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Alexandria Mayor, City Council Candidates Talk Meal Tax, Housing -- Del Ray Patch

By Emily Leayman, Patch Staff |

Alexandria mayor and city council candidates discussed a variety of issues facing the city during a May 18 forum at the Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology. Grassroots Alexandria and the Tenants and Workers United and NAACP Alexandria hosted the forum.

Present were mayoral candidates Allison Silberberg and Justin Wilson, city council candidates Canek Aguirre, Willie Bailey, Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, John Taylor Chapman, Matt Feely, Dak Hardwick, Amy Jackson, Del Pepper, Robert Ray, Mo Seifeldein, Paul Smedberg, Michael Clinkscale (Republican), Kevin Dunne (Republican) and Mark Shiffer (Independent). J. Chris Hubbard was represented by his wife, who was allowed an opening statement only.

Unless noted, all candidates are competing in the Democratic primary election on June 12. The party nominees for mayor and City Council will face off in the Nov. 6 general election.

Candidates answered four short answer questions and seven yes/no questions. Topics included immigration, affordable housing, police reform, education, safer schools, and LGBTQ human rights. Here are summaries of candidate responses provided by Grassroots Alexandria:

1. Many residents in Alexandria are fearful of the federal government in regard to immigration and deportation — as a local elected official what would you do to defend and support immigrants –undocumented and documented - in Alexandria?

Canek Aguirre: Supports driver's licenses for all.

Willie Bailey: Supports holding agencies accountable and driver's licenses for undocumented citizens.

Elizabeth Bennett-Parker: Works with new immigrant women as part of her nonprofit, wants to provide no cost legal aid and break Sheriff's ICE agreement.

John Taylor Chapman: Supports driver's licenses for all, making legal aid and accessible city resources available, including city council members.

Michael Clinkscale: Does not want support for undocumented immigrants, in favor of deportation.

Kevin Dunne: Does not believe Alexandria has a responsibility on this matter.

Matt Feely: Supports driver's licenses and legal aid.

Dak Hardwick: Supports driver's licenses and NYC model of city ID program.

Amy Jackson: Supports an inclusive community and making Alexandria a sanctuary city.

Del Pepper: Supports welcoming all and voting for politicians who support immigrants.

Robert Ray: Supports open social services to all

Mo Seifeldein: He is an immigrant from Sudan and a lawyer who supported his sister when she immigrated. Supports working on relationship with police department.

Mark Shiffer: Believes local resources should solve local problems and Alexandria should be a sanctuary city.

Allison Silberberg: Supports driver's licenses, believes Human Rights Campaign and current resources are helping.

Paul Smedberg: no response

Justin Wilson: Believes this is a human rights issue.

2. Do you support fully funding and dedicating the 'penny fund' for affordable housing? Please tell us other ideas you have for preserving and creating affordable housing in the City of Alexandria?

Aguirre: Yes and keep meal tax.

Bailey: Yes, believes it is a basic human need and supports more developer contributions.

Bennett-Parker: Yes, it is a major issue of her campaign. Believes in creative housing options.

Chapman: Yes, has already been fighting for this and supports creative house options.

Clinkscale: No, money should go towards training people to have skills to make more money themselves.

Dunne: No, instead focus on zoning and development.

Feely: No, but yes to the base budget funding. Need housing for a diverse community.

Hardwick: No, thinks that means there is not limit to funding.

Jackson: No to dedicated funding, concerned about the limits to funding.

Pepper: Supports sticking to the meals tax.

Ray: Yes to dedicated funding.

Seifeldein: Yes to dedicated funding, partner with nonprofits. Supports rejecting funding from developers.

Shiffer: Yes to dedicated funding. Wants more business in Alexandria and believes money should not be funneled to developers.

Silberberg: Supports meals tax instead.

Smedberg: No to dedicated funding, believes it should be in base budget only. Supports looking at zoning laws.

Wilson: No to dedicated funding. Supports passing more projects.

3. Over the last 3 years, our organizations have collectively been working to build trust between police and community. Alexandria City Police Department is currently collecting data to improve transparency, how will you help ensure that your constituents get clear, comprehensive demographic reports covering all police interactions (including police stops)?

Aguirre: Accountability is key. Led this effort with Grassroots and NAACP starting three years ago.

Bailey: Information should go to city council members. City staff should help with reports.

Bennett-Parker: Supports body cameras, racial bias training, monitoring APD and updating criminal justice

Chapman: Yes, part of the original effort as well, but we need more. Open data should be available
online. Use Human Rights Commission to support more transparency.

Clinkscale: Require that raw data be posted online.

Dunne: "Data is not political," should be accessible "from the comfort of our homes"

Feely: Yes

Hardwick: Appointed by the police chief, supports transparency and available data.

Jackson: Support body cameras (but they cost a lot of money) and holding police accountable.

Pepper: Yes, the information should be available to everyone.

Ray: Notes that police salaries are lower here than in other areas.

Seifeldein: Yes and also data should be translated. Police need to reflect the community they serve.

Shiffer: It is a major issue for him. Believes in accountability and transparency for everything.

Silberberg: Yes, supports working with nonprofits too.

Smedberg: Says it is a"very fine police force," notes move toward transparency with the new police

Wilson: Notes some information is already available online, supports funds for body cameras, transparency.

4. If you could champion only one legislative initiative during the next council session, what would it be?

Aguirre: Build relationships through transparency and quarterly town halls

Bailey: Affordable housing

Bennett-Parker: Modernize zoning and permit processes. Helps housing and small businesses

Chapman: Affordable housing

Clinkscale: Apprenticeship programs to teach trades

Dunne: Smaller budget, lower taxes

Feely: End ICE agreement and redefine relationship between Sheriff Department and ICE

Hardwick: Education – ending deferrals for school renovations and acknowledge capacity issues

Jackson: Pre-K funding for all

Pepper: Affordable housing (education is a close second)

Ray: Citizen impact on local government, citizens should have more say in policy

Seifeldein: Quality of life: education, public safety, and housing

Shiffer: Budget and 10 year plan

Silberberg: Affordable housing for workforce and through ARHA

Smedberg: We need more transit to give people access to jobs

Wilson: Early childhood education for all, public/private partnership

1. The Alexandria Sheriff's Department has an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The practices of ICE do not include proper judicial oversight. Will you commit to encouraging the Sheriff Department to modify the existing IGA to remove ICE on the contract so that our jail no longer hands people over to an agency without judicial oversight?

Yes: Aguirre, Bailey, Bennett-Parker, Chapman, Ray, Seifeldein, Shiffer, Silberberg

No: Clinkscale, Dunne, Feeley, Hardwick, Pepper, Smedberg, Wilson

No response: Jackson

2. Affordable housing is a major crisis; if elected, will you support continuation of 1% of the meals tax dedicated to funding affordable housing?

Yes: Aguirre, Bailey, Bennett-Parker, Chapman, Feeley, Pepper, Ray, Seifeldein, Shiffer, Silberberg

No: Clinkscale, Dunne, Hardwick, Jackson, Ray, Smedberg, Wilson

3. Every child deserves equitable services to eliminate disparities and allow all of Alexandria's children to succeed. If elected, would you support increased funding so that every four year old can attend preschool?

Yes: Aguirre, Bailey, Bennett-Parker, Chapman, Feeley, Hardwick, Jackson, Pepper, Ray, Seifeldein,
Shiffer, Silberberg, Smedberg, Wilson

No: Clinkscale, Dunne

4. Do you support putting armed school resource officers into ACPS Elementary Schools?

Yes: Feeley

No: Aguirre, Bailey, Bennett-Parker, Chapman, Clinkscale, Dunne, Hardwick, Jackson, Pepper, Ray,
Seifeldein, Shiffer, Silberberg, Smedberg, Wilson

5. In 1988, Alexandria became the first municipality in the Commonwealth to add "sexual orientation" as a protected class in the city's nondiscrimination ordinance. Despite this progress, the Alexandria Office of Human Rights is still limited in its ability to investigate cases of discrimination based on "sexual orientation" due to Virginia's Dillon Rule. Currently, the office's protocol is to classify discrimination against LGBTQ Alexandrians as "other forms of discrimination." However, this risk-averse protocol may be leaving some Alexandrians without protection. Further, while Alexandria's nondiscrimination ordinance does include "sexual orientation," it still does not include "gender identity."

a. Do you support adding "gender identity" to the protected classes in Alexandria?

Yes: Aguirre, Bailey, Bennett-Parker, Chapman, Clinkscale, Feeley, Hardwick, Jackson, Pepper, Ray,
Seifeldein, Shiffer, Silberberg, Smedberg, Wilson

No: Dunne

b. If elected, would you direct the Office of Human Rights to fully pursue cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity?

Yes: Aguirre, Bailey, Bennett-Parker, Chapman, Clinkscale, Feeley, Hardwick, Jackson, Pepper, Ray,
Seifeldein, Shiffer, Silberberg, Smedberg, Wilson

No: Dunne

6. Would you support Alexandria, like other cities, in establishing a matching fund to support pending applications for DACA/TPS recipients?

Yes: Aguirre, Bailey, Bennett-Parker, Chapman, Feeley, Hardwick, Jackson, Pepper, Ray, Seifeldein,
Shiffer, Silberberg, Smedberg, Wilson

No: Clinkscale, Dunne

7. Do you support the need for ARHA and the City to create a more comprehensive displacement plan for residents as development begins on upcoming projects?

Yes: Aguirre, Bailey, Bennett-Parker, Chapman, Feeley, Hardwick, Jackson, Pepper, Ray, Seifeldein,
Shiffer, Silberberg, Smedberg, Wilson

No: Clinkscale, Dunne