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The June 8 Democratic primary is next Tuesday, and the latest fundraising totals show that Mayor Justin Wilson has still outraised his opponent, former Mayor Allison Silberberg.

Kirk McPike is also continuing to lead financially among City Council candidates.

Below are fundraising totals for the Democratic candidates from the Virginia Public Access Project, as of June 1, 2021.

Mayoral race

Mayor Justin Wilson

  • Raised — $169,257
  • Balance — $30,583

Former Mayor Allison Silberberg

  • Raised — $126,688
  • Balance — $55,477

Council race

Kirk McPike

  • Raised — $87,853
  • Balance — $15,951

Alyia Gaskins

  • Raised — $77,667
  • Balance — $9,153

John Taylor Chapman 

  • Raised — $74,957
  • Balance — $58,282

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On January 6, Alexandria City Council candidate Kirk McPike was sheltering in place at the U.S. Capitol with his boss, Democratic Congressman Mark Takano.

The world watched as American politics reached a boiling point, and McPike says that the experience was heartbreaking. As Takano’s chief of staff, McPike directed that all staff stay home that day. He and Takano were eventually evacuated to the Longworth House Office Building, where they rode out the proverbial storm.

“It was just Congressman Takano and me in the Cannon House Office Building office,” McPike told ALXnow. “It was heartbreaking to see the the House to be defiled like that, to see the Senate chamber stormed into, and to watch how low it allowed our politics to be pulled in this country is definitely something that never should have happened.”

McPike says he learned a valuable lesson that day in communication. He’d already announced his intention to run for City Council in the June 8 Democratic primary, and says that if elected will hold continual town halls throughout the city to gauge resident input.

“I feel like we have a city full of good people who really do want to do the right thing on the issues that are impacting us,” McPike said. “You know, a lot of the questions we face don’t have just one answer, which makes it complicated and means that we can’t do what we failed to do at the national level, which is really communicate with each other and really understand where each other are coming from.”

McPike, who is leading in fundraising among Council candidates, has been a member of the city’s Budget and Financial Affairs Advisory Committee since 2017, and is the former chair of the Alexandria Economic Opportunities Commission. He says that 2020 was like a gut punch to the City budget.

“We started the year with a great deal of enthusiasm, because the budget was looking good,” he said. “It was like we’d finally escaped the shadow of the Great Recession in terms of city finances. And then the pandemic hit and it was like a punch to the gut, to our people who work here in Alexandria suddenly losing their jobs or having their hours cut, to people who own businesses here suddenly having to serve people out on the sidewalk.”

McPike has said on the campaign trail that he would not vote to undo the Seminary Road Diet. Still, the road diet wasn’t perfect, he said.

“This is one of those issues that highlights the stresses we have in our city where people too often feel talked at and not listened to,” he said. “I feel like we need more communication. We need greater transparency in our government. We need to lower the temperature and have productive conversations where we accept that people are going to disagree on some of the issues, but we also accept that everybody’s coming into the conversation in good faith manner.”

On his leaderhsip style, McPike said he helps people bring their dreams to reality.

“In the Congressman’s office, we empower people not only to do their jobs, but also to give direct feedback to their thoughts to the Congressman or myself,” he said. “When people bring me an idea, I help them bring it fully into reality. And I try to give them the support and trust that they need to achieve the goals set out for them, and so far that I feel like has worked very well for me and for my office on Capitol Hill.”

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 has also been a member of the Alexandria Democratic Committee for 10 years, ever since moving to the area to manage the successful campaign of State Sen. Adam Ebbin in 2011. Before that, McPike’s credits include stints as chief of staff to members of the Texas legislature, the Dallas County Democratic party’s field director, and vice president of the Dallas County Young Democrats.

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

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The June 8 Democratic primary is only 49 days away, and Mayor Justin Wilson has raised the most money of any candidate in the city. Kirk McPike is also leading among City Council candidates.

Below are fundraising totals from the Virginia Public Access Project, as of March 31, 2021.

Mayoral race

Mayor Justin Wilson

  • Raised — $104,920
  • Spent — $19,710
  • Balance — $92,060

Former Mayor Allison Silberberg

  • Raised — $65,748
  • Spent — $7,134
  • Balance — $58,815

Council race

Kirk McPike

  • Raised — $66,088
  • Spent — $21,038
  • Balance — $45,050

John Taylor Chapman 

  • Raised — $63,953
  • Spent — $13,762
  • Balance — $53,495

Alyia Gaskins

  • Raised — $47,012
  • Spent — $32,157
  • Balance — $14,855

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Heron, a proposed hotel development at 699 Prince Street, image via Monarch Urban

Alexandria’s City Council was overall supportive of an arrangement presented earlier this week to invest — sort of — in a new Old Town hotel.

A proposal backed by the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership would have the city help fill gap-funding for a hotel project at 699 Prince Street that fell through when the pandemic hit. Interior demolition was already underway when the pandemic made it impossible to secure financing on a new hospitality project, said AEDP President and CEO Stephanie Landrum in a presentation to the City Council on Tuesday.

Landrum said the city’s hospitality industry has plummeted over the last couple years and in some cases it’s more beneficial to convert those properties to residential, here Landrum said the city’s economy would benefit more from a luxury hotel.

“We’re seeing what we could classify as obsolete hotels, dated in terms of their age or their amenity base isn’t what travelers want today, or their location isn’t amenity approximate,” Landrum said. “We’ve decided as a city that [hotel conversion] is helping achieve priorities like housing availability, but we need a good mix of commercial projects in the city to balance the tax base. while we continue to improve or encourage hotel conversions in some places, have to encourage hotels to be built in viable locations.”

Landrum said a hotel at 699 Prince Street would generate 500% more revenue to the city than a residential project and require little social or infrastructure uses, with no burden placed on schools and little pressure on park use.

“The cost of people who reside in a hotel is much less than residents,” Landrum said.

The site was once the Hotel George Mason, built in the 1920s but was later converted to offices and served as headquarters for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Landrum said there financing structure being proposed limits the risk involved for the city. The city, through AEDP, would pay bond trustees out of a 1% cut of the sales and use tax generated by the hotel after the project is complete and begins to generate revenue. The project is estimated to generate roughly $2 million annually in revenue, which Landrum said was a “significant amount of money” for the city to come from one project.

“We are agreeing to support this project, but if this is unsuccessful that debt has no bearing on the city, it’s all on that project,” Landrum said.

But Landrum said while she expects AEDP will likely get “phone calls” from other potential hotel developments if the project is approved, Landrum warned that the circumstances around the city’s involvement with this project were relatively unique.

“This project unique in historic preservation, in size and scale,” Landrum said. “I don’t think a new hotel being built for long-term stay in the West End or to service the new Virginia Tech campus in Potomac Yard will have the same set of circumstances. The number one provision is that you have to prove you have a gap you can’t close.”

The City Council approved first reading of the proposal, which is scheduled for a public hearing at the Saturday, Jan. 22 City Council meeting.

The main concern expressed by the City Council was over the handling of labor on the project. City Council member Alyia Gaskins asked about creating project labor agreements and other progressive labor arrangements for the hotel development, but Landrum said the profit margin is already so slim it’s unlikely the project would be able to support that.

“This project came to us because of a gap in financing,” Landrum said. “A lot of the things you’re talking about unfortunately comes at an additional cost. We’ve talked a little about this… we understand how real and impactful those additions are. For a project of this scale to enact some of those things would make the project not feasible. [We’re] talking about a 20-25% increase in cost for some of the labor concessions.”

The project presentation boasted that the project would bring in 19 full-time jobs and 90 part-time jobs, but City Council members expressed uncertainty at whether those employees would be paid a wage that would allow them to live in Alexandria.

“I really like the model for this, where what we put into this is based on what we’re getting out of it in terms of revenue,” City Council member Kirk McPike said. “We’re not talking about a dime of city money going forward without coming to us from this project… [but] without paying levels where they could live in Alexandria, we’re not benefitting Alexandria workers.”

Staff agreed to come back at the Jan 22 public hearing with more information about wages for employees at the hotel.

“There are things that as good human beings, citizens, and representatives we want to do but we also need to get projects done for the greater good of the community and what is the cost-benefit of some of these decisions,” Landrum said. “We try to thread that needle right now when there isn’t a clear policy at the council level and brought forward a project we think is obviously a great community good.”

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After nearly two years under COVID-19, the new Alexandria City Council was sworn into office Monday night (Jan. 3).

Monday’s snow storm and rising COVID numbers made the ceremony a virtual event. The specter of COVID loomed large over the ceremony, too, as Mayor Justin Wilson took the oath from Spain, where he has been stuck since contracting the virus during a holiday trip with his family.

“Alexandria needs to be a city that does big things,” Wilson said. “But it also needs to be a city that does less things, and does them better.”

It’s Wilson’s second term as mayor. Married with two children, he was elected in a special election to Council in 2007 after the resignation of then-Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald. He lost reelection to Council in 2009, was elected in 2012 and was elected as Vice Mayor in 2015. For his day job, he is a senior manager for Amtrak.

The new Council will have to mull a tax increase, as City services will be strained by COVID for years, and the police and fire departments have long decried low pay, morale and high turnover.

“If there is anyone that expects that we can simply layer this collection of new services on top of what we have always done, and expect it neither to cost us dramatically more nor impact our ability to execute, the dose of the reality that is coming is going to be especially harsh,” Wilson said. “We have seen in recent days and weeks our basic services strained, challenged, compromised. This Council must do the hard work of determining not just what we can fit into one annual budget, or even a multi-year capital plan. This is broader than that. If we are facing a once in a generation reconciliation of the role, scope and function of local government, this Council must bravely take on that mission to figure out what we don’t do in the future and who’s gonna do it, and what we should keep doing… and how we do it better than anyone else.”

Council unanimously elected Councilwoman Amy Jackson as vice mayor, since she received the most votes among council candidates in the November election.

“We’re going to continue with our COVID-19 recovery,” Jackson said. “I know Alexandria is resilient, I know our children, our Alexandria Health director, along with our city manager, all of my colleagues and our city staff are working to help everyone get on the same page concerning our vaccinations and getting tests, and all of that will help us be a better Alexandria on the other side of this, a healthier Alexandria.”

Also sworn in were incumbents John Taylor Chapman and Canek Aguirre, as well as newcomers Sarah BagleyAlyia Gaskins and Kirk McPike.

“I thank you and I hope to continue to respectfully engage with you as we go through these next three years,” Chapman said. “Seeing so many of you sacrifice for the city, sacrifice time away from your families, be worried about your health status — all of that is not unseen by members on this council, and not unseen by me.”

McPike said that many challenges lie ahead.

“We can build an Alexandria where every young person has an effective and safe place to learn, where we can address our housing challenges while still preserving our green spaces; where we can help our local businesses thrive while ensuring that our workers and the unions that represent them have a seat at the table,” he said. “If we do our jobs well Alexandria It can be a light that shows the way to better future for our region and our Commonwealth. That work will not be easy. It will take patience and compromise.”

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Due to Monday’s snowstorm and rising COVID infections, the induction ceremony for new members of the Alexandria City Council has shifted to a virtual-only format. The School Board’s induction ceremony has been moved to a larger building for distancing.

Mayor Justin Wilson, who is stuck in Spain after contracting COVID, will be sworn in with City Council at 6 p.m. on Zoom. Councilman-elect Kirk McPike also recently tested positive for COVID and is isolating at home.

The new Council will be made up of Wilson, McPike, Sarah Bagley, Alyia Gaskins, and incumbents Amy Jackson, John Taylor Chapman and Canek Aguirre. Council is then expected to elect Jackson as vice mayor, since she received the most votes among council candidates in the November election.

A recording of the installation will also be available on Tuesday (Jan. 4) and on Cable Channel 70/1084.

Additionally, newly elected Sheriff Sean Casey was officially sworn in last week, and his new portrait and biography have been uploaded to the Sheriff’s Office website.

School Board installation

(Left to right) Blaine Jackson, Alexandria Vice Mayor-elect Amy Jackson, School Board Member Michelle Rief and Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. at the 50th annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Old Town, Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

The Alexandria School Board’s induction ceremony will be virtual-only at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday (Jan. 4).

According to Alexandria City Public Schools:

The Alexandria City School Board Induction Ceremony and Organizational Meeting on Tues., Jan. 4, 2022, has been moved to the School Board Meeting Room located at 1340 Braddock Place, at 6:30 p.m., in order to limit the number of people in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) buildings. We will follow the current COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place in the School Board Meeting Room which include occupancy limits.

The ceremony can be seen on Zoom, and will be available on the Alexandria City Public Schools website.

The new Board will be made up of Chair Meagan Alderton, Tammy S. Ignacio, Chris Harris, Abdel-Rahman Elnoubi, Willie F. Bailey, Ashley Simpson Baird, Kelly Carmichael Booz and incumbents Jacinta Greene and Michelle Rief.

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(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) Three outgoing members of the Alexandria City Council were honored by their colleagues for their service at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Alexandria Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Councilwoman Del Pepper and Councilman Mo Seifeldein were presented with proclamations thanking them for their service by Mayor Justin Wilson on Tuesday night.

“We are going to be saying goodbye to three members who sit on this dais tonight,” Wilson said. “This is kind of a bittersweet night for us at the City Council, because this is our last legislative meeting of the year, and the last legislative meeting of this Council term.”

Bennett-Parker and Seifeldein were both elected in 2018. Bennett-Parker was elected to the 45th District in the Virginia House of Delegates in November.

“I hope to have an advocate in Richmond that understands us understands, what we go through,” City Councilman John Taylor Chapman told Bennett-Parker. “And I’m super excited to have you in that position and can’t wait to drive down to Richmond, knock on your door and bug you for all kinds of little things.”

Bennett-Parker, the youngest woman elected to Council in the city’s history, is the co-director of both Together We Bake and Fruit Cycle.

I’m delighted to have served these last three years with you, Elizabeth,” Pepper said.You’re a very special person. You were the youngest and I guess I was the oldest.”

Pepper was first elected to City Council in 1985, is retiring, and was honored for her years on Council in a presentation earlier this year. In a surprise announcement at the meeting, Council unanimously voted to name the city’s new Department of Community and Human Services building in her honor. The official name recommendations for the building will be presented to Council next year.

As Pepper approached Wilson to receive her proclamation, she joked to him, “It’s a pleasure to meet you. What did you say your name was again?”

Seifeldein chose not to run for reelection as an Independent, since he would have had to do so after being hired as an attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor during his term.

It’s been a great privilege to be able to work with my colleague, Councilman Seifeldein,” Councilman Canek Aguirre said. “I will miss his passion and I know that I always tell people, philosophically, (he) and I are most aligned here on this council and so you will be dearly missed, but I appreciate everything that you brought to the Council the last three years.”

On Jan. 3, The new Alexandria City Council will be sworn in, with City Councilwoman Amy Jackson as the new vice mayor, as well as Councilors-elect Aalyia Gaskins, Kirk McPike and Sarah Bagley.

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Morning Notes

Alexandria Democrats win, but party loses Governor’s race — “CBS News projected that Republican Glenn Youngkin had won Virginia, a state President Biden won by 10 points.” [CBS]

A rabid raccoon was on the loose at the Shirlington Dog Park — “There was a rabid raccoon on the loose in Arlington that came into contact with a number of dogs.” [ARLnow]

Annual Lion Fest returns to Lyles-Crouch, raises almost $50K for students and teachers — “On November 1, 2021, with a Monday morning sunrise in a playground full of streamers, the Lion Fest Fundraiser returned to Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy.”

American Horticultural Society names new executive director — “After a year that can only be described as tumultuous, the American Horticultural Society is looking for stability and a return to its roots with a new director.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

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(Updated 4:15 p.m. on Nov. 3) With 31 of 33 precincts reporting, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson won a victory over Republican opponent Annetta Catchings on Tuesday.

The general election win came months after Wilson defeated his political rival, former Mayor Allison Silberberg, in the June primary.

Wilson is married with two children and was elected in a special election to Council in 2007 after the resignation of then-Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald. He lost reelection in 2009, was reelected in 2012 and was elected vice mayor in 2015. For his day job, he is a senior manager at Amtrak.

“It’s a thrill to win reelection,” Wilson said. “It’s been a long couple of years, and divisive. We went straight from the pandemic to the election and didn’t really get out of the pandemic. Now we can turn the page. I’m really excited about this new Council. It’s full of people who want to move the city forward, and by all accounts, we’re anticipating difficult results at the state level.”

Catchings, who moved to the city last year, clashed with Wilson over issues like the city’s guaranteed basic income program and the community policing review board.

Catchings congratulated Wilson for his victory in a letter to her supporters Wednesday morning.

“In a heavy Democrat city with its own built-in machine, at least 31% of voters were asking for new leadership, a balanced government, and liked the message that I brought to the table,” Catchings wrote. “I began this race as a concerned parent and I will continue to be a voice, and an advocate for the people.”

City Council member Amy Jackson, leading the City Council race with 14.59% of the votes, is poised to become vice mayor. Jackson, a former teacher and school administrator who won election in 2018, push increased government transparency and economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic as centerpieces of her reelection bid.

“I listened to the community and I did my job,” Jackson said. “As long as the future Council listens to the community, we’ll be in good shape.”

The Next City Council

The other five slots on City Council were filled by Democrats Aalyia Gaskins, John Taylor Chapman, Kirk McPike, Sarah Bagley and Canek Aguirre.

Gaskins, McPike and Bagley are newcomers to the City Council. Councilwoman Del Pepper retired, Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker was elected to represent the 45th District in the Virginia House of Delegates and Councilman Mo Seifeldein left politics altogether.

“I am feeling proud of the campaign that we ran,” Bagley said. “I worked until the last minute. I am thrilled that I get this opportunity, to be quite honest. I live in a special place with a lot of talented people. And I’m honored and excited that I get to work for them.”

Turnout in the election was bolstered by the gubernatorial race between former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe and Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin. McAuliffe carried Alexandria but will likely lose the statewide election.

“We had a long campaign, and we were hoping for different results at the statewide level,” McPike said. “We have so many issues, like affordable housing and flooding that we have federal dollars for, but will affect the statewide dollars we get. Alexandria is a bastion of democracy, and we need to show that there is a way forward in a progressive manner, even if we didn’t show that in the statewide level today.”

The Republican victory in the governor’s race puts some of the city’s goals in jeopardy.

“On a lot of progressive issues that this community thinks is important, as evidenced by our election result, residents are going to look at local government to lead, because we’re not going to have a partner in the state in a lot of cases,” Wilson said. “The region is going to have to speak much more clearly about its progressive values.”

The candidates will be sworn into office in January.

James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this story.

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(Updated 9/30) Alexandria’s incumbents running for re-election managed to hold on through the Democratic primary, but they face Republican and Independent challengers in the upcoming November election.

The Seminary Ridge Civic Association recently announced that it will be hosting two election forums throughout October, one for the City Council candidates and one for Mayoral candidates.

“The Seminary Ridge Civic Association (SRCA) is hosting two candidate forums in October to raise awareness of the candidates running in the November Alexandria elections,” the organization said in an email. “The first forum will be on Wednesday, October 6 (7-9 p.m.) for the nine candidates seeking to be on Alexandria’s City Council.”

Both events will be live-streamed on Zoom, with a link already available for the first forum. The SRCA said another email will be sent closer to the date with a link to the Mayoral debate.

The Democratic City Council candidates are:

  1. John Taylor Chapman
  2. Alyia Smith-Parker Gaskins
  3. Amy Jackson
  4. Canek Aguirre
  5. Sarah Bagley
  6. Kirk McPike

They will face off in the fall against Republican Darryl Nirenberg and independents Florence King and Glenda Gail Parker.

Incumbent Mayor Justin Wilson, who fended off a challenge from former Mayor Allison Silberberg, will face Republican Annetta Catchings. Their debate with the SRCA will be held on Tuesday, October 19, from 7:30-8:30 p.m.

The Alexandria Council of PTAs (PTAC) is also planning a meet-and-greet and forum for School Board candidates. The meet-and-greet will be at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2, on the tennis courts at William Ramsay Elementary (5650 Sanger Avenue). The virtual forum will be on Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 7 p.m.

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