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County Board Passes $1.15 Billion Budget

by | April 23, 2014 at 9:10 am | No Comments

County Board 2014 budget adoptionThe Arlington County Board adopted a $1.15 billion budget Tuesday night.

The Fiscal Year 2015 budget trims one cent from the county’s real estate tax rate while — thanks to a rise in property assessments — adding funds for schools, road paving and high speed fiber optic infrastructure. It also maintains service levels in other areas of county government.

The real estate tax rate is now $0.996 per $100 in assessed value, bringing the annual county tax burden on the average Arlington homeowner to $7,327.

The budget includes merit pay raises for county employees, which the County Board added back into the budget after an outcry from police and firefighter employee associations.

The Board, including newly-elected member John Vihstadt, voted unanimously for the budget. Vihstadt, who was elected on a platform of fiscal responsibility, said he was pleased with the tax rate reduction and did not want “to let the perfect be the enemy of the good” in budget deliberations.

Two other Board members echoed that sentiment in voting for the budget. Libby Garvey said she didn’t approve of the budget’s cut to mental health services for prison inmates (a grant that funded an employee for that task had run out) and accused the Board of squirreling away transportation money in various funds with the intention of, at some point, using it for streetcar projects, which she opposes.

Walter Tejada spoke out against budget guidance that directs the county manager to study the possibility of privatization and outsourcing Volunteer Arlington, which promotes and coordinates volunteer opportunities.

Other budget guidance for the manager (which was added by the Board outside the normal public budget process) included:

  • A request for a report by the end of the year on the financial sustainability of Artisphere
  • Enhancement of the county’s internal audit functions and the establishment of a fraud and waste hotline
  • Improved parking ticket adjudication for tickets issued in error
  • A plan for a phased implementation of staffing increase for the county’s police, fire and other public safety departments

The county’s press release on the budget passage, after the jump.


County Board Backpedals on Cutting Staff Raises

by Ethan Rothstein | April 18, 2014 at 3:35 pm | 2,673 views | No Comments

County Board Chair Jay Fisette(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Two days after the Arlington County Board voted to offset a one-cent tax rate cut by eliminating a pay raise for county employees, the Board has changed course.

County Board Chair Jay Fisette told Friday afternoon that, after the Board met with representatives from the police and firefighter unions this morning, it decided to cut from other areas to make up the $6.6 million gap in the budget the tax cut will create.

The Arlington County Police Union, the Arlington Police Beneficiary Association and the Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association (Local 2800) each released statements denouncing the Board’s decision to go against County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation to keep the property tax rate at 2014′s level of $1.006 per $100 in assessed value — and to pay for it by eliminating pay raises in favor of a “modest” 1 percent Cost of Living Adjustment and a one-time $500 employee bonus.

The decision was made in the days leading up to Wednesday’s budget mark-up, leading the police and firefighters to question the process and transparency of the Board’s budget process.

“Throughout the budgetary process that started in September 2013, there were no discussions by the County Board that indicated that step increases would be eliminated,” Local 2800 said in a statement. “Only now, six days before the vote, have we been informed… We understand that there needs to be a balance and restraint in the current economic times but there also needs to be transparency.”

The APBA said the cut in step increases would have hit twice as hard because the county changed employees’ healthcare plans this year, resulting in increases in premiums as high as 7 percent for some employees.

“Not only is this budget cut targeting employees in one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., it also was made at the 11th hour, outside of Arlington’s well-accepted and long-established budget process and after the last opportunity for public comment,” the APBA said in a statement.

“It is the opinion of the APBA and Union that this last minute decision is politically motivated as a newly elected County Board Member was just sworn into office,” APBA member Jim Tuomey said in a separate email. “We feel this is a last minute effort for the County Board to try and ‘win over’ the voters by saving a penny on the real estate tax rate at the expense of all County employees and we have no opportunity to be heard at future work sessions with the budget adoption next Tuesday night.”

Fisette said the Board unanimously decided to cut the tax rate “a few weeks ago,” before the April 8 special election that saw John Vihstadt became the first non-Democrat elected to the Board since 1999 by a 57-41 percent margin over Democrat Alan Howze.

The decision to do away with the step increase came as a shock to the employees because it hadn’t been mentioned in any public hearings or meetings. Moreover, Fisette said, it’s rare that the Board goes away from the county manager’s recommendations on compensation. It’s particularly rare that the Board lowers salaries or cuts pay raises, Fisette said. (more…)

County Tax Rate to Drop By a Penny

by | April 17, 2014 at 9:50 am | 2,578 views | No Comments

County Board members Jay Fisette and Walter Tejada at a budget presentation on Feb. 20, 2013(Updated at 10:10 a.m.) Arlington’s property tax rate will drop by a one cent in the next fiscal year.

The County Board last night directed the County Manager to reduce the tax rate in its Fiscal Year 2015 budget from $1.006 per every $100 in assessed value to $0.996.

That penny corresponds to about $6.6 million in reduced revenue for the county. However, the tax and fee burden on the average Arlington taxpayer will still rise about 4.6 percent, thanks to an increase in property assessments and increases in solid waste and water-sewer fees.

The county plans to use the additional tax revenue on a variety of projects, but much of it will go to Arlington Public Schools and to a “modest” 1 percent cost-of-living adjustment and $500 bonus for county employees.

“The Board’s action provides $432.2 million to the Schools, an increase in base funding of $19.6 million, or 4.7% more than FY 2014, the county said in a press release. “With this budget, Arlington’s support of our students now exceeds $19,000 per pupil — more than any other school district in the region.”

The Board also funded three new School Resource Officers and $8 million for school construction. Other non-school projects the Board committed to funding yesterday include $200,000 in tourism marketing, $1.6 million for the county’s high-speed fiber optic network for businesses, $52,000 for a new sexual assault hotline, $72,606 for a mental health coordinator, $700,000 for costs associated with the opening of the new year-round homeless shelter early next year, and $300,000 for plowing snow from bike trails.

“The Board had to make some tough decisions,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “In order to give some break to homeowners who have seen their assessments rise, we limited the growth of the County budget, launched no new major initiatives and focused on funding schools and maintaining our core services and existing infrastructure.”

The $200,00 for tourism came at the request of the county’s hotel businesses, which were doubly hurt by a quarter-cent drop in the Transient Occupancy Tax and the lack of business in the fall during the government shutdown.

“I’ve got to thank you for this,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan told the Board. “With the vacancies in the fall, I met with people in the hospitality industry and they were telling me, ‘It’s terrible, we’re going to have to lay people off.’”

At the end of the meeting, new Board member John Vihstadt made a motion to halt all funding that would directly or indirectly go to funding the planned streetcar network along Columbia Pike and in Crystal City for 2014 and 2015. The measure failed 2-3, with Vihstadt joined by Libby Garvey in voting for the motion.

The County Board will officially vote on the budget on Tuesday. The county’s press release on the budget decisions, after the jump.


Arlington County Board to Explore Curbing Pub Crawls

by Ethan Rothstein | April 16, 2014 at 5:45 pm | 4,369 views | No Comments

Shamrock crawl (photo via Groupon)The number and popularity of bar crawls in Arlington has increased, and it’s caught the attention of the Arlington County Police Department and county government.

At the Arlington County Board’s budget mark-up meeting this afternoon, the County Board approved an addition $42,000 to the police specifically for “pub crawl support.” Pub crawls in Clarendon, Courthouse and Ballston have drawn crowds close to 5,000-6,000 people, County Board Chair Jay Fisette said.

“I’m becoming a pub crawl expert, not by choice,” Arlington Police Chief Doug Scott told the Board Wednesday. “We are receiving crawl requests at a very escalated pace because they’ve been very popular. We thought we were going to have three, that went to nine, and it’s growing.”

Scott said he’s planning a meeting with the Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association on April 30, but told a time and a location have not been finalized yet. He and the Board discussed the potential for regulatory measures for potentially reining in the crawls, or requesting the restaurants and/or organizers provide the funds for the police support.

“There are a lot of legal issues around some of the choices the manager and board will have in terms of how we address these crawls in the future,” Scott said.

Board Member Libby Garvey asked Scott if the crawls were “a little like Mardi Gras except all year long.” Board Member Mary Hynes, who lives near Clarendon, said she has had a hard time wading through the revelers when she wants “to go to the grocery store.”

Lines for bars extend far down the sidewalk for many of the bar crawls, which include crawls on St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and other holidays. A bar crawl in late June last year led to 13 alcohol-related arrests, and one reveler during this year’s Shamrock Crawl showed up naked to the Arlington County Jail while trying to visit her husband, who was arrested during the crawl.

“Our level of disorderliness really escalates on days where we have pub crawls,” said Scott, who told the Board he’s reached out to law enforcement in cities around the country to ask how they’ve handled bar crawls. “I just signed off today on a comprehensive ground response. I think there’s no aspect of the community, especially around some of these bar locations, that are not impacted.”

The April 30 meeting appears to be the first step toward the Board possibly setting new policies regarding pub crawls. Board member Walter Tejada, however, cautioned against taking too harsh a stance against the events.

“I want to be careful not to be the hardheaded government keeping people from having fun,” he said. “I want to strike that balance, but it’s an issue of safety. If you have data that it could be leading to bad things, then we can’t ignore it.”

Photo via Groupon

County Releases Bakery from Arlington Mill Lease

by | April 14, 2014 at 2:05 pm | 1,602 views | No Comments

Arlington Mill Community Center sneak peekThe new Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street) will remain without a full-time food vendor for the foreseeable future.

The County Board on Saturday voted to release Pan American Bakery and Cafe from its seven-year lease at Arlington Mill. Rent on the 1,875 square foot retail location, on the ground floor of the community center, was to start at $56,250.00 per year and rise to $67,165.44 at the end of the seven year term.

The eatery was supposed to serve healthy fare, along with coffee, gelato and salteñas.

The owners of the restaurant, which has existing locations at 4113 Columbia Pike and at 650 S. Pickett Street in Alexandria, asked the county to terminate the lease “because of personal and family health problems.” One owner’s mother, who lives in Bolivia, was said to be seriously ill, and the other owner has been battling two serious illnesses, according to the staff report.

County staff “continues to pursue a replacement tenant,” but the county is not projecting any lease revenue in its Fiscal Year 2015 budget.

Board Adopts Framework for Rosslyn’s Future

by Ethan Rothstein | April 14, 2014 at 11:35 am | 1,372 views | No Comments

Rosslyn skyline at dusk(Updated at 12:00 p.m.) The Arlington County Board took a step forward in setting a vision for the future of Rosslyn on Saturday.

The Board approved the the framework for its planned Rosslyn Sector Plan Update. It’s an outline for a plan that when finished and approved, will help move Rosslyn from its auto-oriented, commercial feel to what the County Board hopes will be a mixed-use hub of street-level activity.

Among the components of the framework the Board approved this weekend were developing more housing in central Rosslyn, studying turning Ft. Myer Drive and N. Lynn Street into two-way streets, creating a full 18th Street corridor to remove the “superblocks” between 19th Street N. and Wilson Blvd, creating an “esplanade” and connecting the open spaces in the area.

The 18th Street alignment was the source of some dispute between Rosslyn property owners last month, and the framework left the final alignment of the pedestrian and bicycle corridor to be determined. Tad Lunger, a lawyer representing the owner of the Ames Center at 1820 N. Fort Myer Drive. Lunger, spoke at Saturday’s meeting.

“This process, which lasted for over a year, resulted in many of the framework plan’s issues to remain unresolved and a source of anxiety to many stakeholders in Rosslyn,” Lunger said. “As a result, most major issues were not really addressed until the past month’s public portion of the process.”

The plans to turn Lynn Street and Fort Myer Drive into two-way streets also concerned residents of the area, who feel it could have traffic implications for the neighborhoods.

“The change of Lynn Street and Ft. Myer Drive to two lanes going in each direction from their current four lanes is probably a benefit to Rosslyn,” said Radnor-Ft. Myer Heights Civic Assocation President Stan Karson, “but it could have unintended consequences to the residents of the nearby area because of the possible and probable backup in the area.”

Among other goals set by the framework:

  • Making Rosslyn a more walkable neighborhood
  • Adding building density — especially housing density — in central Rosslyn while maintaining “sensitive transitions” to lower density on the edges
  • Encouraging “more varied building facades”
  • Enhancing connectivity among Rosslyn’s parks and green space, including additional connections to the Potomac waterfront
  • Working with WMATA on plans for a second Rosslyn Metro station
  • “Preserving the potential” for connecting D.C.’s planned Georgetown-to-Union Station streetcar line to Rosslyn
  • Narrowing excessively wide streets by building wider sidewalks and more bike lanes

County staff will now take the framework and develop the specifics of the Rosslyn Sector Plan Update, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2014. The public will continue to have input through the Realize Rosslyn process, the county said.

File photo

Board Approves Loan for Pike Apartment Purchase

by Ethan Rothstein | April 14, 2014 at 10:15 am | 1,763 views | No Comments

Serrano apartments on Columbia PikeThe Arlington County Board approved a $16.5 million loan to affordable housing developer AHC on Saturday to purchase a Columbia Pike apartment building.

The loan, which comes from the county’s dedicated Affordable Housing Investment Fund, will allow AHC to purchase the Serrano Apartments at 5535 Columbia Pike, which are currently owned by Carmel Partners.

The apartment building, in the Columbia Heights West neighborhood, has 280 units, 239 of which are currently considered affordable. The loan allows AHC to purchase the building and keep 196 units in the building as dedicated affordable housing for the next 60 years. The remainder will be offered at a market rate.

AHC will also purchase the 39,500 square feet of vacant land fronting the Pike, which Carmel has an application to subdivide, according to the county’s press release. That land could be developed into a complex with about 80 apartment units, according to the Columbia Pike Form Based Code.

“The County Board has committed to preserving affordable housing along Columbia Pike,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in the press release. “This loan to AHC is in keeping with our commitment. These units now will remain affordable for generations of Arlingtonians — and help preserve the Pike’s rich diversity as it is redeveloped into a more transit-oriented, walkable ‘Main Street.’”

Current tenants will not be displaced with the ownership change, the county said. The purchase follows through on the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan, which calls for keeping 6,200 of the current affordable market-rate apartments affordable as the Pike develops and creating 400 new units affordable to families at 80 percent of the area median income on the western portion of the Pike.

Photo via Bozzuto

Morning Notes

by | April 14, 2014 at 9:00 am | 2,414 views | No Comments

"Arlington Blossoms" (Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder)

Lubber Run Neighbors Rally Against Housing Proposal — Those who live around the Lubber Run Community Center showed up to the Saturday Arlington County Board meeting to rally against a proposal to use the public land around the community center for affordable housing or a new school. The residents also asked the Board to approve a renovation to the community center. [Sun Gazette]

Board Approves Expanded ‘Technology Zones’ — The County Board on Saturday approved an expansion of its program of reduced business license taxes for technology businesses in certain “technology zones.” About 5-10 businesses per year are expected to qualify for the tax incentives. [Arlington County]

Avg. Single Family Home Price Tops $900,000 — The average sale price of a single family home in Arlington hit $913,677 in March. That’s up 11.7 percent year-over-year. The average townhouse sale price, meanwhile, was $449,202 and the average condo was $515,000. [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Educators Honored — Two Arlington educators, Glebe Elementary principal Jamie Borg and Kenmore Middle School teacher Cassidy Nolen, are among the recipients of the Washington Post’s annual education awards. [Washington Post]

Air Force Research Office to Remain in Arlington — After considering a move to Dayton, Ohio, the Air Force has decided to keep its Office of Scientific Research in Arlington. The decision was made after Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, and Rep. Jim Moran, pressed the Air Force to abandon the relocation proposal. The office employs about 170 people. [PR Newswire, Dayton Business Journal]

Arlington Runner Wins Marine Corp 17.75K – Arlington’s Kelly Swain was the top female finisher at the Marine Corps 17.75K race in Prince William County over the weekend. Swain, 28, finished the 11.03 mile event in 1:14:02. The 17.75K is a precursor to the Marine Corps Marathon, which starts and ends in Arlington. The sold-out race will take place this year on Oct. 26. [Army Times]

Flickr pool photo by J. Sonderman

Vihstadt Sworn in as County Board Member

by Ethan Rothstein | April 11, 2014 at 4:30 pm | 2,994 views | No Comments

John Vihstadt, the first non-Democrat elected to serve on the Arlington County Board since 1999, was sworn in to his new position this afternoon.

In his first remarks as a County Board member — filling the seat that Chris Zimmerman vacated when he resigned earlier this year — Vihstadt vowed to introduce an “audit function” to the Board, rein in spending and “break down silos” in county government.

“Our victory was not a victory for one candidate or one person,” Vihstadt said from a podium in the County Board room, “it was a victory for the people of Arlington County.”

Vihstadt, who ran as an independent endorsed by the Republican and Green parties, defeated Democrat Alan Howze on Tuesday by a 57 to 41 percent margin. The two will face off again in November’s general election, on the ballot with the race for Sen. Mark Warner (D)’s seat and the congressional seat of retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D).

Vihstadt campaigned against projects like the Columbia Pike streetcar and Artisphere, a message that resonated with the majority of the 22,209 voters on Tuesday. Friday afternoon, Vihstadt promised to follow through on his campaign platforms.

“I’ll question county spending decisions and ask ‘do we need it? How do we pay for it?’” he said. “It’s time county government lives within its means.”

Vihstadt also said he wants to reform the county’s bond process and the wording of ballot items, both measures that could reduce Arlington’s capability for large community investments.

County Board Chairman Jay Fisette introduced Vihstadt, whose father held the bible during the ceremony, and explained why the ceremony was pushed back to Friday when it was originally scheduled for Wednesday. Virginia passed a law in 2012, Fisette said, that required any provisional ballots to be reviewed by the Friday after an election before the results could be certified. There was one provisional ballot cast in the special election.

“Many of us have worked with John, and I certainly have on a variety of things over the years,” Fisette said. “I look forward to getting back to work with John as one of the five of us on the Board.”

Del. Patrick Hope (D) was in attendance, as was Board member Libby Garvey and Commonweath’s Attorney Theo Stamos, both Democrats who endorsed Vihstadt’s campaign. Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes was attending a regional meeting and Board member Walter Tejada was late, leading Fisette to comment that Tejada was “running on Latino time.”

Arlington Reacts to Vihstadt’s Victory

by Ethan Rothstein | April 9, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 3,811 views | No Comments

New County Board member John Vihstadt at his election party 4/8/14As the dust settles from Republican-backed independent John Vihstadt’s victory in the Arlington County Board special election last night, those in and around Arlington politics are surveying what could be a new political landscape.

Vihstadt won by a significant margin — 57 percent to Democrat Alan Howze’s 41 percent — in a special election that saw an unofficial tally of 22,209 votes. Democrats saw the result partly as a result of not enough voter turnout, while Vihstadt’s supporters — Republicans, Democrats, Greens and independents among them — viewed the election as a referendum of County Board policy.

“John’s overwhelming victory tonight is a testament to the growing number of Arlingtonians who are tired of a County Board that dictates its own priorities instead of listening to the voices and concerns of the community,” the Arlington County Republican Committee, said in a press release.

“Despite attempts to nationalize the issues in this race, the principles of fiscal responsibility and local project prioritization won out — and with a 15-point lead,” Arlington-Falls Church Young Republicans President Matt Hurtt said in a press release. “John is perfect for the job, and will bring balance to an overwhelmingly Democrat-controlled county government.”

Board member Mary Hynes focused on the work the Board has to do — including pass a budget later this month — with its newest member, who’s expected to be sworn in as soon as the election results are certified.

“The Board has a lot on its plate this month — budget being the first among many right now,” Hynes told in an email. “It’s hard to come in at the end of a multi-month process like the budget. I know Board members and staff will do their best to answer any questions John may have as we move to adopt the budget on April 22.”

Many observers viewed this special election as centered primarily around the planned streetcar from Fairfax County on Columbia Pike to Pentagon City and Crystal City. Arlington Streetcar Now congratulated Vihstadt on his victory, but reiterated its beliefs that the streetcar would be better for Arlington than the enhanced bus service Vihstadt supports.

“Mr. Vihstadt’s election does not change any of the facts that have led the Arlington County Board to conclude on numerous occasions that the streetcar system is needed in Arlington and will provide tremendous benefits both for the neighborhoods directly served and for Arlington as a whole,” the group said in a release.

One local political observer, who preferred to remain anonymous, said Vihstadt’s victory was attributable to strong fundraising efforts, his experience and his liberal position on social issues, among other factors. The observer also said Democrats may have been distracted by the June primary in the 8th District congressional race.

“I think the thing to watch will be the CIP, due out soon,” the observer said. “Will there be a financing plan finally put forth for the Pike streetcar? What will be proposed to do for the Aquatics Center? Garvey and Vihstadt have common ground here — what will the other three do?”

Howze will again run against Vihstadt in November, when the general election for the retiring Rep. Jim Moran’s House of Representative seat and Sen. Mark Warner’s (D) Senate seat will take place.

UPDATED: Vihstadt Wins County Board Special Election

by | April 8, 2014 at 7:40 pm | 10,983 views | No Comments

(Updated at 11:35 p.m.) For the first time in 15 years, a non-Democrat will sit on the Arlington County Board.

John Vihstadt, a Republican who ran as an independent with the endorsement of the local Republican and Green parties, has won the special election to replace Chris Zimmerman (D) on the Arlington County Board.

Vihstadt captured 57 percent of the vote to Democrat Alan Howze’s 41 percent. Independent Green candidate Janet Murphy and independent Stephen Holbrook each captured about 1 percent of the vote.

“We won the race by a higher margin than my most aggressive expectations,” Vihstadt told supporters at his victory party tonight. “The most exciting and gratifying measure of our victory was that it was north to south and east to west. There really is one Arlington, not two Arlingtons.”

Given that the race hinged largely on the hot-button issues of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar and Long Bridge Park aquatics center, the result is likely to be viewed by many as a voter rebuke of the County Board’s major capital spending projects.

“People want cost-effective, results-oriented solutions on the local level,” Vihstadt said.

Vihstadt touted his “true rainbow coalition” of supporters. Those supporters included all three candidates for County Board in 2012: current Democratic County Board member and fellow streetcar critic Libby Garvey, Republican columnist Mark Kelly, and frequent Green Party candidate Audrey Clement. Also supporting Vihstadt was Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, a close friend of Vihstadt and his wife, Mary.

“It was an easy call for me,” said Stamos, a lifelong Democrat. “He’s a good man and we need to sometimes think outside the box.”

“This is a victory for good government,” Garvey said. “I’m going to get choked up, this is Democracy at its best. This is the way it’s supposed to be.”

“The people have spoken and the County Board needs to listen,” Garvey added.

Vihstadt, whose yard signs were purple to represent a blend of red and blue politics, said he plans to “work in a collaborative fashion to get things done for the county.”

“This was a victory not for one person or one party, but for Republicans, Democrats, Greens, Libertarians and people with no party,” Vihstadt said. “I’m not going to be a captive of any political party, any person, any ideology — I’m going to call issues as I see them.”

Voter turnout today was relatively light, which benefited Vihstadt. With no state or national-level races energizing the Democratic base, its appears that many party-line Democrats stayed home. Total unofficial turnout was 22,209, or about 16 percent of registered voters.

Vihstadt will be the first non-Democrat on the Board since Republican Mike Lane served briefly after winning a special election in 1999. Lane lost in the general election several months later. Similarly, Vihstadt is expected to face Howze again in the November general election, when a U.S Senate and a House of Representatives race will be on the local ballot.

Howze told dozens of his supporters at the Democrats’ election party at Whitlow’s in Clarendon that he continues to believe infrastructure and education investments are the core values of Arlington voters.

“The special election is behind us now, and I look forward to continuing this conversation into November and moving Arlington forward,” he said. “There’s a lot at stake.”


John Vihstadt: Why You Should Vote for Me

by | 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. (

Janet Murphy: Why You Should Vote for Me

by | 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 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 | 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 | 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?






What will Steve do if elected?





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.


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