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Anti-arena candidate Jonathan Huskey enters race for Alexandria City Council

Alexandria City Council candidate Jonathan Huskey of Del Ray (courtesy photo)

Jonathan Huskey’s campaign to be a member of Alexandria’s City Council is centered around his opposition to the Potomac Yard arena development.

Huskey says that the city government failed residents with last December’s surprise announcement that Monumental Sports & Entertainment reached a deal with Governor Glenn Youngkin to move the home of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals from D.C. to Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood.

“Certainly the governor is the main backer of this idea, but our Council and our mayor deserve to be in the storyline here,” Huskey said. “They are major players in the way that this has gone down, and in the way that there has been a lack of transparency.”

The $2 billion arena is currently at an impasse within the Virginia General Assembly, where Senate Democrats led by Sen. Louise Lucas (D-18) refused to include it in the state budget. Local legislators contend that Youngkin hasn’t negotiated with Democrats on the issue, and Huskey says the deal highlights a lack of transparency and accountability in the deal-making process.

“I’m stepping up to say we’ve got to have this debate in public,” Huskey said. “We’ve got to talk about it.”

Huskey says that the city did not adequately prepare, consult or provide residents with rationale for the project.

“That has really soured this in the eyes of our city, the legislature, the region,” he said. “So, I’m running because this cannot happen again, and we can’t be divided by a Council cutting deals with billionaires before they talk to their own constituents or the people who live within eyeshot of this thing.”

Huskey is the communications director at the State Revenue Alliance and lives with his wife and two children in Warwick Village, which is next door to Del Ray and near Potomac Yard. A native of Salina, Kansas, he has a degree in political science and government from the University of Kansas and has lived in Alexandria for 12 years.

“I know I’ve got a lot to learn about some of the various city departments, but I am certainly not a novice,” he said. “I am a policy professional. I know local and state government, how it works, and how to get things done. I think I’ll be ready to govern on day one and I’m going to embark on a lot of meetings with the police department and parks department and city boards to get an understanding where they’re coming from so I’ll be knowledgeable come the start of my tenure on council.”

He’s also never served on a city board or commission, and says he never found issue with City Council’s handling of large development deals until the arena plan surfaced. Since then he’s been a vocal member of the Coalition to Stop the Potomac Yard Arena.

“I have generally been supportive of this council and mayor’s decisions on development,” Huskey said. “I’ve not been an activist around any of the other debates that have happened around development, but this one is different for me.”

Huskey said that he started to consider a Council run last month when there were not more anti-arena candidates on the ballot. Currently, Charlotte Scherer is only other vocal anti-arena candidate running for Council, as are mayoral candidates Vice Mayor Amy Jackson and Steven Peterson.

“It’s not personal,” Huskey said. “I’m not upset at anybody in any personal way, but I do think this was a big boo-boo by the City Council and that it does show that there is some change that needs to happen at City Hall.”

Huskey is in favor of creating a ward system for City Council, and says that the city should get independent studies on major development proposals. By the end of his term, if elected, he says that Council should lobby Richmond for a more “progressive” tax structure that provides more revenue for schools.

“I can be part of the solution where we can actually fund the things that we need without deals like the Potomac Yard arena,” Huskey said.

Huskey also questions revenue projections for the project, and says that Youngkin made the deal because of the fiscal cliff the state faces with federal Covid relief funds drying up next year. He said that City Council made a choice to latch onto the project to solve its financial woes.

“They made a choice to latch onto this project built by a Republican governor and a billionaire who wants to move a team four miles for what?” Huskey said, adding that Monumental owner Ted Leonsis had an opportunity to get a “mini city” built by taxpayers. “Nobody asked for it.”

Huskey continued, “I fundamentally also think that is morally wrong, that they would even entertain such a thing. It is unjust to seek billions in public financing for a billionaire who has access to all of the money that would be needed to build that stadium and the facilities around it. He can pay for this thing if he felt like he needed to. And that has never been properly vetted through this council and it should have been.”

Huskey does not have a campaign manager, and said that he will likely take vacation from his job to run for Council.

“I plan to hit the ground running,” he said. “I have a plan to do that. I’m going to run a credible, hard campaign and hopefully we’ll see on June 18 that I get enough votes to be in the top six.”

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