Candidate profile: Patrick Moran focuses on small business support, education

Candidate profile: Patrick Moran focuses on small business support, education
Patrick Moran (Courtesy photo)

By Cody Mello-Klein |

Alexandria residents might be familiar with Patrick Moran’s last name, but the City Council candidate, entrepreneur and son of former Congressman and Mayor Jim Moran said he is ready to chart a new course for the city and himself.

“I see an opportunity and I know and understand that I have an ability to impact positive change, to bring about positively impacting our decision-making process that ultimately respects our communities, empowers our neighborhoods, protects our environment and looks forward to our future generations,” Moran said.

A Yale graduate with a degree in political science, a focus on climate change and a “dual degree with football,” Moran, who was born and raised in Alexandria, is no stranger to politics. His father served as mayor of Alexandria from 1985 to 1991 and as a Virginia Congressman from 1991 to 2015.

The younger Moran is also no stranger to controversy. In 2012, Moran pleaded guilty to simple assault after an altercation with his girlfriend at the time. The same year, Moran resigned as field director for his father’s reelection campaign after James O’Keefe, a conservative activist, caught him on video allegedly discussing a voter fraud scheme.

Moran denied the allegations involved in the assault case and said his decision to plead guilty was “complicated.”

“In my circumstance, the things that were alleged did not happen. They weren’t true,” Moran said.

Since 2012, Moran said he has tried to reinvest in the community and his family.

“There’s an aspect where [there] are the lessons that are yielded from a situation in which a lot of people are saying a lot of things about you that didn’t happen and they’re telling you things that did happen that did not happen,” Moran said. “I think there’s an aspect where you have to stay true to your values, your priorities and your principles – focus on what’s critically important.”

Moran got involved with the city’s Medical Reserve Corps starting in 2013, ran a holistic fitness-based non-profit, Fitizen, and joined the Alexandria Citizen Corps Council in 2014, eventually becoming council chair in 2018. Moran combined his entrepreneurial and environmental experience in Tactical Land Care, a landscape design company and environmental policy consultant that he founded in 2016.

Prior to announcing his candidacy in February, Moran, who currently lives with his wife and one-year-old daughter in the Parker-Gray neighborhood, said re-entering politics was far from a foregone conclusion. According to Moran, his daughter and her future in the city pushed him to take a run at council.

“In terms of the stakes, I’ve got a one-year-old and she’s going to be growing up in the community. What kind of community is that going to be? And is it going to be a community where she’s going to be facing challenges that, if I’d gotten up two, three years before and did something about, that maybe I could’ve mitigated that?” Moran said.

Moran said he plans to bring his entrepreneurial mindset to bear on finding solutions to some of the city’s most significant challenges.

“I see my role as being one in which I can bring us closer to solutions so that we can ultimately move on but also ensure that we are delivering upon the intent … [and] keeping in mind that there are folks that are less happy with it,” Moran said.

For Moran, the controversial stream restoration at Taylor Run is one such challenge. City Council recently put a pause on the project after the community and the city’s own environmental advisory board raised concerns.

Moran acknowledged the concerns, particularly those around the project’s potential impact on the ecology of the area. Due to Taylor Run’s proximity to T.C. Williams High School and the ecological landscape of the streambed, Moran argued that the site should be considered an educational resource, not just an environmental resource.

“With the vital ecology that’s at Taylor Run, that’s an opportunity to engage young minds,” Moran said. “That’s an opportunity to inspire our students.”

However, Moran argued that refusing to do any work in Taylor Run is not an option given the infrastructure maintenance and safety concerns posed by the eroding channel.

“Just saying that it doesn’t need attention, is not enough because it does,” Moran said. “It does, and not recognizing the circumstances that go into it holistically, that safety is a concern there, that’s important.”

The city’s stormwater infrastructure has been an ongoing concern for residents as climate change and aging city infrastructure have caused “100-year” floods to hit the city and cause widespread damage with increased frequency. In order to tackle those infrastructure issues, Moran said the city has to design and improve projects with an eye toward resilience and addressing climate change.

“We have to ensure that we’re equipped to handle the challenges that come with stormwater and climate change and also understanding that Alexandria is way behind in terms of its use of renewables,” Moran said. “Our infrastructure not only provides opportunities to be on the cutting edge of technology as it relates to renewable energy and green infrastructure; with that comes resilience.”

The unifying vision behind Moran’s platform is a desire to make Alexandria “the greatest small city in the world,” he said. For Moran, that vision starts with the city’s schools.

While council does not explicitly make decisions about curriculum and Alexandria City Public Schools policy, Moran said he would aim to explore council’s ACPS relationship more actively in order to address overcrowding and inequities in the school system.

“My entrepreneurial experience is something I’d love to see conveyed early, early, starting in elementary school with financial literacy, with some of the core skills that equip folks with the ability to be self-reliant financially,” Moran said.

Incorporating more Alexandria history, particularly some of the material from Councilor John Chapman’s Black history-focused Manumission Tour Company, into the curriculum is also something Moran said is vital.

Moran said his candidacy is not an attempt to refute the efforts of the sitting City Council but an attempt to refine city policy that, while well-intentioned, has room for improvement.

Moran pointed to the city’s affordable housing policy. While the city is “doing what it can” and following its housing strategy, the implementation of that strategy could use some work, Moran said.

“Where that impacts and how that’s felt neighborhood to neighborhood can be done a lot better, in terms of some of the density provisions that are allowed … the extent to which the existing infrastructure – whether it be roads or schools – in those communities is ready and able to handle more students,” Moran said.

As an entrepreneur, the city’s relationship with its businesses is also top of mind for Moran. “There are plenty of opportunities where we can engage with our business community to be more responsive, more efficient, more effective in our delivery of services,” Moran said. “There’s an aspect of that where that’s open communication.”

Moran also proposed the city go a step farther and expand its partnerships with local businesses to better tackle ongoing infrastructure and public park issues. At a time when the city is still understaffed due to the pandemic and city staff are “wearing a lot of hats,” Moran argued that public-private partnerships are even more valuable.

“At least on the infrastructure side, the park maintenance side … those are the types of things where [businesses] can act with speed on that,” Moran said. “One of the many blessings we have is we have a very diverse base of businesses both large and small and they want to help.”

“I’ve built a business. I’ve invested in our community. I’ve created jobs and upheld progressive values,” Moran added. “Small business isn’t necessarily the go-to effort of a progressive community, but that is critically important to the sustainability of a community.”