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by ARLnow.com — November 20, 2014 at 11:00 am 1,178 0

Local political blogger and Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett, who correctly predicted that the election of John Vihstadt would doom Arlington’s streetcar project, recently analyzed the Nov. 4 County Board election on the public access program Inside Scoop Virginia.

Tribbett placed the blame for Democrat Alan Howze’s stunning defeat squarely on the shoulders of the County Board itself and its communication “meltdowns.”

“The Arlington County Board is insular, arrogant, doesn’t listen well to the community, insults people when they disagree with them,” Tribbett said.

In addition to discussing the role the streetcar, the million dollar bus stop and other spending projects played in stoking voter discontentment, he examined the precinct-by-precinct crossover vote — those who voted for Democratic Sen. Mark Warner but also voted for independent John Vihstadt.

The smallest crossover vote margin in a precinct was 28 percent, Tribbett said. The largest was 82 percent, in the Arlington Forest precinct, which has objected to a plan to build affordable housing on top of the neighborhood’s Lubber Run Community Center.

Tribbett also blasted the belief of some Democrats that John Vihstadt “tricked” voters by running as an independent and not as a Republican.

“Arlington County has just been full of debacles recently. You can see how Democrats are upset at the local level and making conscientious decisions,” he said. “This is where the Arlington County Board is really messing up. These are extremely well-educated voters. They know exactly what they’re doing. They’re not mistakenly voting for the Republican. And [Democratic leaders] keep expecting them to turn around as if it’s a mistake.”

“[It's] in the heart of the most liberal area of Northern Virginia… the whole thing in Arlington has just been breathtaking,” Tribbett concluded.

by ARLnow.com — November 10, 2014 at 10:00 am 2,999 0

John Vihstadt debates at the Arlington Civic federation on Sept. 2, 2014There are many reasons cited for Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt’s historic electoral victory last week.

Most explanations seem to center around concern about county spending projects. Among them: the delayed and increasingly expensive streetcar system, the indefinitely delayed $80+ million Long Bridge Park aquatics center, the delayed and occasionally problematic $1.6 million Clarendon dog park, and the delayed and occasionally problematic $1 million bus stop.

If you voted for Vihstadt, which of the following, if any, was foremost in your mind in the voting booth?

by Ethan Rothstein — November 7, 2014 at 10:30 am 4,233 0

John Vihstadt greeting a voter outside the Walter Reed Recreation Center 11/4/14 Alan Howze talks to a voter outside the Wilson School in Rosslyn 11/4/14

No one, not even the closest of followers, expected Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt to win re-election on Tuesday by as big a margin as he did.

Vihstadt, an independent, became the first non-Democrat elected to the County Board since 1983. But the eye-opener was how he did it: by winning 39 out of 52 Arlington precincts, even though every one of those precincts chose Sen. Mark Warner (D). Vihstadt took almost 56 percent of the vote and received almost 7,500 votes more than Democratic challenger Alan Howze, out of 62,663 votes cast.

In his regular post-election report to the Arlington County Democratic Committee on Wednesday night, former Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary struck a somber tone and said he was surprised by low turnout.

“I woke up this morning and I didn’t feel so good,” he said. “We had a turnout of about 48 percent. That stinks, particularly when you’re expecting a turnout as high as 61 percent. What the heck is going on? Very disappointing… I had talked about the County Board race that if turnout gets down to 60,000, if Vihstadt had 30,000 he was going to win.

“He did it,” O’Leary continued. “It didn’t seem possible, it didn’t seem likely, but it happened. The end result, if we look in terms of comparisons: first our candidate won 13 precincts, Mr. Vihstadt won 40. That’s really unheard of. I can’t even think of the last time that occurred. Last time I can think of anything like this was 1979.”

The numbers blew Vihstadt’s campaign manager Eric Brescia away, he told ARLnow.com in a phone interview yesterday (Thursday).

“We were not expecting it to be like this,” he said. “When it came in, it was just euphoric. You always have doubts; it’s very rare in modern politics that you get this many people to split their ticket. Somehow this got pulled off. I didn’t fall asleep that night just because of the adrenaline.”

Brescia said the streetcar was on many voters’ minds, but voters had other concerns, too. Vihstadt is adamantly against the streetcar, while Howze supports it.

“The streetcar was the biggest one issue, and we definitely made it a big part of our materials,” the campaign manager said. “It definitely wasn’t the only thing going on. A lot of people have generic frustrations with the county, responsiveness issues, spending issues, feeling like they’re not being listened to.”

County Board Chair Jay Fisette — who, along with Board members Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes, still make up a pro-streetcar voting majority on the Board – said Vihstadt’s messaging related to the streetcar caught voters’ attention. Fisette suggested voters chose Vihstadt because they were misinformed about the streetcar.

“I think there has been a lot of focus in the last year on that issue,” Fisette said after the ADCDC meeting. “This community has such a history of being thoughtful and policy-oriented … Here on this issue, what has been created and what we see at the moment is a lack of even agreement on some fundamental core facts about the issue.

“It’s almost like climate change,” Fisette continued. “Is it based on science that it’s true, or is it not?”  (more…)

by Ethan Rothstein — November 5, 2014 at 3:05 pm 6,018 0

John Vihstadt high-fives fellow County Board member Libby Garvey at his election party Nov. 4, 2014(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) The shockwaves around the re-election of John Vihstadt to the Arlington County Board last night continue to reverberate today, with many around Arlington wondering if the county is about to undergo a major policy shift.

“The streetcar is dead,” local political blogger and strategist Ben Tribbett told ARLnow.com last night at the Democrats’ election party in Crystal City. “The voters spoke so overwhelmingly tonight. There’s absolutely no way that [County Board members] Mary [Hynes] and Walter [Tejada] can win re-election if they’re running as pro-streetcar candidates next year. The voters have spoken on this now. It’s over.”

The growing chorus that the majority of the County Board — Chair Jay Fisette, as well as Hynes and Tejada — are out of touch with the voters was bolstered by Vihstadt’s margin of victory. The Republican-endorsed independent won 55.76 percent of the vote to Democrat Alan Howze’s 43.8 percent — less than his margin of victory in the April special election but still a big surprise to many who follow Arlington politics, who haven’t seen a non-Democrat win a County Board general election since 1983.

Howze won just 13 of Arlington’s 52 precincts. By comparison, Democrat Sen. Mark Warner won the majority of votes in every one of Arlington’s precincts, and took 70.59 percent of Arlington ballots.

It’s that result that led Arlington County Democratic Committee President Kip Malinosky to determine that Vihstadt’s victory was not from a lack of Democratic voter turnout, but rather the issues and candidates themselves.

“At this point, I’m not prepared to say what the message [voters sent] was, I’d like to look deep into it and hear a lot more,” he told ARLnow.com last night. “Arlington is a wonderful place to live, it’s well-governed, low crime, low unemployment rate. But people are obviously unsatisfied about something, so we’re going to have to do better.”

County Board member Libby Garvey, a Democrat, threw her support behind Vihstadt before the April special election to replace Chris Zimmerman, and was forced to resign from the ACDC executive committee for it. Last night, she experienced a mix of elation and relief at Vihstadt’s home in Tara-Leeway Heights, realizing her efforts had been validated by tens of thousands of Arlington voters.

“This is a mandate,” she said emphatically. “I think our colleagues on the Board have gotten out of touch with what people want, including Democrats. It’s just really a wonderful validation of what we’ve been saying and what we’ve been thinking. I think the people of Arlington are taking back control of their county and that’s a good thing.”

Tribbett agreed, taking it a step further. He said Howze shouldn’t take the blame for the loss; instead, it’s on the Board’s own lack of trust with voters and on the local Democratic leadership.

“It’s on the County Board 100 percent,” Tribbett said.

“This is the problem with Arlington Democrats. They spent the time after they lost the special election, and here’s the arrogant response: ‘When we get more voters, they’ll just take our sample ballot, and they won’t know the issues, so they’ll vote for our candidate,’” he continued. “Their plan is to hope that people aren’t informed? Well, this is one of the most educated electorates in the country, and they just told them basically to eff themselves with that kind of strategy, to rely on them being misinformed. Gimme a break. They ought to be embarrassed.”

While Tribbett believes the Columbia Pike streetcar to be a political impossibility at this point, groups that support it say the election shouldn’t be seen as a referendum on the streetcar.

“It would be reading too much into Arlington voters’ intentions to ascribe the election of John Vihstadt to a full term on the Arlington Board over Alan Howze primarily to the debate over the Columbia Pike streetcar,” said the Coalition for Smarter Growth, in a press release this afternoon. “Streetcar opponents linked the price tag of the streetcar to general concerns over government spending and the state of the economy… [but] we are confident that the streetcar will continue to stand up to scrutiny and prove to be the best investment for the Columbia Pike Corridor.”

Tejada said he hopes the Board can “work together in a respectful manner” and “find as much common ground as possible.” He deflected questions about the future of the streetcar and concerns over his and Hynes’ ability to win re-election in 2015. Instead, Tejada championed the achievement of agreeing on the streetcar plan without sacrificing any affordable housing on Columbia Pike.

Tejada also obliquely referred to Garvey and Vihstadt’s rhetoric as “divisive,” saying many of the Board’s critics are “condensing” the issues into “sound bites.” He said he looked forward to “continue to inform details to the community, particularly factual information that it took quite a long time to get to.”

“I think this is a crossroads moment in time for Arlington,” Tejada said. “We need to decide whether we’re going to become a timid and stagnant community or are we going to continue to be bold and innovative and craft difficult strategic policies that will sustain us in the future in all parts of the county.”

by ARLnow.com — November 4, 2014 at 7:45 pm 14,694 0

(Updated at 2:00 a.m.) Incumbent County Board candidate John Vihstadt, running as an independent, has won a historic victory in Tuesday’s general election.

With all 53 precincts reporting, Vihstadt has captured 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Democratic challenger Alan Howze. Vihstadt’s margin of victory is just shy of 7,500 votes, with 62,663 total votes cast in the race.

Vihstadt won by attracting a sizable number of Democratic votes. All Arlington precincts reviewed by ARLnow voted for the top of the Democratic ticket, incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who is in a tight statewide race with Republican Ed Gillespie.

Vihstadt is the first non-Democrat to win an Arlington County Board seat in a general election since Republican Mike Brunner won in 1983. (Ellen Bozman was elected to the County Board in 1985 and 1989 while running as an independent, but she was endorsed by the Democratic party and in 1993 won reelection as a Democrat.)

“We’ve made modern history in Arlington County,” Vihstadt told ARLnow.com at his election party. “In my view, this was not a victory for any one person or any one party, it was a victory for a new way of doing things, a fresh perspective and a new paradigm in Arlington County where partisanship doesn’t mean much but citizenship means everything.”

Howze called Vihstadt to concede the race at 9:15 tonight. He said he was disappointed with the result, which came despite hard work on the campaign trail by his supporters.

“There was a message of dissatisfaction with the electorate,” Howze said. “I worked hard to bring new ideas and a new perspective to the County Board. They chose John and the alternative path he put forward. He ran a very good campaign, ultimately the voters rewarded him for that.”

Now off the campaign trail, Howze said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife and three young children.

At the Vihstadt victory party, the mood was jubilant, with campaign manager Eric Brescia jumping for joy as more and more precincts reported wider and wider margins for Vihstadt. County Board member Libby Garvey was by Vihstadt’s side during his victory speech, and was giddy after the victory. A Democrat, Garvey resigned from the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s executive board in April after backing Vihstadt.

“This wasn’t just a squeaker, we won it big,” Garvey said. “It’s a validation of what I’ve been saying, what John’s been saying. We serve the people of Arlington and we presented them with what we think needs to happen, and they said ‘yes, that’s what we want.’ It’s democracy at its best. I’m thrilled.”

Barbara Kanninen defeated Audrey Clement in one of two School Board races tonight. Kanninen has 66 percent of the vote to 34 for Clement. Nancy Van Doren, running for School Board unopposed, has 97 percent of the vote.

Across Virginia’s Eighth Congressional District, which includes Arlington, Democrat Don Beyer has emerged victorious over his four opponents. Beyer captured 63 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Republican Micah Edmond, 2 percent for Libertarian Jeffrey Carson, 0.5 percent for Independent Green candidate Gerard Blais, and 3 percent for independent Gwendolyn Beck.

“My whole life has been leading up to this moment and this mission,” Beyer said in a statement tonight. “Together, we will move Congress and this nation forward.”

In the statewide race for U.S. Senate, with 98 percent of precincts reporting, Democratic incumbent Mark Warner has 49.18 percent of the vote, Republican Ed Gillespie has 48.27 percent and Libertarian Robert Sarvis has 2.48 percent.

Though news outlets like CNN have yet to project a winner in the race, an “energized” Warner took the stage at his election night party at the DoubleTree Crystal City hotel to declare victory. A centrist, Warner promised to work across the aisle in the newly-Republican controlled Senate.

“Whether it’s here in Virginia or anywhere around the country, the people of America want to move past sound bites, they want us to move past political bickering… to make sure that we get the job done for you and actually govern,” he said. “I’ll go back to Washington and recognize that we have to find that common ground. I know that most of us here are Democrats but neither political party has a monopoly on truth or virtue or patriotism. In this new Senate I’ll work with anyone — Democrat, Republican, independent, you name it — if we’re going to make sure we get our country’s problems fixed.”

Among other things, Warner pledged to a work to pass a budget “so we don’t go back to the stupidity of sequestration.”

Locally, voters on Tuesday approved the all four Arlington County bond questions on the ballot, including:

  • Schools ($105.7 million)
  • Metro and Transportation ($59.7 million)
  • Community Infrastructure ($40.2 million)
  • Parks and Recreation ($13 million)

Democrat Carla de la Pava, running unopposed for county treasurer, captured 97 percent of the vote. (more…)

by ARLnow.com — November 4, 2014 at 3:55 pm 1,175 0

(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) The two candidates for Arlington County Board both say they’re feeling optimistic about their chances in today’s general election, but they also admitted that it’s anyone’s guess who will emerge victorious in the race.

Incumbent John Vihstadt, who’s running as an independent, said his campaign has “the message, the momentum and the means to win,” but said he’s “concerned” about the number of Democratic voters who came out specifically to vote on the congressional races, and are voting a straight party line by default.

“We would like to think most people who come out to vote, if they’re going to cast a vote for an office, that they will be informed and they’ll study the candidates in advance,” Vihstadt said while greeting voters outside the Walter Reed Recreation Center, near Columbia Pike. “There’s bound to be some people who just vote party line and don’t really look at the issues. But we feel confident that if voters judge the candidates, look at the issues, look at our background, that they’ll vote Vihstadt for County Board.”

A majority of the voters who talked to ARLnow.com outside the Walter Reed center around lunchtime said they opposed the Columbia Pike streetcar project, the election’s most talked-about issue. Vihstadt opposes the streetcar, while Democratic challenger Alan Howze generally supports it.

Howze acknowledged the “power of the sample ballot” helping his cause, but said he expects his progressive message to resonate with Arlington residents.

“A healthy democracy is always a good thing,” Howze said, while talking to voters outside the Wilson School voting center in Rosslyn. “Having a lot of people out participating in the process will give us a clear signal as to the direction the community wants to go.”

Howze, a father of three young children, said his campaign has been “a family and a community effort,” with a big assist from his wife, Pam.

“We’ve been working hard, we’ve done everything we can do, and now it’s up to the voters to decide,” Howze said. “We’re confident that the voters will choose to move Arlington forward.”

Vihstadt said his campaign has been fighting an uphill battle to reach voters who aren’t as engaged in local issues as those who voted for him over Howze in the County Board special election earlier this year. He’s hoping the Washington Post’s endorsement will help, as well as his television commercials, which have run during primetime football games and other cable TV programming.

“Cable TV ads… were surprisingly affordable, and we decided to give it a go,” Vihstadt said. “We’ve got great feedback, great response from those ads. The other nice thing about that ad is that it broadcasts the fact that as an independent we’re supported by parties across the political spectrum.”

Despite strong turnout this morning, so far few problems have been reported at polling stations. Arlington election officials tweeted that a party worker who had been handing out flyers outside Fire Station No. 10 in Rosslyn collapsed and was treated by emergency responders around 3:00 this afternoon.

Many voters who talked to ARLnow.com today said they were voting out of a sense of civic responsibility.

“I vote in every election because I think it’s our civic duty. I don’t miss a vote,” said Columbia Pike resident Nathan Chaisson.

“I am a huge supporter of Mark Warner, I think he’s done a wonderful job for this state,” Chaisson said of one of the factors that motivated his vote. “[I'm] satisfied with the taxes and the way our local government is run.”

Another voter, Alan Green, said he was voting after just getting back from serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq.

“I just want to come out here and do my part,” said Green. “People who don’t vote, that’s crazy. It’s one way you can express your thoughts and feelings to get the right person in the house.”

“We just need to get somebody… to make better decisions than we’ve got right now,” Green added. “Because right now it’s terrible. Basically we need to get things fixed because a lot of things are broken.”

by Ethan Rothstein — November 4, 2014 at 11:15 am 2,409 0

Many polling places across Arlington had lines out the door as voters streamed in to decide Senate, House of Representatives, County Board and School Board races today.

At Arlington Traditional School (855 N. Edison Street), campaign workers stationed outside the school said lines were surprisingly long considering there is no presidential election this year. Wes Pippert has voted at the school for 20 years, and he said turnout was unusually strong.

Pippert said he hasn’t been following local issues, but that didn’t stop him from voting for all four bond measures — Metro and transportation, parks and recreation, capital projects and schools — on the ballot.

“I voted for County Board and School Board,” Pippert said, “but I can’t say I was very informed.”

Pippert’s son and daughter voted with him, and his son said he voted for Audrey Clement for School Board because he “liked her name” more than Barbara Kanninen’s.

Judy Word and Andrew Smoyer also voted at Arlington Traditional School, but they said they have been paying more attention to local issues — particularly the Columbia Pike streetcar — than in years past.

“I think the bulk of voters in the County Board election are voting their opinion on the streetcar,” Smoyer said. “We both thought more about it, because usually we vote party line. More than in previous years we had to think separately about the issues.”

Martha Deutscher voted at Washington-Lee High School, and she said she votes every year as a “loyal Democrat.”

“Streetcars don’t cross my mind,” she said. “I’m a Democrat, I usually vote Democrat. I’m just here to support the party.”

Arlington General Registrar Linda Lindberg predicts turnout in Arlington will be “about 50 percent” and said turnout is about 10-15 percent so far. The turnout is heavier in North Arlington than in South Arlington so far, Lindberg said, which is typical of most elections, despite the prominence of the streetcar in the race.

There have been complaints about faulty ballot machines in Culpepper Gardens and Arlington Traditional School — one ballot box froze at Washington-Lee but was quickly rebooted, according to the precinct chief — but Lindberg said that could simply be due to voter error.

“Our machines are definitely aging at 11 years old, and seldom does one keep a touchscreen device that long,” she said. “We have had a few issues with voters not properly making selections or complaining the selections they make aren’t registering. At Culpepper there are a lot of elderly voters who don’t always touch carefully. The election officers have been instructed to tell voters having difficulty making selections to either touch directly straight down on the selection or to use a stylus. We haven’t had issues when voters touch their selections properly.”

According to Lindberg, Arlington received 6,800 absentee votes, with “probably several hundred ballots still to be returned,” putting the absentee turnout at less than in the 2010 midterms that didn’t feature a Senate election. This election features the race to replace longtime Rep. Jim Moran, and Independent candidate Gwendolyn Beck was campaigning at Washington-Lee High School this morning.

Beck said it’s her goal to visit every polling place in the 8th Congressional District today, and she started with “packed” polling places Wilson School and Fire Station 10 in Rosslyn. In Rosslyn, she saw several voters she met on Saturday when campaigning during the Clarendon bar crawl.

“That’s the big question: how do you reach millennials?” she said. “You meet them where they go out.”

by Ethan Rothstein — October 31, 2014 at 4:30 pm 2,184 0

John Vihstadt at the County Board candidates debate 3/4/14The Washington Post editorial board has given Republican-backed Independent John Vihstadt its endorsement for Tuesday’s Arlington County Board election.

The Post said Vihstadt would be a “badly needed independent voice” on the otherwise all-Democratic, five-member County Board. Vihstadt was elected to the Board in April in a special election, when he defeated Democrat Alan Howze by a 57-to-41 percent margin.

Howze is again running against Vihstadt, and local prognosticators are predicting this race will be closer; former Arlington treasurer Francis O’Leary thinks Howze will win because of a greater turnout of Democratic “party line” voters. However, the Post writes, the issues that led voters to choose Vihstadt in April haven’t changed.

The editorial board writes:

… Many Democrats have accorded Mr. Vihstadt grudging respect as someone who formulates and presents his views intelligently; he is no tea party bomb thrower. Equally important, in our view, is his insistence that the county reevaluate other expensive projects, such as a proposal for a state-of-the-art aquatic center, which he regards as unaffordable.

Whether Mr. Vihstadt prevails or not, it’s important for Arlington to have the debate; without him, the board runs the risk of groupthink.

The Post writes that it supports the Columbia Pike streetcar, and praised Howze as “a very capable candidate,” but said Vihstadt’s “civil and cogent” arguments against the streetcar have earned him the chance to serve a four-year term. Vihstadt has also been endorsed by Arlington County firefighters for his commitment to public safety

Howze has been endorsed by Greater Greater Washington and environmental group Sierra Club.

In its editorial, the Post also endorses Barbara Kanninen over Audrey Clement for School Board, citing Kanninen’s experience working with children’s issues.

by Ethan Rothstein — October 28, 2014 at 11:00 am 1,235 0

The polling place for the Lyon Park voting precinct has moved for the Nov. 4 election, from its normal location at the Lyon Park Community Center to the Garfield Park Apartments.

The community center closed temporarily for major renovations on Oct. 1, but voters in Arlington’s 15th voting precinct — generally, homes south of 10th Street N., east of N. Garfield Street and north and west of Arlington Blvd — have yet to be notified of their new voting center, at 925 N. Garfield Street.

Arlington County General Registrar Linda Lindberg told ARLnow.com today “we are in the process of mailing notices to voters,” and signs are posted at the community center. After they were notified of the community center’s long-term closure, the county struggled to find a suitable replacement.

“Because of a shortage of suitable facilities within the precinct, finding an alternative took a little longer than we would have preferred, but Garfield Park came through for us,” Lindberg said in an email. “Voting will remain there until the community center reopens.”

The Sun Gazette reported on Friday that a June 2015 primary — such as for County Board and Arlington’s General Assembly seats — would also likely have Garfield Park as its polling place before an expected switch back to the community center for next November.

Polling places are determined by local governments, Lindberg said, but because of the short notice before the election, the Electoral Board decided to make an “emergency” switch. The new polling place location must be approved by the County Board with a public hearing, the process for which will happen after the election.

Garfield Park is at the northwestern most corner of the voting precinct, several blocks from the community center, which is on the district’s western edge but more centrally located (it’s the location in yellow on the map in the above photo gallery). At least one resident is concerned about the last-minute change and how it affects voter accessibility.

“This change will certainly result in a much lower turnout for this precinct and prevent many elderly and disabled from voting,” Lyon Park resident Martin Lee told ARLnow.com in an email.

Lindberg said that, like all other polling places in the county, “there will be specific parking blocked off for voters who need accessible spaces.” Voters will enter the apartment building through the community room, and signs will be posted to direct them to the ballot box.

by ARLnow.com — October 24, 2014 at 11:10 am 1,253 0

Towers ParkArlington County needs more park and recreational facilities, and existing parkland shouldn’t be used for housing or other development.

That’s the message from the two candidates for County Board, incumbent John Vihstadt and Democratic challenger Alan Howze, in response to a questionnaire from the Arlington Parks Coalition.

Both Vihstadt and Howze said that Arlington needs more parkland and recreational space to meet existing needs, let alone future demands. Both said they would support the acquisition of new parkland by Arlington County.

In addition, Vihstadt floated a number of specific ideas, like “building up rather than out, in schools and public facilities construction and additions to maximize green space,” and “examining the feasibility of air rights over I-66 in Rosslyn and East Falls Church for fields development.”

On the topic of the “Public Land for Public Good” affordable housing initiative, both candidates rejected the idea of using parkland for affordable housing, schools or other purposes.

Howze, however, kept the door open to potentially redeveloping existing recreational facilities to include housing. His response to the Parks Coalition:

I do not support the development of existing parkland for other purposes. Parks are a public good that are available to all members of the community and it is important that we preserve these public spaces.

When current recreational facilities are renovated or rebuilt, I believe it is appropriate to engage in a community conversation about potential uses. For example, could pre-K and on-site childcare be integrated into a site – making it easier for parents to use a facility? Could housing for seniors be integrated on a site to make recreational amenities and wellness activities more accessible to them? There is no one size fits all answer to these questions – but by engaging the community I am confident that the appropriate solutions will emerge. In fact, it is this confidence in our community that led me to call earlier this year for a broad public process to bring people together to work towards solutions to address school overcrowding, park needs, affordable housing, and public safety infrastructure. By bringing the community together we can emerge with a broader consensus for how to move forward in protecting our parks – while meeting other important community needs in schools, recreational, housing and infrastructure.

Vihstadt said Arlington should find creative solutions for preserving affordable housing and building more school capacity that do not require the loss of parkland.

In my view, Arlington’s 149 parks and our many community/recreation centers are the very essence of “public land for public good” and should be preserved for their intended purpose and adequately maintained. It is both counterintuitive and counterproductive to locate housing, schools, or any other non-parks and recreation-related development on our increasingly precious parkland and recreational sites, and I will work and vote to keep our green space green. As we add ever more population and density to our County, we must more carefully assess how our development decisions are impacting the diversity and character of our neighborhoods and our public parks, as well as our schools and infrastructure. We must also endeavor to ensure that our core services, including our parks and recreation resources, keep pace with our population growth. Clearly, our County faces challenges in ensuring adequate school capacity and preserving our affordable housing stock, but I believe we also possess the resources and creativity to address these challenges while preserving and, indeed, enhancing, our parkland and recreational resources, including sports fields.

On a related note, I believe that our regional parks and nature centers should remain substantially as they are, absent community-driven upgrades and maintenance improvements.

by Ethan Rothstein — October 23, 2014 at 2:35 pm 813 0

Ed Gillespie in RosslynEd Gillespie is the Republican challenger for Sen. Mark Warner’s (D) seat in the Nov. 4 election, and he knows he has an uphill battle to claim votes in deeply Democratic Arlington.

Gillespie is behind by double-digits in statewide polls, but he sees an opportunity in Arlington to connect with young voters frustrated by the lagging economic recovery.

“We enjoy a lot of strong support here from a lot of young professionals,” he said. “There’s big numbers here, and we have to get our numbers up. It’s an important part of the Commonwealth. I want to be a servant leader for all Virginians, that means taking your message everywhere, including places that I know historically, in the voting patterns, aren’t Republican strongholds. But that doesn’t matter to me. I think it’s important to take your message everywhere.”

Gillespie served as Chairman of the Republican National Committee and counsel to President George W. Bush, and started his own lobbying and consulting firms. His consulting firm, Ed Gillespie Strategies, closed in Old Town Alexandria earlier this year to allow Gillespie to focus on his campaign.

Gillespie is against same-sex marriage, but said he prefers to let the states legislate their own marriage laws.

Gillespie lives in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, and said “there was a time when I used to play golf,” but he spend most of his time on the campaign trail or with family nowadays. The time he spends in Arlington, he said, is either campaigning or making the occasional trip to the Pentagon City mall. Gillespie visited Rosslyn’s ÜberOffices last week and sat down with ARLnow.com for an interview.

Ed Gillespie in RosslynAround his favorite Arlington hangout, office vacancies have skyrocketed in the years since the Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure plan that moved thousands of defense jobs out of Arlington. Gillespie said he doesn’t think the BRAC process needs to be changed, but admitted “it has made mistakes.”

“We’ve cut about $986 billion from our military and our defense since Sen. Warner took office, $500 billion through the sequester, which is a random, arbitrary and deep cut,” he said. “I would work to restore those cuts because I think our military does need to be a higher priority than it is under this administration. ”

Gillespie wants to replace the Affordable Care Act and “supports oil, coal and natural gas production, including deep sea drilling.” He also said he advocates widening I-66, both inside and outside the Beltway.

Gillespie said he realizes Arlington “has got a set of priorities” — county leaders have repeatedly opposed proposals to widen the Arlington stretch of I-66 — but thinks the highway should be widened regardless.

by Ethan Rothstein — October 21, 2014 at 12:30 pm 1,290 0

Issue buttons to be distributed by Alan Howze's campaignDemocratic Arlington County Board candidate Alan Howze, trying to unseat the first non-Democratic Board member since 1999, is using buttons with issue buzzwords on them to try to generate a new wave of enthusiasm for his campaign.

The buttons, instead of being splashed with the candidate’s name in big letters, instead feature issues Howze’s campaign believes are most important to Arlington voters, like “great schools,” “mobility” and “affordability.”

“We created these campaign buttons after listening to residents express what makes Arlington special and what issues matter most to them,” Howze said in a press release. “From great schools to thinking ahead to open space, the buttons capture essential elements of our community. The buttons are a great way to start a conversation about our vision for the future of Arlington.”

Howze is trailing behind Vihstadt — who won the April special election by a 57-41 percent margin after former Board member Chris Zimmerman resigned in February — in fundraising less than a month before Election Day on Nov. 4. This morning, Howze issued a separate press release announcing his goal of “zero pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths from vehicle accidents,” and a plan to accomplish that, including accelerating the Intersection of Doom improvements.

Howze’s plan calls for “complete safe routes to ALL Arlington schools,” expanding sidewalks and increasing police attention toward drivers making unsafe maneuvers for pedestrians and cyclists. He has also recently released campaign plans for improving the Columbia Pike streetcar and enhancing discussion on public land use.

This morning, the Sun Gazette endorsed Vihstadt, saying his months of service on the County Board have proven he’s willing to ask questions other Board members do not:

In another year, Howze might well be our choice, as we think he does want to tackle significant issues.

But the message his election would send to the Democratic oligarchy that has run Arlington — sometimes exceptionally well, but not always so – over past decades is that the public has gotten the anger out of its system, and it’s back to business as usual. That can’t be allowed to happen.

“It’s not divisive to ask questions, and question authority,” Vihstadt said at a recent candidate forum. “If I lose, the status quo prevails.”

He’s right, and while Alan Howze likely would be a fine County Board member — far better than he has been as a candidate – we think it’s the wrong time to turn back the clock. Vihstadt deserves a four-year term.

by Ethan Rothstein — October 17, 2014 at 3:30 pm 971 0

John Vihstadt and Alan Howze debate at the Arlington Civic federation on Sept. 2, 2014Incumbent John Vihstadt continues to outpace Democratic challenger Alan Howze in fundraising before the two square off in the Nov. 4 Arlington County Board election.

According to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project, Vihstadt enters the home stretch of the election with $89,058 in cash on hand after raising $42,908 last month. Howze has $22,800 in cash on hand after raising $36,847 last month.

Vihstadt’s biggest donation was a $5,000 gift from Arlington County firefighters, who gave him $2,500 during his special election campaign against Howze in April. That election, in which Vihstadt also outraised Howze, the Republican-endorsed independent became the first non-Democrat member of the County Board in more than a decade.

Outside of the firefighters group, all of Vihstadt’s receipts of $1,000 or more came from individuals in Arlington, except for $1,000 from Christopher Brigham in Fairfax.

Howze received just two donations of more than $1,000: $2,500 each from Jennifer Marie Bodie and the Reston-based “Laborers Mid Atlantic Regional Organizing Coalition.” Several of Howze’s donations came from elected officials and their campaign war chests, including Walter Tejada, Del. Alfonso Lopez and state Sen. Barbara Favola.

In the race for the 8th Congressional District, Democrat Don Beyer raised almost $570,000, according to federal election filings, in the period from July 1 to Sept. 30, and has $168,468 in cash on hand. Beyer raised almost $400,000 for the Democratic primary in June, far outpacing his opponents.

Republican Micah Edmond raised $37,177 in the past quarter, and has $25,686 in cash on hand for the final month in his bid to upset Beyer, the heavy favorite.

In Virginia’s Senate race, incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D) raised just over $2 million last month to enter the final month before the election with $8.1 million in cash on hand. Republican challenger Ed Gillespie’s raised $1.8 million in the last quarter.

by ARLnow.com — October 15, 2014 at 11:15 am 1,029 0

Ashlawn Elementary School addition groundbreaking ceremony (photo courtesy APS)The Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board and School Board released a joint statement Tuesday regarding public lands and the school capacity crunch.

County Board candidate Alan Howze and School Board candidates Barbara Kanninen and Nancy Van Doren said that while the school system should address capacity needs “expeditiously and cost-effectively,” it should do so following a “broadly inclusive community process” to discuss the use of public lands for schools, parks and affordable housing.

In response, incumbent County Board candidate John Vihstadt said that while a community process is currently underway, “what is also needed is a recognition that some difficult choices will have to be made and that hard trade-offs must occur.”

School Board candidate Audrey Clement, who is running against Kanninen (Van Doren is running unopposed), in turn questioned why the county’s school construction costs and per-pupil costs are significantly higher than other Northern Virginia jurisdictions.

The full statements from the candidates, after the jump.

File photo courtesy APS

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — October 6, 2014 at 2:45 pm 1,147 0

Arlington Green Party logoThe Arlington Green Party unanimously decided last week to oppose all four bond questions on the county’s November ballot.

Party members recommend voters say no to the bonds because they are too broad. They believe approving the bonds would be the equivalent of offering blank checks to the Arlington School Board and the Arlington County Board to spend money on non-specific items.

The four bonds total nearly $219 million and include issues such as funding a new elementary school adjacent to Thomas Jefferson Middle School, as well as continuing funding for the Metro system.

“Arlington parents distrust the school board, and many feel duped by the School Board’s failure to approve a detailed CIP (Capital Improvement Plan),” said Arlington Green Party Chairman John Reeder. “South Arlington parents were promised years ago a new elementary school, now proposed to be built on scarce parkland next to TJ Middle School. Arlington parents should remember that critical on-going school programs were put on the chopping block in the past spring; and now a confused school board and a superintendent propose to rush spending $106 million on plans that are less than educationally optimal for our students.”

Party members point to past bonds approved by voters that apparently were vaguely worded and ended up funding controversial developments around the county.

“This county board built a million dollar bus stop on Columbia Pike, diverted many millions of park bond dollars approved by voters for park land acquisition to remodeling a failed Artisphere, and now proposes to spend over $300 million on a doomed trolley,” said Reeder. “Voters should be wary of allowing the county board to spend over $100 million without detailed engineering and vetted plans because of these past abuses.”

Although it has traditionally has run its own candidates in recent County Board elections, the Arlington Green Party has endorsed independent board member John Vihstadt in the November election.

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