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Transportation is biggest threat to Potomac Yard arena deal, says City Councilman Canek Aguirre as he seeks reelection

ALXnow will be running a series of City Council candidate interviews through the local election filing deadline on April 4.

(Updated 2/15) After the tumult of the pandemic, Alexandria City Councilman Canek Aguirre thought this term would be a breeze.

Turns out it’s been anything but, with the city’s controversial upending of its residential zoning policies and welcoming of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals to Potomac Yard.

Now running for a third three-year term, Aguirre is touting a number of successes and says that the $2 billion Potomac Yard arena deal is “fragile,” but that it’s a net positive for the city.

“We can’t be stuck holding a bag with a bunch of debt,” Aguirre said. “I think that’s there’s still some questions around that. I just want to say this deal is very fragile. There’s a lot of different pitfalls.”

Aguirre wants more city representation on the Virginia Stadium Authority board, which would own and finance the arena. He also says that new taxes created for and generated from the site will potentially help pay for city services and keep residential property rates steady.

Transportation is the biggest portion of this that can completely fold the entire deal,”  Aguirre told ALXnow. “Not just funding but also making sure that we’re thinking outside the box to make adjustments to different modes across the region and across the area, because this isn’t just affecting Alexandria, it’s also Arlington and south Fairfax County. And honestly, because this potentially draws people from the entire region, how do we put protections in place for the community, for Del Ray and Arlandria, not just for parking, but also for housing.”

Like his colleagues, Aguirre was sworn in virtually after winning his second election in 2021. Now with nearly two terms under his belt, he is among the more senior members of Council, along with John Taylor Chapman (four terms), Vice Mayor Amy Jackson (two terms) and outgoing Mayor Justin Wilson (five terms).

“I was joking with Chapman and Wilson shortly after the 2021 election that this term was going to be easy,” Aguirre told ALXnow. “During the pandemic I didn’t take a day off for like a year-and-a-half, practically.”

Aguirre says that the city’s ARISE Guaranteed Income Pilot is his proudest achievement, providing $500 a month to 170 randomly selected participants for two years. He also said that the next mayor needs to be a communicator who can run a tight meeting.

“Definitely need a good communicator, someone who is collaborator, someone who’s willing to bring people together, who’s going to listen to everybody, try and bring all the ideas to the table,” said Aguirre, adding that he has not decided on whether to make an endorsement. “Personally, this is just my own thing, I like someone who knows how to run a tight meeting. You don’t want to be keeping people forever at meetings, and so being able to have a good meeting is as important to me as well.”

Aguirre announced that he’s running for reelection to the Alexandria Democratic Committee on Feb. 5.

“We’ve made some great strides together to meet collective bargaining agreements, Landmark Mall finally coming back to life, the first fare-free bus system in the region, and, oh, by the way, the largest electric bus fleet in the Commonwealth,” Aguirre told the ADC. “We opened a new metro station, we fully funded our schools and… all the while we still had time to do a guaranteed basic income pilot here in the city.”

He continued, “I don’t want to stop now. I want to keep on going. I want to keep on fighting for all you keep on fighting for our democratic values. So I’m humbly asking your support. I’m humbly asking for your vote.”

A first generation son of Mexican immigrants, Aguirre was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Latino studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For the last eight years has been chair of the Virginia Board of Social Work, and through City Council is the i

Aguirre is also the lone Latino running in this year’s June 18 Democratic primary, and says he’s looking out for the interests of the city’s fastest growing demographic. There are nearly 30,000 Latino residents in the city today (about 18% of all residents), about triple the number in 1990, according to the city.

“Even though I represent Alexandria, there’s a larger burden, if you will, representing for the region in the state, a growing demographic,” Aguirre said. “That’s not lost on me.”

Aguirre said in his next term he wants DASH bus service to continue to be free for riders, and for it to expand into Arlandria.

“That’s very important to me,” Aguirre said. “A huge pet peeve of mine is that the bus doesn’t go all the way down Mount Vernon Avenue. It basically stops at E. Reed Avenue and then doesn’t service the rest of Arlandria.”

Alexandria has also experienced a crime surge since the pandemic, and Aguirre said that the city’s search for a new police chief will help reduce crime.

“With the Chief retiring, we’re gonna have an opportunity to try and find somebody new and I think that’ll definitely be not just a priority, but something that’s drilled home with the next person in charge,” Aguirre said.

Aguirre’s campaign kickoff will be held at El Cuscatleco Restaurant (3819 Mount Vernon Avenue) on Feb. 17 from 1 to 3 p.m. Alexandria’s Democratic primary is on June 18.

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