A group of city residents are asking that City Council members and candidates pledge themselves to a document they are calling the Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights.
Rachel Sheedy and Stafford Ward are spokespeople for the group For Better Alexandria Government, although they declined to answer many of ALXnow’s questions, including who drafted the document and what a rejection of the document means. Their group launched its website tracking candidates who pledge themselves to it on May 1.
The document asks that City Council members focus on ethics by disclose campaign donations, recuse themselves from legislation that have potential conflicts of interest, make public all government communication, ensure that city staff respond to constituent complaints within 48 hours and “Strictly adhere to Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution of Virginia to recognize that constituents are the source of their elected power.”
“The goal of For Better Alexandria Government is simple — our group represents City of Alexandria constituents who strongly believe that ethics, transparency and accountability need to be a part of the election discussion,” Sheedy and Ward said in a joint statement. “Whether running for reelection, or running for the first time, candidates should be questioned as to how they will incorporate these values if they are elected to serve the City’s constituents.”
Ward is a member of the Citizens Association of the Southwest Quadrant group, which is against the city’s development of the Heritage affordable apartment project in Old Town. He and Sheedy would also not comment on the CASWQ or its potential connection to the document.
Mayor Justin Wilson said he will not sign it.
“I don’t sign pledges,” Wilson told ALXnow. “I take an oath to uphold the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions.”
City Councilwoman Amy Jackson, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and Councilman Canek Aguirre also did not sign the pledge, and neither did candidates Bill Campbell, Alyia Gaskins, Kirk McPike, Patrick Moran, Meronne Teklu, Kevin Harris and Sarah Bagley.
Moran told Ward that he appreciated his “initiative and leadership” in crafting the document, but asked that it include language to make City Council full time.
“We have full-time expectations of our leaders and this Bill reflects this,” Moran wrote on the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook page. “If we can flush this out to bring professional expectations with professional pay, remove mailing notices and add conditions around the 48 hr response time that accounts for weekends, vacancies, etc, I’d support it.”
Jackson said that she declined because she signed the City’s Ethics Pledge with the mayor and her Council colleagues after being elected.
Those who signed it are Democratic mayoral candidate former Mayor Allison Silberberg, Republican mayoral candidate Annetta Catchings, Democratic Council candidates Bill Rossello, Mark Shiffer, James Lewis and Independent candidate Florence King.
“I believe in full disclosure and transparency,” King wrote on the Facebook page. “Our citizens have every right to know before the fact not afterwards.”
The entire document is presented below the jump.
As City of Alexandria constituents, we have a right to representation by City Council members who:
- Publicly disclose any and all campaign donations, or in-kind contributions, from land-use developers, or from their legal representatives consistent with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Act of 2006.
- Enforce that City Council and City Board and Commission members disclose and recuse themselves from any conflicts of interest with any individual or organization bringing business that results in financial gain before the City of Alexandria, in accordance with the Commonwealth of Virginia’s State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act of 2005.
- Weigh constituent interests and concerns when the City has a proposal, or when any individual or organization is bringing business that results in financial gain before the City Council, City Staff, and City Board and Commission members.
- Enforce the publishing of all government communications in plain language where communications are clear, concise, organized, and accessible to constituents.
- Enforce the issuance of regular and timely communication of any changes in City government activities through direct mail, and through print and electronic media.
- Ensure that constituents are treated respectfully by any application and their representatives conducting business with the City of Alexandria.
- Ensure that City staff respond to constituent inquiries within 48 hours confirming that constituent voices and concerns are acknowledged regarding the City of Alexandria’s activities.
- Regularly seek input from constituents on City of Alexandria’s activities, and to provide timely communication and updates to all City of Alexandria neighborhoods.
- Ensure that City Council decisions protect the vibrant, historic City of Alexandria and create an economically and environmentally stable future.
- Strictly adhere to Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution of Virginia to recognize that constituents are the source of their elected power.