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Democratic Candidates For County Board Debate Issues

The two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the Arlington County Board debated issues like predatory towing and county spending at last night’s debate.

Hosted by the Arlington Young Democrats and moderated by Virginia Public Radio’s Michael Lee Pope, the debate between candidates Chanda Choun and Matthew de Ferranti was held at the Walter Reed Community Center.

While there was agreement on the impending vote on the county’s budget and other financial issues, Choun and de Ferranti held different opinions on renovating county government headquarters.

Choun was in favor of renovating the building, saying that it has been years since it was renovated and adding environmental efficiencies and handicap accessibility were necessary.

For de Ferranti, he “would rather spend the money on schools,” or other programs, citing cuts to school mental health professionals in the budget. The candidate added that there were higher priority investments that could be made for the sake of county employees, and that wage raises were a start.

Both candidates were in favor of a stronger stance against predatory parking, with de Ferranti saying that he has been towed himself and that he was sure others at the debate had been towed as well.

Choun specifically stated his support of a secondary signature requirement for towing, which was passed by the County Board but shot down by the state legislature. He later mentioned his support for extended parking meter hours.

The issue of the minimum wage was raised, with both candidates in favor of a higher local minimum, which is not currently an option — despite attempts by local legislators — given the Dillon Rule.

“If you work 40 hours a week in Arlington, you should be able to afford a place to live that is not more than 40 percent of your income,” said De Ferranti. He believed that the minimum wage should be raised to $10.

Choun saind that Arlington “should match if not exceed the District of Columbia’s minimum wage,” which will reach $15 per work hour in 2020.

Though he was against several proposed budget cuts, such as those relating to Lee Highway planning, Choun favored cuts that he found to be duplicative or irrelevant. He cited the cutting of the county’s cable administrator position as a step in the right direction to eliminate unnecessary spending.

De Ferranti said that the county needs “to be fiscally smart” and that he was concerned with the amount spent on facilities.

Though professing a deep devotion to the county, Choun only moved to Arlington in 2015.

“I always wanted to be here,” he said following a question regarding his motivation to run from Pope. “It just took time personally and professionally to get here.”

“That doesn’t mean that I don’t have anything to offer,” Choun added, mentioning his background as a Cambodian refugee, a tech professional, and a military veteran.

Originally from McLean, de Ferranti was not asked about his reason for running for a County Board seat but was asked about an endorsement from Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Va.).

Lopez has been criticized for his financial links to a privately run Immigration Centers of America detention facility in Farmville, Va. De Ferranti said that “if you look at [Lopez’s] work in Richmond, he’s been a strong leader for us in Richmond on affordable housing and immigration.”

“I’m grateful for his support, but I’m also focused on what I can do and I hope that you’ll judge me on my actions on immigration with respect to Arlington,” de Ferranti added.

The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 12 and the nominee will face incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt in the November election. Vihstadt, an independent, was elected in 2014 and received the endorsement of the Arlington GOP. He became the first non-Democrat to sit on the Arlington County Board in 15 years.

Reporting contributions from Anna Merod

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