Democrat Matt de Ferranti managed to raise more cash over the last two months than independent incumbent John Vihstadt, who he’s challenging for the lone County Board seat on the ballot this fall.
But Vihstadt still has a substantially larger campaign war chest to draw upon, as the race rounds into the home stretch ahead of Nov. 6.
From July 1 through Aug. 31, de Ferranti raised just over $39,900, according to campaign finance documents released today (Wednesday). Vihstadt pulled in about $26,900 over the same time period.
The independent’s largest donation was a $5,000 check from a political action committee representing Arlington’s firefighters’ union, which endorsed Vihstadt in late July. De Ferranti’s biggest contribution was a donation of the same amount from Mark Johnson, a co-founder of the D.C. investment firm Astra Capital Management.
Yet the incumbent, the lone non-Democrat to sit on the Board since 1999, has spent considerably less than de Ferranti, leaving him with a roughly $70,000 advantage in cash on hand. As of Aug. 31, Vihstadt reported having nearly $123,800 in the bank, to the Democrat’s roughly $53,400, and shelled out just under $3,000 compared to de Ferranti’s $19,500 in expenses.
De Ferranti faces a formidable opponent in Vihstadt, who managed to win a pair of sweeping victories over Alan Howze in 2014, but he’s benefitted from the fundraising support of prominent state Democrats like former Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Attorney General Mark Herring. He’s also set to welcome Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax for a fundraiser later this month.
Even still, Vihstadt looks on pace to out-raise de Ferranti, just as he did Howze — de Ferranti has raised roughly $106,100 since launching his campaign in January, compared to Vihstadt’s nearly $139,000 over the same time period.
However, de Ferranti does stand to benefit from the support of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, which is looking to return the Board to unified Democratic control. The party has only reported contributions through June 30, when it recorded having just over $101,800 in the bank.
Candidates will next deliver more details on their finances on Oct. 15.
Flickr pool photo via wolfkann
Arlington Democrats are promising a “blue wave” in a new round of yard signs distributed over the last few weeks.
The signs promote the full slate of Democratic candidates on the ticket in the county this fall — U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District), County Board nominee Matt de Ferranti and School Board member Barbara Kanninen — alongside images of a blue tidal wave Democrats are hoping sweep them back into power nationally.
County Democratic Committee Chair Jill Caiazzo told ARLnow that the party’s joint campaign committee designed the new signs, and Democrats have been distributing them for roughly a month now. She expects that they’ve given out a “few hundred” so far, and fully plans to distribute more as Nov. 6 nears.
While signs boosting the whole ticket might be a fixture of yards and medians every election season, Caiazzo hopes this specific design taps into the “broader movement” organizing around frustration with President Trump nationwide.
“We hope they convey a need for sweeping change in our politics, and that’s coming in November,” Caiazzo said.
Despite pushback and talk of a “red wave” by President Trump, a succession of polls has supported the notion that Democrats have a distinct enthusiasm advantage headed into the midterms, which figures to help out local candidates down the ballot as well. If a blue wave is on the way for Democrats looking to take back Congress, even local candidates like de Ferranti and Kanninen stand to benefit.
Kaine’s contest with Corey Stewart, the Republican chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, isn’t projected to be a close race, yet it may drive Democrats to the polls all the same. Stewart’s embrace of Confederate monuments and past associations with white supremacist figures has made him especially controversial, even if polls regularly show him facing a double-digit deficit. Caiazzo expects Kaine to be “highly present” in Arlington leading up to the election, as driving up margins in the county is “important to their statewide strategy.”
Kanninen looks to be well positioned against independent Audrey Clement, a perennial candidate for county offices, but the “wave” Caiazzo hopes for might be especially meaningful for de Ferranti. He’s facing off against independent John Vihstadt, a well-funded incumbent who managed to win a pair of elections to the Board back in 2014 by wide margins and has earned endorsements from a variety of Democratic officeholders.
“We’ll take help from all corners and we’re certainly hopeful that the situation from national candidates will help us overall in Arlington,” Caiazzo said. “But we know it’s also important to campaign on local issues and we embrace that challenge.”
When it comes to how to best grapple with Arlington’s gloomy economic future, the two contenders for County Board are pitching two decidedly different strategies: one with a look inward, another with a look outward.
Independent incumbent John Vihstadt spent a Wednesday night candidate forum hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce outlining ways he hopes to change county policies to wring more money from developers and manage growth, and strategies for reforming the county’s permitting processes for new businesses.
Democratic nominee Matt de Ferranti, however, dedicated most of his time to discussing his commitment to luring in businesses to reduce the county’s persistently high office vacancy rates, while pursuing tax increases in the meantime.
The business-focused debate, moderated by ARLnow, was perhaps best defined by an exchange where Vihstadt emphasized “the cold truth that we can not afford to do everything we might like to do, especially all at once.” The independent has been a sharp critic of some county infrastructure projects since winning a pair of elections to the Board back in 2014, particularly the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center.
De Ferranti says he fully recognizes that Vihstadt’s assessment of the economic challenges ahead are certainly accurate, but he had a “cold truth” of his own to offer.
“The cold truth is that if we don’t grow, and don’t invest in the vision of a greater version of the American dream applied to Arlington, we won’t be able to address our challenges,” de Ferranti said. “We do face challenges, but the sky is not falling. We have resources, and we can invest in them.”
The Democrat reiterated his belief that “we can’t cut our way to prosperity,” pledging to work with the relentlessness of ex-Gov. Terry McAuliffe to attract businesses to Arlington and slash the county’s office vacancy rate to 15 percent over the next four years — it’s hovered around 20 percent for the last several years.
But de Ferranti noted that tax increases would have likely have to be part of the equation as well. He worked to make it clear that he’s “not a tax-and-spend liberal,” but also slammed Vihstadt for his decision to vote against soliciting community input on a tax rate hike this year.
“I am not saying that I necessarily would’ve voted for a half-cent tax increase,” de Ferranti said. “But we did not have that debate that we need to have. And I’m concerned that our community might be at risk over the coming years of having some shock at the struggles we’re going to face because we’re opening four schools this coming year… It’s about how soon to be honest with the community about difficult decisions that we face.”
Yet Vihstadt pointed out that the county just raised taxes last year, including a property tax rate hike that was “the largest in years,” and he felt that the county was better served by taking a “pause” this year. After all, he noted that County Manager Mark Schwartz fully expects to propose tax hikes next year, and perhaps the year after as well.
“We trimmed in some places, we hiked fees in others; it wasn’t easy,” Vihstadt said. “But we honored our commitments to schools, Metro and public safety personnel.”
Vihstadt took no firm stance on the possibility of tax increases going forward, but did stress that rate hikes could provide further challenges to seniors looking to remain in the county, a demographic he felt is often overlooked in the debate over affordable housing.
But he also pointed out that he believes there’s a better way to secure more cash for government services: extracting more concessions from developers.
The county can currently secure transportation improvements or affordable housing commitments from developers — but those changes only come on the site of the properties being developed. Vihstadt would rather see the county require developers kick in money for countywide services, even if the county’s own legal team believes such a move would ultimately be counterproductive.
“A new development, depending on what it is, means material impact on our already bursting schools, our limited green space, public safety resources and more,” Vihstadt said. “Our lawyers and planners have issues with modifying the way we do things. Change is tough… but I believe we need to start this community conversation soon.”
De Ferranti agreed that such a conversation might indeed be a worthy one to have. But he believes “those [changes] alone will not be sufficient to get us growing.”
“We have to have some tough discussions about where we’re going to invest to move our economy forward,” de Ferranti said.
The Board contenders will square off in several additional forums between now and the Nov. 6 election, including ones hosted by the Yorktown Civic Association on Oct. 1, the Committee of 100 on Oct. 10 and the League of Women Voters on Oct. 25.
Photo via @ArlChamberVa
Sebastian Gorka, a former aide to President Trump fired amidst mounting criticism of his anti-Muslim views, is coming to Arlington to raise money for local Republicans.
The Arlington Republican Women’s Club announced this weekend that Gorka will be a featured guest at its Sept. 23 fundraiser, to be held at the Army-Navy Country Club. Tickets run anywhere from $25 to $250 for the evening.
Long a fixture on Fox News and other right-wing news outlets, Gorka joined the Trump administration shortly after doing consulting work for the campaign on foreign policy matters. Yet he frequently courted controversy during his time in the White House, particularly after reporters discovered his ties to far-right, anti-Semitic groups in Hungary, and he was dismissed from his post last August.
Carole DeLong, the president of the Republican Women’s Club, told ARLnow that she expects Gorka “will speak to us about his time in the White House, and the interesting subjects of his books.” Gorka’s published works include “Why We Fight: Defeating America’s Enemies — With No Apologies” and “Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War.”
DeLong added that she recently met Gorka at an event they both attended, and quickly convinced him to come speak in Arlington.
“He is a very nice and unique person,” DeLong said. “We are all so happy that he agreed.”
Arlington Democrats are considerably less enthused about Gorka’s imminent arrival in the county.
County Democratic Committee Chair Jill Caiazzo dubbed Gorka a “far-right ideologue” in a statement, highlighting his vocal defense of Trump’s travel ban targeting majority Muslim countries, in particular. She noted that her committee happens to holding its own potluck on the same day, headlined by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District), which she sees as a clear contrast between the two parties.
“Like the races on the ballot in November, it’s not a hard choice for Arlington voters who seek to reject the extreme Trump-GOP agenda, including the discriminatory travel bans championed by Dr. Gorka,” Caiazzo said. “We look forward to seeing those voters at the potluck and the polls.”
Despite Caiazzo’s criticisms, DeLong said she had no compunctions about working with Gorka, calling him “delightful to work with.”
Gorka has made headlines in Arlington once before, prompting a brief Twitter outcry when someone spotted his distinctive Ford Mustang with the vanity plate “ART WAR” parked on a sidewalk near Rosslyn’s Gateway Park.
— Bilsko (@Bilsko) October 31, 2017
Photo via @SebGorka
Arlington Democrats say they’re pushing for an open debate down in Richmond on a redrawing of some of the state’s electoral lines, but hope seems to be fading among state lawmakers that a special session convened on the issue will yield many results.
Gov. Ralph Northam reconvened the General Assembly today (Thursday) for its second gathering outside of normal business this year, with the avowed purpose of approving a new map governing district lines for 11 districts in the House of Delegates.
A three-judge panel on a federal court ruled last month that those districts, concentrated in the Richmond and Norfolk areas, were improperly drawn to pack African American voters into safely Democratic districts. The court gave lawmakers an Oct. 30 deadline to correct the problems it identified, or else it will appoint an independent arbiter to do so.
House Democrats introduced their own attempt at crafting a new map yesterday (Wednesday), but Republicans have so far declined to do the same. They’re appealing the federal court’s ruling on the districts all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the GOP’s slim, 51-49 majority in the House potentially hanging in the balance ahead of next November’s elections.
“We just feel Republicans are delaying, delaying on this,” Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) told ARLnow. “The fact is, we’ve gone through four cycles with racially unconstitutional maps, and that’s eight years too long. It’s high time that we changed these maps.”
Republicans have charged, however, that Democrats haven’t engaged in the process in good faith. They argue that the map lawmakers presented is simply gerrymandering the map in the direction of Democrats, claiming that it would imperil five Republican-held districts while further shoring up margins of four Democratic districts.
“It’s clear that this is hypocritical partisan power grab that would fail to pass legal muster,” House Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-15th District) wrote in a statement. “For almost a decade Democrats have pushed for so-called independent redistricting commissions. Yet when they had the chance to do so, they drew a partisan plan in secret without any input from the public or Republicans.”
Yet local Democrats like Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th District) point out that Republicans controlled the General Assembly by wide margins when these lines were first drawn back in 2011, creating these “constitutional infirmities” in the first place.
Lopez, who doubles as House minority whip, believes there are a whole host of reasons why the Democratic proposal is worth considering — arguing it creates districts that are “compact, contiguous and protects community interests” — but he also notes that Republicans have so far declined to offer their own alternative.
“They’ve shown indication they’ll propose their own map,” Lopez said. “Even the court is calling them out for stalling, so we are in an interesting place right now. Hopefully, it’ll all work out.”
House Republicans agreed to debate the Democratic map in committee this afternoon, and Lopez and Sullivan would both like to see them bring it to the floor for debate in the coming days.
Yet Lopez’s hope is flagging on that count. The Supreme Court has already sent back a previous appeal of a ruling on the district lines to a lower court, but that was before then-Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. With President Donald Trump’s nomination for a replacement, Brett Kavanaugh, expected to receive Congressional consideration next month, the GOP could hold out for a hearing from a court with a newly replenished conservative majority — and Lopez added that Democrats proposed setting a firm date to return and debate the maps, but Republicans defeated that measure.
“It’s up to the call of [Speaker Kirk Cox] for when we come back for next steps,” Lopez said. “We just don’t know right now.”
Sullivan, however, is a bit more hopeful. While he’d greatly prefer to see an independent commission of some kind draw district lines instead, he claims that Democrats are committed to “address the court’s concerns until the process changes.”
“I’m sort of a cockeyed optimist,” Sullivan said. “I would hope that the Republicans would engage on this issue, would debate the map we put in or put in one of their own. The court has asked them to do that, I think the citizens of Virginia want them to do that, and hopefully that’s what they’ll do.”
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) is no fan of Trump administration, but the president’s decision today (Thursday) to stop pay raises for civilian federal employees is hitting a particular nerve for Arlington’s local congressman.
In a statement, below, Beyer called the move “dishonest” and “an attack on another class of people he does not like.”
Beyer’s office also noted that the congressman “represents the largest number of federal employees of any Member of the House of Representatives.”
President Trump’s decision to deny pay raises is a slap in the face to the hardworking civil servants who help keep us safe, care for our veterans, and faithfully serve the American people.
No one will believe his dishonest justification of a ‘national emergency or serious economic conditions,’ which is contradicted by Trump’s own commentary painting a rosy picture of the economy. This newfound concern for the fiscal prudence is impossible to credit, given Trump’s willingness to create massive deficits and determination to waste money on pet projects like his border wall. This is merely an attack on another class of people he does not like.
It is a harsh indictment of President Trump’s values that he is freezing workers’ pay to offset his multi-billion-dollar tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.
In a forum focused on the county’s arts scene, hosted by Embracing Arlington Arts and Arlington Independent Media earlier this month, both independent incumbent John Vihstadt and Democratic nominee Matt de Ferranti emphasized that the arts have such a vital role to play in the county’s cultural and economic health that the county needs to subsidize local programs.
Furthermore, both candidates want to see the county restore the $30,000 the Board slashed from the new year’s budget in funding for “Challenge Grants,” which provide some matching funds for artists who attract private donations. Vihstadt and de Ferranti both advocated for even increasing the amount offered through the program in future budget cycles, even with the county facing an uncertain financial future due to Metro funding obligations and a persistently high office vacancy rate.
Though the forum was light on stark disagreements between the two, Vihstadt painted the private sector as having an especially large role to play in supporting the arts. Though he remains confident the county will be able to eventually increase grant funding, he cautioned that Arlington’s “economic headwinds” will inevitably limit what the county can do.
“The arts are going to have to step up to the plate a bit, maybe to a greater degree than the art community has, in terms of really leveraging those private sector resources,” Vihstadt said. “The government can be a catalyst, it can help with climate change of a sort, but the government can’t do it all.”
He pointed out that the Board already took one step in the direction of encouraging artists to embrace the private sector when it restored $70,000 in funding for AIM originally set to be cut from the fiscal 2019 budget, which came with the condition that the organization pursue matching funding from donors.
“That was controversial, but I felt it was the right thing to do to encourage and really make sure that AIM would further reach out into that community and bring in those private sector dollars,” Vihstadt said.
De Ferranti says he was certainly glad to see those AIM cuts reversed, calling them “short sighted,” but he was more willing to see a role for direct county spending, connecting the success of Arlington’s arts scene to its economic prosperity.
“If we view this as a zero-sum game, then Arlington will lose in the long term,” de Ferranti said. “We have to see it as how we can grow together and have the vision to find the right investments to move us forward so the budget isn’t so tight… We have to think about, how do we create an environment where millenials don’t want to go to the Wharf and the Anthem, but want to stay in Crystal City, or at least consider it.”
Beyond direct subsidies, de Ferranti also expects the county can do more to help artists afford to live in Arlington. For instance, he pointed to the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust in Richmond as a model for the sort of program the county could experiment with to make home ownership more affordable — the nonprofit acquires single-family homes to sell to qualified buyers at affordable prices, but maintains ownership of the land itself. That helps the nonprofit reap the benefit of any increase in market value when owners decide to sell, which it uses to keep prices affordable going forward.
De Ferranti foresees the county creating a similar system matching artists, or even groups of artists in co-op communities, with affordable homes.
“Artists desperately want to live here… but in Arlington, being middle class is not easy,” de Ferranti said. “We need to make sure we’re caring for folks who need the chance to get up that economic ladder.”
Yet Vihstadt and de Ferranti both expressed confidence that space in the Four Mile Run valley in Nauck will someday be home to more affordable studio space for artists of all stripes. Though the creation of an “arts district” in the area has at times stirred controversy throughout a lengthy planning process for the valley, both candidates say they feel such a solution is the right fit for its future.
“We will have an arts district in harmony with the other uses around that park area, and we’ll have that synergy,” Vihstadt said.
Photo via YouTube
Ahead of his own tough re-election bid, independent County Board member John Vihstadt says he plans to support Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) this fall, spurning Republican nominee Corey Stewart.
Vihstadt, the first non-Democrat to sit on the Board since 1999, has long defied easy political characterizations. He won office in 2014 with the backing of both the county’s GOP and Green Party, earned the endorsement of several elected Democrats and has donated to Republicans and Democrats alike over the years.
Now, he’s opting to endorse one Democrat even as another, Matt de Ferranti, challenges him for re-election this fall.
By contrast, Corey Stewart sows fear, resentment and division among Virginians everywhere he goes. While I don't always agree with Senator Tim Kaine, he has my vote on November 6. (3/3)
— John Vihstadt (@voteforvihstadt) July 18, 2018
Stewart, the chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors and the former head of President Donald Trump’s Virginia campaign, has frequently managed to stoke controversy throughout his lengthy political career. He earned national attention for pushing policies targeting undocumented immigrants around Prince William, embraced the Confederate flag during his unsuccessful run for governor last year and courted the support of white nationalists, though he has frequently disavowed any charges of racism leveled against him.
Since earning his party’s Senate nomination in June, Stewart has even attracted condemnations from some fellow Republicans. Accordingly, when he was informed of Vihstadt’s decision by ARLnow, Kaine was not overly surprised to hear the news.
“I have an opponent who, he’ll pick as many fights with Republicans as he’ll pick with Democrats,” Kaine said during a campaign stop in Ballston. “There may be a lot of Republicans who feel like he’s pushing them away, and I’m going to be proud to have anyone’s support.”
Stewart, however, says he’s never even heard of Vihstadt, and quickly dismissed his criticisms.
“A lot of the establishment crowd have more in common with Tim Kaine than they do with me,” Stewart said. “They don’t have anything in common with me, because they don’t want much to change in Washington. It’s all very chummy… I’d rather lose all those establishment types and pick up the working class voters. That’s a good trade, to me.”
Yet Jill Caiazzo, the chair of the county’s Democratic Committee, pointed out Vihstadt declined to back Kaine in 2016 when he was on the ticket as Hillary Clinton’s running mate — Vihstadt put out a statement after the election saying that “all four party nominees on the Virginia ballot for president fell short of what our nation deserved — and needed in 2016.” She sees Vihstadt’s decision as “further evidence that voters who previously considered third party candidates are voting Democratic in the Trump era.”
“These voters will send a strong message in 2018 that the extreme Trump-GOP agenda is bad for Virginia and bad for Arlington,” Caiazzo wrote in an email. “We expect that a majority of Arlington voters will vote for Democrats up and down the ballot this November, including Democrat Matt de Ferranti for County Board.”
Political scientists have indeed speculated in recent weeks that Stewart could hurt the party’s other nominees down the ballot, should Republican voters stay home. Several Republican members of Congress have already declined to campaign with Stewart, and while Vihstadt might not be wholly dependent on GOP voters, he too could fall victim to a wave election for Democrats made all the larger by Stewart’s shortcomings.
Stewart doesn’t think much of that idea — “It’s bull,” he says.
“I’m going to be a lot more competitive and a lot stronger this fall than people think,” Stewart said. “Tim Kaine is the sort of old, elite Democrat that people are tired of. There’s a change going on in Washington, and it’s being led by President Trump.”
For his part, de Ferranti doesn’t believe Vihstadt’s public support for Kaine will make a difference by the time November arrives. He sees backing Kaine over Stewart as a “low bar” for anyone to clear, given his dim view of Stewart’s politics.
“Everybody should vote for Tim Kaine, who is a phenomenal leader, and against someone who is clearly racist,” de Ferranti said.
Fresh off a commanding primary win, Democrat Matt de Ferranti has the next four months to make his case to Arlington voters about why they should oust incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt in his favor.
De Ferranti, a lawyer and local political activist, has the benefit of running as a Democrat in deep blue Arlington, particularly in a midterm cycle that’s shaping up to be quite favorable to Democrats at the top of the ticket. But Vihstadt, the Board’s lone independent, won his seat in another midterm year, back in 2014, and has incumbency to lean on as he campaigns for another term.
De Ferranti spoke with ARLnow about his vision for the county’s economy, how he sees the Amazon HQ2 debate, how he thinks he can beat Vihstadt, and much more.
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) County Board member John Vihstadt is assembling a sizable campaign war chest to support his re-election bid, with roughly three times as much cash on hand as Democratic challenger Matt de Ferranti.
Vihstadt, the Board’s lone independent, reported having just over $99,870 in the bank through June 30 on campaign finance documents released yesterday (Monday). He reported raising about $21,700 in the month of June alone, and has now pulled in a total of nearly $112,000 in contributions since last January.
Meanwhile, de Ferranti reported about $33,000 in the bank, now that he’s a few weeks removed from besting Chanda Choun in the Democratic primary. He raised a little over $12,100 last month, bringing his total for the campaign to about $66,200 in all.
But it would seem they have yet to put their wallets behind de Ferranti in a big way — de Ferranti was his own leading donor in the month of June, chipping in $2,000 to his campaign. De Ferranti and his mother, Margot, have also loaned the campaign $4,000 each. Notably, de Ferranti is planning a fundraiser with County Board Chair Katie Cristol and other Democrats later this month.
Vihstadt, however, has yet to contribute much to his own re-election effort.
His donations are largely split between large-dollar and small-dollar amounts, according to data collected by the nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project. His leading donor for the month of June was Jackie Kramer, who chipped in $1,000 to the campaign.
Vihstadt, who’s been endorsed by a handful of Democratic officials around the county, is just off the fundraising pace he set in 2014, as he ran in a special election followed immediately by a general election. From July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014, he pulled in about $135,000, compared to roughly $111,000 over the same time period covering 2017 to 2018.
He reported raising about $255,000 in all over the course of those campaigns. Howze managed nearly $222,000 in contributions over the same time period, and lost handily in both elections.
Candidates won’t deliver their next fundraising reports until Sept. 17.
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.
Photo via Facebook
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”