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.
Last week I attended my neighborhood community forum, which featured the leading County Board candidates — Alan Howze and John Vihstadt. After the forum, I spoke to one of my neighbors who made a simple observation. He told me that the message was clear to those in attendance. If you want to continue with the status quo, you will vote for Alan. If you want to put someone who will change things up, you will vote for John.
The candidates difference on their approach to government is exemplified by their positions on the Columbia Pike trolley. Howze made the case to move forward with it as planned. Vihstadt, a regular bus rider, countered that bus rapid transit would provide the same value in moving people at a fraction of the cost.
Howze will almost certainly chase the shiny ball of vanity projects. Vihstadt will take a more common sense approach that keeps value for our tax dollars in mind.
John Vihstadt, in making his case for running as an Independent, noted that potholes, water mains, trash pickup and street lights are not partisan issues. He also noted that the three candidates for the 2012 special election — Libby Garvey (Democrat), Audrey Clement (Green) and me — all had endorsed him in this campaign.
Alan Howze twice, in his opening and closing statements, called his Independent opponent a Republican — both times to audible jeering from the audience. Howze’s standard talking point fell flat. He was standing in the middle of three precincts where a majority of voters had voted for me running as a Republican two years earlier.
Calling Vihstadt a Republican seems to be one of the key pillars of Howze’s campaign strategy. The Howze campaign is using it online, while knocking on doors and making phone calls. It seems as though it is the worst thing Howze can think of to say about an opponent who spent 30 years giving back to his community on countless boards, commissions, and civic organizations. Vihstadt worked with Arlingtonians from all political stripes in those activities, and in return he has received significant endorsements from across the political spectrum.
It is not a new strategy for Democrats. Back in 2012, a Democrat volunteer called one of my supporters and said that Republicans were responsible for what was wrong in Arlington. My supporter reminded him that Democrats had controlled the County Board for nearly three decades and asked how it was possible Republicans could be held responsible?
Whatever party you identify with, one thing is clear — Democrat County Board members own every issue you have with how Arlington County operates. The trolley, the million dollar bus stop, red tape for businesses, the gold-plated aquatics center, the neverending Artisphere subsidies, the failure to maintain our roads, our aging infrastructure and the failure to take community input into account despite having more meetings to do so, are because of Democrat decisions.
If you want things to change after April 8, you have to send a clear message to the Democrats who have run Arlington for 30 years. Electing John Vihstadt, a proven independent voice, will send that message.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.