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Last week, Agenda Alexandria sat local Republicans and Democrats together at a table to hash things out and try to find a way forward.

The round table discussion featured former Delegate Mark Levine and Legislative Director Sarah Taylor voicing the more Democrat-aligned viewpoint. On the Republican side was The Family Foundation Director of External Relations Michael Leaser and Michael Ginsberg, vice president of CACI and leader of the Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition.

One of the main points of discussion was the Dillon Rule, a longtime nemesis of local governance that the Democrats at the table should be a point of agreement between both Republicans and Democrats but hasn’t been.

“When I first learned about what conservatives were, I’d heard that conservatives believe in local control and elected officials closest to the people should be able to decide these things: that’s a load of hooey,” said Levine. “That’s not true, at least not in Virginia. I guarantee you the Republicans do not want local control for Alexandria, they want power, and if they control the state levers they will use that power.”

Taylor said her job in Richmond is to serve the interests of the city and not be a “party hack”, but said the Dillon Rule has been a source of frustration for local advocates even though it does provide the legislative director with a degree of job security.

“I will never understand why a legislator from far southwest Virginia cares one iota about something we’re going to do in Alexandria,” Taylor said.

Taylor said the main argument she hears from Republican legislators in favor of the Dillon Rule is keeping Virginia laws from splintering dramatically along local lines. Levine said the issue isn’t local vs state control, but which localities are granted more or less authority based on their political alignments.

Ginsberg acknowledged those divisions exist but said that for some Republicans the Dillon Rule exists as a way of holding the line on what he called “principal issues.”

“Some of that is about principal issues, like gun control, where people feel strongly about something in principal,” Ginsberg said. “That’s an issue where you’re down so far away from Alexandria you might say ‘this is a matter of constitutional principal and I’m not going to support that.'”

Still, Ginsberg said there are issues that are very in the weeds where localities understandably “don’t want the camel’s nose in the tent.”

Leaser said he was generally in favor of more of that authority being shifted to localities.

“I am a small-government conservative,” Leaser said. “As much as possible, when it makes sense, local governments know their people better than the state. That might not be a popular opinion among Republicans here, but I think that is a conservative position.”

Leaser said he’s worked across the aisle on other issues, like defeating a casino referendum in Richmond or helping to secure funding for the Martin Scorsese film Silence. Leaser said one area he’s hopeful for collaboration with Democrats is expanding charter school options in Northern Virginia. Leaser said many families have issues with public schools and a “good, robust charter school system in Alexandria” could help diffuse some of the tensions about what is taught in classrooms.

Reaching across the aisle is something Ginsberg said Governor Glenn Youngkin will need to do more if he wants to achieve his aspirations for higher office.

“When you can reach across the aisle and find a middle ground, finding those issues it pays a lot of dividends from a political perspective, but it also sets lane markers for where we can get things done in Richmond,” Ginsberg said. The other thing in this, and this is a thing a lot of activists will tell you: Youngkin is a man of some ambition. I don’t think this is going to be his last elected office. I think he would love to have an opportunity to prove to voters that ‘I can work across the aisle and I can get things done with both sides.'”

Youngkin hasn’t had the best reception in Alexandria so far, but Ginsberg said he’d encourage Youngkin to find common ground with Democrats on more issues.

Levine argued Youngkin has already helped to bring some Republicans and Democrats together, though maybe not in the way he’s intended.

“The tip line, to call the state if a teacher teaches something controversial: every single superintendent in the Commonwealth has signed a letter saying to get rid of that tipline,” Levine said. “He’s brought people together: but against these policies.”

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Monique Miles, photo via Monique Miles for City Council

Among the slate of new officials being picked for statewide positions under Governor Glenn Youngkin is a familiar face among Alexandria Republicans: former City Council candidate Monique Miles.

Miles was tapped to serve as deputy attorney general for Government Operations and Transactions, a division that represents executive agencies, state boards, authorities and commissions in all legal matters.

Miles is an attorney in Alexandria and was recognized by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce’ 40 Under 40 list in 2019. Miles ran for City Council in 2015. As a candidate, Miles advocated for more public-private partnerships in schools and cuts to non-essential city services. Miles founded Old Towne Associates, P.C. in 2013.

“I am excited and honored, and look forward to serving the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Miles said in a press release from the Alexandria Republican City Committee (ARCC).

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Morning Notes

Robert E. Lee home in Alexandria omits famous resident in new listing — “The Potts-Fitzhugh House in Old Town Alexandria is for sale for $5,995,000. The listing for the six-bedroom, five-bathroom, 8,000-square-foot mansion includes a thorough description of the place, but omits a key fact: It was the childhood home of Robert E. Lee.” [Washingtonian]

Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin stops in Alexandria — “At an early Saturday morning campaign stop in Alexandria, Virginia, supporters for Youngkin told Fox News that family and education are top ticket items in their decision to back the GOP candidate.” [Fox News]

City to resume enforcement of vehicle registration decals and more Dec. 1 — “If you drive in Alexandria, this is news you need to know. Beginning Wednesday, Dec. 1, the city will resume the enforcement of state vehicle registration decals, expired driver’s licenses, and HOV lane restrictions.” [Zebra]

New development moves forward at Carlyle with ‘Air Rights’ changes — “The last undeveloped lot in the Carlyle neighborhood is taking another step closer to being developed with a rare subdivision of lots.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

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What an unexpectedly busy summer week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story was on an Alexandria woman who claims she was roofied at a restaurant on the waterfront on the evening of July 9. A police report has been filed, and no charges have been made.

This week we sat down with acting Police Chief Don Hayes, who said that he’s thrown his hat in the ring with City Manager Mark Jinks to keep the top job. Hayes, a 40-year veteran of the Alexandria Police Department took over after the sudden departure of Chief Michael Brown last month, and will have to contend against candidates in a national search.

The Tokyo Olympics also start this week, and the games will include three T.C. Williams High School graduates — sprinter Noah Lyles, high-jumper Tynita Butts-Townsend and boxer Troy Isley. In fact, Lyles just had a comic book biography published in the Washington Post. If you’re a fan of the Olympic games, check out this list of local restaurants celebrating with special events and meals.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. Woman claims she was roofied at Old Town restaurant
  2. Residents protest against conditions at West End apartment complex
  3. Developers eye Beauregard redevelopment with West End upgrades on the horizon
  4. Former chef at ‘The Alexandrian’ opening new restaurant in Arlandria on Monday
  5. No injuries after shots fired in Braddock area on Wednesday
  6. DASH takes lessons from D.C., Baltimore and Oregon in eliminating bus fares
  7. ‘Call Your Mother Deli’ signs lease in Old Town
  8. After last month’s Democratic primary, Republican Darryl Nirenberg tops campaign donation leaderboard
  9. New city health improvement plan aims to fix inequities
  10. Poll: Have you been to the Winkler Botanical Preserve?
  11. Lee-Fendall House to throw speakeasy party to finance building repairs

Have a safe weekend!

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Morning Notes

Virginia extends ‘cocktails-to-go’ laws for another year — “During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many restaurants were shuttered, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) created a safe and secure way for restaurants to offer cocktails to go with a meal. The General Assembly has now continued this practice in statute for one year.” [Zebra]

Republican mayoral candidate Catchings announces she won’t get education endorsement — “I will not be receiving the endorsement from APACE – Alexandria Political Action Committee for Education. What matters most is that I receive the support from Alexandria parents and citizens for School Choice !!” [Twitter]

Alexandria Restaurant Week returning Aug. 20-29 — “For 10 days (including two weekends), diners can enjoy specials from 60+ restaurants throughout Alexandria including Old Town, Del Ray, Carlyle, Eisenhower and the West End. Participating restaurants will be offering special $49 in-person and/or to-go dinner for two and select restaurants will also be offering a $25 in-person and/or to-go dinner for one.” [Alexandria Living]

‘Queens On King Street’ is back — “After a hiatus of more than a year due to the pandemic and COVID-19 restrictions, Alexandria’s Queens on King Street group will reconvene on Tuesday, July 13th at The Light Horse from 6:00-8:00 p.m. The occasion will also serve as the group’s five-year anniversary. In 2015, co-founders Timothy McCue, Nathan Sell, and Alex Rodriguez-Rozic created Queens on King Street to provide a space for LGBTQ+ individuals that live, work, or just love to visit Old Town Alexandria.” [Visit Alexandria]

VDOT seeking feedback on Little River Turnpike improvement plan — “Give input on a study assessing potential Rt 236 (Little River Tpk) improvements from I-495 in Annandale to I-395 in Alexandria! View a presentation and take our online survey (also available in Spanish and Korean) through 7/28.” [Twitter]

Today’s weather — “Sunny skies (during the day). Hot. High near 95F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph… Clear skies (in the evening). Low around 75F. Winds SSW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Manager — “Dolci Gelati is a small, customer-focused cafe and gelato shop in the heart of Old Town, Alexandria. We strive to serve the very best in innovative coffee drinks, gelatis, and various other pastries and desserts.” [Indeed]

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Months of campaigning came to a head last night as Mayor Justin Wilson and three City Council incumbents held onto their seats despite opposition and the three new members of the City Council were among those most closely aligned with the incumbents.

The city also had relatively high levels of voter turnout for a non-Presidential election year, with 23% of registered voters showing up to the polls.

The election isn’t over, however. While Alexandria voters tend to lean blue, City Council candidates will compete against Republican Darryl Nirenberg and Independent Florence King in November.

Mayor Justin Wilson will also face off against Republican Annetta Catchings, and for the 45th District, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker is running against Republican J.D. Maddox.

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What a week in Alexandria. Here’s the rundown.

Our top story was on President Joe Biden stopping by the Sportrock Climbing Center in Alexandria last Friday with First Lady Jill Biden and Governor Ralph Northam.

Seeing the president around town is getting to be a regular thing. The president, who also visited in April, discussed “the state’s progress against the coronavirus pandemic” and the celebration of “summer as Virginia lifts all COVID-19 distancing and capacity restrictions.”

This week, we also followed up on a New York Times report about the Virginia Theological Seminary making reparations payments to slavery descendants. The program was launched in 2019, and the school issued $2,100 in annual payments to 15 families in February.

On Wednesday, the Fire Department released its restructuring plan, which goes into effect June 12, and is intended to help emergency response times by shifting resources. AFD will conduct community conversations on the restructuring on Saturday, June 5, at 10 a.m.; Monday, June 7, at 2 p.m. and Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m.

Closing the short workweek, on Friday Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown announced that his retirement. Brown’s last day is June 25, and the City Manager is soon expected to name an acting chief to lead the department while the city’s undergoes a national search for a permanent replacement.

Election stories

Important stories

Top stories

  1. UPDATED: President Biden and Gov. Northam visited Alexandria this morning
  2. JUST IN: Virginia State Police chase U-Haul pickup truck through Alexandria
  3. Bennett-Parker says Levine mailer on Commonwealth of Virginia letterhead is ethics breach
  4. Goodie’s Frozen Custard & Treats opens in Old Town
  5. Hank & Mitzi’s Italian Kitchen closes for the foreseeable future in Old Town North
  6. Volunteers needed this weekend to help clear dangerous stretch of Mount Vernon Trail
  7. Wilson and Silberberg mayoral debate finale opens possibility of ‘tweaking’ Seminary Road Diet
  8. Homegrown Restaurant Group gives employees raise to $15 an hour, will ease COVID restrictions at 6 restaurants
  9. ‘Rock It Grill’ eyeing karaoke expansion, bringing back Halloween party
  10. Here’s the order that City Council candidates will appear on the ballot for the June 8 democratic primary
  11. Ownership of Landmark’s streets could make a big difference down the road

Photo via White House/Twitter

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It’s been nearly ten years since Republicans had a spot on the City Council, but Republican City Council candidate Darryl Nirenberg is hoping several divisive issues that have cropped up over the last couple years can help break the blue stranglehold on the city this November.

“Prospects for a Republican are better now than they have been for years,” Nirenberg said. “The issues facing our city, such as divisive plans to house adults on school grounds; road diets; promoting more density in the midst of a pandemic; neglect of our storm drains and infrastructure; and destroying green space — are not partisan.”

Nirenberg also has a personal tie to the legacy of racism within the Republican party. From 1992-1995, he was chief of staff to Senator Jesse Helms, who is largely known for his fierce opposition to desegregation and his derision of Martin Luther King Jr.

According to a biography at his employer’s website, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Nirenberg listed his work with Helms as dealing with banking, financial, and judicial issues. Before that, from 1987 to 1992 he was a counsel and deputy chief of staff for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and from 1983 to 1987 he was a staffer on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

Nirenberg, a graduate of The George Washington University Law School, said he has experienced prejudice himself firsthand and, despite working for a segregationist, that he has always supported civil rights:

Having known and experienced prejudice myself growing up Jewish in rural New York, I have always supported civil rights, and I believe everyone has the right to marry whomever they wish regardless of gender. I have worked for Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R-NY) and Sen. S.I. Hayakawa (R-CA), served on the staff of two Senate Committees, and practiced policy advocacy for Tom Boggs. Instead of talking about these jobs and a long deceased Senator for whom I worked over a quarter century ago, I’d much prefer to focus on what’s at stake in this election and how we can work together to improve the quality of life for all who live in our city.

Even within the Democratic primary, housing co-location at schools, the Seminary Road diet, and stormwater infrastructure have been contentious issues between candidates. Nirenberg said he hopes the frustration with incumbents can lead to local citizens throwing more support behind Republican candidates in November.

“There is a growing recognition that the process is broken; that 100% one party rule over time does not produce the best results, and that there is a need for checks and balances,” Nirenberg said. “We all know the best decisions are reached when there are people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse perspectives sitting around the table.”

Along with Nirenberg’s City Council bid, Annetta Catchings is running as the Republican candidate for mayor. The last Republican City Council members were Alicia Hughes and Frank Fannon, who were ousted in 2012. The last Republican Mayor was elected in 1872 — years before the party’s staunch opposition to the Civil Rights movement starting in the early 20th century led to party realignment.

“We need to plan for our future, not muddle into it,” Nirenberg said. “These policies aren’t divisive or partisan. They are just common-sense.”

So far, Nirenberg has raised $42,807.

His top issues are:

  • “The learning gap and reopening schools — not housing adults there.
  • “Restore Seminary Road and end road diets.”
  • “Save Chinquapin Park and preserve our green space.”
  • “Fix our storm drains now.”
  • “Stop spending tax dollars to promote more density until our schools and infrastructure catch up and there is a plan to accommodate more density.”

Photo via DarrylNirenberg.com

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It’s been nearly 150 years since Alexandria elected its last Republican mayor.

The year 1872 was big for Republicans. President Ulysses S. Grant won his second term in office, and it’s also the last time that Alexandria elected a Republican as mayor.

There have been only three Republican mayors elected in the city’s history, according to the Office of Historic Alexandria.

“Please keep in mind that before the Civil War, the majority of Alexandria’s mayors were either Federalists or Whigs,” City historian Daniel Lee told ALXnow.

Lewis McKenzie was the first Republican mayor of the city, performing as the acting mayor from 1861 to 1863 while the city was occupied by the Union. McKenzie later served as Congressman for Virginia’s 7th District. Charles A. Ware was the next Republican mayor, and served from 1863 to 1866.

Alexandria underwent a deep depression after the war ended. The city was filled by refugees and policed by an army garrison, and was governed under military rule from 1868 until 1870 — when Virginia was formally readmitted to the Union. While not a Republican, conservative Mayor Hugh Latham was removed from office (after serving two years)  in 1868 along with all other municipal officers throughout the state as part of the federal Reconstruction Acts.

“Because of the orders, no municipal elections were held in Alexandria in March of 1868 or 1869; this was the first time in the city’s history that elections had been canceled,” the City notes. “Former Confederate soldiers and citizens who had voted for the Ordinance of Secession were disqualified from holding office. Indeed, candidates who aspired to public office were required to take an oath swearing allegiance to the United States and its Constitution.”

The last Republican elected mayor was William Berkley, who was installed by the military in 1868, and then was formally elected in 1872 before resigning that year to be the city’s postmaster.

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While much attention has been paid to the ongoing Democratic primary for the City Council election, a small but growing pool of Republican challengers for the general election has gotten slightly larger with the addition of Darryl Nirenberg.

Nirenberg, a partner with the law firm Steptoe & Johnson in D.C., joins Mayoral candidate Annetta Catchings as the Republican candidates currently filed for the local elections.

Last year, Nirenberg wrote in a letter to the editor in the Alexandria Times challenging Mayor Justin Wilson’s assertion that cultural white supremacy was still prevalent in Alexandria and Virginia. Nirenberg also challenged Wilson over issues of density, which has become a rallying cry for opposition to incumbents this election– in both general election challengers and within the Democratic primary.

“The same crowd has controlled our city for decades,” Nirenberg wrote in the letter. “They have rigged the system so those with whom they fundamentally disagree can’t get elected to anything. Instead of taking responsibility, the tactic appears now to claim that to make things right, a radical ‘urbanist’ agenda for which there is no electoral mandate must be imposed on the city.”

Earlier this month, Nirenberg made an announcement for his campaign on the Bring Integrity Back to Alexandria Facebook group, which is non-partisan but focused around opposition to projects like the Seminary Road diet and the Taylor Run stream restoration.

“Thanks to the administrators and those who post here for raising and assessing the issues before our city,” Nirenberg said in his post. “The range of well argued positions posted here have reinforced for me that now is the time for our City Council to put aside divisive policies such as promoting density in the midst of a pandemic, road diets, housing on school grounds and paving over our green space, and instead, look for ways to build consensus on major issues and pull together our city. That’s why I am running, and hope you will visit my website to sign up, volunteer your time, request a yard sign and a bumper sticker, and throw in a contribution.”

Nirenberg’s financial history shows extensive donations to Republican candidates like Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan.

Under the issues listed on his site, Nirenberg expressed opposition to co-locating housing on school grounds and road diets.

Nirenberg also listed several government transparency goals, including public disclosure of grant applications, an annual publication of city contracts, and returning to election by wards or districts.

Nirenberg could not be reached for comment on this story.

The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 8, and the general election is scheduled for Nov. 2.

Photo via DarrylNirenberg.com

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