Home 2019 Elections Video: Yesterday’s Alexandria City Council Town Hall Meeting on Proposed New Wizards/Caps...

Video: Yesterday’s Alexandria City Council Town Hall Meeting on Proposed New Wizards/Caps Arena Has Fascinating Exchange on Whether/To What Extent Alexandria Should Consider Harm to DC

Bottom line: Alexandria's city council is looking out for Alexandria first and foremost.


Per Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson, see below for video of “yesterday’s City Council Town Hall meeting” of Council members “answering two hours worth of questions from our community about the proposed Potomac Yard Entertainment District.” It’s all interesting, but I just wanted to highlight the following exchange (see below the video for a transcript) on the question:

“Is the council thinking about the impacts on downtown DC in its decision? When you enter the City Council chambers, there is a framed resolution pledging regionalism. Since this project is being moved from DC…will you commit to some revenue sharing for Washington DC, who has invested a great deal for their…moving venues. We expect Alexandria government to look out for Alexandria first. However, given Alexandria’s interest in a healthy city center in DC, is there any consideration for how paying their sports teams to leave downtown DC will negatively affect the region as a whole? What happened to the COG mantra, ‘We’re All in This Together’, in this region? And now you will harm DC by taking the arena. Does Alexandria have a moral duty not to leave a big hole in DC by accepting these two teams or should that not be a factor?”

As you can see, the responses by Alexandria City Council members are…let’s just say, a LOT more concerned about Alexandria – which, one could argue, is exactly what they should be looking out for – than about what the impact on DC might end up being. Personally, I’d argue that there SHOULD be more regional planning/coordination, but the reality is, each jurisdiction in the DC region is in “friendly” (or not so friendly, even cutthroat) competition with the others, and that’s just the way it is…like it or not, for better or for worse. Anyway, check out the responses, below the video; very interesting, IMHO.

Council member Amy Jackson: “So I’ll start by saying I go to the Caps games, the Wizards games, I get on the Metro or we take Uber – we do one of those things with a family of four. I believe that we are in this together. For as much as…and this is the thing, I feel like we can’t look look a gift horse in the mouth, right? We have the opportunity to have something really great here, and it’s unfortunate that there’s a whole other level of deal making that fell through on the DC side. Is that our problem on that level? I would say no on that. But are we going to miss the opportunity to have something amazing here if this works out on this side? Absolutely, I wouldn’t miss this opportunity…I do believe that it really is unfortunate on the DC part, because I understand as we are looking at this here, the entertainment district, when you bring this arena here, you’re bringing the teams, here you’re bringing small businesses here, you’re bringing more residents here that want to be close to that entertainment district, that want to be close to the historic Alexandria neighborhoods and just come to Alexandria. And if we’re promoting what we always do in Alexandria about how this is an economic win on so many levels, then you can’t really say no to this. But it’s heartbreaking on the other side. I grew up here. I mean I was going to the Cap Center way out in Landover. I was going to RFK. I was going to all these things that have already changed over, and now here we are at another change. So I believe that it is a regional thing…I think Leonsis put out a letter, it was 44 4% of the fan base is Virginia, 41% was Maryland and then 11% was DC – I believe it was something along those lines. And so Virginia has in that case 3% over anybody else in terms of the fan base here. So when we’re working to find something to promote for the arena, I would say it’s absolutely our fan base is already on this side of the Potomac. However, should that stop anybody from the tourism to go to DC, as it will
come to Alexandria and Virginia and the region, this is part of the aspect also of our waterfront was amazing, is amazing, will continue to be amazing, but we were supposed to be the first to completely develop our waterfront. Instead, we watched as National Harbor was developed first and what they had with a conference center and hotels and and that type of mixed use on that side. Then we saw the wharf being developed in DC while we are still sitting here waiting for ours to be completely developed. So is this another opportunity we’ll miss or just grab it by the horns and say let’s go let’s find the improvements we need and make it happen, but also help facilitate DC getting back on their feet; if they need anything, we’re right here, we’re neighborly, just as they have always helped us, as Maryland has also.”

Councilman John Chapman: So being a fourth generation
Alexandrian and never being having lived or having any member that’s ever lived in DC, it’s always hard for me personally to kind of say that DC is woe is me. I look at their economic development department and they’re maybe 10 times the size of ours. I look at the fact that they are the nation’s capital and people are  automatically drawn to that. Wwe talk about tourism; they get millions more dollars in tourism than we do. Do they say, hey come over to Alexandria after you’ve stopped over in DC? No they
don’t. We fight for ourselves and we we tell our history that was here before DC – that’s what we do, we’ve always competed in this region. While we are a region, we certainly understand as a region – whether it’s Alexandria and Virginia, DC and Maryland in parts of Maryland that individual businesses choose to make a business decision about where they want to go. Let’s look at PTO let’s look at NSF, FBI, those businesses…did not start in Alexandria, they started somewhere somewhere else and then made a business decision to look around the region and decided to pick Alexandria. Do I think that – and let me get away from DC. When we’ve had challenges here, we have rolled up our sleeves  and figured out how to address those challenges. I got some former council members here, they can remember some of the  times when we’ve been challenged. Again, when MGM National Harbor came, we had to roll up our sleeves and figure out what we were going to do. DC now has has that same challenge. I saw their mayor pull together a task force of business leaders to say ‘hey, how do we as DC as Washingtonians address the challenge now in front of us?’ That is what local governments do – they take the challenge, whether it be the pandemic, whether it be individual businesses choosing where they’re going to go and say. ‘I’m going to roll up my sleeves and figure out how I
get past this challenge and become better’. And so to say that DC is going to now die because of this move, that’s not right, that’s not correct. The DC folks that I know, they take on this challenge and say we’re going to be better because of it. We’re going to say that we don’t need to. And that’s what they’re trying to say. I’ve seen that in multiple media reports that they’re going to roll
up their sleeves, come together and build a better DC. When we lose a economic project, if we lose one, we’re going to have to do the same exact thing. We can’t look at who the jurisdiction that receives it and say, ‘hey, you need to give that back to us’. Because that’s not going to happen. We’re going to roll up our sleeves and say how do we make a better Old Town, how do we make a better Del Ray, how do we make a better West End? Because I hate to say it, we are in competition – we like each other, we work together when we can. But make make no bones about it, if we allow people to take our lunch money, they will take it. If we allow them to take our good businesses, they will take it. But we have to roll up our sleeves and say, ‘this is Alexandria, we have to be fighting for ourselves’. And DC is going to do the same exact thing. And I appreciate that they have those, they have that willingness to do that.”

Councilman Kirk McPike: “DC is our neighbor, it’s an important part of our region. We all want to see DC succeed and thrive, just as we would hope that everyone in DC wants to see Alexandria succeed and thrive, just as we grudgingly want to see Arlington
succeed and thrive. But we are in friendly competition many times for various resources, things that can only be one place. A few months ago, we were all bemoaning the fact that we lost our shot at the FBI headquarters in Virginia – a large business, office building that would have been an important catalyst not for Alexandria but for our region…It’s going to go to Maryland it looks like instead. But that was something that was in DC that there was shuffling over to figure out where to put it. And we competed in a friendly manner, knowing that what benefits us often has spillover benefits to the other parts of our region. When Amazon moved to this region, they moved to Arlington – Amazon’s HQ2 is going into Arlington, but there are benefits that spill over into Alexandria in the form of hundreds of affordable housing units that the affordable housing fund that came to Alexandria from the state government came because of that  Amazon deal. Similarly, if this arena proposal helps us keep Virginia on the ball in terms of keeping WMATA funded and operational in the right way, that has a huge benefit to Washington DC that they might not have had an opportunity to receive indirectly if we weren’t really considering this. So we want to see DC succeed. I think that Monumental wants to see DC succeed, because they will still own the Capital One Center even if this deal goes through. And I know that we are loyal residents of Alexandria, but we care about our region, so we’re not doing this blind to the fact this has an impact on our neighbors. We just have to weigh carefully the potential benefits to our city versus the minor impacts I think this will have on the region as a whole. Because DC has a lot going for it, as Councilman Chapman recognized. And I don’t think DC’s best days are behind it, just like I know Alexandria’s best days are ahead of it.”

Council member Alyia Gaskins:  “I just wanted to quickly – I know the vice mayor mentioned the letter that Ted Leonsis put out the other day – I would just encourage people to go there for more information. Because it’s not just on us to solve. And I think in there, specifically, there is a section on Wards 7 and 8. And one of the things I found really interesting is in the facilities that they built in Wards 7 and 8, it talks about how they’ve actually already prepaid the entirety of the lease payments. It also talks about every year…a $10 million philanthropic commitment that they have put in not only to DC, but specifically in those neighborhoods. It talks about some of their commitments to other fees and payments that will be ongoing to the district. And then finally in there, it begins to talk about…Council member McPike started here – but what is their plan envision for the future of Capital One, as well as they mentioned that they want to maintain an active presence and they want to be a part of the planning of the renaissance for downtown DC. So I would just say that it’s – I appreciate the question here, I think my colleagues have covered our role in it and how we think about economic development broadly – but there is information out there on specifically how DC is thinking about this and how Monumental is thinking about the ongoing investment that they need to achieve based on the promises they made to that community.”

Council member Canek Aguirre: “So I’m a huge believer in regionalism; I absolutely want to see a healthy DC, it’s important to the entire region. But I want to give a little bit more perspective too: DC – 700,00 people; Prince George County – 1 million plus; Montgomery County – million-ish; Fairfax County – 1.2 million; we have 160,000 people over 15 square miles. We are a small jurisdiction and Councilman Chapman’s right – they will take our lunch money, they will come after all of our funding if we’re not there. That’s why it’s so important that we sit on our different regional committees to make sure that we’re looking for out for the interest of Alexandria. And still, of course, as Councilman McPike mentioned, working well with our friends in a friendly competition. So we have to be cognizant of that. Secondly, I think this was a gut check for DC. And as was said, the Mayor is putting together a whole task force to see what do they need to do, what do they need to change. Because there were real reasons why this was even a consideration, right? If there weren’t any issues going on in DC, the team’s probably staying there and this isn’t even a conversation. And lastly, you know, this one kind of got me, the revenue share thing. you know. And I’m glad that the different waterfronts were brought up, because when National Harbor came online, when the wharf came online, the situation with the FBI building, there was zero talk of revenue sharing. So let’s let’s let’s get that completely out of that conversation.”


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