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Five months after a 16-hour power outage disrupted Del Ray’s Art On The Avenue festival, Dominion Energy says it will invest $17 million over the next three years to improve reliability in the city.

That was the gist of an hour-long update from Dominion to City Council Tuesday night (March 22), where Bill Murray, Dominion’s senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications, informed City Council that the energy giant plans on spending $3.4 million this year, $8.5 million in 2023 and $5.2 million in 2023 on 20 “incremental reliability investments” in areas affected by outages in Alexandria, and will begin planning with city staff next month.

“We’re going to plan in April to have some workshops with your staff around the first five,” Murray said.

There have been few outages in Alexandria since Art On The Avenue on Oct. 2 — forcing businesses to close for the the busiest day of the year on Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray. The weather was nearly perfect that day, with clear blue skies. Since the event, Murray said, Dominion has replaced 1,000 feet of power cables in the area, and will give future Art On The Avenue festivals the same attention as it gives to polling places on Election Day.

“Any of your polling places, regardless of the weather forecast on Election Day, whether it’s bad weather, good weather, whatever it might be, we always have a plan for each individual polling precinct,” Murray said. “We recognize things happen, and we don’t want the marching democracy being interrupted by an outage. So, we’re going to adopt that approach with this particular festival.”

Dominion did not present a PowerPoint presentation to City Council, and did not present details on which areas of the city need improvement, which irked some members.

“I’ll be honest, we were a little hampered by not having something to kind of look at tonight,” said Mayor Justin Wilson, who has been critical of Dominion for years.

Council Member Kirk McPike said that a PowerPoint presentation would have been useful after “repeated failures of our electrical system over the years.”

“We need the people of Alexandria to be able to see what we’re discussing here, what point you’re raising, have a better sense of what’s going on here,” McPike said. “Right now I don’t think they do.”

Dominion last spoke with the council shortly after the Art On The Avenue outage, and provided the city with maps on where it plans on making improvements in the city.

Council Member Alyia Gaskins said she appreciates Dominion’s plan to prevent an Art On The Avenue outage from reoccurring, but that the city hosts multiple large-scale events throughout the year.

“I’m also thinking about the fact that we have so many big, really important events in the city, beyond Art On The Avenue, and that was catastrophic and devastating,” Gaskins said. “Maybe there’s a top five list of events that we know are huge economic generators for the city, and having that same type of pre-scan, pre-assessment, as well as a point person who is on-site would be critical for those events as well.”

Vice Mayor Amy Jackson said that Dominion is a valuable partner, and that she would appreciate its representatives to be on the ground for large festivals.

“I don’t know how you would have enough manpower and boots on the ground to do that for every festival,” Jackson said. “That’s close to impossible, but I’d like to see you try. If you’re promising one to Art On The Avenue, then then absolutely, I’ll take you up on all of them. We’ll give you the calendar.”

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After missing quarterly reporting deadlines on school safety, Alexandria City Public Schools says it will deliver a report this week.

In a joint City Council/School Board work session on Wednesday night, some Council members were not pleased that ACPS has not delivered quarterly performance reviews on the school resource officer program. At the meeting, ACPS staff announced that the Board will soon receive a report on school safety data and the proposed school law enforcement partnership (SLEP) advisory group. The report has not yet been made public, and should be posted today (March 3) or tomorrow as an agenda item for the upcoming meeting.

The SROs — police officers stationed at Alexandria City High School and the city’s two middle schools — were briefly defunded last year after a disjointed process that saw Council go against the wishes of the Board and redirect $800,000 from the program toward mental health resources for students. The vote created a rift between City Council and the School Board, but after numerous violent incidents with weapons in schools, School Board Chair Meagan Alderton and Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. pleaded for their return.

“I think that we still have a long ways to go to make sure that we are getting this reporting done properly,” City Councilman Canek Aguirre said at the meeting. “I think what everybody agreed on last year is that the process sucked and there was almost little-to-no process.”

The memorandum of understanding between ACPS and the police stipulates a requirement that the City receive the reports, and that there should be meetings in August, November, February, and May of each school year for staff to “review performance and discuss reporting data.”

SROs were brought back in October, but two months later the two officers at Alexandria City High School were placed on leave after a “serious complaint” from a former student alleging “sexually inappropriate conversations” while she attended ACHS, according to the Washington Post.

There are no SROs at ACHS, which has more than 4,000 students and is the largest high school in Virginia. Still, APD officers are present at the high school, with officers rotating inside and outside of the school throughout the day, according to John Contreras, ACPS director of safety and security services.

Alicia Hart, ACPS executive director of facilities and operations, said that the lack of reporting is due to the program getting shut down last year. She said quarterly meetings between ACPS and APD are still being held.

“I absolutely agree there is an opportunity for us to make sure that we are caught up for the next go around,” Hart told Council.

Alderton said she previewed the report, and that it has some surprises.

“I had a chance to preview it, and I have to say, I think people are gonna find it very interesting,” Alderton said. “We’re not just looking at numbers, we’re looking at impact and who the impact is on. We’ll see some interesting information about disproportionality that may have some surprises.”

Councilman Kirk McPike said that the SRO program is city funded, and that there should be transparent discussions around school safety.

“This is a program that exists within the schools but it is funded in a part of the city budget,” McPike said. “We all saw last year what happens when the Council and the School Board roll in opposite directions on this issue, and it’s incredibly important that we find ways not to do that because we’re talking about safety in our schools, which is a paramount concern, not just for people on both our bodies but the entire city.”

The school year has been marked by violent incidents, including the shooting of a student at the McDonald’s at the Bradlee Shopping Center, a student being arrested with a gun on ACHS grounds, a student being arrested with a knife at ACHS, a firecracker incident that led to the evacuation of a football game, brawls inside ACHS and George Washington Middle School and more.

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The George Washington National Masonic Memorial bathed in the colors of the Ukranian Flag, Feb. 27, 2022. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria has lit City Hall and the George Washington Masonic Memorial in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The effort of solidarity for the beleaguered country has been echoed by shining blue and yellow lights on bridges and buildings throughout the region.

Russia invaded Ukraine last week, and hundreds have been killed so far during the conflict. At time of writing, Ukraine and Russia are currently engaging in ceasefire talks after Ukrainian resistance stalled Russia’s approach into Kyiv and other major cities.

Alexandria city leaders, meanwhile, shared messages of support for Ukraine.

Sen. Mark Warner (D), Alexandria resident and chairman of the Senate Intel Committee, has also been vocal in condemning Russia’s invasion and outlining what types of sanctions and responses are warranted.

James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this story

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The Landmark redevelopment has a new name: West End Alexandria.

Developer Foulger-Pratt officially unveiled the new name earlier this week, though it was first reported in the Washington Business Journal in late January.

“Today’s announcement marks an important step in what will be an exciting transformation of West End Alexandria,” Cameron Pratt, managing partner and CEO of Foulger-Pratt said in a press release. “West End will not be a new community, but rather an infrastructure to enable the existing community to thrive. West End Alexandria will represent the best in what community can offer – a welcoming, inviting, inclusive space for business, medical care, residential opportunities as well as shopping and dining.”

Mostly, online reaction to the name has been a puzzlement akin to the rebranding of Crystal City and Potomac Yard as “National Landing” when Amazon came to town.

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A fire truck in Alexandria (file photo by Jay Westcott)

(Update at 2:45 p.m.) It’s no secret that Alexandria’s public safety agencies want a raise in the upcoming city budget, but if they are to get a compensation increase it will be outside of the boundaries of collective bargaining.

After more than a year of organizing, the elections for collective bargaining representation for the city’s first responders will be held between Feb. 5 and Feb. 22. But with a staffing crisis and compensation issues within the Fire Department, Police Department and Sheriff’s Office, it will not be until 2024 until negotiations will be fruitful.

“If we get more than 50% then we’re then officially allowed to negotiate with the city of Alexandria around anything labor related,” Jeremy McClayton, an organizer for the International Association of Firefighters’ Local 2141 union, told ALXnow. “This is the step we need to take that actually get to the negotiating table this fall. Benefits, wages, operational procedures, time off requests and more, and that would take place likely from March until October.”

The Alexandria Democratic Committee has even put forward a resolution calling for a 10% pay increase for the employees to “maintain the current expectation of
response time and level of public safety.”

“Alexandria Firefighters Union IAFF Local 2141 sent a letter requesting a pay increase that states that the City needs to put forward the funding to hire an additional
70 personnel, while also improving the salaries, benefits and working conditions for current employees to prevent their departures for other jurisdictions,” reads the resolution, which is supported by City Council members Aalyia Gaskins, Kirk McPike and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David Lord.

The resolution continues.

“This underfunding and understaffing clearly affect public safety as they prevent the Fire Department from adequately staffing rescue vehicles, and possibly leading to the necessity of closing one fire station.

Whereas the Fire Department had to perform extra duties during the pandemic, handling covid patients, and manning testing sites, and Police have also had to perform extra duties, while also experiencing issues of schools reopening, and an increase in violent crimes due to the economic hardship, isolation and mental stress during Covid. The Sheriff’s Office staff has also certainly faced additional issues with Covid in managing inmates in the city’s jail.

The city imposed a pay and hiring freeze during the pandemic, and after more than a year of operating under a City Emergency, all city and state employees got a 1% bonus and merit increases were restored with the passage of the fiscal year 2022 budget. In a rare event, the City also provided city employees with a 1.5% salary increase and $3,000 bonuses at the end of the 2021 calendar year.

“While most of these challenges must wait to be addressed during an upcoming budget process, the Council did vote last month to allocate surplus money from the previous fiscal year and a portion of our second tranche of American Rescue Plan funds to provide new funding to our employees,” Mayor Justin Wilson said. “The package that the Council adopted included an extremely-rare mid-year 1.5% salary increase for all City employees, a $3,000 bonus to all employees, and targeted increases for several positions in the Police, Fire and Sheriff’s Departments.”

“(T)he city has passed a collective bargaining agreement which won’t go into effect until after the next budget, it is important to address these issues now,” the fire department’s union said in another resolution. “It is important that the city responds in good faith before collective bargaining begins for a multi-year contract.”

Ben Saks, president of the International Union of Police Associations Local 5, says that his union has voiced concerns for months.

“The only way to resolve the staffing crisis is to provide a competitive salary, otherwise current officers and potential applicants will continue to go elsewhere in the region,” Saks said. “Our staffing continues to plummet, so we are asking for a 10% across the board salary increase in the FY23 budget.”

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

Alexandria’s City Council voted to approve a partially city-funded hotel project at 699 Prince Street despite opposition from community labor activists.

The project drew some attention for the city involvement in funding — 1% of the tax revenue generated by the project will be paid back to bond trustees — but at the City Council meeting on Saturday, the majority of the discussion centered around how the city should use its involvement to push for better labor practices.

The City Council chambers were filled with local labor activists opposing the project, though some trickled off at the discussion brought up the end of an eight-hour meeting. Those that stuck it out to remain for community comment reiterated concerns that the city was getting involved with a project that would not offer an adequate living wage for employees.

“We believe bringing in a virulently anti-union hotel project being constructed with no labor standards is not a good thing for the working class of this city,” said Virginia Diamond, President of the Northern Virginia branch of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). “I appreciate the work that has gone into a complete apparent change in your policy — which now for the first time takes into account the impact on working people, but it has a long way to go. Neither the developer nor the hotel owner were willing to speak with the union.”

Diamond said labor organizers were hoping for more protections, like prohibiting labor brokers and offering apprenticeship programs so Alexandria residents can work their way into middle-class careers.

The city did add some labor protection measures, like conditions for construction monitoring designed to curb wage theft, but the changes fell short of what activists had hoped for.

AEDP President and CEO Stephanie Landrum said the hotel project would offer a “what I would consider a very competitive array of benefits” including paid time off, paid time to volunteer, healthcare and 401k plans.

“Projects like this are years in the making so multiple times we do check-ins… so we don’t get to a point where we bring a project to you for approval and there are new things introduced,” Landrum said. “For a variety of reasons beyond our control, that didn’t happen here. So we’re at a point where we have a project that meets every requirement in place when we put it together and we literally got to the last step and brought it to you and a number of new issues were raised. If we push on some of these issues further, the project becomes not feasible for the development team.

While the City Council ultimately voted approval, even those who voted in favor of the project said the worker compensation discussions around the project were a good step forward and more work needs to be done to update the city’s labor standards.

“I think what I’ve seen of the last 11 days is a very big, good step to where we need to grow,” Chapman said. “I’m excited about the colleagues who have stepped up and talked about worker rights. No offense to my former colleagues, but that wasn’t happening in 2012 and 2013. To get our city processes caught up with our Council will take not a lot of time, but we have a lot of minds to change within our community and those conversations, whether it be with AEDP, Visit Alexandria, and other taxpayer groups — we need to bring those groups up to speed. If this is the new way, and I think it should be, those conversations have to take place so everybody is on the same page.”

Chapman specifically praised City Council member Alyia Gaskins, who was the first to raise the topic at the initial City Council review. But Chapman also said the project was a rare low-risk opportunity to boost commercial revenue in the city.

“I’m kind of looking at how we are bringing in commercial revenue,” Chapman said. “That’s something from the last couple years of the pandemic, even with this last term on council before the pandemic, was something we on Council need to be sharpening our pencils for. I was disappointed when we as a city shifted away from trying to hit a goal of 50/50 commercial/residential revenues because I do think that will lessen the burden on our homeowners and renters… This seems like an opportunity to increase that commercial revenue that we bring in.”

Those who opposed the project said labor was the key insurmountable issue.

“The discussion around this project has been pretty frustrating until today when we finally honed in on the real issue,” said City Council member Kirk McPike. “So much of the early discussion was about financing concerns that didn’t really reflect the reality of the project on the ground. This was a good model, where projects under this tourism zone only eat a little bit of what they grow. This project would be a slam dunk if it wasn’t for labor issues. We as a city need to get more serious about building up and protecting working families in our city and doing what we can under Virginia law to support unions in organizing efforts is a key way to do that.”

Both McPike and Gaskins said the labor discussion around the project signaled the start of a shift in the city’s viewpoint on these issues.

“We didn’t get what we want, what the people who will work at this hotel deserve,” McPike said. “We have put a flag in the ground and made it clear to future applicants that this is not a question that can be ignored, and I expect us to expect more in the future… I do think we have achieved something real here. This is a half-step and I hope the next project we look at is a full step forward with where we want to be on labor rights.”

“We put a stake in the ground that says we’re ready to have this conversation,” said Gaskins. “Progress was made on things the development team talked about. Yes, we’ve made some progress, but I’m struggling with where we didn’t get to.”

The City Council approved the project in a 4-3 vote, with Gaskins, McPike and Sarah Bagley voting in opposition.

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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 the 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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