The advantage of incumbency is well known in the political world. Candidates who hold office are often able to use their position of power to bolster their campaigns. During the City Council meetings, for example, incumbent candidates have the opportunity to blend their official duties with retail politics — being very careful not to campaign on the public’s dime while using their public position effectively.
This week, Councilman Rob Krupicka was presenting an otherwise prosaic resolution honoring Earth Day when he launched into a laundry list of environmental initiatives taken by the current City Council: the recent recycling ordinance, sewer improvements, open-space acquisition, plans for mass transit and a whole host of other programs. Krupicka’s list was sounding an awful lot like a commercial for the incumbent City Council members when he suddenly changed direction — making small talk about the weather.
“It’s always a great event, rain or shine,” Krupicka said. “We’ve had both over the last several years.”
The city will hold its annual Earth Day celebration on April 29 from 9 a.m. to noon at Four Mile Run Park. Activities include document shredding, informational exhibits and a community stream clean up. All volunteers will receive an Earth Day T-shirt.
Standing For Something
At a recent campaign forum, candidates were asked to stand up for what they believe in — literally. At a forum at the Radisson Hotel, candidates were asked if they would support a 3-percent cap on city spending in light of this year’s 9.3 percent increase in the “all funds” budget — a total that includes federal and state funding as well as a slew of grants.
All the Republicans stood up.
Later in the evening, four Democratic incumbents stood up to announce their support for a 5-percent increase: Vice Mayor Del Pepper, Councilman Ludwig Gaines, Councilman Andrew Macdonald and Democratic candidate Timothy Lovain. Two of the candidates remained seated: Councilman Paul Smedberg and Councilman Rob Krupicka.
Krupicka tried to explain his objection to the use of the “all funds” number in the question, but he was shouted down by a woman in the back of the room.
“Moderator,” the woman screamed.
Undaunted, Krupicka tried to continue with his explanation.
“Moderator,” she screamed again.
The councilman stopped and tried to start again.
Eventually, the moderator took control, and Krupicka was not allowed to explain his objection to the question. After the event was over, he said that the “all funds” budget was irrelevant to the issue of property taxes. Councilman Smedberg said that he didn’t like the idea of committing to a spending cap.
“I didn’t stand up because I don’t thing that an artificial cap is the way to go about this,” said Smedberg, adding that he and Krupicka led an ill-fated campaign to lower the tax rate by one cent last year. “I think that’s more important than spending caps.”
Roger Waud, president of one of the organizations that was hosting the event, said that the candidates forum was unusually disorderly.
“A few times, I thought we were going to have some scenes that were from the Paris streets,” he said.
Alexandria’s Third Rail
Eminent domain is the third rail of Alexandria politics. Candidates go out of their way to be clear about their abhorrence of taking property from landowners. Opposing eminent domain is sort of like opposing pollution — it seems like a no-brainer.
But one candidate’s position of eminent domain is a little stronger. At a forum last week, Republican Pat Troy announced his opposition with a forthrightness that nobody could mistake.
“I would get out there with my bulldozers and my guns,” Troy said. “You just try to take this.”
The tough-talking Irishman made his point so clear that other candidates were struggling to keep up with him.
“Top that,” said Vice Mayor Del Pepper, challenging the other candidates to match Troy’s enthusiasm.
Councilman Paul Smedberg gave it a shot, but his position was comparatively drab.
“Well, I don’t have any guns,” Smedberg said. “But this council passed a resolution to take (the use of eminent domain) off the table.”