Arlington, VA

Progressive 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 Larry Roberts

Nearly four years ago, I had the honor of taking on the role of editor of a new ARLnow column titled “Progressive Voice.”

I believed that weekly columns by Mark Kelly and Peter Rousselot, while well written and informative, were not fully representative of views many Arlingtonians had about their County, elected officials, and County government.

I believed that the best answers would not come from a more conservative direction, a desire to keep the status quo, or steady criticism of County government.

In my view, Arlington was going to be affected more and more by what happened at the federal level, in Richmond, and through heightened competition from jurisdictions in Northern Virginia as well as the District and Maryland.

I saw important trends that I believed Arlington needed to acknowledge and respond to in order to remain economically vibrant and competitive.

Some examples – then and now – included: 1) diminishing federal spending in the county and the impact of the Base Realignment and Closing process on Crystal City and Arlington more broadly; 2) the opening of the Silver Line to competitive centers such as Tysons, Reston, and Loudoun County; 3) changing demographics including an influx of millennials; 4) shifting trends in real estate toward mixed-use and transit-oriented development; 5) an increasing office vacancy rate; and 6) losing important tenants such as the National Science Foundation to other jurisdictions (in that case to Alexandria).

At the same time, Arlingtonians continued to want and press for high-quality services and more of them. Moreover, a rising school population required additional resources to maintain a school system regarded as among the best in the nation.

Because of the trends identified above, I believed it important to provide a voice for the proposed Crystal City-Columbia Pike-Baileys Crossroads streetcar system that was vitally important to the County’s competitiveness and maintenance of affordable housing.

I continue to believe that defeating the streetcar project – including turning down $285 million in dedicated funding from the Commonwealth – was a major policy mistake that will set back Arlington for generations to come. However, the voters chose a different path and left local elected officials with little choice but to move on to other items of importance.

The history buff in me wanted to ensure that we honored Arlingtonians living and no longer with us who shaped the County such as Ellen Bozman, Joe Wholey, Talmadge Williams and those who risked much so that Arlington (together with Norfolk) became the first jurisdictions in the Commonwealth to integrate their public schools.

Unlike the “Right Note” and “Peter’s Take” columns, ARLnow wanted the new Progressive Voice column to reflect a range of voices and, particularly, to give voice to women and persons of color. So rather than writing my own weekly column, I became a column editor.

At first, this seemed to put me at a competitive disadvantage, because I had to enlist a group of columnists and — to be expected — each columnist had their own perspective on what issues she or he wanted to address and how to approach those issues.

But I came to value very highly the process of identifying talented columnists and providing a platform to express diverse points of view from varying perspectives and life experiences.

I met or got to know better many outstanding Arlingtonians. I learned, re-learned, or gained valuable insight into a broad range of issues, programs, needs, goals, and services.

And I learned to think more broadly, deeply, and holistically about Arlington County and its place in the Commonwealth, region, and nation.

All of that reaffirmed for me how unique and special a place Arlington is, but also that Arlington must continue to progress – as it has progressed – and not seek to stay in place or shrink from new opportunities. Communities either grow and thrive or they wither and lose what made them great.

I want to thank the Progressive Voice columnists for their outstanding contributions and willingness to produce quality columns under deadline pressure, ARLnow for the opportunity to edit the column, and the new editors who will continue to ensure that a broad range of voices will be heard via the Progressive Voice column.

Finally, I want to thank the readers who gave us reason to write our columns. I can’t say I have enjoyed every online comment received, but it has been a pleasure to hear from so many people over the years that they appreciate the column.

Carry on and move forward!

Larry Roberts was recently named Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax. He has long been active in Arlington’s civic life, including serving as Chair of the Arlington Democratic Committee. He chaired five successful statewide campaigns, served as Counselor to Governor Tim Kaine, completed a successful term as Chair of the Board of the Virginia Public Access Project, and was named a 2017 Virginia Leader in the Law by Virginia Lawyers Weekly.

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Progressive 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 Larry Roberts

Democratic sweeps in Arlington are not a given, but often occur. In some instances, Arlington is in tune with the rest of the Commonwealth, though usually a much deeper shade of blue. In other years. Arlington is out of step with electoral results in the Commonwealth as a whole.

This year, the County’s voters were largely in step with voters in the Commonwealth as a whole – particularly urban and suburban areas – in an extraordinary night for Democratic candidates.

Governor-Elect Ralph Northam’s nine point victory exceeded most expectations. He received over 300,000 more votes than Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2013. Lt. Governor-Elect Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring also achieved victory margins exceeding most expectations.

The tectonic shift in the Commonwealth was in House of Delegates elections. Going into the election, House Republicans held a 66-34 edge over House Democrats. Most observers expected that the Democrats would pick up five to eight seats. No one imagined Democrats picking 15 seats, with two more still in play. It is now conceivable, though unlikely, that Democrats will gain control of the House of Delegates or a 50-50 tie leading to a power sharing arrangement.

Assuming the House ends up at 51-49 for the Republicans and the Senate — not up for election in 2017 and has a 21-19 Republican advantage, what will this mean for Arlington? What does the Democratic statewide office sweep – giving Democrats 10 straight statewide victories — mean?

We can expect the policies of the Northam Administration will track closely the McAuliffe Administration across the broad spectrum of issues – including economic development, education, transportation, Constitutional rights, and promoting equality and inclusion as core values. Governor-Elect Northam has announced that native Alexandrian Clark Mercer will serve as his Chief of Staff, which will assure that Northern Virginia, and its inner suburbs, will have a seat at the governing table.

We can expect that Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring will also provide continuity in the Lt. Governor’s and Attorney General’s offices.

Personalities and priorities do differ, however. Governor-Elect Northam has largely aligned himself with issue positions supported by most Arlington voters. At the same time, he grew up on the Eastern Shore and has lived most of his life in Hampton Roads with its own unique issues and challenges that sometimes, but not always, track those of Northern Virginia.

There will be early signs of whether Governor Northam’s Administration will reflect the multiculturalism that is the reality of Northern Virginia and place as great an emphasis on transportation – particularly multimodal transportation -more important to Northern Virginia and Arlington than any other part of the Commonwealth.

Others will be changes Governor Northam makes to the budget introduced by Governor McAuliffe, any adjustments to the state education funding formula and levels, and signals Governor Northam sends about tax reform – which affects each region and even locality differently.

The biggest changes will likely occur in the General Assembly. On a procedural level, Democrats will gain seats on House Committees. On a policy level, Governor Northam will likely have less need to use his veto pen than Governor McAuliffe. And House Republicans will have difficult calculations on whether to make adjustments to their legislative agenda.

That will in large measure depend on whether they believe their slim majority is more likely to remain in place in 2019 through moderation and bipartisanship or, alternatively, by introducing and voting on legislation by party line votes because they believe they can regain seats in 2019 by hewing to a conservative line.

Arlington legislators, and Northern Virginia legislators in general, will certainly have substantially more say in activities in House Committees and on the House floor.

There is some hope that the House and Senate will reflect on the changing demographics and population shifts in Virginia and feel a need to keep their majorities by reconsidering the importance of such issues as Medicaid expansion, transit funding including support for Metro, and how inclusion and equality contribute to the health of Virginia’s economy. Such a shift would bring the Commonwealth more in line with the issue positions of most Arlington voters.

Finally, we now know that Republicans will not have sole control of the redistricting process in Virginia in 2021. This gives hope for nonpartisan redistricting reform efforts. In any event, redistricting will have to be bipartisan. That is likely to result in districts that will lead to Congressional and General Assembly membership more philosophically aligned with Arlington.

Lawrence Roberts recently served as Campaign Chair of the Justin Fairfax for Lt. Governor campaign. In the past, he has served as Counselor to the Governor in Richmond and Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee. He has been active in civic organizations in Arlington, Northern Virginia, and statewide. He is an attorney in private practice.

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Progressive 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 Larry Roberts

This is the final installment in a series of columns about how Arlington progressives and 8th Congressional District (Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax) Democrats responded from a policy perspective to the 2016 Presidential election.

I am providing – again without editorial comment — the progressive agenda as defined by resolutions adopted by the 8th Congressional District Democratic Convention delegates. This is a window into the views of progressive voters entering a gubernatorial election year with an outcome that will have a dramatic effect on progressives, Arlington County and the Commonwealth’s future.

Support for Local Moderate Income Down Payment Assistance Programs. We support Virginia developing local down payment assistance programs for well qualified first-time homebuyers; income limits for those who can qualify should consider multiple independent income earners in conjunction with or rather than total household size; and adding minimum annual student loan payments to the formula for determining income limits.

Thanking Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) for His Service to Virginia. McAuliffe has served as Virginia’s Governor with distinction. He restored public trust and confidence in the office in the wake of conflict of interest scandals surrounding his predecessor. On his first day in office, the Governor signed an executive order imposing a $100 gift ban on himself, his family and members of his administration and their families.

Under his leadership, Virginia has announced 926 projects, created 189,200 new jobs and attracted $15.86 billion in new capital investment. McAuliffe has worked to prepare the Commonwealth for the effects of climate changes and to reduce Virginia’s contribution to its causes. To promote Virginia’s State Park System, he will visit every state park.

In addition to positive leadership on important policy issues, the Governor has been an essential bulwark against the mean-spirited attempts of the Republican-controlled General Assembly to take Virginia backwards on many social and economic issues. He has vetoed 91 bills and has amended many additional ones. Absent his actions, Virginia would be far less welcoming to many of its residents.

Therefore, the Convention congratulates McAuliffe on a job well done and urges voters to elect a Democratic successor to continue his efforts to curb the excesses of the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Title IX. Protections for transgender students should be reinstated and guidance issued, and investigations commenced by the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education should be continued per the current standards. Additionally, the OCR should be fully funded to ensure that all students in Virginia are protected so that they can attend public schools and universities safely and free of discrimination. All K-12 and Virginia higher education institutions should advance and enforce the principles and legal standards of equality promulgated under Title IX.

Title X. Title X of the Population Research and Voluntary Family Planning Program provides significant and critical health and economic benefits for individuals, families and society. Millions of low income men and women in the United States rely on publicly funded services through Title X, family planning services, and other health care services including early detection and treatment of STIs and cervical cancer.

Without adequate funding to Title X to pay for these services, many men and women in Virginia will have no access to these lifesaving and family planning services. Sufficient funding should be provided to adequately meet the needs of the residents of Virginia who rely on services funded through Title X. The Federal government should prohibit discrimination against Title X providers that perform abortions with non-federal funds.

Voting Rights. We condemn any measure that seeks to gain political advantage by hindering citizens from exercising their fundamental right to vote; urge Congress to act promptly to fix Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act so that states with a recent history of discrimination will once again be subject to pre-clearance review by the Department of Justice; urge the General Assembly to enact a no-excuse in-person early (absentee) voting procedures, repeal the recently-enacted voter ID laws, and streamline voter registration procedures; and commend McAuliffe’s actions to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have served their time without the unnecessary and time consuming application process previously imposed.

The General Assembly must amend Article II, Section I of the State Constitution to remove Jim Crow-era felon disenfranchisement provisions. The Virginia Parole Board and other government organizations should actively educate Virginians on their restored voting rights and assist them in registering to vote.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice who has previously served in the state Cabinet as Counselor to Governor Tim Kaine and as Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair. He has been Chair for three successful statewide political campaigns, including Justin Fairfax’s campaign to be the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor in 2017.

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Progressive 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 Larry Roberts

This is the fourth of five in a series of columns about how Arlington progressives and 8th Congressional District (Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax) Democrats responded from a policy perspective to the 2016 Presidential election.

In that same context, this week will bring an opportunity to see how this year’s gubernatorial candidates will try to define their agenda and that of their opponent as the Virginia Bar Association will host its traditional first gubernatorial debate of the campaigns season at 11 a.m. on July 22 at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia. The public will be able to see the debate via a PBS live stream and there is generally substantial press coverage.

While we await the debate and coverage of it, I am providing – again without editorial comment — the progressive agenda as defined by resolutions adopted by the 8th Congressional District Democratic Convention delegates as a window into the views of progressive voters in an area of the Commonwealth that will be an important indicator of the level of Democratic enthusiasm during a general election that will receive national attention.

Opposition to Proposed 2018 Federal Budget: The Convention opposes the proposed federal budget as it would harm the economy and citizens of the Washington, D.C. region generally, including Northern Virginia, and encourages Democrats to hold elected officials accountable should they actively and/or passively support budgetary policies harmful to Northern Virginia.

Opposition to Gerrymandering: Gerrymandering of districts must end and voters should be allowed to select their political representatives instead of officeholders selecting their voters. Any solution should be independent, objective, and transparent. As a Constitutional amendment may be necessary to assure the independence of the redistricting process, the General Assembly should act in its 2018 session so that the amendment can take effect before the 2021 redistricting.

Pay and Benefits: Congress should establish a national paid family and medical leave policy that guarantees at least 12 weeks of compensated leave to care for new children or deal with family medical emergencies. Congress and the Commonwealth should incentivize businesses to adopt profit sharing systems such as employee stock ownership plans to ensure workers receive a fair share of large employer success. Virginia should explore ways to provide options and incentives for employers to voluntarily offer increased pay and benefits in these areas.

Political Contributions from Public Service Corporations: General Assembly members should reject campaign contributions from a public service corporation. The Convention supports legislation prohibiting candidates for the General Assembly or statewide office from soliciting or accepting campaign contributions from a public service corporation and urges Virginia’s state and local elected officials to establish the fight against climate change as a top legislative priority in accordance with Virginia’s constitutional mandate to “protect [Virginia’s] atmosphere, lands, and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction.”

Preserving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The proposed federal budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency are detrimental to protecting the nation’s clean air and water. Congress should use a full life cycle cost analysis in setting budget priorities rather than ideological agendas.

Primaries Instead of Caucuses: The Convention recommends that the Democratic Party of Virginia and the local Democratic committees conduct primaries whenever possible.

Religious Freedom: The Convention condemns the Trump Administration in the strongest possible terms for allowing an employer to interfere with employee health care benefits based on the employer’s religious beliefs. This policy is a direct infringement of the employee’s religious views. Congress should overturn these hasty and ill-advised actions so as to restore the right of every citizen to hold their own religious views and to reach their own views on political issues without taxpayer subsidized lectures advocating partisan positions from the pulpit.

SNAP and Nutrition: This nation should make sufficient resources available to end hunger in the United States. The Convention opposes the conversion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program into a block grant to the states. The federal agricultural program should include nutritional assistance as an integral part of its mission. The Convention opposes steps that would attack nutritional education and the promotion of good eating habits by school children and by the population as a whole.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice who has previously served in the state Cabinet as Counselor to Governor Tim Kaine and as Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair. He has been Chair for three successful statewide political campaigns, including Justin Fairfax’s campaign to be the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor in 2017.

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Progressive 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 Larry Roberts

This is the third in a series of columns about how Arlington progressives and 8th Congressional District (Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and parts of Fairfax) Democrats responded from a policy perspective to the 2016 Presidential election.

Arlington Democrats now have in place a “state house to school house” ticket for the November 2017 election – Ralph Northam (Governor), Justin Fairfax (Lt. Governor), Mark Herring (Attorney General), Patrick Hope, Mark Levine, Alfonso Lopez and Rip Sullivan (House of Delegates), Erik Gutshall (County Board), and Monique O’Grady (School Board).

As the ticket’s electoral agenda comes into focus, the progressive agenda as defined by  resolutions adopted by the 8th Congressional District Democratic Convention delegates – again presented without editorial comment – remains instructive.

Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: Encourages strict enforcement of existing laws regulating the manufacture and distribution of addictive opioids, as well as the following actions (1) law enforcement should assist drug manufacturers in their internal investigations of possible overprescribing and counterfeiting of opioid drugs; (2) Virginia health officials should continue to provide guidance to medical professionals about the appropriate medical use of opioids following guidelines published by the CDC, and should monitor and periodically publish statistics on the volume of opioids prescribed in the state; (3) Virginia should establish and fully fund expanded treatment and rehabilitation programs for opioid abuse to ensure that opioid addiction is properly viewed as a public health issue rather than simply leading to increased incarceration rates; and (4) Virginia should establish and fully fund expanded economic, educational, and social programs designed to relieve systemic causes of addiction, including, but not limited to long-term unemployment and under-employment.

Gun Violence Prevention: The Governor should (1) encourage, facilitate and incentivize the world-class technology enterprises of Virginia to pave the way in developing and marketing ground-breaking and affordable technology applications to gun safety issues; and (2) promote, fund and incentivize the academic institutions of Virginia to participate in a “Manhattan Project” type of collaborative effort to lead the nation in developing low-cost and readily accessible personalized and other safety devices for hand guns, with particular emphasis on child safety and safety in the home.

The General Assembly should empower localities to enact ordinances to prohibit guns in government facilities and in establishments serving alcohol. Congress should promote, authorize, aggressively fund, and incentivize programs and projects that will result in the immediate availability of personalized safety devices for hand guns. The Federal government (through appropriate agencies) should fund studies and collect statistics on the nature and extent of gun violence in the United States.

Helping Working Families Afford Retirement: Congress should support retirement savings and expand retirement savings options through initiatives such as (1) allowing workers without employer sponsored options to enroll in auto IRAs; and (2) creating minimum pension plans for workers and employers at businesses with 50 or more employees. Virginia should establish a state savings plan option.

High Quality Child Care and Universal Pre-K to Virginians: To remain competitive in the 21st century and to reduce the burden on middle-class Virginian families, the Commonwealth must provide high quality child care and universal pre-K to all Virginians; The General Assembly should (1) make a High-Quality Child Care Tax Credit available that is paid directly to providers on a monthly basis to help families afford child care with families contributing up to 10% percent of their income toward child care fees on a sliding scale; and (2) amend Virginia Code Section 22.1-254 to make free public education available starting at age 3, rather than age 6.

High School Democrats of America Joining the DNC: The High School Democrats of America should receive two Delegate At Large positions for the HSDA Chair and Vice Chair, become voting members of the Democratic National Committee, and join the Young Democrats of America and College Democrats of America as recognized DNC stakeholders.

Immigration, Deportation, and Muslim Ban: The Committee condemns in the strongest possible terms the “Muslim Ban” and the ongoing deportations of undocumented residents living in the United States peacefully; opposes any future efforts to ban entry into the United States on the basis of religious belief or national origin as well as any future funding for an expanded deportation program; and calls upon the Congress to renew its bi-partisan efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Instant Runoff Voting in Primaries: Section 24.2-532 of the Code of Virginia should be amended to provide local parties the option of specifying that a primary should be conducted using either IRV or the current one-round method.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice who has previously served in the state Cabinet as Counselor to Governor Tim Kaine and as Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair. He has been Chair for three successful statewide political campaigns, including Justin Fairfax’s campaign to be the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor in 2017.

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Progressive 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 Larry Roberts

Three weeks ago, I wrote about how Arlington progressives and 8th Congressional District (Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and parts of Fairfax) Democrats were responding from a policy perspective to the November 2016 Presidential election outcome that few Democrats in Arlington anticipated.

Other recent elections reflect a challenge to the view that the election of Donald Trump and the earlier Brexit vote that might have anticipated a Trump election reflect a rightward turn in U.S. politics and in western democracies.

Closer to home, the 2017 statewide primaries in Virginia showed a markedly higher level of enthusiasm among Democrats than Republicans. In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, 542,615 Virginians cast votes compared to 366,244 votes in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Of the votes cast in the simultaneous primaries, 59.7 percent were Democratic and 41.3 percent were Republican.

This was a dramatic 70 percent increase in Democratic votes this year compared to the last contested Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia – from 319,168 in 2013 to 542,615 in 2017.

The 2017 turnout in traditionally Democratic Arlington was very high for a primary. Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 28,167 to 5,151.

Compared to the 2013 primary, Democrats saw a 42.8 percent increase – from 19,715 in 2013 to 28,167 in 2017.

Results in France and Britain have also reflected a move away from the right.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Front party had led opinion polls from November 2016 until mid-January 2017 but ended up losing by 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent to Emmanuel Macron of the Republic on the Move, who criticized Le Pen as too far to the right and cast himself as a radical centrist. Macron’s party has gone on to dominate subsequent parliamentary elections and is expected to win over two-thirds of the seats.

And in Britain, Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election to consolidate her party’s position strongly supporting Brexit backfired when the Conservatives lost 13 seats and Labour gained 30, a result substantially weakening Britain’s Brexit negotiation position.

Against this backdrop, below is a second piece of the progressive agenda as defined recently by a set of 32 resolutions adopted by the delegates to the 8th Congressional District Democratic Convention – again presented without editorial comment.

Death Penalty: The Convention calls upon the Virginia General Assembly to abolish the death penalty in Virginia.

Defending the ACA: The Convention opposes any efforts on the part of the Trump administration, or anyone else, to undermine the Affordable Care Act; opposes any further efforts to repeal and replace the ACA with legislation that will reduce affordability and/or provide less coverage to Americans; and affirms that healthcare is a human right to be afforded to all Americans and endorses the eventual adoption of a universal single payer healthcare system.

Economic Prosperity and Justice: The Convention urges the Virginia Congressional Delegation to: re-prioritize the spending of tax dollars to focus on universal health care, public education, environmental protection, public infrastructure, and the equitable rule of law; make room for the above spending priorities by substantially reducing wasteful military spending; ensure that America’s wealthy, and corporations, pay a progressive share of taxes as a proven method to lower inequality, stimulate economic growth, strengthen businesses, and keep the public debt from exploding further – and that deductions and overseas loopholes be eliminated before any reductions in tax rates be considered; corporate tax revenues should be restored to 20 percent of Federal current tax receipts; pass a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act; and ensure the continuation and undiminished funding of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to protect the budget and public from further Wall Street excesses.

Election Transparency: The Convention urges enactment of a Virginia General Assembly bipartisan bill requiring all candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General to submit at least five years of Federal and state tax returns to the Board of Elections in order to appear on the ballot and all Presidential candidates to submit at least the last five years of Federal tax returns to the same body before the presidential primary. These returns shall be made open and available to the public at least 45 days prior to a presidential primary or any general election.

Expansion of Medicaid in the Commonwealth of Virginia: The Convention affirms that healthcare is a human right to be afforded to all Americans; supports Governor McAuliffe’s proposed amendment to the state budget to set the expansion of Medicaid in motion; believes Virginia cannot afford to be left behind by continuing to not expand Medicaid.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice, a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, and a former Counselor to the Governor. He has followed Virginia politics for more than 30 years and chaired three successful statewide political campaigns including the Lt. Governor campaign of Justin Fairfax, who won the Democratic primary on June 13.

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Progressive 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 Lawrence Roberts

In the aftermath of the November 2016 election, Democrats in Arlington were stunned by an outcome few anticipated.

Once reality of the defeat was absorbed, it was time to assess signals President-Elect Donald Trump would send about his agenda.

Even before Inauguration Day, it became clear to local Democrats that the Trump agenda would run counter to their values and that the new President would seek to dismantle key Obama Administration accomplishments.

Thus began the resistance – the Women’s March; the March for Action on Climate Change; impromptu protests at airports around the nation to push back against detention of immigrants returning to the country; the March for Science; and the formation of groups such as Indivisible dedicated to resistance at the grass roots level.

Democrats and previously unaffiliated independents began showing up in droves to local Democratic events and committee meetings – in numbers not seen before.

The resistance has led to efforts to defeat Republicans around the country in special elections.

It has also led to efforts to define a progressive agenda that is more than opposing the actions of President Trump and the Republican majority in Congress.

It is no surprise that Arlington progressives are deeply involved in the efforts to resist and to define a progressive agenda.

One reflection of a progressive agenda was defined recently by a set of 32 resolutions adopted by the delegates to the 8th Congressional District Democratic Convention held on May 23. The 8th Congressional District – represented by Rep. Don Beyer – includes all of Arlington County as well as the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church and portions of Fairfax County.

Like Arlington, the 8th District voted overwhelmingly for President Obama and for Hillary Clinton.

It is not a stretch to say that the 8th District’s resolutions are a reflection of an agenda that Arlington County progressives would view as a blueprint for moving beyond resistance toward rising up and mounting a progressive comeback.

Presented here and in future columns without editorial comment is a summary of the resolutions adopted by the 8th District convention.

$15 Dollar State and Federal Minimum Wage. The state and federal minimum wage should be increased from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2020 for all workers. Tipped workers in Virginia should be paid a $10 minimum wage instead of the $2.13 per hour they are currently guaranteed. Both the state and Federal minimum wage should increase annually as the cost of living increases.

Creation of Appalachian Power Administration District. Virginia state government and its universities should conduct a study of the feasibility of an Appalachian Power Administration District based on renewable resources. The study needs to determine the applicability of mountain-based renewables in Appalachia including wind, load sharing, and pump storage methods. The study should provide an actionable plan within four years.

Cannabis Reform. We support bi-partisan efforts to allow states to establish their own regulatory scheme for cannabis distribution and use. Virginia cooperative extension should conduct outreach programs on industrial hemp cultivation. Medical use of cannabidiol should be expanded beyond epilepsy and obstacles should be cleared from both the state and federal levels.

College Affordability and Student Debt. We support the Commonwealth’s investment in higher education through initiatives such as the Affordable Pathways grants. We also call on Virginia lawmakers to study and implement initiatives that would allow students to reduce debt after employment in public service and to explore similar opportunities for students to reduce debt after completing approved unpaid civil and/or community service.

Congressional Review Act. In response to the Trump Administration’s hasty partisan action that ignores the basic rights of citizens and the responsibilities of government, we call for the repeal of the Congressional Review Act and in the absence of complete repeal, call for the Congressional Review Act to be amended to provide that a 2/3 vote be required in the House and Senate House to adopt a resolution of disapproval.

Criminal Justice Reform. Virginia should: increase the threshold for felony larceny to $1000; increase payments to court-appointed counsel for indigent defendants to the national average hourly rate among states for such services; provide for payment of experts and translators as appropriate and approved by the court; permit a convicted defendant who obtains DNA evidence of his innocence to petition to have his conviction overturned even after a guilty plea; and cease suspending the driver’s license of a defendant who lacks resources to pay outstanding court fees for offenses unrelated to driving.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice, a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, and a former Counselor to the Governor. He has followed Virginia politics for more than 30 years and chaired two successful statewide political campaigns.

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Larry RobertsProgressive 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 Lawrence Roberts

This May, Arlington Democrats will participate in a caucus to nominate the Democratic candidate for County Board. The winner of that nomination will, in all likelihood, have the opportunity to be sworn in for a four-year term commencing January 1, 2018.

The new Board member will be succeeding Jay Fisette, the current Board Chair who has served as a County Board member since 1998. Jay has chaired the Board on five separate occasions (2001, 2005, 2010, 2014 and 2017).

It is sometimes hard to notice progress, and even history, when it is occurring. But as Jay is about to enter the final nine months of what will be 20 years of service on the County Board, I think it is important to remember the odds that Jay overcame to become the first openly gay elected official in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia and to reflect on how Jay has served as a “progressive voice” in Arlington and on the Board during a time of great change and progress in the County.

When I first met Jay, he was serving as the Director of the Northern Virginia AIDS Project of Whitman-Walker Clinic, a nonprofit community health center that was a leader in HIV/AIDS education, prevention, diagnosis and treatment. He had previously served as an auditor with the U.S. General Accounting Office.

Jay’s public service was inspired by the martyrdom of Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, who was assassinated while serving on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. In 1993, he decided to run for the County Board and joined a field that included future County Board members Charles Monroe and Chris Zimmerman as well as School Board member Darlene Mickey.

Although Jay won the March 1993 caucus to the surprise of much of the Democratic establishment, he lost a special election that May by 206 votes. His opponent did not raise Jay’s sexual orientation as a campaign issue, but there is little doubt in the minds of those of us who worked for Jay’s election that even in Arlington many voters were not yet comfortable with electing a gay public official. Only two years later with another candidate, Democrats easily won back the seat in a general election.

Jay’s loss did not deter him from remaining active in electoral politics and he won many friends and additional supporters as he re-dedicated himself to Democratic politics and community service.

As Arlingtonians became more progressive in their views about sexual orientation, the electoral climate became more favorable. Jay ran again in 1997 and made history with his election to the Board – winning nearly 62 percent of the vote in the November election.

It is a testament to Jay’s successful tenure on the Board that the history he made is now almost an afterthought while he paved the way for many LGBT Virginians serving in elective office and as community leaders.

Speaking of his own future, Jay has said that he wants to work on “embracing and advancing a set of progressive values that are so important; values we have championed here in Arlington…” That serves as an excellent description of Jay’s tenure on the County Board.

He has been a consistent champion of environmental and open space initiatives, smart growth planning initiatives, multimodal transportation options, affordable housing, inclusiveness, and a strong social safety net. At the same time, he has been integral to the County’s sterling fiscal reputation and performance, maintaining its low crime rate, and the County’s increasing attractiveness to families, millennials, and seniors.

In recent years, Jay has worked to help Arlington to respond to increased competition to Arlington’s economic successes and to promote cooperation between the County Board and School Board to keep the Arlington Public Schools system among the best in the nation.

Jay will be remembered by those who lived through the experience for his steady leadership as the County and its public safety agencies responded to the September 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

He also has gained respect around the region and the Commonwealth through his many leadership positions in organizations such as the Virginia Municipal League, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

Jay will accomplish even more before stepping down at the end of the year. But as people campaign to succeed him, it is a good time to consider his many accomplishments for Arlington County.

Larry Roberts has been active in civic and political life in Arlington for nearly 30 years and is an attorney in private practice. He chaired the Arlington County Democratic Committee, a successful Arlington School Bond campaign, two successful statewide political campaigns, and served as Counselor to the Governor in Richmond.

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Larry RobertsProgressive 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.

The tragic deaths last week in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas, which followed the recent horrific killing of 50 in Orlando, shook the nation.

In Orlando, it was the scale of the killings and the targeting of LGBT community members. In Dallas, it was seeing law enforcement officers targeted for death based on the color of their skin. In Baton Rouge and St. Paul, it was the sight of two more African-American men killed by law enforcement officers for — based on eyewitness and video evidence — no discernible reason.

For a brief time, it appeared that these latest killings would lead to a discussion more fundamental than whether or how gun laws should be changed. There was a sense that we needed to bridge divisions in our society that were taking a dangerous turn.

Columnists, political analysts and other commentators wrote about an inflection point in our recent history – where there was room for unity, acknowledging the complexity of our problems, and a need for more listening, more humility, and less hostility and angry rhetoric.

Close to home, ARLnow was part of that trend, stating that “[t]imes like these remind us of the darker side of humanity — but should inspire us to counter that with kindness and respect for our fellow humans. Here in our little 25.98 square mile Arlington bubble, we hope that that extends to our comment section.”

Our two most recent Presidents sought to convey the message as well. President George W. Bush, at the memorial service in Dallas for the five fallen police officers cautioned that “[t]oo often we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”

President Obama expanded on this theme: “[W]ith an open heart, we can learn to stand in each other’s shoes and look at the world through each other’s eyes … With an open heart, we can abandon the overheated rhetoric and the oversimplification that reduces whole categories of our fellow Americans not just to opponents, but to enemies.”

Yet even in the midst of these words, in a country in need of healing, the public discourse devolved yet again. Instead of encouraging the hard work that will be needed to resolve problems faced by our communities and our nation, we were presented with division, rancor, finger pointing, and the notion that there are only two sides to every debate, that people must choose which side they are on, that those who would choose the other side are enemies, and that only by defeating those enemies will we restore peace, order, and greatness.

The reality is that we live in complicated times that demand from our citizenry a sober minded reflection on how Americans can come together to address those challenges and move our country forward.

This will take hard work, resources, listening to and respecting one another, and seeking solutions that bind us together and elevate our society and ourselves.

In times past, we may have looked to great leaders for guidance.

Speaking of toleration, George Washington said that “the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens…”.

Lincoln sought to bring together a nation that had devolved into civil war not by triumphalism, but through humility and understanding: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…”.

Roosevelt, at a time when the nation faced economic devastation, asserted his “firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself … In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”

Today we live in a time where leadership is viewed with skepticism, where institutions face a lack of trust, and individuals are free to assert their views widely and without filter.

In such a time, it will take asking ourselves how we can take individual actions to restore a sense of unity, purpose and advancement.

Respecting the views of others, watching the tone of our own discourse, countering division and ideologies, and supporting the hard work needed to address our problems, are building blocks needed for recovery and for success.

Larry Roberts has been active in civic and political life in Arlington for nearly 30 years and is an attorney in private practice. He has been active in County civic life. He also chaired two successful statewide campaigns, served as Counselor to the Governor in Richmond, and served as Chief of Staff to the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

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Larry RobertsProgressive 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 all accounts, Virginia’s Senator Tim Kaine is on the short list that Hillary Clinton will consider in choosing her Vice Presidential running mate. We will likely learn of her decision on the eve of the Democratic National Convention that will be held in Philadelphia in late July.

These accounts should come as no surprise since Kaine was also among the three final VP choices that Barack Obama considered in 2008 before selecting Joe Biden as his running mate.

Since that time, Kaine has completed a successful term as Virginia Governor, served as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee working collaboratively with the President, won a Senate election against a former senator and governor, and earned a reputation as an effective senator with service on the armed services, foreign relations, and budget committees.

In addition, he announced his support for Hillary Clinton in May 2014, before she even announced she was running for President. And he campaigned for Hillary in the 2016 Virginia primary, which she won with over 64 percent of the vote.

The perspective I would like to share is an Arlington perspective about Tim Kaine. The connections are many. Here are a few.

In 2001, Kaine was serving as Mayor of Richmond and was supporting Yorktown High School graduate Emily Couric in her quest to become the first woman to serve as Virginia’s Lt. Governor. Sadly, Emily had to withdraw from the race due to the onset of her fatal bout with cancer.

With Emily’s encouragement, Tim decided to run for Lt. Governor. He was quickly joined in the race by two popular members of the House of Delegates.

I was serving as Chair of the Arlington Democrats at the time. One afternoon, I received a call from Tim’s long-time assistant asking if I could arrange for the Mayor of Richmond to meet with some Arlington grass roots volunteers. On short notice, we pulled together a group to meet the next day.

That was my first encounter with Tim Kaine. At that meeting, Kaine displayed the authenticity, intelligence, wit, empathy, and competitiveness that I came to know well over the years. All of us were very impressed, particularly with a story about his service on Richmond’s City Council.

Kaine had grown tired of the racial divides affecting City Council. As a result, he ran against an incumbent for a seat on City Council together with African-American reform candidates. He told us that before he took office there had been many votes on Council that were divided completely along racial lines. But with the help of other new Council members, he brought people together so that there had never been a vote split on racial lines during his tenure on Council and as Mayor.

Among Kaine’s early supporters in Arlington for the Democratic primary were Paul Ferguson, Peg Hogan, Ed Fendley, and Jody Olson. I apologize to others I haven’t mentioned.

Kaine went on to win the three-way primary with 40 percent of the statewide vote. Arlington turned out to be one of his strongest jurisdictions with 52 percent of the Democratic primary vote. Only four other jurisdictions gave Kaine more votes than the 2,910 votes he received in Arlington.

Kaine went on to win a close general election race in 2001. He won by a more comfortable margin in the 2005 Governor’s race and again in the 2012 U.S. Senate race.

As Governor, Kaine appointed three Arlingtonians to his Cabinet and focused intently on issues of importance in Arlington, including transportation, land use, economic development (helping to keep DARPA in Arlington), education (notably advancing pre-K), and conservation.

During my years in the Governor’s office, there were many significant developments and events.

Importantly, I remember how the Governor treated his staff and the tone he set. No matter what had happened the day before, the Governor came to the office with a spirit of trying to make positive things happen for the Commonwealth. He was energetic, optimistic, and well prepared.

We knew that it was our obligation as staff to work hard, be honest, and keep the needs and interests of Virginia residents firmly in mind. If we met those goals, Tim Kaine would support our efforts whether we accomplished all of our objectives or not.

I was proud to serve with Tim Kaine and I know the country would be the beneficiary were he to be selected by Hillary Clinton as her running mate.

Larry Roberts is a 30-year resident of Arlington and an attorney in private practice. He is former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, chaired two successful statewide campaigns, and served as Counselor to the Governor in Richmond.

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Larry RobertsProgressive 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 Lawrence Roberts

In generations past, the American dream for many was a home in the suburbs. That dream served our country and our County well for those who could afford to make that dream a reality.

The growth of the suburbs represented a massive shift of wealth, human capital, employment, education, and innovation away from cities and urban centers that, in turn, saw declines across most measures of urban quality of life.

In recent generations, we have seen continued demand for suburban living matched by a desire by many residents and businesses to be located in urban centers.

Millenials have sought a lifestyle that is less dependent on long commutes and is more focused on transit and urban amenities. Baby boomers who raised families in the suburbs have shown an interest in returning to urban areas to downsize their housing and find walkable communities.

And businesses have shown an increasing interest in locating near transit – in our region that means primarily near Metro stations. This is a competitive advantage for Arlington and is a primary reason for our County to show leadership in improving Metro’s facilities and finally creating a realistic financial plan for system maintenance.

The revitalization of urban and transit-oriented centers need not be at the expense of suburban living. Indeed, the vision of Arlington leaders and taxpayers in supporting high-quality schools and planning for urban corridors near Metro stations, lower density growth along highway corridors, and strong protection of suburban-style neighborhoods has made the County a highly desirable place to live.

But Arlington can’t meet the challenges generated by growth and its own success by striving to keep things just as they are or have been. Keeping the status quo is simply not possible. Retrenchment and disinvestment are even worse.

We must continually move forward or we will inevitably see a decline.

Housing affordability is an issue that requires our attention if we are to move forward. Healthy, vibrant urban centers and nearby suburbs require housing affordability in order to sustain economic growth. A modern economy needs workers across a range of income levels who do not have to commute long distances. When people can afford to live closer to work, then they can free up roads and lessen traffic congestion that constrains an economy.

The unsustainable desire to keep things just as they are has been given the term NIMBY – not in my backyard.

Of course, there have been many times when communities have rejected poorly-conceived projects that would have destroyed neighborhoods, failed to deliver economic returns, or wreaked environmental havoc.

But today, increasing numbers of people view NIMBY actions as preventing the investments in infrastructure and creative housing policies that will be necessary to accommodate the desire of people of all ages to live in settings much like Arlington – urban and close-in suburban areas that have access to multiple transportation options.

Will Arlington continue to achieve a sustainable balance that accommodates growth and preserves neighborhoods? Will we find ways to make housing affordable so that people can live and work in Arlington?

Across the country, communities have done far worse than Arlington in planning for growth and sustainability. The result is a housing crisis with growing demands for building more housing.

The movement is coalescing around the name “YIMBY” – “Yes in My Backyard.”

The epicenter has been in California, which has often been at the forefront of national movements. San Francisco and Silicon Valley are experiencing the most painful housing affordability and displacement problems. But well-organized YIMBY groups have also grown up in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Toronto, Austin, and elsewhere – places that are economic competitors of Arlington and the greater Washington region.

The national momentum will build later this month with the first national YIMBY conference, in Boulder, Colorado.

Hopefully, Arlington will find creative solutions that need not be caught up in a NIMBY/YIMBY battle.

For the foreseeable future, people of all ages will want to move to places like Arlington. We can embrace that trend, try to stop it, or be overrun by it.

Arlington’s success has been due in large part to getting ahead of problems, building consensus, and implementing forward-moving change to avert crises.

It is time for us to meet the challenge of housing affordability through creativity, flexibility, consensus, and uniquely Arlington solutions.

Larry Roberts has lived in Arlington for over 30 years and is an attorney in private practice. He has been active in County civic life. He also chaired two successful statewide campaigns, served as Counselor to the Governor in Richmond, and served as Chief of Staff to the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

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