Editor's Note: This is the first of a continuing series of profiles of candidates seeking seats on City Council. Elections will be May 6. The Gazette will profile one candidate from each party in alphabetical order each week. Mayoral candidates will follow Council candidates and School Board candidates will then be profiled.
KEITH BURNER, REPUBLICAN
Keith Burner's campaign for Alexandria City Council will focus on three areas — the need for two high schools in the city; the city's budget and developing public/private partnerships to address many of the city's problems.
Burner is one of six Republicans who is vying for one of the six City Council seats. He has lived in the Del Ray area of Alexandria for the past four and a half years and has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Olympic Boys and Girls Club for five years. He is currently the chairman of that Board.
"I am qualified to be on City Council because, as a financial planner, I understand the need for good fiscal planning and management. I have worked hard to support the children of this city through the Boys and Girls Club and I love Alexandria," Burner said.
Burner is a vice president of financial consulting for Smith Barney. His offices are located on John Carlyle Street. In addition to his involvement with the Boys and Girls Club, he is also a member of the Alexandria United Way Board of Directors. He grew up in Northern Virginia, attending Fairfax High School and George Mason University.
"We live in a very difficult economic environment, maybe the worst we have seen since the 1930s," Burner said. "Families and individuals have had the need to tighten their belts and the city needs to do the same thing. We must "right size" the budget."
Burner said he would begin by looking at budget "excesses" like, "I noticed $200,000 in the budget for a skateboard park. I'm not saying that children don't deserve places to play but in this economic time, maybe now is not the time to use public money for such a purpose," he said.
He also cited the King Street triangle, across the street from the King Street Metro station. "I believe that the city has put about $1 million into this park and I think there are probably better uses of the city's tax dollars than this," he said.
Burner would also like to create the Alexandria Urban Partnership. "This is a partnership which would foster a climate in which the business district would prosper and that would enhance and ensure Alexandria's beautification and success and in which the city would forge relationships with companies to encourage those companies' employees to find alternative means of transportation to their cars," he said.
BURNER WOULD LIKE to see a trolley bus system that would run from the King Street and Huntington Metro stops to businesses throughout the downtown business district and even along Mt. Vernon Ave. "Bethesda, Maryland, got its trolley buses through a state grant," he said. "I would want the city to look for funding through partnerships with the state, the federal government and other private corporations to make this possible. I'm not proposing that this would happen immediately but we have to look for both long and short-term solutions to our transportation issues," he said.
Finally, Burner believes that Alexandria needs more than one high school.
"The days of segregation are way behind us and a second high school could operate in a district just like the elementary schools do," he said. "This is all about providing the best services for our children. A smaller learning environment promotes better student learning. We have an average of 700 students per grade at our high school now and that's just too many kids. They have to compete to be on one football team, on one band squad and to compete for attention that would foster learning."
Burner is also concerned about the economics of building one high school.
"We are being told that the price tag for the current proposal is going to be around $75 million and I have been told privately that it is probably going to be higher than that," he said. "I don't believe that the city should be spending that kind of money without hearing from the voters."
Burner believes that the matter should be put to a vote through a referendum in May. "I do not believe that the citizens or Council have given this matter the kind of in-depth scrutiny that it needs," he said.
BETWEEN NOW AND May 6, the date of the City Council election, many organizations will hold candidate forums at which Burner and his fellow candidates will respond to questions and express their views on a variety of topics.
In the next issue, The Gazette will provide a list of those forums
with times and dates.
LUDWIG GAINES, DEMOCRATS
Ludwig Gaines is one of six democrats who would like to be a member of Alexandria's City Council.
Gaines came to prominence in the city as the pro bono attorney who came to the aid of The Coalition to Save Burke Library. He also served as Sheriff Jim Dunning's reelection campaign chairman in 2000, is a member of the Alexandria United Way's Board of Directors and is a member of the Planning Commission. He believes that his experience qualifies him to be a councilman.
"At its most fundamental level, I think the voters of Alexandria are looking for thoughtful leadership, hardworking leadership and leadership that will reach out to all members of the community," Gaines said. "I have knowledge and experience in addressing issues. I am able to sit down and digest the multitude of information that Council members are able to review. One of the things that I have worked hard in the city, particularly on Planning Commission, is involving stakeholders in the process at its very early stages."
He cited some examples of this — the plan for planning and the plan for East Eisenhower. "These can serve as an exemplar of inclusion; it included landowners, the land use bar and affected communities. People had an opportunity, over about a half dozen meetings, to express their opinions to the Planning Commission, the Planning staff and the consultants," he said.
Three issues that are important to Gaines are quality of life, land use and traffic and transportation. "Quality of life depends on who you are and where you live," he said. "A focus of my campaign will be on protecting quality within our respective neighborhoods — working to ensure that citizens have an ability to live in clean, safe and affordable neighborhoods. Our neighborhoods are the anchors of our city. As they go, so goes our city. They are what makes us unique..." he said.
As to land use and planning, Gaines believes that we must recognize
redevelopment issues. "Land is a dwindling resource so we must seriously look at redevelopment so that everyone is satisfied that we are getting the best use out of redeveloped land. This also means that the planning process must be as inclusive as possible," he said. "If we are going to go forward, we must go forward together. We must create partnerships and an atmosphere where stakeholders are not pitted against each other but see themselves as partners..."
One of Gaines' priorities is to get people out of their cars and on to mass transit. "We spend more time in our cars than we do in our homes," he said.
"We must work with our business communities to create ways that employees can get to work by other means than their cars."
Gaines has lived in Alexandria since 1998 and in the area since 1989. He is a native of St. Albans, New York, attended Hobart and William Smith colleges for undergraduate school and is a graduate of Howard University's School of Law. He currently teaches at Howard and is a substitute teacher in the Alexandria City Public School system. Gaines has also been invited to return to his undergraduate alma mater as a visiting professor to teach ethics and social justice.
"Education is very important," he said. "It is vital that we serve as role models to our young people and I have been pleased to do so."