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Virginia State Sen. Louise Lucas (D-18) says Monumental Sports and Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis can afford to pay for the entire $2 billion Potomac Yard arena project, as well as supporting transportation and other associated infrastructure projects.

“Anything having to do with enriching billionaires, they need to pay for themselves,” Lucas told ALXnow. “They can proffer anything they want to. They can build the arena and make a profit. They could complete the roads and also provide the perennial upkeep.”

Lucas continued, “A lot of people who are doing developments they do proffers and they take care of the roads. They offer to take care of schools, they offer to take care of other things. This is rich people still wanting to get rich without paying for it.”

Lucas said that she was blindsided by news in December that Virginia’s Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin reached a deal with Monumental Sports and Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis to move the Washington Capitals and Wizards from D.C. to a new arena in Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood. She said that the deal was presented in such a rush that the legislature didn’t have time to vet the plan, or even thoroughly understand it.

“I mean, all the nuances of a project that major, you need more than a day of somebody telling you this is what we’re doing, we’ve already made the announcement and here we go,” Lucas said.

Lucas is president pro tempore of the Virginia State Senate, and, as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, refused to let the approved House version of the arena bill out of her committee and into the state budget, effectively stopping it from landing on the Governor’s desk for approval.

Youngkin held a press conference earlier this month where he called the Senate’s budget a colossal mistake.

“I believe the Senate is about to make a colossal mistake,” Youngkin said. “We came together over many months to represent the very best interests of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and to do it in a way that could put Virginia in the position for a big win in the Commonwealth.”

Youngkin called the arena a one-of-a-kind financial opportunity for Virginia and Alexandria.

“I’m an optimist,” said Youngkin. “A true optimist. I will never stop fighting for Virginia’s success. I believe our Senate and General Assembly have a chance to stand up and do what’s right. They have a chance to assess this one-of-a-kind, first-of-its-kind, opportunity on its merits. It befuddles me that we’re not spending today talking about how to deliver it and we’re instead trying to convince our General Assembly to do what’s right.” Read More

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Alexandria City Council candidate Jonathan Huskey of Del Ray (courtesy photo)

Jonathan Huskey’s campaign to be a member of Alexandria’s City Council is centered around his opposition to the Potomac Yard arena development.

Huskey says that the city government failed residents with last December’s surprise announcement that Monumental Sports & Entertainment reached a deal with Governor Glenn Youngkin to move the home of the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals from D.C. to Alexandria’s Potomac Yard neighborhood.

“Certainly the governor is the main backer of this idea, but our Council and our mayor deserve to be in the storyline here,” Huskey said. “They are major players in the way that this has gone down, and in the way that there has been a lack of transparency.”

The $2 billion arena is currently at an impasse within the Virginia General Assembly, where Senate Democrats led by Sen. Louise Lucas (D-18) refused to include it in the state budget. Local legislators contend that Youngkin hasn’t negotiated with Democrats on the issue, and Huskey says the deal highlights a lack of transparency and accountability in the deal-making process.

“I’m stepping up to say we’ve got to have this debate in public,” Huskey said. “We’ve got to talk about it.”

Huskey says that the city did not adequately prepare, consult or provide residents with rationale for the project.

“That has really soured this in the eyes of our city, the legislature, the region,” he said. “So, I’m running because this cannot happen again, and we can’t be divided by a Council cutting deals with billionaires before they talk to their own constituents or the people who live within eyeshot of this thing.”

Huskey is the communications director at the State Revenue Alliance and lives with his wife and two children in Warwick Village, which is next door to Del Ray and near Potomac Yard. A native of Salina, Kansas, he has a degree in political science and government from the University of Kansas and has lived in Alexandria for 12 years.

“I know I’ve got a lot to learn about some of the various city departments, but I am certainly not a novice,” he said. “I am a policy professional. I know local and state government, how it works, and how to get things done. I think I’ll be ready to govern on day one and I’m going to embark on a lot of meetings with the police department and parks department and city boards to get an understanding where they’re coming from so I’ll be knowledgeable come the start of my tenure on council.”

He’s also never served on a city board or commission, and says he never found issue with City Council’s handling of large development deals until the arena plan surfaced. Since then he’s been a vocal member of the Coalition to Stop the Potomac Yard Arena.

“I have generally been supportive of this council and mayor’s decisions on development,” Huskey said. “I’ve not been an activist around any of the other debates that have happened around development, but this one is different for me.”

Huskey said that he started to consider a Council run last month when there were not more anti-arena candidates on the ballot. Currently, Charlotte Scherer is only other vocal anti-arena candidate running for Council, as are mayoral candidates Vice Mayor Amy Jackson and Steven Peterson.

“It’s not personal,” Huskey said. “I’m not upset at anybody in any personal way, but I do think this was a big boo-boo by the City Council and that it does show that there is some change that needs to happen at City Hall.”

Huskey is in favor of creating a ward system for City Council, and says that the city should get independent studies on major development proposals. By the end of his term, if elected, he says that Council should lobby Richmond for a more “progressive” tax structure that provides more revenue for schools.

“I can be part of the solution where we can actually fund the things that we need without deals like the Potomac Yard arena,” Huskey said.

Huskey also questions revenue projections for the project, and says that Youngkin made the deal because of the fiscal cliff the state faces with federal Covid relief funds drying up next year. He said that City Council made a choice to latch onto the project to solve its financial woes.

“They made a choice to latch onto this project built by a Republican governor and a billionaire who wants to move a team four miles for what?” Huskey said, adding that Monumental owner Ted Leonsis had an opportunity to get a “mini city” built by taxpayers. “Nobody asked for it.”

Huskey continued, “I fundamentally also think that is morally wrong, that they would even entertain such a thing. It is unjust to seek billions in public financing for a billionaire who has access to all of the money that would be needed to build that stadium and the facilities around it. He can pay for this thing if he felt like he needed to. And that has never been properly vetted through this council and it should have been.”

Huskey does not have a campaign manager, and said that he will likely take vacation from his job to run for Council.

“I plan to hit the ground running,” he said. “I have a plan to do that. I’m going to run a credible, hard campaign and hopefully we’ll see on June 18 that I get enough votes to be in the top six.”

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(Left to right) Virginia Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-39), Del. Charniele Herring (D-46), Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-3) and Del. Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (D-45) speak at the Chamber ALX Legislative Breakfast at the Hilton Old Town, March 21, 2024 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Virginia House Majority Leader Del. Charniele Herring (D-46) said that the $2 billion Potomac Yard arena deal is in no man’s land and that she doesn’t see a path forward for it.

Herring, who voted yes in the House of Delegates version of the arena bill last month, criticized Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s handling of the issue. She was joined this morning by members of Northern Virginia’s delegation to the General Assembly at the Chamber ALX’s legislative breakfast.

Herring said that without “proper” financing of transportation and other infrastructure issues that she didn’t see a deal happening.

“As I see it today, I just don’t see it happening,” Herring said. “Unless there’s some sort of movement or some other discussions happening.”

The project to move the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals to a new entertainment district in Potomac Yard was dealt a decisive blow earlier this month when the state legislature refused to include it in its fiscal year 2025 budget.

Herring criticized Youngkin for conducting press conferences on the arena issue instead of negotiating with members of the General Assembly.

“He needs to be sitting down with legislators who ultimately are going to make that decision, not having rallies around the state with press conferences,” Herring said. “It does nobody any good.”

The statements follow recent news that Monumental Sports & Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis reportedly spoke with Maryland Governor Wes Moore about moving the arena to Maryland.

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-3) said that Youngkin has not engaged in negotiations with members of the General Assembly.

“It’s sort of been a ‘my way or the highway’ sort of thing,” Lopez said. “The governor hasn’t negotiated, really. He hasn’t really been involved in getting in the weeds with the folks in the State Senate and State House.”

Lopez continued, “I want to get to yes, on this project. I want to see this project work. We just need to make sure that everyone’s at the table, that the governors at the table, that we can actually negotiate on some of the broader policy issues and get to what we need to see, especially about transportation/transit, especially about Metro.”

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-39) said that the project is dead and that without a bill to work with, Youngkin has to start over legislatively. He also said that the makeup of the proposed Virginia Stadium Authority board, which would own and finance the arena, needs more representation from Alexandria.

City Council Member John Taylor Chapman said that the city needs a stronger partnership with the General Assembly.

“What transportation, housing and small business funding will they be working to bring to the city once they let this fail in Richmond?” Chapman said.

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A visibly frustrated Gov. Glenn Youngkin made a last-minute appeal to the Virginia legislature to support the Potomac Yard arena ahead of the General Assembly adjourning on Saturday.

“I believe the Senate is about to make a colossal mistake,” Youngkin said. “We came together over many months to represent the very best interests of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and to do it in a way that could put Virginia in the position for a big win in the Commonwealth.”

Youngkin said the revenue from the Potomac Yard arena could go back into transportation priorities like I-81, toll relief, and Metro funding. Youngkin had signaled interest in working with Northern Virginia to support Metro through a budget crisis, an outcome that is uncertain with the Potomac Yard arena bargaining chip off the table.

“The Senate refused to give the single largest economic development deal in Virginia’s history any serious, meaningful consideration, breaking their own long-standing tradition in the process and avoiding the broad bipartisan support in both houses,” Youngkin said. “This bill would pass.”

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Potomac Yard arena proposal in Richmond.

Yesterday, Senate Finance and Appropriations Chairwoman L. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth) told the Washington Post that the Potomac Yard arena won’t be in the budget compromise.

The Potomac Yard arena development plans involve the creation of a Virginia Stadium Authority to finance the construction of the $2 billion Potomac Yard arena and entertainment district. Creation of that authority, though, is contingent on it being included in the state budget.

“I’m an optimist,” said Youngkin. “A true optimist. I will never stop fighting for Virginia’s success. I believe our Senate and General Assembly have a chance to stand up and do what’s right. They have a chance to assess this one-of-a-kind, first-of-its-kind, opportunity on its merits. It befuddles me that we’re not spending today talking about how to deliver it and we’re instead trying to convince our General Assembly to do what’s right.”

Feeling momentum from the stalemate in Richmond, the Coalition to Stop the Potomac Yard Arena held a press conference outside the Potomac Yard Metro station.

The anti-arena effort is led by former Vice Mayor Andrew Macdonald, who said that his group is going to now prepare for anticipation of Youngkin calling back a special session to focus on the issue in April.

“We’re going to now mobilize all of the volunteers,” Macdonald said. “We are going to be making it very clear to the General Assembly and everyone else and to the public just how bad a deal this is for everyone. And so we’re going to continue to work extremely hard over the next few weeks to put this project to bed.”

Former Mayor Allison Silberberg thanked Sen. Lucas for her “courage and leadership.”

“We thank her and all those who have stood strong,” Silberberg said. “So, now we need to see it through and make sure that this deal is really dead.”

City Council candidate Charlotte Scherer wants the General Assembly to kill the arena deal.

“Momentum is on our side,” Scherer said. “I think that the General Assembly is going to do the right thing and vote down the creation of a sports authority to issue the bonds and by doing that, that would effectively stop the arena.”

In a release, the Coalition said:

The Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard today applauded the Virginia General Assembly for keeping Governor Youngkin’s proposal to build an arena at Potomac Yard for Monumental Sports & entertainment out of the state budget.

The Coalition is pleased that the General Assembly listened to the residents of Alexandria and citizens throughout the Commonwealth. While there are still many hurdles to overcome before Governor Youngkin’s vanity project is consigned to the dustbin of history, the momentum is clearly against him and his billionare enablers. We urge the Governor to heed the bipartisan voices urging him to abandon this deal and not needlessly prolong his efforts into the veto session in April. There are many more important priorities for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

We are deeply indebted to the many champions who have raised their voices in opposition to this deal, including State Senator Louise Lucas, Don’t Mute DC, the Northern Virginia Labor Federation, UNITE HERE Local 25, Taxpayers Protection Alliance, National Consumers League, Sports Fans Coalition, the Sierra Club’s Potomac River Chapter, and the extensive network of volunteers across the region who contributed to this grassroots effort.

The Coalition will continue to advocate at local and state levels to oppose this project until a final decision has been made and Governor Youngkin’s monumental mistake is stopped once and for all.

Vernon Miles and James Cullum contributed to this story

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Rendering of outdoor plaza at Monumental Arena development (image courtesy of JBG SMITH)

(Updated at 9 p.m.) Virginia’s House of Delegates voted to pass the arena bill 59-40, sending the proposal to an uncertain future in the Senate.

Earlier this week, the Democrat-controlled Virginia Senate voted not to table the bill on the arena’s stadium authority for a hearing.

The proposal to build a new arena at Potomac Yard for the Washington Wizards and Washington Capitals has met with a mixed reception.

“I’m pleased that the House of Delegates has allowed the community conversation on the potential of this economic development opportunity to continue” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “I look forward to further engagement with legislators in RIchmond and residents of Alexandria.”

Many local leaders say the proposal would be a boon for Alexandria’s economy and development plans for Potomac Yard, while other Alexandria representatives and protestors against the arena highlighted concerns that the new arena would create more traffic than either the local roads or Metro station can handle, among other concerns.

Alexandria Delegate Elizabeth Bennett-Parker announced today that she would vote against the Potomac Yard arena legislation.

Bennett-Parker said that the bill to create the Virginia Sports and Entertainment Authority and Financing Fund “currently falls disproportionately on our residents,” who will see residential property tax increases. She also said that the transportation funds needed to bring the $2 billion entertainment district to Potomac Yard by 2028 have not been defined.

“Despite the Governor’s recently released transportation study, there remain a lot of concerns and questions,” Bennett-Parker wrote in an email. “Besides the effects of the proposal on Route 1 and surrounding roads, and the critical, long-term investment needed for WMATA regardless of this proposal, it is unclear what the Commonwealth is actually committing to in terms of transportation funds.”

Bennett-Parker, a former vice mayor of Alexandria, said that she has been “continually frustrated” by Governor Glenn Youngkin’s administration’s lack of forthcomingness.

“The Administration has failed to share important details and failed to give good-faith guarantees for workers and worker protections,” she wrote. “Given the significant impacts the proposed entertainment district would have on our community, I cannot in good faith vote for this without more information on the financing of the project, a more sustained commitment to WMATA funding, state-funded transportation improvements to mitigate its effects, protections for workers, displacement protections for Arlandria residents, and appropriate representation of Alexandrians on the Authority.”

Bennett-Parker also joined her former colleagues by stating that the city needs more representation on the proposed 15-member Virginia Stadium Authority board. The House version of the bill would have three members on the board from Alexandria.

“That is unacceptable for a project that would so dramatically affect our community,” Bennett-Parker wrote.

Monumental Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Capitals and Wizards, put out a release celebrating the vote in the House of Delegates.

““We are so encouraged by the bipartisan support for this monumental opportunity to create jobs and generate revenue that will benefit the city, the region, and the entire Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Monumental’s Chief Administrative Officer Monica Dixon. “This is a big step forward in the process, but we know it is not the last step. We believe this is the right project for Alexandria, for Virginia, and for our fans, players, coaches, and employees. We look forward to working with the leadership, members, and staff of the Virginia Senate to answer their questions and earn their support for this transformative economic opportunity.”

One of the groups opposing the new arena, the Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard, said despite the vote they still believe the momentum is against the arena.

“It has been exactly two months since Governor Youngkin and Ted Leonsis stood on stage in Alexandria to announce this project,” Potomac Yard resident and co-founder of the Coalition, Adrien Lopez, said in a release. “Despite a lot of flashy presentations and social media posts, serious questions have piled up and opposition is growing. We believe this idea is fatally flawed and the Senate should pursue other important matters before the Commonwealth.”

Governor Glenn Youngkin wants to break ground on the project by next year, which means a swift turnaround with approved legislation in both houses of the General Assembly. On Monday, however, Virginia President Pro Tempore Sen. L. Louise Lucas (D-18) tweeted that the bill is not on the Senate Finance and Appropriations docket because it is “not ready for prime time.”

James Cullum and Vernon Miles contributed to this story

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Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin speaks at the announcement of a new arena for the Washington Wizards and Capitals in Potomac Yard in Alexandria, Dec. 13, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Governor Glenn Youngkin visited the Potomac Yard Metro station yesterday (Thursday) to address plans for the transit system’s future, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

While Youngkin signaled he’s open to some additional support for Metro, Youngkin also pushed back against claims from leaders like State Sen. Adam Ebbin that Metro funding is “a prerequisite” to the Potomac Yard Metro arena.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch said Youngkin claimed that helping Metro close the $750 million operating deficit is ‘disconnected’ from the arena project.

The station has been the epicenter of many arguments about the new Potomac Yard arena planned to host the Washington Capitals and Wizards. Both Alexandria and Metro leaders said the station cannot support arena crowds — with a new report said wait times at the station could run well over an hour if no upgrades are made.

transportation plan presented last week said a widened bridge, new escalators, and additional fare gates would be added to the station. Those upgrades are estimated to cost between $35 million and $70 million.

With those upgrades, the station could still crowd heavily for 30-45 minutes after events.

Youngkin also said he wants the transit system to do more to crack down on fare evasion, raise fares and reduce labor costs, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

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Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin speaks at the announcement of a new arena for the Washington Wizards and Capitals in Potomac Yard in Alexandria, Dec. 13, 2023 (staff photo by James Cullum)

It’s a classic trope, from the epic of Gilgamesh to the Fast & Furious: two enemies or rivals have to team up and put their differences aside to tackle a bigger threat.

Like some of the best odd couple pairs, Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the mostly Democratic City of Alexandria have had some pretty public feuds, but the Potomac Yard arena and connected Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) funding could make for strange bedfellows.

In a recent newsletter, Mayor Justin Wilson noted that Youngkin has signaled that he could be an ally in Alexandria’s push for greater Metro funding.

According to the newsletter:

As the General Assembly works to address this challenge, Governor Youngkin has now signaled his support for increased state funding for WMATA in conjunction with approval for the North Potomac Yard Entertainment District proposal.

Addressing this financial gap will require collective action across the three state governments, its local jurisdictions (including Alexandria) and the Federal Government. This type of conversation is one that is playing out around the nation, but it will require a series of difficult decisions locally.

Youngkin had previously opposed expanding Virginia’s role in funding WMATA and, earlier this month, said he expects funding to come with the expectation of reforms within Metro leadership — namely driving down costs and improving fare collection.

Metro funding has been a crucial piece of the Potomac Yard arena discussions, with both Wilson and Metro GM Randy Clarke saying the current Potomac Yard Metro station can’t handle the traffic at the proposed arena. Beyond just that infrastructure limitation, the brand new Potomac Yard Metro station was on the chopping block when WMATA was reviewing stations to close due to budget cuts.

State Sen. Adam Ebbin described increased funding to Metro as a ‘prerequisite‘ to any discussion of the new Potomac Yard arena.

Even as city leaders say the new project will be reliant on the Metro for transportation, WMATA faces a possible death spiral with a $750 million shortfall.

“With the presentation of a sobering budget, the WMATA staff presented a dire picture of the region’s transit finance in the future,” Wilson wrote. “A combination of relief that had been provided to the taxpayers of local jurisdictions during the pandemic, decreased fare revenue and the impact of inflation and collective bargaining agreements for WMATA’s employees has left a $750 million operating deficit going forward.”

Wilson said the shortfall can’t be addressed with fare increases and service reductions alone, given that both might drive ridership even lower.

While Metro hit a post-pandemic ridership peak at 563,000 riders in November, Wilson noted that’s still less than the average ridership of 626,000 pre-pandemic and Metro’s average ridership is still only half what it was pre-pandemic.

Wilson also noted that nearby localities can’t shoulder the tax burden to compensate for the decline in ridership. Alexandria currently contributes $56.6 million to WMATA’s operating budget and $16.6 million in capital contributions, Wilson wrote.

According to the newsletter:

Addressing this financial gap will require collective action across the three state governments, its local jurisdictions (including Alexandria) and the Federal Government. This type of conversation is one that is playing out around the nation, but it will require a series of difficult decisions locally.

Transit is essential to our region’s economy and our quality of life, but the financial model that has supported its existence for a generation is upside down. The work ahead requires defining a new model to sustain transit for another generation.

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Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin at Pork Barrel BBQ in Del Ray with restaurant employee Karl Gallant, Sept. 8, 2023 (courtesy photo)

In his second annual State of the Commonwealth address, Gov. Glenn Youngkin praised Pork Barrel BBQ (2312 Mount Vernon Avenue) in Del Ray at the end of a section arguing in favor of the new Potomac Yard arena.

Youngkin, who has faced some unwelcome receptions in Alexandria in the past, had previously visited Pork Barrel BBQ.

In his speech, Youngkin said the new arena bringing the Washington Capitals and Washington Wizards to Alexandria will be a boon for the Commonwealth of Virginia, the region, and the City of Alexandria.

“Small businesses will win too: one of those businesses is Pork Barrel BBQ in the Del Ray neighborhood, where for over a decade you’d find its owner, Bill Blackburn, behind the counter,” Youngkin said. “He’s a father of two and his roots in Alexandria run deep. He knows that when opportunity knocks, you should open the door. He knows having a world-class sports entertainment venue… right around the corner is good for business.”

Blackburn was in attendance at the address and received applause from the audience.

“Bill, thank you for showing us that when the opportunity presents itself, Virginia should seize it,” Youngkin said. “Thank you for being one of the thousands of small business owners that are lifting up the economy and are the lifeblood of Virginia’s future.”

In the speech, Youngkin was making the case for the new Potomac Yard to the General Assembly. The General Assembly is considering legislation to create a sports and entertainment authority, which would then have the power to issue the $1.5 billion in bonds required for the project.

“In partnership with the General Assembly, we can bring this opportunity to fruition,” Youngkin said. “Together, we can welcome both a new NBA team and new NHL team, with $12 billion in new economic activity and 30,000 new jobs.”

The city-funded Alexandria Economic Development Partnership hired lobbyists to advocate for the development at the General Assembly.

Youngkin said the arena opportunity is “rare and complex.”

Many in the General Assembly, and in Alexandria as a whole, remain unconvinced. The Pork Barrel BBQ choice is particularly ironic given that some state legislators have expressed concerns that the project will be Commonwealth funding to a project solely benefiting one locality — also known as pork barrel spending.

Republican State Senator Glen Sturtevant told 7News that he was reticent to give Alexandria more state funding after earlier appropriations for the state-mandated RiverRenew project. New legislation proposed this month also made it clear that RiverRenew won’t meet its 2025 deadlines.

Locally, the Potomac Yard arena has drawn protests from both Alexandrians and Washingtonians, where transportation concerns remain a key issue. State Sen. Adam Ebbin said securing Metro funding is a precondition, at the very least, to even talking about the arena.

In a release from Capitals and Wizards owner Monumental Sports, Blackburn said he was excited about the project

“As a small business owner, a resident, and a parent in Alexandria, I’m excited about this project and the opportunities it will create for my business, my family, and my city,” said Blackburn following the annual address. “The City, the Governor, and the General Assembly are going above and beyond to engage with residents and the business community about this opportunity and I really appreciate that. This project should be something that brings our community together regardless of your politics. It’s about investing in the future of our City.”

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Dining in Old Town. (Staff photo by James Cullum)

All arguments aside, Alexandria’s equity standards and economic prospects have been declared sound.

Yesterday, the city announced that S&P Global Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service reaffirmed Alexandria’s ‘AAA’ bond rating. The city has maintained the designation since 1992, and it equates to a good credit rating for the city to get low-interest rates from bond investors to provide funding for multiple projects.

“This is the ‘Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval’ for the city’s fiscal management and the state of our municipal balance sheet,” Mayor Justin Wilson told ALXnow. “This allows the City to borrow at the lowest-possible rates and maximize taxpayer dollars as we invest in critical infrastructure projects, including two new schools.”

This city said that before the end of the year it will issue $258 million of tax-exempt general obligation bonds to pay for capital improvement projects, like the Minnie Howard Redevelopment Project at Alexandria City High School, the newly constructed Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, and to the West End project at the former Landmark Mall property.

The Nexus at West Alex rendering (via AHDC)

Alexandria also announced Thursday that it got a perfect score in The Human Rights Campaign’s 2023 Municipal Equality Index. The city, which got its third annual perfect score, is one of more than 500 municipalities across the country evaluated on the inclusiveness of their laws, policies and services toward LGBTQ+ residents.

Last year, city leaders decried Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s recommendations restricting transgender bathroom and pronoun use in public schools. In July, Alexandria City Public Schools put out a statement refusing to comply with the recommendations.

“(W)e want to reaffirm our commitment to all students, staff and families, including our LGBTQIA+ community, that ACPS will continue to both implement and develop gender affirming policies for all ACPS students,” School Board Chair Michelle Rief and SUperintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt said in their joint statement. “School Board Policy JB: Nondiscrimination in Education protects students from discrimination due to gender expression, gender identity, sexual harassment and transgender status.”

Wilson said that equity was prioritized by City Council in its 2021 ALL Alexandria resolution, as well as by the city’s LGBTQ+ Task Force.

“I’m thrilled to see that paying off, and our efforts being recognized with another perfect score,” he said. “But this recognition is not the mark of a finished job. We have to keep working to ensure that Alexandria is an inclusive environment for everyone.”

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Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin at Pork Barrel BBQ in Del Ray with restaurant employee Karl Gallant, Sept. 8, 2023 (courtesy photo)

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin put politics aside today and ate lunch at Pork Barrel BBQ in Del Ray.

Youngkin, who was accompanied by his entourage of bodyguards and staff, ordered iced tea and a pulled pork sandwich with macaroni and cheese.

“Nobody even noticed him (Youngkin),” said restaurant owner Bill Blackburn. “He was hungry for lunch and has been here two or three times before.”

Youngkin, a Republican, was in Alexandria in February 2022, and spoke about cost of living reductions at the Safeway grocery store in the Bradlee Shopping Center. That visit prompted the Alexandria Democratic Committee to ask Youngkin to “get out of Alexandria.”

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