The long table at the front of the Departmental Progressive Club in Old Town was packed with candidates. In a very visible symbol of the campaign: Republicans, Democrats, incumbents, challengers, and an independent all sat elbow to elbow at a table that took up the width of the room. It was also standing room only in the rest of the building, as campaign staffers and curious Alexandrians turned out on Sept. 14 to see the 11 challengers for city leadership.
With only two hours and so many candidates, the answers were kept short and the conversation topics narrow, but already differences and similarities are beginning to emerge as local residents heard 11 visions for the future of Alexandria.
The next forums will take place on Sept. 17, with one at 8:20 a.m. at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the other at 7 p.m. at William Ramsay Elementary School.
Townsend “Van” Van Fleet (R) - Strong safety net, solid infrastructure, good schools.
Willie Bailey (D) - Affordable housing, stronger schools, and a public safety net.
Fernando Torrez (R) - Expanding the commercial tax base to slow property tax increase and fix city infrastructure.
Monique Miles (R) - Increase Small business tax base. Build better schools. Better housing affordability.
Bob Wood (R) - Experience in Waterfront development and diversity of opinion on City Council.
Phil Cefaratti (I) - Refocusing school funding priorities towards teachers and students rather than large projects.
Tim Lovain (D) - Continue work on public school system. Development of Potomac Yard and Eisenhower Valley.
Paul Smedberg (D) - Maintaining fiscal soundness, pedestrian and bike safety, affordable housing, and government efficiency.
Del Pepper (D) - Experience on City Council, improving schools.
John Chapman (D) - Improving schools as an educator.
Justin Wilson (D) - Improving schools with a focus on pre-k education, diversifying economy beyond government contracting.
Future of Alexandria’s Economic Development
Van Fleet - Priority on reducing city’s debt levels and long-term focus on bringing in larger companies.
Bailey - Offer tax break on start-up businesses moving to Alexandria.
Torrez - Refine existing long application process for small businesses.
Miles - Refine existing long application process for small businesses.
Wood - Reduce bureaucracy and “red tape” surrounding small business development.
Cefaratti - Reduce hiring of outside consultants, work with local consulting firms or provide credits to local schools for student consulting.
Lovain - Acknowledge and work around reductions in office-filling jobs.
Smedberg - Build on the momentum of the NSF and TSA move to Alexandria.
Pepper - Minimize city expenses while growing commercial base.
Chapman - Nurture business development.
Wilson - Diversify economy to benefit residential tax base.
Van Fleet - Schools and City Council need greater communication and cooperation on budget issues.
Bailey - Ask developers in Alexandria to contribute to school coffers. Raise taxes if required
Torrez - Increasing business revenue to finance teacher salary increases
Miles - Reduce City Debt service and use saved financing to fund Alexandria schools.
Wood - Five-year plan between City Council and School Board is good first step towards harmonizing financial processes.
Cefaratti - Need to focus on renovation of schools rather than building or rebuilding new ones.
Lovain - In the 20th century, Alexandria didn’t build enough schools, which leaves no choice but current school construction.
Smedberg - Continue collaboration between School Board and City Council, as well as city and school staff.
Pepper - Emphasize reducing classroom sizes with increased school construction.
Chapman - Explore vertical school options similar to recent developments in Fairfax where schools adapted from former office space.Increased public-private partnerships on school projects.
Wilson - Dealing with capacity is priority. “We can’t redistrict our way out of this.” Increasing student populations is beginning to rise out of elementary into middle and high school levels.
Van Fleet - Affordable housing programs are necessary to maintain Alexandria’s vital services and industries.
Bailey - “We’re losing affordable housing every year, Alexandria should not just be a city for the wealthy.”
Torrez - Work with developers towards greater numbers of affordable housing units in new residential developments.
Miles - Open dialogues with developers to pay beyond minimal levels of contribution to Affordable Housing fund.
Wood - Establish stronger goals for preservation. Ensure those goals are understood and honor successes.
Cefaratti - Need to leverage developers with tax breaks to businesses that hire from local subsidized housing units.
Lovain - Emphasize micro-unit development near metro stations as an affordable and creative solution.
Smedberg - Collaborations like the arrangement with the St. James Church for land needed for affordable units. Increase in micro-units for cost and space efficiency.
Pepper - New methods, like affordable units over the fire station at Potomac Yards, is the future of affordable housing development.
Chapman - Support and expand resources like the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Focus on affordable housing as part of West End development.
Wilson - The city needs to utilize zoning authority to stem loss of affordable housing, noting the recent Beauregard Plan as a precedent for zoning creating more affordable housing options.
Van Fleet - The Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. We are a Dillon rule state and cannot change that.
Bailey - $7.25 per hour is ridiculous. Despite Dillon rule, Alexandria needs to make sure businesses in the city understand that the city won’t tolerate this.
Torrez - Raising the minimum wage hurts small businesses.
Miles - Dillon rule prohibits Alexandria from making any rule regarding minimum wage.
Wood - The sentiment is right, but Alexandria doesn’t have the authority. Best alternative is promoting good business development.
Cefaratti - High unemployment is the source of the trouble. Alexandria needs tax breaks for businesses that hire Alexandria’s unemployed.
Lovain - Alexandria is bound by the Dillon Rule.
Smedberg - City doesn’t have control to set minimum wage as per Dillon Rule.
Pepper - There were concerns about the impact on businesses when Alexandria implemented the “living wage,” but there were no negative effects.
Chapman - If Alexandria doesn’t have the authority, it needs to continue fighting for more local authority.
Wilson - Dillon Rule keeps Alexandria from establishing minimum wage, but the city can have a wage requirements for contractors and has an established local “living wage.”
Who the candidate is most excited to serve on City Council with:
Van Fleet - Most excited to work with other Republican candidates.
Bailey - Most excited to work with other members of the Democratic ticket.
Torrez - Excited to work alongside Chapman and Wilson.
Miles - Most excited to work with Smedberg, “I like a lot of his ideas.”
Wood - Most excited to end exclusive “club” mentality of City Council.
Cefaratti - Primarily focused on ending partisan atmosphere.
Lovain - Looking forward to working with all Democratic candidates.
Smedberg - Most excited to work with Chapman and, as members of the public, has learned a lot from Wood and Van Fleet.
Pepper - Most excited to work with other Democratic candidates.
Chapman - Enjoys sparring with Smedberg because of different perspectives.
Wilson - Looking forward to having Bailey on the Democratic ticket.