Why I’m running for Council

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Why I’m running for Council
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By Jesse O’Connell

In 1928, my grandfather came here from Ireland with a middle school education and the conviction he could make a better life for himself and someday, his family. He spent his life as a domestic worker, as did my grandmother. My life is a direct result of his conviction, alongside the promise of the opportunity that’s fundamental to the American story.

I believe we each owe a contribution to the continuation of that story. Since the first day I moved to Alexandria, I have felt a call to be in service to this amazing city. I’ve answered that call by chairing our city’s budget commission and serving on the Park and Recreation Commission. I’ve served on the boards of the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria and the Alexandria Transit Company, which operates DASH buses.

I’ve coached youth sports, volunteered in our schools and gotten to know city leaders and city staff. I show up prepared, and I listen and learn. I’m running for Council because I know how to get things done in Alexandria, and I’ll be ready on day one to go to work for all of us.

And there is certainly work that needs to be done. Alexandria is an amazing city, but it also has real challenges. We’re a great place to raise a family, yet many parents struggle with access to high-quality childcare, affordable activities and housing sufficient for their needs. Our parks, athletic facilities and open spaces are not on par with the rest of the region. We’re facing a budget crisis yet have too few effective tools at our disposal to meet these financial demands. I believe we can successfully address these challenges and more, but only if we turn to serious leaders with serious solutions.

We have to start by pursuing projects that will deliver near-term housing and retail development around our transit hubs in Carlyle, Braddock and Potomac Yard. This construction needs to be done with forward-looking green buildings, and will help rebalance our commercial and residential property tax bases.

We have to be a community that prioritizes jobs and career pathways, because a strong and thriving Alexandria starts with workers and our workforce talent. I will always fight for working families and safe and fairly compensated jobs in our city, and I’m proud to be endorsed by NoVA Labor.

We must address the capacity crisis in our schools, especially for our communities in the West End. We need more schools, we need them now and we need a City Council and School Board relationship that can coordinate to make it happen. I’ve worked in education policy my entire career and I know how to show up for teachers and families.

And we have to get the little things right. Trust in government starts with our ability to do those little things, the sort of things we all see and notice every day–filling potholes, collecting trash, fixing sidewalks, maintaining parks and coordinating projects so we don’t tear up the same street three times in a year. When we show people we can do those little things well, they’ll have an easier time believing we can do big things well too.

Because I do believe we can do big things well. I’m basically a 6’6” version of the “Believe” sign from Ted Lasso: I’m positive, I care and I have an optimistic view of the world and of Alexandria’s future.

I hope you’ll believe in me too – and I’m going to work incredibly hard between now and June 18 to try and earn it.

The writer is running in the June 18 Democratic primary for City Council.

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