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The devil’s in the details of the Potomac Yard arena, says City Councilman Kirk McPike in run-up to primary

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

Kirk McPike jokes that he no longer has a work-life balance, he has a work-Council balance.

McPike, by day the chief of staff to California Democratic Congressman Mark Takano, says he’s seeking a second three-year term on Alexandria’s seven-seat City Council to help steer the city through issues like the $2 billion Potomac Yard arena deal, implementation of zoning for housing legislation, and development in the West End.

He says that the financial picture is positive for the Monumental Sports arena and entertainment district in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood, but that the journey to its development is rocky. He said that the city will need to work through the transportation impacts, as well as housing affordability in Potomac Yard.

“We need to see those elements related to transportation in particular, and really shake them down and check them out before we can say that this is something to move forward on,” McPike said. “We got to really dig into it and see if we can possibly make it work.”

Like his Council colleagues, McPike wants more city representation on the Virginia Stadium Authority board, which would own and finance the arena. A House version of the bill to create the board was approved earlier this month, but the Senate version of the bill is currently stalled.

“We can come to a deal that benefits the city financially and the Commonwealth financially,” McPike said. “One that has manageable impacts on some of the quality of life concerns that we have with any large development.”

Zoning for housing, which ended single-family housing zoning, was arguably the most controversial issue that Council tackled last year. That is, until the arena deal was unveiled in December.

“I would love to continue serving the second term to take on the implementation of zoning for housing, to make sure that those first projects get done correctly,” he said. “And if the Potomac Yard arena goes forward, there’s gonna be a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure that everything is done correctly.”

A native of Dallas, Texas, McPike received a political science degree from Southern Methodist University, and last year began part-time Masters studies in political science at George Mason University. He moved to the area to manage the successful campaign of State Sen. Adam Ebbin in 2011.

On crime, McPike said that he wished former Police Chief Don Hayes had addressed the Council when police provided an update on a crime surge. Now with Hayes retired, the city is undergoing a national search for his replacement,

“I think the police department both has its eye on the ball and has a lot of work to do,” McPike said. “Frankly, I do not think that the one we received last spring was appropriately handled.”

Council receives two briefings from police every year on crime, and will get briefed again this spring.

McPike said that the city needs to improve its communication efforts to non-English speaking residents. He said that hundreds of residents spoke at City Council’s two public hearings on the subject, but that none of the translators the city provided were needed.

“We didn’t need them once, because nobody from those communities showed up to speak,” McPike said. “Obviously, we’re not connecting with some of our particularly non-English speaking, new arrival communities to the degree that we should be, and that’s a failure for the city, because these are some of the people who use our city services the most, who may need city services they’re not receiving because they don’t know about them, and who are trying in many cases to solidify their foothold in our country and find a place to build their lives.”

McPike and his husband Cantor Jason Kaufman live in the Seminary Hill neighborhood with their beagle, Punky.

“Before I was elected, I had work-life balance,” McPike said. “Now I have work-Council balance. My husband has been incredibly generous with our time together, allowing me to spend a lot of evenings and hours on the weekends, doing council work, meeting with residents, attending the various boards and commissions that I’m appointed to. But we still carve out time, and Jason and I have dinner together basically every Friday night.”

McPike is also an avid Star Trek fan, and that like the fictional heroes of that universe, he says that he rejects cynicism.

“I would love it if I could be in any way shape or form compared to Captain Picard,” McPike said. “I don’t take as many risks as Captain Kirk, despite my name, and less likely to punch an omniscient being in the face as Captain Sisko.”

McPike continued, “I try to reject cynicism, which I think is very Star Trek. My general philosophy when people come to come to my office with a problem is that I want to get to yes. I try to empower the people and trust the people that I work with, and I try to be supportive of that.”

The Democratic primary is on June 18.

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