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Democrats Hail De Ferranti’s Win Over Vihstadt As ‘Astounding Recovery’ From 2014 Defeats

John Vihstadt’s pair of decisive County Board victories four years ago were some of the lowest moments for Arlington Democrats since the county turned decisively blue decades ago — for many, that makes Matt de Ferranti‘s win all the sweeter.

De Ferranti’s seven-point win over the independent incumbent stands in stark contrast to Vihstadt’s double-digit dominations of Alan Howze in both a special election and a general election back in 2014. Those wins were widely seen as a rebuke to the Board’s Democratic majority, particularly with projects like the Columbia Pike streetcar and the Long Bridge Park aquatics center the targets of frequent community complaints.

Accordingly, county Democrats now see such a stark turnaround just a few years later as proof that they learned the lessons of 2014, and have responded to that dissatisfaction from voters.

“This is one of the biggest wins for Democrats in Arlington that I can remember,” Paul Ferguson, Arlington’s clerk of circuit court and a Democratic officeholder in the county dating back to 1996, told ARLnow.

Democrats surely benefitted from an energized electorate as well, owing to a midterm election that sent plenty of voters to the polls looking to send a message to President Donald Trump — nearly 101,000 people cast ballots in the race, about 37,300 more than in Vihstadt’s general election win back in 2014. De Ferranti himself acknowledged that “the broader national mood didn’t hurt” in powering his win.

But county Democrats also argued that de Ferranti’s victory, by a commanding margin, proved that the local party and its officeholders spent the last few years making meaningful changes to their way of doing business.

“That was an astounding recovery from 2014,” said School Board member Barbara Kanninen, who also won a convincing re-election over independent Audrey Clement Tuesday. “John is a very well-liked, very well-respected person. For Matt to put together a campaign to overcome all of those obstacles, the 2014 deficit he was starting with, that is absolutely a demonstration of the blue wave.”

Vihstadt did indeed have plenty of strengths, enough that many political observers around the county believed he could survive such a Democratic wave. He had the backing of a variety of current and former Democratic elected officials, a hefty campaign war chest and plenty of name recognition after years of civic activism in the county.

But all those factors were not enough for him to hold on to his seat, ensuring that Democrats will have unified control of the Board once more — Vihstadt himself declined an interview Tuesday night, and did not respond to subsequent requests for comment.

“People genuinely saw that we heard the message of 2014,” de Ferranti said. “Time doesn’t stand still. We’re evolving as a community and responsiveness is important. Fiscal responsibility is important, but also we have to make investments in our future.”

County Board member Erik Gutshall (D) agreed with that line of thinking, arguing that voters themselves have evolved over the last four years as well.

Vihstadt triumphed in 2014 by winning over many disaffected Democrats, to say nothing of independents and Republicans, largely by insisting on a more fiscally conservative approach to governing and emphasizing the close scrutiny of county projects. De Ferranti criticized that style as one that didn’t lay out a positive vision for the county, and Gutshall expects that voters were sympathetic to that message.

“Arlington has had the chance to reflect about where we are and make a choice about what direction we want to go,” Gutshall said. “Do we want to go toward a bold vision or do we want to stay focused on trying to maintain the status quo? With the benefit of four years, they had a chance to reflect on that and move forward.”

However, Gutshall would stress that such a comment is not “an indictment of John’s service.” While county Democrats have long yearned to unseat Vihstadt, the first non-Democrat to sit on the Board since 1999, none were willing to spike the football too vigorously over his defeat.

“Today, a decent person lost, and a decent person also won — the fact that both statements can still be true in Arlington should give us all hope for the future of our democracy,” county Democratic Committee Chair Jill Caiazzo wrote in a statement.

Board Chair Katie Cristol (D) was even willing to credit Vihstadt for helping the Board learn from his “clear-eyed approach on fiscal issues, in particular.”

“We’ve definitely seen a shift on the Board in how to be more inclusive in our decision-making… and that’s a real legacy for him,” Cristol said.

But Cristol also noted that de Ferranti’s win also completes the near-total transformation of the Board from just five years ago. Only Libby Garvey, a Vihstadt backer and former School Board member, remains from the Board that Vihstadt joined when he won in 2014.

Cristol and Vice Chair Christian Dorsey both joined the Board in 2015, and both were newcomers to the political scene at the time of their victories. When combined with the 45-year-old de Ferranti — a first-time candidate himself, who Ferguson dubbed “the best young candidate I’ve seen in my career” — Gutshall fully expects that the newly reconstituted Board will think, and act, a bit differently.

“It’s a completely different Board, and a Board that’s going to be focused on: ‘How do we meet our challenges and how do we take bold action?'” Gutshall said. “People want to be bold. They want to see progressive values put into action.”

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Election Officials Report Robust Turnout, Long Lines at Polling Places Around the County

(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Voting is in full swing around Arlington for the midterm elections, and election officials are reporting plenty of lines and enthusiasm at polling places around the county.

As of noon, the county’s election office reported seeing 40 percent of its just over 149,000 registered voters cast ballots. That figure includes only in-person voting today, according to general registrar Linda Lindberg.

In general, Lindberg says that number is a bit higher than the county would expect for a non-presidential year. For comparison, Arlington recorded about 31 percent turnout by the middle of the day a year ago, according to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project.

“We usually have a burst in the morning, and the difference has been that burst was a bit longer this year,” Lindberg told ARLnow. “We definitely have a sense we’re getting people at the polls who don’t vote regularly. We always have that issue for presidential elections, but not usually for the midterms.”

Lindberg added that turnout may well be even stronger, but there are plenty of absentee ballots for her staffers to count as well.

The Virginia Square polling place, located on George Mason University’s campus, certainly saw robust turnout this morning. Aimee Bosse, the precinct’s elections chief, told ARLnow that the polling place saw a rush of about 50 to 100 people as soon as polls opened this morning, with a line wrapping around the lobby and running out the door.

“This has been really busy,” Bosse said. She’s expecting another afternoon rush around 3:30 p.m. or so.

One voter at the polling place, Alexei Monsarrat, said that the whole operation was “perfectly well organized,” despite the high interest.

He added that he voted for Democrats up and down the ballot and is hoping that the party regains control of both the House and Senate to rebuke President Donald Trump. Monsarrat even brought along his 8-year-old son, Asher, to let him see the process.

“Obviously I’m very excited to vote today,” Monsarrat said. “I’m looking for a change… I’m a straight democratic voter.”

Aaron Webb, elections chief at the Rosslyn Gateway polling place (1911 Fort Myer Drive), added that his location has seen lines up to 30 minutes long so far today.

Others also reported unusually long lines at precincts elsewhere around the county on Twitter.

Lindberg says there haven’t been any major issues at polling places, outside of some puddles making it a bit hard to reach the polls. But as the rain subsides, and maintenance workers get a chance to mop up, she’s not predicting any major issues.

In fact, Lindberg says she’s heard the more concerning reports today about the behavior of voters themselves. She notes that her office has received some complaints about voters being “less than friendly” to some members of the foreign press covering Arlington’s elections, particularly those from Middle Eastern countries.

“They’re just trying to do their jobs and report, so it’s unfortunate to hear,” Lindberg said.

Races on the ballot for Arlington voters this year include the U.S. Senate contest between Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Republican Corey Stewart and the 8th District Congressional seat pitting Democratic Rep. Don Beyer against Republican Thomas Oh. In local races, voters will choose between incumbent independent John Vihstadt and Democrat Matt de Ferranti for County Board and independent Audrey Clement and incumbent Barbara Kanninen, who was endorsed by county Democrats, for School Board.

A variety of bond measures and two constitutional questions will also be on the ballot. The county website features full sample ballots, and details on where to vote.

Catherine Douglas Moran contributed reporting

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W-L Name Change Opponents Chip in Thousands to Clement’s Long-Shot School Board Bid

Opponents of the Arlington School Board’s decision to change the name of Washington-Lee High School have now poured thousands of dollars into Audrey Clement’s independent bid to unseat incumbent Board member Barbara Kanninen, providing the perennial candidate with her largest fundraising haul across any of her eight bids for local office.

Clement managed to raise just over $13,300 over the month of October alone, according to campaign finance documents, far outpacing Kanninen’s $4,200 raised over the same time period. Of that amount, nearly $10,200 came from two outspoken opponents of the Board’s vote in June to strip Confederate general Robert E. Lee’s name from the school.

Most of the rest of her fundraising haul for the month — just over $1,700 — came courtesy of Clement herself. She’s provided the bulk of the cash to support her second bid for the School Board, chipping in about $11,300 of the $28,200 she’s raised since January.

But the late monetary support has provided Clement, a member of the county’s Transportation Commission and a programmer for a Reston-based software company, with the most cash to power any of her long-shot campaigns since she first started running for various county offices in 2011. She’s never garnered more than 33 percent of the vote in any of her various races, often losing to county Democrats — Kanninen has the local party’s backing in the nominally nonpartisan School Board race, just as she did when first won office in 2014.

The contributions appear to be headed Clement’s way because she’s made preserving W-L’s name a prime focus of her campaign. She’s accused the Board of pushing through the name change while ignoring more substantive issues within the school system, targeting Kanninen for criticism specifically. Kanninen served as chair of the Board last year, a post that rotates among the five members, when the Board ultimately voted to change the school system’s policies for school names, then kicked off a renaming process for W-L, specifically.

While the Board has consistently acted unanimously when it comes to the renaming decisions, opponents of the change have zeroed in on Kanninen in recent weeks, calling her the prime architect of the initiative. Ed and John Hummer, a pair of W-L basketball stars in the mid-1960s, even purchased a full-page ad in the Sun-Gazette this week to promote Clement’s candidacy and blast Kanninen as “the person responsible for the whole ill-conceived name change project.”

John Hummer, who attended Princeton and became a first-round draft pick in the National Basketball Association after graduating W-L, provided Clement with nearly $5,200 in cash over the course of the last month. Donald Morey, another name-change opponent and frequent author of critical letters to the editor on the subject, added another $5,000.

Clement seems to have spent that cash just as quickly as she pulled it in — finance reports show that she spent nearly $13,000 last month, with the bulk of that paying for ads in the Washington Post and the Sun-Gazette.

She only reported having about $1,600 in the bank for the campaign’s closing days, compared to Kanninen’s war chest of nearly $19,200.

Flickr pool photo via wolfkann

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Candidate Essay: John Vihstadt

Last week, we asked the two candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them on Nov. 6.

Here is the unedited response from independent John Vihstadt:

In 2014, you took a chance on me. Against the odds, I leveraged over three decades of community leadership – in our public schools, our neighborhoods, and our advisory commissions – to win a seat on the County Board as an Independent. This foundation enabled me to be an effective County Board member from Day One.

Arlingtonians want their local elected officials to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of local government. They expect their local government to deliver essential community services, programs and facilities, effectively, efficiently, on time and on budget.

I am keeping my commitments to you that I pledged four years ago.

I can’t take full credit, but we are moving away from extravagant and unsustainable capital projects. The streetcar was cancelled, there are no more $1.6 million dog parks or million-dollar bus stops. The former ArtiSphere is now on the tax rolls, and the Olympic-sized aquatics center was downsized.

We’re giving renewed focus to core services, like new seats for new students, shoring up Metro and Columbia Pike transit, augmenting our parks, fields and green space, improving public safety pay, speeding our street paving and holding up our social safety net.

I teamed up with Delegate Patrick Hope to obtain Arlington’s authority to hire an Independent County Auditor. We now have a Waste, Fraud & Abuse Hotline, and protection for employee whistleblowers. Yet while we’ve made progress, more must be done.

Going forward, I’m focusing on three key areas:

  • Growing our economy, while managing Arlington’s growth in a fiscally responsible, environmentally sustainable way. As we diversify our economy across all sectors, we must also ensure a reasonable tax and regulatory climate and user-friendly permitting and approvals for businesses big and small and individuals alike.  It’s time we get ahead of the curve on new public facilities rather than always playing catch-up.  At my urging, the Board has directed the Manager to craft models for cost-benefit studies for new development, and we need authority to direct some developer contributions to address impacts on schools, green space and more.
  • Ensuring greater openness, transparency and inclusion in how we work. With my leadership, we’ve expanded the wording of County bond explanations to give voters more details on big-ticket items. It’s essential we strengthen our Open Data policy by bringing real-time online transparency to the data that drives our decisions. While we’ve made progress, I’m committed to ensuring that our County advisory commissions reflect our diversity, and that we continue to be a welcoming community regardless of who you are. And while there will always be emergencies, a “no-surprises” community engagement process for all initiatives is critical.
  • Instilling a stronger sense of fiscal discipline in County operations. Current County expenditures outpace revenues by 1.5%, so we need new thinking. My repeated effort to ensure that most of our annual budget surplus not be spent, but saved and carried over to the next Fiscal Year, is finally gaining traction with colleagues. At my leadership, the Manager is appointing a reform group to address the cost, timing and coordination issues that often plague our infrastructure projects, and, as Audit Committee co-chair, I’m working with APS to control schools construction costs. This spring, I led the 3-2 Board majority in holding the line on the property tax rate.

In closing, it’s not big news when members of one party endorse their own for office. That’s the nature of tribal politics. What’s remarkable is that I have the endorsement of ten former School Board members, including six Democrats who don’t have to worry about their next election.  And, I’m supported by three incumbent Democratic officeholders who do: County Treasurer Carla de la Pava, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, and County Board colleague Libby Garvey.

In explaining her support, former School Board Chair Sally Baird said,

I so appreciate the balance and perspective John represents.  His presence ensures a broader dialogue.  At its core, for me, John at the table affirms the most fundamental of Democratic values: inclusiveness.

I hope you agree with Sally that I have brought inclusiveness to the Board, and our community is healthier for it.

Whether it’s pedestrian safety, community infrastructure, school funding or parks, in your neighborhood or elsewhere, I’m working hard for you every day.

As the only Independent, I’ve brought needed balance to the County Board. I need your help to keep it there. Let’s not go back to the echo chamber of unanimous one-party government. I ask for your vote. Thank you.

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Candidate Essay: Matt de Ferranti

Last week, we asked the two candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them on Nov. 6.

Here is the unedited response from Democrat Matt de Ferranti:

I am running for the County Board to bring new vision and fresh ideas to solve Arlington’s biggest challenges–reducing our office vacancy rate, building the schools we need to educate every child, increasing housing affordability, expanding opportunity for all, protecting our environment, and tackling climate change.

Addressing our Office Vacancy Rate

Our office vacancy rate has been hovering at 20% for four years. If we don’t fill the empty offices in Crystal City, Rosslyn and Ballston, we won’t be able to afford the services that make Arlington such a great place to live: our schools, the housing we need so that people can afford to live here, the parks and open space that are so vital for us, our transportation system, and other key services. And we won’t be able to avoid deficits like the one that is projected for the coming year–$78 million–8% of our operating budget.

Leveraging our Talented Residents and New Ideas To Grow our Economy

The tough work of solving this problem is not new to me. I’ve worked on economic development as an attorney for local governments, so I know how to convene and build relationships with thought leaders and businesses. We must focus on the fields of the future: cybersecurity, clean and green-technology, and medical technology. We must leverage our talented workforce–the most educated in the country–to become the intellectual research and development hub for Virginia and the region.

There are a lot of reasons for our 20% office vacancy rate. At some point, though, we need leadership from the County Board to bring it down. I’ve made this issue my top priority from the beginning of this campaign because I know reducing our vacancy rate is critical for our future and our shared prosperity.

Building the Schools We Need to Educate Every Child

I began my career as a teacher, currently work on Native American education, and served as Chair of the APS Budget Advisory Council last year. I helped bring down a $20 million gap without cutting core educational services. And we still provided a step increase for our educators and other school personnel.

I will continue my commitment to educational opportunity and fiscal responsibility by building and funding the schools we need to educate every child. The Arlington Education Association and all five members of the School Board are supporting me because of my commitment to education, and my honest assessment that we must lower the cost of construction per seat.

Addressing Our Housing Affordability Challenges

I have worked for Habitat for Humanity, serve on Arlington’s Housing Commission, and believe deeply that housing must be affordable for middle class Arlingtonians and those working to get into the middle class. Teachers, first responders, and young families must be able to afford to live here. Seniors must be able to age in place. I will work on this issue with creativity and relentless commitment if I have the honor of serving you.

Expanding Opportunity for All, Ending Child Hunger, and Focusing on Equity

Arlington is the fifth wealthiest county in the country, but we have more than 2300 families who seek help from the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) every month. If we work together, we can end child hunger in Arlington by 2022. We are a compassionate community and ended Veterans’ homelessness in 2015. We can end child hunger too.

Protecting our Environment and Tackling Climate Change

Climate change is a threat to our community, nation, and our world. It is an economic issue and a moral issue that Arlington must lead on. We must commit to 100% renewable energy by 2035. I will accelerate our Community Energy Plan, preserve our trees and open space, and protect our environment.

The Choice You Have on Tuesday

I have the support of leaders you trust: Senator Tim Kaine, Congressman Don Beyer, County Board Chair Katie Cristol, County Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey, Delegate Rip Sullivan, Delegate Alfonso Lopez, Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson, and all five Members of Arlington’s School Board. A full list of those who have endorsed me can be found at https://mattforcountyboard.com/endorsements/

Think about these leaders, the challenges I have outlined above, and our pressing needs. Go to https://mattforcountyboard.com to learn more. Then, hire the County Board Member you believe is best on the office vacancy rate, school capacity, housing affordability, expanding opportunity for all, protecting our environment, and addressing climate change.

I would be honored to earn your vote on Tuesday, November 6.

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Candidate Essay: Thomas Oh

Last week, we asked the two candidates for Virginia’s 8th District in Congress, covering Arlington and Alexandria, to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them on Nov. 6.

Here is the unedited response from Republican Thomas Oh:

Dear fellow Northern Virginians,

My name is Thomas Oh, and I am running for US Congress in our 8th Congressional District. I’m an Army Airborne Ranger, hardworking Korean- American, and public servant who would like to continue my service to the people by serving you. I’m a better alternative than my opponent for the following reasons:

1)     I am not a career politician

I’m serious about having term limits. I don’t care what political parties, corporations, or lobbyists want. I just need 6 years to make some real positive changes for our District, and I will act upon my words.

2)     I don’t accept dark money (PAC money from corporations or special interest groups)

Politicians shouldn’t be bought, especially when most politicians are already among the 1%. As a working- class member, I want to give the government back to individual citizens and serve the people. The concept is simple, DEMOCRACY IS NOT FOR SALE!

3)     I’m a voice for:

  • Immigrants

My family immigrated to the United States to seek opportunity, liberty, and freedom. I want to make sure that the American Dream is a dream that works for everyone.

  • Minorities

I attended the Black Chamber of Commerce, Asian Chamber of Commerce, and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce forums, while my opponent did not. We need someone who truly cares about the minority communities and will whole heartedly represent them.

  • Veterans

I served 8 years in the Army, and I understand the ultimate sacrifices made by our heroes. My campaign hosted a charity forum for local veterans and donated all proceeds to VFW Post 3150 in Arlington. My opponent refused to attend the forum while Congress was in recess, voted against the Veterans Affairs Accountability & Whistleblower Protection Act, and even continuously votes against the VA Accountability Acts.

  • Individuals with disabilities

I support the Disability Integration Act, alongside ADAPT DC and Coalition for Community Integration. It is a bi-partisan effort that my opponent has ignored 10 times when they reached out to him. I support organizations benefiting the disability community, such as Service Source, and enjoyed my time meeting everyone at their annual picnic when my opponent did not attend.

  • LGBT

Everyone should be treated equally, no matter who they choose to love. I marched alongside the Capital Pride Parade, and I also attended the annual Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance Annual Ice Cream Social. My opponent did not participate in either events.

4)     I want long-term solutions, not short-term bandages

As a 26 year-old millennial, I truly care about our future. My biggest concern is the $21 trillion dollar debt that my opponent has done nothing about, over his past 4 years in office. He even voted against the Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act.

5)     I will always put people before politics

I have proven my ability to put politics aside and work across party lines. I am a proud ally of Activate Virginia which was an all Democrat and Green Party organization, until I was the first Republican to join. I do this because I listen to your concerns and want to represent you. My opponent speaks about climate change, yet continues to take over $20,000 from Dominion Energy and not join Activate Virginia.

6)      I am here to serve you, not for social status

If you are an elected official, it means that you have a commitment to serve. I have personally knocked on over 3,500 doors during my campaign. I would like to ask; how many doors has my opponent knocked on? I take running for office as a serious commitment to the people of this district, and that is why I will never miss an opportunity to address your concerns in order to see how I can be your servant. I attended all 11 out of 11 forums scheduled for my opponent and I, while he attended 5 out of 11.

I kindly ask for your vote on November 6. If you would like to learn more or donate to support my campaign, please visit my website at: www.letschangecongress.org.

Campaigning would not be possible if it were not for individual supporters like you! Thank you so much to everyone who have believed in me, and for giving me this opportunity to fight for a better 8th District.

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Candidate Essay: Don Beyer

Last week, we asked the two candidates for Virginia’s 8th District in Congress, covering Arlington and Alexandria, to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them on Nov. 6.

Here is the unedited response from Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District):

Going to work to represent the people of Virginia’s 8th is a wonderful responsibility, and I thank you for twice electing me to the US House. I ask again for your vote again on November 6th.

Now, the Democrats in the House of Representatives are in a significant minority. We have neither the White House nor the Senate, so our work has been to defend the policies we value, fight destructive proposals from the Trump White House, and lay out the agenda we want to enact once in the majority.

My staff and I read the tens of thousands of letters I receive annually from this highly educated constituency, and I work — as much as possible in a bipartisan way — to lay the groundwork for what northern Virginians and I believe we must accomplish. These policies and ideas are many. Allow me to briefly mention four.

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I am a leader on environmental protections, including climate change, clean water, and endangered species, to name just a few. In my roles on the Natural Resources  and Science, Space, and Technology Committees, I defend against oil and gas drilling in our federal waters, advocate for outdoor recreation and protecting America’s national parks, and work to mobilize advanced energy technologies that can transition our economy to a carbon-neutral future.

I work for an end to bigotry and for progress on civil rights. Discrimination on the basis of someone’s nation of origin, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other quality is intolerable. This is fundamental to American ideals, and we must return to an age of fairness and civility. I introduced the Freedom of Religion Act, to prohibit religious litmus tests as a way of banning immigrants or refugees, and I also introduced legislation to improve the reporting of hate crimes.

The entire Democratic caucus works to protect the Affordable Care Act, a critical piece of progress in our nation’s health care, one that moved millions of Americans from uninsured to insured. I voted against every effort by the Republican caucus to repeal or dismantle this law. And I will continue to work for universal health care.

Finally, we must work to shape the new American economy, one that regenerates our middle class and fosters economic mobility. This includes paid family leave, improved and affordable public education, comprehensive immigration reform, an increase in minimum and tipped wages, affordable housing, and infrastructure investment.

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Our country is facing some extraordinary challenges. There are few northern Virginians who can say with candor that they are satisfied with the leadership of our nation – that it represents our best values or who we strive to be. I have been part of campaigns and American democratic life for decades, and this is perhaps the most fraught but also the most engaged I have ever seen the electorate. People are stepping up, raising their hands, rolling up their sleeves, and working to redefine this nation. I am certain that collectively we will change the current course of history and turn it in a positive direction, starting on November 6th.

It is easy to get discouraged about the present state of our country. But we have pulled ourselves together before. Our parents did it in World War II. Young people in Florida and elsewhere are doing it right now against hatred and gun violence. In fact, Virginians did it last year at the polls, putting a record number of women and people of color in the state legislature.

Please do everything you can to work for our young democracy, and please send me back to Congress so that I, too, can continue this work.

My background as lieutenant governor, a successful businessman, an ambassador, and a husband and father — as well as my four years as a Congressman — enable me to serve you well and I ask for your vote.

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Candidate Essay: Barbara Kanninen

Last week, we asked the two candidates seeking a seat on the Arlington School Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the Nov. 6 elections. 

Here is the unedited response from Barbara Kanninen, who has been endorsed by county Democrats in the nonpartisan race:

I’m Barbara Kanninen, and I’m running for re-election to the Arlington School Board. I’m seeking your vote so we can keep working together to support the whole child, support teachers and staff, and build a stronger school system that will provide a 21st-century education to all of our students.

My husband, Kevin, and I have lived in Arlington for 25 years and have two sons, Fred and Markus, who were both K-12 Arlington Public Schools students and are now in college. I am a Ph.D. environmental economist, children’s book author, and co-founder of the Youth Ultimate League of Arlington. Since I joined the School Board in 2014, I’ve put my passion, experience, and skills to work in service of Arlington’s schools. Here’s how:

Support for Students

I’ve worked to lift up student voices and develop innovative programs and policies to support all students. In the past four years, we have provided more resources to promote students’ mental, social, and emotional health and adopted academic supports for struggling learners. We continued to support our immigrant student population and DREAMers, LGBTQ+ student rights, and all student voices. We’ve expanded our STEM programs, career and technical education, music and the arts, and sports and fitness opportunities. And we’ve launched a strategic plan process to generate a fresh vision for Arlington Public Schools–one that will support the whole child, provide a vision for 21st-century teaching and learning, and is sustainable.

Respect for Teachers

The work of our teachers and staff–their engagement with children in the classroom everyday–is the whole point of our school system. Our teachers and staff deserve fair pay, and I’m proud to say that since I have been on the School Board, we have ensured that teachers received their step increases every year. I have also worked to provide teachers with professional development that they find relevant and productive, and, most important, a voice in the decision-making process and respect for their essential and tireless work. I’m honored that the Arlington Education Association, which represents Arlington’s teachers, has endorsed my re-election campaign.

Strong Schools in a Time of Growth

Our county has faced, and still faces, challenging rates of growth. I’ve worked to improve how APS makes projections and to engage the community in positive, constructive planning processes to ensure that our schools provide all students with high-quality opportunities. I have brought to this job a laser focus on our numbers so that today we have a plan that addresses our growth at all levels–elementary, middle, and high school.

Next Steps

Looking ahead to the next four years, I am committed to continuing to support all students and prepare them for the fast-changing challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. I will keep fighting for our teachers and staff and will work to improve staff retention, empower all staff to define their own professional paths, and provide the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. Our schools are still growing, and I will work hard to provide high-quality schools, with a range of options, to fit all types of learners, all across Arlington.

Let’s keep working together to make Arlington’s schools the best they can be. I would be honored to have your vote on November 6. To learn more about my campaign, please visit my website www.bk2018.org.

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Candidate Essay: Audrey Clement

Last week, we asked the two candidates seeking a seat on the Arlington School Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the Nov. 6 elections. 

Here is the unedited response from independent Audrey Clement:

I’m Audrey Clement, the Independent candidate for Arlington School Board. As a 14-year Westover resident and civic activist-with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow-I’m running for School Board, because the County faces several crises that Arlington Public Schools (APS) has failed to address. These include:

  • excessive capital spending with millions wasted on schools that have insufficient capacity when built;
  • overcrowded schools with thousands of kids crammed into trailers;
  • declining high school test scores;
  • a persistent minority student achievement gap.

My opponent Barbara Kanninen has lost touch with the voters. As School Board chair, Kanninen recently rammed through a resolution to change the name of Washington-Lee High School with no public notice despite widespread opposition to the name change.

In addition state report card data indicate that during Ms. Kanninen’s tenure on the School Board, Arlington high school pass rates have declined. In fact W-L pass rates have declined from 2015 to 2018 in all 5 subjects measured, and Wakefield and Yorktown in 4. APS clearly needs new leadership to turn this situation around.

If elected, I pledge to:

  • Preserve the name: Washington-Lee High School.
  • Reverse declining high school test scores.
  • Close the minority student achievement gap.
  • Constrain School Board spending.
  • Build schools not trailers on time and on budget.
  • Listen to the concerns of all taxpayers on siting new schools.
  • Assign all kids except those opting into choice schools to the nearest neighborhood school.
  • Mainstream special needs students to the extent practicable.
  • End “teaching to the test”.
  • Install efficient renewable energy in all public schools.
  • Promote school safety with a focus on violence prevention.

As a long-time community activist and current member of the Arlington Transportation Commission, I am confident that I can deliver on my pledge.

If you share my agenda, then:

  • Spread the word about my candidacy.
  • Volunteer to help.
  • Donate to my campaign.

Together we can provide our children with a better education at less cost.

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Republican Thomas Oh Rejects Party Orthodoxy in Long-Shot Challenge to Democrat Don Beyer

Read through Thomas Oh’s campaign platform too quickly, and you might come away with the impression he’s a Democrat.

Consider that he supports efforts to combat climate change, he backs some gun control measures and he’s refused to accept any money from Virginia’s electric utility companies or from political action committees, a series of positions favored by most on the left in this day and age.

But Oh, of course, is the Republican nominee hoping to unseat Democratic Rep. Don Beyer this year in the 8th District, which includes Arlington and parts of Alexandria.

Oh faces the longest of long odds, considering that the district last elected a Republican back in 1988 and voters have twice sent Beyer to Congress with margins of victory larger than 30 percent. With good reason, Beyer, once Virginia’s lieutenant governor and the owner of several local car dealerships, is widely seen as one of the safest members of Congress in the entire country.

Regardless of his chances, however, Oh’s candidacy presents an interesting question for Republicans around the state, and around the country. In an increasingly conservative GOP, led by a combative president, is there room for a moderate Republican like Oh?

“You can pet the base and make them like you, just keep saying you’re pro-life, you love the Second Amendment and the base will love you,” Oh told ARLnow. “Or you can try your best to win it and piss a lot of your base off by trying to be in the middle of the road… but someone needs to do it, otherwise we’ll continue going down this road we’re on.”

Oh is hoping that embracing some positions running against the party platform will win him votes from independents, Republicans and even some Democrats looking for a change. But he notes that his views have frustrated plenty of hard-core Republicans, and he hasn’t exactly attracted an outpouring of support from traditional GOP groups and donors — the National Rifle Association’s political arm has refused to endorse him, and Oh says he hasn’t had much in the way of support from either the state Republican party or the National Republican Campaign Committee.

It doesn’t help matters either that Oh is on the ticket with Corey Stewart, the party’s nominee against Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who has attracted scorn from all corners for his tirades against undocumented immigrants and his embrace of Confederate symbols and white nationalists.

It all adds up to an unusual fit for Oh, as he tries to present a moderate, more libertarian vision in the deep blue district, while the rest of the party moves sharply in the other direction.

“He may not be likely to win a statewide Republican primary, but it’s been a while since Republicans have won a statewide election,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. “Presenting the party as an aggressive, conservative voice isn’t leading to success… so it does seem the Republican party is going to have to do some redefining to be competitive, and this candidate may be the shape of things to come.”

The 26-year-old Alexandria resident certainly hopes so.

Oh says he decided to run for office in the first place because he wanted to “do something, rather than just complain about our problems.” He grew up in Northern Virginia, graduated from Centreville High School and joined the Army right out of school. He earned his degree from George Mason University, and ultimately moved back to the area as a federal contractor.

Most of Oh’s positions are familiar ones among traditional Northern Virginia Republicans. He worries the federal deficit is too high, he wants to cut taxes and address Metro’s rising costs by confronting expenses generated by its labor union.

His arguments are also mirror those made by most long-shot challengers to entrenched incumbents — he claims that Beyer “takes the seat for granted” and has been unresponsive to constituent concerns, particularly those of veterans. In a statement, Beyer forcefully pushed back against the latter notion, calling it “absurd” and noting his office has taken on more than 400 veterans’ cases during his time in Congress.

Where Oh diverges a bit more from Republican orthodoxy is on guns — he supports modest gun safety measures and, like Beyer, has earned a “gun sense candidate” distinction from the advocacy group Moms Demand Action — and the environment.

He not only supports investments in renewable energy, but he’s refused to accept any money from Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power, the state-regulated electric monopolies who have long been the state’s most generous political contributors. The group “Activate Virginia” began asking candidates to swear off such contributions last year in order to encourage politicians to be more skeptical of their interests, and Executive Director Josh Stanfield says Oh is the only Republican to have taken his group’s pledge.

“Dominion has been buying Democrats and Republicans for years,” Oh said. “My opponent talks about climate change all the time, but you can’t take money from Dominion Energy.”

Records show that Dominion’s PAC has given Beyer $16,500 over the course of his three campaigns, and Stanfield notes that his request that Beyer sign the anti-fossil fuel money pledge was “apparently not worthy of a response.”

But Beyer points out that Oh is taking an unusual tack by impugning his credentials on the environment. Beyer has been especially vocal on climate change, even introducing carbon tax legislation, and he was a leading voice in calling for the resignation of former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt.

“If the assumption is that financial support from utility companies (many of which have significant clean energy portfolios, by the way) means that I’ve been bought, well, those companies aren’t getting very much for their money,” Beyer wrote.

But Oh sees Beyer’s decision to accept that cash as hypocritical, and he believes people appreciate his stance as a “political outsider” willing to take a strong stance on such issues.

It’s certainly put him at odds with Stewart, who is also skeptical of Dominion contributions, but disagrees with Oh on just about every issue. Oh says he doesn’t worry too much about that split, noting that he’s “running my own campaign, more towards my own philosophy.” The Arlington County Republican Committee has also campaigned for both Oh and Stewart, despite their differences.

But has the state GOP and the NRCC, the chief fundraising arm of the party’s congressional leadership, come in to help him out? As Oh puts it, “not so much.”

For his part, Virginia Republican Party Spokesman John March insists that the GOP “is a big-tent party and we make room for everyone who supports limited government and lower taxes,” and he pushes back on any implication that the party has been anything less than fully supportive of Oh.

Yet Oh’s campaign finance reports make it clear that he hasn’t exactly benefited financially from institutional support — outside of a $5,500 donation from the 8th District Republican Committee, Oh hasn’t gotten much in the way of cash from Republican groups to power his campaign. Oh himself has lent the campaign $5,000, and only reported taking in about $56,000 in contributions. Beyer, by contrast, has raised more than $1.9 million to support his re-election bid.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Farnsworth doesn’t see much chance of success for Oh. He points out that Oh would need some sort of major scandal involving Beyer to have a chance — none have been forthcoming — or a “generous national environment.” However, Farnsworth notes that Donald Trump has “generated extraordinary hostility in the suburbs,” making Oh’s task ever more difficult, regardless of his moderation.

“But sometimes what elections can do is get you noticed,” Farnsworth said. “You run for state legislature, get a job in an administration, move to a more favorable district. Any of these things might happen.”

Oh wouldn’t say whether where his ambitions might lie should he lose on Nov. 6, saying he’s learned to “focus on what’s in front of you.” Considering his reluctance to toe the party line, however, he stresses that he’s not taking on this quixotic bid for his own selfish reasons.

“I don’t have an ulterior motive, I’m just here to do it,” Oh said. “I just want to do something to help the community.”

Photo via Facebook

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Vihstadt Raises More Cash Over Campaign’s Final Month, As De Ferranti Loans Himself Thousands

Independent County Board member John Vihstadt managed to pull in more cash contributions than Democratic challenger Matt de Ferranti over the final month of the race, but de Ferranti has kept his campaign afloat financially thanks to hefty loans from both himself and his mother.

Vihstadt, the first non-Democrat to win a seat on the Board since 1999, raised about $27,400 from Oct. 1 through Oct. 25, according to campaign finance documents released yesterday (Monday). De Ferranti pulled in about $21,100 over the same time period, after quite narrowly out-raising Vihstadt over the course of September.

But, in total, the Democrat reported raising about $66,100 over the course of the last month, thanks to $45,000 in loans. De Ferranti himself supplied $25,000, while his mother, Margot, lent the campaign $20,000. In the run-up to his primary win over Chanda Choun, de Ferranti and his mother both loaned the campaign $4,000 as well.

De Ferranti also donated $3,500 directly to his campaign, though that was far from his largest contribution for the fundraising period. The Leaders in Education Fund, the political giving arm of the advocacy group Leadership for Educational Equity, cut de Ferranti another $10,000 check after previously doing so last month.

None of Vihstadt’s contributions were more than $1,000 each. However, Steve Harris, the owner of the Arlington-based Mr. Wash Car Wash chain, did chip in a total of $2,000 to the campaign over the course of October, the documents show.

The incumbent, who’s seeking his second full term on the Board after winning a special election and then the general against Alan Howze in 2014, also bested de Ferranti when it came to small-dollar donations. Vihstadt notched 72 contributions of $100 or less, for a total of $4,425, while de Ferranti managed 55 for a total of $2,943.

The Democrat has also managed to spend down the bulk of his campaign account, shelling out nearly $124,500 in the last month alone. He now has about $10,850 left for the campaign’s remaining days.

Vihstadt’s spending was also in the six figures for the final month — he reported about $111,650 in expenses — but his larger campaign war chest means he still has about $58,300 left in the bank.

The independent incumbent has now marshaled just over $212,598 to support his re-election bid. De Ferranti’s total is slightly behind that at around $203,100, but that includes the $53,000 in loans he and his mother have provided to the campaign. Records do not show any loans made to Vihstadt’s campaign.

Voters will decide the lone County Board race on the ballot next Tuesday (Nov. 6).

Photo via Facebook

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Arlington Candidates Blanket Facebook With Hundreds of Ads in Run-Up to the Midterm Elections

Elections around Arlington may not attract the sort of expensive TV ads that have come to dominate local stations ahead of the midterm elections, but candidates around the county have shelled out thousands to bring their messages to Facebook.

An ARLnow analysis of the social media site’s political ad database shows that Arlington’s six candidates for Congress and local office on the ballot this fall have combined with the county’s party committees to buy 549 Facebook ads from Jan. 1 through today (Oct. 29).

Thomas Oh, the Republican mounting a longshot bid to unseat Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District), led the way among the county’s candidates, buying 100 ads on the site since launching his campaign in February. According to campaign finance reports, he shelled out about $2,100 to pay for those posts.

But Oh was far from the bigger user of Facebook ads in Arlington — that distinction belongs to the Arlington Young Democrats, who have purchased 270 ads on the platform over the course of the year. The Arlington County Democratic Committee wasn’t far behind, buying 91 ads.

The county’s candidates for local office have relied on social media advertising a bit less, but have still used Facebook to reach thousands of potential voters.

In the lone race for a County Board seat this year, pitting independent incumbent John Vihstadt against Democrat Matt de Ferranti, the challenger has run a bit more Facebook ads so far.

According to Facebook’s database, de Ferranti has run 34 ads on the platform since launching his campaign in January. Records show he’s spent nearly $1,900 on Facebook ads in all, though campaign finance documents only detail spending through end of September — candidates will release their final reports of the campaign later this week.

Of the Democrat’s ads, 19 ran in the run-up to his primary victory over Chanda Choun in June, with 15 reserved for the general election contest with Vihstadt. In general, de Ferranti’s ad buys have each been less than $100 each, with only seven falling in the range of $100 to $500 — Facebook only provides ranges, not specific numbers, for spending and traffic figures.

Two of de Ferranti’s ads picked up between 50,000 and 100,000 impressions, while two others range between 10,000 and 50,000.

By contrast, Vihstadt has only run 10 ads on Facebook so far. His current campaign finance reports only show him spending about $100 on the posts, but he’s ramped up his activity on Facebook in October, meaning his spending will be reflected in the next set of reports.

However, Facebook’s database shows that the incumbent has recorded four ad buys of $100 or more, and one of more than $500, in all. He’s also had two ads reach between 50,000 and 100,000 impressions and two more range between 10,000 and 50,000.

Notably, Vihstadt has also turned to television advertising, and recently started running a single ad on local cable stations.

In the contest for the only School Board seat on the ballot, independent (and frequent candidate) Audrey Clement has outpaced incumbent Barbara Kanninen, who has the endorsement of local Democrats in the nominally nonpartisan race.

Clement has run 32 ads this year, spending about $1,520, according to campaign finance reports. She’s only spent more than $100 on three separate ad buys, but she’s still managed to reach plenty of people. Eight of her ads have secured between 5,000 and 10,000 and impressions, while two have managed between 10,000 and 50,000.

Kanninen has run just 12 ads, by comparison, sending about $241 to Facebook in all. Her ads have been viewed a bit less, with three ranging between 1,000 and 5,000 impressions and one making it to the 5,000 to 10,000 range.

Beyer appears not to have a run single ad on Facebook, despite raising more than $1.9 million over the course of his bid for a third term in Congress. However, he has benefitted from plenty of ads touting his candidacy from the local Democratic committee and the Young Democrats.

Oh faces quite the uphill battle to best Beyer, considering that the 8th (covering all of Arlington and parts of Alexandria) is among the safest districts for Democrats in the country. But the first-time candidate has managed to attract some attention to his Facebook ads at least, with four attracting between 10,000 and 50,000 impressions and seven attracting between 5,000 and 10,000. He’s spent more than $100 on seven different ad buys, which has surely helped boost those traffic numbers.

Facebook’s records don’t show any evidence of any ad spending from the county’s Republican committee, or its Green Party.

Disclosure: both Clement and Vihstadt have purchased ads on ARLnow.com. Flickr pool photo via wolfkann

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Surge in Absentee Ballots Could Foreshadow Huge Midterm Turnout, Endanger Vihstadt’s Re-Election Bid

(Updated at 4:35 p.m.) Arlington voters seem ready to flood the polls in record numbers on Nov. 6, with early turnout numbers presaging a “blue wave” that could — potentially — wipe independent County Board member John Vihstadt out of office.

New figures compiled by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project show that the county has seen a 114 percent increase in the number of absentee ballots cast through Wednesday (Oct. 17), compared to the same time last year. The county’s surge to 4,236 ballots cast, compared to 1,976 a year ago, mirrors similarly boosts around the state.

While absentee voting can be an imperfect measure of Election Day enthusiasm, the numbers in Arlington are strong enough to convince some observers that the county could see huge turnout levels for the midterm elections. Former county treasurer Frank O’Leary, a close watcher of Arlington elections, projects that the current absentee numbers are robust enough that the county sees as many as 95,000 votes cast next month.

That figure would be higher than what the county might expect in a midterm election with a Senate seat on the ballot, without a heavily Democratic electorate itching to send a message to President Donald Trump. It would be close to 10,000 votes more than the 85,300 people who turned out for last year’s closely watched governor’s race that swept Democrat Ralph Northam into office with a hefty victory.

Given Arlington’s overwhelmingly blue political complexion, O’Leary expects “at greater levels of turnout, the blue tide will become increasingly the determining factor” in down-ballot races. That includes Vihstadt’s contest with Democratic challenger Matt de Ferranti, who is hoping to return the Board to unified Democratic control after Vihstadt won a pair of upset victories back in 2014.

O’Leary notes that turnout in the county was severely depressed six years ago, when Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) very nearly lost to Republican Ed Gillespie and Democrats took a beating nationwide, and he doesn’t expect those conditions to repeat themselves this time around.

The county lacks a competitive race in the 8th Congressional District, but with U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine up for re-election against Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey Stewart, a politician disavowed by members of both parties for his frequent embrace of white nationalists and the Confederate flag, O’Leary expects that “an expanded electorate coupled with an odious opponent will net Tim Kaine more than 80 percent of the Arlington vote.”

While O’Leary notes that Vihstadt benefits from the “advantage of incumbency, name recognition, and the support of a number of prominent Democratic elected office holders and the benefit of a well-organized, highly-focused campaign,” he also expects that some of the galvanizing issues Vihstadt seized on in his 2014 bid — the Columbia Pike streetcar and “million-dollar bus stops” among them — aren’t as relevant this time around. It doesn’t help, either, that Vihstadt will have to contend with “a re-vamped (and equally determined) Democratic Party structure” and “the curse of ‘The Donald.'”

“In the event that total turnout exceeds 88,000 (with 75,000 or more votes cast in the County Board race), [Matt] de Ferranti will defeat John Vihstadt and win election to the County Board,” O’Leary predicted.

“Mr. Vihstadt starts with a proven base of 35,000, de Ferranti, perhaps 27,500. (That totals 62,500.) Thereafter, at greater levels of turnout, the blue tide will become increasingly the determining factor,” he explained.

Of course, Vihstadt has out-fundraised de Ferranti so far, and some Democrats remain concerned that the challenger has done little to separate himself from his opponent. For his part, the independent remains confident that he can once again shock the county’s political establishment this year.

“I was the underdog in 2014 and may be again this year,” Vihstadt told ARLnow. “I wasn’t supposed to win in the first place, but Arlingtonians proved that they are sophisticated voters. As I knock on doors across Arlington, people, regardless of partisanship at the federal and state levels, say they value the balance and independence that I bring to local government. I’m confident that my purple tugboat will survive the blue wave.”

Flickr pool photo via wolfkann

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De Ferranti Narrowly Out-Raises Vihstadt in September, As County Board Race Heads to the Wire

Democratic County Board hopeful Matt de Ferranti raised slightly more campaign cash last month than independent John Vihstadt, the second straight fundraising period that the challenger has pulled in more contributions than the incumbent.

Even still, Vihstadt has persistently maintained a larger campaign war chest to draw on over the course of the race for the lone Board seat on the ballot this fall, with a roughly $73,300 advantage in cash on hand over de Ferranti through Sept. 30, according to campaign finance reports released Monday (Oct. 15).

De Ferranti, who is running to restore the Board to unified Democratic control after Vihstadt won a pair of upset victories back in 2014, managed to raise nearly $30,600 over the month of September, slightly less than the $39,600 he pulled in over the course of July and August. The independent wasn’t far behind, recording nearly $30,200 in contributions last month.

The bulk of the Democrat’s haul came courtesy of a $10,000 check from the Leaders in Education Fund, the political giving arm of the advocacy group Leadership for Educational Equity. The organization works to “end the injustice of educational inequity,” according to its website. Its board members and donors include former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and his daughter, Emma, and members of the Walton family, of Wal-Mart fame.

Vihstadt’s donations tended to come in the form of slightly smaller checks, with six contributions of $1,000 tied for his largest campaign checks. The independent pulled in a total of 77 contributions under $100, for a total of $5,211, while de Ferranti managed 62 small-dollar donations for a total of $4,228.

The incumbent’s real advantage is in his campaign war chest, where his more than $142,500 in the bank dwarfs the Democrat’s $69,200 in cash on hand. Yet de Ferranti will also benefit from the deep pockets of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, which reported having more than $104,000 in its coffers as of Sept. 30.

Vihstadt has now raised nearly $169,200 to support his re-election bid since January, compared to the nearly $137,000 the Democrat has managed over the same time period. The independent also out-raised Democrat Alan Howze when the pair squared off in back-to-back special and general elections in 2014, when Vihstadt became the first non-Democrat to sit on the Board since 1999.

In the county’s lone other race for local office, School Board member Barbara Kanninen reported raising a little over $2,000 last month, with about $17,000 in the bank. As the candidate running with the Democratic endorsement in the nominally nonpartisan race, she’s viewed as the heavy favorite over independent Audrey Clement, a perennial candidate for local office.

Clement reported receiving $3,700 in contributions last month, all but $100 of which came from Clement herself. She now has roughly $1,200 left in the bank.

Candidates will report on their finances again on Oct. 29, their last reports to be filed before the Nov. 6 election.

Photo via YouTube

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De Ferranti Goes on the Offensive Over Vihstadt’s Handling of Arlington’s Office Vacancy Rate

Arlington’s lone County Board race this fall has largely been a genteel affair so far, but Democratic challenger Matt de Ferranti is sharpening his attacks on incumbent John Vihstadt’s record, claiming the independent hasn’t done enough to address the county’s high office vacancy rate.

County officials of all stripes have long identified Arlington’s challenges filling vacant office space in corridors like Crystal City and Rosslyn as a prime reason that the county’s tax revenues have shrunk, squeezing its budget and creating a whole host of challenges for the county government.

Accordingly, both Vihstadt and de Ferranti have made the issue a central one for their respective campaigns, particularly because whoever wins a spot on the Board will likely need to wrestle with a budget that includes tax increases to tackle those revenue challenges.

Yet the Democrat has pledged a laser focus on the issue in recent debates and forums, and the Committee of 100 Board debate on Wednesday (Oct. 10), moderated by ARLnow’s Scott Brodbeck, was no exception. De Ferranti even went a step further to critique Vihstadt’s handling of the vacancy rate since he first won a special election four years ago, when he became the first non-Democrat on the Board since 1999.

“It’s been at 20 percent for four years,” de Ferranti said. “We need to bring it down and make it our priority to bring it down… and we need new vision to bring down that vacancy rate.”

Vihstadt pointed out that the county has successfully lured major companies during his tenure, with few bigger than Nestle and Gerber, in addition to smaller firms like trade associations and tech companies.

He added that he remains committed to “business and tax base diversification” to address the office vacancy rate as federal tenants increasingly go elsewhere, noting that “we’re not just a company town anymore.”

“We need green tech, med tech, cybersecurity and so forth,” Vihstadt said.

De Ferranti agrees on that point, but noted he’s been discussing the prospect of luring those industries to Arlington since his successful primary campaign this spring, charging that Vihstadt was coming to that particular talking point a bit late in the game.

“I’m glad that we’re both mentioning now, clean tech, green tech, energy efficiency technology,” de Ferranti said. “Those are the right fields, but we should’ve identified those four years ago.”

The spat over the office vacancy rate also carried over to perhaps the most contentious topic in Arlington at the moment: whether Amazon’s potential arrival in the county should be welcomed, or feared.

Vihstadt, as he has for months now, struck a cautious tone on the matter, noting that the county winning HQ2 would be a “mixed bag” in terms of its impacts on Arlington.

“We need to confirm the purported positives of this development coming to Arlington, but we also need to be mindful about addressing mitigants and negatives,” Vihstadt said.

De Ferranti acknowledged that caution is warranted, given the myriad ways in which the sudden arrival of 50,000 Amazon workers could disrupt the county’s housing market and strain its infrastructure. But he was also considerably more bullish on how the company could solve the very problem he spent so much time discussing, should Jeff Bezos follow through on the rumors and tab Crystal City for his second headquarters.

“With a vacancy rate of above 20 percent in Crystal City, we can’t turn it down,” de Ferranti said. “Count me as someone who says, we have conditions, but we have to move forward. That’s not to say your anxieties, and all Arlingtonians’ concerns on this, aren’t relevant, but eventually you have to take a position. My position is we need to ensure there are net benefits…but we also need to have a solid plan before we sign on to anything.”

You can listen to the entire debate on this week’s edition of the 26 Square Miles podcast.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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