Congratulations to Erik Gutshall for winning the Democrats’ County Board caucus. Now Republicans should nominate an opponent.
I have met Erik on a couple occasions since he first decided to run against Libby Garvey last year. We have children who attend Gunston Middle School together. In this politically charged time, we have shared in civil conversations. I like Erik.
But Erik is running his campaign on the same “progressive values” as the man he seeks to replace. His website could very well say, “if you elect me, the next four years will be just like the last 20.”
So here are four reasons Republicans should nominate a candidate or endorse an Independent who is committed to shaking up the status quo:
- Erik Gutshall supported Arlington’s efforts to give economic development handouts to large corporations. While we may not be able to stop the “me too” economic development giveaway approach right away, the primary focus of the next county board member should be to improve the business climate for job creators of every shape and size. The time for talk on making Arlington’s bureaucracy better is over. The next Board member should offer a comprehensive reform plan from zoning to the business license tax and call on the Board to start acting on it within the first six months.
- We need a Board member willing to ask tough questions on transportation decisions, like narrowing streets in a way that creates more traffic congestion. But the number one transportation priority for the next County Board member is to demand a Metro reorganization in exchange for additional Arlington tax dollars. Arlington has simply not demonstrated enough leadership on this critical system dating back to the years Chris Zimmerman served on the WMATA board.
- John Vihstadt needs an ally with a 100 percent commitment to spending within our means. Vihstadt has found a niche on the Board. He has worked with fellow members to achieve some positive results to hold the county accountable. But it is difficult to imagine a scenario where anyone else on the Board would support a year over year freeze in spending, even if you could demonstrate why circumstances warranted it (school enrollments significantly declined for example). There is simply a super-majority bias, four to one, to spend more. Erik would not change this ratio.
- Vihstadt also needs an ally committed to reforming the year-end closeout process. It essentially amounts to a slush fund for County Board members to spend every year. In the same light, a new Board member should bring transparency to the revenue estimates which are continually low, require the Board to raise taxes, and yet produces tens of millions in year-end surpluses every year. Libby Garvey has expressed a willingness to consider reforms to the process, but two votes for it only gets you a discussion, not a majority for reform.
A Republican (or an Independent committed to similar principles*) may not ultimately win, but they should run. Republicans have until June 13 to make a nomination.
*With all due respect to perennial candidate Audrey Clement, it should be someone new.