We must invest in the present to capitalize on our future. With that said, we are lacking in our affordable housing initiatives, our public schools cannot support the increase in student enrollment, and our education funding for Pre-K programs and school infrastructure is in jeopardy. Our children must come to school prepared to learn (on Zoom or in the physical classroom), and the equalizing factor of Pre-K programs existing for all children in our City is a necessity. The achievement gap does not wait until later grades. It begins in Kindergarten when students have not had the same, consistent opportunities as others at their grade level. We need to do better when providing resources to meet our children's educational needs.
We must consider that a robust revitalization of Alexandria needs to happen in order for our economy to grow, strengthen, and diminish the burden put on our taxpayers. The West End property of Landmark Mall just recently brought INOVA to the table for a mixed-use plan after the mall sat nearly empty for far too long without any sign of redevelopment. Our residents and business owners have found a hopeful resilience in pivoting to online sales, outdoor dining, and carryout for dining and alcohol. Alexandria needs to continue to re-invent and modernize, so that our City gets the investments needed to maintain what is a questionable post-COVID economy. That means money needs to stay in Alexandria and not go to neighboring jurisdictions. The Potomac Yard Metro will also encourage economic growth, and the idea of a Business Improvement District in Old Town should be revisited without compromising retailers' autonomy or income.
Alexandria has always prided itself on being a safe and inclusive community - it's always been about the people and the programs. However, now more than ever as our City sees its way to the other side of COVID-19, our economy has not been able to sustain the resources needed for continued or initial implementation of our social programs and safety initiatives. We need to increase pay and benefits for our teachers and First Responders, have continued dialogue concerning the issuance of body cameras, and ensure a balanced community police review board. We need to continue to address mental health awareness and initiatives, heroin and opioid addiction, human trafficking concerns, gang prevention initiatives, safer traffic patterns/pedestrian safety, and domestic violence and sexual assault cases.
Recently, many social programs have also seen decreased funding, which has significantly impacted how assistance is implemented in women's issues, services for seniors, immigrant families, mental health services, all children, including youth at-risk. We, as a community, cannot continue to de-fund our social programs hoping our non-profits can pick up the slack. To do so is to literally short-change our own Alexandrians.