The 12th annual State of the City breakfast, hosted by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by Virginia Commerce Bank, was sold out as business leaders and elected officials came to hear Mayor William D. Euille make his first such speech.
"I love this job,” Euille said. “While many of you may have come here this morning because you heard that I was going to give something away or to see my new wardrobe, I’m sure most of you came here to find out how the city is doing. And the city is in great shape.”
Euille spoke of the four areas in which the city is doing so well. “Strength: Our city is strong fiscally,” he said. “Once again, we have received a triple bond rating from the nation’s two financial rating institutions,” he said. “We are one of only 41 cities and 33 counties in the country to have this rating. Last month, it allowed us to sell bonds at a 3.7 percent interest rate, the lowest ever for city-issued bonds…”
The second area about which Euille spoke was “Solidness: Our physical infrastructure and our public safety infrastructure are solid,” Euille said. “Once again, crime is down in the city, at its lowest in 35 years. Because of the increase in our residential and business population, we need a ninth fire station and the Council will be looking at this over the next 12 to 18 months.
“We have set planning priorities for the next few years and are putting funds into the land use planning process so that our staff can continue to do an effective job in this area,” he said.
“Our public schools are doing well, also. Twelve of our 16 schools are fully accredited, including T. C. Williams High School. This is a great accomplishment for our diverse student population; more than 2,600 of our 10,700 students are enrolled in English as a Second Language programs and more than half of the student population is eligible for free and reduced lunch. As the education mayor, I will work closely with our public schools to make them the best schools in Northern Virginia…”
QUALITY OF LIFE was Euille’s third area of discussion. “Awards: A good indicator of the quality of life in Alexandria is how other people judge us. Money Magazine and CNN recently ranked Alexandria as the fourth best place to live on the East coast. I think it’s the best place and should be number one. The Government Finance Officers Association presented us with the Distinguished Budget Presentation award. For the 20th year, the National Arbor Foundation gave the city a Tree City U.S.A. award and Washingtonian Magazine ranked Del Ray as one of the region’s hottest neighborhoods…
“What are we doing about traffic in Alexandria,” Euille asked. “There is no doubt that the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, when completed, will have an impact on reducing traffic through the city. The good news is that the project construction is on schedule and on budget…Over the next 18 months, we will be amending the city’s master plan as it relates to transportation…With mitigation funds from the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, we will be building athletic fields off Roth Street and Jones Point Park will be completely redesigned — all with federal funds,” he said.
Finally, “Uniqueness: Our history makes Alexandria unique. Many individuals have worked very hard to preserve and celebrate the city’s history,” Euille said. “Later this year, a very important piece of property will be added to the city’s inventory. Freedmen’s Cemetery is the resting place of an estimated 1,200 men, women and children who were buried there during and after the Civil War and who lived in Alexandria as free men. Over the next 12 months, we will complete the acquisition of this property and by 2008, there will be a fitting memorial on this site.
“No one can deny the excitement occurring along Mt. Vernon Avenue and in its neighborhoods,” he said. “The Avenue has taken off and become the pedestrian friendly…urban village that it has always sought to be…
“One also sees the uniqueness of Alexandria in the Samuel Madden Homes development. This is a project for the entire community to celebrate. The project will have 152 residential units, 52 of which will be public housing units. We know of no other project in the country which mixes private ownership of property and public housing units to this degree…once completed, the Samuel Madden project will become a national model for future redevelopment of public housing sites.”
FOR THE PAST several months, the members of City Council have worked on a series of strategic goals for the future of the city. Euille outlined those goals in broad terms.
“The draft goals are: a city government that is sound, efficient and value-oriented; a strong local economy that is growing in small businesses and job opportunities; quality development and redevelopment that has been planned in advance; a city that protects, respects and enhances the natural environment; public schools that are among the best in Northern Virginia; an integrated, multi-modal transportation system that efficiently and effectively gets people from one point to another and a caring community that maintains an effective human and social infrastructure for its residents in need.
"I have no doubt that progress toward these goals will keep the city…fiscally strong, solid in its physical and human infrastructure; delivering a desirable quality of life and providing a community that is unique, exciting, vibrant in many ways and its future is bright,” he said.
Joan Renner, the chairperson of the Chamber Board, reminded the audience about the many ways in which business contributes to the strong state of the city.
“Alexandria business is Alexandria’s opportunity,” Renner said. “If we can bring up our level of business just to be in balance with residential property, the entire city will benefit. The revenue from Alexandria business is an opportunity to ease the real estate burden.
“Consider this, without the revenue from Alexandria business, real estate tax on your home could double. This year, the average Alexandria homeowner saved $400 in real estate taxes from recent commercial development. Next year, PTO alone will save the average Alexandria homeowner $140 in real estate taxes. If we could achieve an even balance between our residential and commercial property, the average Alexandria homeowner could save $650 in real estate taxes…We can be proud of the opportunity that Alexandria business brings…..” Renner said.
Euille acknowledged business contributions and pledged to work together. “I am pleased at the Chamber’s commitment to work with elected officials, city staff, civic associations and residents to make Alexandria an even better place to live,” he said. “It’s about teamwork.”