Meet the Candidates is a new series on Red Brick Town that will feature a profile of candidates running for office this year(2015) in Alexandria, Virginia including candidates for Mayor. We have sent these questions, mostly asked by readers, out to all of the Mayoral candidates. Here are Kerry Donley’s responses.
Where do you live in Alexandria? I live in the Seminary Valley neighborhood in the City’s West End.
What were your first impressions of the Seminary Valley neighborhood when you moved in?? My first impression of my neighborhood was one of engagement. We moved in on Thursday and on Friday I was recruited to help in a community to effort to build a new playground at Polk School. We had to finish all of the work by Sunday evening and we were successful.
Tell me something about yourself that people may not know, like a hobby or something you like to do. I took up cycling a number of years ago to reduce the wear and tear of jogging. I try to ride four of five times a week with a goal of 100 mile per week. Admittedly some weeks are better than others.
Name your three favorite things about Alexandria… My three favorite things about Alexandria are 1) our sense of community which is unique in the Metro Washington region; 2) our sense of compassion as evidenced by ACT for Alexandria recent Spring 2 Action where Alexandria came together and raised $1.2 million in 24-hours to support our community non-profits; and 3) our emergence as a City for younger adults who are embarking on careers and livelihoods and who now call Alexandria home.
Name three things you wish Alexandria had (but which it currently does not)… Things I wish Alexandria had include 1) more transit services in the West End where the vast majority of our citizens reside; 2) a redeveloped Landmark Mall to serve as not only a regional retail center but a mixed-use community with live-work options; and 3) a more even balance between our residential and commercial revenue base in order to provide tax relief to homeowners and a source of revenue for the services our citizens expect and deserve.
When did the idea dawn on you, like, “Hey I’m going to run for Mayor??” I have served on the Council and as Mayor in the past, and I decided to run again in order to address the structural imbalance between revenues and expenditures which has existed for the last eight years. If we want to have great public services we need to find a way to fund them, and our most recent past has been one of stagnation and not forward movement. Additionally, I would like to see us provide more operational support for our schools in light of increasing enrollments and to increase our investment in Early Childhood Development.
What are the 2 most important unsolved challenges facing Alexandria that you as Mayor you will focus on in your first 2 years in office? Two challenges: 1) Solving our structural economic imbalance to ensure our financial sustainability and 2) funding our schools to at least 32% of our overall operating budget so they have the resources they need to be successful.
Alexandria’s tax base goal is a 50-50 split between residents and businesses yet the tax base split currently stands uneven at something like 70-30 residents to business. How can Alexandria attract more business to reach that goal? 50-50 commercial and residential split. The single largest project we can undertake to improve this split is to get the Potomac Yard Metro station constructed and operational. Sadly it is 2 ½ years behind schedule due to a lack of urgency and leadership. A similar project in Washington attracted over $2 billion in private investment once a metro station was in place, the kind of investment that Alexandria sorely needs. I also think we need to clearly define our economic development priorities to focus on Potomac Yard, Carlyle, West Eisenhower and Landmark Mall. We need to focus our energies in these particular areas as they represent our best opportunities for long-term, sustainable growth. Additionally, infrastructure is in place for the most part to accommodate this growth. Finally, as Mayor I would play a direct and active role with the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership in order to help guide our business attraction efforts. Leadership is more than just showing up and the Mayor needs to be active with AEDP in terms of their strategies and their efforts to bring new businesses to Alexandria.