The debate, at the Arlington Civic Federation’s monthly meeting, was relatively short and did not give the candidates much time to delve deeply into issues. But by and large, Republican- and Green-endorsed independent candidate John Vihstadt tried to position himself as a choice that would be palatable for local Democrats who oppose the county’s big-ticket streetcar and aquatics center projects.
“I don’t want to upset the applecart, I just want to rearrange some of those apples,” said Vihstadt, who arguably has the best shot at being elected to the Board of any non-Democrat in years. “[My wife and I] love Arlington, we want to give back to Arlington.”
Vihstadt said he uses mass transit to commute on a daily basis, but “this $310 million streetcar is not the way to go on Columbia Pike.” He instead said he favors “a modified form of bus rapid transit.”
Vihstadt also differed from the current County Board in calling for an independent county auditor, by wanting to “break down the silos” between county government and Arlington Public Schools, and by suggesting that he opposes some of the development currently taking place in Arlington.
“I have serious differences with this Board about density and where that is taking our county right now,” he said to applause from the Civic Federation delegates.
Vihstadt, however, was also careful to point out areas where he agrees with the County Board. He supports gay marriage, increased spending on schools, and the new homeless services center in Courthouse.
“I support the new homeless shelter,” he said. “On balance I think it’s the right place and the right thing to do.”
“I’m not going to hide my Republican background, but i’m running as an independent,” Vihstadt said. “I’m running to add balance… because we need to recalibrate our spending priorities. We have to concentrate on core services like public education… roads and infrastructure maintenance… and neighborhood quality of life.”
“I’m giving voice to so many people across the political spectrum who are frustrated, who are concerned about where we are going as a county and where we are spending of our dollars at a time of skyrocketing school enrollment,” he said, pledging to be “fair, even-handed, bridge-building and nonpartisan.”
Democrat Alan Howze enters the race as the odds-on favorite thanks to the party’s well-honed get-out-the-vote effort, which will be needed as the race will be decided by a special election. Howze largely toed the party line — supporting a social safety, affordable housing, a “progressive community,” etc. — but suggested that he would be a bit more cautious when it comes to spending and a bit more aggressive when it comes to economic development.
Asked about something about which he disagreed with the County Board, Howze said the design and cost of the $1.6 million James Hunter dog park in Clarendon “well exceeded what was needed for the space and the community.”
Howze touted his private sector experience working at IBM and said he would work to “help strengthen the commercial base in Arlington,” thus combating rising office vacancy rates.
Like Vihstadt, Howze said he supports gay marriage, the county’s new homeless shelter, and increased spending on schools. (“Rising school enrollment is the biggest challenge facing our community,” he said.) Howze, however, supports the Columbia Pike streetcar project and has said he would like to see the Long Bridge Park aquatics center built provided it doesn’t exceed its original $79 million budget.
“We need to improve our community,” he said. “We can’t give any project a blank check, but neither can we stand still. I’m not chicken little… the sky is not falling. We can’t just say no — no is not a solution. Short term solutions that are politically expedient today but don’t lead to long-term prosperity.”
Alan Howze, Cord Thomas and Peter Fallon debated for an hour and a half in front of a standing-room only crowd of Arlington Young Democrats in Ballston Wednesday night. AYD President Max Burns told ARLnow.com that it was the largest crowd at an AYD meeting he could remember.
Howze and Fallon advocated for the Columbia Pike streetcar as an economic engine and as a long-term, visionary transit plan while Thomas, who in the first debate said he was “not a fan of the Columbia Pike streetcar,” advocated for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) instead.
“We need to focus on a robust BRT system like our neighbors in Fairfax and Alexandria,” Thomas, 31, and a co-founder of EnviroCab, said. “At the end of the day, people just want to get where they’re going. If you can have something that’s state of the art, at one-fifth of the cost, why wouldn’t you choose that?”
“If you go back and look at the conversation from 40 years ago, you hear echoes from this debate today,” Howze said. “When you look at the life cycle cost, there’s a strong argument to be made that streetcar is cheaper than buses in the long term.”
Fallon, in addition to speaking out in support of the streetcar, said the county needs more north-south transportation options and says the ART bus’ schedule should be expanded for later service. His primary focus during the debate was on affordable housing; he was touting his record as a planning commissioner in creating more than 1,000 units of designated affordable housing.
“The price of admission to Arlington is very high,” Fallon said. “The people who are here, you end up losing them, unless you’re able to capture them.”
Fallon said he wants to re-examine Arlington’s incentive policies for asking developers for affordable housing units or funding. Fallon believes developers should be asked to contribute more than they already are, saying, “we need to get more bang for our buck so we have more of these units available.”
Moderator Gordon Simonett asked the candidates if they were worried about Arlington’s young population moving to cheaper, neighboring communities like Falls Church and Fairfax. All three candidates answered “yes,” but with varying degrees of concern. Thomas said there’s a reason so many young people are in Arlington in the first place.
“My friends constantly talk about moving somewhere” less expensive, Thomas said, but “Arlington’s a terrific place to be when you’re young.”
“There’s definitely a wonderful sense of young people, entrepreneurs and really young professionals here,” he said. “That’s why when I got here, it was really the place for me. Falls Church might be a little bit cheaper, but it doesn’t have what Arlington has.” (more…)
Alan Howze, Peter Fallon and Cord Thomas all announced their candidacies for the seat at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s December meeting, and a nominee will be chosen in an instant run-off vote during unassembled caucuses on Thursday, Jan. 30 at Key Elementary School (2300 Key Blvd) from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 1 at Kenmore Middle School (200 S. Carlin Springs Road) from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Four of the five planned debates are sponsored by the ACDC, and the fifth will be hosted by the Arlington Young Democrats on Jan. 15.
- Wednesday, Jan. 8, 7:00-9:00 p.m. — National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, 4301 Wilson Blvd (entrance on N. Taylor St.)
- Wednesday, Jan. 15, 7:00-9:00 p.m. — National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, 4301 Wilson Blvd (hosted by the Arlington Young Democrats)
- Saturday, Jan. 18, 2:00-4:00 p.m. – Campbell School (in the multi-purpose room), 737 S. Carlin Springs Road
- Thursday, Jan. 23, 8:00-9:00 p.m. – Glebe School (in the multi-purpose room), 1770 N. Glebe Road
- Monday, Jan. 27, 8:00-9:00 p.m. – Drew School (in the multi-purpose room), 3500 S. 23rd Street
In addition to Howze, Fallon and Thomas, independent John Vihstatd and libertarian Evan Bernick have announced that they’re running for Zimmerman’s board seat. The special election will be scheduled by the Arlington Circuit Court when Zimmerman officially steps down from his seat, which he has said he will do by the end of the month.
Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette, who last year launched a “personal crusade” against bottled water, will debate a representative of the bottled water industry this weekend.
Fisette and Chris Hogan, Vice President of Communications for the Alexandria-based International Bottled Water Association, will speak at the Arlington Committee of 100′s monthly dinner meeting.
The debate, which is being held at Marymount University (2807 N. Glebe Road) will begin at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan 8. An RSVP is required by Jan. 5.
From the event’s Facebook page:
In 2009, the Arlington County Board passed a resolution banning the use of taxpayer funds to purchase single use, bottled water – with a very few exceptions. That resolution spoke to the environmental cost of producing, transporting and disposing of these bottles. While that may have reduced their use at county sponsored functions, many of us still use single use bottled water. Incoming Board Chairman Jay Fisette has begun a crusade to reduce the use of single use plastic water bottles. At our January meeting we will address the questions related to this initiative. What are the advantages of single use bottled water? What are the effects on the environment of the way we dispose of the empty bottles? Are there alternatives that provide the same or similar advantages?
Arlington County water department employees and representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council are also expected to attend.
The candidates for Virginia lieutenant governor had their first debate of the year last night (Tuesday) at George Mason University’s Arlington campus.
The debate gave Arlington residents a chance to see polarizing Republican candidate E.W. Jackson, who has made headlines since earning the GOP nomination by making disparaging comments about gays and lesbians, comparing Democrats to slavemasters and saying yoga could lead people to Satan.
Jackson, a nondenominational minister from Chesapeake, defended those comments as protected speech and explained that how he speaks in sermons, during which many of the comments were made, would not be how he would govern.
“I think we’ve got to watch this. What this really amounts to is a religious test,” he said. “The same thing they tried to do John Kennedy, the same thing they tried to do with Mitt Romney… its not his religion that matters, what matters is how he governs.”
Democratic candidate Ralph Northam said he was “offended” by many of the remarks Jackson has made during the campaign, asserting that there can’t be a distinction for a public official.
“What I do in church carries with me to what I do in everyday life,” Northam said. “Making statements against the LGBT community, saying they’re sick individuals, making statements against Democrats, saying they’re anti-god, anti-family, anti-life, those statements… are offensive. They have no place in the Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s not the state that I love and that’s not the state that you love.”
Perhaps Jackson’s most controversial statement of the night was suggesting more mentally ill patients should be housed in institutions, leading to WUSA reporter Peggy Fox, the debate’s moderator, to press him on the issue.
“I don’t want to scare you, but I’ve got some mentally ill people in my family, and they need help,” Jackson said. “You can’t just cast them aside. You can’t pretend that they don’t need something more than an occasional visit to a doctor or a hospital. They do need something more. They need to be housed, they need to be taken care of.”
Northam, a pediatric neurologist from Norfolk who has served in the state senate the last six years, countered Jackson’s statements.
“How sad to think you would visit [your family members] in an institution,” he said. “We can do better than that in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
The loyalties of the crowd at GMU’s Founders Hall auditorium was considerably mixed, and several moments from each candidate drew loud cheers. Northam and Jackson both spoke passionately on the subject of abortion, the potential for Medicaid expansion in Virginia via the Affordable Care Act and ethics reform. Fox asked Jackson if he would enact ethics reform to prevent scandals like Gov. Bob McDonnell’s impermissible gifts scandal from happening again.
“We have found out about these indiscretions, so something obviously worked, because we know about them,” Jackson said. “I am willing to consider anything that will make the public’s trust in government greater… I am always skeptical of adding layer upon layer and law upon law because what we really need to do is elect people who want to serve.”
Metro Keys Stolen from Arlington Fire Truck — Two men wearing masks and black clothing stole keys to secure areas of the Metro system from an unattended Arlington County fire truck last week. The theft happened during a medical call in Crystal City, and the thieves also stole a forcible entry tool called a Hydra Ram. [NBC Washington]
New Wakefield Aquatics Center Debuts — A ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the new aquatics center at Wakefield High School on Sunday. The center is expected to draw a larger crowd than the aging, existing Wakefield aquatics facility it replaces. The cost of entry is up to $5.50 per day for Arlington residents. [Sun Gazette]
Ft. Myer Heights Playground Opening Imminent — A new playground in Ft. Myer Heights, with slides made to look like hollowed-out logs, is set to open as soon as Wednesday. The playground also features a sand pit and picnic benches. [Ode Street Tribune]
New Poll Shows McAuliffe With Lead in Gov. Race — Democrat Terry McAuliffe is leading Republican Ken Cuccinelli 47-39 among likely votes in the Virginia governor’s race, according to a new Washington Post poll. Cuccinelli had a 10 point lead in a poll conducted this spring. [Washington Post]
Lt. Gov. Debate in Arlington Tonight — The candidates for Virginia lieutenant governor — Republican E.W. Jackson and Democrat Ralph Northam — will face off in a live debate in Arlington tonight. The 90-minute debate will take place at 7:00 p.m. at George Mason University’s Founders Hall Auditorium in Virginia Square. [George Mason University]
Flickr pool photo by ddimick
Issues like the Columbia Pike streetcar and the housing authority referendum were at the forefront last night during the Arlington Civic Federation’s annual candidates’ forum.
The debate between County Board member Jay Fisette and Green Party challenger Audrey Clement was the night’s most divisive, with Clement challenging the streetcar project and the Board’s fiscal policies.
“I pledge to raise no taxes,” Clement said, “Repeal last year’s tax increase… and authorize an inspector general for the county’s budget.”
Clement again voiced her support for the referendum to create a housing authority, which Fisette and other Board members oppose. Fisette defended the Board’s actions, asserting that the tax increases were largely to pay for the increase in school enrollment and the streetcar “fulfills the vision of the revitalization of Columbia Pike.”
“I will ensure that Arlington continues to be a community that respects the differences among us,” he said. “I believe that there’s more to do, and I have more to give.”
Six races were represented during the forum: Fisette’s Board seat, James Lander’s School Board seat, and the 45th, 47th, 48th, and 49th District races for the House of Delegates. Lander and Del. Robert Brink (D-48) are running unopposed, and each gave two-minute speeches and took one question from the floor. Del. Rob Krupicka (D-45) did not have an opponent to debate at the forum after it was revealed that independent candidate Jeffrey Engle was not in attendance.
Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) and Libertarian challenger Laura Delhomme — participating in her first debate — fielded questions about affordable housing, wind energy and their thoughts on the Republican state ticket. No Republican is running for any seat, state or local, in Arlington.
“I’m not a socially liberal Republican, I’m not a fiscally conservative Democrat,” said Delhomme, who suggested repealing the state income tax and the Virginia Marriage Amendment.
Hope advocated for transferring more of Virginia’s energy from coal and natural gas to wind power and discussed how difficult it was to make progress in the General Assembly.
“In my first four years in office, I’ve learned that change can be very difficult,” Hope said. “Getting government out of our bedrooms and our doctor’s offices has divided our state and our parties.”
In the final debate of the night, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), running in his first re-election bid, and Independent Green Party candidate Terrence Modglin, showed the starkest disagreement, particularly on abortion. Modglin supports greater restrictions on abortion.
“I think the laws and regulations enacted, the intent of them was to, regardless of what the language was, reduce the number of abortions in Virginia and I think that’s a good thing in terms of public policy,” Modglin said.
Following Modglin’s response, Lopez looked slightly taken aback. He shook his head before he responded.
“A woman’s right to choose is non-negotiable,” Lopez said. “The [transvaginal ultrasound] legislation put up…was a travesty. It made us a laughing stock on the national stage. I will definitely fight these backdoor ways of reducing a person’s access to contraception.”
Election Day is on Nov. 5. The forum, held at Virginia Hospital Center’s Hazel auditorium, is organized every year as the unofficial start to Arlington’s fall campaign season.
Real Estate Tax Delinquencies Rise — The number of real estate tax delinquencies in Arlington rose slightly this year, compared to one year prior. A total of 407 taxpayers missed the June 15 real estate tax deadline this year, compared to 387 last year. Those who miss the June 15 deadline are subject to a 10 percent penalty plus accumulating interest. [Sun Gazette]
Comic-Making Exhibit at Artisphere — Starting today through Nov. 3, comic book artists will be taking up residency in Artisphere for the creation of a new comic. On Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons, the public can watch the artists at work, and try their hand at their own comic creations. [DC Conspiracy, Ode Street Tribune]
Lt. Gov. Debate at GMU Arlington Campus — A debate between the Republican and Democratic candidate for Virginia lieutenant governor will be held at Founders Hall on George Mason University’s Arlington campus next month. E.W. Jackson (R) will be debate Ralph Northam (D) starting at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24.
Flickr pool photo by N ARLINGTON ST
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
It seems pretty clear after the first clash between Ken Cuccinelli and Terry McAuliffe that the election for governor in Virginia will be decided by one simple question – who do you trust?
Cuccinelli says that McAuliffe cannot be trusted because his record as a partisan hack means he believes politics is nothing more than playing “let’s make a deal.” Cuccinelli argues McAuliffe’s theory of government puts special interests ahead of the interests of all Virginians.
McAuliffe says that Cuccinelli is a “trojan horse” who cannot be trusted to focus on jobs and the economy because he is too socially conservative. According to T-Mac, Cuccinelli would drive away potential investors in the Virginia economy with his backwards views.
So, it naturally follows to ask why McAuliffe made the decision to locate his car company in Mississippi instead of Virginia? Surely Mississippi is more progressive on social issues?
Mississippi has a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage just like Virginia. Mississippi has implemented stronger health care regulations on its abortion clinics just like Virginia. In fact, one could argue that Mississippi is equal to or more “socially conservative” than Virginia on each and every issue.
During the debate, McAuliffe was indeed asked why he decided to put GreenTech Automotive in Mississippi. His answer – it was an economic decision. Successful business leaders, he claims, must make business decisions that make sense for their bottom lines. Not only is it true, but McAuliffe has no choice but to say it. It is his only viable, if feeble for someone who wants to be governor of Virginia, line of defense for his decision.
It is always nice when candidates debunk their own lines of attack. McAuliffe succinctly explained it – businesses make business decisions. It is not a state’s stance on social issues which determines where a business will locate its jobs. If it were, Texas would be losing out to California instead of the other way around. And, McAuliffe almost certainly would have taken his business to Massachusetts or Maryland.
Unfortunately, just because McAuliffe contradicted himself, does not mean his campaign will stop using this line of attack. The same goes for the less-than-accurate claims McAuliffe made about his own involvement in the transportation plan and about the contents of the independent report on Cuccinelli’s gift disclosures. He firmly believes that if you repeat something long enough, people might just accept it as fact. It comes from years of cooking up political spin to get Democrats elected in Washington, DC.
The bottom line: if McAuliffe was trying to get away from the “fast-talking, deal making, political huckster who will say anything to get elected” tag in the first debate, he failed.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
In last week’s debate, Cuccinelli was reminded by moderator Judy Woodruff of his remarks several years ago that “same sex acts are against nature and are harmful to society.” Given the opportunity to say that he has since moderated his views, Cuccinelli instead doubled down, confirming that his views “about the personal challenge of homosexuality haven’t changed.”
It would be hard to imagine a more offensive set of values for a person who is asking Virginia voters to give him the opportunity to lead a state of 8.5 million people in the 21st century.
Just what are the views Cuccinelli hasn’t changed?
- Offered a bill that urged the U.S. Congress to propose a federal constitutional amendment to provide that (i) marriage shall consist only of the legal union between a man and a woman; and (ii) the uniting of persons of the same or opposite sex in a civil union, domestic partnership or other analogous relationship shall not be recognized in the United States.
- Opposed a bill that would offer health benefits to same-sex partners because of his “desire not to encourage this type of behavior into law.”
- Stated “when you look at the homosexual agenda, I cannot support something that I believe brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul.”
- Urged Virginia colleges and universities to revoke their policies banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.
- And as recently as February 15, 2013, reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage in Virginia.
In politics, as in baseball, three strikes and you’re out.
Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
Aneesh Chopra and Ralph Northam will debate each other on Wednesday, June 5, at George Mason University’s Founders Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive). The debate is scheduled to start at 7:00 p.m., during the monthly ACDC monthly meeting.
“The debate will give Arlingtonians a chance to learn about both candidates just six days before they go to the polls to cast their primary vote,” the organization said in a press release. “The event is free and open to the public.”
Chopra, an Arlington resident, was the country’s first Chief Technology Officer. Northam is a former Army doctor and a current state Senator. The winner of the June 11 primary will face the Republican candidate, minister and attorney E.W. Jackson, on Nov. 5.
Building new schools may not be the only answer to overcrowding in Arlington Public Schools, School Board hopeful Barbara Kanninen said last night at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting.
Flexible scheduling, night classes in high school, and a school year that extends through the summer might ease crowding in middle and high schools without the expense and loss of open space associated building new facilities.
“We know right now that we have lots of kids coming… we’re building elementary schools right now but in five years they’re going to be heading to middle school and high school,” Kanninen said. “We need to think about where we’re going to educate them given that we might not have the money to build and we might not have the green space to build.”
Kanninen’s stance on building was one point of contrast between her and incumbent School Board member James Lander, who she’s trying to unseat. Kanninen and Lander debated at the ACDC meeting in advance of next week’s Democratic School Board endorsement caucus.
On school capacity, Lander emphasized the School Board’s existing construction plan and his “county-wide vision” — an apparent contrast to Kanninen’s north Arlington campaign focus.
“We’re growing by almost an elementary school per year,” he said. “We have a strategy in place, we’re building new facilities and we’re adding additions to existing facilities. We’re looking at and evaluating both middle school boundaries. This is something that takes experience and a county-wide vision.”
During the debate Kanninen spoke of her priorities: expanding STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — programs, individualized education and adult mentorships, and using analytics and her PhD in economics to help make “smarter, more efficient choices with taxpayer money.”
On many of those key campaign points, Lander echoed his own stances. He said students need STEM skills so they can grow up not to be workers, but “employers and entrepreneurs.” He touted a mentorship program he created for minority students. And he also emphasized the importance of a learning environment that adapts to the strengths of individual students.
“My approach to student achievement and student success is responsive education… and that mean meeting the needs of all groups,” he said. By way of an anecdote, he joked about how his sister was a bookworm while we was more likely to fall asleep while trying to read school books.
Both Kanninen and Lander said they support arts education and the use of school buildings by members of the community. Both also said that standardized tests have become too pervasive in schools and are detracting from the overall education of students.
Answering a question about bullying, Lander said APS has a “zero tolerance” policy toward bullies. Kanninen said adult support of “students’ social and emotional health” is paramount, and that students should always have an adult mentor to approach with issues like bullying.
Coyote Spottings in Arlington? — Some residents in the Leeway Overlee area of Arlington have recently reported spotting a coyote in their neighborhood. While video has proven the presence of coyotes — or at least one coyote — in Arlington, naturalists question whether the animal spotted might actually be a fox or a mangy dog. [NBC Washington]
GOP AG Debate at GMU Law Tonight — The George Mason University School of Law in Arlington will host a debate between the two Republican candidates for Virginia Attorney General tonight. The event, which is open to the public, will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be moderated by former attorney general and governor Jim Gilmore. [Republican National Lawyers Association]
Arlington ‘Avoiding D.C.’s Traffic Nightmare’ — Arlington County has managed to avoid the “traffic nightmare” that’s facing nearby D.C. thanks to a “multifaceted effort to curb car-dependence” that serves as “a regional model,” according to WAMU. [WAMU]
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
Schools, Gov’t Offices Closed Today — Arlington Public Schools are closed today for all classes and activities. All Arlington County offices, libraries, courts, schools, community centers and nature centers are closed. Federal government offices are also closed. ART bus service has been suspended for the day and Metro bus and rail service has been suspended for at least the morning.
Candidates Night Canceled — A local candidates debate scheduled for tonight at 7:00 has been cancelled. The debate was to be held at Resurrection Lutheran Church (6201 Washington Blvd) and was sponsored by a number of north Arlington civic association. In lieu of the debate, an informal candidate meet and greet may be held, weather permitting, at the Westover Beer Garden (5863 Washington Blvd) at 7:00 p.m. [Facebook]
Hurricane Hotline Set Up — Arlington County has set up a hotline for “frequent updates on Hurricane Sandy’s impact on Arlington.” The phone number is 415-655-0811 and the updates are given in English and Spanish. [Arlington County]
Sandy Impacts Weaken, But Linger — After dumping some 4 inches of rain on our area on Monday, Sandy is only expected to drop another 1 inch or so today. Winds won’t be quite as bad, forecasters say: 20-30 miles per hour with higher gusts possible. [Capital Weather Gang]
Photo via Arlington National Cemetery/Facebook
The participants were the three candidates for Arlington County Board: incumbent Democrat Libby Garvey, Green Party candidate Audrey Clement and Republican Matt Wavro.
Despite the fact that the audience lives north of Route 50, in a neighborhood that has plenty of concerns about traffic, development, aircraft noise and other issues, the main topic of the debate was the Columbia Pike streetcar. The streetcar so dominated the first half of the debate that the moderator had to eventually ask the audience to refrain from asking about it.
It’s ironic, then, that the candidates all essentially agreed with one another.
“We need sensible transit,” said Garvey, in her opening remarks. “I have been working deliberately to gather more information about the proposed streetcar and the more I look at it the more convinced I am that what we need is a bus rapid transit system, or BRT. That is by far the best solution for us at this point.”
Wavro also advocated for enhanced bus service along Columbia Pike instead of the streetcar, but he blasted Garvey for abstaining during a vote on the streetcar in July.
“We’ve had studies, more studies, then more studies on the Columbia Pike trolley,” he said. “With that amount of information out there, [Garvey] should be able to make a decision against the trolley.”
Clement echoed Wavro’s criticism.
“Board members are elected to take stands on controversial issues, not back away from them,” she said, adding that the streetcar will absorb tax dollars that could be used for capital improvements to Arlington’s existing transportation network and service enhancements like expanded weekend ART bus service.
There was disagreement over whether the Pike streetcar is a decision that can be reversed or not. Wavro argued that a lone board member would and should not be able to reverse the community process that led to the streetcar vote this summer. Garvey said the board only approved a “transit system” and that the “vehicle” for that system is a decision that will be made “down the line.”
“I think this will probably be the most important vote that I’m going to take in my time on the Board, and I’m hoping to be on the Board for about 12 years,” she said.
In addition to speaking out about the Columbia Pike streetcar, Clement also criticized Garvey’s vote to approve the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Area Plan, which she said will eliminate affordable housing and “will transform the Pike into a gentrified urban canyon.” Wavro, meanwhile, spoke of the need to preserve market rate affordable housing — housing that’s affordable without government intervention — along the Pike and throughout the county.
Wavro made fiscal responsibility a pillar of his platform, saying the Board shouldn’t need to raise property tax rates — like it did this spring — on top of increases in property assessments.
“We should be able to fund our priorities through the increased assessments,” he said. “What we’ve seen from the County Board… is a trajectory of spending on capital projects that includes a tax or rent increase for every Arlington resident each year for the next ten years in order to maintain our AAA bond rating. I think we should have a much more responsible capital spending plan.”
Clement again agreed with Wavro, but delivered a sharper attack on Garvey and the Democrat-controlled County Board.
“In the current uncertain financial climate spurred by BRAC closures and the federal deficit, I view spending for key products in the [Capital Improvement Plan], including the [Long Bridge Park] aquatic center and the trolley, as reckless and irresponsible, and will oppose them unless the county’s economic outlook improves” she said. “In addition to opposing profligate capital spending, I have a specific plan for action to promote fiscal responsibility that emphasizes funding basic needs and investment in sustainable infrastructure.”