Through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, Alexandria City will receive just shy of $60 million in funding. This is a once in a generation – or at least I sure hope so – investment in our fair city. It is meant to fund projects that will help with the pandemic recovery. The big question is how do you spend that money? How do you maximize the effects of such an investment? And, how do you fund so many worthy projects? It’s a monumental undertaking that takes vision, compromise, and a community coming together to equitably share this opportunity. I am certain that Alexandria is up to the task.
Let’s be clear; this money will not fully fund the solutions nor fix all our ills. The need outweighs the dollars. Instead, it will be the money we use to plant seeds for lasting change. I believe there are enough seeds for growing our economy through good jobs, helping our neighbors who were most impacted by the pandemic, supporting our small businesses, addressing inequity, fixing our infrastructure issues, and getting our kids back on track at school. (The list of projects that was sourced and tiered by public opinion can be found here.)
Today, in an effort to gain your support, I’d like to share two projects that I believe are important and are the epitome of seed planting. The first one is “Foundational Support for Commercial Business Districts.” This is funding given to established business organizations like Old Town Business, West End Business Association, and Del Ray Business Association. Dollars would be matched by dues and fundraising by each organization and would be used to help small businesses get back on their feet again to re-invigorate once lively neighborhoods.
During the pandemic, these business districts were instrumental in keeping our small businesses afloat. I cannot thank them enough! Whether a member or not, businesses benefit from events like bingo in Del Ray (which was genius, and I wish I had thought of it!), vaccine clinics coordinated by Old Town Business, the advocating for curbside pickup spots for restaurants and retail, and the partnership with Visit Alexandria on the Summer Sidewalk Sale where Old Town Business got streets closed to make shopping safer. The pandemic had far fewer small business casualties because of these efforts, all of which were done on volunteer labor and a shoestring. Just imagine what could be accomplished with real funding. We could build back vibrant communities where businesses thrive and contribute jobs and much needed taxable revenue for Alexandria. A Return-on-Investment study commissioned by Visit Alexandria found that for every dollar spent on marketing, six dollars in taxable income resulted. To me, marketing our business districts pays big dividends.
The second project that has my full support is “Alexandria Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot.” For me, this project, above all others, is meant for this time. We have been given an unprecedented opportunity to try something new, and this is it. Maybe it’s the entrepreneur in me, but I think we have the perfect chance to pilot a program and see if it works. This is no-strings-attached funding to be innovative, and we need to seize the moment.
Photo credit: Visit Alexandria
In February 2019, Mayor Michael D. Tubbs launched the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration (SEED), which gave 125 randomly selected Stockton, CA residents $500 a month for two years. There were no strings attached and no work requirements. It was a simple yet innovative test for eliminating poverty and inequality. The results were outstanding. Quoted from SEED’s website, here are their key findings:
As is evidenced by Spring2ACTion and our amazing non-profit community, Alexandrians support other Alexandrians. We know that ensuring dignity and agency that people deserve makes Alexandria stronger. Our city could be on the leading front of eliminating inequity and poverty if we are willing to try something new. Because guaranteed income has proven to have promise, over 50 Mayors in cities across the country are implementing such a program. I believe we should join them. Heather Peeler, ACT for Alexandria’s President and CEO, lays out the case for this program far better than I could.
We have never had a greater opportunity to make a lasting impact on our city than we do right now. The project list is long, and I know we all have our own personal priorities, but when you write to City Council in support of what is important to you, would you consider throwing additional support behind these two projects? As a small business owner and a resident of our beloved city, I would be forever grateful!
Red Barn Mercantile opened its doors in September 2007 with a single vision in mind: providing old and new to offer our customers signature whole-room designs at great prices.
We’re more than a furniture boutique and provide more personalized service than a big box retailer. We work hard to bring you the highest quality furniture and gifts, the most unique conversation starters, wall hangings and accent pieces, whether they come from off-the-beaten-track flea markets, or the latest designers.
1117 King Street
Alexandria, VA 22314