To the Editor:
For those of us who attended the first and only one-hour debate between Mayor Euille and challenger Andrew MacDonald on Tuesday, Oct. 2, it was indeed civil with good questions from the sponsors and audience, but lacked substance regarding many of their answers.
Mayor Euille spent time presenting his positive record of achievements since he has been on council and mayor for the past 17 years. Mayor Euille emphasized city hall's "transparency" which was somewhat puzzling since the mayor and City Council have voted to have the city manager and senior staff members embark on a city initiative to engage Alexandria residents in their so-called "Community Conversation about civic engagement." If as Mayor Euille stated at the debate Alexandria has the most transparent process, then why did he and members of the council need to vote to have another "dog 'n pony" listening tour right before the November election? Beats me since citizens have been asking the mayor and council to listen to citizens for the past three years if not longer about development issues and other problems facing the city.
However, there were a couple of important questions from the audience for both Mayor Euille and Mr. MacDonald that were not included in Mr. Pope's story [“Clash for Mayor,” Gazette Packet, Oct. 4]. The first question dealt with Alexandria's tax on all food at the grocery store which is 5 percent. The Commonwealth of Virginia already taxes 2.5 perent on food at the grocery store, which brings the total grocery store tax in Alexandria to 7.5 percent. Both Mayor Euille and Mr. MacDonald stated they would need to look further into this issue. However, Mayor Euille stated that if the city were to eliminate the Alexandria tax on food at supermarkets, he would need to find another tax to replace it. Amazing. Alexandria already has the personal property tax, car tax, real estate taxes, sales tax, business tax, hotel/motel tax, tax on food at all restaurants, from the cheapest to the most expensive. Many members in the audience did not know that Alexandria has this most regressive tax and the response from Mayor Euille that he would need to find another tax should this tax be eliminated is ridiculous. Maryland, Fairfax County, Falls Church and many other cities and states only tax prepared foods and soda at grocery stores. This Alexandria tax should be eliminated ASAP. Alexandria taxpayers are already paying very high salaries, benefits and pensions to our city manager, department administrators and senior staff. How about cutting salaries for the city manager, assistant city managers and other department administrators?
Another important question dealt with affordable housing and how much debt and money the city has spent on administration for affordable housing excluding ARHA, which is Alexandria's Housing Authority. Mayor Euille stated he didn't know. Really? How could this be when the mayor and council have now gotten further into the business of financing housing, which should be the role of ARHA. Mr. MacDonald said he would need more information about this issue as affordable housing for renters is a major problem for all renters in Alexandria and affordable housing is supposedly a major concern for our elected officials.
It would certainly be nice if we could have another one-hour debate with Mayor Euille and Mr. MacDonald, but this is not going to happen. The remaining forums will only allow for 30-minute debate/discussions with Mayor Euille and Mr. MacDonald. I understand this is Mayor Euille's decision. There were many instances wherein both Mayor Euille and Mr. MacDonald agreed on several issues, but we need more substantive answers from both Mayor Euille and Mr. MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald has certainly done much to increase open space, parks, etc. However, there are now more important fiscal/development issues facing this "small town" that citizens need to hear from Mayor Euille and Mr. MacDonald. Too bad we won't get another chance.