Affordable housing continues to divide the candidates for County Board, with the two Democratic nominees supporting the Affordable Housing Master Plan and the two independents proposing alternative methods at a debate over the weekend.
The County Board candidates all announced varying degrees of support for increasing affordable housing in Arlington, but disagreed on the best way to implement it during a candidate forum held by Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement Sunday evening.
“Everyone’s in favor of everything, and that’s the balancing act in this community,” said independent candidate Mike McMenamin.
The county needs to focus on geographic distribution of affordable housing units, said McMenamin, who has previously said affordable housing is not one of his priorities. The county should also go back and address its 2003 targets for the amount of affordable units, which it only met twice, he added.
McMenamin, who does not support the Affordable Housing Master Plan passed by the County Board last month, said that the County Board needs to look at how to add affordable housing and address school capacity, without sacrificing parkland for more affordable housing units or more schools. Finding the money to support all of these plans is also a challenge, he added.
One of the high costs to the affordable housing plan is the choice to increase the amount of committed affordable units (CAFs) instead of trying to incentivize market-rate affordable units (MARKs), said Audrey Clement, the other independent candidate.
“There is a serious question of whether CAFs are the way to go,” Clement said.
The new Affordable Housing plan calls for 15,800 affordable housing units, and making them all CAFs would be too expensive for the county, she said, arguing that MARKs are cheaper.
“Private developers can build units much more cheaply than the county can, so limit new construction to onsite units in market-rate developments,” she said.
Clement has spoken out against the Affordable Housing Master Plan, and if elected, plans on creating a housing authority to oversee all housing concerns in Arlington, similar to the authorities in Fairfax County and Alexandria.
Both Democratic nominees, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, reaffirmed their support in the affordable housing plan.
Beyond affordable housing, candidates all addressed community concerns about the disconnect between Arlington residents and the Board. The “Arlington Way,” the county’s system of community involvement in decision-making, needs some retuning, candidates said.
“It’s not what I am going to do. It’s what you all are going to do, and everybody else in Arlington. You all are going to tell us what is necessary to make sure every voice counts,” he said. “It does not work if elected officials tell you what they are going to do to listen. You have to tell us what we need to do to make sure your voices are heard.”
It’s also about going to meet the community where they are, Dorsey and Cristol said.
“We have to get rid of this excuse that they don’t come to our meetings,” Cristol said.
Increasing community engagement means making meetings at times that are reasonable to community members and personally inviting leaders to come to meetings, she said.
It’s also important that the public is brought into the process at the beginning, not the tail end, said McMenamin, citing the recent discussions about Fire Station 8.
If elected, he plans on going to community meetings, talking to people at farmer’s markets and even knocking on people’s doors to get their opinions about bigger decisions, he said.
“You have to listen to the neighborhoods and do what’s right,” he said.
Addressing the school capacity rate needs to be figured out by both the Arlington School Board and the County Board, Cristol said, adding the community has to be involved from the beginning.
“To me, this issue is one of how do we manage our growth,” she said.
In a press release, the Democrat said he would seek to terminate TitleMax’s lease at 5265 Lee Highway, should that building be included in a land swap between its owner, Virginia Hospital Center, and Arlington County.
Dorsey has also launched an online petition, asking residents to support him in his call to “do all we can to protect Arlingtonians from predatory lending practices.”
The press release from Dorsey’s campaign:
Christian Dorsey, a Democratic nominee for the Arlington County Board, attended a public forum on Wednesday at the Virginia Hospital Center discussing the process for a potential deal between Arlington County and the hospital for County-owned land adjacent to the hospital’s property. One potential deal includes a land swap, where Arlington County would acquire property currently owned by the hospital on the corner of Lee Highway and North George Mason Drive. That property is currently being leased by TitleMax, Inc., a predatory vehicle title lender.
Should Arlington acquire the property, Dorsey committed to opposing any lease renewal for TitleMax. He went further by promising to explore all possible ways to terminate the lease early in the case that Arlington becomes the owner of the property.
“Predatory lenders charge desperate families up to 264% interest on loans,” said Dorsey. “Arlington County should not be in the business of profiting off of those that prey on our most vulnerable populations. That’s why I will oppose any extension of the lease to TitleMax should Arlington acquire the property. Further, I will pursue all avenues that would allow us to terminate that lease upon acquisition of the land.”
“Predatory lending runs counter to our values here in Arlington,” continued Dorsey. “Richmond should be ashamed that they allow these businesses to operate with so little regulation. Charging over 260% interest on a car title loan should not be permissible under any circumstances, and I’ll do everything in my power to stop these businesses from preying on Arlington’s vulnerable working families.”
The candidates fielded questions from Arlington’s civic associations about various issues facing the county, including communication with residents and the commercial vacancy rate during a Civic Federation meeting last night. Arlington residents will vote for two new County Board members on Nov. 3.
Democrats Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol both spoke in favor of the Affordable Housing Master Plan, which the Board will decide on this month, while independents Mike McMenamin and Audrey Clement said they would vote against the plan.
The problem with the affordable housing plan, said Clement, is that it continues to rely on “densification” — building more housing in order to also add subsidized affordable units. Development has made housing more expensive, and has contributed to the loss of market rate affordable housing, she said.
“The actual economic assumption behind it is fallacious,” said Clement.
If voted onto the County Board, one of her first priorities would be the creation of a housing authority, which would put all housing agencies under one roof, similar to Fairfax County, Clement said. She also took issue with what she said would be a $90 million cost that the county would shoulder each year.
Dorsey disagreed, arguing that the plan is good for the county from an economic standpoint.
“When you have people who can live affordably, you have people who can spend money in your community,” Dorsey said.
For Cristol, the plan presents a way to help protect the middle class. While campaigning, she has heard from residents who say they would not be able to afford their homes if they had to buy them today.
“I believe the status quo in Arlington is hostile to the middle class,” Cristol said.
The plan isn’t perfect, Cristol said, adding that some of her South Arlington neighbors have asked for the plan to be more firm about geographic distribution.
“It’s a tough issue,” Cristol said. “It’s a complex issue.”
While housing affordability is an important topic, McMenamin said it is the wrong issue to be prioritizing, separating himself from the three other candidates who include affordable housing as a top platform issue.
“We’re betting everything on affordable housing when we have a school crisis,” he said, referring to the burgeoning student population, overcrowded schools and the proliferation of trailer classrooms across the county.
Arlington also needs to focus on the commercial vacancy rate, McMenamin said, an issue all candidates agreed on.
The county needs to work on “getting businesses back in the county,” he said. The county should focus on becoming a home for large companies like Marriott — which is considering moving from Maryland — but also provide a nurturing environment for startups, he said.
The county needs to find “creative ways, like tax relief,” to make the county more attractive to business, McMenamin said.
Making it easier for small businesses is an absolute must, Dorsey said. He proposed streamlining the process of starting a business in Arlington.
Cristol agreed that Arlington could be a hub for new businesses, such as companies in the medical technology industry, but she said that the county should not keep lowering the tax rate without a plan.
“We need to plan for the Arlington we want to see instead of blindly lowering the tax rate,” she said.
Candidates were also asked about the process behind County Board decisions, which some residents said is unsatisfactory.
All candidates said they would work to be open and more transparent about decisions, acknowledging decisions around the Western Rosslyn Area Plan, Reevesland Farmhouse and Fire Station 8, were not handled properly when it came to informing the community.
More than a year after she resigned from the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC), County Board Libby Garvey wants back in. But after applying, Garvey has been told she will need to wait at least a few months.
Garvey resigned in April 2014, preempting a committee vote to remove her, after she supported independent County Board candidate John Vihstadt over Democrat Alan Howze. Both Vihstadt and Garvey opposed the now-cancelled Columbia Pike streetcar project.
This year, Garvey is planning to support the Democratic nominees for County Board — Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey — and wants to officially rejoin the ACDC and its steering committee, on which elected Democrats are given seats. She was told to reapply for membership, but after submitting the proper paperwork she was then told that she would have to wait until November to apply again, a source told ARLnow.com and Garvey confirmed.
“I don’t know what the problem is,” she said in a phone interview over the weekend. “I’m a Democrat, I’m not a member of another party, I’m planning to support all the Democratic candidates — I think they’re all great.”
ACDC Chair Kip Malinosky said the move is simply a matter of staying focused heading into a key election, in which the Democratic County Board candidates will have to fend off two experienced independent candidates: Audrey Clement and Michael McMenamin.
“This year we have two exceptional county board candidates in Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey,” Malinosky said. “Because the focus should be squarely on them, as well as the rest of our great candidates, we deferred discussion about the subject of Libby’s readmission until after this year’s election.”
In order for Virginia to move forward on issues like medicaid expansion and climate change, more Democrats need to be elected to House of Delegates, said Democratic House of Delegates candidates Del. Patrick Hope, Del. Rip Sullivan and Mark Levine.
The candidates spoke to the Arlington County Democratic Committee last night to announce their candidacy and touch on why they need Democratic support in the upcoming November election.
While all candidates spoke briefly on ideas they felt need attention, such as Medicaid expansion or better mental health care, most of the speeches focused on how Republicans in the House of Delegates were blocking important laws or passing laws that the candidates said would be dangerous for Virginia.
“Let’s call it for what it is. Republicans are killing their constituents,” said Hope, who is running for the 47th District seat. “They are killing their constituents by not expanding healthcare insurance to them. We know that’s a fact that people die when they don’t have health insurance. They’re killing them by pushing coal.”
Hope will face Independent Green candidate Janet Murphy in the Nov. 3 general election.
Republicans have refused to allow any conversation about Medicaid expansion in the General Assembly, Sullivan said.
“They’re not going to start talking about it, as my friend Patrick Hope has said before, until they start losing elections over this issue,” he said. “And we need to have some of them lose elections over this medicaid issue.”
Sullivan, who is running unopposed for the 48th District seat, warned that Republicans were also very close to passing “dangerous” legislation last year. He cited a proposed bill that would legalize switchblades, ninja stars and spring-loaded weapons that he said “flew” through House committees. He said the bill would have passed the House of Delegates, but Republican majority reversed their opinions, a move he attributed to it being a reelection year.
In order to get more Democrats elected, the three candidates plan to talk to Virginia residents in areas that elect Republicans. Levine, who is thus far running unopposed for the 45th District, announced that he would be making a trip around Virginia to talk to residents and boost Democratic candidates.
“We’ve got to elect more Democrats, not just in Arlington, but in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” he said.
Levine recently argued for more gun control at conservative conference in Denver, Colorado and said that he was able to convince some National Rifle Administration members to think about stricter gun regulations, such as better background checks. If elected, Levine said he also wants to start talking about mental health, education and jail time for drug users.
“We put too many people in jail. I don’t think non-violent drug users should go to jail,” he said.
The discussion, entitled “Rebooting Our Policy Agenda To Reclaim The American Dream,” will take place from 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, July 9, at the National Rural Electrical Cooperative Association, at 4301 Wilson Blvd.
Sanders will be joined by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), a fellow member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“This event is a free-of-charge policy discussion by leading progressive voices, not an endorsement of any candidate for public office,” an event page notes.
The event is at capacity and registration has closed.
Photo via Facebook
Both Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, who received the Arlington County Democratic Committee nominations last night after a tight primary race, ran a campaign with it as one of their platforms.
ACDC Chair Kip Malinosky sees their nominations as a sign that housing affordability is becoming the trending topic in the county.
“It [Cristol and Dorsey’s nomination] really means voters were looking for a new generation of leadership,” Malinosky said, adding that school overcrowding and responsive government figure to be two other key pillars of the general election campaign.
Both candidates, who hail from South Arlington, also told ARLnow.com they would make housing affordability one of their top campaign priorities.
“It’s become a middle class issue, preserving the middle class,” Cristol said.
Arlington is one of the richest counties in the county, making housing out of reach for some who want to settle in the county. While housing affordability is often associated with subsidized housing and low-economic families, Cristol argues in her platform that it also applies to young families and millennials looking to place roots.
The vote reflected Arlington resident’s wish for more affordable housing, Dorsey said.
“I’m excited because I think Arlingtonians really, by their votes, I think more people are going to focus on making affordable housing a real priority,” Dorsey said. “Not just for one segment of people but really for all people because they recognize that it’s something that can benefit the whole community.”
But affordability is only one of the issues that Dorsey and Cristol plan to tackle while campaigning, they said.
“We absolutely have to get our commercial sector energized again,” Dorsey said.
In the general election, Dorsey will also be looking to promote filling empty office space, discuss school overcrowding and tackle transportation problems on Columbia Pike. Like Dorsey, Cristol will be campaigning with hopes of fixing transportation problems on Columbia Pike, which is her home. She will also look at livability in Arlington, such as issues with childcare, along wiht issues facing young people, which she said was part of her campaign strategy.
“You know a majority of Arlington County is under the age of 35 and we knew that we weren’t going to win by claiming to be the candidate of the under 35 majority,” she said. “We had to make the case that this growing population of Arlingtonians have a stake here and have something in common with our more established neighbors. And I think that’s what we saw people respond to.”
Local Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett said the primary result — and the recent election of independent County Board member John Vihstadt, driven by crossover Democratic votes — reflects a desire for a change among the Democratic electorate.
“The Arlington voters have clearly differentiated what they’ve been looking for in County Board candidates over the past two years,” Tribbett said. “They’ve been sending a message and I think the message is loud and clear that they want to have a different Board than what they had. I don’t think they wanted radical change… they just wanted to see something different than what was going on, some people who were a little more responsive.”
“Someone like Katie is a great example of that,” Tribbett continued. “She was energetic during the campaign, she went around everywhere. I don’t know how you can send a better message of ‘I’m going to be responsive as your elected official’ than what she did. It’s not by saying it, it’s the action that shows it.”
Tribbett says that precinct-level results from Tuesday night’s primary show that runners up Peter Fallon and Andrew Schneider largely split the vote in North Arlington — “they tended to vote for one and not the other” — whereas Cristol and Dorsey both made a strong showing in much of South Arlington while also picking up votes in North Arlington.
(Updated at 11:20 p.m.) Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey have captured the Democratic nomination for Arlington County Board.
Cristol and Dorsey finished first and second, respectively, over fellow Democratic hopefuls Peter Fallon, Andrew Schneider, James Lander and Bruce Wiljanen.
Thanks to a spirited campaign and strong debate performances, Cristol, age 30, managed to propel herself from relative obscurity to a first place finish and a coveted spot on the Democratic ticket during a competitive primary. Her campaign highlighted issues like affordable housing, citizen engagement and diversity, government innovation, transit and economic development.
Dorsey, who lost to former in the 2002 County Board primary, was seen by many Democrats as a more moderate choice among a liberal field of candidates who often touted their progressive bonafides. During the campaign he spoke in favor of responsive government, affordable housing, adding school capacity and helping small businesses.
Both Cristol and Dorsey are South Arlington residents, while runners up Fallon and Schneider are North Arlington residents with a considerable base of supporters in their neighborhoods. Currently, the only South Arlington resident on the County Board is Libby Garvey.
“This started with the people in this room and ended with the people of Arlington,” Cristol told supporters at her election watch party at William Jeffrey’s Tavern on Columbia Pike. “I cannot wait to work with the people in this room to move my home of Columbia Pike forward. I cannot wait to work with all of you to run one heck of a general election campaign.”
Dorsey, whose campaign gathered at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington earlier in the night, joined Cristol at the bar after the final results came in.
“I feel great,” he said. “It’s always nice when something that you believe in so strongly and you find out that the people in your community are committed to you as well. It’s a tremendous feeling.”
Dorsey said he wants to “knock on five times as many doors” for the general election. If elected in November, he promised to work to provide more affordable housing and to bring down Arlington’s high office vacancy rate.
“We absolutely have to get our commercial sector energized again,” he said.
With all precincts reporting, final unofficial results are:
- Katie Cristol: 4,498
- Christian Dorsey: 4,420
- Peter Fallon: 4,008
- Andrew Schneider: 3,556
- James Lander: 2,806
- Bruce Wiljanen: 687
Election officials say there were no problems at Arlington’s 52 polling stations during voting hours. Light turnout was reported — but the total turnout of 10,857 voters, or 7.9 percent of the registered voters, bested the 7.2 percent turnout of a similar County Board primary in 1995.
This was the first election in which Arlington utilized its new paper ballot and optical scanning system. Some delays in vote reporting occurred as election officials worked through new processes.
Cristol and Dorsey will face two independent candidates in the November general election, for the seats being vacated by the retiring Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada.
It’s an election that could set the direction of Arlington County policy for years to come — and so far turnout is light.
Voters are heading to the polls today to select two Democratic nominees in the race for County Board. There are six Democratic candidates seeking their party’s nomination: Andrew Schneider, Bruce Wiljanen, Katie Cristol, James Lander, Peter Fallon, and Christian Dorsey.
While it’s a rare opportunity to fill the open seats of two retiring County Board members — Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada — the turnout has been about as low as is usually expected for a local primary.
“Overall it’s been pretty slow so far,” county General Registrar Linda Lindberg told ARLnow.com. She said turnout has been especially sluggish along the county’s Metro corridors and along Columbia Pike.
Two areas of slightly higher turnout, according to Lindberg, have been:
- The South Arlington precincts within the 45th House of Delegates district, which are voting for a Democratic nominee to replace Del. Rob Krupicka.
- The Marshall and Yorktown precincts in North Arlington, home to Fallon and Schneider, respectively.
Lindberg said there have been no reported problems with the county’s new paper ballot system, instituted after security issues were raised about electronic voting machines in Virginia.
“The voting has gone just fine, I’ve had no issues or complaints about the paper ballots,” she said. Asked about the potential for an evening rush of voters, Lindberg said delays at the polls are unlikely.
“There might be a slight surge around 5:00 or 6:00, but generally speaking I wouldn’t expect any lines.”
Polls close at 7:00 p.m.
The few people to be found outside the Arlington Forest and Randolph Elementary precincts this morning said they were aware of the potential importance of the race. Tonight’s two primary winners will face independent candidates Audrey Clement and Michael McMenamin in the November general election.
“Especially with these two open seats, people they elect now are going to be there for a while,” said Brandon Forester, who was supporting Dorsey outside of Randolph Elementary. “It will set tone for years to come.”
“I think this is the most important election in Arlington County for decades,” said Michael Thomas, an Arlington Forest resident.
Cori Rattleman, another Arlington Forest resident, said her top issues in this election were schools, parks and affordable housing. She said she was confident that the primary winners will go on to win in November.
Heather Mongilio contributed to this report
Last week we asked the six Democratic Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them during the June 9 primary. Two County Board seats are up for grabs this year.
Here is the unedited response from Andrew Schneider:
When you run for office and knock on doors, you start to hear the same questions over and over. Why are you running? What are your priorities? How are you different from the other candidates?
Why am I running?
I am running because Arlington is facing two concurrent challenges that must be addressed aggressively and creatively. The first is our rapidly growing school population. Where we put these kids and how we pay for them is fundamental to the future of our County. The second challenge is what’s happening with our economy – the high vacancy rates, the impact of BRAC, increasing regional competition, and the changing nature of office space and work. As an Arlingtonian and as a candidate I have thought how these issues are interconnected and how I can make a difference in each of these areas.
- Stronger collaboration with the School Board in budgeting, school location and construction, and forecasting.
- To pay for schools, we must aggressively work with our partners in the business community and Arlington Economic Development to lower the vacancy rate and to invigorate the commercial sector in key areas like Rosslyn and Crystal City.
- To attract businesses we must have great customer service and make it easier to interact with the County. This goes for residents as well as businesses whether it’s applying for a permit, submitting a site plan, or reporting a pothole.
- We can’t do any of these things if we spend our time playing “sandbox” politics. From day one, I have focused my campaign on One Arlington, One Community. We have to stop pitting different parts of our community against one another – Schools vs. Parks, North vs. South, Housing vs. Parks, and Business vs. Residents etc.
How am I different than other candidates?
The candidates that I am running against are all good people and we share many of the same values. I like to answer this question through three criteria 1) Values 2) Experience and 3) Leadership style.
- Regarding our values, the fact that we are all Democrats means that many of our core values are similar and, frankly, there isn’t a huge amount of policy separation between us. This fact has been born out in nearly every policy question asked of through the campaign.
- Regarding experience, each of us brings different skills and experiences to the table. Some of my colleagues argue that this is the defining differentiation. I believe that my experience as an Arlingtonian, Civic Association President, and member of the Lee Highway revitalization effort has partially prepared me for this office. I also believe that my MBA, work in the private sector, having run a Chamber of Commerce, and my work in the public sector has also prepared me. I am a sum of my experienced and I believe that my resume and my record of leadership and of civic engagement have prepared me to serve our County.
- Regarding my leadership experience, I offer myself as a leader who listens and works to build consensus. I will not present myself as someone who has all the answers but rather I will work tirelessly every day to learn and act on behalf of the community that we all love so much.
From day one of this campaign, I have run as a candidate who will listen, work hard, and do what I can to address the challenges that we face as a County. I promise to never talk down to voters, to always have an open mind, to always think creatively and innovatively, and to always reply to funny, snarky, and creative GIFs in the comment section of arlnow.com
To learn more about me, see a list of Arlingtonians who have endorsed me, and to watch my campaign videos, please visit www.andrewforarlington.com
I’d be honored to earn your vote on Tuesday.
Last week we asked the six Democratic Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them during the June 9 primary. Two County Board seats are up for grabs this year.
Here is the unedited response from Bruce Wiljanen:
Hello. My name is Bruce Wiljanen, and I am running for a seat on the Arlington County Board in order to bring a mature, common sense voice focused on preserving the best aspects of Arlington as we grow, the things that make Arlington a great place to live and raise a family. I am a lifelong Democrat, and have served in the Clinton Administration and with the Democratic National Committee. My wife and I have lived in the Maywood neighborhood of Arlington for over 22 years, and have raised our daughter through our excellent school system. I am running for the County Board to ensure that the Arlington we know and love will be here for our children as well.
A neighbor recently asked me a very interesting question. “Who do you think are the least well represented people in Arlington?” I had to think about that. And I’m coming to the conclusion that by far the most underrepresented group of people in Arlington is the ordinary working family. I’m referring to the great number of Arlington men and women who go to work each day, whose children are in our schools, who live busy lives during the week and spend weekends with their friends and family, maybe involved in sports leagues or church activities, but are unable to participate in the inner workings of local government. I am talking about the large majority of Arlington voters who pay their taxes without complaint and quietly wait, and hope, for a practical, unpoliticized County Board to focus on taking care of the basic needs of our community in a frugal, equitable and common sense manner. These Arlington citizens continue to wait for the County Board to stop trying to please every constituency, and to work toward developing a strategic plan to guide our growth over the coming years. I am one of these Arlingtonians.
As a candidate for the Arlington County Board, I have had the singular experience of hearing recently from almost every group of citizens who would like to influence the decisions of our county government. I’ve talked with organizations that want more affordable housing, and those which construct office buildings. I’ve been contacted by artist’s and bicyclist’s interest groups, and by folks whose concerns are for parks and community gardens. I’ve spoken with union workers’ and teacher’s government affairs committees. We have many groups working tirelessly to get their agenda heard, funded, and passed into law by the County Board. Some of us are well represented, indeed!
But the biggest group of citizens we rarely hear from, by far, is the great majority of Arlington residents who never lobby for any special treatment from the county government, who only wish that our elected Board members would work more diligently to conserve our quality of life as our population grows by protecting our excellent parks and our superb schools, and continue to provide services for those of our neighbors who may need a helping hand. We just don’t hear from the many unrepresented Arlington residents who would like to be confident the Board would focus on building an infrastructure which serves the community and fosters new business growth, and wouldn’t overextend the budget to build legacy projects of questionable utility. Our County Board should not strive for grandiosity nor austerity, but work to put in place practical solutions to our everyday problems.
When we vote for a representative on the County Board, we are choosing a person who will be entrusted to make future decisions on our behalf, and for the benefit of all Arlingtonians. We are selecting a person able to weigh new and unanticipated situations in an equitable, unbiased, and common sense manner. We should elect a person who reflects our views regarding the overall direction the county should take, and not rely on those closely involved in the mechanics of commissions and boards to envision the future. As a principled Democrat who is not entangled in the current county government, I can be the truly independent Democratic voice needed on the Arlington County Board today. I am not endorsed by any of the current members of our local power structure, but I am willing to be endorsed by you, the average Arlington voter. I’m asking for your vote on the Bottom Line of the ballot, Bruce Wiljanen for County Board, to provide the people of Arlington with a mature, common sense advocate on the Arlington County Board for the years to come.
Last week we asked the six Democratic Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them during the June 9 primary. Two County Board seats are up for grabs this year.
Here is the unedited response from Katie Cristol:
Thank you to ARLnow readers for engaging with us as candidates in the June 9th Democratic primary.
I’m running for the County Board because I believe that all of Arlington benefits when all of Arlington is represented. I believe we need new perspectives on the challenges Arlington currently faces, such as the high cost of housing that makes our young families and retirees alike worry they won’t be able to stay in our community. I believe we need new ways of looking at the trends shaping Arlington, including our growing school-age population and the shrinking federal government footprint in our commercial sector.
For the past few months, I’ve campaigned largely on my ideas for addressing the housing affordability crisis in Arlington; for moving my neighborhood of Columbia Pike forward with new transportation strategies; for restoring citizen trust and creating a more representative government. It’s been an honor to learn from and shape those plans with neighbors throughout Arlington, and to receive support from a growing coalition, including The Washington Post, five leading local unions, and dozens of Arlington leaders, small business owners and community advocates.
Now, as Arlingtonians consider their decisions on June 9th, I’m making the case that I offer the right combination of experience, openness and innovation to put those ideas into practice, to serve all of Arlington and to move us forward:
Record of Service and the Skills to Do the Job. I bring a background in public policy — including my years of experience working with state and local governments on strategic planning and community engagement, and training in municipal finance and program evaluation — that will enable me to bring comparative perspectives and sound judgment to the County Board.
I also have a record of service in our community. On the Commission on the Status of Women, I have investigated and elevated issues like childcare affordability and sexual violence in Arlington. I’ve served our schools as an appointed member of the APS Advisory Council on Instruction. I know how things get done – and don’t get done – in Arlington, and I’m ready to lead effectively from my first day as a County Board member.
Openness and Innovation. Thanks to my experience, I know that Arlington is a place with tough challenges and smart people. If there were easy solutions, we’d have adopted them already. But openness and innovation – in our leaders and on the Board – is what helps us keep in check the pessimism and insularity that can accompany experience alone.
In all corners of the County, Arlingtonians are hungry for more responsiveness and greater inclusion; this requires leaders who are open to trying different things, and who have the intellectual curiosity to look for other models. And this is why I believe we all benefit when our five-member Board includes new perspectives, like the one I’m offering on June 9th.
Thank you for your consideration, and I hope we’ll continue the conversation.
Here is the unedited response from James Lander:
I’ve been honored to serve as your Arlington School Board member for the past five years, most recently as chairman.
I’m running for the Arlington County Board because our community is in the midst of change, and I believe experience and forward-thinking leadership will be essential in making a difference. Our community faces a number of challenges; the decline in nonresidential tax revenue, as well as continuing growth of our population, increased demand for services, additional transportation options, and increased need for essential infrastructures.
Arlington is gaining an average of 1,000 additional students a year. Not only must our schools have the resources to educate additional students, we must not neglect the other values that have made Arlington a top-rated, livable community. We must continue to support and encourage safe and attractive neighborhoods, well-maintained streets and parks, libraries, and access to recreation, entertainment, and the arts.
As a leader and member of the School Board these past five years, I am strongly familiar with the importance of a collaborative working relationship between our two elected boards. As your County Board member, I will lead an effort to specifically address the challenges of Arlington’s growing populations. This effort aims to thoroughly examine the many competing priorities in order to find ways to accomplish more with limited resources. As a member of the School Board, I’ve worked to be fiscally responsible while maintaining Arlington’s outstanding school system. Within the last year, I have overseen the reduction of costs within the APS annual budget while continuing to focus on student achievement and providing pay increases to our talented teachers. I also have ideas to explore ways to address our challenges.
One of my specific proposals for addressing the growing need for faster, safer, more efficient, and more affordable alternatives options for transportation includes two Arlington circular lines, one in South Arlington and one in North Arlington. In South Arlington, I would pursue the idea of a continuous bus route connecting Columbia Pike, Crystal City, Shirlington, and Bailey’s Crossroads. This would enable us to connect areas primed for increased development and pave the way for bringing Northern Virginia Community College into Crystal City, where we currently have eight vacant buildings. Our educated workforce needs to locate where we want our businesses. I’m also seeking to implement a workforce development pipeline in partnership with the hospitality industry; there are 10,000 hotel rooms in Crystal City that could potentially provide paid internships for our adult students and our immigrant population.
In North Arlington, I would promote establishing a circular line that connects Lee Highway, Virginia Square, Ballston, and Rosslyn. This would contribute to encouraging attractive development along Lee Highway. I propose exploring public/private partnerships with developers and academic institutions on innovative projects such as micro-unit housing for graduate students and county employees. This approach would not only keep Arlington dollars in Arlington, but also keep Arlington students and new county employees in Arlington.
Our community, diverse and inclusive, boasting a well-educated workforce, attractive neighborhoods and commercial sectors, parks and open spaces, and committed to protecting the environment and the well being of its residents, did not achieve its great quality of life quickly or by accident. Strong democratic leadership, sound fiscal policies, and investment in its residents and infrastructure are what have made Arlington such an outstanding community.
I will dedicate myself to ensuring the views and voices of our community are heard and considered as decisions move forward. I want to look for ways to improve the county’s financial burdens, including finding ways to reduce the vacancy rate in the county’s commercial sector. Lastly, I pledge to continue to be a dedicated steward of ensuring Arlington County is among the top communities in the country to live, work, and raise a family.
I ask for your vote for the Arlington County Board in the June 9th Democratic Primary. If you would like to visit my website to learn more about me, please go to www.jameslander.org. Thank you.
Here is the unedited response from Peter Fallon:
I have a reputation for speaking plainly. That’s why, even though the challenges facing Arlington are complex, I can sum up my solutions in just three words: transparency, accountability and communication.
I’m proud to be a Democrat. The long-term vision of Democratic leadership on the County Board has made Arlington a magnet for new residents and economic growth, and one of the finest communities in America. I should know – Arlington welcomed me when I moved here nearly 30 years ago, and I knew this would be where I raised my family.
I’ve proudly served our community for over 25 years as a Planning Commissioner, Transportation Commissioner, Civic Association President and Progressive activist. I’ve led initiatives that built six schools, three major parks and over 1,000 units of committed affordable housing in our community. I’ve had a front row seat as we’ve blossomed as a community.
It wasn’t always easy. Some of these projects weren’t popular at the time, but I fought for them because I believe a strong Arlington requires making tough, long-term decisions. Here’s how we’ll do it again.
Good government requires transparency, both in sharing information and decision making. I support requiring a minimum of 72 hours for the release of Board documents. When voters feel the Board is acting without proper notice, it erodes the community relationship we depend on for effective governance. We can’t live up to our Arlington values when people feel they are irrelevant.
I support the decision to create an independent audit function to provide better value for tax dollars and to keep our county programs efficient and effective. We also need firm deadlines on decision making. This will end the continual delays around tough decisions on school construction, community services and vital transportation improvements. We can no longer afford delays.
Voters often tell me they feel unheard by the County Board. Recent controversies surrounding school capacity, Reevesland and the future of the Wilson School show we must rebuild public trust in County Board operations. It’s time to get back into the community in a visible way, and that means practicing humility and owning our shortcomings in past community engagement.
Voters are eager to implement these ideas, and more.
Voters want a leader who will pay close attention to our finances, and ensuring we spend tax dollars wisely on real community priorities, and speak up when something is wrong.
Voters want to keep our schools strong and retain quality teachers. They want our children out of crowded trailers and in modern classrooms that prepare them for excellence.
Voters want a transportation plan that works for Columbia Pike and Crystal City. Just because we canceled a streetcar doesn’t mean we can dodge finding another solution. The County Board offered enhanced bus service as an alternative – now it’s time to bring residents into the conversation and act.
These best practices resonate with our leadership, too.
I’m proud to have the support of our strongest community voices, including Sen. Barbara Favola, Del. Patrick Hope, Del. Rip Sullivan, former Treasurer Frank O’Leary, The Sun Gazette, The Virginia Sierra Club and The Washington Post. But the endorsement I most seek is yours.
I hope you’ll join me in building a transparent, accountable and communicative Arlington by casting one of your two votes for me on June 9th. And I hope you’ll share your priorities with me at www.FallonforCountyBoard.org.
I can promise you this: even when we do not agree, I will always be transparent with you, and respectful of the diverse opinions that make our community strong. The County Board – our County Board – should pledge nothing less.
Here is the unedited response from Christian Dorsey:
On June 9th, voters in the Democratic primary will select their nominees for two open County Board seats. Six candidates. Two slots. I ask that you select me, Christian Dorsey, for one of them.
Serving on the County Board requires having the ability to govern paired with the temperament to provide leadership on a range of issues from unsafe sidewalks to long-term capital investments. And now, perhaps more than ever, Board members must bring practical experience, strategic thinking, a commitment to inclusive decision-making and thoughtful independence if we are to realize what I believe is our shared vision–a strong and sustainable community.
To realize that vision, we need to: make it easier for small businesses to thrive in Arlington so that homeowners do not bear a disproportionate tax burden; prudently expand affordable housing so that modest wage workers, teachers, county employees and retirees are not priced out of our community; build adequate school capacity so that schools can focus on instruction; prioritize the nuts and bolts, like fixing potholes and sidewalks and enhancing pedestrian safety; and create opportunities for growth by improving public transportation.
As a south Arlington resident, daily bus rider and parent of two school-aged children, I regularly experience the issues that we must confront as a County. My professional and civic experiences provide a solid foundation for me to find solutions to our challenges. I have served on the Planning Commission, chaired the Tenant-Landlord Commission and was a member of the Affordable Dwelling Unit ordinance task force. I currently serve on an advisory committee to the School Board that is concerned with facilities and capital programs.
But, my experience has not been limited to providing advice. I have been the CEO of several non-profits that: delivered outstanding literacy support for low-income children; pioneered a pop-up social services center in south Arlington; and developed a model diversity education and inclusion program for students. Additionally, I assembled a development team that built an Earthcraft certified apartment building in the Nauck neighborhood.
As Arlington now faces the fundamental question of how to accelerate economic growth and strengthen the commercial sector to alleviate the squeeze on residential taxpayers, I have a unique and unrivaled expertise to make sure we get it right.
As a senior leader at Washington’s Economic Policy Institute, I lead the development of the alternative federal budget for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I know what it takes to align a budget with strategic objectives and how to ensure that it delivers maximum value to taxpayers. Furthermore, I understand that the growth we need will be facilitated by freeing businesses from unnecessary red tape and inefficient processes. And retail, in particular, will benefit when we succeed in making housing more affordable so that even when income growth is stagnant, residents will have more money to spend.
Arlington’s future can be bright, but it will require hard work and making smart choices. I am prepared and eager to do my part, and I ask for your vote. To see why Delegate Patrick Hope, Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy, School Board Member Abby Raphael, former Delegate Karen Darner, former School Board Member Frank Wilson, the Arlington Education Association PAC, Working Families, New Virginia Majority and many of your friends and neighbors endorse my campaign, visit www.christiandorsey.org.