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Fmr. County Board Candidate Alan Howze Moving to Kansas

Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze

Two-time Arlington County Board candidate Alan Howze is moving to Kansas City.

Howze, who was twice defeated by John Vihstadt in back-to-back races in 2014, announced the news of his impending move on Facebook this afternoon.

I have accepted a position as the first Chief Knowledge Officer for the Unified Government of Kansas City and Wyandotte County, and we will be moving to Kansas City, Kansas this summer.

I am thrilled at the opportunity to return to public service, alongside a forward looking leadership team, and in areas (government efficiency, effectiveness and transparency) that I am passionate about. It is a new position that in…cludes direct management of Information Technology, GIS Mapping, 311 Operations, and Open Data, and a charge to support innovation, collaboration, and data-driven decision making across the UG.

There is much that we will miss about Arlington, starting with great friends and neighbors, and the neighborhood and community leaders that we have had the privilege to work with and learn from. Harper, Morgan and Katherine have had a fantastic experience in Arlington’s schools, and we are grateful for the strong foundation of learning that APS teachers have provided.

Howze said he, his wife and his kids plan to make the move later this summer.

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Pols Parse Reason for Vihstadt’s Big Win

John Vihstadt greeting a voter outside the Walter Reed Recreation Center 11/4/14 Alan Howze talks to a voter outside the Wilson School in Rosslyn 11/4/14

No one, not even the closest of followers, expected Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt to win re-election on Tuesday by as big a margin as he did.

Vihstadt, an independent, became the first non-Democrat elected to the County Board since 1983. But the eye-opener was how he did it: by winning 39 out of 52 Arlington precincts, even though every one of those precincts chose Sen. Mark Warner (D). Vihstadt took almost 56 percent of the vote and received almost 7,500 votes more than Democratic challenger Alan Howze, out of 62,663 votes cast.

In his regular post-election report to the Arlington County Democratic Committee on Wednesday night, former Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary struck a somber tone and said he was surprised by low turnout.

“I woke up this morning and I didn’t feel so good,” he said. “We had a turnout of about 48 percent. That stinks, particularly when you’re expecting a turnout as high as 61 percent. What the heck is going on? Very disappointing… I had talked about the County Board race that if turnout gets down to 60,000, if Vihstadt had 30,000 he was going to win.

“He did it,” O’Leary continued. “It didn’t seem possible, it didn’t seem likely, but it happened. The end result, if we look in terms of comparisons: first our candidate won 13 precincts, Mr. Vihstadt won 40. That’s really unheard of. I can’t even think of the last time that occurred. Last time I can think of anything like this was 1979.”

The numbers blew Vihstadt’s campaign manager Eric Brescia away, he told ARLnow.com in a phone interview yesterday (Thursday).

“We were not expecting it to be like this,” he said. “When it came in, it was just euphoric. You always have doubts; it’s very rare in modern politics that you get this many people to split their ticket. Somehow this got pulled off. I didn’t fall asleep that night just because of the adrenaline.”

Brescia said the streetcar was on many voters’ minds, but voters had other concerns, too. Vihstadt is adamantly against the streetcar, while Howze supports it.

“The streetcar was the biggest one issue, and we definitely made it a big part of our materials,” the campaign manager said. “It definitely wasn’t the only thing going on. A lot of people have generic frustrations with the county, responsiveness issues, spending issues, feeling like they’re not being listened to.”

County Board Chair Jay Fisette — who, along with Board members Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes, still make up a pro-streetcar voting majority on the Board — said Vihstadt’s messaging related to the streetcar caught voters’ attention. Fisette suggested voters chose Vihstadt because they were misinformed about the streetcar.

“I think there has been a lot of focus in the last year on that issue,” Fisette said after the ADCDC meeting. “This community has such a history of being thoughtful and policy-oriented … Here on this issue, what has been created and what we see at the moment is a lack of even agreement on some fundamental core facts about the issue.

“It’s almost like climate change,” Fisette continued. “Is it based on science that it’s true, or is it not?” 

While Vihstadt has voted for and donated to Republican candidates, Brescia said the campaign was truly independent, with a handful of Democrats, Republicans, Green party and independents attending most meetings.

“The nature of this campaign was just so odd, precisely because it really a coalition of people across the political spectrum,” said Brescia, an economist who volunteered to be campaign manager.

Though Vihstadt raised almost $230,000 toward the campaign, there were no paid staffers, Brescia said, and Vihstadt’s cable commercial — which ran during the Washington Redskins Monday Night Football game on Oct. 27 against the Dallas Cowboys — was produced for free by a supporter.

The confluence of factors that created Vihstadt’s success have led many people to ask, Who is the next John Vihstadt?

Vihstadt is a candidate “with a rare civic resume,” Brescia said. He has served on numerous boards and commissions in Arlington for years. He is the “best Republican candidate they’ve put forward in 30-40 years,” Fisette said. No names have surfaced yet, but there are already rumblings.

“I know a chatter has begun in certain circles, but I haven’t thought about any of that yet,” Brescia said. “But there’s going to be somebody from some corner who will mount a serious run.”

The margin of Vihstadt’s win has Democrats bracing for an even tougher challenge next year, when Tejada and Hynes’ seats are both up for election.

“Tighten your seatbelts,” O’Leary told his fellow Democrats on Wednesday night. “We’re in for a bumpy ride next year, a really bumpy ride.”

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Morning Notes

Clouds over Rosslyn after Thursday's rain storm

APS Ranked in Top 100 — Arlington Public Schools has ranked No. 38 on a list of the top 100 school districts in America, published by the education website Niche. [WJLA]

Howze Won Pike Precincts — There was a bright spot for Democrat Alan Howze, who lost to incumbent John Vihstadt in a historic County Board election on Tuesday. Howze narrowly beat Vihstadt in the voting precincts along Columbia Pike. Howze supported the building of the Columbia Pike streetcar while Vihstadt vehemently opposes it. [InsideNova]

Preservation Arlington Opposes School Plans — The group Preservation Arlington wants its supporters to speak out against plans to build a new school on the Wilson School site in Rosslyn and to make changes to the Stratford School that would compromise its “historic integrity.”

Ebola Training for ACFD — Arlington County Fire Department command officers are training for another Ebola-related hazmat response. [Twitter]

No Tysons Wegman’s — A deal to bring a Wegman’s grocery store to Tysons Corner has fallen through. That will likely be disappointing to the many Arlingtonians who have been longing for a Wegman’s location closer than Fairfax or Woodbridge. Arlington isn’t the only D.C. suburb hoping for a Wegman’s, however. Reston residents have been calling for one, though the chain’s general requirement of a 80,000-150,000 square foot store with plenty of surface parking reportedly makes a Reston location unlikely. [Washington Post]

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Vihstadt Victory Could Signal Sea Change in Arlington Politics

John Vihstadt high-fives fellow County Board member Libby Garvey at his election party Nov. 4, 2014(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) The shockwaves around the re-election of John Vihstadt to the Arlington County Board last night continue to reverberate today, with many around Arlington wondering if the county is about to undergo a major policy shift.

“The streetcar is dead,” local political blogger and strategist Ben Tribbett told ARLnow.com last night at the Democrats’ election party in Crystal City. “The voters spoke so overwhelmingly tonight. There’s absolutely no way that [County Board members] Mary [Hynes] and Walter [Tejada] can win re-election if they’re running as pro-streetcar candidates next year. The voters have spoken on this now. It’s over.”

The growing chorus that the majority of the County Board — Chair Jay Fisette, as well as Hynes and Tejada — are out of touch with the voters was bolstered by Vihstadt’s margin of victory. The Republican-endorsed independent won 55.76 percent of the vote to Democrat Alan Howze’s 43.8 percent — less than his margin of victory in the April special election but still a big surprise to many who follow Arlington politics, who haven’t seen a non-Democrat win a County Board general election since 1983.

Howze won just 13 of Arlington’s 52 precincts. By comparison, Democrat Sen. Mark Warner won the majority of votes in every one of Arlington’s precincts, and took 70.59 percent of Arlington ballots.

It’s that result that led Arlington County Democratic Committee President Kip Malinosky to determine that Vihstadt’s victory was not from a lack of Democratic voter turnout, but rather the issues and candidates themselves.

“At this point, I’m not prepared to say what the message [voters sent] was, I’d like to look deep into it and hear a lot more,” he told ARLnow.com last night. “Arlington is a wonderful place to live, it’s well-governed, low crime, low unemployment rate. But people are obviously unsatisfied about something, so we’re going to have to do better.”

County Board member Libby Garvey, a Democrat, threw her support behind Vihstadt before the April special election to replace Chris Zimmerman, and was forced to resign from the ACDC executive committee for it. Last night, she experienced a mix of elation and relief at Vihstadt’s home in Tara-Leeway Heights, realizing her efforts had been validated by tens of thousands of Arlington voters.

“This is a mandate,” she said emphatically. “I think our colleagues on the Board have gotten out of touch with what people want, including Democrats. It’s just really a wonderful validation of what we’ve been saying and what we’ve been thinking. I think the people of Arlington are taking back control of their county and that’s a good thing.”

Tribbett agreed, taking it a step further. He said Howze shouldn’t take the blame for the loss; instead, it’s on the Board’s own lack of trust with voters and on the local Democratic leadership.

“It’s on the County Board 100 percent,” Tribbett said.

“This is the problem with Arlington Democrats. They spent the time after they lost the special election, and here’s the arrogant response: ‘When we get more voters, they’ll just take our sample ballot, and they won’t know the issues, so they’ll vote for our candidate,'” he continued. “Their plan is to hope that people aren’t informed? Well, this is one of the most educated electorates in the country, and they just told them basically to eff themselves with that kind of strategy, to rely on them being misinformed. Gimme a break. They ought to be embarrassed.”

While Tribbett believes the Columbia Pike streetcar to be a political impossibility at this point, groups that support it say the election shouldn’t be seen as a referendum on the streetcar.

“It would be reading too much into Arlington voters’ intentions to ascribe the election of John Vihstadt to a full term on the Arlington Board over Alan Howze primarily to the debate over the Columbia Pike streetcar,” said the Coalition for Smarter Growth, in a press release this afternoon. “Streetcar opponents linked the price tag of the streetcar to general concerns over government spending and the state of the economy… [but] we are confident that the streetcar will continue to stand up to scrutiny and prove to be the best investment for the Columbia Pike Corridor.”

Tejada said he hopes the Board can “work together in a respectful manner” and “find as much common ground as possible.” He deflected questions about the future of the streetcar and concerns over his and Hynes’ ability to win re-election in 2015. Instead, Tejada championed the achievement of agreeing on the streetcar plan without sacrificing any affordable housing on Columbia Pike.

Tejada also obliquely referred to Garvey and Vihstadt’s rhetoric as “divisive,” saying many of the Board’s critics are “condensing” the issues into “sound bites.” He said he looked forward to “continue to inform details to the community, particularly factual information that it took quite a long time to get to.”

“I think this is a crossroads moment in time for Arlington,” Tejada said. “We need to decide whether we’re going to become a timid and stagnant community or are we going to continue to be bold and innovative and craft difficult strategic policies that will sustain us in the future in all parts of the county.”

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BREAKING: Vihstadt Wins Historic Victory

(Updated at 2:00 a.m.) Incumbent County Board candidate John Vihstadt, running as an independent, has won a historic victory in Tuesday’s general election.

With all 53 precincts reporting, Vihstadt has captured 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Democratic challenger Alan Howze. Vihstadt’s margin of victory is just shy of 7,500 votes, with 62,663 total votes cast in the race.

Vihstadt won by attracting a sizable number of Democratic votes. All Arlington precincts reviewed by ARLnow voted for the top of the Democratic ticket, incumbent U.S. Senator Mark Warner, who is in a tight statewide race with Republican Ed Gillespie.

Vihstadt is the first non-Democrat to win an Arlington County Board seat in a general election since Republican Mike Brunner won in 1983. (Ellen Bozman was elected to the County Board in 1985 and 1989 while running as an independent, but she was endorsed by the Democratic party and in 1993 won reelection as a Democrat.)

“We’ve made modern history in Arlington County,” Vihstadt told ARLnow.com at his election party. “In my view, this was not a victory for any one person or any one party, it was a victory for a new way of doing things, a fresh perspective and a new paradigm in Arlington County where partisanship doesn’t mean much but citizenship means everything.”

Howze called Vihstadt to concede the race at 9:15 tonight. He said he was disappointed with the result, which came despite hard work on the campaign trail by his supporters.

“There was a message of dissatisfaction with the electorate,” Howze said. “I worked hard to bring new ideas and a new perspective to the County Board. They chose John and the alternative path he put forward. He ran a very good campaign, ultimately the voters rewarded him for that.”

Now off the campaign trail, Howze said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife and three young children.

At the Vihstadt victory party, the mood was jubilant, with campaign manager Eric Brescia jumping for joy as more and more precincts reported wider and wider margins for Vihstadt. County Board member Libby Garvey was by Vihstadt’s side during his victory speech, and was giddy after the victory. A Democrat, Garvey resigned from the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s executive board in April after backing Vihstadt.

“This wasn’t just a squeaker, we won it big,” Garvey said. “It’s a validation of what I’ve been saying, what John’s been saying. We serve the people of Arlington and we presented them with what we think needs to happen, and they said ‘yes, that’s what we want.’ It’s democracy at its best. I’m thrilled.”

Barbara Kanninen defeated Audrey Clement in one of two School Board races tonight. Kanninen has 66 percent of the vote to 34 for Clement. Nancy Van Doren, running for School Board unopposed, has 97 percent of the vote.

Across Virginia’s Eighth Congressional District, which includes Arlington, Democrat Don Beyer has emerged victorious over his four opponents. Beyer captured 63 percent of the vote to 32 percent for Republican Micah Edmond, 2 percent for Libertarian Jeffrey Carson, 0.5 percent for Independent Green candidate Gerard Blais, and 3 percent for independent Gwendolyn Beck.

“My whole life has been leading up to this moment and this mission,” Beyer said in a statement tonight. “Together, we will move Congress and this nation forward.”

In the statewide race for U.S. Senate, with 98 percent of precincts reporting, Democratic incumbent Mark Warner has 49.18 percent of the vote, Republican Ed Gillespie has 48.27 percent and Libertarian Robert Sarvis has 2.48 percent.

Though news outlets like CNN have yet to project a winner in the race, an “energized” Warner took the stage at his election night party at the DoubleTree Crystal City hotel to declare victory. A centrist, Warner promised to work across the aisle in the newly-Republican controlled Senate.

“Whether it’s here in Virginia or anywhere around the country, the people of America want to move past sound bites, they want us to move past political bickering… to make sure that we get the job done for you and actually govern,” he said. “I’ll go back to Washington and recognize that we have to find that common ground. I know that most of us here are Democrats but neither political party has a monopoly on truth or virtue or patriotism. In this new Senate I’ll work with anyone — Democrat, Republican, independent, you name it — if we’re going to make sure we get our country’s problems fixed.”

Among other things, Warner pledged to a work to pass a budget “so we don’t go back to the stupidity of sequestration.”

Locally, voters on Tuesday approved the all four Arlington County bond questions on the ballot, including:

  • Schools ($105.7 million)
  • Metro and Transportation ($59.7 million)
  • Community Infrastructure ($40.2 million)
  • Parks and Recreation ($13 million)

Democrat Carla de la Pava, running unopposed for county treasurer, captured 97 percent of the vote.

The state constitutional amendment that would exempt the surviving spouse of a fallen military service member from property taxes under certain circumstances looks to pass by an overwhelming margin, with 82 percent voting yes so far and 12 percent voting no.

Before results starting coming in, Arlington County Registrar Linda Lindberg predicted that just under 50 percent of Arlington County voters turned out at the polls today.

ARLnow.com talked to numerous voters, most of whom identified themselves as Democrats. Of those Democrats, however, many said they were casting a ballot for Vihstadt as a vote for change on the County Board.

“I’m coming out to vote for John Vihstadt because I think the County Board needs to have an independent voice,” said Sukari Pinnock-Fitts, an Arlington County human rights commissioner for Arlington County. “I’m really unhappy with some of the decisions that the Board seems to be just rubber-stamping. This whole streetcar debacle just feels like money in somebody’s pocket that’s not really going to be any added value to the citizens of Arlington.”

“I’m really concerned about the lack of attention to issues of diversity and inclusion in the county,” Pinnock-Fitts added. “There doesn’t seem to be any real attention or commitment to those issues at the Board level certainly, not in the county manager’s office, and I believe John can make a difference.”

The $333 million Columbia Pike streetcar was one of the central issues in the race between Vihstadt and Howze, and is viewed by many as the pivotal issue in the race; Vihstadt is against the streetcar and favors an enhanced bus service, while Howze is pro-streetcar, but advocated a voter referendum on the issue.

ACDC President Kip Malinosky said the “Democratic and progressive values” still resonated with Arlington voters, as evidenced by the local results for Warner, Beyer, the bond issues and School Board elections. However, that doesn’t mean that Democrats will be patting themselves on the back.

“On the County Board, we’ve got a lot to think about,” Malinosky said. “I don’t know what all the answers are. I intend to find out, we’re going to do some soul-searching, we’re going to do some thinking. We came up quite a bit short, so we’ve got a lot of thinking to do.”

A few minor problems were reported at the polls in Arlington. Two people fainted, one person became ill and some touch-screen voting machines required recalibration, Lindberg said.

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Voting Turnout Strong Early on Election Day

Many polling places across Arlington had lines out the door as voters streamed in to decide Senate, House of Representatives, County Board and School Board races today.

At Arlington Traditional School (855 N. Edison Street), campaign workers stationed outside the school said lines were surprisingly long considering there is no presidential election this year. Wes Pippert has voted at the school for 20 years, and he said turnout was unusually strong.

Pippert said he hasn’t been following local issues, but that didn’t stop him from voting for all four bond measures — Metro and transportation, parks and recreation, capital projects and schools — on the ballot.

“I voted for County Board and School Board,” Pippert said, “but I can’t say I was very informed.”

Pippert’s son and daughter voted with him, and his son said he voted for Audrey Clement for School Board because he “liked her name” more than Barbara Kanninen’s.

Judy Word and Andrew Smoyer also voted at Arlington Traditional School, but they said they have been paying more attention to local issues — particularly the Columbia Pike streetcar — than in years past.

“I think the bulk of voters in the County Board election are voting their opinion on the streetcar,” Smoyer said. “We both thought more about it, because usually we vote party line. More than in previous years we had to think separately about the issues.”

Martha Deutscher voted at Washington-Lee High School, and she said she votes every year as a “loyal Democrat.”

“Streetcars don’t cross my mind,” she said. “I’m a Democrat, I usually vote Democrat. I’m just here to support the party.”

Arlington General Registrar Linda Lindberg predicts turnout in Arlington will be “about 50 percent” and said turnout is about 10-15 percent so far. The turnout is heavier in North Arlington than in South Arlington so far, Lindberg said, which is typical of most elections, despite the prominence of the streetcar in the race.

There have been complaints about faulty ballot machines in Culpepper Gardens and Arlington Traditional School — one ballot box froze at Washington-Lee but was quickly rebooted, according to the precinct chief — but Lindberg said that could simply be due to voter error.

“Our machines are definitely aging at 11 years old, and seldom does one keep a touchscreen device that long,” she said. “We have had a few issues with voters not properly making selections or complaining the selections they make aren’t registering. At Culpepper there are a lot of elderly voters who don’t always touch carefully. The election officers have been instructed to tell voters having difficulty making selections to either touch directly straight down on the selection or to use a stylus. We haven’t had issues when voters touch their selections properly.”

According to Lindberg, Arlington received 6,800 absentee votes, with “probably several hundred ballots still to be returned,” putting the absentee turnout at less than in the 2010 midterms that didn’t feature a Senate election. This election features the race to replace longtime Rep. Jim Moran, and Independent candidate Gwendolyn Beck was campaigning at Washington-Lee High School this morning.

Beck said it’s her goal to visit every polling place in the 8th Congressional District today, and she started with “packed” polling places Wilson School and Fire Station 10 in Rosslyn. In Rosslyn, she saw several voters she met on Saturday when campaigning during the Clarendon bar crawl.

“That’s the big question: how do you reach millennials?” she said. “You meet them where they go out.”

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The Washington Post Endorses Vihstadt

John Vihstadt at the County Board candidates debate 3/4/14The Washington Post editorial board has given Republican-backed Independent John Vihstadt its endorsement for Tuesday’s Arlington County Board election.

The Post said Vihstadt would be a “badly needed independent voice” on the otherwise all-Democratic, five-member County Board. Vihstadt was elected to the Board in April in a special election, when he defeated Democrat Alan Howze by a 57-to-41 percent margin.

Howze is again running against Vihstadt, and local prognosticators are predicting this race will be closer; former Arlington treasurer Francis O’Leary thinks Howze will win because of a greater turnout of Democratic “party line” voters. However, the Post writes, the issues that led voters to choose Vihstadt in April haven’t changed.

The editorial board writes:

… Many Democrats have accorded Mr. Vihstadt grudging respect as someone who formulates and presents his views intelligently; he is no tea party bomb thrower. Equally important, in our view, is his insistence that the county reevaluate other expensive projects, such as a proposal for a state-of-the-art aquatic center, which he regards as unaffordable.

Whether Mr. Vihstadt prevails or not, it’s important for Arlington to have the debate; without him, the board runs the risk of groupthink.

The Post writes that it supports the Columbia Pike streetcar, and praised Howze as “a very capable candidate,” but said Vihstadt’s “civil and cogent” arguments against the streetcar have earned him the chance to serve a four-year term. Vihstadt has also been endorsed by Arlington County firefighters for his commitment to public safety

Howze has been endorsed by Greater Greater Washington and environmental group Sierra Club.

In its editorial, the Post also endorses Barbara Kanninen over Audrey Clement for School Board, citing Kanninen’s experience working with children’s issues.

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Alan Howze: Why You Should Vote for Me

Alan Howze debates at the Arlington Civic federation on Sept. 2, 2014This month, we asked the candidates from each competitive race on the ballot on Election Day to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them on Nov. 4.

Here is Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze’s unedited response:

On November 4th, your vote will help define Arlington’s future. The election is about choosing a vision for our community and the leadership we need as we confront decisions that will affect our county for generations to come.

I am running to bring a new voice to the County Board and new ideas for how to move Arlington forward.

By many measures our community is thriving — with great schools, vibrant neighborhoods, high-quality transit that makes Arlington such an attractive place to live and work.

However, we also face challenges. We need to move quickly to address school overcrowding, strengthen our local economy, focus on affordability, and provide parks and recreational space for residents.

I will bring my experience in business and government to addressing these needs in a fiscally responsible manner that brings the community together without resorting to the politics of division or obstruction.

I represent a new generation of Democratic leadership and I bring a different perspective.

As we address school overcrowding, I would be the only County Board member with children in our schools.

In a county where 60% of all residents are between the ages of 20-50, I would be the only Board member under 55 years of age.

I would bring to the Board my business experience as we address our rising commercial vacancy rate.

Moreover, I am proud to run as a Democrat on a ticket with Senator Mark Warner, who I worked for when he was Governor of Virginia. Our team of Democratic candidates share a commitment to opportunity, equality and prosperity — and to progress, not obstruction.

In contrast, my opponent, who claims to be an Independent, is a lifelong Republican. He actively sought — and received — the endorsement of the Arlington GOP. He has been an active Republican volunteer and has given thousands to anti-choice and anti-environment Republican candidates. His campaign has been funded primarily by Republican donors. Republicans are not supporting an independent voice, but rather attempting to move Arlington away from its progressive principles.

To move our community forward, I am putting my Democratic values and my experience in business and government into action through specific proposals to address key issues in our community:

Contrast these detailed plans with my opponent, who has offered no vision for addressing our community’s challenges and has engaged in obstruction instead. Putting politics ahead of the community’s best interests, he voted AGAINST funding to address school overcrowding, to maintain the Metro system, and for our parks.

He even proposes sending $150M in transportation funds back to Richmond rather than using it here in Arlington to improve our economy and quality of life.  That is not the leadership we need.

I am ready to deliver innovative, community-based solutions that reflect all our community’s needs and interests. I will not always agree with my fellow Democrats, but I will push hard for real solutions and work to bring our community together without stoking divisiveness.

I will demand accountability and focus on fiscal responsibility, much as I did on the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission where I called in 2013 for a $6.4M tax cut and created a plan to maintain our parks and facilities. I will also support private sector innovation through public investments like ConnectArlington and market innovators such as Uber and Lyft.

I have spent months knocking on thousands of doors and listening to voters like you talk about the issues and the solutions that will help move Arlington forward.

My innovative ideas and hard work have earned the endorsement of the Sierra Club and the endorsement of Arlington’s Educators. Visit my website to learn more.

If you are as impatient for solving Arlington’s challenges as I am, I ask for your vote on November 4th. Together we can fulfill a vision of a vibrant, safe, diverse and affordable community. Let’s get to work.

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County Board Candidates: Parkland Shouldn’t Be Developed

Towers ParkArlington County needs more park and recreational facilities, and existing parkland shouldn’t be used for housing or other development.

That’s the message from the two candidates for County Board, incumbent John Vihstadt and Democratic challenger Alan Howze, in response to a questionnaire from the Arlington Parks Coalition.

Both Vihstadt and Howze said that Arlington needs more parkland and recreational space to meet existing needs, let alone future demands. Both said they would support the acquisition of new parkland by Arlington County.

In addition, Vihstadt floated a number of specific ideas, like “building up rather than out, in schools and public facilities construction and additions to maximize green space,” and “examining the feasibility of air rights over I-66 in Rosslyn and East Falls Church for fields development.”

On the topic of the “Public Land for Public Good” affordable housing initiative, both candidates rejected the idea of using parkland for affordable housing, schools or other purposes.

Howze, however, kept the door open to potentially redeveloping existing recreational facilities to include housing. His response to the Parks Coalition:

I do not support the development of existing parkland for other purposes. Parks are a public good that are available to all members of the community and it is important that we preserve these public spaces.

When current recreational facilities are renovated or rebuilt, I believe it is appropriate to engage in a community conversation about potential uses. For example, could pre-K and on-site childcare be integrated into a site – making it easier for parents to use a facility? Could housing for seniors be integrated on a site to make recreational amenities and wellness activities more accessible to them? There is no one size fits all answer to these questions – but by engaging the community I am confident that the appropriate solutions will emerge. In fact, it is this confidence in our community that led me to call earlier this year for a broad public process to bring people together to work towards solutions to address school overcrowding, park needs, affordable housing, and public safety infrastructure. By bringing the community together we can emerge with a broader consensus for how to move forward in protecting our parks – while meeting other important community needs in schools, recreational, housing and infrastructure.

Vihstadt said Arlington should find creative solutions for preserving affordable housing and building more school capacity that do not require the loss of parkland.

In my view, Arlington’s 149 parks and our many community/recreation centers are the very essence of “public land for public good” and should be preserved for their intended purpose and adequately maintained. It is both counterintuitive and counterproductive to locate housing, schools, or any other non-parks and recreation-related development on our increasingly precious parkland and recreational sites, and I will work and vote to keep our green space green. As we add ever more population and density to our County, we must more carefully assess how our development decisions are impacting the diversity and character of our neighborhoods and our public parks, as well as our schools and infrastructure. We must also endeavor to ensure that our core services, including our parks and recreation resources, keep pace with our population growth. Clearly, our County faces challenges in ensuring adequate school capacity and preserving our affordable housing stock, but I believe we also possess the resources and creativity to address these challenges while preserving and, indeed, enhancing, our parkland and recreational resources, including sports fields.

On a related note, I believe that our regional parks and nature centers should remain substantially as they are, absent community-driven upgrades and maintenance improvements.

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Howze Using ‘Issue Buttons’ in Final Campaign Push

Issue buttons to be distributed by Alan Howze's campaignDemocratic Arlington County Board candidate Alan Howze, trying to unseat the first non-Democratic Board member since 1999, is using buttons with issue buzzwords on them to try to generate a new wave of enthusiasm for his campaign.

The buttons, instead of being splashed with the candidate’s name in big letters, instead feature issues Howze’s campaign believes are most important to Arlington voters, like “great schools,” “mobility” and “affordability.”

“We created these campaign buttons after listening to residents express what makes Arlington special and what issues matter most to them,” Howze said in a press release. “From great schools to thinking ahead to open space, the buttons capture essential elements of our community. The buttons are a great way to start a conversation about our vision for the future of Arlington.”

Howze is trailing behind Vihstadt — who won the April special election by a 57-41 percent margin after former Board member Chris Zimmerman resigned in February — in fundraising less than a month before Election Day on Nov. 4. This morning, Howze issued a separate press release announcing his goal of “zero pedestrian and cyclist injuries and deaths from vehicle accidents,” and a plan to accomplish that, including accelerating the Intersection of Doom improvements.

Howze’s plan calls for “complete safe routes to ALL Arlington schools,” expanding sidewalks and increasing police attention toward drivers making unsafe maneuvers for pedestrians and cyclists. He has also recently released campaign plans for improving the Columbia Pike streetcar and enhancing discussion on public land use.

This morning, the Sun Gazette endorsed Vihstadt, saying his months of service on the County Board have proven he’s willing to ask questions other Board members do not:

In another year, Howze might well be our choice, as we think he does want to tackle significant issues.

But the message his election would send to the Democratic oligarchy that has run Arlington — sometimes exceptionally well, but not always so – over past decades is that the public has gotten the anger out of its system, and it’s back to business as usual. That can’t be allowed to happen.

“It’s not divisive to ask questions, and question authority,” Vihstadt said at a recent candidate forum. “If I lose, the status quo prevails.”

He’s right, and while Alan Howze likely would be a fine County Board member — far better than he has been as a candidate – we think it’s the wrong time to turn back the clock. Vihstadt deserves a four-year term.

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Vihstadt Outraises Howze in County Board Election

John Vihstadt and Alan Howze debate at the Arlington Civic federation on Sept. 2, 2014Incumbent John Vihstadt continues to outpace Democratic challenger Alan Howze in fundraising before the two square off in the Nov. 4 Arlington County Board election.

According to the nonpartisan Virginia Public Access Project, Vihstadt enters the home stretch of the election with $89,058 in cash on hand after raising $42,908 last month. Howze has $22,800 in cash on hand after raising $36,847 last month.

Vihstadt’s biggest donation was a $5,000 gift from Arlington County firefighters, who gave him $2,500 during his special election campaign against Howze in April. That election, in which Vihstadt also outraised Howze, the Republican-endorsed independent became the first non-Democrat member of the County Board in more than a decade.

Outside of the firefighters group, all of Vihstadt’s receipts of $1,000 or more came from individuals in Arlington, except for $1,000 from Christopher Brigham in Fairfax.

Howze received just two donations of more than $1,000: $2,500 each from Jennifer Marie Bodie and the Reston-based “Laborers Mid Atlantic Regional Organizing Coalition.” Several of Howze’s donations came from elected officials and their campaign war chests, including Walter Tejada, Del. Alfonso Lopez and state Sen. Barbara Favola.

In the race for the 8th Congressional District, Democrat Don Beyer raised almost $570,000, according to federal election filings, in the period from July 1 to Sept. 30, and has $168,468 in cash on hand. Beyer raised almost $400,000 for the Democratic primary in June, far outpacing his opponents.

Republican Micah Edmond raised $37,177 in the past quarter, and has $25,686 in cash on hand for the final month in his bid to upset Beyer, the heavy favorite.

In Virginia’s Senate race, incumbent Sen. Mark Warner (D) raised just over $2 million last month to enter the final month before the election with $8.1 million in cash on hand. Republican challenger Ed Gillespie’s raised $1.8 million in the last quarter.

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Morning Notes

A woman photographs Dark Star Park in Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by John Williams)

Howze Endorsed By Teachers PAC — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze has been endorsed by the Arlington Education Association’s political action committee. The teachers group said Howze “has clearly and consistently talked about the need to support our educators and address the overcrowding challenges we face.” [InsideNova]

Young Republicans: Don Beyer Is Old — The Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans used today’s “Throwback Thursday” as an opportunity to remind voters that Democratic congressional candidate Don Beyer was first elected to office as Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor in 1989. “Roxette’s ‘Listen to Your Heart’ was the number one song, Seinfeld premiered, a gallon of gas was $1.12, Taylor Swift was born, and the Soviet Union was still intact,” said Matthew Hurtt, AFCYR Chairman. “Don Beyer is campaigning on the same failed policies Michael Dukakis espoused in 1988.” [AFCYR]

‘Historic Home’ Is ‘A Labor of Love’ — Aurora Hills resident Patrick Johnson loves his “historic home,” a Sears catalog house built in 1931. Originally home to Arlington’s first paid fire marshal, the house is now “a labor of love and dedication” to maintain. [Preservation Arlington]

Pumpkin Decorating This Weekend — Families will be able to decorate pumpkins together this Saturday, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., at the Arlington Mill Community Center. [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by John Williams

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Morning Notes

Taxis queued up at Reagan National Airport

‘Pups and Pilsners’ Photo Contest — Want to sample some brews and make your pet famous? Head on over to Crystal City’s Pups and Pilsners event from 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, snap a photo of your pooch and tweet it to us and our sponsors, @CCBID and @BeckysPetCare. Pups and Pilsners is a free dog-friendly event featuring a massive beer garden and food from local restaurants. [Crystal City BID]

Planners: Bank Shortchanges Courthouse — The office building slated to replace the Wendy’s in Courthouse will have a Wells Fargo bank prominently located on the ground floor, and Arlington planners don’t like it. County staff says the bank use is “not appropriate” and should be at least moved so that a more active retail use can occupy half of the plaza area. Developer Carr Properties says the bank must stay, since Wells Fargo owns the land under the existing bank that will be torn down for the project. [Washington Business Journal]

Vihstadt Out-Raises Howze — Incumbent, independent County Board candidate John Vihstadt is out-raising his Democratic opponent, Alan Howze. Vihstadt raised $31,367 in July and August, compared to $20,607 raised by Howze. Vihstadt recently reported $58,746 cash on hand while Howze reported $16,906. [Washington Post]

Fugazi to Release ‘Lost Album’ — Fugazi is planing to release a “lost album” of 11 songs recorded in 1988. The legendary local rockers recorded the songs on the album, First Demo, at Inner Ear Studio in Arlington. [Spin]

Road Closures for Clarendon Art Fest — Parts of Washington Blvd, Clarendon Blvd, and N. Highland Street will be closed Saturday and Sunday for the 2nd Annual Arlington Festival of the Arts. “Over 100 artists will showcase their works including glass, mixed media, paintings, jewelry, and pottery; providing all sorts of opportunities to appreciate — and purchase — art,” according to the festival’s website. [Arlington County, ArtFestival]

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Morning Notes

Traffic on the GW Parkway at night (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

APS Mulls Contract for School at TJ — The Arlington School Board tonight will consider a $4.7 million contract for architectural and engineering work on a proposed elementary school on the grounds of Thomas Jefferson Middle School. That’s despite well-organized neighborhood opposition to the school encroaching on Thomas Jefferson Park. [InsideNova]

Unreliable Mail Delivery in Douglas Park — Residents of Arlington’s Douglas Park neighborhood say their mail delivery has become considerably less reliable in the past year. Talk of missing mail, misdirected mail and delayed mail has reached a crescendo. The Postal Service says it’s investigating. [WJLA]

HOT Lanes Lawsuit Had ‘Unintended Consequences’ — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze acknowledged at Tuesday’s debate that Arlington County might have erred in pursuing an aggressive lawsuit against proposed High Occupancy Toll lanes on I-395. Howze said the suit “had unintended consequences with our relations with Richmond.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Howze Gives Proposals to Improve Streetcar

Alan Howze at the County Board candidates debate 3/4/14(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Alan Howze, the Democratic candidate for the Arlington County Board, has announced a new platform to improve the planned Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar.

Howze reiterated his support for the half-billion-dollar system that is slated to run from the Skyline area of Fairfax County to Crystal City to Alexandria. He also reiterated his support for a public referendum on the streetcar — which needs General Assembly approval to be placed on the ballot — and called the project a “once-in-a-generation investment.”

“The streetcar has been used as a wedge issue by those who seek political gain by dividing our community,” Howze said in a press release. “Rather than use the streetcar to score political points, let’s focus on responding to community questions and using innovation to make the planned streetcar even better.”

After “talking to thousands of Arlington residents at their doors,” Howze created five proposals to improve the streetcar system. The proposals are:

  1. “Speed and accountability in government matters. Timely construction should be a key contract requirement. This will minimize disruption, protect taxpayers, and accelerate the benefits from the streetcar.”
  2. “Create a small business contingency plan to support small businesses affected by streetcar construction.”
  3. “Create a business and residents advisory council to ensure community issues that arise during construction are dealt with in a timely manner.”
  4. “Examine the feasibility of using streetcars that can run without wires for sections of the streetcar line to reduce the use of overhead wires.”
  5. “Secure 100% renewable energy power supply for the streetcar. This would ensure that the streetcar is a zero emissions system.”

County Board member John Vihstadt is Howze’s opponent in the November general election. It’s a rematch of their April primary in which Vihstadt, a Republican-endorsed independent, won by a 57-41 percent margin. In response to Howze’s statement, Vihstadt responded in a press release, saying “Let’s be careful about who is calling whom divisive.”

“We have a strong contingent of voters who oppose streetcars, and are ready to vote in November,” said Vihstadt, who voted, along with County Board member Libby Garvey against the county’s 10-year Capital Improvement Plan last month because it included the streetcar.

“I’m glad to learn that my opponent is hearing the same concerns that I am in door-knocking and listening to constituents up and down Columbia Pike, along Route 1 and across the County,” Vihstadt said, “including deep anxiety about construction time and cost, disruption to small businesses, commuters and residents alike, unsightly and potentially unsafe overhead wires, environmental and energy concerns and more. Unlike my opponent, I believe that the way to deal most effectively with these concerns is not to build the streetcar in the first place!”

Howze compared the debate over the streetcar to the 1960s debate over building Metro’s Orange Line underground instead of in the median of I-66, saying “for 50 years, transit opponents have used the call for more buses to attempt to block the expansion of rail transit.”

Vihstadt fired back to that claim, referencing the vote Arlington residents took to approve building the Metro along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

“My opponent’s references to Metro are inaccurate,” he said. “I support and take Metro every day. The fact is that Metro was put to a vote in the late 1960s and Arlingtonians embraced it. They have voted to continue to support Metro in bond votes nearly every two years since. Metro ties our entire region together across Maryland, the District and Virginia. None of this is — or ever will be — true of a streetcar.”

File photo

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