Press Club

Takis Karantonis, the former director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, will be the Democratic nominee for County Board in the upcoming July 7 special election.

With just days to select a nominee ahead of Friday’s court-set filing deadline, the Arlington County Democratic Committee — despite efforts to get the election date pushed back — opted for a ranked choice voting process among party insiders.

Karantonis bested three other candidates seeking to fill the late Erik Gutshall’s County Board seat. Also seeking the nomination were School Board member Barbara Kanninen, refugee and military veteran Chanda Choun, and former state Senate candidate Nicole Merlene.

“Arlington Democrats are excited to announce Takis Karantonis as our party’s nominee for the Arlington County Board,” Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo said in a press release. “Takis has the experience, acumen and integrity to build upon the progressive record of Erik Gutshall. We’ll hit the ground running today to ensure his victory on July 7.”

Karantonis will likely face at least one other candidate when voters head to the polls. Susan Cunningham, a civically-involved mother of two, announced her intention to run as an independent earlier this week.

The full Democratic press release is below, after the jump.

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Democrat County Board candidate Takis Karantonis (courtesy photo)

Last week, we invited the four candidates running in the general election for a seat on the County Board to write a post about why our readers should vote for them next Tuesday (Nov. 2).

Here is the unedited response from Takis Karantonis:

Last year I ran for office in the middle of a pandemic ravaging our community and our economy. I pledged to remain rooted in civic engagement and to bring the voice of our diverse communities to the County Board. I kept and I continue to keep this promise. COVID-19 and our national reckoning on racial inequity in the wake of the murder of George Floyd revealed Arlington’s multifaceted and challenging disparities. My vision for Arlington, my actions and my voting record are firmly centered on equity, inclusivity, transparency, fairness and responsiveness and the belief that we are a successful community when:

  • We care for the health and safety of ALL, especially of those lacking access or coverage.
  • We care for economic resilience, especially that of small businesses and working families.
  • We care for social and racial justice and fairness on all levels, from policing to housing to education to equitable access to natural and recreational resources and beyond.
  • We share the sense of urgency and common cause to confront the climate emergency.

I believe in democratic values, collaborative leadership and inclusive planning expressed in the four pillars of my platform: equitable governance; fiscal sustainability and resilience; environmental sustainability; and principled and inclusive long-term planning. As an immigrant I hold these values very close to my heart as they guide my thinking, my politics and my work for an Arlington that works for ALL: a community of safe and walkable neighborhoods; with excellent public schools; great public places and facilities; accountable, ethical and fiscally sound governance; friendly and responsive public services; ethnic, cultural and socio-economic diversity; and an unwavering commitment to community involvement.

If re-elected, I will,

  • Use the lessons learned during the pandemic to address the inequalities that COVID has revealed; strengthen our local social safety net; eliminate food and housing insecurity; enhance access to health and mental health services; and provide fair and equitable access to critical services such as reduced transit fares, affordable childcare and broadband.
  • Deepen and accelerate our local response to the climate emergency; electrify our transportation; prioritize safe walking and biking; decarbonize new construction and retrofit legacy buildings; invest in stormwater infrastructure; protect and enhance our tree canopy and our natural resources; and -most importantly- make climate resiliency and sustainability a ‘whole-of-government’ policy.
  • Ensure that racial equity and accountability permeate all activities and policies of our government, and progress is transparently measured and reported.
  • Prioritize support for our small businesses; support them with a revolving micro-loan and technical assistance program; reduce costly red-tape and treat them as the job-creating, innovative community partners and stakeholders they are.
  • Address our housing crisis, which continues to displace Arlingtonians; invest in the Affordable Housing Investment Fund and expand Housing Grant eligibility; focus on corridor development while continuing the pursuit of longer-term policies aiming to enhance housing choices that fit the needs of all Arlingtonians.
  • Continue to fight for livable wages and fair labor conditions for working people and families.

I am proud to have earned the endorsement of all my colleagues on the County Board and the School Board, as well as of Arlington’s elected constitutional officers and representatives in the General Assembly; professional organizations; citizen-led advocacy groups and community leaders (representing our Black Community; Latino and Immigrant communities; Senior and Young Democrats; supporting multi-modal, cycling and sustainable transportation; public education; affordable housing; environmental sustainability; planning; and mental health services). These endorsements are the result of years of working on Arlington issues and a testament to my passion for good, responsive and responsible local governance.

I hope to earn your vote on November 2nd (or earlier), and the privilege of continuing to serve you as a Member of your County Board.

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Last week, we invited the two candidates running in the Democratic primary for Arlington County Board to write a post about why our readers should vote for them next Tuesday (June 8).

Here is the unedited response from incumbent Takis Karantonis:

Last year I ran for office not in spite of, but because of the extraordinary and demanding circumstances, in the middle of a pandemic that was ravaging our community and our economy. Fifteen years of civic engagement, community leadership and deep-rooted community relationships motivated and prepared me for assuming the responsibility to make difficult decisions while carefully listening to what Arlingtonians told me during the campaign and while in office.

Last year I pledged to remain rooted in civic engagement and to bring the voice of our diverse communities to the County Board. I kept and I continue to keep this promise. COVID-19 and our national reckoning on racial inequity in the wake of the murder of George Floyd revealed Arlington’s multifaceted and challenging disparities. My vision for Arlington, my action and my voting record are firmly centered on equity, inclusivity, transparency, fairness and responsiveness and the belief that we are a successful community when:

  • We care for the Health and Safety of ALL, especially of those lacking access or coverage.
  • We care for Economic Resilience, especially that of Small Businesses and working families
  • We care for Social and Racial Justice and Fairness on all levels from Policing, to Housing, to Education, to equitable access to natural and recreational resources and beyond.
  • We share the sense of urgency and common cause to confront the Climate Emergency.

In other words, I believe that we are successful when we work together and leave nobody behind.

As an immigrant I hold these core-beliefs very close to my heart as they guide my thinking, my politics and my work for an Arlington that works for ALL: A community of safe, and walkable neighborhoods, with excellent public schools, great public places and facilities, accountable, ethical and fiscally sound governance, ethnic, cultural and socio-economic diversity and an unwavering commitment to community involvement.

If elected, I will,

  • use the lessons learned during the pandemic to address the inequalities that COVID has revealed; strengthen our local social safety net; eliminate food and housing insecurity; enhance access to health and mental health services and provide unfettered access to critical services such as broadband for all.
  • deepen and accelerate our local response to the Climate Emergency; electrify our transportation; prioritize safe walking and biking; decarbonize new construction and retrofit legacy buildings; invest in stormwater infrastructure; protect and enhance our tree-canopy and our natural resources and most importantly: make Climate Resiliency and Sustainability a ‘Whole-of-Government’ policy.
  • ensure that racial equity and accountability permeates all activities and policies of our government, and progress is transparently measured and reported.
  • prioritize support for our Small Businesses; support them with a revolving micro-loan and technical assistance program; reduce costly red-tape and treat them as the job-creating, innovative community partners and stakeholders they are.
  • address our housing crisis, which continues to displace Arlingtonians; invest in the Affordable Housing Investment Fund and enhance Housing Grant eligibility; focus on corridor development while continuing pursuing longer term policies aiming to enhance housing choices that fit the needs of all Arlingtonians.

I believe in democratic values, collaborative leadership and inclusive planning expressed in the four pillars of my platform: equitable governance; fiscal sustainability and resilience; environmental sustainability; and principled and inclusive long-term planning.

I am proud to have earned the endorsement of all my colleagues on the County Board and on the School Board, as well as the endorsement of most of Arlington’s elected constitutional officers and representatives in the General Assembly; professional organizations; citizen-led advocacy groups and community leaders (representing our Black Community; Latino and Immigrant communities; Senior and Young Democrats; supporting multi-modal, cycling and sustainable transportation; public education; affordable housing; environmental sustainability; and mental health services). These endorsements are the result of years of working on Arlington issues and a testament to my passion for good, responsive and responsible local governance.

I hope to earn your vote and the opportunity to serve you as a County Board member on June 8.

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The upcoming Arlington County Board primary will see a rematch between two former Democratic rivals.

County Board member Takis Karantonis, who is serving a partial term after being elected in a special election, is facing Chanda Choun, who is hoping the third time is the charm as he again seeks a seat on the Board.

Karantonis and Choun previously ran against each other in the Democratic primary for the special election last year to fill the late Erik Gutshall’s seat. Karantonis won while Choun finished third in the ranked-choice voting. Then, Karantonis went on to win the general election.

The winner of this year’s June primary will move on to November’s general election, where there’s already an opponent waiting for one of them.

The Arlington elections office confirmed to ARLnow that Audrey Clement has filed her paperwork and will once again be on the ballot in November.

Clement, who has run unsuccessfully for office in Arlington nearly a dozen times over the past decade — most recently in November — is again running as an independent.

Karantonis, the former executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO), was an ardent supporter of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar project, which was scuttled in 2014. His current term in office expires on December 31.

“I am running for re-election to the Arlington County Board because I believe that Arlington is resilient, and it has the capacity to adapt to challenges in ways that will provide a great quality of life for all of its residents,” Karantonis wrote in an email to supporters. “My experiences as an immigrant, planner, economist, environmentalist and affordable housing activist have proved critical in my work to build an Arlington that works for all Arlingtonians.”

Additionally, he noted that his top priorities would include safely reopening schools, supporting small businesses, making Arlington a leader in environmental resilience and sustainability, tackling “our housing affordability crisis,” and advancing equity and racial justice.

Chanda Choun is a military veteran and a technology professional who has also run several times for the County Board. In 2018 he lost to Matt de Ferranti and last year he initially was going to oppose Libby Garvey’s re-election but dropped out to run in the special election.

In a campaign email, Choun wrote that he has a “Freedom and Justice Plan” for the county. This includes, according to the note, “securing the local economy amidst the remote work revolution,” reducing residential taxes, closing the digital divide, and making Arlington’s government more representative and responsive.

“Arlington’s current path is not sustainable: financially, environmentally, and socially,” he said. “Arlington needs an elected representative with managerial experience, technical skills, a thoughtful heart, and unique tenacious leadership to make sure we have a fair and livable community 20 years from now.”

Choun notes that, if elected, he would be the first Asian American to serve on the Arlington County Board.

The Democratic primary is June 8 with early voting beginning 45 days before the election, on April 23.

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(Updated at 10:45 p.m.) Democrat Takis Karantonis will fill the late Erik Gutshall’s former Arlington County Board seat.

Karantonis, an economist and the former director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, captured 62.4% of the vote. He overperformed among absentee ballots, with 71% of the more than 10,000 absentee ballots cast amid the pandemic.

Susan Cunningham, who described herself as a “progressive Independent,” received 32.6% of the vote. A civically-involved professional and mother of two, Cunningham was endorsed in the race by John Vihstadt, the last non-Democrat to win a seat on the County Board.

Republican Bob Cambridge, a former CIA instructor, received 4.8% of the vote.

In all, 19,866 votes were cast — a turnout of 12.6% of the Arlington electorate. That’s below the 22,264 votes tallied in the 2014 special election, in which Vihstadt first won his seat on the Board.

Besides taking place during a pandemic, today’s election was also hampered by a relatively short campaigning period, and an election day just after the Fourth of July. Karantonis won the Democratic nomination in a closed caucus of about 250 local Democratic party insiders, as the party decried not having enough time to organize a broader primary or caucus.

Karantonis’ initial term on the Board will run through Dec. 31, 2021.

In a press release issued by the Arlington County Democratic Committee, Karantonis pledges “true progressive policies and effective leadership.”

“Arlington voters responded overwhelmingly to Takis’ positive, issues-oriented campaign, surmounting the unprecedented challenges posed by the coronavirus to elect an experienced leader to the County Board,” Arlington Democrats Chair Jill Caiazzo said. “Takis will be a leader for all Arlingtonians. He has the expertise and empathy to build on the impressive legacy of Erik Gutshall. We know he’ll serve Arlington well.”

During the campaign, Karantonis touted his status as an immigrant as a reason he’ll be particularly effective during these fraught times for the country. He has been a resident of Arlington for 14 years, currently living with his wife in the Arlington Village neighborhood.

“As an immigrant and a first-time candidate, I did not expect to receive the overwhelming amount of support from Arlingtonians throughout every zip code in our county,” Karantonis said shortly after the election was called. “Our victory is meaningful for two specific reasons: it is the recognition of my many years of civic engagement in Arlington and it serves as a testament to Arlington voters’ expectation of true progressive policies and effective leadership.”

Karantonis previously served as executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, and now directs micro-lending for the Ethiopian Community Development Council, an Arlington-based nonprofit. He serves as vice chair of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, and previously was president of the Columbia Heights Civic Association and board chair of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment (now known as EcoAction Arlington). A native of Greece, Karantonis lived and worked in several European countries before immigrating to the United States. He speaks eight languages.

Cunningham, in a statement, thanked her opponents “for a spirited and hard-fought race” and wished Karantonis well on the County Board.

“Tonight I want to thank each and every voter in Arlington,” Cunningham said. “And I also want to thank my daughters and my husband, along with an incredible army of volunteers, who pulled out all the stops during a pandemic. This was always an uphill battle — not just against my opponents but also against an entrenched one-party system in Arlington… I truly hope we started some important conversations about the perils of one-party rule and the need for greater accountability.”

“I hope all of our elected officials will get serious about transparency, accountability, and improved School-County collaboration,” Cunningham concluded. “I have been deeply honored to meet and talk with so many Arlington residents. I look forward to many more discussions in the future.”

More on the turnout from the county elections office:

File photo

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This week, we asked the three candidates in the County Board race to write a 750-word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the July 7 special election. 

Here is the unedited response from Democratic candidate Takis Karantonis

My name is Takis Karantonis and I am the Democratic candidate in the special election for the Arlington County Board on July 7. I was born in Greece and emigrated to the United States to join my wife, Lida, upon completion of her Ph.D. studies. Since moving to Arlington in 2007, I have experienced and appreciate the values that Arlingtonians hold important: safe and walkable neighborhoods; excellent schools; great public places and facilities; accountable governance; ethnic and cultural diversity; an unwavering commitment to community involvement; and neighbors who uphold and sustain these values.

My voice, my way of thinking, and my politics are rooted in civic engagement and day-to-day involvement with our community. I am running for County Board because I am proud of what Arlington is and stands for and because I truly believe in the importance of inclusivity of all voices in our governance. During the 60 days of this campaign two larger-than-life issues dominated my actions and thoughts: the permanence of COVID-19 conditions and their long-term effects on every aspect of life and the stark reminder, spurred by the murder of George Floyd, of racial inequity and divides in our community. To make Arlington a just and equitable place for all, I pledge to work with you to tackle inequities in housing, education, health, and life outcomes in our county. We must:

  • use the lessons of the COVID crisis to address the inequalities that COVID has revealed that have led to a disproportionate impact on our marginalized communities and communities of color;
  • actively advocate for a strong local social safety net that helps our less prosperous neighbors and all locally-owned businesses;
  • bring an equity lens to County Board work to identify metrics to chart progress; examine every decision to uncover who is helped, who is hurt, who benefits and who is left behind;
  • prioritize support for our small businesses by instituting a permanent revolving microloan program, which will also leverage private investment to boost small business creation and sustainability in the long term.

I am an economist and urban planner with over 25 years of urban and regional planning experience. I work for a non-profit micro-lender, currently helping Arlington’s small businesses recover from COVID-19. I have been involved with several Arlington non-profit organizations, appointed to advisory commissions and participated in many planning processes affecting progress in our community. My experiences as Executive Director of the ColumbiaPike Revitalization Organization, past chair of Eco ActionArlington and Vice Chair of the Alliance of Housing Solutions add to the vision, practical knowledge and insight I would bring to our Board. Politically, I have been an active and vocal supporter of local, progressive campaigns that challenged and changed the status quo (e.g., Erik Gutshall and Parisa Deghani-Tafti).

This campaign has been like no other due to the compressed timeline imposed by Virginia law and by COVID-19: to substitute for face-to-face conversations, meetings, and debates, I became adept at online media and hosted 20 Zoom-and-Greets covering all neighborhoods in Arlington in 40 days.

I responded to multiple questionnaires that allowed me to express my vision on many issues: arts, education, environment, housing, mental health, and more. The diversity of organizations which submitted questionnaires is just one indicator of the diversity of priorities in our community. As a Board member, I would have an obligation to listen to and provide a seat at the table for all, as we move forward with discussions and policies to equitably address our community needs.

I believe in democratic values, collaborative leadership and inclusive planning expressed in the four pillars of my platform: equitable governance; fiscal sustainability and resilience; environmental sustainability; and principled and inclusive long-term planning. I have earned the endorsement of Arlington’s elected officials from the County and School Boards to the General Assembly to Congress; professional organizations; citizen-led advocacy groups (representing the African-American community, Latino community, Seniors, and the Immigrant community; supporting multi-modal transportation; cycling; public education; affordable housing; environmental sustainability; and mental health services) and more than 200 community leaders. These endorsements are the result of years of working on Arlington issues and a testament to my passion for good, responsive and responsible local governance.

I hope to earn your vote and the opportunity to serve as your next County Board member on July 7.

Photo via Takis for Arlington/Facebook

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Independent County Board candidate Adam Theo (courtesy photo)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) The race is on for incumbent Matt de Ferranti’s County Board seat.

Independent Adam Theo announced Thursday morning he’s running for County Board, and another familiar independent candidate, Audrey Clement, intends to run. But de Ferranti doesn’t plan to let go of his seat.

This is Theo’s second time running for the County Board in as many years. Last year, he joined Clement and another independent candidates in what became a crowded County Board race for the spot that Democrat Takis Karantonis occupies. Although his bid was unsuccessful, Theo previously told ARLnow that his campaign would set the groundwork for a full run in 2022 or 2023.

In his second run, his announcement has come out strong against the current board.

“The COVID crisis exposed a disastrous lack of leadership on the board that’s been hiding in plain sight for years,” he said. “They are rubber-stamping each other’s bad ideas, spending big on band-aids instead of investing in smarter long-term solutions, and merely copy-catting ideas from neighboring cities and counties instead of making Arlington the regional leader it should be.”

He’s running on a platform of expanding government accountability, prioritizing public safety and making housing affordable.

Incumbent Matt de Ferranti, who was elected as a Democrat in 2018 to the seat, has not officially announced his run for re-election — yet. He tells ARLnow an announcement is coming.

“I’ve focused on COVID response, racial equity and the priorities I identified when I ran in 2018–affordable housing, hunger, funding our schools to support educational opportunity for all students, fighting climate change, and inclusive economic growth,” he said. “Next week, I will officially announce my intention to seek re-election. I take nothing for granted and look forward to listening to our residents’ concerns and working to earn each and every vote.”

Theo describes himself as “a fierce non-partisan free-thinking ‘progressive libertarian.'” He said he was in the Air Force Reserves as a civil engineer and deployed to eastern Afghanistan. He has also worked as a consultant within the Department of Homeland Security.

He’s the vice president of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, a voting delegate to the Arlington County Civic Federation and co-founder of a regional housing advocacy group.

His campaign website says he is opposed to deals the Arlington County Board has given to Amazon, steep increases in property taxes and the “county’s slow progress on housing affordability.”

The experiences he could bring to the county board are unique, he said. He was incarcerated for four months as a young adult in his home state of Florida, has experienced homelessness and has been a longtime renter in search of a home in Arlington County.

“It is these formative life experiences that make me uniquely suited to empathize with and serve all Arlingtonians, and why I will work so hard to be your next independent member on the Arlington County Board,” his website reads.

In his announcement, Theo invited people to attend a virtual open house at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday).

Audrey Clement tells ARLnow she plans to run for County Board this year as well but will announce later. She wants to reduce taxes, stop up-zoning, and preserve parks, trees and historic places. The Westover resident has been a perennial candidate over the last decade and says she believes once people realize the missing middle housing push will rezone some neighborhoods, they will support a candidate like her.

The primary election will be held June 21 and general election on Nov. 8.

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New cameras enforcing speeding could be coming to Arlington school and work zones by the end of this year.

The County Board voted on Saturday to have speed cameras installed throughout the county near schools and on public roads where construction work is ongoing.

Board members heralded the cameras as a tool for protecting children, lowering severe and fatal crashes — an initiative known as Vision Zero — as well as reducing race- and ethnicity-based disparities in traffic enforcement and providing relief to overworked Arlington County Police Department officers.

“The idea that we can keep our community safer, address this behavior and then reduce demand on the police and reduce interactions with police is just a really heartening step for us to take,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol.

The vote follows the passage of state law in 2020 allowing municipalities to install speed cameras.

It also coincides with an anecdotal increase in speeding around schools, according to Board member Libby Garvey (although speed-related crashes in school zones have remained relatively constant at 10 per year, per county data).

“Maybe there hasn’t been a huge increase in crashes, but there has been an increase in bad behavior, and that’s pretty worrisome,” she said. “This is about children and safety.”

Last fall, Arlington County took steps to make school zones safer by lowering speed limits to 20 mph around 13 schools.

County staff are reviewing best practices, crash data, equity concerns and other local factors to determine where to place the cameras, Vision Zero project manager Christine Baker told the County Board. School zones encompass a 600-foot radius of a school crosswalk or school access point.

“We plan to be strategic and intentional about where we place speed cameras to ensure they’re effective in reducing speeds and promoting fairness and equity as well,” Baker said.

Board members said this should reassure motorists who also travel in D.C. and feel that camera locations are chosen to “trap” them and generate revenue rather than correct behavior.

Here’s what drivers need to know.

When will the program start? 

Locations could be selected by this fall and the program could start as soon as cameras and warning signs are installed, either this winter or in early 2023.

Who will get citations? 

Anyone going 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Every citation will be issued after a sworn ACPD officer reviews the footage.

How much will citations cost? What are the other penalties? 

Citations for the first 30 days of the program will be warnings that carry no fines. After that, they are $50 a fine, the same as red light-camera violations. The fines will go into the general fund.

Violations will be civil, not criminal, meaning they won’t add points to a person’s driver’s license or be considered for insurance purposes. Drivers can contest the violations.

How much will the program cost? 

The program will cost $600,000 a year, and for now, ACPD anticipates the fines will offset the program’s costs, Capt. Albert Kim told the County Board. The costs include the purchase of 10 cameras, which can be moved, camera installation, program operations, ticketing and the salary of the full-time police employee reviewing the footage.

Where can I learn more about speed cameras?

Information in multiple languages will be available on the county website. The county will increase communication about the program through community email lists and the communication channels of APS and ACPD as the start date draws closer.

How will my data be protected? 

State law requires Arlington police and the third-party vendor to delete footage and shred physical documents with personally identifiable information within a certain time frame: 60 days of reviewing the footage and determining the driver wasn’t speeding, or within 60 days of a driver paying a fine, Kim said.

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Arlington officially has a new Virginia House of Delegates district that has local Democrats talking about who will run for the seat. One hat has already been tossed into the ring as of today.

The Supreme Court of Virginia last week unanimously accepted new district maps for Virginia’s House of Delegates, the state Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives. For Arlington’s Richmond representation, the maps created an entirely new House District 2 encompassing Arlington’s Metro corridors, and redrew boundaries for the state Senate.

Last fall, a newly-created bipartisan group, the Virginia Redistricting Commission, began the decennial process of redrawing district maps. When the group couldn’t agree on new maps, the courts appointed two “special masters” to draw the final maps.

The maps take effect in the next general election to be held for each office, says the Virginia Public Access Project, which would be this year for U.S. Congress, 2023 for state Senate and this year or 2023 for the House of Delegates.

The new maps divide Arlington into House Districts 1, 2 and 3, which are mostly contained within county lines, save for part of District 3, which extends into part of the City of Alexandria.

House District 2 includes Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon, Virginia Square, Ballston, Crystal City and parts of Pentagon City. Those neighborhoods currently are part of House District 49 (represented by Del. Alfonso Lopez), House District 48 (represented by Del. Rip Sullivan), or House District 47 (represented by Del. Patrick Hope).

Sullivan, a McLean resident, has been redrawn out of Arlington and into the new District 6, which encompasses McLean and Great Falls.

Hope and Lopez also reside outside House District 2, according to a VPAP analysis, and some local Democrats are already thinking about who will represent the district, located within a populous, heavily Democratic part of Arlington.

Former State Senate candidate Nicole Merlene officially threw her hat into the ring this morning (Monday).

“After decades of underrepresentation in the Virginia General Assembly, Arlington’s metro corridor now has the opportunity to have a voice,” Merlene, who also previously wrote an ARLnow opinion column, said in her campaign announcement.

If elected, she said she will “help expand middle class housing, require mental health parity in our healthcare system, expand childcare capacity and increase school funding, expand criminal justice reform to eradicate the disproportionate incarceration of Black people, and include environmental sustainability in all legislation.”

A former progressive Democrat candidate for the state house, Matt Rogers, told ARLnow he’s mulling a bid as well.

“Of course I’m considering it,” said Rogers, who was stopped short of running against Hope in last summer’s Democratic primary due to a paperwork snafu.

Chanda Choun, who lost his bid for a seat on the County Board during the June primary to County Board Member Takis Karantonis said he’s not considering this seat right now.

“My current plan is to go on active military duty this spring and deploy to the Middle East for an Army Reserve mission,” he said.

An oft-discussed potential pick for state legislature, County Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol, was not available to comment. She is poised to become the next County Board Chair during the Board’s first meeting of 2022, rescheduled from today to tomorrow (Tuesday) due to snow.

With redistricting complete, the Arlington County Republican Committee says it intends to put forward qualified House candidates.

“We were delighted to see Republican candidates in each of Arlington’s House of Delegates districts in 2021, and we encourage former candidates and would-be candidates to get involved in their community and consider running for office,” said GOP Communications Director Matthew Hurtt.

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Morning Notes

Blue Jay in the fall (Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman)

Route 1 Project Now Mostly Funded — “Virginia is making a huge financial commitment to the transformation of U.S. Route 1 as it runs through Crystal City, fulfilling a key promise officials made to Amazon.com Inc. to lure the tech giant to Arlington. The Commonwealth Transportation Board, a panel that manages state transportation funding and policy, voted unanimously Wednesday to allocate $134.4 million to fund the highway’s overhaul through 2028. The project, designed to bring at least some portion of the newly renamed Richmond Highway down to grade and make it more friendly to pedestrians, has a total estimated price tag of roughly $180 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

FAA Says Proposed HQ2 ‘Helix’ Is Okay — “The Federal Aviation Administration has no issue with the height of Amazon.com Inc.’s proposed Helix, the towering conical structure that will be a major part of HQ2’s PenPlace phase, closing the book on questions raised by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Says It’s Ready for Winter — “Despite predictions for another below-average snowfall this winter, the County can’t stray from a solid-if-not-frozen annual strategy: Prepare for whatever nature may drop. Commuters can take comfort knowing a big County response of almost 50 trucks – plus additional contractors – can roll in case forecasters are wrong at any point in coming months.” [Arlington County]

Ceremony for Re-elected County Board Member — “The public is invited to join the Arlington County Board at the swearing-in of County Board Member Takis P. Karantonis on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. The ceremony will begin at 4:30 p.m. and will be followed by a brief reception outside the Board Room, Room 307 in the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center.” [Arlington County]

New Term for Electoral Board Member — “The three-member Arlington Electoral Board will have continuity for the coming year, with Republican Scott McGeary on Dec. 6 reappointed to a three-year term. Arlington Circuit Court Chief Judge William Newman Jr. signed the order of appointment, which was not a surprise – even though the Arlington County Republican Committee was expected to submit three names for the court’s consideration, McGeary (who has served on the body, on and off, for nearly 30 years) was anticipated to receive the nod.” [Sun Gazette]

New ‘Wish Catalog’ for Local Nonprofits — “Looking for a way to add more charitable giving to the season of giving while supporting your neighbors in need? For the second year in a row, Arlington Community Foundation is excited to host the Nonprofit Wish Catalog featuring grant ideas of 26 local nonprofits with wishes of up to $5,000 each.” [Arlington Community Foundation]

It’s Thursday — After a few snow flurries yesterday, today will also be cold, with increasing clouds and a high near 44. Sunrise at 7:15 a.m. and sunset at 4:46 p.m. Tomorrow there is a slight chance of showers after 1 p.m., otherwise Friday will be partly sunny, with a high near 54. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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The Rosslyn skyline, as seen from the Tidal Basin (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

Despite the Republican sweep of statewide offices in Virginia, last week Arlington remained deep blue.

All of the Democratic or Democrat-endorsed candidates for local office and the state legislature won their races by comfortable margins. That includes County Board member Takis Karantonis, who was reelected with 60.1% of the vote.

Of Karantonis’ three independent opponents, Audrey Clement had the highest vote total: 18.4%.

Karantonis slightly underperformed his predecessor, the late Erik Gutshall, who in 2017 received 62.8% of the vote. But there was also one fewer challenger in Gutshall’s race.

By the November election results alone, it would seem that people in Arlington are quite pleased with the way things are going here. Despite some economic headwinds and concerns about crime, Arlington remains a relatively safe place with the one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state — and that’s well before Amazon’s HQ2 is fully built out.

But that doesn’t necessarily paint the full picture of how people in Arlington feel about the direction of the county. So today we’re asking: how do you feel about the way things are headed here?

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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