Given the fact that the Alexandria Republican City Committee has failed to produce any candidates for the race to be the next Alexandria, Virginia Mayor, voters are left to choose their candidate on election day (Tuesday, November 3, 2015) by voting for the only candidate on the ballot (Allison Silberberg) or by writing in Bill Euille.
Personally, having listened to each of the folks running for Mayor at various events over the last couple of months and during the primary, there’s little policy differences among the candidates vying for your vote.
So who should you vote for to be the next Mayor of Alexandria? I can’t tell you what to do but, I will tell you who I am voting for. Regardless of what I or others (see this link and this link) tell you, do your civic duty and get OUT and VOTE.
As for the rhetoric being tossed around this year…
Ms. Silberberg’s supporters say Bill Euille takes too much money from developers. Bill Euille should certainly STOP the practice of voting on projects where campaign dollars have been put forth. He says it doesn’t sway him and Alexandria certainly needs the development but IMHO, it is a clear conflict of interest. It gives off the appearance of ‘pay-to-play‘. ‘Pay-to-play’ style politics needs to end in Alexandria.
Mr. Euille and his supporters say Ms. Silberberg is ‘not ready’ to be Mayor and it ‘anti-development’. Was Bill Euille ready to be on City Council in 1994 when he first ran for City Council? With a City Manager style government, being Mayor here is not the same as in other mid-sized cities. On development, Ms. Silberberg voted FOR the Robinson Terminal North project as well as countless others around the City. She did vote against one’s she felt were not in keeping with the community.
Mr. Euille’s supporters also say Ms. Silberberg is against affordable housing when in fact, she has voted for affordable housing (e.g. one of the one’s Euille’s supporters claimed she voted against). Alexandria has LOST over 12,000 affordable housing units since Bill Euille has been on City Council.
Ms. Silberberg says the City lacks transparency and the public’s trust. She also says the City needs fewer executive sessions. As a Board member on several Boards around the area, Boards often need to go into Executive session for a host of reasons so this charge lacks truth IMHO. This charge is resonating at City Hall though as the City has become more transparent over the last several months on a range of items (see this link and this link as examples).
Ms Silberberg says this about BRAC (in the West End):
The BRAC building is an outcome of executive sessions. BRAC is off the tax rolls and will cost our city over $60 million over the next 20 years alone, and there was no vote, no accountability. It is an economic disaster for our city.
This isn’t entirely true as given that once the federal government purchased the land that it became federal property, no vote could have possibly been taken as Mr. Lovain mentioned at the West End debate.
However, Bill and the City Council should have seen the BRAC-133 debacle coming and prepared for it. The Mark Center site was on the list of choices but, did anyone think the Army was going to choose the Victory Center on Eisenhower Avenue where the train tracks are and ethanol cars sit filled with the gas behind the building? I didn’t. City staff also signed off on a letter to the Army citing the BRAC move to Mark Center would have ‘no significant impact’ to the community.
I could go on and on and as you can see, this election season in 2015 in Alexandria, Virginia has been a rough one. There have been many distortions made by candidates from both sides of the political aisle.
So, let’s get beyond the rhetoric and give you my thoughts….
The thing that irks me the most about City Council is that during sessions like the annual budget deliberations, many items will be at a 4-3 vote during the process, but, when time comes to cast the final vote on the dais – it usually is 7-0. There are issues Allison will take a stand on (see above), and as someone who has cast dissenting votes on Boards before myself, I appreciate that quality in Allison Silberberg. One issue I thought she was right on was Woodbine, where the city changed the zoning for that section of the City to accommodate a developer who has an existing non-compliant use.
For another example, she was the lone dissenting vote on an issue many of us care about in the Carlyle neighborhood and that is the extension of the parking meter hours which has not brought in the tax revenue the City hoped it would. We have practically BEGGED the Mayor and City Council to change the parking regulations to something more suited to Carlyle. After all, what works in lower Old Town, certainly doesn’t work in upper Old Town (as evidenced by the changes recommended and passed earlier this year), and certainly doesn’t work in Carlyle. She does listen to resident concerns. Does that mean Bill doesn’t?
As Mayor though, sometimes you have to make the tough decisions that not everyone will like. Is Allison Silberberg capable of doing that?
What I have liked about her campaign is that she routinely holds ‘Council on Your Corner’ sessions at various locations around the City. Can you name another member of City Council who has done something similar in the last three (3) years?
What I have also liked about her campaign is her refusal to take money from developers who are doing business before the City Council. I do heartily believe that Bill ought to and SHOULD give back the money he has taken from developers in this campaign (see comments above).
What I have also liked about her campaign is the emails she sends out from the campaign. The vast majority of emails Bill’s campaign sends out is for money ($) while Ms. Silberberg’s are typically very positive about positive things going on in the campaign and around the City.
A huge drawback for me on her candidacy though is her lack of business acumen. Mr Euille is a businessman, knows how business operates, and knows how to attract business. Mr. Euille serves on many other regional Boards and should focus on attracting business to Alexandria as Mr. Donley stated earlier this year. Question is, with a tax rate imbalance heavily skewed toward citizens now (70%-30%), can Ms. Silberberg help tilt the tax scale back toward 50-50? She says she will work tirelessly toward that end.
As I mentioned, I have worked on a few issues with Mayor Euille as it relates to the Carlyle neighborhood where I live. The Mayor has always been responsive, always listened to what has been said. Mayor Euille continues to be responsive to citizens – some have commented to me that they have gotten responses from him late at night.
The one thing that has impressed me about Bill, especially in watching him in various City Council sessions, is how he works with the community and works with others to get things done for the City.
Some say 12 years in office is LONG enough though. I have heard from scores of people whose first two words when talking about Mayor Euille are ‘term limits’. I have also heard privately from Democrats that Ms. Silberberg is not a good leader, often unprepared, and they worry that Ms. Silberberg won’t be able to bring people together like what Mr. Euille has done.
Mayor Euille passed the first living-wage law in Northern Virginia and has helped bring the PTO and NSF to Alexandria, worked with the City Council to focus on public transit, biking and pedestrian infrastructure, and has led the City through a tough economic climate. Mayor Euille also played a key role in the redevelopment plan for Alexandria’s waterfront.
I have driven to each corner of the City and found that the City seems pretty well divided when you spot campaign signs in people’s yards.
With so many similarities among the choices, each with their positives and negatives, who should one vote for? Our recent poll on this race notwithstanding, Here’s who I am voting for tomorrow…
Mayor Euille, Alexandria’s first African American mayor, has a long record in local government. He’s been Mayor since 2003 and a city council member since 1994 and previously served for 10 years on the local school board.
Like Rob Krupicka in his endorsement of the Mayor, I am very appreciative of Mayor Euille’s service to our great City.
While Ms. Silberberg won the primary fair and square, and while I don’t agree with Bill on many things, for the simple reason of being able to attract business to the City, I will be writing in Bill Euille for Mayor. IMHO, the ability to attract business to Alexandria, Virginia separates Mr. Euille from Ms. Silberberg. The Mayor though needs to take some of Kerry Donley’s words to heart and focus more on Alexandria itself rather than regionally (see Kerry Donley’s speech at the link above).
But, what do I know, I voted for Kerry Donley in the primary… Remember though, get OUT and VOTE.
That’s my view – what’s yours?