Matt Feely recognizes that city council exists to ensure that city government serves all Alexandrians — in every neighborhood — whatever their age; gender; livelihood; lifestyle choice; racial, ethnic, or religious affiliation.
With thirty-five years of private sector and public sector experience, as a scholar and as a manager and leader of complex organizations, Matt looks forward to helping city council and city government work for all Alexandrians. Matt Feely wants the opportunity to leverage his leadership skills to meet the challenges facing Alexandria — Leadership for the Common Good.
Four Categories of Challenges Facing Alexandria
Despite increased property tax rates and assessments over the past decade, our city spends more than it collects in taxes — in good times and in bad. Failure to fix the deficit habit means that our children will neither want — nor be able — to reside or work in this city we love. A few thoughts:
- Combined sewage system improvements will cost approximately $400M. Choosing the proper financial strategy is a must.
- Land use and development decisions must benefit all Alexandrians, not just the developers. Privatizing the benefits while socializing the costs of development must stop.
- Periodic program reviews of existent programs — to assess whether they continue to enhance Alexandria — are necessary to ensure we optimize our resources.
Matt looks forward to bringing more analytical rigor and more discipline to city finance.
Alexandria must sustain a robust first responder and civil defense capability. The ballooning opioid crisis and the healthcare challenges facing the elderly tell us we must enhance our provision of public health. The shortage of affordable housing and public housing — made worse by the federal funding reductions — indicates that we must do more to ensure safe residences and supportive neighborhoods are available to all. Last but not least, we recognize that our damaged environment — the ecology in which we are immersed — needs investment and restoration.
Every one of these matters presents a risk to the social fabric of Alexandria. Failure to act means that we allow conditions that breed physical or mental illness, hardship, frustration, resentment and anti-social, sometimes violent behavior. Matt will apply his expertise as a risk manager to help Alexandria enhance public safety and well-being.
Education represents our future and our present.
An excellent ACPS engenders social well-being, and economic vitality; a failing ACPS encourages good people and businesses to find other places to grow. Alexandria has a dedicated and innovative team of teachers and administrators who work hard to provide an excellent education for Alexandria’s youth, and the city allocates more money per pupil than Fairfax County. Yet graduation rates, average SAT and ACT scores, and math and reading proficiency scores are lower than those of both Fairfax and Arlington Counties.
Council must fund ACPS’s capital and operations needs, but must also recognize that even robust budgets and superb education professionals do not ensure student success. Something outside of the classroom is limiting student success.
Matt looks forward to rolling up his sleeves — to work with ACPS and other concerned Alexandrians to understand and address the conditions that hold our young people back.
Roads, bridges, sewer and water systems, public buildings, parks, tree canopy, even the integrity of historic neighborhoods are part of Alexandria’s infrastructure. City government is responsible for keeping infrastructure in good condition, but infrastructure’s value is often underestimated. At the same time, its decay is often largely invisible or gradual. Government, therefore, tends to under invest in maintenance, capital improvement, policy-making and enforcement.
Schools close due to busted water pipes or faulty electrical systems. Natural gas supplies are interrupted. Roads and bridges present dangers. The seat gap at our schools grows. Transportation problems crop up. The destruction of groves of healthy trees proceeds. The integrity of historic neighborhoods is compromised.
Matt can and will help city council reinvigorate its infrastructure investment decision-making process and its determination to establish and enforce measures that protect our infrastructure.
Four Leadership Principles to Meet the Challenges Facing Alexandria
Our values indicate who we are — as individuals and as a community. When leading complex organizations such as Alexandria’s city government, understanding our individual and collective values is especially important. City council must make decisions that serve those values, especially when situations are complex and where there might be some disagreement. If Council’s decisions reflect Alexandrian’s collective values, the decisions are likely to earn consensus — even when unanimous agreement is impossible.
Matt has years of experience practicing values-based leadership. He is committed to understanding the values of Alexandrians from all walks of life so that the decisions he and city council colleagues make on behalf of the city reflect those values.
Strategic planning should be integrated, in other words, bound by a city-wide unified vision — not as it is currently done — in siloes.
Alexandria’s Capital Improvement Planning (CIP) process is an example of siloed planning. Individual staff departments propose projects through a departmental review process. After the review process, the proposal arrives to the city manager for final vetting. The city manager amends the proposal if desired and submits the final proposal to city council which subjects it to public deliberation. Proposals are either rejected or accepted for adoption, sometimes with changes.
As a result of the siloed process, city council sometimes approves projects that appear beneficial when considered in isolation, but are not beneficial to the city as a whole. Matt looks forward to working with city staff, committees and the public as a city council member to rebuild the planning process to reflect a unified approach — one that takes into consideration the benefit of all — the common good.
Alexandria provides multiple opportunities for Alexandrians to express their ideas regarding a wide spectrum of matters relevant to government. Questions arise, however, that casts doubt as to whether or how Alexandrians’ ideas are utilized in the decision-making process — before, not after, decisions are made.
Matt believes that the knowledge, skills, creativity and commitment of Alexandrians are the city’s greatest assets and need to be utilized if Alexandria’s City Government is to truly to be of the people, by the people, for the people. Matt has practiced open, inclusive decision-making — inclusive leadership — throughout his career in government and in the private sector. He plans to do the same on behalf of Alexandrians.
We must align Responsibility (Roles), Authority, and Accountability. Responsibilities, including the relationship between the council and the city staff, must be defined to avoid overreach. Council and city staff must also have the authorities to support their responsibilities. Finally, city council and city staff members’ motives for their actions must be known so that they are held to account.
Accountability is the biggest challenge. Potential actions to enhance accountability: insist on greater transparency in governance; hire or elect an independent inspector general (IG); ensure that planning is conducted in accordance with a unified vision for Alexandria; and include more meaningful public participation. Matt looks forward to exploring these or other ideas to ensure that city council and staff will be held to account.