(Updated 5 p.m.) Statements on the Seminary Road Diet and government transparency were the highlights of Thursday night’s Seminary Ridge Civic Association candidate forum.
Thursday night’s forum (the second of three events) included City Councilman John Taylor Chapman, former School Board Member Bill Campbell, Meronne Teklu, Republican candidate Darryl Nirenberg and Bill Rossello.
The group was first questioned on the role of civic associations in policymaking discussions, since 13 civic associations were opposed to the road diet, which was approved in a 4-3 Council vote in 2019.
Chapman voted against the road diet, and previously said he would vote to reverse it.
“I was one that voted against the Seminary Road diet, and voted against it because I did not feel comfortable with that project,” Chapman said. “I am truly committed to having our civic associations involved. They need to be involved in the policymaking. We need to honestly find a way to not only to get the Federation of Civic Associations, but also a gathering of apartment owners who live here in the city, talking to council, hearing from council members, having us listen to them in order to bring good policy forward.”
Rossello, an early member of the controversial Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook group, said that he has been a leading voice against the road diet.
“We need to maintain road capacity on the major arterial roads,” Rossello said. “We need to restore integrity, transparency and accountability at City Hall, making residents and neighborhoods, the central focus of our government once again.”
The meeting was also one of the first appearances for Nirenberg, who said he would vote to reverse the road diet. He also said that Alexandria City Public Schools should not colocate affordable housing on school grounds, and that the city should return to a ward system and take “a breather on density until the school infrastructure can handle a growing school population.
“I oppose road diets,” Nirenberg said. “I want to see Seminary Road restored. Traffic is bad enough, in our city. The city government should be focused on alleviating traffic, not making it worse.”
Nirenberg continued, “The thing is the issues before our council are not partisan. They’re common sense. So if elected, I will bring a different perspective to the council, and from the outset, I’ll propose stopping all efforts to put adult housing on school grounds, destroying four lanes to seminary road, and ending the road diet, taking a breather on more density until we have a plan as to how we can have our infrastructure in schools while gaining in population, and starting a discussion about returning to wards or districts.”
The first forum was held on Tuesday, and featured City Councilman Canek Aguirre, Alyia Gaskins, Kirk McPike, Patrick Moran and Sarah Bagley. The third and final Council candidate forum will air at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 24, and feature City Councilwoman Amy Jackson, Kevin Harris, James Lewis, Mark Shiffer and independent candidate Florence King.
The mayoral forum between Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 27.