It will be a crowded ballot in on Tuesday with elections for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, House of Delegates member, Sheriff and Commonwealth's Attorney before voters.
In person absentee voting is under way and concludes on Saturday.
At the General Registrar's office at 132 N. Royal Street, in person absentee voting is available from 8 AM until 8 PM today and tomorrow. On Friday and Saturday voting is available from 8 AM until 5 PM.
At Beatley Library at 5005 Duke Street, in person absentee voting is available from 1 PM until 8 PM today and tomorrow. On Friday voting is available from 1 PM until 5 PM. On Saturday voting is available 10 AM until 5 PM.
I'll see you at the polls!
ACPS Calendar Input
The Alexandria City Public Schools are working to develop the academic calendar for 2018 - 2019 and they would like your input.
Commonwealth's Attorney Community Academy
Scheduled on Wednesday November 8th from 6 PM until 9 PM, this program will introduce residents to the office charged with prosecution of criminal offenses in Alexandria.
Run For Turkey
For the 42nd Year, Del Ray will host the best Turkey Trot around!
The 42nd Anniversary Alexandria Turkey Trot 5 Miler returns to the streets of Del Ray and Rosemont on Thanksgiving morning.
Brought to you by the Del Ray Business Association and DC Road Runners, the race is a regional tradition and last year attracted 4,300 finishers!
With a welcome from the Town Crier and performances of all kinds, this event cannot be missed!
Next week the Lyceum will host a reception to showcase a new exhibit "Alexandrians Fight the Great War."
The reception will be held on Thursday the 9th beginning at 5:30 PM.
Run For Shelter
On Saturday November 18th, Carpenter's Shelter hosts the 7th Annual Run For Shelter road race on Eisenhower Avenue.
With two distances (10K and 5K), and a fun run this race is for everyone. It begins at the United States Patent and Trademark Office at 600 Dulany Street.
Free for all ages, the parade features prizes for the best decorated homes, strollers, businesses and pets.
It starts at 2 PM. I'll see you there!
The review provides an extensive narrative of the incident and concludes that the Alexandria Police Department and United States Capitol Police acted appropriately in using force to resolve a dangerous situation.
The review is also a reminder of the valor exhibited that day by Special Agents Griner and Bailey of the United States Capitol Police and Officers Jensen, Jobe and Battaglia of the Alexandria Police Department.
As the report indicates, these officers ran towards danger and in doing so saved countless lives. They have our gratitude and appreciation.
Short Term Rentals
Whether it is Uber and Lyft or AirBNB, local government is ground zero in the battle to keep up with "disruptive technologies." For many of these businesses they begin operations in violation of existing state or local laws and await the laws to "catch up."
In the case of short-term rentals, popularized by AirBNB, the Commonwealth of Virginia has struggled to arrive at the correct way to level the playing field and provide Virginia's local governments with appropriate tools to address quality of life impacts.
Between now and November 11th, the staff is accepting public comment to inform the staff recommendation on this ordinance.
Let us know your thoughts!
Making 911 Better For Your Family
In an emergency, before a resident ever encounters a "First Responder," they encounter the women and men who answer the phone at the City's 911 center.
With the department established, it now became time to provide the new department with the appropriate resources necessary to protect the safety of our community.
Beginning in Fiscal Year 2011, the City began planning and
budgeting for an entire replacement of our Public Safety Communications system, the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, the Police Records Management system, Fire Station Alerting system, and more.
These new systems provide better data to our dispatchers, better pre-arrival data to our first responders, and more efficient and prompt dispatch of emergency response. It provides our dispatchers with better data on the location and status of resources.
The new system provides for greater interoperability with our neighboring jurisdictions, thus improving our mutual aid response.
In a region such as ours, borders between jurisdictions are divisions that the politicians get excited about, but are not overly relevant to most of our residents. Our public safety services are provided seamlessly across the region using a variety of mutual aid relationships. In recognition of that reality and a desire to be even more efficient about the tax dollars that we utilize for these services, the City recently took a significant steps towards closer partnership with Arlington County in providing 911 services.
Public safety communications are the first step for local government to provide the life and death services that our residents rely. Providing these services at the highest level, while leveraging new technology and maximizing our investment of your tax dollars will ensure the safety of each and every resident and visitor.
The Cost of Disagreement
A little over three years ago, in October of 2014, the Planning Commission and City Council heard a land-use proposal at 329 N. Washington Street in Old Town.
The property was historic having had its original section constructed around 1823. For its first 100 years of history, the property was largely utilized as a residential property. From the 1930s through the 1980s, the property functioned as a ground-floor doctor's office, with residential above.
In the citywide 1992 rezoning, the City removed the commercial zoning and the property remained residential.
The Planning Commission unanimously recommended the application to the City Council. On October 18th, 2014 the City Council held our public hearing on the application. The Council heard from 45 members of the community that day, about half in support and half opposed to the application. After the testimony, the Council deliberated for some time, and ultimately I made a motion to approve the application including some changes designed to address many of the concerns we heard from the opposed neighbors (restrictions on outdoor music, restrictions on how trash would be picked up, parking, odor control, etc). That motion was adopted unanimously by the City Council.
Ordinarily, the would be the end of the story. If it was, this wouldn't be very interesting.
A month later, a group of residents opposed to the application filed a lawsuit in Alexandria Circuit Court challenging the City Council's decision. That began an odyssey that did not conclude until last weekend, over 3 years later.
The lawsuit was filed by attorneys from Williams & Connolly, one of the most exclusive law firms in the nation. Given the risk, the applicant put their plans on hold awaiting the result of the litigation.
The litigation accused the Council of making an unreasonable and arbitrary decision, of exercising illegal "spot-zoning," of showing favoritism to the applicant due to the fact that our former State Senator, the now-late Patsy Ticer, was the applicant's mother/mother-in-law, and a denial of equal protection.
Given the nature of the case, all of the City's Circuit Court judges recused themselves. This required a retired judge from elsewhere in the state to be appointed to hear the case.
The appointed judge allowed the entire City Council to be deposed in the case, along with members of the City staff, Planning Commissioners and other related parties.
The judge ultimately ruled for the City and dismissed all of the claims made in the lawsuit.
Unfortunately, that was
still not the end.
The City spent over $1 million defending this lawsuit over the past 3 years
. That is $1 million that could have been spent supporting our schools, our human services, our parks, our infrastructure, or a myriad of other City services. In addition to the actual cost of outside legal counsel, there was much more value expended with staff time responding to the litigation. This is deeply frustrating for me.
I believe that everyone has a right to exercise their rights in court. It is natural that those who feel aggrieved by a decision of the City Council may want to take that grievance before a judge. I have voted on many land-use applications in my seven years on the City Council and reasonable people will not always agree on every application.
Yet there is something wrong when litigation that is ultimately found without merit, can be allowed to drag out for 3 years, leaving the City's taxpayers and a small business owner left paying the bills.
Let me know your thoughts on this situation and how we avoid them in the future.
Youth Risk Behavior
The City government and Alexandria City Public Schools partner with a variety of State and Federal agencies, as well as non-profits to help promote healthy activities among our youth.
It is important to assess whether these efforts are successful, and understand where further resources should be devoted. To do so, the Alexandria City Public Schools and Alexandria Health Department conduct the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. This voluntary survey administered to youth in grades 8, 10 and 12, provides a window into the choices being made by children in our City.
The levels of sexual activity continue to drop, with high levels of sexually active students reporting the use of protection against disease and unwanted pregnancies.
This is not to say that there are not concerns. 20% of the youth completing the survey reported riding in a vehicle with a drunk driver. Almost 30% reported texting or e-mailing while driving.
Concerns remain about mental health challenges, levels of fitness, and remaining substance abuse issues.
It is important to continue to assess the prevalence of these risks to calibrate our public policy response. While every child will not make the right choices, our combined efforts can help support positive and healthy decisions.
Host a Town Hall in Your Living Room!
My regular series of Town Hall Meetings continue!
You supply the living room and a bunch of your friends and neighbors. I will supply a member of the Alexandria City Council (me) with the answers to any of your questions about our City.
Just drop us a line and we'll get a Town Hall on the calendar! Thanks for the interest!
Each of these tragic incidents change the lives of the victims and their families in dramatic ways. But for each tragedy, there are also countless close calls and near misses that don't get reported.
In Alexandria, we are fortunate to have pedestrian scale, walkable neighborhoods with urban amenities throughout our City. Yet if residents do not feel they can safely traverse the streets of our City, then all the urban amenities are for naught.
Yet there are still areas of our City where sidewalks are non-existent or unusable, intersections are unsafe and unsafe driving is rampant. We must improve the safety of our streets for all users. Doing so requires changing the behavior of all users of our roads.
Our new Police Chief has worked to increase the focus of existing resources on traffic enforcement efforts.
My view is that in order to significantly improve pedestrian safety in our City, we will have to be willing to make trade-offs in the pursuit of safety. The data show that the changes that will most significantly improve safety are also the most controversial in our community. We have to follow the research.
We have also looked at signalization efforts that can improve safety. At a few problem intersections, the City created a "
Leading Pedestrian Interval
" to allow residents to get a head-start crossing before traffic can move.
We have also explored the creation of additional
to create an "all pedestrian" phase at problematic intersections.
In response to concerns among several neighborhoods in the center of the City, the City just conducted an extensive data collection effort to help guide future traffic mitigation response.
Soon the task force will begin looking at the potential impact of mitigation efforts on these problems.
The City is now concluding implementation of intersection and pedestrian improvements as part of our "Safe Routes to School" effort. These improvements were conducted at
I do believe there is more we can do.
We need your input!
Alexandrians should be able to use our streets safely. We will have to take ourselves out of our comfort zone to make that happen. Let me know your thoughts.
Every year, the City Council adopts a
for the upcoming General Assembly session. While the state government is certainly a significant financial supporter of the City's budget, Richmond also sets a legal environment that affects how we provide services to our residents.
Contained in the package are specific pieces of legislation that we would like to see proposed as well as the City's position on legislation that may arise during the session.
This upcoming General Assembly session is the so-called "long session." The General Assembly alternates between a 45 day session in odd number years and a 60 day session in even number years.
This upcoming session will be marked by the new Governor elected in a few days, and by the new members of the House of Delegates elected at that same time.
Faced with this reduction of revenue, the state was forced to dip into its revenue stabilization fund (the so-called "Rainy Day Fund") and defer planned salary increases.
While budget matters always dominate in Richmond, there is likely going to be significant discussion of a variety of other priorities before the Commonwealth.
The Council will be holding a public hearing on the proposed legislative package on Saturday, November 18th beginning at 9:30 AM. Final adoption of the package is scheduled for Tuesday, November 28th.
- A request for a change to the state's Virginia Preschool Initiative to improve access to the City's low income children.
- A request for authority to expand our tree preservation ordinance
- A request for increase to an assessment charged for each civil case filed as a funding source for the City's law library.
- A request for legislation that provides our local school board with the authority to set the start date of school at their discretion.
- A request to expand the right of a renter to assign their purchase right during a condo conversion. Current law allows an elderly or disabled resident to assign their right to purchase to a housing non-profit or government agency. I have suggested that we expand this right to families. This is one way we can maintain affordable housing.
- A request for funding to support the purchase of body-worn cameras for our Police Department
- A request to clarify legislation that was passed last year by the General Assembly and now serves to limit transparency in land-use matters
While it is difficult to get legislation passed in Richmond, my hope is that we will be able to make progress on many of these important issues when the General Assembly gets to work in January.
The Torpedo Factory Arts Center is an iconic presence on the City's waterfront. Bringing a half million visitors into working artists galleries, the Factory is a economic development engine and unique arts resource for our community.
The City of Alexandria purchased the Factory from the United States Government in 1969. The Arts Center was opened in 1974 and has been a model for similar centers around country.
Yet for the past several years, the challenges of the Factory and the possible solutions to those challenges have been divisive.
This report recommended more changes to the governance, the management, and vision of the Factory.
My focus is on deriving a structure for the operation of the Factory that:
- expands the vitality of the Factory
- improves its financial sustainability
- improves its diversity
- ensures the success of Alexandria's premier arts destination long into the future.
I am confident that working together we can achieve these goals.
It is my hope that this phase will be brief and we will be able to move forward with a new structure for the future of the Torpedo Factory.