On May 12, I made two endorsements for Alexandria City Council for the Democratic primary on June 12: 1) incumbent Willie Bailey and 2) newcomer Elizabeth Bennett-Parker. Just a reminder that there are a dozen Democratic candidates — eight newcomers (Canek Aguirre, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, Matthew Feely, Dak Hardwick, Amy Jackson, Robert Ray, Mo Seifeldein, J. Chris Hubbard) and four incumbents (Willie Bailey, John T. Chapman, Redella “Del” Pepper and Paul Smedberg,) – running for six seats on the city council. For background on these candidates, check out their websites or click here. You can also check out video of the May 23 forum sponsored by Tenants and Worker United – Inquilinos y Trabajadores Unidos and the NAACP, and the Patch report on that forum here.
With that, here are my final four endorsements for Alexandria City Council.
Del Pepper (incumbent): First of all, I think it’s a good idea – especially if there are going to be a number of new members – to have someone on the City Council with the enormous institutional memory and experience of Pepper, who was first elected in 1985 and who has served as Vice Mayor three times. But experience alone wouldn’t be enough without a strong record of accomplishment as well as strong progressive and environmental positions on the issues. This article discusses several of Pepper’s greatest accomplishments (bolding added by me for emphasis):
…instigating the EcoCity Initiative, spearheading the closing of the GenOn power plant and establishing an IT Commission to keep up with technological advances ahead of other jurisdictions in the region.
Pepper said she sparked the conversation about making Alexandria more eco-friendly after attending a national conference. The Eco-City Charter was adopted in 2008 as a holistic, strategic effort to achieve sustainability, according to the city website.
In addition to serving on the committee for the city’s Environmental Action Plan 2030, Pepper represents council on regional Metropolitan Washington Council of Government committees, including the Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee and the Climate, Energy and Environmental Policy Committee.
Great stuff. From that same article, I also very much like the fact that Pepper has advocated for Alexandria’s West End. As former Mayor Kerry Donley stated, “Often times, our elected representatives have an East [End] slant to them, so having a West End voice on the city council has been important, and Del has been that West End voice for many years now.”
Also see here for Pepper’s positions on a number of important issues: pro-immigrant, pro-“meals tax”; transparency regarding police interactions with the community; prioritizing affordable housing and education; opposing armed resource officers in the schools (note that the only candidate who answered “yes” to that one was Matthew Feely); for adding gender identity to the list of protected classes of people in Alexandria and for cracking down on any cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Finally, I’d note that “smart growth” blog Greater Greater Washington (GGW) has endorsed Pepper for reelection, citing her “history of supporting plans for Bus Rapid Transit and a more extensive network of bike lanes,” while also having “specifically called for additional improvements and planning around Eisenhower Avenue to improve its potential as a transit corridor, and expressed concern and potential solutions for shifts in funding following the redirection of NVTA funds.”
In sum, I see absolutely no reason to boot Pepper from the Alexandria City Council, and lots of strong reason to keep here there for another term.
John Chapman (incumbent): Like Pepper, Chapman – first elected in 2012 – has been endorsed by GGW, which writes: “As a former resident of ARHA, Alexandria’s public housing authority, Chapman has personal experience on the implementation end of Alexandria’s affordable housing policy, and has previously attempted to increase the current set aside funding for affordable housing.” GGW also notes Chapman’s “history of supporting plans for Bus Rapid Transit and a more extensive network of bike lanes,” call for “additional improvements and planning around Eisenhower Avenue to improve its potential as a transit corridor,” and “concern and potential solutions for shifts in funding following the redirection of NVTA funds.”
Also see the Del Ray Patch for Chapman’s positions on a number of important issues: On immigration, “supports driver’s licenses for all, making legal aid and accessible city resources available”; strong supporter of affordable housing and “creative hous[ing] options”; more transparency when it comes to police interactions with the community; a 1% meals tax dedicated to affordable housing; opposition to putting armed resource officers in schools; for strong protections against anti-LGBT discrimination; etc.
Finally, see this Alexandria Times article for a profile on Chapman. Among other things, it notes that “one of his greatest accomplishments has been helping improve a bonus density policy that brings more affordable housing to the city in development projects.” The article also cites Chapman’s “work championing new opportunities and resources for economic development and partnerships so that businesses can thrive in Alexandria.” Former Mayor Bill Euille says that he’s watched Chapman “grow into the job,” becoming a council member who “[t]hinks before he speaks…asks very pertinent questions, and [is] a team player.” Sounds good to me!
Mo Seifeldein (challenger): Yet another GGW endorsee; in Seifeldin’s case, GGW writes:
Seifeldein’s professional background and personal story stand out among a field filled with personal achievement. He is a first generation Sudanese immigrant whose family came to the area to escape war and instability when he was a child. Alongside his siblings he worked to support his family up until college. Following law school, he spent time at The Hague working on human rights issues before returning to Virginia to represent clients who could not afford legal representation, as well as mentoring students at T.C. Williams High School, while eventually opening his own law firm He reflects a large, often underrepresented broad community of immigrants in Northern Virginia.
Impressive background! GGW also cites Seifeldein having “clearly given a great deal of thought to these [transit/smart growth/etc.] issues and how a place on the city council would allow them to pursue their vision.”
On energy/environment, Seifeldein says he will “advocate for LEED certified developments,” “modernize the energy grid through investments in renewable energy”; “bold, green development” and more broadly “tak[ing] a more hands-on approach to moving the needle on the environment for our children.” On transportation, he says he will “push for more energy-efficient city buses offering more frequent service to residents”; support “expansion of bike, pedestrian, and water taxi routes”; and allow for “pilot programs of autonomous vehicles in the limited areas in the City.”
On other issues, Seifeldein is strongly pro-immigrant; supports the 1% meals tax dedicated to affordable housing; opposes armed school resource officers; is strongly supportive of protections against anti-LGBT discrimination; and says he rejects contributions from developers. I also really like the fact that Seifeldein says he will “will fight to ensure that the environment and residents’ property rights are protected from irresponsible developers” and that he will “fight to make sure that our aging adults’ services are protected and our health department is adequately resourced.”
The bottom line on Seifeldein, for me, is that I think his background, enthusiasm, energy and strong progressive/pro-environment positions on the issues will make him a valuable addition to the Alexandria City Council.
Canek Aguirre (challenger): Finally, I’m recommending another new face for the City Council – Canek Aguirre. Another one with an impressive bio, Aguirre describes himself as “a community advocate and progressive leader focused on improving the lives of all Alexandrians and the “son of Mexican immigrants,” someone who “knows first-hand the importance of hard work, education, and ensuring everyone has a fair shot at the American Dream.” I like the fact that Aguirre has been active with the Alexandria Democratic Committee (including as a precinct captain), as well as the fact that he’s from the city’s less affluent, more diverse West End. I also like his experience as “Chair of the City of Alexandria’s Economic Opportunities Commission, President of the Tenants and Workers United (TWU) Board of Directors, and Vice Chairman of the Health Systems Agency of Northern Virginia (HSANV) Board of Directors.”
According to GGW, Aguirre “appear[s] to align with the Greater Greater Washington perspective on transit and housing issues in Alexandria, even though [he] didn’t gain our endorsement.” GGW also notes that Aguirre:
…has previous experience working in and with the Alexandria City Public Schools, serving as a liaison between students and the administration to bridge cultural and language gaps. He brings a specific representation for a portion of Alexandria’s community that is currently underrepresented in Alexandria politics.
On the issues, Aguirre is strongly pro-immigrant (e.g., “driver’s licenses for all”); supports the “meals tax” to fund affordable housing; opposes armed school resource officers; is strongly pro-LGBT; and says he’s “led this effort [for increased transparency regarding police interactions with the community] “with Grassroots and NAACP starting three years ago.”
Aguirre also says he supports “moving from single passenger car transportation to mass transit, bike and walking lanes, rapid bus and Metro…high density near Metro, mass transit, green space are my general approach to development and future growth.” His top priorities include “increasing housing opportunities for all Alexandrians”; “invest[ing] in our school infrastructure and address teacher retention” and “support[ing] efforts that eliminate health inequities that exist within our community.” I like it!
P.S. It was a tough call to not endorse five-term Council member Paul Smedberg – who is impressive in many ways – for reelection, but: 1) I don’t understand why he didn’t respond to the question, “would you do to defend and support immigrants –undocumented and documented – in Alexandria”; 2) I’m not thrilled that he opposes dedicated funding for affordable housing; 3) I found his answer to the question on police transparency – Alexandria has a “very fine police force” (sure, but that doesn’t answer to the question) to be inadequate and somewhat flippant; 4) I don’t like that he opposes the “meals tax”; and 5) I think the City Council will have a nice (50/50) mix of incumbents and newcomers with the six candidates I’ve endorsed – incumbent Willie Bailey, incumbent John Chapman, incumbent Del Pepper, challenger Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, challenger Mo Seifeldein, challenger Canek Aguirre.