The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

Student Guide to the June 8 Alexandria Democratic Primary

Ethan Gotsch and Jacqueline Lutz

On June 8, Alexandria City voters will head to the polls for the Democratic primary election to choose the Democratic mayor and City Council candidates. The winners of the primary will appear on the ballot in November along with Republican and Independent candidates running for office. All registered voters in the City of Alexandria are permitted to vote in the primary at their assigned polling place on June 8. Voters can choose one mayoral candidate and up to six City Council candidates. Also on the ballot are the Democratic candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and House of Delegates for the 45th district. 

Theogony reached out to the two mayoral candidates and 13 City Council candidates and asked them to respond to the same four questions that address issues important to high school students. Candidates were asked to keep each answer to 100 words or less. The answers from candidates who responded are listed below, along with their campaigns’ respective websites where you can find more information. 

Mayoral Candidates

Allison Silberberg

Website: https://allisonforalexandria.com/

Why are you running for Mayor?

My decision to run for Mayor comes from my concern over the direction our city leaders have taken us in the last two and a half years. The character of our city is being eroded by out-of-scale overbuilding resulting in infrastructure failures on several levels, including sewage and stormwater flooding issues, over-crowded schools, and gridlocked roads. Our city needs a leader who values the quality of life for our residents. I will be a Mayor who is an active listener, protects our environment and few remaining forests such as Taylor Run, and understands the critical importance of Smart Growth. 

What Alexandria issues are particularly important to you?

Issues that are important to me include pushing for Smart Growth development, addressing the sewage and stormwater flooding issues in a proactive way, protecting our school properties from housing and focusing on expanding school capacity, saving our forested environment such as Taylor Run and Strawberry Run, assisting the recovery of our city out of the pandemic, and restoring the public trust in our city government. As an active listener, I will ensure that residents’ voices are being heard. I will ensure that we wisely use all funding from the federal government to lead our city to a robust recovery.

How do you think Alexandria City government impacts the lives of high school students?

I believe in fully funding our schools and adding to our school capacity. Our schools are far too crowded, and we must increase our school capacity. During my mayoral term, we approved and built two new schools (Patrick Henry and Ferdinand T. Day), as well as a new wing at John Adams. We need our school properties for the education and recreational needs of our students. We cannot put housing on our limited school properties. I support keeping our School Resource Officers to ensure safety. We need a community-wide conversation, public input, and data to decide this issue.

Why should high school students eligible to vote cast their ballot for you?

I ask for the students to please vote for me for Mayor due to my positions, including my strong commitment to the environment. I have a strong demonstrated track record preserving and protecting the environment. I am committed to saving the forests of Taylor Run and Strawberry Run. As Mayor, I approved the Environmental Action Plan and quintupled the number of trees planted across our city from 200 trees to 1,000 trees a year. These trees are planted for you and the generations to come. As your Mayor, I will build upon my accomplishments and restore the public trust.

Justin Wilson

Website: http://www.justin.net/

Why are you running for Mayor?

With optimism for our future, I am seeking a second term as Mayor. We could not foresee the pandemic that has shattered our economy, threatened the health, safety and financial security of so many and highlighted the very real inequities faced by Black and Brown residents of our community. We have faced those daunting obstacles together with a shared vision for a community that works for all of our residents. The health, human and economic challenges we face will require our ideas and collaboration. I am proud of how we have weathered this storm, but we must lead the recovery.

What Alexandria issues are particularly important to you?

Leading the region’s recovery from the pandemic requires that we support youth, invest in our infrastructure and expand our economy. We must find the resources necessary to address the academic, social, and emotional loss that students have suffered. We must invest in our school facilities and in our students.  We cannot continue delaying investments in our basic infrastructure. Maintaining our infrastructure in a state of good repair is good for our city, good for our environment and good for our economy. We must help get our small businesses back on their feet, to keep our residents employed.

How do you think Alexandria City government impacts the lives of high school students?

As your Mayor, as well as the father of a current and future Titans, I know that the decisions we make have a profound impact on Alexandria’s high school students. Investments in school facilities impact where students learn and our budgets affect how students learn. Expanding transit and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improves the ability of students to safely get around. Our work to create new jobs and expand affordable housing will ensure that students can live in our city. Our work to address climate change here in our city will ensure that our city is more sustainable.

Why should high school students eligible to vote cast their ballot for you?

Throughout my time on the City Council and as Mayor, I have valued the input of Alexandria’s students on the important issues facing our city. With the primary ahead, I ask for your support in our campaign for Alexandria’s future. On the issues of importance to our city’s future; the success of our youth, our basic infrastructure, transit and transportation, our fight against climate change, our small businesses, racial justice and more, I have worked to advance a positive vision for a city that will not only survive this pandemic, but thrive in its aftermath.

City Council Candidates

Canek Aguirre

Website: https://www.canekforcouncil.com/

Why are you running for City Council?

In my first term, I hit the ground running. I led Alexandria’s 2020 Census Complete Count Committee securing millions of dollars in federal funding for the next decade. I made language access a priority ensuring the city better serves Alexandria’s diverse community. I voted to invest in a transportation system of the future and increase housing opportunities across the city. Throughout the pandemic, I have fought for an equitable COVID response and recovery by targeting our limited resources where they are needed most. There’s much more to do, I hope to have the opportunity to continue to serve on Council.

What Alexandria issues are particularly important to you?

An equitable recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, our infrastructure needs, and increasing housing opportunities. The pandemic highlighted many inequities in our community, and an equitable recovery requires ensuring those most impacted get the support that they need. Alexandria’s built infrastructure–our sanitary and stormwater sewer system, city and school buildings, and our roads and transportation systems–all will need heavy investment and careful planning. Housing touches all of us, whether you are returning from college, starting a family, or aging in place. We need housing opportunities for all income levels and ages to support a vibrant, diverse community and economy.

How do you think Alexandria City government impacts the lives of high school students?

Local government has the biggest impact on our day-to-day lives. City employees provide critical services to residents and businesses. Council is responsible for passing a budget each year that funds ACPS. Other budget items include funding for affordable housing, recreational facilities, healthcare resources for the Teen Wellness Center, and eliminating DASH fares to make transit more accessible. Council is also responsible for appointing individuals to city boards and commissions and we are always looking for more youth voices to help shape our policies. I will continue to push to have more dedicated youth seats on our boards and commissions.

Why should high school students eligible to vote cast their ballot for you?

I take a hands-on approach when it comes to translating the reality on the ground into efficient and effective policy that meets the needs of our diverse community. I believe in working together to identify solutions that ensure all residents and businesses can thrive. I have a track record of building coalitions and amplifying voices missing from the decision-making table. If re-elected, I will continue to push for Alexandria government to be more accessible and accountable to all, including our youth. If you want a strong, progressive voice on Council that gets results, then you should vote for me.

Sarah Bagley

Website: https://sarahforcitycouncil.com/

Why are you running for City Council?

I have a unique background that prepares me for public service, and I want to be a part of serving my community. My personal and professional experiences provide insight into many of the issues facing Alexandria including housing affordability, improving and modernizing our infrastructure including schools, stormwater and sewer, housing and transportation, and supporting those in need of services and making efforts to reach people where they are and invite them to participate. I want to be part of continuing Alexandria’s tradition as a desirable place to live and visit and one that strives to be inclusive and equitable.

What Alexandria issues are particularly important to you?

We must prioritize investment to address school capacity, making overdue investment in storm and sewer capacity, broadband access, and environmentally conscious development that expands housing opportunities throughout the socioeconomic spectrum. We must work to expand our commercial tax base and fill vacancies in our business and commercial spaces, seek out creative public/private partnerships that will expand affordable housing options, and increase frequent, low-cost, and electric transportation options. We must engage with our citizens to include them effectively in new projects so we can benefit from their lived perspectives and gain community support.

How do you think Alexandria City government impacts the lives of high school students?

School Board decisions determine their educational experience. Council transportation decisions determine the ability of young people to engage with their surroundings. Public parks and community services provide opportunities for engagement and enrichment. Our police department and its relationship with youth determine how safe and welcome high school students feel at school and at home. Our choices with regard to our environment, including reducing carbon emissions and waste, impact the long-term health of our residents including our youth. An inclusive representative government also shows high school students what is possible for them in the future.

Why should high school students eligible to vote cast their ballot for you?

I respect and listen to the role students have to play in shaping the world they live in and will inherit. In my activism with postcards to voters and in my professional life, I have empowered young people to participate and press their community to respond to their needs. I will work towards an Alexandria that is environmentally conscious, affordable for those starting their careers, and inclusive of all members of society. As a dedicated activist with Moms Demand Action, I will work towards a future where we do not have to accept gun violence in our community.

Bill Campbell

Website: https://www.campbell4council21.com/

Why are you running for City Council?

I want to continue serving Alexandria and I’m in a position to do that full time. My wife and I have both had our work careers and are now retired. Our children all graduated from T.C. Williams and are now adults (Janay was a 4-year cheer letter winner, Cameron was a track, football, and basketball letter winner, and Jaquan was a 4-year letter winner and two-time basketball Player of the Year). I’ve served on more than 20 city boards and commissions which have given me the knowledge and experience to serve well as a Council member. My experience in Alexandria includes serving six years on the ACPS School Board where we worked hard to improve school leadership, increase teacher and staff salaries, open three new schools, and approve the renovation and capacity increase for seven other schools including T.C. Williams High School.

What Alexandria issues are particularly important to you?

My life experiences have been such that much of what I’ve focused on and would continue to focus on as a council person is doing all that I can to help others and to ensure compassion, fairness, equity, and equality everywhere. In Alexandria, this oftentimes translates to doing all that we can to ensure that people of all income levels can continue to live in Alexandria. It also means our city continuing to invest more in healthcare especially for lower income families from conception forward. More investment in early education and certainly a continued focus on equity in education and working to improve academic and life outcomes for our young folks most especially our students of color, English language learners, and students requiring special services. Lastly, I want to help lead the effort to improve multi-modal travel in Alexandria (walk, bike, car, and mass transit) and continue our work toward decreasing our city’s negative impact on the environment.

How do you think Alexandria City government impacts the lives of high school students?

Having served six years on the ACPS School Board, I’m fully aware that nearly 45 percent of the city’s entire operating budget goes to our public schools. This means that the seven elected Council members (six plus the Mayor) and the nine elected school board members can have a profound impact on the lives of high school students. Not only with schools but Alexandria City government can impact high school students in nearly every way imaginable such as play/recreation, transportation, internships/employment, college preparation, etc. For example, while on the School Board, I helped lead the effort for City Council to allow T.C. Williams’ students to ride the Dash bus free of charge (that is now something that has been approved for everyone). Council approves the budgets for every city department that also serves our students such as the health department and parks and recreation.

Why should high school students eligible to vote cast their ballot for you?

No candidate has as much experience as I do when it comes to our city and its students. I’ve been on the PTA at every level (elementary, middle and high school). I’ve served on the city’s Early Education Commission where I pressed leaders in Richmond for universal quality Pre-K (President Biden has now made that a national issue). I’ve served on the Children, Youth and Families Collaborative Commission advocating for more services for our families. I’ve served six years on the ACPS School Board where I helped bring Restorative Practices to ACPS, helped to reduce some of the barriers holding back achievement for all, and I worked hard to continue increasing the amount of diversity in our AP and Honors courses. I also fought for several years to bring lights to our football field which were finally approved, and this fall, we’ll have our first night game in history with our permanent lights! Finally, I’m currently on the Youth Sports Advisory Committee where we advocate across the city for improvements and increases in youth sports and outdoor activities.

John Taylor Chapman

Website: https://www.chapman4council.com/

Why are you running for City Council?

As a fourth-generation Alexandrian, serving my hometown is personal for me. For the past eight years, I have had the pleasure of serving you on City Council, where my experience serving the community, my unique perspective, and my proven leadership has delivered results. I have fought hard for each and every Alexandrian by focusing on the core community issues like affordability of housing, educational opportunity for our students, and equitable economic development. If reelected, I will continue to serve Alexandria and create a more inclusive, just, fair, and prosperous community as we look to recover.

What Alexandria issues are particularly important to you?

During my next term, I will focus on several areas that aim to create a more inclusive, innovative, and just community that will benefit all residents, young and old, current and future. My top three priorities are COVID-19 recovery, including supporting our students as they return to school and supporting our small businesses as they dig out of the economic damage brought on them, housing affordability, and fixing our aging infrastructure.

How do you think Alexandria City government impacts the lives of high school students?

I believe that our local city government greatly impacts the lives of high school students. From my role on City Council on approving setting ACPS’ operating budget to the important function of our local School Board to set educational policy, how your city government operates to best serve you is incredibly important and vital to your growth and success. This last year has highlighted the essential role that public education plays in the lives of students and families. The challenge you all faced with remote learning–along with your parents having to balance remote learning and job opportunities–will not be forgotten. School closures have been devastating and our decisions over the next few weeks and months will have a tremendous impact on you and your classmates. I know first-hand that as a city government, we must find innovative ways to deliver essential services, from food to education to healthcare. 

Why should high school students eligible to vote cast their ballot for you?

I am asking for your vote because getting you and your classmates back to school in-person, full-time is one of my top priorities. I recently facilitated a virtual session with parents discussing this issue and sought input on how we can reopen safely. I plan to work closely with ACPS on this effort to make reopening achievable this fall. We can do this safely, following the guidance of the CDC and health experts, to ensure the best interests of our children. But reopening is just the first step. We still have much work to do to improve our schools. I am committed to the future of your success by pushing for out-of-school education opportunities and by also seeking public-private partnerships to create additional apprenticeships for the workforce of the future.

Alyia Gaskins

Website: https://www.alyiaforalexandria.com/

Why are you running for City Council?

I’m committed to building a healthier, equitable, and more just Alexandria. Alexandrians deserve someone who will listen, elevate our collective vision, and manage the city in a way that ensures that all decisions consider the impact on and future of all our residents, not just those who already have power and resources. I’m running to bring a desperately needed public health perspective to our City Council at a time when so many are struggling with the devastating impacts of the current pandemic, give every child in Alexandria the opportunity to reach their full potential–regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation–and guarantee that we invest in our infrastructure (e.g. sidewalks, stormwater, broadband, and housing). I am leading by listening and committed to bringing more voices to the table–especially the voices of our young people–to build a more resilient and inclusive Alexandria with pathways to prosperity for everyone. As one of the youngest candidates and the mother of a Black son, it is particularly important to me that Alexandria work to implement policies in housing and education in creative ways that live up to its progressive values.

What Alexandria issues are particularly important to you?

The principal issues that define my campaign are: expanding opportunities for participation and co-decision making so that residents can shape decisions that impact their lives, countering the impacts of climate change on our community, protecting and preserving affordable housing, supporting our small business recovery and ensuring the success of every child in our community. For me, one of the most meaningful indicators that we’ve made progress on these issues will be when the students we invest so much in as a city not only want to continue to call Alexandria home later in life, but can actually afford to do so. Whether you take a traditional college track, attend a trade school, or work in our city’s retail or service sector–if you grow up here you should have the chance to stay here. I’ve heard from young leaders in our community concerns about overcrowded classrooms, school safety, and inclusion, and I’ve listened. Alexandria is where I am raising my son, so I am fully committed to meeting the needs of our city’s young people.  

How do you think Alexandria City government impacts the lives of high school students?

With graduation around the corner, you may feel that voting in a local election isn’t something that affects your life right now, but the political officials elected into office and the policies they implement today do have a tremendous impact on you. Alexandria City government impacts everything from housing (e.g. what types exist in the city, where is it located, etc.), transportation (e.g. what options are available, how much does the DASH bus cost, etc.), schools (e.g. budgets, infrastructure, etc.), public safety (e.g. school resource officers, etc.) and so much more. The decisions of the Alexandria City government not only impact your life today but in the future. Although you might not yet be struggling with issues like opening a small business or purchasing your first home, you might in the future and it’s important to elect leaders that will engage in shaping the decisions today that will impact you tomorrow. 

Why should high school students eligible to vote cast their ballot for you?

My story and my experience set me apart from the other candidates in the race. I was raised by a single mom, who worked two jobs, yet still struggled to make ends meet. Each month, we would need to make difficult tradeoffs between food, rent, and medications. These experiences led me to pursue a career of serving others so that no family would have to struggle like we did. I know how stable jobs, good schools, and safe housing positively affect health, and how to advance policies and programs to ensure all families have these critical resources. I have worked in a variety of roles as a public health and urban planning professional to advance solutions to cities’ most pressing issues. As one of the youngest candidates in the race, I am seeking to bring a new and fresh perspective to our City Council. We need leaders who will actively seek out the interest and ideas of young people in our community and engage them in shaping our future. Too often the only input that our leaders receive on the critical issues facing our city are from our older citizens who can at times be more interested in preserving a status-quo that will ultimately be inherited by our younger generation. Every perspective in our city matters, from those who’ve owned a home here for the past 18 years, to those who are literally 18 years old. I believe that those who are closest to a problem know best how to fix it. That means that whenever we are having a conversation about shaping the future of our city that we need the input of those who will be calling it home after we are no longer here. I’m committed to making sure that those conversations happen, and hope that I can count on your support in the June 8 Democratic primary for Alexandria City Council.

Kevin Harris

Website: https://www.voteforkevinharris.com/

Amy Jackson

Website: https://amyjacksonva.com/

Why are you running for City Council?

I have always lived a life of service, and that began here in my hometown as I have always been committed to serving my Alexandria community. Although we accomplished a great deal in my first term on Council, handling the COVID-19 crisis was at least 2/3 of my incumbency. We now have to put this healthcare crisis behind us and focus on the economic crisis and education crisis that was the result of this global pandemic. COVID-19 recovery is the main focus for 2021-2022 and beyond, as well as increasing our investments in our education, environmental and infrastructure projects.

What Alexandria issues are particularly important to you?

Currently, I am working with our healthcare workers and public safety professionals, advocating for equitable access to, and distribution of, COVID-19 vaccinations. As a career educator, I know the importance of being an advocate for our schools, children, and teachers: insisting on safe, fulltime in-person instruction, and having more childcare support and services along with Pre-K funding for early education. I am an ardent supporter of our Eco-City’s Action Plan and smart community-minded growth and infrastructure stability, as we support our small businesses while expanding our re-imagined economy by creating jobs and facilitating digital broadband.

How do you think Alexandria City government impacts the lives of high school students?

Impacts are seen directly and indirectly. City Council allocates the funds for School Board to distribute in a well-planned budget. Items include school building maintenance, personnel salaries and benefits, educational materials, sports equipment, and down to basics of food, water, electricity. If City Council doesn’t meet the demands of their budget, then programs, personnel, or materials would need to be removed from their budget to cut costs. School safety and safe travel to and from school, whether on crosswalks, buses, bike or by car, are infrastructure and transportation costs that are also funded by local government, mostly with taxpayer dollars.

Why should high school students eligible to vote cast their ballot for you? 

Strong schools equal a strong community. Young adults are part of that chorus of strong voices that need to be heard. I know what it means to be a Titan. It’s a commitment to serve. It’s a sense of belonging.  Shared experiences and landmarks that bring nostalgia and hope with a vision for the future. I came home to give back to the community that had given so much to me in my youth. I would be honored to have your vote in the June 8 Democratic primary.

James Lewis

Website: https://www.jameslewisva.com/

Why are you running for City Council?

I’m running to ensure all voices are heard so the best and brightest ideas move forward for our shared future.

What Alexandria issues are particularly important to you?

A number of issues are important to me, including addressing flooding, public safety, and ensuring that students receive a world-class education so any and all opportunities are open to you after graduation.

How do you think Alexandria City government impacts the lives of high school students?

As the former president of the Virginia Young Democrats, I know that local city government has a major impact on students’ lives, from schools (during and after hours), to traffic, jobs, and the very communities that you live in. Government, especially local government, touches so many parts of our lives and we need leaders with a new and innovative perspective who are committed to listening to community insights and feedback.

Why should high school students eligible to vote cast their ballot for you?

I hope you’ll support me because I know how powerful young people can be in the political process and I’m committed to helping students, and anyone else, drive forward good ideas for our community.

Kirk McPike

Website: https://www.kirkmcpike.com/

Why are you running for City Council?

I believe that Alexandria’s future can be brighter than its present. I am running for City Council this year because of this simple belief. I also recognize we can only achieve a brighter future if we make the right choices as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and elect leaders who are ready to do the job on day one. The pandemic has reshaped the world, and our city. The global health crisis has shuttered many of our local businesses, challenged our students, cost many of our neighbors their jobs, and taken far too many lives. It has highlighted and exacerbated underlying inequalities within Alexandria. It has also offered us an opportunity to regroup, rebuild, and chart a course to a better, more resilient Alexandria, one that truly lives out its progressive values.

What Alexandria issues are particularly important to you?

My top priorities as a candidate are helping Alexandrians recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing long-term challenges like school funding, classroom capacity, housing affordability and flooding, and improving communication between the city government and residents, including the unions that represent both public and private employees in Alexandria. I believe that my first priority, making our families, businesses, and schools whole, is one through which we can make major strides to improve the lives of working people in Alexandria. With millions in federal funding coming towards Alexandria from the American Rescue Plan (and the potential for further Federal dollars to come down through the American Jobs Plan), the next council will be in a unique position to decide the direction of our growing city. If elected, I’ll seek to use our recovery as an opportunity to raise the standards we expect of city contractors and developers, to empower working Alexandrians and protect them from abuses such as wage theft. By prioritizing our residents and investing in our city, we can facilitate a faster return to normalcy for Alexandrians; students back in schools, parents back at work, and businesses no longer struggling to make ends meet.

How do you think Alexandria City government impacts the lives of high school students?

With thousands of students registering to vote and getting involved in their city’s politics, it’s important for ACPS students to fight for policies they believe in and elect the candidates they know will go to work for them and their families. With the COVID-19 pandemic spotlighting the many challenges faced by our schools, students, and educators, it is vital that the next City Council does all it can to support our existing schools and improve conditions for students and teachers alike. If elected, I will work to increase Alexandria’s commercial tax base so that we have more funding for important school programs like afterschool care, early childhood nutrition, increased broadband access, and competitive wages for teachers and school staff. I also want to bring the ACPS School Board and City Council closer together to ensure that education decisions in our city are made by trained professionals and that our teachers and students are at the forefront of our city investments.

Why should high school students eligible to vote cast their ballot for you?

I believe that TC Williams students should cast their ballots for the candidates they believe will fight for their interests and protect their future. As a staunch defender of public education, sustainable green policy, and affordable housing, I have focused my campaign on creating an Alexandria that not only benefits all, but also betters our city for future generations. By working with local businesses and nonprofits, the next Council can help our working families get back on their feet, bring our students back into classrooms, and help struggling restaurants recuperate from the financial crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic; if elected, I plan to do just that. However, you don’t need to be a registered voter to get involved in our campaign. Whether it’s volunteering to get out the vote by knocking on doors, making phone calls to voters from home, or writing postcards, our campaign has opportunities for everyone to help build the city that’s right for them and fair for all; regardless of age.

Patrick Moran

Website: https://patrickmoran.org/

Bill Rossello

Website: https://www.billforalexandria.com/

Mark Shiffer

Website: http://markshiffer.info/

Why are you running for City Council? 

I believe that city government should be representative of all residents and that it should be focused not just on addressing problems, but actually solving them. Too many problems in Alexandria are ongoing and many residents’ voices aren’t being heard. So I decided to run to help fix that.

What Alexandria issues are particularly important to you? 

Of particular importance is flooding and infrastructure, and equity: our affordable housing is disappearing, and we need universal Pre-K.

How do you think Alexandria City government impacts the lives of high school students?

Funding for schools comes from city government which directly affects your high school experience.  In addition, if we do not as a city address the affordable housing crisis, it will become more and more difficult for graduates to stay in the city when they move out of their parents’ home.

Why should high school students eligible to vote cast their ballot for you?

If you believe in representation and equity, I am one of the people you should consider voting for.

Meronne Tecklu

Website: https://www.meronneforcouncil.com/

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Student Guide to the June 8 Alexandria Democratic Primary