(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Comedian Bill Cosby joined Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette and other local notables in helping to open the new Ben’s Chili Bowl in Rosslyn this morning.
Cosby’s jokes and antics drew laughs from the large crowd of media and spectators that gathered to see the ribbon cutting for the iconic U Street eatery’s first stand-alone, brick-and-mortar expansion. Other attendees and speakers included the Ali family, which owns the restaurant; the ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago, late founder Ben Ali’s home country; WPGC DJ Shack Nd Pack; and Rosslyn BID President Mary-Claire Burick.
Cosby joked that as an aging Navy veteran, he was glad to have a Ben’s Chili Bowl near Arlington National Cemetery.
“The reason why this establishment has decided to open here is for me,” he said. “I’m 76-and-a-half years old. I’m going to have my 77th birthday in July… I spent four years in the Navy, which means I am eligible for a military funeral. Now, my can ghost make the trip here instead of flying over to U Street.”
“Over in that cemetery there is no cholesterol,” he continued. “There are no triglycerides. Eat as many as you like. Double down on the cheese and fries. A lot of people may not go to heaven, because this is heaven.”
Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette presented Cosby and Virginia Ali, Ben’s widow, with keys to Arlington. Cosby quipped that he would use it to get out of parking tickets.
“Whoa, who put me on stage after Bill Cosby?” Fisette said, to which Cosby shot back: “your mother did.”
“Thanks for choosing Arlington… for your second spot,” Fisette said. “As I’ve always said, chili for breakfast, chili for lunch, chili for dinner and a half smoke for dessert.”
Customers flooded into the the restaurant following the ribbon cutting, leaving a large crowd outside the doors, waiting to get in. Hundreds showed up to the Colonial Village Shopping Center parking lot to see Cosby speak and get some of the first tastes of chili, half smokes, hamburgers and milkshakes after standing outside in near-freezing temperatures.
The restaurant is located at 1725 Wilson Blvd, in the former Ray’s Hell Burger space. It’s owned and operated by three sons, Nizam, Kamal and Sage, and one daughter, Vida. The family said during the ribbon cutting that the restaurant plans to stay open until 4:30 a.m.
“The chili will sober you up,” Cosby said of Ben’s likely late night customers.
(Updated at 7:50 p.m.) The effects of last week’s winter storm were felt by one group of commuters for days following the last snowflake.
The inconvenience of traveling in the cold and sometimes icy conditions proved not only difficult for those traveling by car, but also for local cyclists. At Saturday’s Arlington County Board meeting, resident Gillian Burgess expressed her concerns about clearing bike trails after snow storms occur in the area.
“We only have one car, and we have lots of bikes,” Burgess said. “Unfortunately, it’s not safe to take most of these bikes onto the trails in the state that they’re in. So I leave the car with my kids because I want them to be the safest, and instead I’m left with the choice of biking on very busy streets that are not safe.”
“My husband and I first moved to Arlington years ago because we wanted to live the car-light lifestyle,” she continued. “Now we have two kids and one car, and we love it. And most of the time we love mostly biking and walking around Arlington. Unfortunately after it snows we don’t have that luxury. We have found that both after the storm in December and currently, trails do not get cleared.”
According to county Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel, the county does not have dedicated resources for clearing ice and snow from its shared-use trails.
“Staff have been collaborating this past year to find a viable solution to clear these trails,” McDaniel said in an email. “The Department of Parks and Recreation has made an effort to handle snow clearing on trails after addressing other priorities such as snow clearing for several County buildings, routes to schools and Metro rail stations, as well as assisting in the clearing of streets and walkways at other locations.”
Board Chairman Jay Fisette agreed that the county has encouraged walking and biking to get around — the “car-free diet” — and he said Burgess’ concerns were understandable.
“We have heard over time, increasingly the question about bike trails – and it’s a natural one because we’re promoting walking and cycling,” he said. “It makes complete sense that we [are getting] more questions from those who have drunk the Kool-Aid and participate in that culture and maybe even got rid of that car so that they can bike and walk and use transit more frequently.”
Tim Kelley, the marketing manager for Bike Arlington, wrote in Bike Arlington’s forums that the county’s 25 bike counters on its shared-use trails register “a big dip in usage during and in the days following a big snow storm.”
Fisette, who mentioned he is a cyclist himself, remains “unresolved” on the issue.
“I have probably the full range of questions about this as anyone would, you know, about resources, about prioritization, about effectiveness and the environmental impact,” Fisette said. “So I would just say that from my perspective, to have some sort of coherent input from [County Manager Barbara Donnellan] thinking about… what the options are for Board consideration might make sense.”
Ethan Rothstein contributed to this report. Photo (top) via Bike Arlington.
The planned Long Bridge Park aquatics center has been the subject of controversy lately — as critics decry its rising projected construction and operating costs.
But for one Arlington resident, who spoke at Saturday’s County Board meeting, the facility does represent an unmet need in Arlington.
During the meeting’s public comment period, Cynthia Siton told the Board that the facility could serve residents with multiple sclerosis, like herself. She said that the three existing pools are inadequate for MS sufferers because the water temperature is kept too high, forcing her to use Fairfax County pools instead.
“In the summer I find that the pools in the county — the three county pools — the water is too warm,” she said. “Fairfax County pools tend to keep their water cooler, which is very important for people with MS.”
Siton explained the importance of cooler temperatures for MS patients.
“It’s important during exercise to keep the body at a cool temperature,” she said. “That is, also one of the reasons that I favor pool expansion. There are very few exercises that people with MS can engage in because exercise naturally raises the body temperature, bringing on symptoms. Swimming is a way to get exercise and maintain a pretty steady body temperature.”
In response, County Board Chairman Jay Fisette revealed that his own brother had been diagnosed with MS approximately a year and a half ago. Fisette said he understands the dangers of overheating.
“Heat is not healthy for someone with MS, I hadn’t actually thought about that in terms of aquatics or swimming, but it makes complete sense from what I know,” he said.
In addition to an 80-86 degree teaching pool, supporters of the aquatics center point out that it will include a therapy pool that could be used by seniors and other groups that need a more specialized swimming environment than that offered by the three existing county pools, which are located in Arlington’s public high schools.
The Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility project is currently on hold. Earlier this month, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan ordered her staff to review the costs of the facility and recommend a plan — which could mean downsizing or cancelling the project.
Siton said she hopes for the best.
“My hope is these pools will afford people to swim in environments where they’re comfortable getting in and out of the pool and swimming comfortably in the lanes.”
In a statement, Fisette said a major decision point for him was “the contrast between the dysfunctional climate on Capitol Hill and the can-do atmosphere in Arlington.”
Congressman Jim Moran recently announced that he will not seek re-election. He deserves our heartfelt thanks for twenty-four years of strong, principled service to all of us in Northern Virginia. His voice and experience in Congress will be missed.
Many friends and colleagues have asked of my interest in running for this seat and have encouraged me to run. While appreciative of those comments, I have decided that I will not seek this position.
One reason for my decision is the contrast between the dysfunctional climate on Capitol Hill and the can-do atmosphere in Arlington. The state of politics at the national level is disheartening, with the outsized influence of shrill, well-financed forces and the disintegration of sincere efforts to forge compromise, respect one’s colleagues and realize the potential of government to make people’s lives better. The distorted effects of re-districting and the demands of a relatively small band of conservative extremists have hijacked the House in particular for the moment.
Arlington is different. This community continues to take policy deliberations seriously, engage widely and with civility, and put our progressive values into action. As a result, we have achieved amazing things together and are in a strong position to continue moving forward. Here, diverse people with good will and good ideas can and do make a difference. Having just been re-elected by the voters and tapped by my colleagues to lead the County Board this year, I will be staying to continue my work in our wonderful community.
There are many qualified Democrats who could represent the Eighth District very capably. I will work with our party’s nominee to secure a victory in the November election and keep the Eighth District in the progressive ranks.
County Gets $500k for Beaver Pond Project — Arlington County has received a $500,000 state grant for a project to improve the Ballston beaver pond. “The $2.7 million improvement project, paid for mostly from stormwater funds, includes changing the flow pattern to keep water in the pond longer, allowing wetland plants to remove nutrients and other pollutants before it flows out,” the county said in a press release. “Construction is expected to begin in the summer 2014.” [Arlington County]
Fisette’s Disclosure Doesn’t Include Husband — County Board Chairman Jay Fisette’s annual financial disclosure did not include the finances of his husband. Fisette was married in D.C. this past September, but Fisette says he’s not required to include his spouse in the disclosure since their marriage is not recognized under Virginia law. [Washington Post]
Howze Tops Fundraising Battle — Democratic County Board hopeful Alan Howze has raised the most money of any County Board candidate, with $16,245. Fellow Democrat Cord Thomas appears to be completely self-funding his campaign, while independent candidate John Vihstadt’s donors include a number of local Republicans. [Blue Virginia]
APS Budget Forum Dates Set — Arlington Public Schools will hold three community forums on the upcoming FY 2015 budget. The forums will be held on Jan. 22, Jan. 29 and Feb. 3. [Arlington Public Schools]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
Editor’s Note: The following opinion piece was written by Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette. It originally appeared in ARLbiz, our weekly Arlington business e-newsletter. You can subscribe to ARLbiz here.
On New Year’s Day, I announced that my focus this year as Arlington County Board Chairman will be on sustainability – the ability to prosper through change. A key element of that focus for me will be laying the groundwork for Arlington to become a hub for the innovation economy.
Everything we do should be judged by how it advances our goal of building a community that will sustain Arlingtonians for generations to come. We have such a strong foundation on which to build.
When I moved to Arlington in 1983 — 31 years ago — it was a somewhat sleepy place with an uncertain future. Arlington had made the commitment to transit as our prime engine of redevelopment but we were not sure how far it could take us. Today, 40 percent of all transit trips in the state — in the entire state — begin or end in Arlington. After years of persistence, patience and sound investment, the unprecedented prosperity that has resulted is clear.
Today, other localities are learning from us and making smarter planning decisions themselves. We face a rapidly changing economy and increased competition as the Silver Line brings rail transit to Tyson’s and beyond and DC creates new office markets. To tackle these challenges, the County Manager, accompanied by Board Members, went on a listening tour in the business community. What we heard on that tour helped me formulate my action plan. Owners of businesses both small and large love this community and value the business opportunities here, but we heard thoughtful suggestions from them on how we can make Arlington an even better place to do business.
We know that Arlington has amazing assets that will continue to be a fundamental part of our economic strength. Our location is not going to change. National Airport and the Pentagon are not going anywhere. Our outstanding transportation system, smart growth policies and great schools will be protected and enhanced. Did you know that today’s Arlington has the nation’s highest concentration of 25 to 34-year-olds — and is the home of the region’s “creative class?”
In the coming months, as part of my six-point plan, we will be presenting ideas for accelerating the growth of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor’s science, technology, art, research and education eco-system; strengthening communications and partnerships between County government, businesses, entrepreneurs and residents; updating our Retail Action Plan; and strategically marketing Arlington to businesses and developers nationally.
These initiatives will help ensure that Arlington is a leader in the innovation economy — the 21st-century economy of flexible, creative enterprises and high-tech products and services.
You can read my entire January 1 speech on the County website.
It is an ambitious agenda — but this is an ambitious community. We lean forward and are good at turning challenges into opportunities. Arlington’s future is bright. Together, we will continue to build a community that is a model of sustainability, diversity and civic engagement – a place that other communities look to for inspiration.
Chairman, Arlington County Board
With operating costs projected at twice the original estimates, and construction bids “significantly higher” than anticipated, it may be a case of downsize or die for the proposed Long Bridge Park Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility.
The project, which was at one point supposed to be under construction by now, is on hold as a result of contractor bids well exceeding the $79.3 million budgeted for the first phase of construction. The county has yet to reveal exactly how high the bids were.
Last night, meanwhile, Arlington County officially acknowledged that a 2012 estimate of the facility’s operating deficit — $1.9 million in Fiscal Year 2020 — has doubled to an annual deficit of $3.8 million. That excludes the cost of running the existing facilities at Long Bridge Park.
After pausing the project, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan instructed her staff to analyze the rising costs of the facility and recommend a course of action. That course of action may be to downsize the county’s lofty ambitions for the “world-class” facility, push it back until economic conditions improve, or scrap it altogether.
Speaking at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, County Board member Mary Hynes left open all possibilities.
“We’re in the process of trying to figure out what the costs will be should the Board decide to move forward on the project at this time,” she said. Speaking to ARLnow.com, Hynes said she would not support spending additional money on the facility at a time when capital funding is urgently needed to increase school capacity.
“We have a certain amount of money set aside for this, we don’t have more than that,” she said. “We have been building pretty significantly for the last 20 years, we’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in schools. We’ve done fire stations, we’ve done other things. We have a 10 percent self-imposed debt limit and we’ve been bumping around in the 9′s.”
“The only way you get more debt capacity is to raise taxes,” she continued. “I guess that’s a choice that some people would make, that’s not a choice I’d make for a swimming pool.”
Scrapping the facility altogether could prove difficult. Voters have already approved a $42.5 million parks bond for the facility and Vornado has committed $15 million as part of the PenPlace development.
Jay Fisette, a stalwart supporter of the Aquatics, Health and Fitness Facility, says nearly a decade was spent on the center’s design in order to address a community need. Noting that the design of the facility was “incredibly energy efficient,” perhaps driving up costs, Fisette said he’s hoping that those bidding on the project will be swayed to lower their bids and “value engineer” some savings.
“It’s certainly my hope that there’s some ability to look at the bids and talk to the bidders… and narrow that gap,” he said. “The park and the facility design itself came out of a community needs assessment. It was supported by 64 percent of the voters just 14 months ago. I hope we can responsibly move forward.”
Blaming earlier reports that the projected operating costs had increased up to 350 percent on “a complete error” by county staff, Fisette said there are numerous misconceptions about the costs. He added that earlier “exaggerations” about the exact extent of the cost increases have been “celebrated by longtime opponents of the facility.”
Fisette Staying Out of Confederate Name Issue — Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said he has too much other business to worry about in the coming months to get involved with the request to remove the name “Jefferson Davis” from Arlington roads. Fisette says he’s sensitive to the reasons behind the request to remove the Confederate leader’s name, but the process for removal is laborious and has to go through the state. [Sun Gazette]
Burst Pipe at Reagan National Airport — Trader Joe’s in Clarendon certainly wasn’t the only business affected by a burst water pipe during Tuesday’s cold weather. Some pipes burst at Reagan National Airport yesterday afternoon and flooded the area near the baggage claim terminals for American Airlines and United Airlines. [DCist]
Tomb Sentinels Brave Freezing Temps — Most people did what they could to bundle up and stay indoors yesterday, but members of The Old Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery are getting attention for braving the bitter cold. The 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment posted a photo of one of the sentinels on its Facebook page and news organizations immediately spread the word. [WTOP, WUSA]
Flickr pool photo by @ddimick
As expected, the Arlington County Board officially selected Jay Fisette as chairman for 2014 yesterday during its annual New Year’s Day meeting, and Fisette announced his priorities as, in a word: “sustainability.”
Fisette, who will serve as chairman for the fourth time since being elected to the board in 1998, made economic development, school capacity, affordable housing and the environment his top priorities for the coming year. Fisette also reiterated, along with outgoing chairman Walter Tejada and newly-elected Vice Chair Mary Hynes, his support for the Columbia Park streetcar project.
“We in Arlington have always welcomed change, carefully managed with broad community involvement and thoughtful review,” Fisette said at the beginning of his remarks. “Sound planning and adaptability are two of our civic strengths.”
Fisette laid out a six-point plan for economic development, which he said “could grow into the traditional 10-point plan by the end of the year.” The six points of his plan are accelerating the technology startup economy, particularly along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor; strengthening business and regional partnerships; marketing Arlington nationally and internationally as a business-friendly location; updating the county’s Retail Action Plan; working to improve the county’s commissions (specifically the Planning Commission, which is viewed by developers as business un-friendly); and “be flexible where possible.”
Fisette said his plan for “aggressive business development” will include and effort “streamline processes and improve predictability” for businesses opening and operating in Arlington. He also announced a new $700,000 public-private partnership fund to help technology startups in the county. To illustrate Arlington’s flexibility, Fisette highlighted the planned redevelopments of Ballston Common Mall and the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City.
The office vacancy rate in Arlington stands at 20.3 percent, the highest it’s been in 20 years, according to the Washington Post. Fisette noted Arlington’s challenges in being competitive, particularly the BRAC closures in Crystal City. Arlington is also soon to lose other major employers, like the National Science Foundation. In addition to BRAC, Fisette blamed the vacancy rate on factors like increased competition from other localities, increased rates of teleworking and federal government caps on rent. But Fisette said he believes the county can adjust and continue to grow.
“We’ve shown resilience to a challenge that would have crippled many communities,” he said. “Arlington has amazing assets that will continue to be a fundamental part of our economic strengths. Our location is not going to change. National airport and the Pentagon are not going anywhere. And our transportation system, smart growth policies, great schools and creative class workforce will be protected and enhanced.”
The streetcar also featured prominently in Fisette’s speech, as the chairman attempted to debunk the theory that Bus Rapid Transit is a better solution and the funds for streetcar would be better spent elsewhere.
“The community planning process has been extensive and inclusive,” he said. “Such a thorough and broad-based decision-making process should not be easily disrespected or reversed.”
Fisette said the board “must do more” to meet the growing need for schools capacity, stressing Arlington Public Schools’ projection that an additional 4,000 students will enroll in the next five years and that the district needs an additional four-to-eight capital projects in the next 10 years.
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.
Bluemont Neighborhood Plan Approved – The Arlington County Board last night accepted an updated Bluemont Neighborhood Conservation Plan, which will ”[allow] the Bluemont Civic Association to pursue funding to transform the neighborhood to a true ‘urban village’ with slower traffic, better sidewalks and revitalized commercial corridors.” The plan also calls for a grocery store to remain at the current Safeway site. [Arlington County]
APS Plans to Use ‘Big Data’ to Reduce Dropout Rate — Arlington Public Schools is launching a competition that will challenge teams of scientists to figure out a way to reduce the school system’s dropout rate by combing through 12 years of student data. The winning team will receive $10,000. [Washington Post]
SuperStop Makes ‘Wastebook’ — The $1 million Walter Reed SuperStop on Columbia Pike has made Republican Sen. Tom Coburn’s annual “Wastebook,” which highlights “100 examples of wasteful and low-priority spending.” The bus stop, which can be found on page 32 of the Wastebook, was partially paid for with federal funds. “This report speaks volumes about why confidence in government is at an all-time low,” Coburn said of his publication. [Wastebook 2013, ARLnow Forums]
Fisette to Serve as Board Chair — County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette was sworn in to a fifth four-year term on Tuesday. He will serve as County Board chairman in 2014. [Arlington County]
Research Firm Moving to Arlington — Research firm Hanover Research is moving its main office from the District to 4401 Wilson Blvd in Ballston this month. “The company’s extremely skilled staff, 61% of which hold advanced degrees, will help Ballston grow its reputation as a knowledge hub and significantly contribute to the area’s entrepreneurial spirit,” Hanover said in a press release. Arlington Public Schools is one of the company’s clients. [Hanover Research]
Flickr pool photo by jordanhiggins
Here is the unedited response from Jay Fisette (D):
Dear Fellow Arlingtonians –
Arlington has evolved into a vibrant urban community that has retained our traditional sense of caring and connectedness. We boast top-notch services, outstanding public schools, a robust transportation system, low crime and the lowest unemployment rate in Virginia.
Many thoughtful people are responsible for today’s Arlington, and I am excited to continue to do my part to move our community forward. I am especially proud of my past efforts to maintain sound fiscal policies and support our public schools, and my leadership in developing our Community Energy Plan, Capital Bikeshare program, pedestrian safety improvements, affordable housing programs and e-government enhancements.
We face several challenges, including housing affordability, growing student enrollments, and the job losses resulting from the Base Realignment and Closure Commission and from dysfunction in Congress. With the first two of these, we are victims of our own success – as Arlington is a desirable community to many, including more families with young children. I am prepared to tackle these issues and find creative, smart solutions that build on our assets. I am committed to thoughtful long-term planning and collaborative problem solving.
Protecting our Triple AAA bond rating and fiscal integrity is a priority. As a former auditor with the Government Accountability Office, I hate waste and will seek value for every dollar spent. I will balance the short-term budget decisions with the long-term capital infrastructure investments that will ensure our vitality and competitiveness in the future.
I am driven to create a sustainable community on all fronts, thus will work to implement Arlington’s energy reduction strategy. In 2010, I established a Community Energy & Sustainability Task Force, to take up the challenge of developing goals and concrete targets for reducing our energy use. Arlington now has an aggressive and achievable energy reduction strategy that will advance our economic competitiveness, enhance energy reliability and protect our environment. We will save residents and businesses money while enhancing our community’s sustainability.
Fisette Weds Long-Time Partner — Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette married long-time partner Bob Rosen last week. After 30 years together, the couple tied the knot in a low-key ceremony at All Souls Unitarian Church in the District. Fisette and Rosen’s union will not be recognized in Virginia, but Fisette said he thinks that same-sex marriage will be legalized in the Commonwealth within five years. [Sun Gazette]
Smash-and-Grab Lookout Sentenced — The man who served as a lookout in a series of smash-and-grab robberies in the D.C. area, including this robbery at the Tourneau store in Pentagon City, has been sentenced. Floyd Davis, 43, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for his role in the crimes. [Washington Post]
Reevesland Group Refines Proposal — A group that wants to convert the historic Reeves farmhouse into an agricultural learning center for school children has submitted a proposal to Arlington County. The group says its volunteers will lower the cost of necessary renovations to the building by 30 percent. It has offered to operate the center and make it available to Arlington Public Schools. In exchange, the group wants the county to pay for renovations (about $700,000), ongoing maintenance costs and utilities. [Sun Gazette]
Library Seeks Info on Mystery Football Photo — Arlington Public Library’s Center for Local History is seeking more information about a photograph found at a local home. The photo shows a group of men wearing early 20th century football equipment, posing in front of a school. [Arlington Public Library]
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
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.
(Updated at 12:55 p.m.) This morning, in a historic ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), thus allowing the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages.
The high court also ruled on California’s Proposition 8. The ruling will have the end effect of allowing gay marriages in the state of California, barring further legal challenges.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, issued the following statement about the ruling.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision today puts the court on the right side of history. DOMA is unjust, un-American, and out of step with the values of our country. Beginning today, same-sex couples in the 12 freedom to marry states will be eligible for the federal protections and responsibilities afforded all other married couples.
Our nation has a long history of fighting to overcome discrimination to secure civil rights for all citizens. I hope this decision gives momentum to efforts across the country to enshrine marriage equality into our laws. Discrimination has no place in our country.
Republicans have wasted more than $3 million on this lawsuit over the past three years. That’s unconscionable while budgets are being slashed by sequestration and many federal workers face furloughs.
The Declaration of Independence affirms that “all men are created equal” and that every American has a right to “the pursuit of happiness.” These principles cannot be fulfilled without the ability to marry the person you love.
Arlington County Board member Jay Fisette, the first openly gay elected official in Virginia, talked to ARLnow.com shortly after the rulings. An excerpt:
It’s a terrific day for the country and for fairness. It’s another important step forward for the inevitability of marriage equality.
You feel a sense of pride at the progress and the ability of people in this country to learn and grow and address the irrational fears that existed 30 years ago. It’s so wonderful that a country and a democracy can make [this progress] despite the challenges.
This does not provide what I would call marriage equality across the board for all Americans. One thing has not changed: Bob [Rosen, Jay's partner] and I cannot get married in Virginia. In Virginia, we have… a conservative General Assembly that has no interest in providing marriage equality. We’re still in the baby steps phase.
Fisette said that while he and Rosen have in the past rejected the “symbolism” of getting married in another jurisdiction, like D.C. (which allows same-sex marriage), the DOMA decision may prompt them to reconsider.