Newsletter

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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More than a dozen anti-abortion activists were individually led out of Alexandria’s City Council Chambers on Tuesday night (June 28), as Council unanimously approved a resolution to protect access to abortions in the city.

Members of the California-based group Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust sat in Council Chambers holding signs depicting graphic photos and drawings of aborted fetuses. The group spent the last several days demonstrating outside the U.S. Supreme Court leading up to last week’s overturning of Roe v. Wadebanning abortion in more than a dozen states.

Mayor Justin Wilson told the audience repeatedly to quiet down or he’d clear the chamber, and asked police to remove more than a dozen protestors, including A.J. Hurley, national director of the group.

“Bodily autonomy is a basic human right,” Wilson said. “I’m not really fond of resolutions that, you know, take stands on issues that we don’t have a lot of impact on, and this is not one of those. I think the reason this resolution is before us is because it has specific actions that are very much in our purview.”

Hurley is from Los Angeles, California. He said that the mission of the organization is to seek a federal ban on abortion, and doesn’t believe he will see that happen in his lifetime. Hurley was eventually escorted from Council Chambers by police after an outburst. Members of the group also shouted on megaphones and banged on plastic buckets outside City Hall.

“If this city council is going to produce edicts and statements and resolutions moving towards ordinances, they should know the faces of the children that they affect,” Hurley said.

The resolution states that “it is not possible to ban abortion, but only to ban safe and legal abortions,” and asks that the City Manager consider budgetary proposals for the FY 2024 budget to “ensure accessibility of reproductive health services, safe abortion services, accessible maternal and child health services for low-income Alexandria residents.”

The resolution also calls on the City Attorney to join ongoing or future lawsuits “to protect the availability of abortion services in Alexandria,” as well as land use protections for providers.

When told by a protestor that she doesn’t understand the issue because she hasn’t had an abortion, Vice Mayor Amy Jackson asked, “How do you know I haven’t?”

“When we’re talking about personal freedom and women’s health care, it should be the women’s choice, not men,” Jackson said.

Council Member Kirk McPike drafted the resolution. McPike previously expressed regret about City Council withdrawing an earlier proclamation of support.

“Fortunately right now we are in Virginia, and in Virginia abortion remains legal,” McPike said. “There’s nothing we can do from this dais or as City Council to override state law. If that changes, we will not be able to limit that. What we can do is work within the powers that we have as a city body, to ask our city manager in our city attorney to take on active roles in helping us protect this right to reproductive choice here in our city, whether that’s through revising our planning and zoning rules, whether that’s by joining lawsuits, whether that’s by putting language in our legislative packets. “

Council Member Alyia Gaskins, who noted in the meeting that she is pregnant, said that the Supreme Court ruling is an attack on the rights of women and families.

“We must be relentless in protecting the health and wellbeing of our people and the citizens we serve,” Gaskins said.

Council Member Sarah Bagley directly addressed the anti-abortion activists holding signs.

“I look at these photos, I see you pointing at them,” Bagley said. “What I don’t see is the woman whose life was saved because the ectopic pregnancy would have killed her. What I don’t see with these photos is a woman who desperately wanted a child but was told that (with) these fetal abnormalities would never have survived.”

Many residents also sat in Council Chambers holding signs thanking Alexandria for its pro-abortion efforts, including Sandy Marks, chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee.

“Our council is entirely unshaken,” Marks said. “There have been a few interruptions, business is moving smoothly. They’re attempting to make noise outside, but our good governance is not going to be disrupted by a small number of out of town visitors that are here to try to obstruct a meeting that is going very smoothly.”

Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-45) also sat in the audience.

“I’m here because I believe everyone should be able to access safe abortions,” Bennett-Parker said. “I’m here today to support City Council and this resolution to protect abortion access in Alexandria and Virginia. I’m here because people should be able to make decisions about their own body, their own future and their own lives.”

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Supreme Court (file photo)

The Alexandria City Council will vote on a resolution Tuesday night to protect access to abortions in the city.

The resolution, which was initially drafted by Councilman Kirk McPike, lays out several steps that the city will take.

“We call upon the General Assembly of Virginia and the United States Congress to take such actions as may be necessary to protect the right to abortion in Virginia,” the resolutions states. “We ask that the City Manager consider budgetary proposals for the FY 2024 budget to ensure accessibility of reproductive health services, safe abortion services, accessible maternal and child health services for low-income Alexandria residents.”

The resolution also calls on the City Attorney to join on-going or future lawsuits “to protect the availability of abortion services in Alexandria,” as well as land use protections for providers.

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wadebanning abortion in 14 states and setting the stage for future legal challenges countrywide. Here in Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that he wants to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The Alexandria Democratic Committee praised the resolution.

“The Alexandria Democratic Committee stands in solidarity with City Council as they present their resolution in response to the overturn of Roe v. Wade,” ADC said on Facebook. “Our public support of bold statements like these is crucial.”

Many of Alexandria’s elected officials expressed shock and dismay at the ruling.

Del. Charniele Herring, the Democratic Caucus Chair, tweeted that she was horrified and that she would continue to fight to keep abortion legal in Virginia.

The full resolution is below the jump. Read More

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Paying to park your car in Alexandria by phone could be getting more expensive soon.

Alexandria’s City Council voted unanimously on Saturday to enable staff to up the cost of pay-by-phone parking.

The current rate in those zones is $1.75 per hour, but the new ordinance would allow the Director of Transportation and Environmental Services to set a rate of up to $5 per hour.

The goal of the change is to push drivers parking in Old Town towards the city’s underused garages, though several members of the City Council noted that’s unlikely to happen without more wayfinding toward those garages.

Council member Sarah Bagley said it might be worth looking into adding additional signs, either as standalone A-frame signs or onto the existing parking signs, highlighting where the nearest parking garage is. Another suggestion from City Council member Kirk McPike was allowing local restaurants to validate parking. City staff said both options would be examined.

One possibility raised to alleviate parking woes of residents of Old Town residents unable to park near their homes was to set more zones as residential-only, but city staff said there are several problems with this option.

“The conversation about resident-only parking has been recurring,” said Yon Lambert, director of the city’s Department of Transportation and Environmental Services. “It was considered in previous iterations of the Old Town Parking Study. Something we need to consider: if we’re going to dig our teeth into resident-only parking, we’re looking at reconvening the Old Town Parking Study to make sure we have all stakeholders represented.”

But City Attorney Joanna Anderson said there legal issues with residential-only parking.

“There are some constitutional issues with completely residential only parking,” Anderson said. “We are looking at it, but it is more difficult for fully resident-only parking than it is to allow some outside users like we are now.”

The ordinance was unanimously approved by the City Council.

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Morning Notes

Households without power after storm — “Households across Alexandria are suffering a blackout right now. Dominion’s service to our city continues to be unacceptable.” [Twitter]

It’s Monday — Light rain starting in the afternoon. High of 75 and low of 61. Sunrise at 5:51 am and sunset at 8:22 pm. [Weather.gov]

Resource center for Afghan refugees opening in Alexandria — “On Thursday, a new community center catering specifically to the needs of Afghan refugees will open in Alexandria, VA.” [DCist]

Alexandria Times profiles local love story — “It only took them a little over a month after Cody’s arrival to find each other, and they’ve been essentially inseparable ever since.” [Alexandria Times]

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Updated at 11:15 p.m. It took nearly five hours for the power to turn back on for thousands of Alexandria residents on a steamy Sunday night (May 22).

Alexandria got hit by a severe thunderstorm at around 6 p.m. At 8:36 p.m., Dominion Energy tweeted that there were more than 25,000 homes still without power in Northern Virginia.

According to Dominion Energy’s Outage Map:

  • More than 1,300 residents experienced an outage in the Rosemont area
  • There were about 2,600 outages in the Arlandria area

Jesse Thompson lives in a high rise Arlandria, and had no power or water for five hours.

“I’m doing about as well as I can right now,” Thompson said during the outage. “This is really something else.”

After a few rocky years outage-wise, Dominion has recently pledged to invest millions in Alexandria.

City Councilman Kirk McPike tweeted that Dominion Energy’s service “continues to be unacceptable.”

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2121 Eisenhower proposal, image via SK+I Architecture

A last-minute disagreement between city staff and developers of a new development in Carlyle raised concerns about fairness in the city’s development process.

There was little indication before the City Council meeting (item 12) on Saturday, May 15, that the development at 2111 and 2121 Eisenhower Avenue would take up two hours of discussion and argument.

At the public hearing, the project faced both criticism from affordable housing advocates for its lackluster contribution and an 11th hour objection from staff over a technical development detail that amounted to a $1 million fee discrepancy.

The central question was whether or not the above-ground parking space at the site qualified as part of the square footage of a building for purposes of things like the developer contribution to affordable housing.

Vagueries and disagreement in what the city was asking from the developer led City Council member Kirk McPike to describe the whole issue as “Calvinball” — a reference to the game played in Calvin and Hobbes where the rules are inconsistent and change mid-game.

The staff report recommended approval, and there was no discussion of this issue at the Planning Commission.

“In recent days it’s become clear that there’s a difference of opinion between the applicant and staff on how to apply the $5.46 per square foot toward the above-ground parking portion of the residential development,” said Karl Moritz, Director of Planning and Zoning. “First, I do need to apologize to the applicant for the extreme lateness in bringing this issue to our collective attention … but staff’s view is that the Eisenhower East Plan is clear on what the contribution applies to and even more clear on what is exempt.”

Moritz said the condition applies to development built above ground and developments approved under the previous plan are exempt. The plan also exempts commercial development because the market for commercial development is challenging. Finally, the plan exempts bonus density applied to affordable housing.

Moritz said part of the analysis is what value is being created by the upzoning that the plan is providing — the increase in value that each property owner is getting.

Attorney Cathy Puskar represented applicant Mid-Atlantic Realty Partners and not only expressed disagreement with staff’s conclusion that the parking should qualify as square footage to be factored into the developer contributions, but said the process by which the issue was raised was unacceptable.

“We often have issues that come up at the last minute before we come to you at City Council and it’s always unfortunate but we’re able to work through it,” Puskar said. “In this instance it’s not only unfortunate it’s egregious. I received a call 23 hours before this hearing telling me that high-level staff at planning and zoning had a different interpretation of our obligation on the developer contribution than had been discussed during the small area plan, than had been agreed to, and has been documented in the conditions.”

Puskar said the disagreement amounted to a $1 million additional fee to pay the city.

The vagueness of the rules and their implementation in the development sparked some frustration from the dais.

“We’re voting on this language, we all agree on the language, but nobody agrees on what the language means,” McPike said. “There’s kind of a Calvinball aspect to this.”

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After a leaked majority opinion showed the Supreme Court potentially overturning Roe v. Wade, Alexandria leaders are taking a second look at how to protect abortion access and women’s healthcare at a local level.

Beyond just the national concerns about the impact of the ruling, last week City Council members reflected on an earlier decision to withdraw a proclamation honoring abortion providers.

“A few weeks ago, a controversy arose when the council considered adopting a resolution recognizing the dangers including threats, violence and even murder faced by doctors who help women end pregnancies,” said City Council member Kirk McPike. “Abortion is a complicated subject about which well-intentioned people can have very different views and not a policy question that generally falls under our purview.”

The City Council’s decision to remove the proclamation from the docket was unanimous, but in hindsight McPike said he regrets that decision.

“For those reasons, I supported our collective decision to set that proposal aside,” McPike said. “Last week as I read with growing horror the draft opinion on the Supreme Court that would completely roll back constitutional protections for abortion rights, I began to regret that we didn’t take the opportunity to speak as a Council on this issue.”

Virginia isn’t one of the states with trigger laws that would ban abortion if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, but the future of access to abortion in Virginia is still in question — especially with a Republican governorship and control of the General Assembly.

The city is severely limited in what it can do by the Dillon Rule, which only authorizes the city to exercise powers expressly granted by the state. But even within those confines, city leaders said at the end of a City Council meeting last week that there’s some wiggle room

“There may be steps we can take within limits of Dillon rule to support women in need of this service,” McPike said. “As elected leaders and progressives who help govern a progressive city, I hope we will use our voices to speak in defense of this essential freedom.”

City Council member Sarah Bagley expressed her agreement with McPike and recommended others watch a speech by student Paxton Smith in Texas about abortion access.

There are currently two abortion providers in Alexandria. The City Council directed City Attorney Joanna Anderson to look further into what the City of Alexandria can and cannot do to benefit abortion access.

“There is certainly an advocacy role at the state, but I think there is work we can and should do at the local level,” said Mayor Justin Wilson. “I think that may necessarily involve financial commitments to the provision of services, it may involve land-use policy to ensure the presence of these services in our city to the extent that we have that authority. Statements are great, but I think policy is even better, and we have that opportunity as we go forward.”

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