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Podcast: Political Strategist Ben Tribbett

Ben Tribbett gained notoriety for being the first to publicize George Allen’s “macaca moment.”

Since his early days blogging under the pseudonym “Not Larry Sabato,” Tribbett has worked as a Democratic strategist. While he mostly works for candidates and causes outside of Arlington, Tribbett does weigh in on local affairs here on occassion.

Tribbett correctly predicted the demise of the Columbia Pike streetcar, for instance, and more recently has leveled criticism against fellow Democrat Del. Alfonso Lopez and his work for a private company that contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Tribbett joined us on this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast to talk about local, state and national politics — and a bit of sports betting.

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

Photo via Facebook

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Rep. Beyer Celebrates Pruitt’s Resignation as Head of EPA

Few members of Congress have been as outspoken against Scott Pruitt and his scandal-plagued tenure as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency as has local Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.).

Now, with Pruitt’s resignation today (Thursday), Beyer is taking a victory lap.

“Finally,” the Congressman said in a single-word first sentence of an otherwise adjective-filled statement celebrating the resignation.

The congressman’s office, along with the Safe Climate Caucus he co-chairs, has sent out at least 32 press releases mentioning Pruitt since his nomination to the EPA’s top position was announced in December 2016.

“We urge President Trump to mark Earth Day by firing Scott Pruitt and replacing him with someone who will return the Environmental Protection Agency to its core mission, rather than using their position for perks and schemes at Americans’ expense,” said one such press release, sent this past April.

Today’s full statement from Beyer is below.

Finally.

Scott Pruitt was able to keep his position for so long — despite astonishing megalomania and unethical behavior – only because of Donald Trump’s historic embrace of corruption. Pruitt acknowledged behavior in Congressional hearings and televised interviews that violated federal regulations and spoke to extreme levels of wasteful spending and abuse of public office. He committed dozens of offenses which would have led to immediate dismissal in any previous administration.

Pruitt now joins the growing ranks of ex-Trump officials, a testament to President Trump’s chaotic management style and poor judgment. Sadly, some of those who remain may be nearly as corrupt, as antithetical to the purposes of the agencies they lead, and as willing to besmirch their public offices with dishonest and unethical behavior.

Scott Pruitt stood out, even in Donald Trump’s uniquely corrupt administration, for his willingness to cede direct influence and control over EPA policy to industries and special interests which harm public health. His scandals were inextricably linked to his antipathy to environmental protection, and to his close association with those who value profit over clean air and water.

The only way to really turn the page on the Pruitt era will be for Trump to appoint an EPA Administrator who is committed to environmental stewardship, and willing to clean house and wrest control of the EPA back from polluters and lobbyists.

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Beyer, Democratic Members of Congress Visit Arlington’s Immigration Court

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and some of his Democratic colleagues believe most children up for a hearing at Arlington’s immigration court are being treated fairly — but they worry that could soon change.

Beyer, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and several other members of Congress sat in for some hearings at the federal immigration court in Crystal City today (Thursday), and broadly came away pleased with what they saw, despite the chaos surrounding the Trump administration’s recent practice of separating children from families at the Mexican border.

Yet Beyer and his fellow Democrats fear what might happen should leadership at the court change. They’ve heard rumors that Jack Weil, a longtime immigration judge at the Department of Justice, could soon start hearing cases in Arlington, and they’re disturbed by his history.

Weil attracted nationwide attention after testifying that he believes children as young as 3 years old can represent themselves in immigration proceedings. Though all of the kids the members of Congress saw Thursday had legal representation, the Democrats expressed disbelief that any judge would decide whether a toddler should be deported without a lawyer present.

“It’s really disturbing, especially because we understand [Weil] is training other judges,” Beyer told reporters. “Look at all the conversations we have about the poor decisions of our 20-year-olds… The thought that even a 12-year-old, 13-year-old can make good decisions in court is silly.”

Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) noted that many of the cases the congressional delegation observed involved complex asylum applications, underscoring just how complicated an immigration hearing could be even for adults who speak English. She believes it would be “insane” to ask a child to attempt to navigate the process.

Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) felt Arlington’s courthouse generally represented “the best process possible” for kids seeking asylum. But she added that even this court only had Spanish translation services available, when people coming from somewhere like Guatemala could speak one of the country’s other 22 languages instead.

Beyer said Congress should act to provide funding for lawyers for immigrant children, given that that nonprofits stepping up to help can only provide representation for a small fraction of kids making their way through the system. With President Trump tweeting that immigrants should be deported “with no judges or court cases,” the Democrats said they realized the odds were long, but said it would be worth the effort.

“We can do this if we have the will and compassion to do this,” Hoyer said. “This is America. We believe in due process.”

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State Lawmakers Urge Arlington’s Top Prosecutor to Reform Cash Bail System

A group of state lawmakers is urging Arlington’s top prosecutor to reform the county’s cash bail bond system — but Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos thinks they’re barking up the wrong tree.

Each one of the three state senators and four state delegates representing Arlington in Richmond, not to mention two lawmakers from nearby Falls Church, sent a letter on the subject to Stamos last Thursday (June 21).

Echoing efforts by criminal justice reform advocates around the country, the lawmakers argued that requiring people to post a cash bond to earn their freedom contributes to the “disproportionate incarceration of low-income individuals and people of color.” They’d rather see Stamos adopt a system for pretrial release “based more on the severity of the crime and the defendant’s perceived public safety and flight risk, rather than the ability to pay.”

“The current system of cash bail is broken in that it conditions the pretrial release of individuals on the ability to pay, violating the principle of the presumption of innocence that is foundational to our criminal justice system,” the lawmakers wrote.

Stamos says she’s joined some of her colleagues around the state in examining such a policy change, but, fundamentally, she feels this “was a rather silly letter to send me.”

“I think the letter is misguided on a number of levels,” Stamos told ARLnow. “If these members of the General Assembly have a problem with cash bail, they should change the law. It’s perfectly within their power to do so.”

Stamos says prosecutors in her office regularly recommend releasing people on “personal recognizance bonds,” giving them the chance to go free before trial with paying. However, Stamos feels bound by state law, which obligates prosecutors to evaluate if someone charged with a crime “is a flight risk or a threat to the community” when assigning a cash bond.

“I understand the considerations around cash bail, but the countervailing considerations are: who is being held and why are they being held?” Stamos said. “Do they have a prior criminal history? Are they a flight risk? Many of our defendants are from D.C. or Maryland, and we don’t have the resources to be extraditing everyone.”

Yet the lawmakers argue in their letter that other jurisdictions have seen success with such a policy change, noting that prosecutors in Richmond agreed to end cash bail earlier this year.

They point out that most low-income people can’t afford to post a sizable cash bond, which often “translates to weeks of missed income, employment or education before ever having been convicted of a crime.” The lawmakers add that holding so many people before their trials start can be costly for the county — they estimate Arlington pays as much as $182 per day for each person it holds in jail, while other methods of pretrial monitoring can cost as little as $7 each day.

Stamos agrees that there could be “some adjustments we can make” to the process, but she also urged the lawmakers to consider the impact of a policy change for everyone involved in each court proceeding.

“There is a cost as well for witnesses or victims of crime who come to court and the defendant doesn’t show up,” Stamos said.

Most of all, however, Stamos is confused why the lawmakers chose to fire off a letter to her on the issue, rather than working with her a bit more directly.

“Not one of my good colleagues in the General Assembly have one time picked up the phone about this,” Stamos said. “This is news to me that this is a big concern of theirs. Not one has asked me about my position.”

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Trump May Stop Separating Immigrant Families, But Kaine and Warner Fear What Comes Next

President Trump may have agreed to stop separating families at the Mexican border, but Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner (D-Va.) fear the administration could soon concoct a plan to jail immigrant families indefinitely instead.

At a gathering of local faith leaders and immigrant advocates today (Thursday) at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd), both senators expressed relief that Trump backed down from his policy of breaking up migrant families that attempt to cross the border illegally.

Yet Warner lamented that Trump’s executive order “raises as many questions as it answers,” and the senators are deeply concerned that the White House will now try to convince Congress to pass some sort of compromise legislation on the issue.

Trump’s order yesterday (Wednesday) required families to be detained together until their criminal and immigration proceedings are completed — but a federal court order requires children to be released after 20 days, and Kaine and Warner both worry that Trump could try to push through legislation to supersede that order and remove any limit on detaining families.

“We could see version two, or version three, of this, that will get presented as something that’s not as bad as what came before,” Kaine said. “But I’m not going to agree to something bad just because he’s being cruel.”

Priscilla Martinez, a fourth-generation Mexican American with Loudoun’s All Dulles Area Muslim Society, worried that such an approach by Trump might prove effective.

While she noted that the public may be outraged about the family separation policy now, she’s concerned that people could become “anesthetized” to less extreme versions of it. She drew a parallel to the public reaction to Trump’s travel ban on Muslim-majority countries — while the initial executive order prompted mass protests, the administration subsequently proposed less draconian versions of the same policy that gradually drew less attention.

“They could easily put something forward that’s still bad, but people accept it because it’s less awful that what came before,” Martinez said. “I’m concerned it’s so bad right now, people might run out of steam.”

That’s why Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, the legal director of the Legal Aid Justice Center’s immigrant advocacy program, urged the senators to not accept that this debate is over simply because Trump has changed the family separation policy. He suggested that they press the administration to allow children to be released to other family members instead of being held in a jail cell, a process he says Trump has worked to make increasingly difficult.

“Kids don’t belong in cages, and that’s the bottom line,” Sandoval-Moshenberg said. “Whether it’s the same cage as their mother and father or two separate cages… Any solution that results in kids being kept in cages is no solution at all.”

Kaine and Warner agreed to that request, and they’re pledging to visit Virginia’s detention facilities for immigrant children in Bristow and Staunton to inspect their conditions. They do take some hope from reports today that the Border Patrol plans to stop referring migrant parents who cross the border illegally with children for criminal charges, but they say they can’t be sure what the White House will do next.

“This administration has no plan,” Warner said. “As we’ve seen continuously, he zigs and zags on an hourly basis.”

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With a Low-Turnout Primary Win Under His Belt, de Ferranti Looks to November

Matt de Ferranti scored a decisive, 20-point win in his bid to become the Democratic nominee for the Arlington County Board — but with that success comes the daunting task of figuring out how to beat an incumbent who twice put up double-digit margins of victory four years ago.

De Ferranti, an advocate for Native American education, didn’t have much trouble overcoming cybersecurity professional Chanda Choun in yesterday’s primary. He earned more than 7,000 of the roughly 11,500 votes cast, and lost just two precincts to Choun, even though both were first-time candidates.

Yet the real challenge for de Ferranti will be translating his primary victory into a win this fall against independent John Vihstadt, who won both a special election and general election in 2014 after assembling a unique coalition of disaffected Democrats, Republicans and even local Green Party supporters.

“I’m looking forward to building the strongest grassroots campaign the county’s ever seen, because that’s what it will take to win,” de Ferranti told ARLnow. “But there’s time yet to get to the general. For now, I’m just very grateful for the team we built and the support we were able to build across the county.”

Many of the county’s top Democrats seem to think de Ferranti has what it takes — he earned the endorsement of three state legislators, two School Board members and a whole host of former elected officials during the primary. The county’s Democratic Committee also praised de Ferranti as a “terrific addition” to the party’s ticket in a statement Tuesday night, praising his focus on “maintaining our excellent schools, addressing housing affordability, improving our transportation system and stimulating a strong economy for all.”

Other observers, however, are less optimistic. While de Ferranti did win handily, he also ceded roughly 40 percent of the vote to a candidate in Choun who was broadly unknown in political circles before suddenly jumping into the race in February. Even with predictions of a “blue wave” election in November, it might not be enough to get de Ferranti over the top.

“It just really shows that his support is very thin, and there’s not much of it,” said Ben Tribbett, a veteran Democratic strategist. “John Vihstadt has got to be ecstatic… In my mind, it will be very difficult to lose as a Democrat in Arlington in this kind of environment, but it’s possible he’ll do just that.”

In particular, Tribbett points to the anemic turnout in the primary as reason for de Ferranti to be concerned. Though he never expected voters to flood to the polls for a local primary, he noted that Alexandria’s mayoral primary attracted roughly 10,000 more voters to the polls than the County Board race did.

Considering that Arlington has roughly 70,000 more residents than Alexandria, Tribbett finds that result “very telling.”

“A primary electorate of 11,500 shows it was essentially the people who always show up and vote, it doesn’t indicate real levels of support,” Tribbett said. “He’s trying to run as an establishment politician, when he’s not a politician and nobody knows him.”

The primary turnout represented just 7.7 percent of the county’s registered voters, according to the Arlington elections office, and did pale a bit in comparison to even past Board primaries. For instance, more than 15,200 people cast ballots when Erik Gutshall challenged Libby Garvey in 2016, and nearly 20,000 participated in 2015’s six-way race.

De Ferranti, however, said he was generally “pleased” with the turnout in the primary, especially considering that there wasn’t any other race at the top of the ballot to attract Democratic voters — neither U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) nor Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) drew primary challengers.

“We had a great contest with a couple of really strong candidates,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol, a Democrat. “Credit goes to both of them for running inspiring campaigns that drew a lot of people to the polls.”

Yet Tribbett wonders just how inspiring de Ferranti will prove to be for Democrats who backed Vihstadt last time around, and even some who are considering doing so again this year. Garvey has already announced her intentions to support the independent once more, as have Democrats in two countywide offices: Treasurer Carla de la Pava and Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos.

“Look at who endorsed [de Ferranti] and who stayed out of it: why would any of them endorse him now?” Tribbett said. “What is his reason for why people are replacing John Vihstadt?… He’s not invulnerable, but you can’t beat somebody with nothing.”

None of the other three Democrats on the Board have lent the newly minted nominee their support as of yet — Cristol, for her part, said she’s “not ready” to discuss who she’ll be supporting — but de Ferranti believes he’ll have no trouble outlining his case against Vihstadt for skeptical Democrats.

“I’ll be acknowledging, ‘this is a decent person,’ but also making it clear that the values that I’ll bring to the position are different,” de Ferranti said. “I’m focused on returning Arlington to a fiscally reasonable approach, but one that’s open to visionary decisions like building the Orange Line, which required some investment.”

Photo via Facebook

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De Ferranti Captures Democratic Nod for County Board

Matt de Ferranti has won the Democratic primary for Arlington County Board and will face incumbent John Vihstadt in the November general election.

De Ferranti captured about 61 percent of the vote, to 39 percent for Chanda Choun, a relative newcomer to civic life in Arlington.

A lawyer and advocate for Native American education, de Ferranti has sat on a variety of commissions and volunteered for local Democrats since moving to Arlington five years ago.

Between the Democratic County Board primary and the three-way Republican U.S. Senate primary, in which Corey Stewart emerged victorious, overall voter turnout in Arlington was light — just over 10 percent.

https://twitter.com/ArlingtonVotes/status/1006690893963956224

The Arlington County Democratic Committee congratulated de Ferranti, calling him a “terrific addition to this solutions-oriented ticket.” More from an ACDC press release:

Arlington Democrats congratulate the Democratic Nominees across Virginia, and in particular, Matt de Ferranti for becoming the Democratic Nominee for Arlington County Board. Arlington Democrats came out to vote today because we clearly recognize that the best way to maintain the momentum of progressive change and blunt the Trump administration chaos is to keep voting!

Now that the voters have chosen the Democratic nominee for the County Board seat, Arlington Democrats are ready to work hard to elect the entire Democratic ticket, which also includes Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate, Don Beyer for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Barbara Kanninen for the Arlington School Board. These progressive leaders have delivered for Arlington, and they deserve reelection. Matt de Ferranti is a terrific addition to this solutions-oriented ticket.

Jill Caiazzo, Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, expressed, “We thank both Matt de Ferranti and Chanda Choun for conducting a positive, issue-oriented and energetic primary. We are excited to have Matt on the ballot because he will move Arlington forward by maintaining our excellent schools, addressing housing affordability, improving our transportation system, and stimulating a strong economy for all.”

Caiazzo further noted: “Flipping Virginia Blue this year begins in our own backyard with this important County Board seat.” Since 15 elected seats were flipped blue in Virginia last year, Democrats have succeeded in expanding Medicare for 400,000 Virginians, even without a majority in either the House of Delegates or the Senate. Flipping the County Board seat blue will help Arlington make even more progress on issues that make a difference for all residents.

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Arlington Elections Remain Safe from Cyberattacks, Local and Federal Officials Say

Arlington voters can rest easy that Tuesday’s primary contest will be safe from cyberattacks, as local and federal election officials alike tout the county’s sound methods for counting ballots.

County election administrators welcomed a contingent from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security today (June 12), who swung by to study how Arlington is managing its voting technology as the threat of foreign meddling continues to loom large ahead of the fall’s midterms.

County Registrar Linda Lindberg touted her office’s “practical and low-key approach” during the visit, noting that the county uses paper ballots for all its elections. Though it may seem like an antiquated approach in the age of smartphones, election security experts have increasingly urged localities to abandon electronic voting machines in favor of having a paper record of all ballots cast, should intruders find a way to breach their systems and attempt to alter vote totals.

“Arlington takes a very pragmatic and a keep-it-simple approach,” Chris Krebs, a senior DHS official focusing on cybersecurity, told reporters. “We need to continue that trend toward a voter-verifiable paper trail… That’s the progress that we’re seeing nationwide.”

Krebs says he’s spent the last few months making similar trips and sitting down with state and local officials to make sure they understand the cybersecurity risks associated with voting technology. He added that federal officials are hoping to offer any help they can to localities struggling with securing their systems, though he noted that Arlington doesn’t need much in the way of resources.

Lindberg says her office has all manner of “checks and balances” throughout the process of testing vote-counting machines to insure that nothing was amiss before voters started showing up at the polls. She also noted that she’s set up a robust screening system for “spear phishing” attacks, after would-be hackers targeted elections officials in other states to try and trick them into clicking on fraudulent emails, giving them access to election systems.

“Arlington County actually has very strong, stringent controls in terms of the phishing attacks we’ve seen, mostly through emails,” Lindberg said. “We have good training, good screening of spam emails. In fact, important emails sometimes end up in my spam folder so you have to go back and look at that sort of thing.”

By and large, however, Krebs says DHS hasn’t seen the same sort of attacks on election officials that they did ahead of the 2016 election. But with intelligence leaders continuing to warn that Russian operatives could very well try to interfere with the midterms as a preamble to the presidential race in 2020, Krebs also doesn’t want to see local officials let their guard down.

“Even though we haven’t seen any activity the way we did in 2016 with direct threats to election infrastructure, we don’t need that direct threat,” Krebs said. “We take this issue very seriously.”

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Candidate Essay: Chanda Choun

Last week, we asked the two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in tomorrow’s primary. 

Here is the unedited response from Chanda Choun:

Hello!  I am Mr. Chanda Choun (pronounced CHAHN-duh CHOON), a resident of central Arlington. I work as a senior business manager and engineering leader for a cybersecurity tech company. I am also a part-time Army Reserve soldier assigned to the United States Cyber Command. My community involvement stretches across the County from civic associations to faith ministries to business groups to service organizations.

I came to America as a little child from war-torn Southeast Asia and grew up poor in a small Connecticut town. Regardless of challenging circumstances, duty compelled me do whatever needed to be done to succeed and serve my family, faith, and country.  Now, I want to serve you on the Arlington County Board.

So what am I going to do for Arlington? My governing platform can be summed up in three missions: Economic Development, Social Advancement, and Political Leadership.

Economic Development is #1. We need more money. Due to our 20% commercial office vacancy rate, there was a $20 million shortfall in our county government budget this year. Next year, taxes and fees may be further raised on businesses and residents. More cuts may be made to programs and services such as parks, roads, and schools. My goals are to attract new businesses, retain and grow existing businesses, and thus ultimately provide more job options and pay for all Arlington workers while lowering tax burdens on residents.

Big businesses fill our tall buildings and provide thousands of jobs along our transit corridors. I have worked with and in corporations managing multimillion dollar projects and will coordinate between civic and economic organizations to win large tenants.

The downsizing of federal agency and military buildings the last decade resulted in Arlington losing millions of square footage of occupied office space. But now the US Defense budget has been increased by $100 billion.  I will leverage my military/business experience and understanding of government procurement to guide these dollars back into Arlington.

We cannot forget small businesses. I started my career as a roadside diner dish boy and coffee shop coffee boy. Let’s keep local government processes from overwhelming business owners and managers with paperwork and paranoia. For example, Arlington did not allow online payment of building permits until this year! Small shops also keep neighborhoods distinct and memorable; some even call funky. As a civic leader, I will push for Arlingtonians, especially young people, to turn their gaze away from DC and patronize great places and people right in their backyard.

Social advancement is the second mission of my campaign. I want everybody to have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Education is foundational to creating a better self and society. My goals are to find the material and monetary resources needed to accommodate our rapidly growing student population, recruit and retain high quality educators, and create better outcomes in life for all children.

Housing is next. Our opportunities are limited when the cost of living takes too much of a person’s paycheck. My approach to making housing more affordable is by increasing supply and lowering demand. There are parts of Arlington right now where denser, lower cost housing cannot be built due to outdated zoning regulations. Let’s explore zoning modifications and exceptions in our county’s General Land Use Plan. To lower housing demand, encouraging employers to allow telecommuting (work from home) and expanding Metro deeper into Virginia will alleviate population pressures that are concentrating so many people in our part of the Commonwealth.

Civic identity is key to pride in person and place. Symbolizing Arlington as the North Star of Virginia will give people an easy to remember visual to recognize and communicate to others. As more people proudly identify themselves as Arlingtonians, we can grow an engaged community that brings crowds to civic groups and local service organizations.

Political leadership is the third mission of my campaign. Arlington and its leaders need to elevate our profile, our model, and our values to the rest of America. As your County Board Member, I will be an ever present and highly known servant leader to Arlington’s quarter million people. I will present Arlington to the rest of Virginia as a visionary, well-planned urban county to be emulated when it comes to smart growth and high quality of life. I will present our County Board to the Nation as a model of caring, intelligent leadership shining across the Potomac River against the corruption and negativity in Washington DC. Arlington can be the North Star of Virginia… and America.

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Candidate Essay: Matt de Ferranti

Last week, we asked the two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in tomorrow’s primary. 

Here is the unedited response from Matt de Ferranti: 

I am running for County Board to tackle Arlington’s biggest challenges. I know and love this community and have the values, relevant experience, and vision to expand opportunity for everyone in Arlington over the next four years.

Our three biggest challenges: building the schools to educate all of our students, housing affordability for families and individuals at different stages of life and income levels, and a local economy that needs to be strengthened and expanded for our future and neighbors in need. We also need leadership to improve our transportation system and address climate change.

Our Schools

I am committed to educational opportunity and making sure Arlington Public Schools has the resources to provide every student with an excellent education. This commitment is reflected in my professional life.  I began my career as a teacher and now work as an advocate for Native American students at the National Indian Education Association.

I serve as the Chair of the Budget Advisory Council to the School Board. One of the main reasons I am running is to address our school capacity challenges. We must build additional seats in a cost effective manner so that we can educate every child as if they were our own.

Housing Affordability

I have worked for Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together and believe deeply that housing must be affordable for middle class Arlingtonians and those working to get into the middle class. Teachers, firefighters, police officers, and everyone who works or lives in our community should be able to afford to live here. Residents should also be able to age in place.

I serve on the Housing Commission, which works to expand affordability so that everyone in our community can have a place to call home. I know that meeting the goals for affordable housing in our Affordable Housing Master Plan will not be easy. I will not be able to do it alone or overnight, but I will work on this issue with courage, creativity, and relentless commitment if I have the honor of serving you.

An Economy that Works for Everyone

I have worked as an attorney for local governments, so I understand land use law and the need for a vision and plan to address our commercial vacancy rates and encourage economic growth across the County.

I serve on the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission, which was created to improve coordination between the County Board and the School Board. As a graduate of Leadership Arlington and Arlington Neighborhood College, I know that we must pursue a vision for our community that brings jobs here that build upon our educated workforce and targets clean-tech, green-tech, and the knowledge-based industries that will help us thrive in the years to come. We must also value small businesses as critical community stakeholders and base all of our economic decisions on the best interests of all of our residents, now and in the future.

Economic Opportunity

Our economy must serve all Arlingtonians and provide opportunity for those in need.  We are the fifth wealthiest county in the nation, but we still have families who go hungry here. There are 2,200 households served by the Arlington Food Assistance Center every month. I will lead the effort to eliminate child hunger in Arlington.

The Choice We Face on Tuesday

So, on education, housing affordability, and our economy, I bring Arlington values and relevant experience.

I would bring these same core values to the other key issues we face. On transportation, I am committed to funding Metro, making good on our promises along Columbia Pike, and seeking revisions to the recent funding cuts to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. On our environment, I believe in our Community Energy Plan and will help lead our efforts to combat climate change. I will stand steadfast for an inclusive, compassionate community on immigration and LGBTQ rights. And I will speak out and work for common sense gun safety measures because all of us have a moral responsibility to act on this issue.

I have earned the endorsements of Greater Greater Washington, Blue Virginia and the Sun Gazette News. I also have the support of Delegate Rip Sullivan, Delegate Alfonso Lopez, State Senator Adam Ebbin, Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson, Vice-Chair of the School Board Reid Goldstein and School Board Member Tannia Talento. To see a list of supporters or learn more please, go to www.mattforarlington.com.

I would be honored to earn your vote tomorrow and to serve you on the Arlington County Board.

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De Ferranti Touts Experience, Choun Promises a ‘Different Voice’ Ahead of County Board Primary

For about a month, it seemed as if Matt de Ferranti would be the only Democrat to throw his hat in the ring and run for County Board this fall.

With the Board’s lone non-Democrat, independent John Vihstadt, up for re-election, local party activists have been eyeing 2018 for years now. Yet, when de Ferranti announced his bid in January, he didn’t have much in the way of competition from his fellow Democrats, a stark departure from the surge in Democratic candidates in other races across the state.

De Ferranti, a lawyer and advocate for Native American education, has spent plenty of time in civic life since moving to the county five years ago — he’s sat on a variety of commissions and volunteered for local Democrats. But he’s also a first-time candidate and far from a sure bet to knock off Vihstadt.

Nevertheless, for weeks, he remained the only Democrat in the race, even as Jill Caiazzo made a pledge to run an open primary for the nomination a key part of her successful run to become chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

Chanda Choun, a cybersecurity staffer for software company Securonix, changed all that when he announced his own run in February, setting up Tuesday’s primary contest.

Choun freely admits that his decision to enter the race caught some in the party by surprise, noting that he only moved to the county in 2015 and became active politically immediately following President Donald Trump’s election. But he also believes his background as a Cambodian immigrant and Army reservist will help him overcome his lack of experience, even though a cadre of Arlington officials and civic leaders have lent de Ferranti their support.

“I understand why there might be confusion or questions about why I was running or who I am,” Choun told ARLnow. “But I believe I’ve answered those over the past four or five months… It’s about providing that different voice, and I think that’s struck a chord with people.”

De Ferranti, however, argues that his “relevant experience” working with elected leaders in county government shouldn’t be overlooked. He may not be quite as young as Choun — de Ferranti is 44, Choun is 30 — but he believes he’d also provide fresh perspective on the Board, informed by his years of experience.

“People want to know if you really have a plan and want to do the job, not just run for the job,” de Ferranti said. “I’m not running to get my name out there. I’m running to win.”

On policy matters, there isn’t much separation between the two. Both believe the Board needs to keep investing in county schools, transportation projects and affordable housing, even as financial pressures squeeze the county government — they’re also both willing to support a potential tax increase next year either, a distinct possibility as commercial tax revenues keep plummeting.

Neither candidate is a big fan of Vihstadt either, though both do acknowledge that the independent hasn’t radically disrupted the Board’s dynamic.

“There is some credit due to scrutinizing and looking carefully at our decisions,” de Ferranti said. “But once that is done, it’s about having the courage in making forward-looking decisions and understanding change is inevitable. It’s working with it, managing it and using change to shape our community in good ways.”

To that end, both Democrats want to see the county lure more businesses to Arlington and reverse the skyrocketing commercial vacancy rates in Rosslyn and Crystal City. The pair differs on how they’d approach that vexing question, however.

De Ferranti prefers to “look toward the next economy” by marketing the county to “clean tech and green tech” companies — he’s also open to further exploring the possibility of using vacant space in Crystal City to house students, a proposal often bandied about as the school system runs out of available land.

Choun wants to step up the county’s marketing efforts to lure in new businesses, but also lean on his experience in the military and in government contracting to bring federal government agencies back to Arlington, after many have fled.

“Let’s get those dollars back in Arlington,” Choun said. “That was our historic economic base. Obviously, we still want to diversify away from it, but let’s grow the pie as a whole.”

Another key separation: their feelings on the oft-discussed, but seemingly sidelined, Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola. Choun is open to studying the project in more detail, but de Ferranti is a bit more ready to write it off.

“I know there was some study, and I respect those who wanted to look into it more deeply,” de Ferranti said. “But almost everyone I talked to, and my own analysis and common sense, says it’s not the right thing for us.”

But with relatively few policy disagreements separating the pair, Choun expects that his background, as both an immigrant and a tech-savvy millennial, will help separate him from de Ferranti.

“It’s about building a coalition: millennials, veterans, military, people of faith, tech professionals, minorities,” Choun said. “It’s not necessarily about platform, but messaging, vision and character.”

De Ferranti, meanwhile, is counting on his more traditional approach of winning local office to carry the day. Beyond just the endorsements of the county’s Democratic establishment, he’s also pulled in plenty of cash from its traditional donors — he’s raised more than $54,000 over the course of the campaign from more than 175 different people, according to state records. By comparison, Choun has managed to pull in nearly $30,000, with $25,000 coming in the form of a loan from Choun himself.

“I’ve got relevant experience on the key issues to make a difference on the biggest challenges that we face,” de Ferranti said. “I believe more and more people are hearing that, and it’s why I have the support of so many.”

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W-L Renaming Proposal Prompts Press Conference By GOP Senate Candidate

The possibility of Washington-Lee High School being renamed has prompted a Republican U.S. Senate candidate to schedule a press conference outside of tonight’s Arlington School Board meeting.

The School Board is set to discuss proposed revisions to its school naming policy Thursday night. In a presentation, school staff will recommend a series of changes that will help guide Arlington Public Schools as it selects names for a number of new facilities, including the new building in Rosslyn that will house the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs.

But much of the public attention will be focused on a recommendation to start a process that could remove Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s name from Washington-Lee. APS staff says the inclusion of Lee’s name would not meet the revised naming policy, which calls for APS to consider the namesake’s legacy.

“Robert E. Lee’s ‘principal legacy’ (i.e. the key activity, advocacy or accomplishment for which the individual is most known) was as General of the Confederate Army leading forces against the U.S. forces,” the staff presentation says. “This action does not reflect the APS mission, vision, and core values/beliefs.”

Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart, who’s running for U.S. Senate in Virginia and seeking the GOP nomination, is planning a press conference outside the meeting.

In a media advisory, Stewart’s campaign says the press conference will be held at 5:30 p.m., outside the meeting at the Syphax Education Center (2110 Washington Blvd).

Stewart, who has been outspoken in defense of Confederate monuments and names, says he will be joined at the press conference “by concerned Washington-Lee High School alumni.”

The staff presentation notes that APS “received numerous renaming requests [for Washington-Lee] after August 11-12, 2017 events in Charlottesville, Va.” Following the “alt-right” rally and the death of counter-demonstrator Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Stewart issued a statement decrying “Democrats and the media” and the “drive to squelch free speech.”

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Alfonso Lopez Says Anonymous Threats Convinced Him to Request Police Presence at Indivisible Meeting

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) says anonymous threats prompted him to request that police monitor a Indivisible Arlington town hall last weekend, and now he’s offering to meet with the pro-immigrant activists who confronted him at that gathering.

The question of who requested the involvement of Arlington County Police at the event, after some LaColectiVA activists asked some tough questions of Lopez on his ties to a contractor for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has been on the minds of several meeting attendees and even other Democratic lawmakers in the days following the meeting.

The police who manage protection for state lawmakers — the Virginia Division of Capitol Police — told ARLnow last week that Lopez had indeed requested a police presence at the event, and Arlington County Police confirmed that they’d agreed to check in on the meeting, though they’re adamant that they were not actively monitoring it.

Now, in his first public comments since the May 12 meeting at Arlington Central Library, Lopez told ARLnow in a prepared statement that he’s been notifying the Capitol Police about any public event he’s attended since last December. He chalks that up to “unwanted anonymous threats,” echoing claims he made at the meeting that some members of LaColectiVA had crossed a line when protesting his consulting work for the ICE contractor.

“Since the Indivisible Legislators’ Forum was widely publicized on social media my office followed protocol and alerted Colonel Pike’s [the chief of the Capitol Police] office,” Lopez wrote. “I have subsequently learned that an Arlington police officer came to the event before it began. The officer was alerted that his presence was not necessary and he left. In the middle of the Indivisible meeting a second officer arrived. He stated that he was there because he had been contacted by library security because of the noise. He spoke to the crowd briefly. The officer was told this presence was not needed and he also left.”

The arrival of that second officer prompted consternation among the crowd of activists, and a new round of shouting after the meeting had initially quieted down after a tense beginning. Indivisible Arlington has even since apologized for the presence of law enforcement at the event, and LaColectiVA’s leaders wrote in a statement this weekend that the police presence at the event amounts to “the criminalization of people of color.”

Nelson Lopez, a LaColectiVA organizer who attended the meeting, has been adamant that his group has never threatened Lopez in any way, and the group reiterated in its Saturday (May 19) statement that the delegate’s claims are “outright lies.”

LaColectiVA’s activists have been particularly frustrated that they feel like Lopez has ignored their requests to engage with them on the issue — Lopez reported on disclosure forms that the Immigration Centers of America, which runs an ICE detention center in Central Virginia,  paid him $5,000 in 2014 and $10,000 in 2015 and 2016. He’s repeatedly stressed that he is barred from discussing that consulting work by a nondisclosure agreement.

However, in a letter to LaColectiVA’s leadership that Lopez provided to ARLnow, he points out that he’s met repeatedly with the group to discuss their concerns. He also offered to do so once again, “to discuss your concerns and ways that we can move forward on our areas of mutual interest.”

Yet Nelson Lopez noted that the delegate wants the meeting to be private and only with members of LaColectiVA’s leadership, which he feels would not satisfy the group’s efforts to encourage more public engagement on the issue.

“We have told him that the meeting needs to be public so that he can speak to the whole community, not just us,” he said.

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Alfonso Lopez Requested Police Presence at Indivisible Event, Days Before Protesters Arrived

(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) Activists and lawmakers have been demanding to know who called police on protesters at a legislative town hall that descended into chaos last weekend, and now there is at least a partial answer.

ARLnow.com has learned that Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49), the target of the pro-immigrant organizers’ ire, requested a police presence prior to the event.

Lopez and several other state lawmakers were attending a forum hosted by Indivisible Arlington at Central Library last Saturday (May 12), when activists with the group LaColectiVA used the gathering as a chance to press Lopez on his past consulting work for a contractor for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Though the activists asked some heated questions of Lopez, the event remained on track until Arlington County police officers made their presence known, setting off a shouting match. Attendees accused Lopez of asking for officers to intervene in the event, given LaColectiVA’s previous protests of Lopez’s connections with the Immigration Centers of America, which runs an ICE detention center in Central Virginia.

Now, the police who manage protection for state lawmakers — the Virginia Division of Capitol Police — tell ARLnow that Lopez’s office contacted them days in advance of the May 12 meeting to make sure police were on site.

“When a member of the General Assembly raises an issue of possible security concerns in their district, we can and do reach out to the local authorities on their behalf,” Joe Macenka, spokesman for the Capitol Police, wrote in an email. “In this case, Del. Lopez’s office did that. It is up to local law enforcement to respond accordingly.”

Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed that her department heard from the Capitol Police on May 10, two days before the forum was planned, and she said “extra checks were requested for the event.” Savage says library security then called police, though they’d previously been made aware of the forum at Lopez’s request.

Lopez has yet to address the weekend’s events publicly, and an aide to the delegate has not responded to requests for comment.

This news comes as Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) and Arlington Commissioner of the Revenue Ingrid Morroy, and even organizers with Indivisible Arlington itself, have pressed for answers on how law enforcement officers became involved in the event. Indivisible leaders offered a public apology on Wednesday (May 16) that police were present, lamenting “the negative impact of their presence on meeting participants, especially people of color,” as many of the LaColectiVA activists are Latino.

“These kids were just trying to ask some tough questions, and there is nothing wrong with that,” said Ben Tribbett, a veteran Democratic strategist who attended the meeting. “It is not an acceptable reason to call the police on your constituents.”

Nelson Lopez, an organizer with LaColectiVA, says he suspected that police were alerted about the event ahead of time, given how “instantaneously” police arrived.

His group had spent the last few weeks leading up to the event trying to convince Lopez to attend a public meeting about his past work with the ICE contractor scheduled immediately ahead of the Indivisible forum. Nelson Lopez says his fellow activists only decided to head to the Indivisible event the day of, but he also believes the delegate was well aware that LaColectiVA would be organizing around the issue that day.

“We contacted him so many different ways about meeting on this,” Nelson Lopez said. “But he will not address it.”

The delegate reported on state disclosure forms that the ICE contractor paid him $5,000 in 2014 and $10,000 in 2015 and 2016, but he’s said repeatedly that a nondisclosure agreement bars him from discussing what exactly his work for the group entailed.

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Indivisible Apologizes Over Forum That Devolved into Chaos As Activists Demand Answers

Organizers with the group Indivisible Arlington are apologizing for how they handled a town hall meeting that devolved into a shouting match after pro-immigrant activists asked some tough questions of Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49).

The grassroots group convened a public forum at Arlington’s Central Library last Saturday (May 13) featuring several state lawmakers, but Indivisible organizers felt compelled to call it off earlier than expected, as activists with the group LaColectiVa aggressively pressed Lopez on his past consulting work for a private company that contracts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In a new statement today (Wednesday), Indivisible leaders defended the decision to end the meeting, as they felt participants were “unable to maintain a constructive dialogue.” However, they expressed regret about the presence of both library security and county police at the meeting, particularly after an Arlington police officer arrived at the meeting and set off a new round of protests from the LaColectiVA activists.

“We recognize the negative impact of their presence on meeting participants, especially people of color,” Indivisible organizers wrote. “We did not request the presence of Arlington law enforcement.”

The group is now urging meeting attendees to reach out to Indivisible to discuss “how we can best move forward together.”

Some people who attended the meeting believe Lopez is the one who needs to take the lead on smoothing things over, given the way he handled the situation.

“It’s very disheartening, because he’s not apologizing or discussing what happened there,” Nelson Lopez, an organizer with LaColectiVA, told ARLnow. “We just want to have a dialogue about this issue, and he’s consistently refused to do so.”

An aide to the delegate did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nelson Lopez and other meeting attendees say they want to know whether or not Del. Lopez had anything to do with police officers heading to the meeting.

People at the gathering say LaColectiVA’s activists weren’t being overly disruptive when they first arrived, with one member of the group asking Lopez about his past work for the Immigration Centers of America, which runs an ICE detention center in Central Virginia. Lopez reported on state disclosure forms that the group paid him $5,000 in 2014 and $10,000 in 2015 and 2016, and LaColectiVA has spent the last few months organizing protests around the issue.

A video of the forum posted on Facebook shows that Lopez and some activists briefly argued — Lopez insisted that a nondisclosure agreement bars him from discussing his past consulting work, and he insisted that work is not part of his “public life” in the General Assembly — but the meeting soon returned to normalcy.

Roughly 15 minutes later, a county police officer entered the room, setting off loud protests from members of LaColectiVA.

“The police were preemptively called, and that was what caused the disturbance in the first place,” said Ben Tribbett, a veteran Democratic strategist who attended the meeting. “The kids were petrified when the cops got there.”

Arlington police spokeswoman Ashley Savage says it was library staff who called the department about the arrival of the LaColectiVA protesters. But Tribbett and Nelson Lopez say they are interested in finding out if anyone asked the library staff to contact authorities, a call echoed by Del. Patrick Hope (D-47) and Arlington Commissioner of the Revenue Ingrid Morroy on Twitter Wednesday.

Attendees are also urging Del. Alfonso Lopez to address an allegation made by another LaColectiVA organizer, Irma Corrado, who says Lopez threatened her as the meeting broke up.

She says Lopez told her “I know where you work, and my friend is a board member,” which she took as a threat that he’d get her fired. She declined to publicly reveal where she works.

Most of all, Nelson Lopez hopes the delegate takes this whole episode as an example of just how frustrated people are over his refusals to answer questions about his past ties to the ICE contractor.

“We just want to have a town hall, a public forum about this, so he can understand it’s not just some fringe group that has these feelings,” Lopez said. “We’re not trying to get rid of him, we’re trying to have a dialogue.”

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