The City's Top 5 News Stories

The City's Top 5 News Stories

Officials reveal their key stories that affected them and the city in 2003.

S. Randolph Sengel

Commonweatlh Attorney

1. Successful prosecution of major cases (examples include the conviction of Chauncy Walker, who received multiple life sentences for sexual assaults, and Ziad Becharra, who was convicted of first degree murder in the slaying of his wife. (Other major cases arising this year, including the death of Schuyler Jones, are still pending and will extend into next year.)

2. In the face of statewide budget cuts for prosecutors, some offices around the state decline to prosecute misdemeanor cases. In Alexandria, we continue to allocate resources targeting these cases, such as drunk driving, stalking and domestic assaults.

3. Four new assistant prosecutors have been hired this year to replace assistants who have moved on to other opportunities.

4. Our Victim-Witness Assistance Program continues to provide exemplary support services to crime victims and witnesses in all cases.

5. A dedicated and overworked support staff survived preliminary implementation of AJIS, a new case management program brought on line in September.

Joyce Woodson


1. The weather was horrendous this year with record snow, rain and hurricane damage. Our weather related budget was stretched beyond its limits. Alexandria acknowledged the immediate need and responded appropriately and efficiently to meet citizen safety.

2. The City Council reduced the tax rate (two years in a row) in response to multiple years of double-digit tax assessment.

3. The 2003 election ushered in four out of nine new School Board members and four out of seven new City Council members. The opportunity for fresh ideas and new approaches has never been better.

4. Following 10 years of lobbying for attention to the issue of housing affordability, I am pleased to see the city respond progressively with the establishment of a non-profit community development corporation to assist the city preserve and increase our stock of affordable housing units.

5. The City Council took advantage of the synergy created with four new members, and a new mayor, to begin an exercise in visioning. We will be responsible for shaping Alexandria's future and started the process with this year's retreat. The next step will be to take our vision to the citizens.

Ken Moore

Alexandria Chamber of Commerce

1. High Record snow falls

2. Hurricane Isabel

3. City Elections

4. Tragic loss of lives

5. Opening of PTO

"With the national economy improving, we have seen an improvement in the Alexandria economy. Fortunately, we are in a region that is one of the few that has seen a growth in employment. While we are not quite back to the levels prior to 9/11, tourism is up. Employment for associations in Alexandria is also up slightly according to the Alexandria Economic partnership. The opening of PTO will signal a positive new influence in our economy which will be felt for years to come. Overall, I feel good about the economic future of Alexandria.

William Euille


"In 2003, Alexandria experienced many firsts, many challenges and many disappointments. In other words, we have been through the fire and the storm; and as a result our resiliency shines brighter, and our commitment and faith as a community has been strengthened.

Here are my top 5 choices for 2003:

1. My historic election as Alexandria's first African-American Mayor in 254 years.

2. A visit by a lady named Isabel [Hurricane] which wrecked havoc in our city-wide spread power outages and sever flooding in Old Town and along the waterfront.

3. Tragic death of Nancy Dunning, a long-time community activist and businesswoman.

4. The office opening of the first two U.S. PTO Office Buildings.

5. 1st Annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast which was attended by more than 800 persons.

Phil Sunderland

City Manager

1. New mayor and new City Council members.

2. Adoption of Open Space Master Plan and dedication of 1-cent of real estate tax to open space.

3. Affirmation of city's AAA bond rating from Moody's Investor Service and Standard and Poors. Qualities noted were a strong economy, strong property value growth, and continued commitment to using pay-as-you-go funding as a component of the CIP.

4. Opening of PTO.

5. Weather — record snow and Hurricane Isabel.

Rob Krupicka


1. Wet Weather. From the snow to the rain to Isabel, the community sloshed, dug, splashed, mopped and persevered through a series of difficulties. City staff has been working overtime for most of the year. Citizens have been working overtime to help each other. From flooded streets to flooded basements, nobody will forget the impact the weather had on our lives this year.

2. Open Space and Workforce Housing Take Center Stage. City Council passed an open space plan and also allocated two cents from our property taxes to pay for open space and the Council moved forward with an housing plan to create a non-profit focused on creating mixed-income, workforce housing for Alexandrians.

3. PTO Opens. With over 7,000 employees, close to $7 million in new tax revenue to Alexandria, a world-wide reputation, significant infrastructure strains on the city, its residents and businesses, and the attraction of additional class A companies to the city, the opening of the first phase of the PTO is a milestone no matter how you view it. The city's challenge is to minimize and mitigate the impacts and to take the best possible advantages of the many benefits.

4. More Schools Accredited. Alexandria schools continue to improve and will end the year with 11 accredited schools. Three schools, GW Middle School, Patrick Henry and TC/Minnie Howard were just a few points away from full accreditation.

5. Community Grieving. This year marked the tragic loss of both Schuyler Jones and Nancy Dunning. Schuyler's life was full of promise and hope and Nancy lived a life full of giving and love. Both of them were taken from us and both of them will be dearly missed.

Del Pepper

Vice Mayor

1. Hurricane Isabel tops the list of significant events because of its citywide impact and its effect on so many families in a very personal way. We had serious power outages, downed trees, flooding and concern about water contamination.

2. The May election of the first African American as mayor of the City of Alexandria and the new team that was elected with him is my second listing. The retreat that followed in November signaled that there is to be a new vision for the city.

3. The brutal death of popular realtor and community activist Nancy Dunning stunned and saddened her friends, family, and the city.

4. The opening in early December of the United States Patent and Trade Office marked the beginning of many changes that the city will experience as a result of its presence.

5. The death of T. C. Williams High School student Schuyler Hamilton Jones at Market Square after a brutal assault by other teenage boys is number five on my list of happenings.

Patricia Ticer

State Senator (D-30)

1.The most significant event of 2003 for all Virginians, especially Alexandrians was Hurricane Isabel. Many residents lost their homes; business owners lost their storefronts or suffered tremendous damage from the storm and called on state, local and federal government for assistance. That assistance was well coordinated by all branches of government and not for profit organizations to deal with the disaster in as timely and efficient a way as possible.

2. The second over-arching issue was the continued presence of American men and women in Iraq and the continuing loss of life in the aftermath of apparent success on the military front. Many families have felt the loss of life firsthand, and others in our country have felt the loss of investment for the many needs of our people here at home.

3. For the city of Alexandria a major event was the victory of Democrats to the City Council and the election of Alexandria's first black mayor.

4. In the Virginia legislature the most important achievement of 2003 was the governor's successful restoration of fiscal integrity to the Commonwealth and the restructuring of governmental administration for increased efficiency and cost savings.

5. In my own life what has been significant to me in 2003 was my re-election to the state senate for another term. It has been a privilege to work with a governor with a true vision for the commonwealth - one whom circumstances required to cut over six billion from the budget in two years, but who managed to hold K-12 education harmless.

Andrew Macdonald


1. Hearing the news that I had been elected to City Council while waiting at Pat Troy’s Restaurant and Pub.

2. Seeing my daughter Julia play basketball (she was voted “most valuable player” in the city’s 10 and under league last season).

3. Walking in the Scottish Christmas parade in a kilt.

4. Watching the storm surge from Hurricane Isabel swallow the Alexandria waterfront.

5. Meeting the Lord Provost, or Mayor, of Dundee, Scotland, in Scotland [hey, that hasn't happened yet but it counts as the moment with the best potential].

Ludwig Gaines


1. Tragic city homicides and outpouring of citywide concern and support.

2. 2003 City Council elections sweep.

3. PTO opening.

4. ACPS renovations and planning for new T.C. Williams High School.

5. Hurricane Isabele

[Honorable mention: formation of affordable housing nonprofit entity.]

Brian Moran

State Delegate (D-46)

1. Democratic sweep in Alexandria City Council and Mayoral elections.

2. First time since 1975 that Democrats gained seats in the House of Delegates.

3. Attempt to subvert judicial selection process and its impact on Alexandria judiciary.

4. Continued good health and happiness of my family.

5. The striped bass I caught was significantly bigger than [former Councilman] David Speck's fish.

Charles Samarra

Police Chief

1. Nancy Dunning Murder — On December 5, Nancy Dunning, community leader and wife of Sheriff Jim Dunning, was found shot to death inside her Del Ray home. Detectives continue to investigate and have not yet identified a motive or a suspect.

2. Schuyler Jones Murder — On September 13, Schuyler Jones, a 16-year-old junior at T.C. Williams, was beaten to death at Market Square. Three teenaged boys where arrested on September 30 and charged with murder. A 17-year-old from Alexandria boy pleaded guilty in juvenile court in December to involuntary manslaughter, and two 16-year-olds from Fairfax County are facing trial in adult court.

3. E-911— On June 20, FCC Chairman Michael Powell visited the Emergency Communications Center, the first 911 operation in the D.C. area and one of the first in the country to deploy Phase II wireless technology. 911 call takers at police headquarters can locate wireless callers through technology, sending critical help when a wireless caller is unable to communicate.

4. Dirty Dozen Case — What began as a small drug deal in Hume Springs in 1999 ended in early 2003 when Operation Dirty Dozen concluded. Detective Tom Kennedy worked with a federal task on a multi-state narcotics investigation that led to the arrests of 36 suspects on federal drug and money laundering charges, with many receiving 30-year federal sentences. Investigators also seized firearms, cash and narcotics with a street value in the millions.

5. Computer System Wins VML Honor — The Tactical Computer System, developed by officers for officers, received the Virginia Municipal League's Achievement Award for innovation. The TCS gives officers in the field instant access to crime and motor vehicle databases, report writing software, and photos of missing and wanted people.

Paul Smedberg


1. Hurricane Isabel.

2. PTO Opening.

3. Arlandria Health Clinic receiving federal certification and a $600,000 grant to expand services.

4. May elections.

5. Tragic homicides of Schyler Jones and Nancy Dunning.

James Moran

US Congress (D-8)

1. Going to war in Iraq. I voted against the war and do not regret that decision.

2. Paying for the war in Iraq. Who is going to pay for it and at what cost to our citizens?

3. The election of the first African-American mayor in Alexandria.

4. The election of an all Democratic City Council in Alexandria.

5. The opening of the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office in Alexandria. This is the federal government's largest building project in the metropolitan area and is of significant economic benefit to the city.