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BRAC A Hot-Button Issue In Alexandria City Council Election

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The Mark Center, which draws as many as 6,000 federal employees to the Alexandria area, is a hot-button issue for voters.
Jonathan Wilson
The Mark Center, which draws as many as 6,000 federal employees to the Alexandria area, is a hot-button issue for voters.

In the campaign for City Council in Alexandria, Va., the Base Realignment and Closure Commission is taking a central role.

The five members of the City Council who were serving in 2008 and are now seeking reelection are being questioned about their role in endorsing the Mark Center as a possible location of the Washington Headquarters Service, also known as Recommendation 133 of the BRAC process. The decision brought more than 6,000 daily commuters to the West End of the city, and many voters are still angry about it.

"The problem with the previous City Council was they were asleep at the switch when this BRAC decision went down," says Republican Frank Fannon. "Two of the members of the City Council were transportation professionals when that decision was made."

City officials now say that the assumption was that the Defense Department would select a separate location known as the Victory Center.

"What we had been told all along was that it was in the bag; not to worry. That was the advice we got," says Councilwoman Del Pepper. "No member of council was doing the negotiating, incidentally."

During a recent candidates forum, Democrat Justin Wilson defended the previous City Council.
 
"We can continue to have a discussion about the past or we can move forward," said Wilson. "The fact is, we just asked the question of every single one on the panel, nobody had an answer for how we prevent this in the future."

Republican Bob Wood offered one solution: reject all five members who were serving in 2008.

"I think it's important to be clear that the city offered two alternatives and didn't choose between the two," said Wood. "They let the federal government choose between the two. And the federal government chose perhaps the lowest price but the greatest impact to the community. This was an abdication of leadership."

For the first time ever, Alexandria City Council members will be chosen in the November general election with record number of voters are expected at the polls.

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