This article has been revised from an earlier version.
There wasn’t much elbow room Wednesday night on the stage of the George Washington Masonic Memorial, as 14 of 16 candidates for Alexandria City Council politely jostled for two microphones.
At this first mass forum of the campaign, there was little verbal jousting as each of the candidates introduced him or herself, then answered three questions (on transportation, the waterfront and schools) in two minutes.
If you were one of the 125 or so in the audience, you’ve done your civic duty. If you weren’t, you missed some thoughtful, balanced and well-reasoned commentary from dedicated citizens willing to take on the rigors of public life for a pittance. (Alexandria council members make $27,500/year.)
We won’t burden you with those.We know why you’re here — you want to know who said something outrageous, alarming or interesting. Without further ado, let’s go to the highlights:
“We’ve got a second-rate city right now and we’ve got to fix that,” said Donna Fossum, a Planning Commission member, said while discussing emergency services. She later added, “If Fairfax had their druthers, we’d be an 18-lane highway to D.C.”
“The city is being sold off to developers, or at least that’s the perception,” said Sammie Moshenberg, a longtime civic activist with Tenants and Workers United.
“I do not support a streetcar [system] and I think it would be an economic disaster,” said incumbent council member Frank Fannon IV, the lone Republican on the stage.
“All these traffic problems created by our City Council. Think we have traffic problems now? Just wait. It will be worse,” said Victoria Menjivar, the only Hispanic candidate on the June 12 Democratic primary ballot.
“While I respect the people who opposed the [waterfront] plan, I don’t support the group that opposed it. ... We cannot use fear tactics, nor can we smear people who serve on the council,” said Sean Holihan, taking a swipe at the co-founders of the Citizens for an Alternative Alexandria Waterfront Plan, Boyd Walker and Andrew Macdonald, both of whom are running for office this year. “I’m not sure what that was about, unless it was to advance some political careers.”
The waterfront plan, oddly, seemed to have more supporters on the dimly lit stage than it had when it passed the council on a 5 to 2 vote in January. Endorsing it, with plenty of commentary, were incumbents Paul Smedberg and Del Pepper, both of whom voted for it; Justin Wilson, former council member Timothy Lovain, Holihan, Fossum, Melissa Feld and John T. Chapman.
Of course, that leaves six against it, including Allison Silberberg, who said the plan “wasn’t visionary enough.” Two announced council candidates were missing: Michael Hepburn, who was recovering from an asthma attack, and incumbent Alicia Hughes, who, as a Republican, wants to wait until the Democratic primary narrows the field. Hughes, with Fannon, were the two council members who voted against the waterfront plan.
Not on stage but watching from the audience were the two announced candidates for mayor, incumbent Democrat William D. Euille and independent Andrew Macdonald.