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by Peter Rousselot — August 13, 2015 at 2:00 pm 834 0

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

An excellent new report (“Valuing Arlington’s Community Parks and Open Space“) demonstrates the value of parks in our community dialogue about major issues, including:

  • Development
  • Zoning
  • Siting school facilities and housing

The new report should help us avoid serious mistakes like Arlington’s decision to sacrifice Rosslyn Highlands Park to the interests of a private developer.

The new report is sponsored by the Arlington Park & Recreation Commission. The principal authors are Elizabeth Gearin, who has a PhD in Urban Planning and Development and William Ross, who has a PhD in Economics. Both are long-time Arlington residents. They combined their individual expertise to highlight both the qualitative and quantitative benefits parks provide.

Neither author has any direct financial interest that would be served by accepting their conclusions. They prepared this report as a community service. Backed by extensive research and analysis, the report cites both intangible and tangible benefits of parks and green space.

Intangible Benefits (traditional literature review)

  • Health

Parks provide opportunities for exercise, creative play, and lowered stress levels.

  • Community Cohesion

Parks reinforce the social fabric, providing opportunities for residents and visitors to participate in activities, socialize with one another, and form a neighborhood geographic focus.

  • Environmental

Trees, shrubs and grasses improve air quality by reducing air pollution; ameliorating the urban heat-island effect with shade and cooling; acting as a noise barrier, and reducing urban runoff as roots capture and filter rainwater.

Tangible Benefits (economic analysis)

Some of the intangible benefits of parks are priceless, but the report provides a helpful methodological framework to quantify the tangible benefits of Arlington’s parks. The report quantifies for Arlington the dollar impacts of these 10 benefit categories:

  • Increased Property Values from Park Proximity
  • Increased Property Sales Taxes from Park Proximity
  • Increased Value of Annual Property Sales from Park Proximity
  • Direct Use Value for Park Users
  • Tourism Tax Benefits Attributed to Parks
  • Tourism Profits Attributed to Parks
  • Health Value of Parks
  • Storm Water Management Value of Parks
  • Air Pollution Mitigation Value of Parks
  • Community Cohesion Value of Parks

As summarized on the Arlington County website, the bottom line is that:

[T]he annual, ongoing benefits from Arlington parks and open space is $155 million. On top of that, “the existence of parks and open space may have resulted in a one-time increase in residential property values estimated at $160 million…”

These valuations represent a preliminary approximation. Arlington should study these issues further.

Conclusion

Arlington’s parks and open space are not “free.” When we use our parkland for other purposes, not only do we bear the replacement cost (if we even can afford it), we lose the benefits outlined in this excellent White Paper.

by Larry Roberts — August 13, 2015 at 1:30 pm 570 0

Larry Roberts

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 their organization or ARLnow.com.

This week, the United States Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit turned down former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s request for a rehearing en banc (by all of the Circuit’s judges) of his conviction on public corruption charges. McDonnell now has only one hope left for overturning his conviction – the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court hears only a small fraction of the requests it receives.

In all likelihood, the former Governor will soon begin serving his two-year sentence in a federal prison. One might expect that as a Democrat, I would be pleased to see Bob McDonnell’s fall from a potential Vice Presidential candidate to a likely federal prisoner. I am not.

Certainly I don’t condone the actions that led to McDonnell’s conviction and I do not quarrel with the unanimous jury verdict.

And I have had major disagreements with many of McDonnell’s issue positions during his career as an elected official and actions he took as Attorney General and Governor.

Yet I had a chance to work closely with McDonnell and his senior staff while he was in statewide office and found that it was possible to find common ground to move Virginia forward and serve the interests of the Commonwealth’s residents.

As Counselor to the Governor, one of my roles was to serve as liaison to the Office of the Attorney General. We worked across party lines on a range of issues of importance to Virginia – among them were budgeting, transportation, criminal justice/law enforcement, restoration of rights, matters affecting the military and veterans, mental health reforms, immigration, and the Commonwealth’s response to the tragedy at Virginia Tech.

In some instances, the Governor and Attorney General were largely in agreement. In others, their positions were very different.

Yet no matter the situation, we found that the Commonwealth was better served if we looked for as much common ground as possible, worked through our differences to understand each other’s positions, aired our differences with respect for each other and the offices in which we served, and made sure that once decisions were made by the executive, legislative or judicial branches that we worked to implement those decisions as effectively and efficiently as possible.

We worked closely together – even through differing legal interpretations of the Governor’s powers — to help insure that the Commonwealth did not suffer a government shutdown during a budget and possible constitutional crisis in 2006. That crisis was averted by the signing of a budget on the last possible day before a shutdown began. Many residents in Arlington and across Virginia would have suffered had we failed.

Also, we worked together on a 2007 transportation package that put in place many funding sources that are beginning to have an impact of transit and other transportation improvements in Arlington and throughout Northern Virginia. Although regional funding pieces of that package were thrown out by the Supreme Court of Virginia, many were corrected and put back in place as part of McDonnell’s landmark 2013 transportation package.

McDonnell and his team were also allies in Governor Kaine’s successful effort to secure federal funding and develop a construction plan for Phase I of the Silver Line that began operation in 2014 with significant transit and economic benefits for Arlington and across Northern Virginia.

We also worked together in responding to the terrible tragedy on the Virginia Tech campus in April 2007. The Commonwealth’s response included a creative and comprehensive settlement with families who suffered the loss of loved ones and surviving victims, mental health reforms, closing a loophole on the acquisition of guns by those found mentally incompetent, developing improved protocols for first responders, and developing more effective campus security measures.

While McDonnell and I disagree – often strongly — on what government should do, we have agreed that what government does it should do so effectively and efficiently. He was not a conservative who was happy when government failed to do its job.

It is not easy to know how and why some leaders put themselves in harm’s way. Yet in watching McDonnell’s fall, I also want to remember ways in which he served the Commonwealth well.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice. A resident of Arlington for over 30 years, he also spent four years in Richmond as Counselor to Governor Tim Kaine and chaired successful statewide campaigns in 2005 and 2012.

by Mark Kelly — August 13, 2015 at 1:00 pm 504 0

Mark Kelly

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

It appears Arlington County is throwing a lifeline to the mothballed aquatics center at Long Bridge Park by floating the idea of a partnership with Alexandria. The pool project went on the shelf after the funding from a bond increase in 2012 still could not cover the projected bid.

Arlington not only needs a partner to cover the construction costs, but also what could be as much as a $4.3 million annual operating deficit.

The last round of bond funding included authorization for $42.5 million of the $79.3 million, at the time, projected to be needed to construct the facility. Many critics in 2012 called for such a large bond sum to be voted on separately from other parks and recreation funding. But the bond passed comfortably under the heading of “Local Parks and Recreation” not “$42.5 million for aquatics center.”

The County Board then issued $10-12 million in bonds to cover anticipated construction costs in 2013. We are paying interest on those bonds but the money is sitting idle.

Fast forward to today. Arlington Republicans are circulating a petition to call on the county to stop future bundling of bonds issues.

Specifically, the petition calls “on the Arlington County Board to commit to presenting stand alone bond referenda for projects that would represent more than 50% of the amount of the bond referendum dollar amount or authorize $25M or more in total project spending.”

Simply put, if the Arlington County Board committed to this course of action moving forward, they would have to let the funding for big ticket projects rise or fall solely on their own merit.

It still would be a tall order to defeat a bond question in Arlington. One could argue that all projects would still pass and move forward, particularly if they secured a positive recommendation on the Democrats’ sample ballot.

However, in the case of a project without widespread public support, it would require the County Board to at the very least debate its merits. Voters could decide if $80 million was too much to pay for a new swimming complex or not. That really is not too much to ask of our elected officials when it is our tax dollars that have to pay for it.

by Heather Mongilio — August 7, 2015 at 5:35 pm 1,156 0

Girl at Arlington County Fair

It’s Friday, which means the weekend is here. National Weather Service is predicting a sunny weekend, with highs in the upper 80s for both weekends.

The Arlington County Fair will be open from until 11 p.m. tonight, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. tomorrow and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. There will be concerts throughout the weekend at the fair.

This weekend is also the tax-free holiday for Virginia. With school around the corner — school starts on Sept. 8 — it is a good weekend to get school supplies and clothing.

Feel free to talk about the county fair or any other topic of local interest.

by Progressive Voice — August 6, 2015 at 1:45 pm 1,273 0

Lisa-025-Edit-color

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 their organization or ARLnow.com.

Arlington has long been known for mastering smart infrastructure investments that have boosted the local economy, made Arlington an attractive place to live, and led to high levels of satisfaction in surveys of County residents.

Now, County leaders face a public that is cool to ambitious approaches to transportation, planning and infrastructure other than, perhaps, new and expanded schools.

For many, Arlington’s 2014 decision to cancel streetcars in Crystal City and Columbia Pike dealt not only a blow to transportation, but to community pride as well. What if, however, this gives us a timely, useful pause to consider improvements that are less capital-intensive? While I do not believe they can be the only solutions, it is important that we explore such alternatives.

Several fast-changing trends are converging to change how we live, work, shop, play – and get around. This is happening all over the world, but has special relevance for Arlington as we expand a planning focus from Metro station areas to other ways of delivering services, opportunity and quality of life.

These trends – technology, demographics, and shifts in work and workplaces – require new types of planning.

For transportation, Uber and Lyft are mainly known for disrupting the taxi industry, but it is really the smart phone platform that is transforming everything from biking to parking to travel.

So what are the opportunities in Arlington and what does it mean for planning?

Ride and Van Share – New companies like Bridj and Split are building new “microtransit” services that range from $2-$7 per trip. They fit a service level somewhere between solo driving and ART bus lines. They work by using algorithms to assign passenger pick-ups based on the most efficient origin-destination routes among several shuttle buses.

bridj

For example, residents living near the intersection of Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive can hail shuttles going to Seven Corners, Ashburn and other job centers not served by Metro (or that require multiple transit connections). These new transit companies are eager to work with localities to share data, incorporate services into formal transportation planning, and optimize public transit routes.

ParatransitArlington Transit offers on-demand rides for travelers with limited mobility. While costs have decreased (28% over the past three years to $27 per trip), these new services could reduce the costs of transportation further. As Arlington develops aging-in-place strategies throughout the County, these rides are incredibly important.

Car Owners – Yes, we have the Car-Free Diet, but what about support for drivers? Let’s face it, many Arlingtonians live in areas where a car is really the only practical travel option. However, many drivers want to reduce the hassles of driving, finding a parking space and car ownership. Fortunately, there are apps for all of these. The availability of these resources means that we should expand our transit programs to find ways to use our roads and parking resources in ways that help drivers — since reduced driving through efficiencies and easier route and parking navigation can result in less congestion for us all.

Locally Grown Transportation Companies – Arlington and DC are home to transportation companies like TransitScreen. Mobility Lab tracks new trends at the intersection of transportation, cities and technology. Arlington’s Economic Development chief Victor Hoskins wants to focus on tech for security, health and education. Given Arlington’s leadership in land use and transportation, and with the addition of 1776 to Crystal City, it makes sense to add smart cities to the list.

But there are also questions. How do public agencies incorporate private companies into transportation and infrastructure programs? For land use, what is Transit Oriented Development (TOD) when the transit comes to you through more individualized services? How do people without smart phones access broader mobility services? And finally, how will self-driving cars and transit ultimately disrupt the current disruptors?

Certainly tech-enabled ride sharing apps won’t exactly replicate the performance of a streetcar line. But they can provide immediate, cost-effective mobility options and supply the data needed to support the right kind of larger transportation and other infrastructure investments in the future.

In times such as these, the winning bet may not always be the big bet, but a series of strategic, iterative bets can help continue moving us forward.

Lisa Nisenson is a long-time civic advocate in Arlington and is founder of GreaterPlaces, a startup and member of the tech incubator 1776.

by Mark Kelly — August 6, 2015 at 1:00 pm 554 0

Mark Kelly

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

The recent federal district court ruling on Virginia’s Congressional District lines has called into question how and why legislative bodies can create what are known as majority-minority districts.

Virginia’s Third Congressional District is currently about 56 percent African-American, a percentage that has not substantially changed since at least the 1990 Census redistricting. However, the court essentially ruled the most recent map unfairly diluted the voting strength of the African-American population by packing too high of a percentage into one district.

It was widely believed in political circles that the Congressional maps were drawn to protect all 11 incumbents in 2012 when the General Assembly was split between the two parties. The court found that while this may have been true, it was not enough to overcome the racial impact of the map.

However, yesterday a three judge panel rejected Republican requests for an extension from the court-imposed Sept. 1 deadline until after November’s General Assembly elections. So the Republican-controlled body has to decide its next move before the special session called for Aug. 17 to redraw the maps.

Republicans could follow the court order and draw a map that gives all eight Republican incumbents districts they can still win. This puts pressure on Governor McAuliffe to sign or veto it. Or, the GOP can make a bet that the Supreme Court will intervene and uphold the current map.

Regardless of the outcome of this case, the discussion surrounding these maps has re-opened the debate over using an “independent commission” to draw political boundaries here in Virginia, led by Governor McAuliffe.

A plan from the governmental integrity panel would call for a five member commission, four of whom would be appointed by the Republican and Democrat leaders in the General Assembly. These four would then pick the fifth member. Under this plan, those drawing the maps would still be political, just not directly accountable to the voters. What could possibly go wrong?

Supporters do make a good case to make districts geographically compact so that communities of interest are represented. Under the redistricting criteria Delegate Sullivan advanced earlier this year Arlington, for example, would almost certainly become a single State Senate district based on our population versus the average Senate district.

In the last round of redistricting, Senate Democrats divided Arlington into three separate districts in order to try and maximize its overwhelming tilt in their favor in order to secure secure three seats instead of just one. Using political data like this would be a ‘no-no’ under the Sullivan plan.

Supporters of these plans also argue that politicians should not be able to pick their voters, but that voters should be able to choose who will represent them. Yet in the last two redistricting processes the party in control of the Virginia Senate each time ended up losing their majority under maps they drew.

The bottom line is that while politicians may currently try to give themselves inherent partisan advantages when they draw district lines, voters always have the last word on who they want to represent them.

by Peter Rousselot — August 6, 2015 at 12:15 pm 1,317 0

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

In a recent interview (“Arlington Needs to be Innovative Again”), Victor Hoskins–the new Director of Arlington Economic Development (AED)–answered some questions. Based on the partial transcript published last week by the Washington Post, Hoskins offers both promising and questionable approaches to address Arlington’s many daunting economic challenges.

On the promising side, Hoskins recognized that Arlington cannot rest nostalgically on its reputation for having planned well in the past. Dramatic change is needed:

Everything is changing, and we have to change with it or we go down. We’re going down because we haven’t changed. … I loved my BlackBerry. I didn’t want to give up my BlackBerry. But where is BlackBerry now? The competitive landscape has changed so dramatically, conditions have changed. We haven’t dramatically changed.

Hoskins also helpfully provided examples of ways in which excessive micro-management hampers the nimbleness Arlington needs:

  • There was a retail permit in D.C. that used to take four months to get. Now it takes four days. That’s our competition.
  • Do not tell developers what color the grout has to be. Don’t tell them who the tenants should be.

But, there also were telling weaknesses in Hoskins’ presentation. He placed far too much responsibility on County residents for delays in project approval rather than where that responsibility primarily belongs: on County staff. Look no further than County staff’s persistent advocacy for the micro-management philosophy embedded in fatally-flawed proposals like the Retail Plan.

County Board leaders must help Hoskins by making it crystal clear to County staff that in our new, highly competitive environment, Arlington will no longer tolerate the rigid central planning theologies to which too many County staff members cling.

Board leaders also must help Hoskins by clarifying local government policies regarding millennials (those in their 20s and 30s). Hoskins admits “we don’t have a clear vision of where that’s moving.” Arlington has twisted itself into a pretzel by spending millions to attract and retain millennials as residents. Certainly, we want to continue attracting millennials to our community and including them at all levels of our civic life. But focusing excessively on millennials (and their entertainment) at the expense of everyone else is a big mistake.

Workers ages 45-54 generate the highest number of new start-ups, according to the Kauffman Report. The theory that millennials drive the “Creative Class“–a class ostensibly key to urban “vibrancy”–has been discredited.

Conclusion

Hoskins’ fresh perspectives are welcome. The County Board can help Hoskins best by urging him to refine those perspectives into reality-driven policies and streamlined procedures that will encourage businesses and residents of all ages to invest in Arlington.

by Heather Mongilio — July 31, 2015 at 6:30 pm 925 0

donaldson run water

It looks like the rain is gone, at least until next Thursday, making this weekend a great time to go celebrate the start of the last full month of summer.

One way to enjoy the sunshine might be a walk on the Donaldson Run trail now the water advisory has been lifted.

Cyclists can also join County Board member Libby Garvey in honoring her late husband with a 90-mile bicycle ride.

Residents may also want to head over to the Arlington Central Library’s auditorium (1015 N. Quincy Street) to hear about the changes coming to I-66, including going from HOV lanes to HOT lanes.

Feel free to sound off on the proposed lane changes or any other topic of local interest in the comments.

by Mark Kelly — July 30, 2015 at 1:45 pm 716 0

Mark Kelly

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

You may not have heard much about it, but the State Board of Elections (SBE) is considering changes to the Virginia voter registration form and accompanying regulations in advance of the 2016 elections.

Under the Virginia Constitution, Article 2, Section 2, the Commonwealth “shall require the applicant to provide the following information on a standard form: full name; date of birth; residence address; social security number, if any; whether the applicant is presently a United States citizen; and such additional information as may be required by law.”

The proposed regulatory changes say that failure to provide some of these items, say a social security number for instance, is no longer a material omission, or bright line rule, that would stop someone from registering to vote. Worse, the regulations say that no registrar may disqualify a voter if they simply sign the form in the appropriate place.

While some may support removing the social security number requirement, or others, from the current voter registrations forms and regulations, SBE has no authority to remove it. The idea that an agency or department can simply write a regulation that re-writes the law is something we are seeing more and more of in America, but it should be unacceptable.

Governor McAuliffe supports the changes. His office said the changes were proposed by the staff at SBE, not the political appointees, in hopes of streamlining the registration process.

But well over 5 million Virginians are currently registered to vote under the existing system. Prior to these proposed regulations, there was not a stream of stories claiming the process was in any way a burden new voters are somehow unable to bear.

And according to the public comments thus far, Virginia Registrars are generally opposed to the changes. These are the public servants charged with reviewing the credentials of potential voters to ensure our elections are fair.

While voter fraud is relatively rare, it does happen. Creating a form that makes it the least bit easier to commit voter fraud is not only bad public policy, but it also undermines the public’s trust in the system. Whether intentional or not, when an ineligible voter is allowed to cast a vote, it improperly dilutes the vote of every eligible voter who goes to the polls.

While registering to vote and voting should be relatively easy, there must be safeguards in place to protect the sanctity of the vote. I am not prepared to declare this a Democratic conspiracy to propel Hillary Clinton to a win next November, but the changes raise serious questions and SBE should go back to the drawing board.

by Peter Rousselot — July 30, 2015 at 1:00 pm 697 0

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

The Arlington County Board recently voted to hire a new independent auditor. As the lone dissenting voice, Board Vice-Chair Walter Tejada stated:

What’s going on is a creation of a culture of distrust of government by the Republican Party.

Tejada is wrong. There is no Republican vs. Democratic issue here.

Background

The bill to grant Arlington the right to establish an independent auditor was sponsored by Patrick Hope, an Arlington Democrat who is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. It passed that very partisan legislative body by a unanimous vote, followed by another unanimous vote in the equally partisan Virginia State Senate. The bill was signed into law by Virginia Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe. Finally, on July 21, Democratic County Board members Fisette, Hynes and Garvey–along with Independent Vihstadt–voted for the new auditor.

More than 50 Democratic elected officials in the state of Virginia now have voted for this proposal, but only one of them voted against it: Walter Tejada. If Tejada couldn’t convince a single other Democratic elected official in Virginia that an independent auditor for Arlington should be rejected, what does that say about the persuasiveness of Tejada’s claims of partisanship?

The Independent Auditor is a non-partisan, good-government initiative

Municipal and state governments throughout the United States–regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans control them–have recognized the value of independent audits. Here’s why:

Financial audits play a vital role in helping to preserve the integrity of public finance and maintain citizens’ confidence in their elected leaders. Audits provide independent assurance that financial information is reliable. Transparency and accountability in government is essential to show that public functions are being carried out efficiently, ethically, and equitably.

Democratic County Board nominee Christian Dorsey has applauded the creation of Arlington’s independent auditor. In 2013, all five Democrats on the Arlington School Board voted to establish an independent auditor reporting to the School Board. Fairfax County has an independent auditor reporting to its overwhelmingly Democratic Board of Supervisors.

Far from being a partisan Republican plot to sow seeds of distrust in government, establishing an independent audit function just makes good common sense.

Are there legitimate questions about the scope and future of Arlington’s new independent auditor? Sure. Here are four of them:

  1. Are the reporting requirements and structure of the office independent enough?
  2. Does the office need more funding?
  3. How quickly will Arlington be able to fill the position?
  4. What initial priorities should the auditor have?

Regardless of the answers, there’s no merit to Tejada’s claim that Arlington’s independent auditor is a partisan Republican tactic.

by Progressive Voice — July 30, 2015 at 12:15 pm 1,396 0

Frederico Cura

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 their organization or ARLnow.com.

How are we to understand the “gotcha” video attacks on Planned Parenthood – an organization serving low-income women nationwide with a network of family-oriented and community-strengthening health centers?

It started with a deceptively edited video a few weeks ago attacking Planned Parenthood’s health centers. The next step was a Republican push in Congress to gut funding for the centers, an outcome that would threaten lifesaving cancer screenings to countless low-income women, as well as critical access to contraception and reproductive education.

Then we saw an organization dedicated to criminalizing abortion hacking into the women’s health centers’ computer system.

These efforts go beyond bullying tactics we’re so used to from the right. When right wingers play “hard ball’ — as some of them put it — integrity becomes a lesser priority. What happened to the moral values of honesty and love of neighbor? They seem incompatible with today’s Republican and anti-abortion “me-only” ideologies.

Moreover, these latest attacks on women’s reproductive health advance a continuing right wing campaign to impose a radical “me-only” mindset on those who share the more common framework of “me-and-us.”

It is part of a multi-pronged effort by right wingers to rewrite our great nation’s history by asserting that the uniquely American idea of separation of church and state, which has served us well for over 200 years, was not really meant to be. This historic separation and the rich cultural-religious tapestry our nation has become conflicts with their “me-only” mindset.

This “me-only” mindset suggests that we should all accept as the only valid American morality their interpretation of the role of women and reproductive biology — fetuses, fertilized eggs, and sperm.

The right wingers want to protect fetuses no matter how much the women who carry them may be harmed. We cannot continue the historic neglect of women’s physical and mental health. Enough is enough! A woman should have the freedom to make her own health care decisions in consultation with her doctor and, for women of faith, her God.

I do not expect that everyone should share my point of view. But I also do not expect that I must accept the “me-only” point of view as a divine destiny.

We must especially not allow government actions – pushed by the pro-criminalization forces – to make lesser citizens of women. When government does not trust women, we all suffer as result.

Being bicultural, originally from Latin America, I see what women experience in places that have strict prohibitions on termination of unwanted pregnancies and even on birth control. We see something like where we were before Roe v. Wade — botched illegal abortions, troubling suicides by young and desperate pregnant women, high juvenile hopelessness, violence in places with chronic unemployment and high fertility rates, and the prosecution and marginalization of women experiencing miscarriages.

What the “me-only” activists fail to see is the fundamental notion that we Americans are greater and stronger as a united people than we are in a nation of radical individualism. Our success depends on everyone – men and women – getting an equal opportunity to contribute to our society.

We want an economy that works for everyone and does not leave women behind with less reproductive health, justice and freedom. We want strong families and communities that can depend upon family wellness and access to quality and affordable health care by everyone. That’s how we will move forward together.

Over the years, Planned Parenthood’s lifesaving women’s health centers have contributed to the strength, structure and stability of the American family and communities. Instead of defunding Planned Parenthood, Republicans should support Medicaid expansion so that lower-income women are less dependent on the health centers for cancer screenings and other lifesaving health services.

In our country, we must value women’s lives and freedom. Women, who should be trusted as much as men, should have what they need — including Planned Parenthood’s lifesaving health centers — to avoid unwanted pregnancy and childbirth as well as unwanted forced marriages resulting from those pregnancies.

It is also vitally important to have wanted children. In a society valuing women’s lives and freedom, motherhood should be voluntary. As author Katha Pollitt writes, “motherhood should add to a women’s ability to lead a full life, not leave her on the sidelines, wondering how she got there.”

The recent attacks on Planned Parenthood’s network of women’s health centers reflects the “me-only” ideology that hurts women’s health, lives and freedom, and greatly weakens the American family.

Federico E. Cura is a strategic communication trainer, outreach specialist and grassroots organizer. He spent years as a K-12 educator teaching Spanish and ESOL, and served on the Arlington County Transportation Commission.

by Heather Mongilio — July 25, 2015 at 8:00 am 841 0

Pork, beef and chicken buns at Gaijin Ramen ShopThe weekend is here and National Weather Service is predicting a beautiful Saturday with a high of 90 degrees. There’s a slight chance of late thunderstorms of Sunday, but the majority of the day should also be sunny.

If you’re planning to spend some of the sunshine in Lacey Woods Park, you’ll need to find a different way than N. George Mason Drive. The county is reporting that the road will be closed between 10th Street N. and Washington Boulevard from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Saturday’s cool evening low of 72 degrees will be great for the runners participating in the Twilighter 5k in Crystal City. The race kicks off at 8:30 p.m. and follows a route along Crystal Drive and Long Bridge Drive.

Feel free to sound off any local topic of interest to you this weekend in the comments.

by Peter Rousselot — July 23, 2015 at 2:00 pm 1,007 0

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

How significantly will Donald Trump’s candidacy for President affect Virginia politics? The closeness of two recent statewide elections provides clues.

Virginia has moved from reliably red to purple. Combining the closeness of these elections with the profiles of the four candidates involved (compared to Trump’s profile), we can get a sense of the likely impact.

Here are the Virginia statewide results from the two elections:

  • Attorney General 2013
    • Herring (D) 1,103,777
    • Obenshain (R) 1,103,612
  • U.S. Senate 2014
    • Warner (D) 1,073,667
    • Gillespie (R)     1,055,940

Ideology

Democratic and Republican partisans looking at these elections have argued that the opposing party’s candidate was an extremist. We could debate whether such partisan claims are accurate, but I believe a large number of Virginia voters perceived (accurately or not) that all four of these candidates were in the ideological mainstream of their respective parties. That perception was an important factor in the close outcomes.

Personal Qualities

Inclined to support candidates whom they perceive to be in the ideological mainstream, Virginia voters also have a historic tendency–other things being equal–to support candidates whom they perceive as sensible and pragmatic. Candidates who come across as too brash generally have not fared well. I believe large numbers of Virginia voters–rightly or wrongly– found all four of these recent statewide candidates to be sensible and pragmatic.

The Trump Effect

During the Republican Presidential primary process so far, Trump has been polling at or near the top (10 to 15 percent) nationally and in Virginia. In the most recent Post-ABC poll, his national Republican support spiked to 24 percent. Unlike all of the other Republican and Democratic primary candidates, Trump has the personal wealth to finance his campaign using 100 percent of his own money. He also has a personal brand name that is nationally known. These factors make him much more formidable than 2012 Republican Presidential primary candidates like Michelle Bachman or Herman Cain.

While it is highly unlikely that Trump can win the Republican Presidential nomination, it is very possible that he can stay in the Republican race for many months at or near at least the 10 percent Republican popularity level no matter how offensive his views strike the other 90 percent. Moreover, he has refused to rule out the possibility of running as an independent in the general election assuming he loses the Republican nomination.

Conclusion

The longer Trump stays in the race, the longer his views are publicized and associated with the Republican brand, the more damage he will do to Republican prospects–particularly in a purple state like Virginia. Based on recent statewide election results, only a little damage could be enough to sink the Republican Presidential nominee in Virginia in 2016.

by Larry Roberts — July 23, 2015 at 1:30 pm 391 0

Larry Roberts

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 their organization or ARLnow.com.

For decades, Arlington residents have enjoyed outstanding schools, parks, recreation facilities, libraries, public safety enhancements, transportation options, and a strong social safety net. All of these attractive features and others as well have been heavily subsidized by a strong commercial sector.

The strength of that commercial sector was due in part to: Arlington’s ideal location close to the nation’s capital and close access to the Pentagon; the buildup in federal spending over decades; and Arlington’s ability to attract and retain highly educated residents prized by employers.

We have also benefited from wise planning decisions and infrastructure investments that included, for example, multiple Metro stops that have become increasingly attractive to employers. We have managed to have a transportation system that helps people move around in Arlington and through Arlington while largely preserving single family neighborhoods.

For much of that period of time, Arlington’s ideal location and the educational achievement of its residents made Arlington largely immune from competition from other area jurisdictions.

Unfortunately, those days are gone.

Federal cutbacks are here to stay.

One need only see the dramatic transformations taking place in the District and in Tysons Corner to see how the public sector – working closely with the private sector – can attract commercial tenants, help increase revenues to support valued services without depending more heavily on homeowner taxes, and through planning and zoning measures help create more public space and better transportation options as part of those redevelopments.

Our residents are more critical of County spending and more sensitive to tax increases than has been true in the past 20 years. Yet many individual residents want the County to increase spending on items that matter most to them – for some that is schools, for others parks or open space, for others better pay for public safety personnel, for others it is added transit capacity, others want to ensure that housing is more affordable to young people, lower-wage workers, and those want to age in place. Others want more spending on services for mental health services. And others want expanded recreational facilities and community centers to meet growing demand.

Are we as County residents prepared to make difficult choices among these competing priorities? Will the answer be that services important to me should be maintained or enhanced, but spending important to others should be cut? Will housing prices continue to escalate and the tax rate be maintained? If so, there will be more revenues for the County government to provide services favored by residents. But it will also mean current cash flow challenges for many homeowners who won’t realize the profits from home price increases until they sell their homes.

The best answer in the past has been to rely on a thriving commercial sector to pay 50 cents of every dollar spent by the County.

That can still happen in Arlington, but only with a strong economic development effort and a dedicated effort to reduce commercial vacancy rates in the County.

Our commercial vacancy rate is somewhat deceptive. With a few exceptions, vacancies are concentrated in older buildings and those with fewer amenities or floor plans that require major adjustments to accommodate the needs of today’s workplace.

If we want to reduce those vacancies and leave more money available for school capacity and other priorities desired by Arlington residents, we will need Arlington’s economic development experts working closely and creatively with the private sector to identify the types of companies and actual prospects that can make use of Arlington’s existing inventory or we will need to find ways to encourage redevelopment of those dated or lower quality structures that are not likely to be successful in today’s marketplace.

Arlington is taking steps along this path. Those efforts should be encouraged. It is our best chance to keep services that residents strongly support and enhance our quality of life without adding to the burdens of homeowners.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice. He chaired two successful statewide campaigns and served as Counselor to the Governor in Richmond. During his term as Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, Democrats won every election in Arlington.

by Mark Kelly — July 23, 2015 at 1:00 pm 1,005 0

Mark Kelly

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

This week, outgoing County Board Member Walter Tejada voted against the creation of an independent County Auditor. He blamed the new office on Republicans.

The County Auditor was not a partisan idea. It started with the Civic Federation. And as John Vihstadt pointed out, Delegate Hope, Governor McAuliffe and three other Democrats on the County Board ultimately supported it.

 Mr. Tejada contends the office only became a reality because Republican have passed out some sort of anti-government “Kool Aid.” Tejada further contends that hiring an auditor will only further cause a “timid and stagnant era of distrust.”

 Tejada’s speech reminds me of many of the speeches of his former Board colleague Chris Zimmerman. He often laid the blame of pretty much anything that went wrong at the feet of Republicans in Richmond or in Washington or in general.

 In Arlington, the math is simple. There are about two Democrats for every Republican and independent voters tend to lean to the left. The Democrats have essentially controlled the County Government for at least three decades. No amount of blaming Republicans for decisions in Arlington is going to change who is responsible for the decisions that have been made.

 If people in the community distrust Arlington’s government enough to elect a non-Democrat to the Board while Mark Warner was racking up 70% of the vote here, Mr. Tejada has no one to blame but himself and his own party. The Artisphere, the million dollar bus stop, the ill-conceived trolley, the overpriced dog parks and gold-plated aquatics center were not Republican ideas. And, Republicans alone were powerless to stop them despite our best efforts.

 The Zimmerman-Tejada line of thinking, though, really goes much deeper. They claim that Republicans hate all forms of government.

 Republicans believe government is necessary, but should be limited. We believe that government closest to the people is best. And we believe that government at all levels should be efficient, not wasteful. After all, the government is using money they have the power to take from us.

Republicans remember what our Founding Fathers warned us about — that the power to tax is the power to destroy. We know it is the duty of the people to be vigilant in watching carefully those who hold that power.

 So, if Mr. Tejada wants to oppose increased transparency and accountability and give credit to Republicans for creating the County Auditor’s office, then on behalf of the Republican Party — I accept.

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