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This election season, incumbent Arlington County Board candidates will be facing not one, but two independent challengers.
Perennial candidate Audrey Clement is joined in the race for County Board by first-timer Arron O’Dell, a payroll associate with the American Correctional Association who threw his hat into the ring on a platform of affordable housing, more efficient transportation, and representing marginalized communities. The two candidates will face off against incumbent Board Chair Christian Dorsey and Board member Katie Cristol.
Clement is returning to the ring running a campaign centered on greater support for county services like schools, libraries, and affordable housing, as well as promoting green energy and preserving open space.
O’Dell is a D.C. native who’s also lived in Alexandria and Falls Church before moving abroad to Costa Rica and Thailand to teach English. In Thailand, he had a daughter who is now eight years old and lives with him, he said.
“She was born in Thailand and is the single biggest motivator for moving back to Arlington,” he said. “I wanted her to receive a high quality education and live in a place where women are treated more equally.”
Affordable Housing and Transportation
Both candidates are zeroing in on the county’s persistent affordable housing shortage.
“I know many in Arlington consider density a dirty word but we need a solid smart growth plan to add density at all price levels to meet the needs of the future,” said O’Dell, who noted he does not own his home. “I would love to see a plan where longer term residents that could not afford to buy in the current market were given an opportunity to build equity in the places they call home.”
Clement, meanwhile, is proposing the county reorganize all housing programs under a central housing agency in order to help, “negotiate construction costs down, providing taxpayers with more bang for their buck.”
O’Dell is also campaigning on increased public transit options for the county, citing how much easier it is for him to commute by car to his job in Alexandria currently because of infrequent buses and Metro’s current summer shutdown.
“An effective transportation system needs to be high frequency, high volume and a good value,” he said. “As Arlington evolves we should be looking at walkability and transportation and designing around that.”
O’Dell believes his time living abroad, and his experience as a single parent, make him uniquely qualified to represent some underserved communities in Arlington. He told ARLnow he has “deep empathy for the migrant communities in Arlington County, because of my experiences abroad I empathize with people living in a foreign land and trying to get by.”
“I understand just how daunting a new language and culture can be,” he added. “My desire is to be a voice for these lower-income, politicly quieter residents of the county.”
One of Clement’s campaign promises is to “provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers” but she’s also positioned herself as a watchdog of the County Board through a decade of campaigning and speaking at Board meetings.
In an email to ARLnow she criticized the Board’s recent raise as “excessive,” echoing comments from her website where she accused members of paying themselves more regardless of “whether their actual workload justifies the salary increase.”
Campaign endorsements are stacking up in the House of Delegates primary race between incumbent Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th) and challenger Julius D. “JD” Spain, Sr.
Lopez has racked up support from several labor groups. The International Union of Painters & Allied Trades District Council 51 and the Mid-Atlantic Pipe Trades Association both announced their support last week. Food service union UNITE HERE Local 23 DC Chapter, which represents airport concession workers, food service workers and others, also joined the list of local unions supporting Lopez.
“While these endorsements are an excellent way of showing broad support from trusted voices — and the types of issues I look forward to enacting — the most important measure of support for the upcoming primary is the depth and breadth of our campaign’s robust volunteer operation,” Lopez said in a statement to ARLnow, noting that a team of volunteers knocked on over 1,000 doors for his campaign last weekend.
Lopez said earlier this month he was “honored” to have so many labor groups endorse his campaign and pledged to “continue our fight in the General Assembly” against policies like right-to-work, which he says hurts workers and families.
With less than a month to go before the June 11 primary, Spain does not boast as lengthy a list of endorsements as his opponent, but he has received support from at least one prominent progressive group as well as local community members and activists.
“I, along with my entire team, [am] excited to have received the endorsement of the progressive and nationally recognized political action organization Our Revolution Arlington yesterday and Our Revolution Northern Virginia a few weeks ago,” Spain said, in an email statement today. “Additionally, the endorsements of prominent African-American and Latino community activists such as Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, the Honorable Frank Wilson, Mr. Gabriela Rubalcava, and Ms. Ingrid Vaca, who represent THE PEOPLE at the grassroots level resonates with voters.”
Our Revolution originally formed as an outgrowth of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign before forming local chapters nationwide. The Arlington chapter repeatedly protested Amazon’s deal with the county for its second headquarters last year, and now is endorsing Spain’s candidacy.
I am so grateful to Our Revolution NOVA for supporting a great set of primary challengers who will shake up the priorities of the establishment. It feels great to be part of the momentum behind progressive change on the economic, environmental, and social justice fronts! pic.twitter.com/x5GIz5jnix
— JD Spain for Delegate (@jdspainfordel49) May 7, 2019
Former School Board member Frank Wilson is among those endorsing Spain. He said in a statement that the former Marine “has a great deal of proven experience as a public servant” and is “honest, reliable and willing to work the long hours needed for a Delegate representing the people in District 49.”
“This campaign is built around inclusivity, believes in empowerment of others, transparency, and accountability,” Spain said. “I will always choose the working class over special interests and moneyed elites. Given the incumbent’s lack of transparency coupled with the events in Richmond this past February, I am confident voters in the 49th District are tired of the status-quo and ready for change.”
Campaign finance filings indicated that Spain had $6,364 left at the end of March in his coffers. He had poured more than $20,000 of his own money into the campaign to bolster his fundraising, which he restricted to donations from individuals.
Lopez, meanwhile, reported a war chest of $102,280 at the end of the first quarter, after raising money from clean energy groups and alcohol lobbyists, among others. All candidates running for election will release a new set of campaign finance reports next month.
Voters will choose between the two candidates for the Democratic nomination during the June 11 primary, and vote for their final choice during the November 5 general election.
Because no candidates from other parties are currently running for the 49th District seat, the primary could determine the result of the general election; however, independent or Republican candidates can still announce their intent to run after the primary.
The race to see who will be the next Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church has generated its share of fireworks, but the issue of campaign finance may ignite even more.
Incumbent Theo Stamos and challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti have already clashed over Tafti’s criticism of Stamos’ handling of cash bail and prosecution for some first-time marijuana-related offenses. Tafti also drew heat from county public-safety groups and her opponent for a campaign mailer they said mislabeled a fatal, officer-involved shooting as “police brutality.”
Recent filings shared by the non-profit Virginia Public Access Project have illuminated a new flash point: money from political action committees (PACs).
PACs are political organizations that donate money to campaigns on behalf of individuals or groups. Several have donated to Arlington state Senate and Delegate candidates, but few have donated to local races.
Only one of the Commonwealth’s Attorney candidates has received PAC money, according to VPAP. Tafti accepted research and polling services worth $51,235 from Justice and Public Safety, a PAC funded by George Soros. The billionaire philanthropist has donated to several progressive candidates nationwide.
The donation makes up about half of the $108,355 the Democratic challenger fundraised between January and March. After spending $76,179 of that money, Tafti’s campaign ended March with $50,202 in its coffers.
Another PAC that donated to Tafti’s campaign was the Justice Forward Virginia PAC, which advocates for criminal justice reform. The PAC is led in part by Brad Haywood, Arlington’s chief public defender and vocal critic of Stamos. The committee donated $600 to Tafti’s campaign.
Senior Assistant Public Defender Allison Carpenter also donated $50 to Tafti’s campaign. Carpenter was one of signatories of a letter released last month blasting Stamos for overcharging crimes, among other issues.
Stamos previously told ARLnow the donations from the letter’s signatories prove it was a “political hit job.”
In addition, Tafti last year received $600 from the Alexandria-based Brass Ovaries PAC, which funds female Democratic candidates in local races and hosted a fundraiser for Arlington candidates last September.
In a statement, Tafti told ARLnow:
In our first filing, I outraised the incumbent almost 6 to 1 with all individual donations, most of which were small amounts from local residents. I have since earned the support of numerous local organizations — including unions, activist groups, the Arlington Education Association, and civil rights organizations — that represent thousands of Arlington and City of Falls Church residents. They support me because they recognize that our community is lagging behind on criminal justice reform and that we need a Commonwealth’s Attorney who represents our values. Only after our campaign had significant grassroots support, and extensive research into my opponent’s record opposing reform at every turn, did Justice and Public Safety PAC offer its support. Reform doesn’t always come easy, and I welcome the support of individuals and organizations, especially an organization backed by one of the world’s foremost promoters of democratic values, that want to help our community live up to its ideals.
In contrast, Stamos’ campaign has collected no PAC money so far this year, according to VPAP.
“I have grassroots support and I think that speaks to the depth and breadth of my support in the community,” Stamos said, when asked whether she intentionally eschewed PAC money.
Several groups have come out in favor of Stamos, including 50 local attorneys who signed a letter in support earlier this year. One of them, Arlington divorce lawyer James Korman, donated $625 to her campaign during this quarter.
(Updated on 05/13/19) The debate in the Commonwealth’s Attorney race over police brutality has grown into a larger discussion over police accountability.
“My opponent’s reckless use of language seeks to sow distrust in a community that registers some of the highest levels of confidence in law enforcement,” said Theo Stamos, the incumbent Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington and Falls Church in statement today (Friday.)
Stamos kicked off an election debate this week by requesting Democratic challenger Parisa Dehghani-Tafti explain her recent description of a case as an example of “police brutality” that Stamos declined to prosecute.
“Is your criticism that I failed to prosecute the officer or that I failed to have an another agency review this incident?” Stamos asked her challenger during Wednesday’s debate. “Which was was it?”
The conversation was sparked after several Arlington public safety groups criticized Tafti over a campaign mailer stating Stamos had “refused to prosecute police officers in cases of police brutality.” The mailer cited an instance in which a suspect was shot to death after striking an officer in the face with a metal pipe during a domestic violence call, a shooting that was determined to be justified by an investigation conducted by Stamos’ office.
Tafti said voters want “accountability, transparency, and impartiality” from law enforcement, and questioned Stamos’ investigation of the incident. During Wednesday’s night’s debate, hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, Tafti responded to Stamos’ question by broadening the discourse.
“This is about impartiality, not about any particular case,” Tafti said. “You don’t want anyone investigating themselves and… the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, which is dependent on police to gather evidence, should not be making unchecked decisions about investigations.”
The challenger said that if elected, she would craft an independent review policy to allow a community review board, Virginia State Police, or a special prosecutor to examine cases of police violence — a policy she says other neighboring jurisdictions have.
“It’s remarkable that my opponent is now disavowing her incendiary mailer and suggesting that this is about bringing in an independent agency to review an officer-involved shooting,” Stamos told ARLnow today (Friday) in a statement.
The prosecutor defended the independence of her office, saying she is “not beholden” to law enforcement but that “Shifting responsibility to some other entity that is not accountable to the voters of this community is the opposite of accountability.”
Earlier today Tafti said in a statement that:
I’m for impartiality. Even though rare in our community, use-of-force incidents require impartial review. I’m also a reformer and any time you run as a reformer you get pushback but pushback means we get to talk about the issues. My opponent has fought reform at every turn. Now she has decided to go negative because it distracts from her record of failing to adequately support victims, including survivors of sexual violence — a record of opposing cash bail reform, opposing voting rights for returning citizens, opposing using diversion instead of incarceration for individuals with mental illness, opposing expungement of minor infractions, opposing civil asset forfeiture reform, and opposing transparency and impartiality. I will continue to focus on these issues in the campaign and once elected because that’s what makes everyone safe.
“A key reason you don’t hear about police shootings or excessive use of force in Arlington is because of our crisis prevention training,” Stamos said during the debate. She noted that 78% of county police have received that training.
Elections around Arlington may not attract the sort of expensive TV ads that have come to dominate local stations ahead of the midterm elections, but candidates around the county have shelled out thousands to bring their messages to Facebook.
An ARLnow analysis of the social media site’s political ad database shows that Arlington’s six candidates for Congress and local office on the ballot this fall have combined with the county’s party committees to buy 549 Facebook ads from Jan. 1 through today (Oct. 29).
Thomas Oh, the Republican mounting a longshot bid to unseat Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District), led the way among the county’s candidates, buying 100 ads on the site since launching his campaign in February. According to campaign finance reports, he shelled out about $2,100 to pay for those posts.
But Oh was far from the bigger user of Facebook ads in Arlington — that distinction belongs to the Arlington Young Democrats, who have purchased 270 ads on the platform over the course of the year. The Arlington County Democratic Committee wasn’t far behind, buying 91 ads.
The county’s candidates for local office have relied on social media advertising a bit less, but have still used Facebook to reach thousands of potential voters.
In the lone race for a County Board seat this year, pitting independent incumbent John Vihstadt against Democrat Matt de Ferranti, the challenger has run a bit more Facebook ads so far.
According to Facebook’s database, de Ferranti has run 34 ads on the platform since launching his campaign in January. Records show he’s spent nearly $1,900 on Facebook ads in all, though campaign finance documents only detail spending through end of September — candidates will release their final reports of the campaign later this week.
Of the Democrat’s ads, 19 ran in the run-up to his primary victory over Chanda Choun in June, with 15 reserved for the general election contest with Vihstadt. In general, de Ferranti’s ad buys have each been less than $100 each, with only seven falling in the range of $100 to $500 — Facebook only provides ranges, not specific numbers, for spending and traffic figures.
Two of de Ferranti’s ads picked up between 50,000 and 100,000 impressions, while two others range between 10,000 and 50,000.
By contrast, Vihstadt has only run 10 ads on Facebook so far. His current campaign finance reports only show him spending about $100 on the posts, but he’s ramped up his activity on Facebook in October, meaning his spending will be reflected in the next set of reports.
However, Facebook’s database shows that the incumbent has recorded four ad buys of $100 or more, and one of more than $500, in all. He’s also had two ads reach between 50,000 and 100,000 impressions and two more range between 10,000 and 50,000.
Notably, Vihstadt has also turned to television advertising, and recently started running a single ad on local cable stations.
In the contest for the only School Board seat on the ballot, independent (and frequent candidate) Audrey Clement has outpaced incumbent Barbara Kanninen, who has the endorsement of local Democrats in the nominally nonpartisan race.
Clement has run 32 ads this year, spending about $1,520, according to campaign finance reports. She’s only spent more than $100 on three separate ad buys, but she’s still managed to reach plenty of people. Eight of her ads have secured between 5,000 and 10,000 and impressions, while two have managed between 10,000 and 50,000.
Kanninen has run just 12 ads, by comparison, sending about $241 to Facebook in all. Her ads have been viewed a bit less, with three ranging between 1,000 and 5,000 impressions and one making it to the 5,000 to 10,000 range.
Beyer appears not to have a run single ad on Facebook, despite raising more than $1.9 million over the course of his bid for a third term in Congress. However, he has benefitted from plenty of ads touting his candidacy from the local Democratic committee and the Young Democrats.
Oh faces quite the uphill battle to best Beyer, considering that the 8th (covering all of Arlington and parts of Alexandria) is among the safest districts for Democrats in the country. But the first-time candidate has managed to attract some attention to his Facebook ads at least, with four attracting between 10,000 and 50,000 impressions and seven attracting between 5,000 and 10,000. He’s spent more than $100 on seven different ad buys, which has surely helped boost those traffic numbers.
Facebook’s records don’t show any evidence of any ad spending from the county’s Republican committee, or its Green Party.
Disclosure: both Clement and Vihstadt have purchased ads on ARLnow.com. Flickr pool photo via wolfkann
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.
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.
“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.
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
But after the audience went home and the microphones were turned off, that wasn’t the end of the candidates’ work.
Attendees submitted written questions to the candidates throughout the evening, but due to time constraints, they could not all be answered. So with Election Day just two weeks away, ARLnow collated the unanswered questions and emailed the three County Board candidates for their responses.
(A similar article with responses to follow-up questions for the three School Board candidates will follow in the near future.)
Candidates’ unedited responses are below.
1. What are the challenges you would tackle in the area of affordable housing?
The biggest challenge would be to convince my fellow Board Members to:
1) amend the tax code to create Housing Conservation Districts (HCDs) where landlords would be given incentives to rehab rather than tear down existing affordable housing; and
2) loosen accessory dwelling unit (ADU) regulations to allow renting space in private homes, while limiting the impacts of such rentals on residential neighborhoods.
While Arlington is a great place to live, it’s undeniably getting harder and harder to put down roots here and stay rooted if a smaller home is what you need as your family shrinks. Housing affordability is a critical component of the progressive values I espouse; it is also an essential component of a strong middle class in Arlington.
As a County Board Member, I will follow a multi-point plan that includes: (1) the creation of medium density “missing middle” housing along our major commercial corridors, (2) modernization of the our zoning ordinance to enable home sharing and facilitate aging-in-place, (3) tireless support for the 2015 Affordable Housing Master Plan, and (4) continued annual funding for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund and Housing grants. I will also continue the existing, strong partnerships with non-profit housing providers as well as others in the non-profit community who provide services to Arlington residents living in affordable housing.
As detailed in my “missing middle” housing proposal, Arlington cannot subsidize our way to mass affordability, instead we must unlock the potential of the market to deliver the housing we need. The good news is that there is ample opportunity in Arlington for us to create the neighborhood-scale housing and retail areas known as “missing middle.” The missing middle framework uses market forces to diversify our housing supply and responds to the needs of residents both young and old. These modestly scaled lofts, stacked flats, co-ops, and micro units are designed to preserve neighborhood character and can fit into the edges of single-family neighborhoods and along commercial corridors, with ground floor retail and restaurants to serve adjacent homes.
In the area of affordable housing, I would tackle these three main challenges:
Ensuring that developers pay their fair share:
- Increase the zoning fee for apartment developers who forego affordable units, as it is currently just 1/3 of the fee allowed under state law.
- Shift housing assistance funds to direct housing grants in order to support more residents earning less than 40% of the area median income.
Approaching certified and market rate housing with a multifaceted approach:
- Incentivize the development of multifamily structures designed to address senior mobility needs, as well as co-living spaces designed to meet the needs of young professionals.
- Ensure accessory dwellings become a viable option for housing while not contributing to parking and density concerns.
- Explore Housing Conservation Districts as a way to maintain larger-scale areas of market rate affordability with careful caution not to unintentionally make these areas into suburban ghettos.
Providing housing affordability programs to address the needs of low- and middle-income Arlingtonians:
- Develop new homeowner affordability programs to support community/developer partnership models like community land trusts and low-equity housing cooperatives.
- Bolster existing homeowner assistance programs that enable our teachers and first responders to live in the communities where they serve.
As a progressive, independent voice on the Arlington County Board, I have the ability to advocate for a variety of reasonable housing affordability solutions that “Put People First” instead of defaulting to developers’ demands.
With Election Day less than a month away, candidates for the Arlington County Board and School Board are honing in on their final pitches to voters.
And at a forum Wednesday night at Marymount University hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, the six candidates clashed on a range of issues, from how to engage more millennials in county government to closing the achievement gap in Arlington Public Schools.
The format varied from previous forums, as each candidate was able to ask a question of their opponents before taking further questions from the audience.
Erik Gutshall and Monique O’Grady, who were victorious in the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s caucus earlier this year for County Board and School Board, respectively, both touted their experience in county issues.
Both agreed that while Arlington is largely on the right course, it can do better. Gutshall, who is the current chair of the Planning Commission, said the county must not make too many concessions to developers on proposed site plans.
“If we don’t stick to our plans and our negotiations… and we don’t stick to our values, then we’ve lost,” he said.
Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement pointed to her regular attendance at the body’s monthly meetings as relevant experience.
And fellow independent Charles McCullough II said that beyond his involvement in the South Arlington Working Group among others, he would represent a fresh face with new ideas if elected to the County Board.
“We need to have other ideas, other experiences,” he said.
On the budget, Clement criticized the Board’s practice of spending closeout funds from higher tax revenue than anticipated. She said that the money should be paid forward to the following year to relieve the tax burden, rather than directed to “pet projects to satisfy its particularized constituencies.”
McCullough argued that developers in Arlington must pay their “fair share” to help make up budget shortfalls, while Gutshall said that rising property values must not be treated as a “blank check” for increased spending.
Among the School Board candidates, there were some sharp differences. O’Grady and fellow candidate Alison Dough agreed that the Arlington Career Center represents a “good opportunity” for a fourth comprehensive high school. But Mike Webb, running for School Board after an unsuccessful tilt at Rep. Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) seat in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, disagreed.
Instead, he said, School Board members should focus on ensuring instruction is as good as possible, and that no students are left behind.
“Before we build another high school, we have to think about the achievement gap that affects all our students,” Webb said.
And on the subject of the upcoming boundary changes in Arlington Public Schools, Dough said that more immersion schools where classes are taught in more than one language could help relieve the capacity pressures on other buildings.
Dough, who said her special needs child inspired her to run for School Board, suggested more language programs, like immersion in Chinese, French or Russian to help APS students embrace new cultures.
“Let’s look at the boundary issue differently and give our parents a reason to switch schools,” she said.
And with the nationwide opioid epidemic also touching Arlington, O’Grady said parents and students alike must be educated on the risks and solutions.
“It’s in our neighborhoods, it’s in our communities,” she said. “Let’s come together to learn how to deal with this.”
All six agreed on the need for elected officials to encourage more county residents to get involved, and help uphold the so-called “Arlington Way.”
“We need to be opening that door,” Webb said. “We have to build that pathway to leadership.”
The candidates will face off in another forum Sunday (October 15) hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).
The three candidates for Arlington County Board agreed on the need for more affordable housing at a forum Tuesday night, but offered differing methods on how to achieve it.
Speaking at a forum hosted by the Arlington County Civic Federation at Virginia Hospital Center, the traditional kick-off for the fall campaign season, Audrey Clement, Erik Gutshall and Charles McCullough all argued more can be done.
McCullough, an independent endorsed by the Arlington Green Party, said the county must expand its use of rental assistance programs, especially for the likes of teachers and public safety workers like firefighters and police officers.
Democratic nominee Gutshall argued that the county should use its existing Affordable Housing Master Plan to create what he described as “missing middle housing” like apartments and townhouses for middle-income residents near Metro stations and along major thoroughfares.
“It’s a great formula to redefine our development paradigm and creates housing for the middle class,” he said.
To help prevent continued losses of such housing, Clement said the county should designate more areas as Local Historic Districts to capture architectural heritage and be tougher on developers.
McCullough agreed that developers should be held to a higher standard and compelled to provide more affordable housing and other amenities.
“For too long, development has meant displacement,” McCullough said. “That should not be the way, but unfortunately that has become the Arlington Way.”
Talk of the so-called “Arlington Way” of engaging with residents and gathering extensive community feedback came up when the candidates discussed how to get more people involved in local issues.
Clement argued that the Democrat-dominated County Board deters participation, as does a sense that controversial agenda items are left to the end of monthly meetings.
“It is really an endurance contest and that is really what discourages public participation,” Clement said.
Another emphasis of Gutshall: helping more small businesses open and operate more easily in Arlington. That follows reports of businesses having difficulty navigating the county’s permitting and inspection bureaucracy.
Earlier in the forum, Gutshall argued that he would go beyond party politics, and that the county’s progress has been not down to Democratic values, but “Arlington values.”
Gutshall emphasized that he was not a “hand-picked choice” of his party, after Democrats’ use of a caucus to pick their nominee was criticized as undemocratic by Clement. Both independents argued they would be unencumbered by any need to play “party politics” if elected to the Board.
“I tend to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and that’s where the voters are,” Clement said, noting that she previously was a member of the Greens but became “disillusioned” after it veered too far left.
“We need to be able to have an unencumbered voice for the issues we have right now,” McCullough added.
It may appear overshadowed by this year’s statewide races and political strife nationally, but the three Arlington County Board candidates are hard at work preparing for the fall campaign season.
Things get into high gear as the Arlington County Civic Federation hosts its first candidate forum, the traditional curtain-raiser on the final few months before Election Day. The forum will be held on Tuesday, September 5 in Virginia Hospital Center’s Hazel Auditorium ( ive).
And the candidates — Democratic nominee Erik Gutshall, and independents Audrey Clement and Charles McCullough II — said they are looking forward to getting into the campaign’s final stages and winning over more voters in upcoming debates.
“It’s also education of people, because I think there can be misconceptions about what I stand for and where I come from and those that don’t know me real well… might believe things about me that are flatly untrue, demonstrably untrue,” Gutshall said. “People getting a chance to see who I really am and what I stand for, I think could happen from those forums to the extent I’m able to reach people who didn’t participate in the Democratic caucus process.”
First-time candidate McCullough said he welcomed the opportunity to keep putting his progressive message forward and introducing his policy ideas to more and more people.
“What’s nice about getting in front of folks, just like I’ve been doing this entire time, what’s good is to be able to present that inclusive vision of Arlington and what it means to have a putting people-first attitude of policymaking,” he said. “[When] I’m able to forward that vision, the momentum is going to grow.”
Clement, a perennial candidate, said she is hopeful of picking up more votes as the statewide races come into the spotlight more and more. In last year’s election against Libby Garvey and on the same ballot as the Presidential race, Clement received just over 27,000 votes, something she put down to the high-profile nature of that race.
She said after the violence in Charlottesville at a white supremacist rally, Virginia’s elections take on added significance and that could help her.
“Last year, even though basically Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly took the county, I got a very sizable number of votes because the turnout was so high,” Clement said. “That’s not going to happen this year, but the Charlottesville incident has probably increased interest in the Governor’s race and that should help me. Insurgents always benefit from increased turnout.”
Four of the five candidates for County Board argued that county government must be easier for small businesses to navigate in order to better encourage economic growth.
With less than two weeks to go until the start of the local Democratic Party’s caucus to determine its nominee, tax relief and helping new businesses were high on the agenda at a forum hosted last night by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce at Synetic Theater in Crystal City.
Peter Fallon said county staff must be less “zealous” in enforcing rules and become more focused on customer service, while Erik Gutshall argued for a wider culture change in county government.
“When you’re that zealous, you don’t have the flexibility of thinking about what you’re trying to do,” Fallon said.
“The culture of ‘get to yes’ doesn’t exist because it doesn’t have a champion,” said Gutshall. “And I want to be that champion.”
Independent Audrey Clement, on the campaign trail ahead of November’s general election in the race to replace retiring Board chair Jay Fisette, said the best way to help small business is to cut taxes.
She criticized the recent 1.5-cent hike in property taxes, and accused the County Board of “basically hoarding money” by keeping tens of millions of dollars in cash reserves.
Clement added that the Board was “bamboozled” on raising taxes by County Manager Mark Schwartz, who was directed to provide a series of budget cuts to halve his proposed tax rate increase from two cents to one.
The cuts to a variety of neighborhood and other programs brought out droves of local residents to oppose them, and the County Board backed off.
Kim Klingler, a Democratic candidate, said putting those 24 projects on the table for cuts was a mistake given their direct impacts on the community.
“That makes it really hard when you have 24 lightning-rods on the table, and then have to talk about cutting taxes,” she said.
Candidates also said that the County Board should do a better job of ensuring residents’ concerns about development are heard, and that decisions on new projects are not, as Gutshall put it, “baked in.”
“If residents are going to participate in the ‘Arlington Way,’ we need to make sure they are heard, and they have clear expectations set for them,” said Klingler.
In Vivek Patil’s absence, his campaign manager Nathan Saxman read a prepared statement arguing for a “green and clean tech economy” focused on innovation and new industries.
“This is an economic model that places Arlington at the epicenter of job creation in the commonwealth,” said Saxman.
The four Democratic candidates will debate next Wednesday at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s monthly meeting, ahead of May’s caucus.