I am disturbed that the strategy of the Democratic ticket in Alexandria has been largely to ignore local issues and to try to make Tuesday's elections for mayor and city council a referendum on Reaganomics.
Just for the record, Ronald Reagan is not running. Bob Calhoun (for mayor) and Bob Gardner, Bill Glasgow, Marlee Inman, Gene Lange, Carlyle Ring, and Janet Wilson (for council) are the Republican candidates.
Suppose the Republicans in a city council race were to seek votes because Jimmy Carter bungled the Iranian hostage situation, or because the Democratic leadership in the Virginia General Assembly made certain ERA was defeated. The response from the public would be laughter, boredom, indignation. Such tactics would not likely generate votes.
Within the Republican Party, there is a wide range of views on issues. That is good. Better decisions come from an open discussion of differences. However, there is an underlying theme--government should not exist to interfere in everyone's life or solve everyone's problems. At the local level, that principle is felt even more strongly.
Alexandria cannot prosper if it cannot control its costs and make some fundamental decisions about the type of community it wants to be. Our city has finite limits on where and how it can expand its tax base through new construction, and if we cannot address that, we will not survive as a true community with diverse neighborhoods.
In the past, Alexandria city councils have not generally operated with a partisan flavor. There have been genuine disagreements, and sometimes there are 4-to-3 votes--currently there are four Democrats and three Republicans. But I cannot help but wonder whether the heavy national emphasis the Democrats are attempting to place on this election really reflects an absence of anything else to say.
One issue that ought to be discussed is public employee relations. No one on the Republican ticket was endorsed by the local public employees' or teachers' unions. The majority of the Democratic ticket, in an apparent quid pro quo for union endorsements, supports repeal of Virginia's right-to-work laws, public employees' right to strike and binding arbitration of disputes. No series of actions, if implemented, would drive up the cost of governnment faster. The Republican ticket has taken the opposite view.
When it is time for our council to decide on critical salary issues, which members will more likely make the most responsible decisions?
In the last quarter of the Carter administration, the annualized inflation rate reached approximately 18 percent. In the most recent quarter of the Reagan administration, it is slightly more than 3 percent. What does this mean to Alexandria?
Under the administration's proposed budget for the next fiscal year, Alexandria will have reductions of $4.4 million (the proposed budget is $134 million). These reductions could be funded many times over by the millions of dollars the city has saved as a result of the reduced inflation rate.
Two specific examples: in the last fiscal year, Alexandria was required to provide a 9.7 percent cost-of-living increase to all city employees. In the proposed budget, as a result of a lowered inflation rate, only a 5 percent figure is required--a $1.68 million savings. Also, the overall Metro budget has been reduced by $8 million for the same reason, and by $4 million for reduced fuel costs. These savings give localities new economic flexibility.
I do not agree with every position the administration takes, but I support the progress toward economic stability. We are controlling inflation. Lowered interest rates will come, and that will positively affect employment. We will reduce the budget deficit. These accomplishments will put this country back on its feet. I know that is what our local Republican candidates want. I hope that is what the Democratic candidates want, and I wish they would spend more time talking about solutions, and less on finding scapegoats.
So I am deeply concerned that the outcome of this election may be decided for the wrong reasons, and I close with this admonition: don't vote for or against Calhoun and the others because they are Republicans. Just vote for the best candidates--for Alexandria.