Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Independent Campaign

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: Independent Campaign

My name is Mark Shiffer, and I’m running for City Council because, like many new candidates running and virtually all the residents I’ve spoken to, I’m completely dissatisfied with how our city is being run. We will talk about a number of issues between now and November – such as lack of transparency and accountability – but I’d like to highlight one problem that in my opinion needs to be fixed immediately. The job we’re all hoping to get in November is not a part-time job. The City Council should acknowledge this fact by voting a full-time salary for all council members, and they should do this before the June 12 primaries.

Alexandria needs full-time leadership because every major issue is already in a crisis state, with no concrete plans to adequately address them. Crises that, as a result of mindless development, will only worsen with time.

For example, the current council passed an education budget and signed off on a 10-year plan that does not address the problems our schools are facing now or in the future. I hear from people every day who are forced to choose between sending their children to private school or moving out of Alexandria entirely. They want to live in a city that has adequately invested in school infrastructure so that their children aren’t forced to stay home due to leaky pipes and mold. They want to live in a city where there are enough schools to serve all of the city’s children.

Instead of working with landlords and businesses in Old Town to create a sustainable environment for the kinds of small business and restaurants that draw visitors to our city, our council has approved a Taco Bell on King Street and increased the taxes on our restaurants — the former over the objection of residents, and the latter with no plan articulated on how to effectively use those funds to address the enormous decline in affordable housing since 2000.

Too many residents in this city feel disaffected, unheard, and simply not represented. We have too many crisis-level problems that we need to solve, and full-time city council members could focus their full attention on that difficult job. Perhaps they would have time to hear some of the great suggestions their constituents are offering. Perhaps they would have time to be more responsive to what the residents of our city need and want. And perhaps, with a full-time council, we might see council members “lean in” to ensure actual progress instead of allowing our city fall further behind.

Whether or not the current council follows through, I am pledging to treat this position as the full-time job it is. I encourage the other candidates, incumbent and challenger, to acknowledge the gravity of the situation and do the same.

Mark Shiffer

Independent candidate for City Council