afloat. We have faced those daunting obstacles together with a shared vision for a community that works for all of our residents.
I am proud of how we have weathered this storm, but we must now lead the recovery. It is with that optimism for the city’s future that I seek your support to serve a second term as your mayor.
Against the headwinds of the last two years, we have not stood still. We will now build a modern Alexandria Hospital on the site of a redeveloped Landmark Mall. We are building five new schools over the next decade, including a new high school building, and we have made early childhood education available for more children. We have begun redevelopment of the coal-fired powerplant on our waterfront and commenced construction of a municipal broadband network.
We have created hundreds of units of new affordable housing and forged partnerships to preserve and expand housing affordability in the future. We added Freedom House to the city’s historic property inventory to better tell Alexandria’s history. The Potomac Yard Metro will open for service a year from now. We have reduced greenhouse gas emissions, raised the bar for “green” building, secured funding for new transit on our West End and commenced the largest-ever investment in our sewers.
We are in a unique and challenging moment for our city. Our success has never been assured. It has been created through generations of leaders who have placed the city’s future first.
Leading the recovery requires that we support our children, invest in our infrastructure and expand our economy.
The pandemic has hit our entire community hard, but none harder than our children. We must find the resources necessary to address the academic, social and emotional loss that our children have suffered. As we return our children to school buildings, we must ensure that the facilities they return to are worth the wait.
Flooding, school capacity challenges, pedestrian safety concerns and the Metro shutdown all highlight the perils of deferring investments in our basic infrastructure. We cannot continue the cycle of deferral and delay. Maintaining our infrastructure in a state of good repair is good for our city, good for our environment and good for our economy. The new infusion of federal money into our city gives us a unique opportunity to accelerate our investments in what makes Alexandria work.
So many of our small businesses were unable to survive this past year. Our government has extended flexibility and funding to keep them afloat. Now we must invest in building an economy that will thrive in the new normal.
The challenges before us are without precedent. Facing these challenges requires building the community coalitions that have led to the successes of the past two years. Working together, we will continue our progress.
The writer is mayor of Alexandria.