I am a pragmatist who wants to achieve three things on Council:
Make Alexandria friendlier to homeowners and businesses.
Improve public engagement and deliberative processes.
Increase the role of technology in core areas of our government for more efficiency and growth.
In my first year as an elected representative, I would take the following concrete steps to achieve these goals:
1) (To make the city friendlier for homeowners and businesses…)
Proposal 1: Increase Alexandria’s master growth GDP target from 1.3% per annum to 2.5% per annum.
We need a powerful economy to attract jobs and talent so that we can sustain our rising infrastructure and education liabilities. The best guarantee of a healthy economy is to increase total value within it (as GDP measures). By making Alexandria wealthier, we can enjoy a better quality of life with better-funded city services.
Proposal 2: Streamline the zoning approval process for new businesses in Old Town.
Old Town is running beneath its economic potential with high vacancy rates and excessive regulations. In a city so close to D.C., with millions invested in waterfront development, neglect of core supporting improvements is a poignant failure. Vitality should be our goal. I will ensure Alexandria focuses on building a stronger, more vital business and economic environment on the King St. corridor.
Proposal 3: Explore increasing the balance of density development around key Metro stations.
There is a higher ratio of underutilized land around Braddock and Van Dorn metro stations than almost anywhere else in the DMV area. The cost to this underutilization is forgone revenues from a more vibrant economy built around each. We must balance local development here with a broader perspective on Alexandria’s economic trajectory.
Proposal 4: Increase frequency and scope of meetings between local businesses and the city, and among themselves.
Businesses are looking to the city for leadership on issues which transcend what each owner can provide themselves. Furthermore, the lack of engagement with the business community on a routine, targeted basis, is the cause of added frustration. To build a better community, the city must maintain solid relationships with supporting engines of growth. We can do better in this regard with more leadership and targeted engagement.
Proposal #5: Create a year-round public atrium space in Old Town to boost all-season tourism and sense of community.
A constant complaint by business owners and tourists in Old Town is the lack of all-weather public space. With an plenty of options to choose from, Alexandria should begin to explore the feasibility of opening just such a space. It could also feature the popular “pop-up” concept for business that would allow them to better engage with more foot-traffic, off season.
Proposal #6: Liberalize the standards and definitions of “art” for a more vibrant Torpedo Factory.
Our Torpedo Factory is an incredible piece of real-estate which brings in less than the receipts of its concession shop. This is lamentable and fixable if we open this space to a wider range of fresh artists with higher affordability for patrons. A business-friendly approach to the Torpedo Factory would amplify our waterfront development plans as well.
Proposal #7: Initiatiate efforts to get employment and economic performance data by size of enterprise.
The city currently does not collect economic activity data on the basis of size of employees in the organization. Without better data about small-business, we cannot decipher its contributions to making Alexandria stronger in civic and economic terms.
Proposal #8: Gradually reign in debt-inducing spending habits.
The first rule of good government is building a strong financial position. Without it, we cannot improve in other areas. Alexandria can do better here.
2) (To spearhead the design of strategy to better compete with neighbors…)
Proposal 1: Create a working group to advise on developments in surrounding areas that impact our ability to attract talent and resources to the city.
Alexandria is too focused on itself to notice important developments in neighboring areas that impact our city. These have and will continue to undercut our talent, tourism, and appeal. This committee would highlight potential opportunities that Alexandria could exploit in the region. Recognizing the fact we are in a crowded field will place pressure on the way we spend and invest. More efficient investment becomes more money saved, and higher-quality services per dollar spent.
Proposal 2: Improve the relationship of city government and council to better focus the former on “how” (tactics) and the latter on “why” (strategy).
Leadership is uncreative in aligning strategy with efficient options for projects and problems. With the Meals Tax, council did not use a our zoning code’s robust density provisions to stabilize our city’s supply of affordable housing. Instead, they neglected our city’s capacity and expertise making use of our code and harmed our businesses community. The blame for reducing Potomac Yard metro to one entrance is not clearly assigned because roles never were in the working relationship between council and staff.
Proposal 3: Commit to focused, candid, and routine meetings with residents to ensure Alexandria is working on behalf of more than one interest.
Too often, narrow interests steer our city’s policy. Since Alexandria is so dynamic and diverse, it deserves a candidate who will listen well to concerns. Furthermore, rather than being a passive listener, I promise to actively engage with diverse views in a robust and productive way. I will pursue the strongest counterarguments to a position rather than accept anything as dogma.
3) (To drive the expansion of technology in core processes of government to increase efficiency and growth…)
Proposal #1: Provide consistent funding to core technologies used by our city (such as our GIS system).
Our city relies on a suite of powerful technologies to provide affordable and efficient services. But the city has not provided stable funding to technologies such as our GIS mapping system. Without bandwidth for GIS, our city cannot, for example, assess accurately the incidence of our rising sewer fees per property. This is an unfair cost to many taxpayers who are overpaying. With stable funding into integrating new technologies, we can serve our residents.
Proposal #2: Fast-track and broaden the development of our integrated smartphone application.
Proliferating technology makes it harder each year for the city to remain unchanged. Residents will not only desire, but expect, more efficient methods of interacting with the city. In anything from paying fees, to reporting crime and road hazards, we must update Call Click Connect (311) for the 21st century. Residents will also want new ways to visualize their community and government. Keeping them updated on events and proceedings will place government at their fingertips and increase satisfaction.
Proposal #3: Create a career ladder in our City’s IT department.
The future city lives and breathes technology-assisted governance. Currently, the city has no long-term staff retention plan in place to keep experienced IT professionals in the city. This means that our lack of funding undercuts the incentive to grow institutional knowledge in IT. This development will place us at a relative disadvantage across the board.
Proposal #4: Establish a new Chief Innovation Officer position.
We are entering an era defined by startling creativity. If the city does not update how it conducts and audits itself, it will increasingly erode the value of the money residents give it. To ensure city needs are being met, the city should explore the feasibility of creating a chief innovation officer position at a rank equal to a deputy city manager. Many cities our size already have such a figure, and s/he would go a long way to improve Alexandria’s competitiveness.