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Alexandria City Council Candidate Kevin Harris, a professional basketball trainer who is also president of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority resident association (staff photo by James Cullum)

Kevin Harris didn’t like the way the 2021 City Council primary went down and now he’s taking another shot.

Harris was edged out by just 750 votes, with Council Member Kirk McPike taking the sixth and last available Council spot. Now he faces 11 opponents in the upcoming June primary.

“This truly is a family affair for us,” Harris said. “Obviously some tears were flowing from my wife and children… It’s a commitment to be up here, and it’s a privilege to have been working on all the things I’ve been doing in the city of Alexandria.”

Harris has been president of the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) Resident Association for more than a decade. He’s a lifelong city resident and lives in Old Town with his wife and four children in an ARHA property near to where a rash of shooting incidents have occurred.

ARHA and the police erected video cameras in the area and patrols have increased over the years. Harris says that when the city hires a new police chief that community policing and officers on foot patrols need to be brought back to the area.

“I’m talking about community policing in terms of having a real relationship, real connection with your residents,” Harris said. “Where people can identify the officers, they know their names, they don’t feel threatened when they see an officer coming towards them.”

Harris got his Bachelor’s Degree in business from Alabama State University, where he got a full athletic scholarship and was named captain of the basketball team. He later played professionally for the Dakota Wizards. In 2003, he founded Hoop Life Inc. and has since taught basketball camps, clinics, classes and after-school programs throughout the region. He’s also an ordained Minister at the Love of Christ Church in Del Ray, where he teaches Sunday school.

On the failed Potomac Yard arena deal, Harris said that it’s better that the Washington Wizards and Capitals are staying in D.C.

“Aside from the huge fact that the deal could have caused displacement for marginalized communities, partially sidelined labor unions, and created a complex traffic situation, it was clear from my talks with community members from various sects of the city that the vast majority of Alexandrians didn’t want it or were indifferent towards it,” Harris said. “Regardless, this situation has sparked a unique opportunity for our city to continue in dialogue on the real issue, how to boost our commercial tax base.”

Harris has gotten endorsements from NOVA Labor, former City Council Member Willie Bailey, as well as the ARHA Resident Association and other labor groups.

Harris said that outgoing Mayor Justin Wilson will be missed, and needs to be replaced with “someone who listens.”

“Before you get into the technicalities of what it takes to run a city, you got to first really care,” Harris said.

Harris would like to see a free trolley, like the King Street Trolley, drop visitors at the city’s historic spots. He also said that the city should look for creative solutions before deciding on a tax increase and needs to favor a more welcoming small business environment.

“I always say that a budget is a moral document,” he said. “That’s my key thing, and understanding that our children are really important. But running the city is not not too much different than running a household. A lot of times you know, you have to make sacrifices.”

Harris also grew up homeless, living with his single mom at the homes of family friends. Consequently, he says that he’s been a lifelong advocate for affordable housing.

“Basketball has been a tool that has taught me so much in my life,” Harris told ALXnow. “You have to learn how to deal with adverse situations and push through them by using your fundamentals you’ve learned so hard to master. Basketball allows you a better understanding of who you are, and how to leverage your strengths and weaknesses.”

Harris said that Michael Jordan was his idol growing up.

“It was his mindset,” Harris said of Jordan. “He was determined to win, to be competitive and understood what was needed to win.”

The Democratic primary is on June 18.

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If you have a friend who buys Powerball at this Safeway at 8646 Richmond Highway, the next round at the bar is on them (photo via Google Maps)

What a busy week in Alexandria.

This week’s top story was all about money, with a $1 million Powerball ticket getting sold in the Alexandria area of Fairfax County.

On Monday we reported that an Alexandria resident was charged after a loaded gun was allegedly found in his carry-on bag at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA). The incident marked the third time last month that a firearm was confiscated from luggage at the airport.

Also Monday, Mayor Justin Wilson said in his monthly newsletter that the March 27 death of the Potomac Yard arena deal would likely mean a period of stagnation for that area of the city. Landowner JBG Smith, however, softened its stance after initially releasing a scathing opinion on the situation, and told the Washington Business Journal on Wednesday that it now envisions Potomac Yard as a tech corridor anchored by the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus.

In a Thursday poll, ALXnow asked whether Alexandria is better off without the Potomac Yard arena. The poll got more than 1,300 responses, with 65% voting “Yes,” 26% voting “No” and nearly 10% voting “I don’t know.”

Got a good spot to see the eclipse on Monday? Our second-most-read story this week showcases an eclipse viewing party being hosted by the city in Old Town.

The most-read stories this week were:

  1. Powerball ticket worth $1 million sold in Mount Vernon (7387 views)
  2. City of Alexandria hosting eclipse viewing party in Old Town (7375 views)
  3. Notes: Pizza and cocktail bar opening this week in Old Town (5997 views)
  4. Sign ordinance update tackling longstanding sign complaints from Alexandria businesses (5400 views)
  5. In wake of Potomac Yard arena implosion, Alexandria mayor says area will stay the same for ‘quite some time’ (5398 views)
  6. Alexandria gets federal grant for Duke Street transitway (4171 views)
  7. No arrest after woman stabbed in neck in Alexandria’s West End (3522 views)
  8. CIM Group sells apartment complex next to old Landmark Mall property for $225 million (3149 views)

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria mayoral candidate Steven Peterson with his wife, Martha (Courtesy photo)

Steven Peterson is like no other Democrat running for office in Alexandria, and he wants to be the mayor.

From his opinions on racial undertones killing the Potomac Yard arena deal to wanting to reverse a slew of zoning reforms approved last year by City Council, one thing is crystal clear: Peterson is unfiltered.

“My father used to tell me ‘Only the lead dog has a good view,'” Peterson said. “I have no interest in becoming a city councilperson. I don’t want to be one of six. I want to be in spheres of influence.”

A newcomer in the small world of Alexandria politics, the “semi-retired” real estate developer decided before Christmas to run against Vice Mayor Amy Jackson and City Council Member Alyia Gaskins in the June 18 Democratic Primary for mayor.

“This is not a stepping stone for me in the future like it might be for Gaskins and Jackson,” Peterson said. “If I believe in something, you might not like my opinion, but you’re gonna know why.”

As for what he wants to accomplish in office, Peterson gave a simple, Reagan-esqe answer.

“I want people to be able to say, I have a better quality of life now than I had three years ago when Peterson started,” he said. “I don’t care if you’re a janitor or a billionaire. Everyone wants a better quality of life.”

Peterson is the son of legendary real estate developer Milton Peterson, founder of Peterson Companies and longtime chair of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. The family is firmly Republican, and Peterson Companies is one of the largest private developers in the region. The company managed the development of National Harbor, and Steven Peterson, in fact, was the project manager in that particular large-scale development.

“I learned a hell of a lot from the guy,” Peterson said of his father. “He had a big following. He had a big ego, but he also knew how to get the best out of people to come to a consensus.”

He also spent $30,000 on a “polling study” to determine his chances in the election. The phone poll was conducted in March, according to multiple sources.

“After conducting a $30,000 polling study on various issues that involve the city, I was surprised that the issue of crime was not higher on people’s agenda,” Peterson said. “There was somewhat of a feeling as though, ‘Well, if my car wasn’t stolen or I wasn’t personally robbed, it’s not high on my agenda.’ Well, I can assure you that the fact overall crime was up 30% in 2023 and car thefts were up 58% will be a major mandate on my agenda.”

On April 4, the filing deadline date, Peterson submitted the necessary signatures and paperwork to officially run for mayor. Incidentally, he doesn’t want to be identified as a Democrat, or a Republican, despite running in the June 18 Democratic primary. He also says, if elected, he’ll take on the job full-time and donate his salary to the Alexandria Police Foundation.

“I don’t want to be seen as a Republican or a Democrat,” Peterson said. “I want to be seen as a guy who cares about the issues and wants to create solutions based upon the problems.”

Peterson takes pride in having declared himself as the first mayoral candidate to go against the recently failed Potomac Yard arena deal. The “about” page of his campaign website is exclusively devoted to his opposition of the plan to move the Washington Wizards and Capitals from D.C. to Alexandria. He also likes to joke that Jackson followed his lead when he openly opposed the arena.

“Amy Jackson did the Michael Jackson Moonwalk,” he said. “The reason she did the Moonwalk backwards? Maybe it was that Peterson is totally against it. I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m reading the tea leaves. I gotta go against it.'”

Peterson says that there were racial undertones at play between Senate Pro Tempore Louise Lucas (D-18), the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Republican Governor Glen Youngkin during the General Assembly’s consideration of the proposal. Lucas effectively killed the House of Delegates’ Potomac Yard arena bill in committee, denying Youngkin the chance to include it in the fiscal year 2025 budget.

According to Peterson, “The undertones of the racial issue with Lucas being the first Black (woman) with power in the State of Virginia, she’s the first one that comes out and says, ‘I’m the first one and I’m not gonna screw this up. I’m not gonna let Youngkin screw this up. I’m not going to be saying, ‘I was the first Black woman in power and I screwed it up. I’m not going to allow that.’ And I respect that decision.”

On the future of the 12-acre Potomac Yard property, Peterson echoed the latest sentiments of landowner JBG Smith CEO Matt Kelly, who recently told the Washington Business Journal that the area could turn into a tech corridor.

“Good real estate is always gonna find a good use eventually, right?” Peterson said. “It’s just not gonna be an arena. You’ve got a nice site that is located right near Metro, less than five miles from the world’s capital. You’re in a pretty good position, and you got companies like Amazon that want to move here. Why? There’s a reason why Virginia Tech put a billion dollars in, because you got good Metro, you got a good infrastructure, you got a quality citizen base for employment.”

Peterson is already anticipating attacks from his new political rivals.

“They’re gonna take their shots at me and say, ‘He’s a Republican, he’s a rich developer,'” Peterson said. “I don’t think Republican or Democrat, whether it’s crime, affordable housing and smart growth, whether it’s responsible land use. We have budgetary issues that we have to address as we move forward.”

Peterson is often accompanied on the campaign trail by his wife, Martha Shaw Peterson, and the pair have seven children. He’s lived in the city for 25 years, during which time he’s been a member of multiple boards, including the boards of St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School, the Inova Alexandria Hospital Foundation, and Middlebury College in Vermont. He also has a degree in liberal arts from Middlebury College.

Peterson wants to reverse last year’s overhaul of zoning ordinances, including Council’s citywide elimination of single family zoning. The zoning reforms were seen by Council as a way to increase affordable residential development in the city.

“They basically took up the Constitution of Virginia and said to hell with it,” Peterson said. “I would go back to the where we were (the city’s previous zoning policies prior to the Council action) and I will talk to about the citizenry about this.”

Peterson says that public distrust of Council has opened an opportunity for his leadership. While he has nothing against City Manager Jim Parajon, he says that Wilson runs the city like a dictator.

“What I’ve ever seen over the last six, eight months is not the way I would run the city,” Peterson said. “As a former developer, I don’t like the way he just comes in and mandates from the top down. There’s not my style, and that’s not what I’m going to do if I’m the mayor, and I think that’s gonna resonate with people.”

Peterson said Parajon seems to be a fiscally disciplined businessman.

“You’re dealing with an $850 million budget,” he said. “You got to spread that money around somewhere and everyone has their hand out, right? And I think that by the mere fact Wilson’s got a big ego, and he runs that city, as I’ve said, like a dictatorship, and he won’t mess around with him (Parajon) too much, which leads me to believe that he’s pretty successful at what he does.”

Still, Peterson echoes the sentiments of other candidates who criticise an imbalance in the city’s tax revenue structure.

“Twenty years ago, 50% of the residential taxes were paying for the budget,” he said. “Now it’s 82% are paying the $850 million budget. That’s not good, smart, responsible government. You just can’t put it on the citizens.”

Three days before filing his candidacy, Peterson emailed ALXnow a statement on his various political positions. That full statement is below the jump. Read More

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The Potomac Yard arena’s demise has been met by mixed emotions from public officials, and even landowner JBG Smith.

Now that the Washington Wizards and Capitals are definitely not coming to Alexandria and will stay in D.C., a proverbial question mark looms over the 12-acre property.

JBG Smith released a scathing message after Alexandria backed out of the deal on March 27, and then lightened up in a recent interview with the Washington Business Journal. Now CEO Matt Kelly says that the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus will be the anchor for the area, and that with Amazon HQ2 nearby in Crystal City, Potomac Yard will become a tech corridor.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the economic benefits of the arena and entertainment district could have funded a number of city priorities, including a potential reduction of personal property taxes for residents. He wasn’t so optimistic on the future of the property, and called the city leaving the deal  “perhaps the most negative financial event for our schools, public safety and human services in recent history.”

“Regardless of your perspective on the North Potomac Yard proposal, it held the potential to dramatically reshape Alexandria’s economy, easing the burden on our residential taxpayers and enabling expanded investment in critical services to our residents, as well as yielding new land for a school, open space and committed affordable housing,” Wilson wrote in his April newsletter.

The initial agreement was hailed by Republican Governor Glen Youngkin as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and it was vigorously supported by Wilson and Ted Leonsis, the billionaire owner of both teams.

News of the proposal broke on Dec. 13, surprising even D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who was in the midst of negotiating with Leonsis to keep both teams at the Capital One Arena. Youngkin proudly announced the deal onstage at Potomac Yard, flanked by U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D), Leonsis, Kelly, Stephanie Landrum of the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and the entire City Council.

But the sudden nature of the deal, as well as a short, three-month public relations campaign by the city and Monumental Sports, had little effect in Richmond. A House of Delegates bill establishing a stadium authority to issue $1.5 billion in taxpayer-funded bonds was stopped in the Senate Appropriations Committee by Sen. Louis Lucas (D-18), and the city left the negotiating table on March 27.

Leonsis has since turned back to D.C., where both teams will likely remain for decades.

The Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard loudly protested the project.

“Economic development that benefits all residents of Alexandria and the Commonwealth can only happen with transparent input from the citizens who will be affected,” said Andrew Macdonald, a former Alexandria vice mayor and co-founder of the Coalition. “Backroom deals negotiated in secret and sprung on the citizens at the last minute must not be standard operating procedure in Alexandria or anywhere else ever again.”

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Happy Thursday, Alexandria!

⛈️ Today’s weather: Expect isolated showers between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., followed by scattered showers and thunderstorms that could produce small hail. The day should be partly sunny with a high temperature near 57. Tonight, there’s a 30% chance of isolated showers between 8 and 11 p.m., with a low temperature of 39.

🚨 You need to know

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

What’s going to happen with the 12-acre property at Potomac Yard since the arena and entertainment district plans evaporated?

In an exclusive interview with the Washington Business Journal, Matt Kelly, the CEO for landowner JBG Smith, said that he doesn’t know exactly what will go into the space now, but that the arena deal highlighted the “attractiveness” of the property, which is next door to the Potomac Yard Metro station.

Kelly’s statements follow a scathing condemnation from the company immediately after the deal officially died.

Kelly said that JBG Smith’s 2020 plans to build six office buildings with ground floor retail on the arena will likely be scrapped due to a dwindling office market. He also said that Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus and Amazon’s HQ2 in Crystal City will open opportunities for “tech uses” in the space.

The statement contradicts a more dire message from Mayor Justin Wilson, who recently wrote in his April newsletter that the arena failure will likely result in a period of stagnation for the property.

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Alexandria City Council members and candidates are opening up about their positions on the city backing out of the Potomac Yard arena deal.

Mayor Justin Wilson said that the city will be spending a lot of time unpacking what led to the announcement that it was backing out of a plan to move the Washington Wizards and Capitals from D.C. to a new arena with an entertainment district in the city’s Potomac Yard neighborhood.

The deal is now a historic defeat, joining the failed attempt in the 1990s to build a stadium for the Washington Redskins (now Washington Commanders) at Potomac Yard.

“We’ll spend some time unpacking all of this,” Wilson told ALXnow. “But in the end, this proposal got caught up in some powerful politics in Richmond. Now, as a result of those very same politics, some very significant priorities of Alexandria are very vulnerable in Richmond. That’s a shame.”

Wilson said those components of the state budget include funding for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, education and public safety. Wilson was enthusiastic about the deal since it was announced Dec. 13, remaining steadfast in his support of its economic potential until yesterday’s announcement. Wilson is currently vacationing with his family and has been responding to the situation from Greece.

“Gun legislation has already been vetoed, and I imagine many, many vetoes to go,” Wilson said.

All of City Council sat on stage alongside Wilson, Governor Glenn Youngkin and Monumental Sports & Entertainment owner Ted Leonsis at the surprise announcement on Dec. 13 in Potomac Yard. Youngkin characterized the move as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, wanting the arena to open next door to the Potomac Yard Metro station in 2028.

The $2 billion project stalled in the Democrat-controlled Virginia State Senate, held up by Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Louise Lucas, who refused to include it in the state budget. This week, Lucas said that Leonsis could pay for the entire project himself instead of relying on $1.5 billion in bond financing from Virginia taxpayers.

Former Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg joined the Coalition to Stop the Arena at Potomac Yard in Richmond to protest the move during the General Assembly’s session earlier this month. She said that the city backing out of the deal was a great relief.

“The financial risks were terrible for the Commonwealth and our city, as well as the traffic impacts that would have overwhelmed our city over 275 nights a year,” Silberberg said. “I hope the city will now focus its economic development vision on more compatible uses for this property. As I have said often since 2018, I envision a tech corridor with the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus as the anchor and catalyst in addition to mixed use development.”

Read More

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Matt Kelly, CEO of JBG Smith, 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)

While there’s no shortage of finger-pointing in the aftermath of the collapsed Potomac Yard arena deal, one that flew a little under the radar in the news yesterday was developer JBG Smith laying the blame squarely on a conspiracy involving the Fairfax casino project.

The statement from JBG Smith was noted by the Washington Business Journal as being unusually blunt.

The first accusation is that the project was derailed by “partisan politics and, most troubling, the influence of special interests and potential pay-to-play influences within the Virginia legislature.”

JBG Smith elaborates on the other two later in the release, but the first one is likely a shot at Virginia State Sen. Louise Lucas. While the arena project made it through the House of Delegates mostly unscathed, Lucas used her position as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee to keep the project out of the State Senate’s budget discussions.

Lucas said her opposition was primarily around the deal financing. While no upfront state taxpayer dollars would go to the project, new tax revenue from the project would have been diverted to pay down the bonds.

JBG Smith said the proposal was denied “a fair hearing” by never going to the Senate floor.

“Despite our best efforts, this project was unable to get a fair hearing on its merits with the Virginia Senate,” JBG Smith said.

Though the release stops just short of naming developer Comstock, JBG Smith pointed fingers at the “special interests” behind the Tysons casino deal.

It is now clear that our efforts may have been complicated and ultimately blocked, in part, by special interests seeking to move the Monumental arena to Tysons Corner and to combine it with a casino. The Washington Post and other outlets have reported on this scheme and the hundreds of thousands of dollars, enormous sums in Virginia politics, of political contributions associated with it – a large portion of which were directed to key senate leaders.  When one follows the money, the implications are deeply troubling for Virginia and for the future of transparency in economic development pursuits, especially those that seek certainty through the now damaged MEI legislative process.

The Washington Post reported that a group had formed to shift the arena to Tysons rather than Alexandria. The post reported that Christopher Clemente, chief executive of Comstock — the developer behind the casino project in Fairfax — had been pitching a casino-arena deal with Fairfax political consultant Ben Tribbett and Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax).

One item of concern raised in the Washington Post story is that Tribbett, part of the casino group, also advised Lucas. Tribbett told the Washington Post that consulting for multiple parties involved in the arena debate was “politics.”

The proposal was apparently immediately shot down by Youngkin and Monumental Sports and Entertainment, with Monumental owner Ted Leonsis apparently voicing “disgust” at perceived pressure to link the arena to the casino. Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson also expressed disappointment at the backroom dealing.

The Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, a city-funded organization that aims to bolster Alexandria’s economy, also hired lobbyists to advocate for the project in Richmond.

While JBG Smith accused inter-developer sabotage of killing the deal, the project also faced a host of other issues, from concerns over the financing plan to uncertainty about transportation to the arena development.

The full release from JBG Smith is below the jump:

Read More

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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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Monumental Sports President Ted Leonsis, Dec. 13, 2 (staff photo by James Cullum)

Updated 3/23 — A spokesperson from Monumental Sports and Entertainment responded “We fundamentally disagree with the Attorney General’s opinions, which are contradicted by the DC General Counsel as recently as 2019 when the city ratified the Ground Lease.”

Even as Monumental Sports and Entertainment faces an uncertain future for its Potomac Yard plans, D.C. could be throwing a new legal challenge into the mix, Washington City Paper first reported.

The letter from D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb said that D.C. publicly financed $50 million in extensive improvements to the current arena in Chinatown in 2007, ten years after it opened, and part of that agreement was a condition to play home games at the arena through 2047.

“The Council expressly conditioned that public financing on [DC Arena LP’s] commitment to extend the original ground lease for an additional 20 years, thereby ensuring the District and its taxpayers that the Wizards and the Capitals would continue to play their home games at the arena through 2047,” Schwalb said.

Schwalb went on to say the 2007 legislation did not authorize [DC Arena LP] to extinguish or revoke the lease extensions upon prepayment of the outstanding bond debt.

Schwalb said D.C.’s conclusion is Monumental Sports and Entertainment is obligated to keep the Wizards and Capitals at the arena through 2047.

“I am advising you that the District does not agree with your legal conclusion that MSE’s proposed arena move to Virginia does not violate or breach its legal obligations to the District,” the letter said. “To be clear, the District very much prefers not to pursue any potential claims against MSE. It remains committed to maintaining and growing its partnership with MSE and to keeping the Wizards and Capitals at the arena until the end of the existing lease term in 2047, if not beyond.”

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