Fuel shortage hits Alexandria gas stations — “A Shell station on Duke Street in Alexandria had run out of all grades of gasoline. The Mobil station next door “got lucky,” an employee said, and received a shipment of fuel overnight after running out late Tuesday. The line at Mobil spilled out onto Duke Street just west of Telegraph Road.” [Alexandria Living]
Alexandria’s COVID-19 percent positivity falls to lowest level — “We continue to watch the percent positivity of COVID-19 tests. Alexandria’s 7-day average positivity is now 2.9%. This is our lowest rate ever. Only 3 other Virginia health districts are lower. Wear your mask, get your vaccine and let’s be done with this.” [Twitter]
Goodie’s Frozen Custard opening by Memorial Day in Old Town — “Something cool is about to open at 200 Commerce St. in Old Town Alexandria. Real cool. Frozen, even. A cute little building that once stored blocks of ice has been transformed into a frozen custard shop called Goodies.”[Washington Post]
Silberberg says Potomac Riverkeeper quote on mailer not intended as endorsement — “My mailer about the environment has a quote from Dean Naujoks, the Potomac Riverkeeper,” former Mayor Allison Silberberg told ALXnow. “It is not an endorsement. It is his personal opinion. It is clearly marked as such. On the other side of my mailer is an endorsement by Andrew Macdonald from the Environmental Council of Alexandria. Dean’s quote is his opinion. If it had been an endorsement, it would have been marked as such.” [ALXnow]
Colasanto Pool redesigns released ahead of meeting — “One week ago, The Zebra Press reported that Alexandria’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities is seeking community input on the redesign of Colasanto Pool at 2700 Mt. Vernon Ave. Ahead of the May 13 virtual meeting, the Del Ray Gateway Project has released the three proposed designs.” [Zebra]
Today’s weather — “Except for a few afternoon clouds, mainly sunny. High around 70F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph… Partly cloudy (in the evening). Low 47F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]
New job: Game master — “Have you been called a Brainiac or know it all? Are you a D&D Game Master? Come be a Game Master at ERL where we bring the action to life! Escape Room Live is looking for highly intelligent, energetic, quick learners that enjoy problem-solving, are masters in their class, and current college grads. If this is you, then we have the job for you! Now hiring for part-time full-time candidates with flexible hours, weekend availability is preferred. Highly competitive pay rates up to $11 Hourly.” [Indeed]
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]
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.
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]
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.
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]
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.
Five years ago this month, the City Council “took a mulligan” and re-did an unsuccessful vote that had killed the redevelopment of @ARHA39 ‘s Ramsey Homes.
Today we celebrated 52 families moving into new affordable homes at the site.#ElectionsMatter pic.twitter.com/PU4P0rAB60
— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) April 20, 2021
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.”
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.
- Raised — $104,920
- Spent — $19,710
- Balance — $92,060
Former Mayor Allison Silberberg
- Raised — $65,748
- Spent — $7,134
- Balance — $58,815
- Raised — $66,088
- Spent — $21,038
- Balance — $45,050
- Raised — $63,953
- Spent — $13,762
- Balance — $53,495
- Raised — $47,012
- Spent — $32,157
- Balance — $14,855
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.
- ‘Dogs Of Del Ray’ mural to be finished next month
- Bullet strikes 7-Eleven door near Braddock Road Metro station
- JUST IN: Gubernatorial candidate Sen. Jennifer McClellan highlights race, women issues in Old Town
- T.C. Senior Sara Abbas surprised with $40,000 Titans In Tech Scholarship
- Spring2ACTion fundraiser sets $2.5 million goal for Alexandria nonprofits
- ACPS will go to 3 feet distancing in classrooms on April 26
- BREAKING: ‘Alexandria City High School’ chosen as replacement name for T.C. Williams High School
- JUST IN: Dr. Stephen Haering suddenly retires as director of Alexandria Health Department
- Southern Towers residents nervous as landlord steps up eviction proceedings
- Man stabbed at Old Town intersection
- NEW: Locals chase down suspected shoplifters in Del Ray
- JUST IN: T.C. Williams JV football team walks off field after alleged racial slur, spitting incident
- Man faces 10 years for DWI in horrific West End crash in Safeway parking lot
- Planning Commission approves controversial subdivision, plants potential loophole for future denial
- JUST IN: Video released of police arresting chase suspect who died in D.C.
- JUST IN: Six Alexandria Police officers put on administrative duties after chase suspect dies
- JUST IN: West End murder suspect faces life plus 13 years in prison
Have a safe weekend!
Photo via ACPS/Facebook
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.”