Abdel Elnoubi says his Alexandria City Council campaign is a ‘tale of two cities’

Alexandria City Council candidate Abdel Elnoubi has been making legislative waves recently as a member of the School Board, and says residents should expect the same kind of results if he gets elected.

Elnoubi is one of 11 Democrats running to fill six seats on City Council, including four incumbent Council members running for reelection in the Democratic primary on June 18. The field also includes Jacinta Greene, a fellow School Board Member.

Elnoubi is a freshman politician sworn in virtually during the pandemic in 2021. The last several years meant contending with staffing shortages, learning loss, school safety and budgeting issues. He says that alleviating staffing woes is an important solution for the school system, and consequently added a $4.2 million bonus in the ACPS budget request to the City Council for staff who were excluded from step increases in fiscal year 2021.

That move, and other additions by the School Board, will likely result in a residential tax increase during an election year.

“It’s your decision to decide whether you want to raise taxes or not,” Elnoubi told City Council last month. “If you do that, if you decide to raise taxes, I’m 100% with you.”

Elnoubi, an engineering project manager for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, also made big changes to the ACPS collective bargaining resolution. Most notably, he gained support to eliminate a voting threshold for ACPS staff to establish unions to begin the bargaining process with the school system.

“We just can’t pay our teachers enough, so it’s personal for me,” Elnoubi said. “In my early days at Metro, I was a young engineer making $66,000. I could hardly afford to live in Alexandria. My family was growing. We (at WMATA) got a raise because the union had a new agreement… Not just that, they got us back pay, and that made a significant change in my life. It made me feel more financially secure. Now all of a sudden I have extra money for savings, I’m making a little bit more money with this newborn that I just had. So, I saw firsthand the impact of being part of a union and having a collective bargaining agreement.”

Elnoubi lives in the Landmark area with his wife and two children.

Early on in his School Board tenure, Elnoubi said he wouldn’t be a “rubber stamp” for former ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr., and frequently went against established Board practices by speaking with the press.

“I believe in transparency, and I made it a point to be accessible to the press,” he said. “Because I came to this country for Democracy, for opportunity, for the things that make this country great, that we can hold government accountable.”

Born in Chicago, Elnoubi lived in Falls Church until he was eight years old, and then moved with his family to Alexandria, Egypt. He says his return to America and political aspirations in Alexandria, Virginia, makes for a literal “Tale Of Two Cities,” where quality of life issues stand in stark contrast.

“The police there (in Egypt) don’t work for the people,” Elnoubi said. “They’re an instrument of the regime to crush dissent… Education is totally underfunded, especially public schools. Teachers are paid very badly and can’t afford basic life necessities.”

At 21, Elnoubi returned to the U.S. after three years of college in Egypt and transferred to the City College of New York, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in mechanical engineering. He later earned a Master’s in engineering management from George Washington University, and moved to the city in 2012. Prior to his election in 2021, he was also the president of the PTA at Samuel W. Tucker Elementary School and was a member of the city’s Community Criminal Justice Board and the Building Code Board of Appeals.

Elnoubi is Muslim and says he was inspired to run for office after former President Donald Trump was elected and signed an executive order initiating a travel ban to seven Muslim countries.

“My kids know no other country but the U.S., and I didn’t want them growing up in their own country feeling they do not belong or were being discriminated against,” Elnoubi said. “I started talking to people, and they advised me to join the Democratic Committee, to become a grassroots activist, to get involved more than I was. I did.”

He continued, “We can’t take this Democracy for granted. I’ve seen what happens when you don’t have Democracy. Corruption, bad quality of life, you can’t hold government accountable, you’re risking your life just by speaking up. And now I’m like, oh my God, could that happen here? And guess what? We found the answer four years later. It almost happened. You almost had a coup four years later.”

Elnoubi says that he’s a goal-oriented engineer, setting achievable benchmarks and closely measuring progress with data. He said that the failed Potomac Yard arena deal lacked safeguards to shield Alexandria residents from hundreds of millions of dollars in financial liabilities “in the event of unrealized projections.”

“The deal neglected the needs of our commuters posing adverse implications through the anticipated surge in traffic, compounded by insufficient state funding allocated for essential public transportation enhancements aimed at mitigating such concerns,” Elnoubi said. “The deal’s environment details were lacking. The deal failed to prioritize the welfare of our workforce with lack of sufficient labor protections and commitments to uphold union standards.”

On affordable housing, he said that he will use “zoning and permitting regulations, tax incentives, and partnerships” to allow residents of all income levels to live in the city.

Elnoubi admits that he’s got his work cut out for him in this primary election. He also says that his experience on the Board sets him apart.

“I’ve seen how hard the work is, how much effort and dedication it takes,” he said. “I love to roll up my sleeves and get involved.”