The city's waterfront development plan sparked a grass-roots uprising, lawsuits and several political campaigns.
Many Hispanic residents of Arlandria felt ignored when the City Council voted to approve an apartment building they fear will drive up their rents.
Months later, the council agreed to the redevelopment of the Beauregard area, where many working-class residents live. The council wrested 800 units of affordable housing from the developers, but that did not calm residents’ anger.
Some civic activists say the decisions show that city officials do not listen to the community and are beholden to developers. City officials, and those who support them, say they made changes in each project in response to residents’ concerns, and those who continue to object are a small minority who refuse to deal with the reality of growth, the demands of the housing market and the laws that limit what local governments can do.
Now many of the council members who participated in those decisions are up for election. Those controversies, in addition to the normal concerns about school quality, taxes and spending, have dominated this election season, where 12 candidates, including four incumbents and two former incumbents, are running for six seats.
Alexandria City Council races have long attracted multiple contenders, between 10 and 15 each election. But this is the first year that the city’s local elections will be held in November, during the high-turnout general election. Large numbers of newly registered voters and voters who didn’t participate in the May local elections are expected.
Fourteen Democrats ran in the primary, and the winners have since been joined by three Republicans, two independents and a Libertarian. About 200 residents have turned out for each of the four candidates’ forums held so far. (A final one is scheduled for Wednesday night at Minnie Howard School.)
Alexandria is traditionally Democratic, but it’s not a one-party town. Republicans Frank H. Fannon IV and Alicia R. Hughes upset expectations three years ago when they replaced Democrats Timothy B. Lovain and Justin M. Wilson on the council. All are running again this year. Democratic incumbents Redella S. “Del” Pepper, the longest-serving elected official in Alexandria, and Paul C. Smedberg, who often voted with vice mayor Kerry J. Donley and state Del. Rob Krupicka, are the other veterans on the ballot.
Newcomers include Democrats John Taylor Chapman, former president of the local chapter of the NAACP, and Allison Silberberg, chairwoman of the local Economic Opportunities Commission, and Republican John R. “Bob” Wood, a retired Army lieutenant general who was serving as a top strategic planner at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.