Long Listening Tour
Facing his first difficult decision as the new president and CEO of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, John Long is already in a no-win situation. Where to live? Choosing a house in Old Town will make the folks in Del Ray upset. And plunking down in Del Ray is sure to ruffle feathers in the West End. On a house-hunting trip last week, the new president remained neutral on the issue.
“I’m still looking,” said Long, who was named as the 106-year-old organization’s new leader last week.
During his stay in Alexandria last week, Long launched what he calls a “listening tour.” The idea is to get a sense from chamber members of what direction they would like to see the organization take in the near future. Long envisions more events, more sponsorships and more dollars. But, at least for now, he’s open to hearing from members about what kind of scale that change would take. When asked about what kind of growth he would like to accomplish, Long declined to answer.
“We need to take input first,” he said. “I would be surprised if the listening tour didn’t identify gaps.”
Long comes to the Alexandria chamber after leading similar organizations in St. Petersburg, Fla., Kalamazoo, Mich., and Talbot County, Md. Although he’s eager to hit the ground running in Alexandria and hear from members, the new chamber president made one thing clear — he wants the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce to be the center of action.
“The more buzz we can create the better,” he said. “I want to be part of the buzz.”
Roller Coaster Politics
The Senate Committee on Education and Health voted last week to kill an effort overturning the King’s Dominion Law, which mandates that school divisions across Virginia begin classes after Labor Day.
Local school boards have fought against the hospitality industry for years to overturn the law, although each year they end the session disappointed. They were encouraged this year, when Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell said overturning the King's Dominion Law was one of his chief priorities in his State of the Commonwealth Address.
That wasn't enough to persuade a majority of the Senate committee to approve House Bill 1063. Earlier in the session, the same committee killed similar legislation introduced by state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30). One of the critical votes against overturning the mandate was state George Barker (D-39).
“The objective here is to provide the best education we can for our students,” said Barker. “And if we don’t have the revenue to do it, we’re not doing our job.”
The vote was immediately criticized by the Virginia School Boards Association.
“School Board members are disappointed today because some of our representatives in the Senate prioritized theme park ticket sales before our students’ academic success," said Joan E. Wodiska, president of the Virginia School Boards Association, in a written statement. "The VSBA stands firm in our belief that the three R's of education do not include roller coasters."
Remember those heady days four years ago when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were going at each other in Virginia. Television viewers could hardly turn on their sets without being inundated with advertisements. Campaign workers and consultants descended on the commonwealth, staying in hotels and eating in restaurants. All that activity came with a fairly sizable chunk of revenue.
Not this year.
“It’s difficult to quantify how much revenue has been lost because of the lack of a competitive race in Virginia,” said Stephen Farnsworth, professor of political science at Mary Washington University. “But it’s clear that that’s a lot of economic activity that Virginia lost this time around.”