Newsletter

Morning Notes

State of emergency declared in Virginia over gasoline shortages — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency Tuesday afternoon to address gasoline supply disruptions across the state due to a cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline.” [Patch]

Potomac Riverkeepers disavow Silberberg mailer — “Potomac Riverkeeper Network learned today that Allison Silberberg’s campaign to be the next Mayor of Alexandria recently distributed a flyer that included an apparent endorsement by Dean Naujoks, the Potomac Riverkeeper and a member of our staff… Potomac Riverkeeper is neutral and does not endorse Alison Silberberg’s candidacy for Mayor of Alexandria. Potomac Riverkeeper Network supports clean water, not individual candidates.” [Twitter]

Virginia ABC stores returning to pre-pandemic hours starting Friday — “After more than a year of reduced operating hours in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) stores will return to pre-pandemic operating hours on May 14, 2021.” [Zebra]

Fairfax County seeks public input on the former Mount Vernon Athletic Club — “The former Mount Vernon Athletic Club at 7950 and 7960 Audobon Ave. in Fairfax County’s Lee District is undergoing a transformation.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy (during the day). High 67F. Winds NNW at 10 to 15 mph… Mostly clear skies (in the evening). Low 46F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Assistant camp director — “The YMCA of Metropolitan Washington is one of the largest charities in the DC area. The Y serves as an anchor in the community offering programs and services encompassing youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.” [Indeed]

5 Comments

Stark differences were on full display Saturday night, as Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and former Mayor Allison Silberberg sparred in a contentious debate on local issues.

Wilson defended his record since taking the mayorship from Silberberg in 2018. Silberberg, however, said she wants to restore the public trust, and that the city is at an inflection point.

“We’ve seen in the last couple of years certain decisions and policies that have been decided that really put our city at risk in many ways,” Silberberg said. “Our visions for the city are different. And our city is at an inflection point… It saddens me to hear so many residents express a profound loss of confidence and trust in our local government. As your mayor, I would certainly be very focused on transparency, and rebuilding the public trust.”

The hour-long debate was hosted by the Alexandria Democratic Committee, and moderated by Robert McCartney, a senior regional correspondent for The Washington Post. Wilson currently leads in fundraising and endorsements, and the debate comes on the heels of Wilsons’ endorsement by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam.

Silberberg presented herself as an environmentalist in favor of “smart growth,” while Wilson said that the city needs to match growth with transportation infrastructure.

“I’m inspired to turn what I’ve learned about our city’s resilience over the last year into a mission for our city’s future,” Wilson said. “I know that by investing in our kids, investing in our basic infrastructure, and making sure that we have an economy that can support the services that our residents expect and demand, Alexandria cannot only survive in the aftermath of this pandemic, but we can thrive.”

Silberberg’s tenure as mayor was plagued by lone 6-1 votes, and Wilson said that she voted against a number of important issues, including a controversial 5.7 cent tax hike in 2017 that resulted in significant capital improvement funding.

“I speak out for the people and I listen to our residents,” Silberberg said. “I’m certainly in favor of transit oriented development, that has been what we’ve all supported across the many years. But what I’m really for is smart growth. And what that means really, is that you don’t have unabashed out of scale overbuilding on every square inch, that you do keep some open space, which helps with the flooding.”

Silberberg criticized Wilson’s handling of COVID-19, and said that the city’s face mask ordinance needed to be passed sooner that the fall of 2020.

“It’s been a harrowing year for all of us,” she said. “I know a number of folks who have had COVID, and I’ve lost some friends. I don’t think we should have waited till October 1 with the outdoor mask order. Cities all across the country were helping restaurants, but the restaurants in the Bradley Center in the middle of the city and on the West End weren’t helped as much as other places, so we need to look at that across the board.”

Wilson said that the mask ordinance was the first adopted in Virginia, and was replicated by Northam in his statewide executive order. He also said that the city’s vaccination rate for Latinos is higher than for white residents, a result of “aggressive outreach” to the city’s nonprofits.

“I’m very proud of that ordinance,” he said. “Alexandria led the way in providing new small business flexibility using outdoor spaces, sidewalks, closing streets, parking lots and everything to help keep our businesses afloat. I worked with the mayor of Richmond to go down to the General Assembly and ultimately get the governor to include an executive order that allowed carry-out cocktails, which has helped keep our restaurants a floating all around our city. We spent millions of dollars a small business assistance again leading the way in the region, and helping our small businesses providing grants to small businesses all around our city.”

Silberberg also said that she would reverse the Seminary Road Diet, which she said is a transparency issue.

Read More

62 Comments

Morning Notes

Old Hat Bar to open soon in Old Town — “Gastropub opening May 21 in Old Town may teach some new dogs in the hospitality industry some old tricks.” [Alexandria Living]

ACPS opens summer/fall learning choice form on Tuesday — “The decision you make now is important to our comprehensive planning. The Learning Choice Form will be sent to families by email on May 11, 2021. May 24, 2021 is the last day for families to inform ACPS of your selection for the 2021-22 school year. If a family does not make a selection before the deadline, then their child will automatically be enrolled in in-person learning for the first quarter of the school year.” [ACPS]

American Rescue Plan meeting tonight — “The City of Alexandria is seeking community input as we prepare for the upcoming receipt of federal funding as part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP). This meeting will provide an opportunity for staff to answer questions and to hear from the community about proposed spending opportunities to help with COVID-19 recovery efforts.” [City of Alexandria]

Mayoral debate on Wednesday — “The Del Ray Business Association will host an Alexandria Mayoral Democratic Primary Debate on Wed., May 12, moderated by NBC News 4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey. The debate will take place from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. via Zoom. Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson and former Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg have both confirmed that they will participate.” [Visit Del Ray]

Today’s weather — “Intervals of clouds and sunshine (during the day). Slight chance of a rain shower. High 67F. Winds NNW at 10 to 20 mph… Clear skies with a few passing clouds (in the evening). Low 48F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Right-uppercut associate — “The Right-Uppercut Associate is a key position and must be filled with a high-energy, passionate, and creative person who will continue to fuel the trajectory of this brand toward being the premier fitness franchise in the world.” [Indeed]

2 Comment

A group of city residents are asking that City Council members and candidates pledge themselves to a document they are calling the Alexandria Constituents’ Bill of Rights.

Rachel Sheedy and Stafford Ward are spokespeople for the group For Better Alexandria Government, although they declined to answer many of ALXnow’s questions, including who drafted the document and what a rejection of the document means. Their group launched its website tracking candidates who pledge themselves to it on May 1.

The document asks that City Council members focus on ethics by disclose campaign donations, recuse themselves from legislation that have potential conflicts of interest, make public all government communication, ensure that city staff respond to constituent complaints within 48 hours and “Strictly adhere to Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution of Virginia to recognize that constituents are the source of their elected power.”

“The goal of For Better Alexandria Government is simple — our group represents City of Alexandria constituents who strongly believe that ethics, transparency and accountability need to be a part of the election discussion,” Sheedy and Ward said in a joint statement. “Whether running for reelection, or running for the first time, candidates should be questioned as to how they will incorporate these values if they are elected to serve the City’s constituents.”

Ward is a member of the Citizens Association of the Southwest Quadrant group, which is against the city’s development of the Heritage affordable apartment project in Old Town. He and Sheedy would also not comment on the CASWQ or its potential connection to the document.

Mayor Justin Wilson said he will not sign it.

“I don’t sign pledges,” Wilson told ALXnow. “I take an oath to uphold the U.S. and Virginia Constitutions.”

City Councilwoman Amy Jackson, Councilman John Taylor Chapman and Councilman Canek Aguirre also did not sign the pledge, and neither did candidates Bill Campbell, Alyia Gaskins, Kirk McPike, Patrick Moran, Meronne Teklu, Kevin Harris and Sarah Bagley.

Moran told Ward that he appreciated his “initiative and leadership” in crafting the document, but asked that it include language to make City Council full time.

“We have full-time expectations of our leaders and this Bill reflects this,” Moran wrote on the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook page. “If we can flush this out to bring professional expectations with professional pay, remove mailing notices and add conditions around the 48 hr response time that accounts for weekends, vacancies, etc, I’d support it.”

Jackson said that she declined because she signed the City’s Ethics Pledge with the mayor and her Council colleagues after being elected.

Those who signed it are Democratic mayoral candidate former Mayor Allison Silberberg, Republican mayoral candidate Annetta Catchings, Democratic Council candidates Bill Rossello, Mark Shiffer, James Lewis and Independent candidate Florence King.

“I believe in full disclosure and transparency,” King wrote on the Facebook page. “Our citizens have every right to know before the fact not afterwards.”

The entire document is presented below the jump.

Read More

57 Comments

Morning Notes

T.C. Williams completes comeback to win school’s first volleyball state championship — “For a moment, T.C. Williams sophomore Milan Rex was scared. The Titans were trailing Kellam two sets to one in the Virginia Class 6 championship Friday in Alexandria, and the chance at a perfect season seemed to be fading. Coach A.J. DeSain reminded the Titans they belonged in this moment, enabling Rex to lock in. She then powered T.C. Williams to a 23-25, 25-19, 18-25, 25-19, 17-15 victory — the program’s first state title. [Washington Post]

Mayor Wilson defends donation from Planning Commission Chair — “Planning Commission Chair Nathan Macek gave Wilson a donation the day after Wilson voted with the majority of council to reappoint Macek to his post. Macek’s employer, the engineering firm WSP, has played a leading role in numerous large projects in Alexandria, including the under-construction Potomac Yard Metro.” [Alex Times]

ACPS shifting to three-foot distancing in classrooms — “With our work to reconfigure our classrooms to three feet of physical distance between students, we will have all classrooms reconfigured and our strategy to accommodate lunch by April 26 which will allow us to transition more students after April 27. Read more about the planning and implementation process below.” [ACPS]

Alexandria Police hang out with ARHA residents — “We had a great time spending time with the Princess Square community this morning. Our officers had fun on the playground with the kids. Thank you ARHA for inviting us to stop by.” [Twitter]

Inova Landmark named ‘Deal of 2020’ by Washington Business Journal — “I constantly hear ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ … But the hard part is done. It was about assembling the right players and having the will to get it done.” [Washington Business Journal]

Wilson, Chapman, Aguirre, McPike and Gaskins gets rush of endorsements — “The decisions to be made are tough and require bold, consensus-building leadership. We are encouraged by the number of candidates stepping forward to run for City Council and Mayor this year. We think there are some in particular that stand out as ready to lead us through the recovery.” [Alexandria Forward]

Handgun and animal bones found in Potomac River cleanup — “There was an interesting discovery during an Earth Day river clean-up along the Alexandria waterfront today. A handgun and what were determined to be animal bones were found. The weapon was determined to be many years old. Thank you for calling APD!” [Facebook]

Today’s weather — “Sunny skies (during the day). High 67F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph… Clear to partly cloudy (in the evening). Low 47F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph.”  [Weather.com]

New job: Worship producer — “The Worship Producer supports the communications ministry at Aldersgate United Methodist Church (AUMC). As part of the staff team, the Producer will design and create video and media content for in-person and online worship (which may also be used for marketing and promotional purposes) and will be responsible for online streaming of Sunday morning worship. The Producer, assisted by other church leaders, will build a video ministry volunteer team to assist them in designing, creating, and sharing content video content for the church.” [Indeed]

8 Comments

Affordable housing took center stage on Tuesday night, as Alexandria’s mayoral and City Council candidates participated in a long candidates forum hosted by the Departmental Progressive Club (DPC).

During the forum, former Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg praised the Tuesday unveiling of the Lineage affordable apartment complex in Old Town earlier that day. Silberberg voted against a rezoning for the project on one of her first meetings as mayor in February 2016. That vote was unanimously rescinded days later.

“We got it done,” Silberberg said. “The neighbors embrace the building. It’s that they were concerned about the new building literally towering over their two-story historic homes. They just wanted some air. So, I’m really proud of working on that compromise, so that they embraced it and dropped their lawsuit, which would have cost us time and money.”

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the city has created almost 1,000 units of new affordable housing during his term, which is just half of what the city needs to produce by 2025 in order to meet regional housing goals set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. He later tweeted another #electionsmatter post on a matter that then-Mayor Silberberg voted against and was passed.

Moderator Merrick Malone said that the pandemic has threatened the health and safety and financial security of businesses and residents alike.

“It has laid bare the real inequities faced by people of color who have been historically marginalized in the city of Alexandria,” Malone said. “In 2018, the city of Alexandria issued a statement of inclusiveness indicating a commitment to diversity and fostering an atmosphere of inclusiveness. Well, that is a noble statement. What are the tangible evidence that indicate that the city leadership is committed to racial equity?”

Silberberg penned the city’s statement on inclusiveness in 2016, and said that it led to the hiring of the city’s first racial equity officer, and that the city tripled the dedicated funding for the city’s affordable housing fund.

Wilson, however, said that there wasn’t enough action in the statement, and laid out a series of his own specific actions, including eliminating fares on the DASH bus system, decriminalizing “quality of life infractions” and eliminating escalating fines that “criminalize poverty for a lot of our residents.”

As for flooding, Council Candidate Sarah Bagley recommended creating social service programs to train residents on solving their own stormwater management issues. Bagley is the executive director of a non-profit organization that provides social services to affordable housing communities around the U.S.

“In one of my projects down in Atlanta, we had a stormwater runoff problem right at the base of our property in front of the leasing office,” she said. “They built the project themselves with their own hands… We solved our problem without spending any property money. It was a win on so many levels. And it’s that kind of creative thinking that I want to contribute, this idea that we can turn a real stormwater problem into a job training experience into a public private partnership.”

The city recently doubled its stormwater utility fee to contend with 90 stormwater capacity projects, many of which have been overlooked by previous city councils.

“We’re dealing with spots that flood and capacity issues for the whole system,” Council candidate Kirk McPike said. “And if we fix spots before we fix the capacity, we might just be shoving water back into the system where new flooding locations are going to be created… So that as we’re fixing the spot flooding, we are putting that water into a system that can actually handle it. I think we can also expect more of developers who are coming into our community not only that they make their properties that they are working on more absorptive of water, but they actually pay into the fund to help lower the cost to local tax payers.”

Councilman Canek Aguirre said that the city has taken direct action.

“I know for the community, it is a sense of hopelessness, because as soon as it starts raining, they just get all types of anxiety, right?” Aguirre said. “It is long overdo.”

Wilson said that the capital improvement budget has ballooned from 700 million to $2.2 billion because of coalitions he built on Council to invest in public infrastructure. He also said that the city needs to prioritize incoming federal funds for sewer investments and look at creative financing.

“But we have a long way to go,” Wilson said. “And it is true that we doubled the stormwater utility fee, and unfortunately that is just going to tackle a small portion of the 90 capacity projects that we have to address citywide.”

21 Comments

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

Read More

6 Comments

It was another busy week in Alexandria. Here are some of the highlights.

This week, ALXnow profiled Mayor Justin Wilson and his opponent, former Mayor Allison Silberberg. The pair are facing off in the June 8 Democratic primary, and have vastly different ideas on city governance.

Alexandria Police released its 2020 crime data this week, revealing a 19% increase in Part 1 crime and 15% reduction in Nuisance crimes. ALXnow also reported a number of noteworthy crime stories, including the release of a video showing a chase suspect who died after his arrest in D.C. on April 12, and the indictment of a West End murder suspect.

This week also brought the unbelievable story of locals chasing down suspected shoplifters in Del Ray.

On the vaccine front, the Alexandria Health Department paused Johnson & Johnson vaccinations, following new concerns about potential side effects.

In school news, Alexandria City Public Schools will shift to three feet distancing in classrooms on April 26. Additionally, the School Board has started a conversation on reducing the number of members from nine to six.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. BREAKING: ‘Alexandria City High School’ chosen as replacement name for T.C. Williams High School
  2. JUST IN: Dr. Stephen Haering suddenly retires as director of Alexandria Health Department
  3. Southern Towers residents nervous as landlord steps up eviction proceedings
  4. Man stabbed at Old Town intersection
  5. NEW: Locals chase down suspected shoplifters in Del Ray
  6. JUST IN: T.C. Williams JV football team walks off field after alleged racial slur, spitting incident
  7. Man faces 10 years for DWI in horrific West End crash in Safeway parking lot
  8. Planning Commission approves controversial subdivision, plants potential loophole for future denial
  9. JUST IN: Video released of police arresting chase suspect who died in D.C.
  10. JUST IN: Six Alexandria Police officers put on administrative duties after chase suspect dies
  11. JUST IN: West End murder suspect faces life plus 13 years in prison

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

2 Comments

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson doesn’t want to hold any other political office. He also wants to be elected at least once more in November, and in less than two months he’ll square off in a Democratic primary rematch against his political rival, former Mayor Allison Silberberg.

Wilson says the June 8 primary really isn’t about he and Silberberg, but more about the direction that the city wants to go. In fact, he never mentioned his opponent by name during a 45-minute conversation with ALXnow. He’s raised $90,000 to Silberberg’s $64,000, hired Henry Watkins (Sen. Adam Ebbin’s Chief of staff) as his campaign manager, and has a goal of knocking on more than 2,000 doors.

“We’re talking about the future of the city,” Wilson said. “I think what you’re going to hear me talk about in this election is policies designed to protect the city’s future, protect our residents and make sure that we build a more resilient city coming after this horrible shock of the last year.”

Still, Wilson — an admitted social media addict — has lately been posting about numerous 6-1 votes that went through during Silberberg’s tenure as Mayor. Wilson, who was vice mayor under Silberberg from 2016 to 2019, led most of Council’s opposition to the then-Mayor on such issues as development of the Silverado Memory Care facility, funding construction of MacArthur Elementary School, and approving The Spire affordable housing project. He does not mention Silberberg in the posts, only hinting that she made wrong decisions.

“If it’s unspoken, it’s gonna stay unspoken,” Wilson said. “I’m focusing on these efforts because they are benefiting our community.”

The 42-year-old Wilson is married with two children and lives in Del Ray. For his day job, he is a senior manager for Amtrak. He 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 elected in 2012 and was elected as Vice Mayor in 2015. He then defeated Silberberg in the Democratic primary for mayor in 2018.

The last 13 months of the pandemic have brought historic change to Alexandria, and now Wilson wants to go back to in-person City Council meetings.

“I think we should be back already,” Wilson told ALXnow. “My colleagues (on Council) are uncomfortable, so it’ll be up to my colleagues to decide when we go back.”

Wilson said he will decide on a running for third term at the conclusion of his second.

“I have no desires for any other elected office,” Wilson told ALXnow. “This is the office that I wanted to serve in. This is the office that I suspect will be my last elected office.”

Read More

13 Comments

Former Mayor Allison Silberberg very publicly didn’t plan on running against Mayor Justin Wilson in the Democratic primary, but as weeks slipped by and no other challenger came forward — and Council Member Mo Seifeldein dropped out — Silberberg said she felt she needed to step up.

Three years after Silberberg lost her reelection bid to Wilson, she’s back to reclaim the position.

“I couldn’t just stand by and watch our city put at risk by destructive policies of our current mayor,” Silberberg said.

Wilson has racked up several endorsements from current and former members of city leadership, including other City Council members and state legislators, but Silberberg said she isn’t particularly worried by that. Silberberg said in the last week, her campaign has raised over $64,000, while Wilson recently announced that he raised $90,000.

“I’m not concerned,” Silberberg said. “In many cases, that’s the old guard. I’m honored to have support form people across our city. We’re at a crossroads in our city. I’m a person who gets things done and I listen to people.”

Silberberg’s list of objections to Wilson is, beyond a “greatest hits” of concerns that have emerged from local advocacy groups like Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria, an extension of many of the same battles Silberberg fought with Wilson on when the two were locked in opposition during her tenure as mayor.

Silberberg said some of the biggest issues fueling her campaign are:

  • Reverting Seminary Road Changes — “Wilson took away vital travel lanes on Seminary Road,” Silberberg said. “I would restore them. It’s a major arterial road to our only hospital. It was one of the safest streets in the city, the data showed that, but in a distorted kind of way he said this is a vote about public safety. Thirteen civic associations banded together and said do not do this, it affects every resident in the city.”
  • Opposition to City Stream Restoration Projects — “I’m fighting to save Taylor Run… saving the forest there, and Strawberry Run,” she said. “I would listen to environmentalists, scientists and experts who have come forward on their own to say that this is a disaster in the making, to destroy the forest. This is some of the last remaining forests in our city, you can’t just replant and wait 30 years, because it’s not just the trees but the environment around it.”
  • School-Affordable Housing Colocation — “I’m committed to protecting limited school properties from housing,” Silberberg said.
  • Opposition to Eisenhower Slaughterhouse — “He pushed through the slaughterhouse where the existing businesses a football throw away banded together and banded the Mayor not to do that,” Silberberg said. “There are no other slaughterhouses within the beltway, and not one in our city. The impact on environmental waste is really upsetting — not to mention the smell. It was dismissive of the fact that the business owner has had numerous code violations in other states. I would not have supported that.”

Some of the reversals could be a challenge. City staff recently laid out the costs to alternatives to the Taylor Run Stream Restoration the city could be required to pursue to keep up with its Chesapeake Bay Watershed credit requirements.

Silberberg  is dubious of staff’s claims.

“Staff, with all due respect, seems to be inflating or misrepresenting the costs for alternatives,” she said. “We need to have all that vetted openly and discussed.”

Silberberg said she was also surprised and frustrated that staff hadn’t tested the soil at Taylor Run before committing the city to funding the overhaul.

“Nobody on the city staff, and they admitted this, that they hadn’t tested the soils at Taylor Run,” Silberberg said. “Someone on their own volition hired a highly regarded laboratory, tested the soils, and it came back with negligible amounts of phosphorous, that’s one of the driving forces. So basically the city admitted that they were basing their analysis and conclusions on a generic version of soil samples in a whole other region. That’s not how we want to do analysis when it comes to a treasured spot in the city.”

Taylor Run, along with some of the other issues, go back to what Silberberg sees as a recurring problem with transparency and ethics in city leadership. Silberberg and Wilson have clashed over issues about ethics for nearly a decade, including a protracted battle over a proposed ethics pledge in 2016.

“We must restore integrity and transparency and adopt meaningful ethics reform,” Silberberg said. “That is certainly a top ethics reform, and we need a leader with demonstrated record of truth, transparency and ethics, and I am that leader. I led with an ethics initiative, and the person who led the effort to water that down was then Vice-Mayor Wilson. We did accomplish some goals, but didn’t go nearly as far as what I wanted.”

Silberberg argued that information that came to light from public Freedom of Information Act requests, and later printed by the Alexandria Times, not only showed that there were behind-the-scenes discussions on issues like Seminary Road and the Potomac Yard southern entrance that the public should know about, but also that there was too much information in those that was redacted.

“Some of the lines that weren’t redacted, which wasn’t very much, showed that he distorted the truth or lied and misled the public,” Silberberg said. Read More

20 Comments
×

Subscribe to our mailing list