At the three candidate forums so far, some of the challengers and the two Democratic incumbents have defended the City Council’s decisions, pointing out how the city has negotiated for additions to its affordable housing, improved transportation and infrastructure needs.
But some of the challengers have accused city officials of listening more closely to developers than to citizens.
The Beauregard redevelopment “is an economic issue and we need to deal with it with economic solutions,” said Justin Wilson, 33, a former council member seeking to return to the post. “We do not have [affordable housing] supply, and when supply is limited, prices go up.”
“When we don’t have enough affordable housing stock, we can’t afford to bulldoze what we have,” said Sammie Moshenberg, 61, a longtime civic activist making her first run for office. “Our city is fast becoming an enclave of the elite. . . . We are rushing these developments in too fast without proper consideration.”
Among the 14 candidates, seven are new to electoral politics, although locals mayrecognize most names. Incumbents Redella “Del” Pepper and Paul Smedberg are running for reelection; Wilson and Timothy Lovain, who’s focused on smart growth and traffic, are former council members; Arthur E. Peabody is a School Board member and civil rights lawyer who says traffic is a top concern; Donna L. Fossum, a planning commissioner, helped formulate the Beauregard plan as leader of a stakeholders group; John Taylor Chapman, local NAACP president and a third-generation Alexandrian who grew up in public housing; Boyd Walker was a leader of a waterfront plan opposition group; Victoria Menjivar has been a leader in the Hispanic community; and Allison Silberberg leads the Economic Opportunities Commission.
Sean T. Holihan, 31, who works for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, was the early leader in fundraising and has stood out as a progressive willing to challenge others. Melissa Feld, 41, a Canadian immigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen, pitches herself as a “new voice” with children in local schools. Michael Hepburn, 29, also a relative newcomer, has focused on creating “pathways to success” for schoolchildren.
“This is not an insiders game anymore,” said Dak Hardwick, chair of the local Democratic Committee, which plans a final candidate forum on Monday at 7 p.m. at George Washington Middle School. “The field is diverse in all sense of the word. We are doing our level best to make this as open and accessible as possible.”