With campaigns kicking off in late February and early March, the mayoral election season has begun in Alexandria. Currently, the three-way race for the Democratic primary includes incumbent Mayor William Euille facing former Mayor Kerry Donley and current Vice Mayor Allison Silberberg.
“There are challenges facing the city, like the never-ending attempt to find new revenues through our tax base,” said Euille. “We want to continue to move in that direction and be innovative. The office market and the commercial sector have gone down and we can’t continue to wait for more commercial office to come.”
Euille cited affordable housing as one of his major concerns for the city and cited 64 new affordable housing units planned in the Potomac Yard development as one of his most recent accomplishments. While Euille said raising taxes to pay for more affordable housing was on the table, he said his belief is that this budget season will not require a tax rate increase.
The tax base has already become a major focus of Donley’s campaign.
“We need to move away from heavily taxed residential areas,” said Donley. “We need to invest in our streets and sidewalks and ensure we have a vibrant Alexandria waterfront. Those are my broad goals, but the real tough job is coming up with an implementation plan given our revenue base.”
Donley attacked what he saw as passive stewardship of the city.
“The mayor has to take a more active role,” said Donley. “I’d like to see the mayor position reinstalled back to the economic development partnership. The mayor used to sit on that partnership. I think if we’re serious about expanding our tax base, the mayor needs to be more critically involved there.
Additionally, Donley said a lack of leadership has been evident in the delays facing major city projects.
“We’ve got a stagnant economy right now,” said Donley. “We can sit back and see what happens, or we can roll up our sleeves and take some broad initiatives. The biggest thing we can do is get the Potomac Yard Metro station under construction. That project is two and a half years behind schedule.”
For Silberberg, the city’s growth is pivotal, but she said the mayor needed to be careful not to overrun Alexandria’s existing culture.
“We need to grow our commercial tax base but in a way that keeps our quality of life in mind,” said Silberberg. “We need a wise course of action with concern to our debt and I will always vote to protect historic district.”
Silberberg said, as mayor, her focus would be on seeking a broad range of revenue streams for major projects.
“We have to be extremely aggressive in seeking grants from the state and the federal government,” said Silberberg. “We shouldn’t give up on that. Somehow money appeared for the Silver Line: we should work towards that. The state assigned $60 million for the streetcar which didn’t happen. This is important for all of our jurisdictions. I’m concerned that the Blue Line on the metro has been cut back, in part because of the Silver Line. I’m for the Silver Line, but we shouldn’t take a hit. Now, it’s like a cattle car [on the Blue Line]. It’s crushing. People are clamoring to get on and we should be doing better as a city.”