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Clash for Mayor: Bill Euille Squares Off with Andrew Macdonald

Candidates for mayor meet in the first of three debates.

Incumbent Democrat Bill Euille, left, debates independent challenger Andrew Macdonald at George Washington Middle School in the first of three debates.

Incumbent Democrat Bill Euille, left, debates independent challenger Andrew Macdonald at George Washington Middle School in the first of three debates. Photo by Michael Lee Pope.

In their first of three scheduled debates Tuesday night at George Washington Middle School, three-term incumbent Democrat Bill Euille and independent challenger Andrew Macdonald clashed over the waterfront plan, the Base Closure and Realignment Commission and the scale of development in Alexandria. Euille presented his record in office as a successful time for the city, when jobs have been added and a coal-fired power plant has been shut down. Macdonald criticized Euille’s leadership, especially several recent developments that have included adding density to the waterfront and the West End.

“Development in Alexandria should not be the cart leading the horse,” said Macdonald. “Revitalization should clearly be beneficial and sustainable, and everyone should agree that we are moving in the right direction.”

On the campaign trail, Macdonald has been trying to seize on popular unrest with the waterfront plan, a proposal to increases density at three sites slated for redevelopment. He’s also trying to capitalize on unhappiness with the Beauregard small-area plan, which will allow developers to increase the level of density on the West End. And he’s trying to cast Euille as responsible for the location of the Washington Headquarters Service at the Mark Center as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommendation 133. The city government endorsed the Mark Center site as a potential location in 2008, and now more than 6,000 daily commuters arrive at the building each day.

“It was not a decision that the city could have had anything to do with stopping at all because it’s private property, and it did not require a special-use permit process at all,” said Euille. “But the main thing is that the project is there and we need to look forward.”

THE CANDIDATES also clashed about how the city should handle property owned by the Old Dominion Boat Club. Recommendation 3.69 of the waterfront plan is that the city should “create a new park/plaza where the ODBC parking lot currently exists.” In the summer of 2011, City Attorney James Banks appeared at a press conference in the club’s parking lot to announce that the city would be considering the use of eminent domain. City leaders later backed down, but the specter of eminent domain has been haunting the waterfront plan ever since.

“I don’t support efforts to take land anywhere in Alexandria by eminent domain, and I think it’s a very poor way of dealing with not just conflict but land-use issues,” said Macdonald. “And we’ve seen that along the waterfront with efforts to take land or consider taking land owned by the Old Dominion Boat Club.”

Euille disagreed.

“He is totally wrong with regards to any of the discussion that has taken place with regards to the waterfront and the Old Dominion Boat Club,” said Euille. “There has been no use of eminent domain on any properties along the waterfront. As a matter of a fact, there has been no use of eminent domain since I’ve been serving on City Council in the past 18 years.”

After the debate, Old Dominion Boat Club president Miles Holtzman took issue with Euille’s comments.

“The mayor is correct that the city didn’t use eminent domain against the Boat Club, but they certainly threatened it,” said Holtzman. “If you hold a gun to someone’s head to cut a deal, you’re not really playing on a level field.”