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Letter to the Editor: No Seat at the Table, No Vote

The following letter to the editor was submitted by local resident Bobbie Fisher.

Fisher also wrote about the intersection of race and Arlington politics in a letter to the editor in the Sun Gazette last year.

Last April, high-profiled Democrats like Libby Garvery, Theo Stamos, Peter Rousselot, Frank Thomas and loyal grassroot voters REJECTED Democratic nominee Alan Howze, who “lost badly” by 3,500 votes to Republican John Vihstadt for the County Board seat. The Sun Gazette quoted the Arlington County Democratic Committee chairman:

“We certainly lost. We lost badly on Tuesday,” said Kip Malinosky, chairman of the Arlington County Democratic Party. “We need to do much more to listen, much more to engage, much more to rebuild the trust that has eroded over the years.”

ACDC Chair Malinosky just doesn’t get it! The County’s white leadership has never bothered to “engage” nor “listen” to the issues of Black voters: jobs, minority students trapped in poor performing schools; gentrification of Nauck neighborhood; affordable housing, and the under representation of black-owned businesses.

What has ACDC done for Black voters? As an African American, homeowner and taxpayer there’s never been any open up discussion about the County’s racial disparities. For decades, Arlington County continue to exclude African Americans from elected public office and at senior-level positions in government.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently released her new book who is no fan of Arlington. “We lived in a soulless suburb. It wasn’t the right place for us, and we needed a change,” she wrote.

Here’s why Arlington remains a “soulless suburb.”

Barbara Donellan, first female County Manager resides in Fairfax County — not in Arlington! Worse, Ms. Donellan has 19 senior-level leaders who report directly to her. No African-American male or female is employed on Ms. Donellan’s senior-level staff.

This year, four highly qualified African-American Democrats were on the local ballot for public office: Bill Euille (three-term mayor of Alexandria); Charniele Herring; Lavern Chatman and Atima Omara-Alwala. All lost! Not a single black candidate won any support from ACDC, or any significant white votes in Arlington.

Alan Howze,”consistently talked about the need to support our educators and address the overcrowding challenges we face.” Yet, avoids discussing declining SOL grades at Drew School, where he attended as a child. Howze is silent on the growing achievement gap among minority children. In 2013, Drew ranked worse than 80.5% of elementary schools in Virginia.

John Vihstadt may ask tough questions about spending priorities, yet ignores discussing the County’s racial disparities in senior-level positions in government.

So, why should African American residents vote for candidates who ignore the concerns of black voters? Fifty years ago, Arlington County was wrong on racial segregation. Fifty years later African-Americans remain excluded from County politics and in government.

In 1984 Evelyn Reid Syphax, a former Arlington elementary school teacher who served extensively on a variety of elected and appointed boards for schools and civic and community organizations, was often identified as “the only black member of the school board.” Syphax was quoted in the Washington Post: “We have not arrived if I still have to have that distinction.”

In 2014, thirty years later, Ms. Syphax words rings true today, “We have not arrived.”

On Election Day, November 4, Black voters need to stand up to both Democrats and Republicans and demand: “no seat at the table – No Votes!!”

Bobbie Fisher
Pentagon City

ARLnow.com occasionally publishes letters to the editor about local issues. To submit a letter to the editor, please email it to [email protected]. Letters to the editor may be edited for content and brevity.

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