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Rip Sullivan: Why You Should Vote for Me

by ARLnow.com | August 14, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 897 views | No Comments

Rip Sullivan (photo via Facebook)This month, we asked the candidates for the House of Delegates 48th District special election to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Aug. 19.

Here is Democrat Richard “Rip” Sullivan’s unedited response:

The election on August 19th is not just about the candidates. It’s about the values of this District’s voters and our shared vision of a more welcoming, innovative, forward-looking society.

I’m running to be your next Delegate because I share the core values of 48th District voters — opportunity, inclusiveness, and equality. I’m running because I refuse to sit back as 400,000 Virginians are denied healthcare services. I’m running so that our children inherit a clean environment. I’m running because voters of the 48th district deserve a Delegate who will passionately fight for their values, not minimize the importance of those values for the sake of winning an election.

The Washington Post endorsed my candidacy last week, noting that I’ve taken “forthright stances” and that “voters would know what they are getting with Mr. Sullivan.” Throughout this campaign, I’ve made clear where I stand and how I will vote on all the issues of importance to the 48th District.

  • On Medicaid, I unequivocally support expansion immediately.
  • On gun control reform, I support reinstating the one-gun-a-month law, universal background checks, limits to high capacity magazines, banning assault weapons, and closing the gun show loophole.
  • On women’s reproductive health, I believe those decisions should be between a woman and her doctor. I will fight to protect a woman’s right to choose.
  • On LGBT issues, I fully support marriage equality and ending workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • On the environment, I’ve shown how we can create a 21st century economy, with Virginia as a leader in creating jobs through clean technology and energy innovation.

In telling voters who I am, I have not tried to reposition myself or suggest that this is a single-issue election, because voters in the 48th District should base their vote on the many issues that will come before the General Assembly.

This is in stark contrast to my Republican opponent, Dave Foster, who is on the wrong side of so many issues. After interviewing him, the Washington Post concluded that Mr. Foster is a “shape-shifter,” saying “he has scrambled to rebrand himself… by taking vague, wait-and-see stands on several key issues.” The Editorial Board went on to highlight that his campaign strategy is “designed to mainly shift attention away from tough votes.”

And Mr. Foster acknowledges as much. At our most recent debate, Mr. Foster – again – refused to reveal to voters what his positions are on choice, gun control, marriage equality, or climate change. He sheepishly concluded to the audience that “I don’t talk about gun control and abortion… as I campaign for this because I know one has to establish priorities.”

Really?

Those are issues Dave will have to vote on in Richmond, and they are priorities to the voters. Voters are entitled to know where he stands before they cast their vote. (more…)

Dave Foster: Why You Should Vote for Me

by ARLnow.com | August 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm | 853 views | No Comments

Dave Foster (photo via Foster for Delegate)This month, we asked the candidates for the House of Delegates 48th District special election to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Aug. 19.

Here is Republican Dave Foster’s unedited response:

I have demonstrated as a two-term chairman of the Arlington School Board and President of the state board of education that my problem-solving, consensus-building style gets results for our citizens. We need effective bipartisan representation in Richmond to address the Arlington streetcar, Medicaid, schools, the state’s economy, and the many other pressing issues we face. I will be that voice for the citizens of the 48th District.

I have been married for 33 years to Martha Tyahla Foster, of McLean. Our two children attended Arlington and Fairfax public schools and graduated from Virginia universities. I was President of the Arlington County Civic Federation and involved in numerous other community nonprofits, advisory committees, and PTA’s. It is my concern for the welfare of our community that led me to seek the office of Arlington School Board and the same concern motivates me to seek the office of House of Delegates.

I am concerned, as you are, about having a balanced, rational approach to transportation issues in our area. Unlike my opponent, I oppose the Arlington Streetcar proposal because it is neither practical nor affordable and will consume up to $164 million in state transportation funds that could be better used elsewhere. Roads and Metro, schools and tax relief are far more important to Northern Virginians than this ill-considered project, which will not only require an initial investment of over $500 million but also an annual operating subsidy of several million dollars. If elected, I will introduce legislation to create a public referendum on the streetcar proposal so that taxpayers can have a voice in this decision just as they do on local bond proposals.

As a two-term Chairman of the Arlington School Board and former President of the Virginia Board of Education, I have worked for lower class sizes, improved school safety, enhanced foreign language offerings (Mandarin and Arabic), Virginia’s “No Child Left Behind” waiver, improved Standards of Learning (SOLs), and many other shared priorities. I would like to continue to my work to strengthen our public schools as your Delegate in Richmond. We must protect the cost-of-competing adjustment to state funding that recognizes the higher cost of providing high-quality education in Northern Virginia. We should also give our school boards increased local control over public school calendars and budgets. I know from leading both the Arlington School Board and the state board how critical adequate funding and local decision making are to our schools.

We must once again make Virginia the best place to start, expand, or relocate a business. I will protect our right to work law and oppose mandatory project agreements of the kind that almost derailed the Silver Line Metrorail. I will also resist the imposition of costly and unwarranted state regulatory mandates that duplicate federal mandates. Building upon the transportation package passed by the last General Assembly, with a focus on projects that reduce congestion, improve safety, and spur economic development, is also a priority.

Because I am the most experienced and effective candidate, I ask for your vote on August 19th.

Poll: How Is the Silver Line Affecting Commutes?

by ARLnow.com | August 13, 2014 at 10:15 am | 2,999 views | No Comments

Metro mapMetro riders have had a couple of weeks to get used to their commutes since the Silver Line started running. We want to know what changes you’ve noticed on your commute.

Metro reduced the number of Blue Line trains stopping in Arlington to better accommodate the Silver Line. It also expected the “Orange Crush,” or Orange Line overcrowding during rush hour, to lessen because some people would switch to the Silver Line.

How has the addition of the Silver Line affected your commute? Choose up to two answers.

 

Peter’s Take: Should a Crush Excuse a Crime?

by Peter Rousselot | August 7, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 1,248 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter Rousselot

When Ira Gershwin wrote those memorable lyrics to what became a jazz standard, he didn’t know his lyrics would play a central role in the criminal trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen. Anyone still remember “Bob’s for Jobs?”

Regardless of how the trial turns out, something is really wrong with what Maureen and Bob did. We just don’t know whether what they did was a crime under Virginia’s notoriously lax ethics and political corruption laws.

Most ARLnow.com readers know the basic facts of the Bob and Maureen story. An “enterprising” Virginia businessman provides:

  • a Rolex watch for the Governor,
  • a $15,000 gift for the Governor’s daughter’s wedding reception,
  • a $20,000 shopping spree in New York City for the Governor’s wife,
  • large loans to the Governor, concealing the nature of the transactions and the identity of the lender, and
  • much, much more.

The Governor and his wife provide the businessman with:

  • meetings with Virginia officials who could facilitate lucrative deals for the businessman,
  • personal appearances at trade events to promote the businessman’s products.

Maureen’s lawyers claim that none of what Maureen did was a crime because:

  • her family was in great financial difficulty,
  • her marriage to Bob was broken and she was lonely for male companionship,
  • she had a crush on the businessman, and
  • she accepted gifts from the businessman for these reasons — not because she was trading access and influence for his gifts.

Bob McDonell’s lawyers claim that none of what he did was a crime because he didn’t know what Maureen was doing, and McDonnell didn’t do anything for this businessman that he wouldn’t do for any businessman.

Say what?

The McDonnells’ trial is important because it reveals once again the risks of political corruption in Richmond. In 2012, The Center for Public Integrity gave Virginia a grade of “F” for the risks of political corruption, noting that Virginia ranked 47th out of 50 states. Regrettably, Bob and Maureen are part of a well-worn pattern. That pattern includes both Republicans and Democrats. How many more national embarrassments will Virginia’s legislators need to change the pattern?

And how would Ira and George Gershwin have reacted to Maureen’s “crush” defense in this trial?

They would be working on a musical featuring Maureen and Bob. But, the Gershwins would have to find a new name for their new musical. They already used “The Man I Love.”

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

The Right Note: Fair Questions

by Mark Kelly | August 7, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 599 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark Kelly

It’s county fair time in Arlington, and the County Board and Congress have hung a “gone fishing” sign on the door until September. As we relax a little for a month before school starts again, it is a good weekend to head out to Thomas Jefferson Middle School and ride the ferris wheel, eat something deep fried and take in the pig races.

There is also a good chance you will run into one of our elected officials, or an aspiring one. That means you should have your questions primed and ready to go.

School Board members will certainly hear about the proposed new elementary school locations. It might also be interesting to hear from them whether the contingency plans are in place for any influx of new students as a result of the ongoing border crossings by unaccompanied children.

It would be interesting to hear from our General Assembly members what they view will be the permanent solution to give Uber and Lyft the ability to operate in Virginia. And, you can ask whether they truly believe the federal government will continue to subsidize Medicaid expansion to the tune of 90 percent. If not, how would they intend to pay for it? Raise taxes? Decrease school funding? Take dollars out of transportation?

If you run into one of County Board members, there is plenty to ask about. Even if the trolley looked like a good idea a decade ago, can they admit that the information we have now is different? Why not take into account the increased cost and decreased ridership from other places that implemented light rail and re-evaluate their decision to move forward? Will they stop wasting our tax dollars on a trolley public relations campaign? Speaking of wasteful spending, why not make the auditor position a truly independent one that will report directly to the Board?

With the special election right around the corner, here are a couple ideas to ask Rip Sullivan, candidate in the 48th legislative district:

  • Did you really tell the Fairfax Chamber you thought the trolley referendum would not come to a vote in the General Assembly? Does that mean you will be unable to get a vote for it if you are elected or that you will not actually try?
  • Do you honestly believe you have a better chance to get things done for Arlington with the Republican majority in Richmond than Dave Foster?
  • Why did you tell the Blue Virginia blog you supported a carbon tax and reinstating the estate tax but then tell the Fairfax Chamber it was not time to raise taxes?

Do not be shy. They decided to run for office to represent you.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

Progressive Voice: Maximizing Returns on Community Investment

by Mike Lieberman | August 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 567 views | No Comments

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mike LiebermanOn July 19, the Arlington County Board voted to send $219 million in bond funding to the public for approval on the November ballot.

The bond program this year runs the gamut — $105.78 million for education, $60.24 million for Metro and transportation, $39.9 million for community infrastructure, and $13 million for parks and recreation. These proposals represent the next step in a long Arlington tradition of community investment, and our world-class public infrastructure and well-managed growth in Arlington are the end result.

But often lost in the big numbers of these bond programs is what makes them so effective — the fact that Arlington is not only investing, but living within its means. This fact was validated again in May of this year when Arlington announced that Moody’s, Fitch, and Standard & Poor’s again issued Arlington a triple/AAA bond rating for the 14th year in a row.

These ratings assess the likelihood that a municipality will repay investors the debts it owes; a triple/AAA rating means that repayment is virtually assured. Arlington was one of only 39 counties nationwide to receive this highest bond rating from all three agencies.

The benefit of this rating is manifest each year in the market. In May of this year, for example, Arlington announced that it received a 2.8 percent interest rate for a $65 million general obligation bond sale. Counties with bond ratings of AA, A, or lower generally experience interest rates more than 3 or 4 percent, or even higher to secure the same amount of funding.

This is not rocket science. If a county has its budget in order, and a prudent planning process in place, investors want to invest in that county, and are willing to offer favorable financial terms for the opportunity.

But what does that mean in real terms?  It means that Arlington can spend far less of its tax dollars on debt service, and more on public programs than its peer jurisdictions. That means more dollars collected are actually spent on school construction, improved parks, transportation improvements, and the other public infrastructure we have come to expect in Arlington.

At a time when the news is peppered with examples of financial mismanagement — including a downgraded bond rating for the U.S. government — it should be reassuring to all Arlingtonians that we live in a community that stands as an exception to this trend.

Community investment is what made Arlington what it is, and the ability to continue to make investments at an affordable rate, and with responsible debt service, will help ensure Arlington’s continued success for many years to come.

Mike Lieberman is the Immediate Past Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee and a former member of the Arlington Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission.

Progressive Voice: Another Step Toward an Equal Future

by Max Burns | July 31, 2014 at 3:00 pm | 1,021 views | No Comments

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Max BurnsVirginia is — finally — for all lovers.

In a landmark decision handed down Monday, the Richmond-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled that Virginia’s state ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional.

For those used to the challenges of reading through the language of many recent Supreme Court decisions, the Fourth Circuit offered a refreshing clarity and unexpected boldness in stating what an ever-increasing majority of Americans have come to know well: “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable… However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws.”

The Fourth Circuit judges understand that times and attitudes are changing. For young Americans soon to begin high school or college, even the phrase “gay marriage” seems clunky. They call it what it is: marriage, plain and simple. For this generation, gay and lesbian couples aren’t in some “other” category. They are friends and family, roommates and coworkers. They are people.

They are also the people who are bringing new energy to the institution of marriage.

It is sadly true that it has been the Republican-elected officials in Virginia who have fought hard against marriage equality and, indeed, many other rights for LGBT Virginians such as freedom from discrimination in the workplace. And, it is very unlikely that we will see many Republican-elected officials praise the Fourth Circuit’s decision.

It is also important to applaud the many Democrats who have promoted equal rights even when it was politically challenging to do so. Virtually every advancement of LGBT rights in Virginia has been initiated by Democrats and it was Democrats who fought hard, although unsuccessfully, against the Marshall-Newman amendment that for years banned marriage equality — and even civil unions — in Virginia.

As an Arlingtonian, I am proud that our Democratic County Board leaders have been at the forefront of efforts to extend workplace benefits and other civil rights to gay and lesbian Arlingtonians over the past 25 years.

While the institutional Republican Party may be reactionary and obstructionist on LGBT issues, the youngest adult members of the Grand Old Party are ready to acknowledge what our Founding Fathers saw as self evident: that all men — and women — are created equal.

It’s among younger voters that we see amazing progress on marriage equality, even in today’s hyper-polarized political environment. A Pew survey released in March showed that 61 percent of Republicans aged 18-29 support gay marriages. At the same time, over three-quarters of Democrats in the same age group support gay marriages.

What’s more, these young Republicans support gay marriage without feeling that it jeopardizes their credentials as “real” Republicans.

Fortunately, the vitriolic debate about whether gays and lesbians “deserve” marriage will soon belong to the past. Young leaders in both political parties are ready to move forward to economic and foreign policy issues. They know that we need the fully-engaged talents of all Americans to ensure our economic competitiveness, as well as security and a strong moral example in times of international conflict. We should all be encouraged.

(more…)

Peter’s Take: Board Should Vote on All $1 Million Contracts

by Peter Rousselot | July 31, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 622 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotAt the County Board’s July 17 work session on Arlington’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), John Vihstadt, seconded by Libby Garvey, introduced a motion:

[A]ny contracts between Arlington County or an instrumentality of the County and a third party vendor or service provider for services of $1,000,000 or more related to or impacting a CIP project require a vote by the Arlington County Board at a regularly scheduled meeting.

Vihstadt said his motion was prompted by the County’s May 30 announcement that a contract already had been awarded to Parsons Transportation Group. That contract provides for a sweeping range of professional services to consult about streetcars. Parsons will advise the County in areas ranging from financial management and reporting, environmental, right of way acquisition, vehicle acquisition support, construction management oversight, and public outreach. For their initial work, Parsons will be paid $7 million to $8 million.

The “public outreach” portion of the Parsons contract allocates $650,000 of taxpayer dollars to a P.R. campaign to try to promote the streetcar.

Vihstadt stated that his motion included the phrase “related to or impacting a CIP project” because the CIP was the topic under consideration at the work session. He was concerned that a broader motion might have been ruled out of order.

Despite Vihstadt’s care in limiting his motion to CIP-related contracts, County staff found a different technicality upon which to base an objection. Staff says that although all contracts for professional services in excess of $50,000 performed as part of a capital improvement project do require Board approval, “professional services” are narrowly defined only to include certain professions.

Staff believes that the $7 million to $8 million package of professional services Parsons will be performing all lie outside the County’s narrow definition of “professional services”. Therefore, no Board approval is required for the Parsons contract.

Under the staff’s interpretation, a contract for $50,001 for architectural services performed as part of a capital improvement project does require a Board vote, but the Parsons $7 million to $8 million contract does not require a Board vote. Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the staff’s interpretation of the County’s current policy is correct.

The staff — and the County Board — are missing the main point.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant. Healthy government transparency requires broad public awareness and a Board vote prior to committing our tax dollars to large contracts.

The Arlington County Board should change its current policy, and adopt a new policy that requires that the County Board itself approve all contracts of $1 million or more regardless of subject matter.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

The Right Note: A Little More Transparency, Accountability

by Mark Kelly | July 31, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 459 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyNew County Board member John Vihstadt is making a difference.

In response to the latest spending waste — the P.R. campaign to promote the trolley — he asked why the Board did not get to vote on the contract. The response he got was nothing but legalese.

Vihstadt, supported by Libby Garvey, proposed that the Board vote on any contract over $1 million in the future. Even the three “vote trolley” majority could not shoot him down on this common sense proposal.

Now, maybe Vihstadt can do something about the County Board funding meaningless surveys. This week it was announced that the Board believes Arlington residents approve of its housing policies. Those policies have done little to stop the loss of affordable housing stock, but of course they sound good when asked the right way on a telephone survey.

This latest survey ranks right up there with the survey the Board produces regularly to say Arlington residents like the services they get. It is completely useless to learn anything, but it makes them feel better. Funny though, the Board has never produced a survey to say whether Arlingtonians would approve or disapprove of the trolley project if given a vote on it.

Next up, the Board must get the promised County auditor function up and running — an auditor who should be reporting directly to the Board. Until that happens, the Board should ask County Manager to direct the auditor to identify at least 10 substantial ways the Board can trim the county budget for next year. Identifying more than 10 would be better, but it would be a good start.

Finally, our Board should do something about how the bond measures are placed on the ballot. In 2012, the average voter had no idea funding for the aquatics center was in the parks and recreation bond. The County Board should tell the voters exactly what they are voting on. And, if more than $10 million is going to one specific project, why not give Arlingtonians the opportunity to vote straight up or down on it as a standalone measure?

Transparency and accountability are good things. The Board should always be looking for ways to embrace them more.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

Morning Poll: Is the Silver Line More of a Threat or an Opportunity?

by ARLnow.com | July 25, 2014 at 10:20 am | 2,302 views | No Comments

Metro’s Silver Line is set to officially open on Saturday, with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and other notable officials on hand to watch the first train depart the Wiehle-Reston East station.

The launch of the Silver Line has economic ramifications for Arlington, though there’s some debate over whether those ramifications will be mostly good or mostly bad.

On the pessimistic side, rail transit in Reston and Tysons could enhance the desirability of those areas and present Arlington with stiff competition, especially in the commercial office market.

On the optimistic side, the fact that the Silver Line will run through Arlington on the way to D.C. could actually make the county’s Orange/Silver corridor even more desirable as an economic hub. The video above makes the case that Ballston in particular is well-positioned to benefit from the Silver Line.

Publicly and privately, officials with Arlington Economic Development say they expect Tysons to take many years to develop as a truly desirable urban area, with walkable and active streets and ample housing. Even then, they believe Arlington’s multi-decade head start on transit-oriented development, and its proximity to D.C., will give the county the competitive edge over Tysons.

On balance, do you think the Silver Line will help or hurt Arlington County?
 

The Right Note: Foster for the 48th

by Mark Kelly | July 24, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 607 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyFor voters who look for experienced public servants with a record of doing what’s right for their constituents, Dave Foster’s entry into the 48th District special election is a welcome development.

Dave Foster was twice elected by Arlingtonians to the School Board. What’s even more impressive than Foster’s electoral victories versus the Democrats’ sample ballot is that twice he was elected by his Democratic colleagues to serve as Chairman of the School Board. In other words, he was so successful in getting things done across party lines on behalf of our public schools that he was entrusted with leading the Board.

When Foster left the Board after eight years, his Democratic colleagues called him the “consummate professional” and “an exemplary public servant.” They recognized his work to reduce class size and to increase foreign language offerings in Arlington schools. Later he was tapped to serve on the Virginia Board of Education where he was elected President, and led the fight for Virginia’s No Child Left Behind waiver.

Rip Sullivan has no such record to offer. The mailing he sent out to potential Democrat firehouse primary voters was merely a laundry list of partisan priorities. Sullivan even admitted to the Blue Virginia blog that he supports a non-revenue neutral carbon tax. A carbon tax would raise our energy prices — hitting those on the lowest end of the economic ladder the hardest. Implementing an energy tax would raise out-of-pocket costs for transportation, to heat and cool our homes, and for everything we consume that requires energy to produce or transport.

Sullivan’s focus on partisan priorities like raising taxes was to the exclusion of district specific concerns. After being declared the winner of the Democratic nomination, Sullivan was asked by a reporter for the Connection whether he agreed with Dave Foster’s position on a referendum on the Columbia Pike trolley — a big issue for Arlington voters. He responded that he was going to “go to bed” rather than respond. A week later, Sullivan reiterated his support spending half a billion dollars on the trolley project, but joined Foster in support of a referendum.

Voters should be dubious of Sullivan’s campaign conversion to support for a referendum. Del. Patrick Hope, an early Sullivan backer, said he supported a referendum during his run for Congress. After losing that primary, Hope said he would not be introducing legislation in Richmond to force a referendum.

By contrast, Dave Foster stands squarely against the trolley and would be better positioned with a Republican majority in Richmond to pass a referendum. Voters can add this to Foster’s commitment to put his education experience to work for our children. And, they can count on Foster’s promise to work across the partisan divide on Medicaid reforms in the upcoming special session.

Partisan Democrats like state Sen. Barbara Favola want to make this race about promoting the progressive agenda and focusing on divisive issues. Voters, on the other hand, are tired of all the partisan posturing. They want to elect people who will focus on finding solutions.

On Aug. 19, 48th District residents can elect a candidate with a proven ability to get things done across party lines by voting for Dave Foster.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

Progressive Voice: We Support Our Schools

by James Lander | July 24, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 851 views | No Comments

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

James LanderArlington’s progressive vision for its public schools has been longstanding and led to remarkable successes. When schools were segregated and Virginia was known for underinvesting in public schools, Arlingtonians organized to make sure that students could attend high-quality, well-constructed and integrated schools. As a result, Arlington became an education leader in the state and the nation.

Today, we continue to invest heavily in education, to have diverse schools and school offerings, and to see students achieve remarkable results.

With our success, and likely because of that success, we now face a dramatic increase in the number of students attending our schools. Families are moving to Arlington because of the reputation of our schools. Families are remaining in Arlington even as they grow because of the positive experiences provided by our schools.

In my time as a School Board member and now as Chair, I have seen the importance of the County Board’s continued investment in our schools and promotion of policies that make it possible for our schools to thrive.

The most recent example is the County Board’s July 19th approval of a 10-year Capital Improvement Plan. That plan would provide for a 2014 school bond that would deliver over $100 million toward construction and renovation of schools that are vitally needed to respond to dramatic school enrollment growth.

I am particularly pleased that the County CIP was the result of healthy collaboration between the County Board and the School Board.

When I was first elected to the School Board in January 2010, our student population was 20,200 and our operating budget was $438.6 million. Just five years later, our student population for the 2014-2015 school year has grown to over 24,000 with an approved operating budget of $539.4 million.

This student enrollment growth of approximately 800 students per year is the equivalent of one elementary school each year. Fortunately, the County Board has used County revenue growth in ways that ensure that the schools can meet instructional needs and address the facility needs of the rapidly increasing student population.

Like our student population, few things have remained constant during my School Board tenure. Colleagues have rotated on/off of the Board and we will soon have two new colleagues. Throughout this transition the County Board has been a steadfast partner.

The County Board’s unwavering support for high-quality public school educations has helped meet steadily increasing operating and capital demands, thereby allowing APS to remain one of the best school systems in the country. As Abby Raphael, my predecessor as Chair, noted recently: “The School Board appreciates the tremendous support that the County Board and the Arlington community provide to our students and our schools. Without this support, APS could not be as successful as it is.”

I am grateful that the County Board’s July 19 action will ensure the school community’s top priority projects for elementary and middle school facilities can move forward as soon as possible.

It was just a month before, on June 16, that the School Board adopted its own CIP for 2014-2015. The FY 2014 bond request — that the County Board fully funded — includes four vital capital projects: (more…)

Peter’s Take: Board Majority Hides Projects Sacrificed for Streetcar

by Peter Rousselot | July 24, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 1,727 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotPrior to approving its latest Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), a bare majority of the Arlington County Board (Fisette, Hynes, Tejada) voted to deny the public access to critical information. The information they suppressed relates to new transportation projects that are being denied funding or delayed as streetcar costs continue escalating sharply.

The vote to suppress this information comes at a time that this same majority has sanctioned a $650,000 public relations campaign at taxpayer expense to promote the streetcar.

Both actions represent desperate attempts to refloat a sinking ship.

The CIP approved by the Board on July 19 documents sharp increases in streetcar costs as a percentage of Arlington’s total capital budget.

Two years ago, in the FY 2013-2022 CIP, the Columbia Pike streetcar was projected to consume 8 percent of the total CIP and the Crystal City Streetcar 6 percent, for a CIP total of 14 percent devoted to the two streetcars combined. Today, both projects have jumped in cost, and total 19 percent of the FY 2015-2024 CIP for the two streetcars.

In other words, just two streetcar lines totaling only 7.4 miles, consume 19 percent of our total Arlington capital budget, or nearly one out of five of our proposed capital spending dollars over the next 10 years. 

In an effort to determine what new transportation projects might be sacrificed in this streetcar sinkhole, Board members Vihstadt and Garvey in June asked County staff the following question and received the following answer:

Q. If we do not build a streetcar, for what can the money planned for the streetcar be used?

A. Providing alternative projects that could be funded if the streetcar is not funded would require significant additional analysis that a majority of the Board could direct staff to undertake.

Faced with this response, Vihstadt, seconded by Garvey, made the following motion at the County Board’s July 17 CIP work session:

I move that the County Board direct the County Manager to develop and prioritize a list of all Arlington transportation projects over the next 10 years, including information as to budget amounts, funding sources and by fiscal year, that could be funded if we cease all Arlington streetcar spending now (save for legal requirements) and do not move forward with either the Columbia Pike or Route 1 Streetcar projects.

Fisette, Hynes, and Tejada voted against the motion, and the motion was defeated.

With more than half a billion dollars on the line, the County Board majority has denied Arlington voters and taxpayers critical information they need to make informed decisions.

Why are they afraid of providing this information?

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

Peter’s Take: Van Doren for School Board

by Peter Rousselot | July 17, 2014 at 3:00 pm | 478 views | No Comments

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotNancy Van Doren has announced that she plans to run in the special election for the seat on the Arlington School Board that will become vacant on Aug. 1 when Noah Simon resigns.

I support Nancy for the Democratic endorsement and for election in the special election to fill this seat.

Priorities

Among the priorities Nancy has promised to pursue as a School Board member are these:

Educational Excellence for All Students 

Academic success for each student is Nancy’s top priority. Students must leave high school prepared for higher education and success in our technology-driven global economy. Arlington Public Schools must consistently offer students the opportunity to reach their full potential, regardless of race, economic status, ethnicity, gender, language or disability.

The strategies Nancy will emphasize include:

  • Providing our highly-qualified teachers with the tools, training, and resources necessary to meet the needs of each student in their classroom.
  • Ensuring children develop strong reading skills by the start of fourth grade, when students begin reading for content.
  • Using proven approaches to close the achievement gap.
  • Providing all students with equal instruction time and the opportunity to study a second language, beginning in elementary school. FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary Schools) should be implemented in all schools.

 Making Room for All Students

  • Maximize the use of all existing space within our schools.
  • Creatively use space in and around the County to meet capacity needs. Consider renting vacant office space, using County facilities, increasing the use of the Career Center, increasing our partnership with area colleges, and using flexible scheduling and on-line classes, particularly at the high school level.
  • Build adequate, flexible classroom space through additions to schools or constructing new buildings, when and where necessary, within fiscal constraints.

County/Schools Collaboration

  • The School and County Boards and their staffs must integrate their long-range planning efforts so that together they can accommodate and fund the County’s growth within its overall budget.
  • Coordinate County resources shared by all residents, young and old: land, facilities, transportation, social services, and recreation.

Additional priorities that Nancy plans to pursue are available at this link: http://www.nancyvandoren.org/#!page3/cee5

Community Service

Nancy Van Doren is an education advocate with 10 years of experience as a parent, volunteer, and leader in Arlington Public Schools. You can access extensive further details at this link: http://www.nancyvandoren.org/#!page2/cjg9

Personal and Family Background 

Nancy has lived for 10 years in Ashton Heights with her husband, Jack Zetkulic, who is an educator and international consultant. They have four children:  Patsy, and Katie, who attend Washington-Lee High School; Annie, who attends Jefferson Middle School; and Matthew, a recent W-L graduate headed to the University of Virginia.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

The Right Note: What to do About Expired IDs

by Mark Kelly | July 17, 2014 at 2:30 pm | 1,076 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark Kelly

Virginia’s photo identification law is going into effect for the general election this fall. The requirement is that every voter be able to produce a photo ID at their polling place in order to cast a vote. The law is certainly not without its detractors, but it is the law, and as such it should be properly enforced.

As a reminder, according to the State Board of Elections, any Virginia drivers license or other DMV-issued photo ID, a U.S. passport, any Virginia higher-learning institution photo ID, any government-issued photo ID, and employer-issued photo IDs will be accepted. Anyone without one of these accepted photo IDs will be able to go to a local registrar’s office and obtain a photo ID card free of charge.

The latest question is whether an expired ID will be accepted and if so, how long it can be expired. State officials are contemplating limiting the acceptance of validly issued ID’s to 30 days after they expired. They are currently open for public comments on the matter.

Arlington officials said via Twitter that the expiration date “shouldn’t matter” for purposes of proving you are who you say you are. While a true statement on its face, Arlington election officials are staking out the wrong position on this issue.

Putting safeguards around the voter ID law, like an expiration date requirement, makes sense. One of the problems that has been demonstrated in voting are individuals registered in, and too often voting in, more than one state.

Earlier this spring, it was revealed that 44,000 people were registered to vote in both Maryland and Virginia. If one of those voters, living in Maryland and registered to vote there, still possesses an expired Virginia ID, should they be allowed to vote in Virginia if their name still appears on the voter rolls here? While it does not happen often, and it is already a violation of the law, your vote should not be canceled or devalued because someone voted improperly in Virginia.

If we are going to have a photo ID law to protect against any voter fraud, then it ought to require that the ID be current. A 30-day rule would give someone who made an honest mistake in not renewing their ID a safe harbor. Going beyond that, or having no expiration date requirement at all, is simply creating a loophole in a law that already goes out of its way to accept current IDs.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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