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Peter’s Take: Virginia Flunks Ethics Reform

by Peter Rousselot | April 17, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 479 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 RousselotOne of the five most revealing stories of 2013 was the ethics scandal that engulfed the administration of former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wannabe successor Ken Cuccinelli. In the wake of that scandal, there were high hopes that Virginia would pass meaningful ethics reform in 2014. Sadly, Virginia flunked this opportunity.

Virginia legislators from both parties are responsible for the toothless “ethics reform” legislation that did pass in 2014. Their legislation “tightens conflict of interest rules on themselves just enough to say they did something to clean up Virginia’s soiled reputation.”

What did they do? Why did it do nothing to clean up Virginia’s soiled reputation?

The ethics legislation that passed this year imposes a $250 cap on gifts to Virginia legislators. Sounds good, right? Wrong. The $250 cap applies only to gifts made by registered lobbyists. It does not apply to gifts made directly by any individual or business that is not a registered lobbyist. Thus, the kinds of gifts made to McDonnell and Cuccinelli by disgraced businessman Jonnie Williams (e.g., shopping sprees to New York, Rolex watches, reimbursement for weddings of legislators’ children) are all permitted under the new ethics legislation just as they were before.

In fact, an early analysis of this legislation by ProgressVA showed that if it had been in effect in 2012, it would have prohibited NONE of the 756 gifts made to Virginia’s legislators in that year.

This legislation also “substitutes window-dressing for muscular enforcement by establishing an ‘advisory’ state ethics panel — with no staff or budget — instead of a commission with the resources and authority to investigate alleged violations.”

What role did Gov. Terry McAuliffe play regarding ethics reform this session? Where he had the unilateral power to do it, he put in place a strong ethics reform package for himself, his staff, and state agencies. This executive branch reform package establishes a $100 gift cap without the ridiculous loopholes in the bill passed by the legislature.

Some have criticized Gov. McAuliffe for failing to exercise his power to propose substantive amendments to the ethics bill passed by the legislature. That criticism is unfair. Given the huge bi-partisan support for this legislation, there was no reasonable prospect that the governor could have obtained any significant substantive changes in it.

Conclusion

The legislature thoroughly humiliated itself by what it did. The governor could serve no constructive purpose by heaping further humiliation on top of that.

For this “reform,” the Virginia legislature deserves a bi-partisan grade of “F.”

Give Terry McAuliffe a “B+.”

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: This Lesson Had to be Learned?

by Mark Kelly | April 17, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 1,063 views | No Comments

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. 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“Live and learn.” That was the end of County Board Chairman Jay Fisette’s apology for attributing Walter Tejada’s tardiness to the Vihstadt swearing-in ceremony last Friday to “running on Latino time.”

Fisette was apparently shocked that people would find such a stereotype offered up in a public forum by an elected official as insensitive, offensive or insulting?

It would be one thing if Fisette wasn’t a Democrat. Democrats have spent the past five years telling the American people that those opposing policies from President Obama were doing so because they were racially motivated. The day before Fisette inserted foot in mouth, U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel was doing just that.

Imagine for a moment that John Vihstadt had uttered the same words during his remarks on Friday. The Arlington County Democrats would most certainly have fired off a pointed press release – possibly even calling for Vihstadt to resign. Twitter, Facebook and the ARLnow.com comments section would have exploded with activity.

Does anyone really think Jay Fisette is racist or that he was in any way intentionally trying to offend? No. But, to essentially throw up your hands and say “live and learn” was a disappointing response from someone who should have known better.

Since there seems to be no risk in stating the obvious this week, here are three other lessons to learn from recent events:

Alan Howze’s campaign was built around a central theme of “I am a Democrat, and my opponent is a Republican.” That strategy may have gotten Mr. Howze across the finish line in year’s past. This year, it was destined for failure. The voters who most care about local issues saw right through it.

The election last week also clearly demonstrated that these same voters do not want the trolley to be built, and probably at a higher percentage than the Vihstadt vote. Some die hard Democrats voted for Howze despite not being fans of the project. The County Board may ultimately move forward. However, there are two Board members who are in cycle in another low turnout election in the fall of 2015 who may regret it.

Finally, rumors are swirling that higher than anticipated revenues have Board Members considering a tax rate cut — a move that is long overdue (Ed. note: This column was submitted before the County Board approved a one-cent tax rate cut). However, a one, two or even three-cent rate cut is not a tax cut. It is simply a smaller than anticipated tax increase for most, if not all, Arlingtonians. If your assessment went up by 10 percent or more this year, you may not even call a three-cent rate cut a good start. But, it would beat the alternative.

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

The Right Note: A Victory for Taxpayers?

by Mark Kelly | April 10, 2014 at 1:45 pm | 888 views | No Comments

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

Mark KellyDespite all of the spin by Democrats about low turnout (50 percent higher than the last special election) causing Tuesday’s loss, the message from voters was clear — it is time to shake things up.

One week earlier, Arlington Civic Federation delegates voted by a two-to-one margin to call on the County Board to lower the property tax rate by at least three cents. In the face of rapidly rising assessments, the Civic Federation decided that keeping tax rates level was simply not good enough.

What would that mean to the average homeowner? About $200 less in taxes for the upcoming year.

That level of tax relief might still keep us in first place for highest property tax bills in the region, but it may keep us from permanently cementing our top spot.

One of the first orders of business for new County Board member John Vihstadt will be to vote on setting the tax and spending levels for fiscal 2015. Vihstadt’s convincing 16 percent margin of victory came in a county that just five months ago handed Democrat Terry McAuliffe a 49 percent margin. The result was clearly a mandate to rethink the status quo in county government.

Looking back, Arlington County has not had to make really tough budget decisions like so many local governments have, despite rhetoric to the contrary. Arlington was largely insulated from the worst of the recession because our economy is dependent on the federal government and the contractors, law firms, trade associations and service industries its presence in the region supports. Even with federal spending restraint over the past three years, Arlington’s real estate tax receipts continued to rise.

Because the Board did not have to make really tough decisions, they did not have to take a long hard look at budget priorities. They were able to continue subsidizing the failed Artisphere experiment. They spent more than $1.5 million on a dog park. They moved forward on million dollar bus stops and then drug their feet on producing the report on why it cost so much.

Is it any wonder that long time civic activists finally said enough is enough?

We have very real issues to address moving forward, like school capacity and maintaining our aging infrastructure. If the Board wants to make room for these spending priorities in future budgets, they should re-examine spending priorities now.

Between excess tax revenue already identified for the current year budget, reserve funds, and closeout dollars, the Board can cut the tax rate without endangering any essential services. The only thing providing this tax relief will do is make the County Board work a little harder to finalize the budget and plan for the future.

The voters asked for more fiscal discipline on Tuesday, now we will see if they get it.

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

Peter’s Take: Voters Not Buying What County Board is Selling

by Peter Rousselot | April 10, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 1,688 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 RousselotIn Tuesday’s County Board election, Arlington voters rendered a decisive verdict on the budget priorities of the current majority on the Arlington County Board. The verdict: fundamentally change your budget priorities, or we’ll elect others who will.

Independent John Vihstadt won his landslide victory by uniting a broad-based, multi-partisan coalition that shared his policy positions:

  • prioritize spending on Arlington’s core government services (e.g., overcrowded schools, fire, police, sensible transit), and
  • end spending on wasteful vanity projects.

County Board Budget Priorities Repudiated

Vihstadt made his criticisms of the County Board’s budget priorities (e.g., $310+ million unnecessary Columbia Pike streetcar, $80+ million gold-plated Aquatics Center) the focus of his winning campaign. Democrat Alan Howze lost because he refused to repudiate those budget priorities. Howze hoped — falsely — that he could win simply because he was the Democratic candidate.

Implications for Arlington Democrats

Before the election, a few Democrats boasted that even if Vihstadt won the special, he would lose in November. Why? Because even if Howze’s policies on issues like Arlington’s budget priorities were repudiated by Arlington voters in the spring, Howze would win in the fall because he would get enough more votes from Democrats who care only about state or national issues. The size of the Vihstadt tsunami casts serious doubts on this hoped-for scenario. Much worse, these Democrats’ reasoning reflects an unbecoming smugness about the irrelevance of local policy to Arlington Democrats.

As a proud Arlington Democrat myself, I reject their reasoning. I do care — a lot — about the policy positions on local issues of any candidate seeking an Arlington local office. As Tuesday’s election shows, lots of other Arlington Democrats agree with me. Between now and November, we’ll all be aggressively explaining why to other Arlington Democrats who didn’t vote Tuesday.

What about the politics of it? What are the implications for the Arlington County Democratic Committee if it continues to nominate or endorse candidates for County Board who have policy positions on local issues that are both wrong and very unpopular? This is politics 101: those implications are highly negative.

Voters to ACDC: this time, we didn’t buy what you were selling either. It’s not because you don’t excel at the electoral mechanics, or because we don’t like you personally, or because someone is feuding with someone else. It’s because policy positions on local issues matter. Don’t be insular like the current County Board majority which anointed Alan Howze and pushed him over the finish line in the ACDC caucus. Their principal goal is to perpetuate their own budget priorities.

The County Board’s budget priorities are dragging ACDC down.

It’s time for ACDC to do some serious soul searching. Get out of your bubble and into the community. Don’t become zombie Democrats.

There are some great, positive lessons that ACDC can learn from this campaign.

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.

Morning Poll: Pedestrian Bridge from Rosslyn to Georgetown?

by ARLnow.com | April 10, 2014 at 10:40 am | 2,047 views | No Comments

Key Bridge on 9/11/13If you try driving across Key Bridge at rush hour, you’re likely to encounter heavy traffic.

But drivers aren’t the only one dealing with congestion on the 91-year-old span that crosses the Potomac from Rosslyn to Georgetown. The bridge’s narrow pedestrian walkway is also typically jammed with walkers, runners and bikers, who sometimes come into conflict as they try to pass one another.

Pedestrians also impact traffic, as vehicles must wait for them to clear a crosswalk to take a ramp to the Whitehurst Freeway.

So what should be done to improve matters? Cross-river gondolas have been proposed, as have streetcars. But one self-described “transportation nerd,” writing on the county’s Mobility Lab website, has another suggestion: a dedicated pedestrian bridge.

Such a bridge could better accommodate all of those walkers, runners and bicyclists, while marginally improving vehicle traffic. Built parallel to the Key Bridge, one might expect the project to be similar in scope to the $12 million pedestrian span parallel to the Hot Metal Bridge in Pittsburgh, according to the writer, Sam Krassenstein.

What do you think about the idea?
 

Morning Poll: Catholic Church Fires Gay Employee After Marriage Is Revealed

by ARLnow.com | April 8, 2014 at 10:00 am | 4,537 views | No Comments

Church steeple in Arlington (file photo)Mike McMahon worked for some 30 years as a music director for parishes in the conservative Roman Catholic Diocese of Arlington. For those 30 years, no one seemed to care that he was gay, as long as he was “discreet.”

As reported by the Washington Post, the 62-year-old was fired last summer from St. Agnes Catholic Church in Cherrydale — not because he’s gay, but because the pastor there found out he had gotten married to a man.

News of the firing has some in the community crying foul.

“It saddens me that certain religious denominations are unable to express and embrace love fully,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette told ARLnow.com. “Their position is anachronistic and uninformed at best, and very hurtful and damaging to many people at worst.”

By all accounts McMahon was good at his job and didn’t let his marriage interfere with his work responsibilities. Is it proper, though, for a church to fire those whose personal lives go against church teachings?
 

File photo

Morning Poll: Are Members of Congress Underpaid?

by ARLnow.com | April 4, 2014 at 9:50 am | 1,888 views | No Comments

Rep. Jim Moran, speaking at a panel discussion on immigration at Kenmore Middle SchoolRetiring congressman Jim Moran (D-Va.) says members of Congress are “underpaid.”

It may not be a popular message at a time when Congress’ approval rate is hovering around 13 percent, but Moran says the $174,000 salary for members of Congress isn’t enough to allow them to “live decently in Washington,” according to CQ Roll Call.

“I understand that it’s widely felt that they underperform, but the fact is that this is the board of directors for the largest economic entity in the world,” Moran told Roll Call.

Do you agree?
 

John Vihstadt: Why You Should Vote for Me

by ARLnow.com | April 3, 2014 at 2:00 pm | 2,677 views | No Comments

John Vihstadt at the County Board candidates debate 3/4/14This week, we asked the candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them in the special election on April 8.

Below is Republican- and Green-endorsed independent John Vihstadt’s unedited response:

I’m John Vihstadt, and I ask for your vote in the April 8 special election for County Board.

Mary and I have called Arlington home since 1981.  Our two sons received an excellent education at Tuckahoe, Swanson and Yorktown.  It’s a great place to live and raise a family.  But at a time of rising taxes and budget pressures, we need a fresh perspective and some balance on our County Board.  It’s time we re-examine our spending priorities and how we engage our diverse community.

I am running for three fundamental reasons:

  • To Serve Our Community.   I will put my community service of over 30 years to work for all of Arlington.   In our neighborhoods, across the County and in our public schools, people know that I have the credibility and
the record to get things done in a consensus-building way.  I’ve served on the Aging, Housing and Planning Commissions, as well as on the Boards of Community Residences, Inc. for the developmentally disabled and the Arlington Historical Society.  I’ve been elected president of my Civic Association and to the Board of the Arlington Civic Federation.  And in our schools, I served as a PTA president, as a School Bond Campaign co-chair, as an officer in the County Council of PTA’s, and received the School Board’s Honored Citizen Award.  Along with many others, I organized and advocated to accelerate the rebuilding of Wakefield High School.
  • To Provide a New Voice.  Voters want balance and a fresh perspective on a
County Board that has grown insular and dismissive of different views for lack of true electoral competition.   Too often, the County Board acts more like an echo chamber than a deliberative body.   And too often, the County Board and School Board seem more like ships passing in the night than co-captains of the same boat.  I’ll work to break down silos between the County and our schools, develop shared service delivery models and improve cooperation.  I’ll ask questions at
2100 Clarendon Boulevard, not just nod my head.
  • To Adjust Our Spending Priorities and Provide Accountability.  We need to focus spending on core services first–public schools, public safety, infrastructure maintenance and neighborhood quality of life–not a $310 million streetcar, million dollar bus stops or a mismanaged aquatics
center with faulty construction and operating cost projections.   We are still waiting for that bus stop audit promised last fall, and wondering how a dog park in Clarendon could escalate to $1.6 million dollars.

Along Columbia Pike and through Pentagon City and Crystal City, we can implement a form of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) right now–and frankly, we should have already done so.  BRT can be implemented more quickly, at a fraction of the cost, with less disruption, better regional connectivity and with more flexibility than a streetcar.  And, as Arlington’s own plans for the Crystal City transitway demonstrate, BRT does not require dedicated lanes.   Let’s also use earmarked transit funds to expand ART bus, augment express busses, and improve pedestrian safety and bikeways.

I’ve also called on Arlington to follow the recommendation of its own external auditor and implement a robust internal audit/inspector general function.   Arlington Public Schools and adjacent jurisdictions have done so.   Why not the County?

Why am I Running as an Independent?   No political party has a monopoly on wisdom, new ideas or sound government stewardship.   And at the local level, voters tell me that they don’t view things like educating our kids, picking up the trash or delivering human services through a partisan prism.   People want practical, cost-effective results.

My Independent campaign is backed by current and former elected officials and citizens from across the political spectrum, ranging from Democrats like Theo Stamos, Frank Wilson, Libby Garvey and Peter Rousselot, to Republicans such as David Foster, Jim Pebley and Mike Brunner, as well as Greens and Libertarians.   They know that I will not be a captive of any party, person, or ideological agenda.

If you are happy with the status quo and the County’s current spending priorities, there are other candidates.   If you want positive, constructive change and new leadership with a proven record of accomplishment, please vote for me.  Thank you. (www.VoteForVihstadt.com)

Janet Murphy: Why You Should Vote for Me

by ARLnow.com | April 3, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 747 views | No Comments

Janet Murphy at the County Board candidates debate 3/4/14This week, we asked the candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them in the special election on April 8.

Below is Independent Green Party candidate Janet Murphy’s unedited response:

Dear ARLnow.com and Citizens of Arlington:  I am Janet Murphy the Independent Green Party Candidate for Arlington County Board.  I am running because we need more trains, and less traffic and that means Columbia Pike rail.  Rail pays for itself. This weeks’ Columbia Pike Rail study shows it will bring $4.4 billion of economic growth. Rail saves lives. Rail creates jobs, increases the value of our homes, businesses, and community. Rail grows revenue for our schools, police, and fire departments, and affordable housing. Let Arlington be the most pedestrian, bike, and rail friendly community in the nation. We call for a new passenger rail tunnel under the Potomac to solve the problem of the “Orange Crush” on Metrorail, and expanding Metrorail service to South Arlington with a new underground Metrorail line

Independent Green Party stands for “More Candidates, Less Apathy” and has put more third party candidates on the ballot in Virginia than any other party in the last 100 years.  Independent Green party salutes Giant Food which deserves our communities praise and support.

We need to continue the smart growth, pro-rail, sustainable green development in Arlington County.

Pursue fiscal responsibility and social and economic justice with creating revenue by installing solar panels, and geothermal heating and cooling in all our public buildings. This saves Arlington taxpayers money.  Renewable – sustainable energy creates jobs that grow revenue for the county.  Solar, Geothermal, and weatherization are vital investments in our community. Janet Murphy will protect Arlington’s AAA bond rating.  Increase Arlington Based Businesses by 35% with innovation and green initiatives.

Carve out more open space and create new open space recreational opportunities, parks and pedestrian esplanades that provide community gathering place for Arlingtonians.  Let’s go down to the river and build a boat house or otherwise create access to nature there.  Plastic bags pollute, are not biodegradable, and damage our environment. We need to charge the fully loaded cost of plastic bags to Arlington’s environment. Participate fully in our clean water and air.

We need an energy self sufficient Arlington with Solar panels on every roof. We need conservation, weatherization, geothermal heating and cooling in every building. We need local renewable energy tax credits, or grants that match the 30 percent federal tax credits.  This encourages every Arlington home, and business to go Green. Renewable energy is a winner for Arlington and Arlingtonians  Our former Indy Green Party state chair installed geothermal heating and cooling in his Virginia house, and solar panels on his roof. The first year the house produced ten times the energy it consumed so it is a “Plus House”. Sell the energy back to the power company. Every house in Arlington could be a Green Energy Plus House. Instead of paying Dominion Power, they pay you for your renewable energy.

I am currently employed at a hotel in Arlington.  Formerly I was a software professional in Virginia in financial, environmental, entertainment and defense computer systems; Real Estate Agent VA, DC and MD; property manager; substitute teacher at all levels.  I was a Field Interviewer for 2012 Commercial Building Energy Consumption Study (CBECS) for Department of Energy through Westat, Inc.

Education:  BA English McGill University, MS Counseling Psychology UDC, Diploma Computer Learning Center, Springfield VA.

I have run for VA House of Delegates and House of Representatives from Arlington.  Elected Independent Green Party Arlington County Chair and Virginia State Indy Green Party Central Committee.

I support social justice and all environmental wisdom that is available.  Solar and wind energy, recycling, innovation will cut down usage of water and electricity.

The Independent Green Party candidates for local, state, and federal office have advocated for Columbia Pike rail for decades.  Indy Green Party leaders, Indy Green Party Arlington neighbors participated in decades of meetings to work for Columbia Pike Rail.  The history of those meetings and the reasons why we need Arlington’s Columbia Pike Rail are well documented.  For Arlington County, getting Columbia Pike rail is another battle in the century long fight between big oil, big auto, big asphalt, and big polluters. As an Independent Green Party candidate, I want to show the way to a sustainable green future for Arlington County.  Rail transportation and Smarter growth mean an ever greener Arlington. Please join me, and the Independent Green Party today.  Be an Independent Green Party candidate for local, state, or federal office, and part of the positive green change. Think Green and Vote for Janet Murphy on April 8 2014 for Arlington County Board.

Alan Howze: Why You Should Vote for Me

by ARLnow.com | April 3, 2014 at 1:00 pm | 1,468 views | No Comments

Alan HowzeThis week, we asked the candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them in the special election on April 8.

Below is Democrat Alan Howze’s unedited response:

Please Join Me and Move Arlington Forward!

I am optimistic about Arlington’s future.  We have built a great community. Together we can make it even better.  I ask for your vote on April 8 so that we can preserve what makes Arlington special and create a brighter tomorrow for everyone in our community.

Progressive Values

Values guide decisions. So you should know where the candidates stand.

I was born in Arlington Hospital and grew up on Jackson Street.  My wife, Pam, and I are raising our three children here because we love Arlington and its progressive Democratic values of equality, opportunity and shared prosperity.

I believe in protecting a women’s right to choose, and would defend it from TRAP efforts.

I believe we should care for our neighbors.  This is why I strongly support expanding Medicaid to cover more than 6,000 Arlington residents who do not have access to healthcare today.  Expanding coverage would protect jobs and the fiscal health of Arlington’s our largest private employers, the Virginia Hospital Center.  It would also save millions of dollars that Arlington County spends today to provide local healthcare services, and would allow for additional state funding for other important priorities such as education, public safety, and the environment.  Expanding Medicaid is fiscally responsible and it is the right thing to do for our people, our local economy, and our community.

This is why I have called upon my Republican-backed opponent, Mr. Vihstadt, to tell voters if he supports expanding Medicaid coverage, or if he stands with Republicans who are blocking access to healthcare for thousands of Arlington residents.  Arlington voters deserve to know.

Investing in Education and Transportation

The investments we have made in our community are the foundation of our success. As a County Board Member, one of my top priorities will be making smart investments in education and transportation. This means continuing to improve Metro – including by adding capacity to reduce the Orange crush – and creating new, high-quality transit through the Arlington Streetcar Line.

And this means thoughtful investments to ensure Arlington’s schools remain among the best in the nation. School overcrowding is one of the biggest challenges we face. As a County Board Member, I will find solutions. I have a personal stake in this: no other candidate in this race, or current County Board Member, has children in Arlington Public Schools.

A New Voice for Innovation & Oversight

I have worked hard to reach out to all of Arlington.  I have knocked on thousands of doors and listened carefully to resident’s needs and concerns.  I will use my community experience — Civic Association President, Fiscal Affairs Commission, PTA, Housing Solutions Board — and my business experience to find solutions to school overcrowding, neighborhood safety, and affordable housing.

I am proud to have the support of Arlington Educators, the Sierra Club, LGBT Democrats of Virginia, National Organization of Women, Northern Virginia Association of Realtors, and labor organizations LiUNA!, IBEW, and UFCW, as well as community leaders including Paul Ferguson, Mary Hynes, Emma Violand-Sanchez, Frank O’Leary, Ingrid Morroy, Beth Arthur, Mary Margaret Whipple, Bob Brink, Abby Raphael, Jay Fisette, Noah Simon, James Lander, Ed Fendley, Dave Bell, Sally Baird, Karen Darner, Judy Connally and Joe Wholey, plus many more. 

My experience working for Gov. Mark Warner and nearly a decade working for IBM have given me insights on how to improve our local government.  While most Arlingtonians I’ve spoken with are optimistic about our community, cost overruns on some key county projects threaten to erode confidence in our government’s management.  I know we can do better.

On the Fiscal Affairs Commission, I pushed for enhancements to the County’s audit, financial management, and analytics capabilities. I have also strongly supported a focus on core government services, recommending increased funding for paving and leading a task force that focused on the maintenance needs of our parks and facilities.  However, a focus on core services does not mean, as some have suggested, that we should stop investing for the future needs of our community.  That short-sighted approach will undermine our future prosperity.

We have a great community, built on progressive values, care for our neighbors, and sound long-term infrastructure investments.  I ask you for your vote so I can l work with you to find innovative, durable and fiscally sound solutions to the challenges that we face.

Together, we can move Arlington forward.

Stephen Holbrook: Why You Should Vote for Me

by ARLnow.com | April 3, 2014 at 12:30 pm | 1,434 views | No Comments

Stephen Holbrook at the County Board candidates debate 3/4/14This week, we asked the candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them in the special election on April 8.

Below is independent’s Stephen Holbrook’s unedited response:

Who is Steve Holbrook?

-A 33 year resident of Arlington and a real property owner/taxpayer.

-A retired FBI Supervisory Special Agent Accountant with management experience and expertise in reviewing and analyzing private and Governmental financial statements and documents.

-A Vietnam Era Army Veteran.

-A man who has witnessed dramatic increases in his and other peoples’ Arlington real property taxes that have consistently exceeded the Government advertised inflation rates and cannot get adequate answers as to why he is required to pay more for his services.

-A man who seeks your vote so that he can serve his fiduciary duty as the “Peoples’ Auditor” and thereby serve the people by protecting their assets from fraud, waste and abuse.

Why Steve Holbrook for the Arlington County Board?

-Steve is not a “career politician”.

-Steve has had a career in Government and understands waste, fraud and abuse in businesses and government.

-Steve, although he would be a voting member of the Board, intends to function as the “People’s Auditor” who will explain to his constituents how the County has overspent its money in the past and show now the needed budget cuts for Arlington County.

-As an independent Steve is not affiliated with any “political machine” seeking patronage or political favors.

What does Steve believe in?

CUTTING WASTEFUL SPENDING AND HOLDING THE LINE ON TAX INCREASES UNTIL WE CAN CUT REAL ESTATE TAXES THROUGH IDENTIFIED CUTS AND ECONOMIES

TRANSPARENCY: SHOWING THE PUBLIC HOW UNJUSTIFIED SPENDING INCREASES HAD OCCURRED AND WHICH PROGRAMS DRIVE UNJUSTIFIED COST GROWTH

DISCONTINUING CAPITAL PROJECTS SUCH AS THE COLUMBIA PIKE STREETCAR LINE AND THE PLANNED HOMELESS SHELTER FOR SEX OFFENDERS AT COURTHOUSE ROAD

SHARED SACRIFICES: STEVE WILL TAKE A $9000 PER YEAR PAY CUT.

SUBJECTING ALL PROPOSED SPENDING INCREASES TO RIGOROUS COST/BENEFIT ANALYSES

What will Steve do if elected?

PROPOSE AN IMMEDIATE FREEZE ON ARLINGTON COUNTY SPENDING

CONDUCT A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF ARLINGTON COUNTY BUDGETS SINCE 1997 TO DETERMINE LINE ITEMS WHICH HAVE MATERIALLY GROWN AT RATES IN EXCESS OF INFLATION AND POPULATION GROWTH

ELIMINATE THE COLUMBIA STREET CAR LINE PROJECT AND HOMELESS SHELTERS OWNED AND OPERATED BY ARLINGTON COUNTY

TAKE A PAY REDUCTION

Important voters’ information

1) I met with the other three candidates at a local Arlington County Church on March 27, 2014.  The meeting was supported by V.O.I.C.E., an affordable housing group made up of eight Arlington County churches, and the groups’ leaders at that meeting were all preachers from those churches.  The four candidates were told that they were going to be asked four questions and they could only answer yes or no with no explanations.  We were all told by the preachers that if we did not vote yes to their questions that their people will know and they will vote accordingly.  In fact the preachers during the meeting asked their people to get on their cell phones and spread the words of the candidates that support their goals.  The other three candidates there in GOD’s house promised to give V.O.I.C.E. Arlington County’s land and money to support V.O.I.C.E.’s goal of building more affordable housing.  The other three candidates there all agreed to meet with all the preachers after the election and would build a plan to transfer assets to them.  I was the only candidate there that said no.  I would not agree to transfer taxpayers’ assets that I have a fiduciary responsibility to protect from fraud, waste and abuse and give them to a group for their vote.  That is stealing and GOD in his Ten Commandments said “Thou Shall not Steal.”

2) There are similar deals and another one is with the teachers union of Arlington County.  Arlington County Board, made up of Democrats, is spending 45.6 % of all Arlington County revenue on our schools.  I estimate that would come to at least 60 % to 80 % of the total Arlington County real estate tax revenue.  Arlington County has the highest spending per student than any of the other schools around.  Federal workers got a 1 % pay raise this year while school teachers are in for a 3 % pay raise.  This 1 % raise has been eaten up by federal and state taxes as well as Obamacare caused increases in our health issuance premiums, increase in our deductibles and increase in the cost of our pills and the Arlington County sales tax increase put in to place last year.  According to Arlington County we are having issues with the county’s ability to pay healthcare cost and pensions.

Morning Poll: ‘Virginia Is For Lovers’ License Plates

by ARLnow.com | April 3, 2014 at 10:00 am | 1,875 views | No Comments

New Virginia license plateYou’re now starting to see them around town.

Virginia’s new standard license plate, featuring the famous tourism slogan “Virginia Is For Lovers,” began being issued by the DMV last month. ARLnow.com has spotted several cars around Arlington sporting the new-look tags.

Other than the slogan — with a heart instead of the “v” in “lovers” — the license plate is the same blue-and-white design the Commonwealth has utilized for years. Nonetheless, when changes like this are made to something we’re all used to seeing on a daily basis, some strong feelings are sure to emerge.

What do you think about the new plates?
 

Peter’s Take: John Vihstadt for County Board

by Peter Rousselot | March 27, 2014 at 5:30 pm | 1,908 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 RousselotI’m a proud Arlington Democrat, and I am voting for Independent John Vihstadt in the April 8 special election for County Board. You can read about John’s extensive community service, the issues on which he is running, and his support from across the political spectrum here.

This election is about Arlington’s core spending priorities not about core Democratic Party values.

When John Vihstadt announced his candidacy for County Board on December 12, 2013, he stated:

Something is seriously wrong when schools across Arlington are over capacity and fighting for funding, while County leaders continue to plow millions into high profile projects beyond the scope of core community needs like education and public safety.

I agree. These are the bread-and-butter issues that our local government has the responsibility to solve.

Arlington’s current budget priorities have been set by a group of long-term incumbent County Board members who happen to be Democrats. Their budget priorities are wrong for Arlington. Those priorities would be wrong regardless of the political affiliation of any Board member who sought to perpetuate them.

Whether to spend $310+ million on an unnecessary Columbia Pike streetcar is not a core Democratic Party value. Whether to spend $80+ million on a gold-plated Aquatics Center at Long Bridge Park is not a core Democratic Party value. Whether to spend $1 million on a bus stop is not a core Democratic Party value.

The harder issue for some Arlington Democrats is whether to vote for John Vihstadt or vote for his Democratic opponent simply because that opponent is the Democratic candidate. Before deciding to support Vihstadt, I tried and failed to convince two other prominent Arlington Democrats to run for election to this seat. I then decided to support Vihstadt because simply being the Democratic candidate in this election is not enough of a qualification.

Arlington Democrats should join me and many other Democrats in voting for Vihstadt because the current County Board has grown so insular and set in its ways that it needs someone like Vihstadt, who has the independence and experience to change the Board’s current dynamic. Vihstadt’s Democratic opponent does not have sufficient independence and experience to do that.

I have never in my lifetime voted for anyone other than a Democrat for any elected office. On April 8, I am going to vote for John Vihstadt because it is more important to me to change the dynamic on the current Board than to preserve my 50-year record of voting only for Democrats.

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.

Column: Moving Forward with Alan Howze

by ARLnow.com | March 27, 2014 at 5:00 pm | 919 views | No Comments

The following is a guest column, submitted by Ed Fendley. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Ed Fendley(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) Arlington is an exceptionally good community. Our schools, our parks, and our walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented neighborhoods are all recognized nationally.

We didn’t get here by accident. Arlington voters in recent decades have chosen smart, progressive leaders. Our County Board has invested in our community, and those investments have paid off economically and with an improved quality of life.

Arlington now faces a choice. Do we continue on the progressive path that has served us so well? Or do we try a different approach?

I urge Arlington voters to join me in protecting what has made Arlington great.

Democrat Alan Howze combines the best traditions of Arlington civic engagement with new perspectives and energy. Howze is a community leader and an active school parent, and he brings a business background.

In his community work and on the campaign trail, Alan Howze has demonstrated wisdom and judgment. Anyone who has worked with Alan — including his former boss, then-Gov. Mark Warner — recognizes his skills.

Alan Howze is unapologetically policy-oriented. That is, he typifies Arlington and its informed, caring voters. Howze promises to promote innovation, and his thoughtfulness as a candidate and in his professional career gives us reason to believe he’ll deliver.

It’s not easy being an elected official. One more important thing about Alan is that he’s really hard working. I have talked with people all over the County who’ve been so pleased that Alan has knocked on their door. He’s done this all through the winter, and gotten to know Arlington residents in all our wonderful diversity. A common theme of people who’ve talked with Alan is their confidence that he has listened to them.

Alan will also bring to the County Board a perspective that is missing — that of a parent with children in our public schools. No one on the County Board — and no other candidates in this race — has children in Arlington Public Schools today. Alan is vested and committed to our schools. This is why Arlington Educators recommend his election.

Howze faces John Vihstadt, a longtime civic and Republican party activist. It is commendable that Vihstadt is running a serious campaign. The problem is that he, like his party, is on the wrong side of today’s issues.

Vihstadt’s pitch is that Arlington can no longer afford to invest in what has made our community so strong. But Arlington has never before chosen the disinvestment path. Vihstadt has given us no sound reason to roll back our efforts at the very time when we face challenges ranging from burgeoning school enrollment to a newly urgent need to do our part to protect the natural environment.

It is also curious that Vihstadt, who was the top 2008 honoree of Arlington Republicans and is a perennial big-dollar Republican donor, has indicated that for the purposes of this campaign he is not a Republican. Yet, he sought and received the endorsement of the Arlington Republicans. This strikes me as disingenuous.

If you believe Arlington’s best days are behind us, vote for Republican Vihstadt.

If you believe in Arlington, and our promise to get even better, please join me in voting for Democrat Alan Howze.

Ed Fendley is a Democrat and a former Arlington County School Board chairman. 

The Right Note: When You Cast a Vote for County Board

by Mark Kelly | March 27, 2014 at 4:30 pm | 630 views | No Comments

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

Mark KellyConsider voting for a change.

Last week I attended my neighborhood community forum, which featured the leading County Board candidates — Alan Howze and John Vihstadt. After the forum, I spoke to one of my neighbors who made a simple observation. He told me that the message was clear to those in attendance. If you want to continue with the status quo, you will vote for Alan. If you want to put someone who will change things up, you will vote for John.

The candidates difference on their approach to government is exemplified by their positions on the Columbia Pike trolley. Howze made the case to move forward with it as planned. Vihstadt, a regular bus rider, countered that bus rapid transit would provide the same value in moving people at a fraction of the cost.

Howze will almost certainly chase the shiny ball of vanity projects. Vihstadt will take a more common sense approach that keeps value for our tax dollars in mind.

John Vihstadt, in making his case for running as an Independent, noted that potholes, water mains, trash pickup and street lights are not partisan issues. He also noted that the three candidates for the 2012 special election — Libby Garvey (Democrat), Audrey Clement (Green) and me — all had endorsed him in this campaign.

Alan Howze twice, in his opening and closing statements, called his Independent opponent a Republican — both times to audible jeering from the audience. Howze’s standard talking point fell flat. He was standing in the middle of three precincts where a majority of voters had voted for me running as a Republican two years earlier.

Calling Vihstadt a Republican seems to be one of the key pillars of Howze’s campaign strategy. The Howze campaign is using it online, while knocking on doors and making phone calls. It seems as though it is the worst thing Howze can think of to say about an opponent who spent 30 years giving back to his community on countless boards, commissions, and civic organizations. Vihstadt worked with Arlingtonians from all political stripes in those activities, and in return he has received significant endorsements from across the political spectrum.

It is not a new strategy for Democrats. Back in 2012, a Democrat volunteer called one of my supporters and said that Republicans were responsible for what was wrong in Arlington. My supporter reminded him that Democrats had controlled the County Board for nearly three decades and asked how it was possible Republicans could be held responsible?

Whatever party you identify with, one thing is clear — Democrat County Board members own every issue you have with how Arlington County operates. The trolley, the million dollar bus stop, red tape for businesses, the gold-plated aquatics center, the neverending Artisphere subsidies, the failure to maintain our roads, our aging infrastructure and the failure to take community input into account despite having more meetings to do so, are because of Democrat decisions.

If you want things to change after April 8, you have to send a clear message to the Democrats who have run Arlington for 30 years. Electing John Vihstadt, a proven independent voice, will send that message.

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

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