EDITOR'S NOTE; This is the third of a continuing series of profiles of candidates seeking seats on City Council. Elections will be May 6. The Gazette is profiling one candidate from each party in alphabetical order each week. Mayoral candidates will follow Council and School Board candidates will then be profiled. Already profiled: Republicans Keith Burner and Allison Cryor and Democrats Ludwig Gaines and Rob Krupicka.
CLAIRE EBERWEIN, REPUBLICAN
There are three incumbent City Council members running for reelection. All of them are women. Claire Eberwein is the loan Republican in the group.
"The last time I ran for Council, I was a newcomer and the only people who were familiar with my record were from one part of the city because of my six years on the School Board," Eberwein said. "I had to work very hard to let people who live in the east and west ends of the city know a little bit about me. This time, I have served on Council for three years and we have three open seats. The fact that there is going to be so much change and that there are so many newcomers running has created an entirely different dynamic with this election."
Eberwein has lived in Alexandria for 20 years and, in addition to her one term on City Council and her two terms as a member of the School Board, she has served on the Parkfairfax Board of Directors and the Board of Zoning Appeals.
She has degrees in natural resources and architecture from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Georgetown University. She has two children who attend public school in the city.
ONE OF THE THINGS that she is proudest of in terms of her time on Council is her work in planning.
"I am proud of my leadership in helping the city to deal with planning projects in a different way," she said. "The Planning Department is taking a much more proactive role with developers. The staff is working much more with the community and developers early in projects to identify problems and resolve them before they come to the Planning Commission and City Council.
"I also think that the approach we are taking in terms of having a real dialogue with the citizens about what they want to see in the city is a very positive change from how development projects were proposed and moved on in the past," she said.
She is also proud of her record on open space and parks. "Every time that we have had a budget, I have found places to cut and asked for additional funding for Planning and for our parks and for expanding our recreational services," Eberwein said.
She has also continued to advocate for the city's public schools. "City Council has fully funded the schools' operating and Capital Improvement Program budgets for only the past four years," she said.
SHE LISTED AMONG her other accomplishments on Council as traffic calming projects at five public schools where commuter-student conflicts were severe; working to correct problems in the Department of Human Services regarding protection of children; working to create a dedicated stream of funding for the open space trust fund; promoting the examination of moving the school administrative offices that are currently in rented space to new quarters at the old Datatel site, thus providing a city-led market boost to the Arlandria business district and working with the school system to incorporate the special needs of senior citizens and other recreational users in the joint planning process for T. C. Williams High School and Chinquapin Recreation Center.
There are some issues that she wishes the current Council had done differently.
"I'm sorry that we did not give the voters of the city an opportunity to rethink the manner in which the School Board is elected," she said. "Given that this system was designed nine years ago, I believe that it is time for the voters to decide whether they want to continue the current system or look at other alternatives."
THE OTHER ISSUE of concern is Jones Point Park. "Through no fault of our own, because of security concerns, we are going to have to look at redesigning Jones Point Park," she said. "A lot of land underneath the bridge will now be off limits for parking and this could cut into the amount of open space and recreational fields that we will be able to provide."
Real estate assessments, the transportation master plan and planning are three of the most significant issues that will confront the next City Council. "Completion of the transportation master plan for the city will require analysis and incorporation of existing area transportation plans as well as looking at new scenarios for various areas," she said.
As for Planning, "We must ensure the proper level of funding to begin implementation of the Arlandria plan and begin the planning process for Eisenhower West and Duke Street," she said. "I see the library, Holmes Run and Ben Brenman Park and Cameron Station as forming a focused hub.
"Improvements to Duke Street, including landscaping and new specialty retail and service businesses could emanate out from this nucleus to the east and west, forming a sense of place," she said.
ANDREW MACDONALD, DEMOCRAT
Three years ago, Andrew H. Macdonald ran unsuccessfully for City Council as an independent candidate. He's trying again but this time he's running as a Democrat.
"I ran as an independent the last time because I thought that was what was appropriate and I hadn't really worked with either of the political parties in any sort of a meaningful way," Macdonald said. "Running as a member of a party is certainly different. Also, I know a lot more about the complexities of running a city than I did three years ago. I think that I have gained a lot of experience in the intervening years."
Macdonald said that he chose the Democratic party because he did not support the platforms of the national Republican party, among other reasons. "I joined the Democratic party right after the last Council election and have been working with them since that time," he said.
A LIFE-LONG Alexandrian, Macdonald grew up in Old Town and attended public school through elementary school. After that, he transferred to St. Stephen's where he ultimately graduated. He has a doctorate in geology and has taught at George Mason University and John Hopkins. He has also volunteered as a teacher at a variety of local public and private schools. His daughter attended Douglas MacArthur Elementary School until last year when she transferred to Alexandria Country Day School.
"We decided to place her in private school because standardized tests were not the best thing for her at this time," Macdonald said. "My wife and I, however, remain committed to the city's public school system and our daughter may very well return to public school at some time in the future."
Macdonald is concerned about development, integrating the city's immigrant population fully and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. "The city has spent a lot of time trying to generate tax revenue largely through real estate but also through businesses and they have not spent nearly enough time looking at how this development, how these revenues are going to effect the quality of life of the citizens," he said. "We must define the criteria, the standards, the targets by which we regulate development in the city. This includes fiscal studies, of course, but it also includes things like open space, pedestrian safety and trees. The direction of development, then, is certainly one of the top priorities."
MACDONALD ALSO WANTS to work with the immigrant communities. "We have an awful lot of kids who are receiving free or reduced lunch in the school system, something like 50 percent, and an awful lot of kids who come from families who are trying to integrate into our community. We certainly need to help those families," he said.
Finally, he would like to see a real plan for conservation. "We need to find a way to save energy, hence, conserve money and develop a real plan to protect the Chesapeake Bay. But that's part of the development plan as well," he said.
"The city government is a very complex entity and we really need people who are able to think about issues very broadly and holistically. That's why I'm running," he said.
Macdonald believes that he is qualified to be a member of City Council for many reasons. "First of all, I grew up in Alexandria and have lived here most of my life. For the past 10 years or so, I have been working on local environmental issues. I really never had any intention of running for office but the more I saw about the patterns of development, the more involved I became. I think that I will bring to Council a unique way of thinking about things that will help us look at all sorts of issues in an intelligent, comprehensive manner," he said.
"I'm also not your typical candidate. I'm not a big businessman or a banker. I have to raise money $25 at a time. I come from a real grassroots way of thinking and I think you need people like me on Council, people who come from a scientific background, an artistic background and who just want to improve the community that they live in," he said.