It is with great pride that I write to you nearing the end of the fall legislative season here in Alexandria.
With three new councilmen elected last May and seated in July, the council started their fall legislative season in August with a whole new look. The new members brought strengths in banking, state politics, business, law and have a history of service and commitment to Alexandria through civic involvement.
As you looked out on the new council you saw a fresh look in their eyes. With one council member, Rob Krupicka, on his last stint (announcing in July that he will not run for reelection), as well as having one councilwomen, Del Pepper, entering her fourth decade on the council, and with an old face in a new place with former Mayor Kerry Donley taking his place next to current Mayor Euille as his Vice Mayor.
The Council that was criticized by Republicans and praised by Democrats for being so unanimous in its decisions has changed its ways and has taken a much more decisive approach to solving issues. Though votes are still unanimous at times, you are seeing much more open public discussion of the issues as well as much more open disagreement with where these issues should go in the future.
You began to see this discussion immediately following the very divisive May elections when two strong, and well respected Democrats, openly fought against their political machine, by voting to keep elections in May. This has continued through today. Some of this discussion has unfortunately begun to lend itself to personal attacks on the councilmen and women, rather than focusing on the issues that are at hand.
There have been calls that some councilmen were “too busy running for Vice Mayor” or insinuations that councilmen are busy looking to higher spots in the political hierarchy and should once again focus on the matters at hand in the city.
I believe that every councilman, all seven of them, have what is best for Alexandria as their final goal. They may disagree about what that is but they must still be respected for what they are doing.
Each councilman has brought ideas to the table but I want to focus right now on the three newly elected ones.
Councilman Frank Fannon has come out swinging. Publicly coming out against the election changes in June, he has since continued to publicly work to create a streamline government that can diversify its revenue sources. Fannon is still the ONLY councilman or woman to come forward with a new stream of revenue for the city. His proposal to enter into long term real estate leases on city owned property has given the city planners a new outlook on property once deemed to expensive to redevelop. The City has taken his proposal and will begin to fully implement it in December. (I would like to point out that a previous letter stated that his proposal would hurt “efforts to save taxpayers money in a difficult economy” but in fact it would bring in more tax revenue to the city, and still maintain the capital necessary for the city to maintain its current level of debt without its bond rating falling.)
Councilwoman Alicia Hughes was quiet in the beginning, with her biggest news coming when she voted to not have the city buy IPODs for volunteers of the complete census committee. Given this vote could be seen as hurting our census count, but we must be clear that she publicly stated, and tried to amend the budget to remove the frivolous spending. She voted against the budget for the project, not the project itself. Though recently I believe that Alicia has stepped into her own. She has begun a campaign to make sure that Roberts Rules are correctly followed during the council meetings. With the recent meltdown of order when three Democrats pushed through the biggest change in recent history to our election cycle, without having a public hearing, Hughes went on a mission to make sure that the people’s voices will never be stymied like that again. She knows that she was elected by the people and she is on a mission to make sure that the people are the ones that are heard on every issue that she hears about.
Donley has once again brought his unparalleled business leadership to the council that brought the PTO in during his tenure as Mayor. Though some people say that Donley has aspirations at higher offices, and is using council as a stepping stone he is not making his ideas public and is continuing to put every issue of Alexandria above any issues that he may face if running for a higher office. Donley has brought an attitude of fiscal realism to the council that some councilmen lack as they view the current crisis that we are in.
The three new members of council have created a new dynamic that the people of Alexandria should be proud of. Under a one party system with the elected representatives worried more about spending to make people happy, rather than spending to make our city successful.
Our schools need over $100 million dollars or repairs, though six years ago when the economy was booming they were getting less than $5 Million a year, our city facilities have almost doubled in price during the boom because of bad project management by the council, and now as we face the financial and budgetary crisis today, we are faced with more expenses because of these previous decisions, or lack thereof. What the three new councilmen bring to council is the attitude that this spending will stop. The best thing that Kerry Donley, Frank Fannon and Alicia Hughes will bring to Alexandria is the reality that we must look to our needs first and when times are good or bad, we must plan for the reality of things. The council of the past did not do this, and maybe, just maybe that is why two of their members were handily beat last May.