Arlington, VA

Alfonso LopezProgressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com. 

By Alfonso Lopez

As last week’s Progressive Voice columnist pointed out, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine continues to be mentioned as a top contender to be Hillary Clinton’s Vice Presidential running mate.

I wanted to share my own perspective of Tim Kaine as one of three Arlingtonians appointed to a Cabinet-level position in his gubernatorial Administration.

My mind is immediately drawn to his response to the terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, when 32 of Tech’s finest were killed and many others wounded.

Governor Kaine had just reached Japan to start an Asian economic development trip when he received word of the shootings. He immediately returned to Virginia and arrived in time to attend the campus memorial convocation for the victims the next day that was broadcast around the world.

Kaine spoke without notes or prepared remarks, quoted scripture and urged the Tech community to hold onto the “spirit of community” that it had shown the world amid such grief. He comforted grieving families and visited the wounded. His empathy and strength brought Virginians from across the Commonwealth together.

If we measure a person by their reaction in moments of extraordinary tragedy and stress, then throughout those horrible days the nation saw in Tim Kaine both a public servant and a leader of great courage, empathy and determination to do right by the victims and their families, Virginia Tech and our Commonwealth.

I was fortunate to be selected by Governor Kaine to serve as the Director of the Virginia Liaison Office in Washington, D.C. In that position, I was responsible for coordinating Congressional and Federal Affairs on behalf of the Governor and more broadly, Virginia’s interests.

In that position, I saw Governor Kaine working closely with Congress and both the Bush and Obama Administrations — fighting for key infrastructure projects, legislative initiatives, and federal grants to improve the lives of Virginians.

He successfully advocated for the expansion of conservation easements and the preservation of open space, increased educational opportunities, and modernized the state’s workforce development initiatives. He championed federal recognition of Virginia’s Native American tribes and secured funding to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

To move Virginia forward, Governor Kaine worked across the aisle to further the goals of his Administration and secure accomplishments that provided real progress for his constituents.

Here are some examples:

  • At a critical point in the debate of the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Governor Kaine organized bipartisan gubernatorial letters in support of the legislation to help it become law.
  • He worked closely with Virginia’s Congressional delegation to ensure the Navy did not transfer a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier (and thousands of attendant jobs) from Norfolk to Florida.
  • As Chair of the Southern Governors’ Association, he negotiated a broad regional initiative to address the impacts of climate change.
  • Working in a bipartisan manner, Kaine led Virginia’s successful effort to reverse a Federal Transit Administration ruling and secure final federal approval and funding for the Silver Line that will extend to Dulles Airport and beyond – a major boost to the Northern Virginia economy.

During his years as Governor, Virginia received accolades as the “Best State for Business,” the “Best Managed State” and the “Best State to Raise a Child.” He recruited several Fortune 500 companies to relocate to Virginia and secured more than $13 billion in new investment.

The accomplishments of the Kaine Administration resonated with Virginia voters, who elected him in 2012 to the U.S. Senate– where he continues to serve with distinction.

The talk about Senator Kaine as a potential VP is happening for a reason. Simply put, he is experienced, effective and above all authentic.

Virginia residents, business leaders, fellow Members of Congress and senior Administration officials echo these sentiments.

They see, as I saw, that he is a tireless public servant who is respected on both sides of the aisle for his vision, intelligence, clarity, friendliness and ability to get folks from all points of view to work together. Genuine, pragmatic and focused on results, he has an infectious optimism. He looks at every decision from a people perspective.

And through all his success, he treats people with respect — an aspect of his personality that shines through in all of his interactions.

In a world that sometimes feels like it has lost its way, the nation would benefit greatly from someone like Tim Kaine.

Alfonso Lopez represents the 49th District in the Virginia House of Delegates and serves as the Democratic Whip. He also served as the Director of the Virginia Liaison Office in Washington, D.C. for former Governor Tim Kaine. 

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Alfonso LopezProgressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By: Delegate Alfonso Lopez 

Over the past several years, Democrats have won every Virginia statewide elected office.

In presidential elections, the Commonwealth has become a bellwether state. The competitive nature of Virginia’s statewide political campaigns is, however, largely absent in the Virginia House of Delegates, where, with 66 Republicans and 34 Democratic legislators, political gerrymandering has created a body that is anything but representative of the Commonwealth.

The consequences of a House that is unrepresentative of the Commonwealth as a whole is ideologically-driven legislation that is harmful to Virginia.

Just this week, the House passed HB773 with the Orwellian title – “The Government Nondiscrimination Act.” This bill actually does just the opposite. It allows non-government entities to discriminate against others based upon that entity’s religious beliefs as they relate to same-sex marriage, the transgender community, and even sex outside of marriage.

Under this bill, private companies, universities, and non-profits could refuse to work with individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity without any repercussions to state contracts, funding, accreditation, or licensure. Simply put, the state would not be allowed to stop discrimination.

The bill passed on a 56-41 vote.

You read that correctly. In 2016, a sizable House majority still wants to embrace and enshrine discrimination in the Code of Virginia.

It is the will of the House to require the Commonwealth to continue providing contracts, tax exemptions and state funding to support discrimination. Accredited private universities could deny admission or degrees to Virginians based on their sexual orientation.

While Governor McAuliffe has issued an executive order banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, he would become powerless to prevent the Commonwealth from supporting entities that discriminate on this basis in Virginia.

This is not the message we should be sending as a Commonwealth. Instead of protecting Virginians from discrimination, their state would be required to support it.

It appears that the real reason supporters pushed this bill through the House is so that social conservatives can send a message to their base during a Presidential election year and prior to the March 1 Super Tuesday primaries.

They think little of how this type of legislation makes Virginia appear unwelcoming and hostile to people and businesses who might be considering relocating here.

If we want to make sure that Virginia is open for business and to create a new Virginia economy less dependent on federal spending, do we really want to fall into the traps that other states have fallen into when they pursued similar legislation?

General Electric, Apple, Salesforce.com, Eli Lilly, Lyft, Twitter, WalMart, and AirBnB are examples of companies that have spoken out against similar bills in other states.

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Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Alfonso LopezAs a member of Arlington’s General Assembly delegation and long-time resident of neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, I have been a strong advocate for implementation of the Columbia Pike Neighborhood Plan adopted after many years of planning and community involvement — a fundamental component of which is a modern streetcar system.

I am pleased that our governor, after receiving broad approval (nearly 72 percent) from Arlington voters as a candidate, has strongly supported key transit projects like the streetcar.

Virginia’s Transportation Secretary has repeatedly praised the streetcar as a sound example for leveraging transportation investments to enhance economic competitiveness, noting that implementation of a seamless streetcar system between Columbia Pike and Crystal City will provide significantly more mobility benefits than enhanced bus service.

Just this past week, Virginia’s Director of Rail and Public Transportation told the Washington Post that the state remains “fully committed” to providing $65 million from a state funding stream dedicated solely to fixed guideway rail projects. This brings the total state streetcar investment to more than $200 million.

Why is the Pike Neighborhood Plan and streetcar component important? It is how we will:

  • accommodate anticipated growth along Columbia Pike;
  • protect Pike neighborhoods and affordable housing units;
  • create important links to Crystal City/Pentagon City on one end of the Pike and Bailey’s Crossroads on the other;
  • create a “main street” feel with appropriately scaled buildings and dining/retail options;
  • provide street-level transit options for people to visit restaurants, libraries, community centers, shopping outlets, and office buildings;
  • and generate economic development and tax revenues we will need to build schools and acquire open space.

The streetcar system will not just create additional commuting options. It will foster livable and healthy communities with robust businesses, create destinations easily accessible to Arlingtonians and revenue-generating tourists, and improve our quality of life.

I am disappointed that the carefully-planned and long-needed investments along Columbia Pike are now being treated as a political football. That is why I oppose the Garvey-Vihstadt plan announced on ARLnow.com that would cause Arlington to forfeit millions of dollars of state funding.

And I am disappointed that the Garvey-Vihstadt plan would similarly renege on commitments that Arlington County has made to help revitalize Crystal City after the poorly-planned federal decision to move thousands of military jobs to Mark Center and Fort Belvoir with the attendant losses of many more private sector jobs.

In the name of saving some unspecified amount of money on the streetcar by using inferior bus service, the Garvey-Vihstadt plan suggests that we can instead fund major Metro improvements. That makes no financial sense.

The Metro expansion projects alluded to in the Garvey-Vihstadt plan would, according to the long-range strategic plan released last year by Metro, cost many billions of dollars — many times the streetcar’s cost. A new Rosslyn Metro station — $1 billion. A second Potomac tunnel — $3.3 billion. An Orange/Silver express track to a second Rosslyn Metro station — $2.3 billion.

These may all be worthy projects, but suggesting that even Arlington’s share of the cost would become feasible merely by killing the streetcar is irresponsible. Read More

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