Training is required for almost every job, including that of a City Council member. Alexandria’s four newly-elected legislators spent much of July and August going to summer school, preparing for their next three years governing the city.
City Manager Philip G. Sunderland and his staff provided Councilmen Ludwig Gaines, Rob Krupicka, Andrew Macdonald and Paul Smedberg, with a broad overview of how the city works, who’s in charge of what and some of the issues that are going to be discussed and decided upon by this year’s City Council.
“The last time around, we gave them a whole lot of paper,” Sunderland said. “We found that that was not terribly useful so we made some changes this time. We prepared power point presentations and tried not to give them a whole lot of extra paper to take home.”
Sunderland said that there were several goals he hoped to achieve. “We wanted to explain to them [Councilmen] just how the city works and help them to put faces and names to the people who provide those services,” he said. “So, we didn’t just have department heads at these sessions, we tried to include a representative cross-section of those who work in the various departments.”
There were six different sessions, each lasting about three hours. “We had sessions on land use and planning, the budget process, public safety, human services, Community Service Board activities, recreation, and transportation and environmental services,” Sunderland said.
Gaines said that he learned a lot because, "I had been a member of the Planning Commission, I knew quite a bit about the land use process. That really helped because that process is very complex. I probably learned the most at the session on the budget. The budget process is very long and involved and I have pages and pages of material to study.
“I was very impressed with the presentations and was glad to be able to get to know the city staff,” Gaines said.
Smedberg, who served on the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee, understands the budget process but was surprised at the sheer volume of city services. “I really was amazed at the number of services that the city provides to citizens,” he said. “The number of people that the Community Services Board assists is surprisingly large. The professionalism at all levels of the various departments is truly impressive.”
VICE MAYOR Redella S. “Del” Pepper didn’t have a Council orientation in 1985 when she was first elected. “Jim Moran was becoming the mayor and he had been vice mayor before, and I was the only new member of Council and had been [former mayor] Chuck Beatley’s aide for six years, so I guess they didn’t see the need for an orientation session,” she said. “The thing that I remember most was that all Council members were expected to hit the ground running and be up to speed by the first legislative session because that’s when we begin to make decisions,” Pepper said.
Although she did not attend the sessions this summer, Pepper kept abreast of what new Council members were learning. “I got copies of all of the various agendas and have looked through them,” the vice mayor said.
Mayor William D. Euille had his own orientation sessions. “I worked with Mayor Kerry Donley from just after the May election until our installation in July,” Euille said. “Also, I have been meeting regularly with the city manager and will have weekly meetings with him from now on.
“I think these orientation sessions are very important because they give new Council members an opportunity to get a good view of just how the city works,” he said.
THE FIRST TWO meetings in September are going to be busy. “We are going to have to deal with the issue of the pedestrian tunnel under Duke Street,” Gaines said. “As part of the special use permit, the developer was supposed to have this finished before the first employees arrived at the Patent and Trademark Office. Now, it looks like that isn’t going to happen. This is unacceptable and we need to take some steps to ensure that the developer complies with the SUP. Otherwise, there is going to be complete gridlock on King Street as thousands of employees try to get from the Metro to PTO.”
Smedberg also sees some looming issues. “We are going to have to look at Eisenhower West both in the short-term and the long-term,” he said. “Also, we are going to be appointing a new member of the Planning Commission and this is very important. We need to find someone with a broad perspective who doesn’t have preconceived ideas about specific projects and, someone with a planning background,” he said.
“The Planning Commission appointment is key,” Pepper said. “Also, there is a development at the intersection of Duke and Quaker that is of concern.”
THE SIXTH AND seventh phases of the Cameron Station development will also be coming forward in the fall. “This seems to have wider support than we have seen in the past,” Euille said. “Also, we need to be mindful of our own budget and that of the state as we move forward.”
Every member of Council is establishing office hours. Euille is at City Hall every Friday. Citizens who wish to meet with him should call his staff at 703-838-4500.
The first Council meeting will be on Sept. 9, at 7 p.m., one half hour earlier than in the past.