Politics and Paychecks
Politicians are always squeamish about raising their own salaries, especially when the budget season is closely tied to an election. For many years that was the case in Alexandria, where the election took place weeks after council members approved a budget. But after the Democrats lost two seats in 2009, the lame-duck council abandoned the longstanding practice and moved the election to November when they can piggyback off of high-profile state and national races. That doesn’t mean that the budget season has become any less political.
Take this week, when City Council members were once again considering giving themselves a raise. The last time the issue was debated was in late 2005, when Councilman Andrew Macdonald wanted to increase the salary of council members to $40,000.
“I have some reservations about this because we’re asking staff to dig incredibly deep into the budget of the city to find places for savings,” said Councilman Rob Krupicka at the time. “While we’re asking them to look hard and fast for pennies, we should be willing to look hard and fast for pennies ourselves.”
Now things have changed. Krupicka is not seeking election to the next City Council, which would receive the higher salaries if approved. So he’s proposing that the mayor’s salary increase from $25,000 to $30,500 and council member salaries increase from $20,000 to $27,500.
“One of the concerns I have is how many other good people are out there in the community who might want to run for the City Council if the salary was a little bit more,” said Councilman Frank Fannon. “Would we have more people running for City Council? We do have a lot now.”
“Some of them might be able to pay their taxes,” said Vice Mayor Kerry Donley, referring to late tax payments recently made by Democratic candidate Boyd Walker.
The Arlandria Vote
Opponents of a massive new redevelopment at Mount Vernon Village Center have long memories, and they’re hoping that voters will also remember what happened in December. That’s when a majority of council members approved a development special-use permit critics say will gentrify the neighborhood.
During a public hearing on the issue, many residents said they feared a new high-end development would raise rents nearby or worse, create redevelopment pressure on the low-income housing units. Others said they felt their voices weren’t heard during the process. Most of the City Council members set aside those concerns. Not Councilman Alicia Hughes. She suggested that a work group be formed similar to the waterfront work group so that residents who felt ignored could make their case.
“Let people come to the table and feel as though they are heard,” Hughes said at the time.
Other members disagreed, and her motion to create a work group failed to get a second member to support it. Hughes was the lone dissenting vote on the project, although Arlandria-based Tenants and Workers United director Gabriel Rojo says her efforts are remembered in the community.
“We need elected officials who are the champion of working people,” said Rojo during a May Day rally in Market Square. “That just doesn’t exist right now except for maybe Alicia Hughes, who’s a Republican.”
Wood Enters Race
As if the controversial waterfront plan weren’t already one of the hottest topics this campaign season, Lt. Gen. Bob Wood is throwing his hat into the ring as a Republican candidate for the Alexandria City Council. As a member of the waterfront work group, Wood was one of the most outspoken critics of the city’s controversial waterfront plan that increases allowable density at three sites slated for redevelopment. Last month, he attended the Board of Zoning Appeals meeting and spoke out against Planning Director Faroll Hamer’s decision to reject a petition submitted by neighborhood residents. Now he’s taking his concerns directly to the voters.
“We are excited,” said Republican chairman Tom Fulton. “It speaks to the level of concern people have about leadership in this city.”
Wood is the third Republican to announce for the six City Council seats. The Republican canvas is on June 2 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Minnie Howard Eighth Grade Center.