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Candidate Essay: John Vihstadt

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

Here is the unedited response from independent John Vihstadt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Candidate Essay: Matt de Ferranti

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

Here is the unedited response from Democrat Matt de Ferranti:

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

Addressing our Office Vacancy Rate

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

Leveraging our Talented Residents and New Ideas To Grow our Economy

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

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

Building the Schools We Need to Educate Every Child

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

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

Addressing Our Housing Affordability Challenges

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

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

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

Protecting our Environment and Tackling Climate Change

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

The Choice You Have on Tuesday

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

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

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

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Candidate Essay: Thomas Oh

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

Here is the unedited response from Republican Thomas Oh:

Dear fellow Northern Virginians,

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

1)     I am not a career politician

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

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

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

3)     I’m a voice for:

  • Immigrants

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

  • Minorities

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

  • Veterans

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

  • Individuals with disabilities

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

  • LGBT

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

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

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

5)     I will always put people before politics

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

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

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

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

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

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Candidate Essay: Don Beyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Candidate Essay: Barbara Kanninen

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

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

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

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

Support for Students

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

Respect for Teachers

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

Strong Schools in a Time of Growth

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

Next Steps

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

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

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Candidate Essay: Audrey Clement

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

Here is the unedited response from independent Audrey Clement:

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

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

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

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

If elected, I pledge to:

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

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

If you share my agenda, then:

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

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

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Charles McCullough: Why You Should Vote For Me

Last week we asked the three Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in Tuesday’s election.

Here is the unedited response from independent candidate Charles McCullough:

I’ve lived in South Arlington for over ten years. Drawn to Arlington’s safe, vibrant, and diverse environment, it felt like the right place to purchase a home. I’ve come to know all our neighborhoods as wonderful places to live, work, raise children, play, pray, and grow old. While living here I’ve started my own small business, volunteered on county and school committees, and chaired the board of the US Postal Service Federal Credit Union where I advocated for family-friendly lending.

I’m running because Arlington residents need a seat at the table.

I am a progressive independent running for office because I believe the “Arlington Way” is broken. Significant decisions impacting citizens are either predetermined or made without meaningful community consultation. Developers are running roughshod over affordable housing options, displacing people and open spaces. Commercial vacancy rates remain high as the county gives multimillion-dollar tax breaks to billion-dollar companies.

We won’t fix Arlington’s problems by continuing to elect party insiders with similar résumés and experiences. If elected, I will be an independent voice on the county board. I’ll look beyond party politics and focus on “Putting People First.”

“Putting People First” is my commitment to involving more viewpoints in a meaningful way.

Effectively addressing the issues facing Arlington requires county board members to go beyond staff recommendations and be more deeply and personally present in our neighborhoods. That is why I will serve as a full-time board member, working every day in our communities to be a voice you can trust on the Arlington County Board.
I will prioritize housing affordability, schools, local business development, transportation, and open spaces and do so with community input, before decisions are made.
As a progressive independent I promise to lead with an Arlington CAN attitude.

  • I will push for a multifaceted approach to housing affordability. Going beyond new construction, Arlington must grow certified affordable housing for those in need by making sure developers are paying their fair share to fund these programs. I will work to grow market rate affordable housing for the rest of us by encouraging cooperatives, co-living spaces, and community land trusts, all of which reduce rent, mortgage, and property tax costs.
  • I will seek to expand early childcare options in Arlington so students don’t start the first day of school with a learning deficit. Not only should we provide greater cost efficiency in building schools, but we should also make sure schools are resourced to educate the whole child through a Cradle to Career & College Pipeline.
  • I will help local businesses thrive by addressing one-size-fits-all regulation schemes that make it hard to open and grow local businesses.
  • I am proud to be the only candidate for Arlington County Board that is on record for saying NO to a new regional tax for Metro that would unfairly burden Northern Virginians. Metro should only get dedicated funding if it commits to greater accountability. We need multimodal transportation solutions that get individuals to work in an efficient and cost effective manner. I will also be an advocate for providing better bus service in places like Columbia Pike.
  • I will prioritize the preservation of existing parks, dog parks, and biking/jogging trails that make Arlington a great place to live. I will advocate for maximizing our limited land and public facilities through deeper government and schools partnerships as well as long-term planning for land acquisition.

To achieve these things I will demand that we budget in a way that reflects our vision for Arlington while preserving our bond rating. Having had previous responsibility for crafting multimillion-dollar budgets in the public and private sector, I know how to plan for growth in times of fiscal austerity. As you explore my full platform at http://votemccullough.com/issues, note that many of my plans save Arlington taxpayers and businesses money or generate revenue from new sources.
If you believe the county has fallen short in its commitment to our communities, taxpayers, businesses, or the environment, voting for Charles McCullough is the most powerful message you can send to the Arlington County Board that your voice matters. Together we can restore the “Arlington Way.”

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Erik Gutshall: Why You Should Vote For Me

Last week we asked the three Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in Tuesday’s election.

Here is the unedited response from Democratic candidate Erik Gutshall:

I’m Erik Gutshall, life-long Democrat, proud father of three wonderful girls, an award-winning small businessman, and the current chair of the Arlington County Planning Commission.  I am focused on the future, and I am asking for your support to be the next member of the Arlington County Board.

Arlington has a storied tradition of meeting challenges with inclusive collaboration between the community, elected officials, county staff, and the private sector.  I have joined in this tradition as a civic association president, non-profit board member, and member of our Transportation and Planning Commissions.  Working side-by-side with you to solve complex challenges for the last 15 years has ingrained in me the Arlington values of inclusiveness, collaboration, and long-term vision.  While the successes of our past are remarkable, running a small business has taught me that if we don’t innovate, we will stagnate.  Our success has brought new challenges; and while our values haven’t changed, our solutions have to.  While some argue that our success is the problem and plot a course of retreat, I see the challenges of today as opportunities to remake our vision for the next generation, and I’m asking you to join me.

Our outdated zoning has created a difficult choice between increasingly unaffordable single-family homes and high-rise living, and many of our friends and neighbors have simply moved elsewhere.  We must not throw up our hands and accept this as inevitable. To keep Arlington affordable for the middle class, I will use my planning and zoning experience to create market-driven, neighborhood-scale  “Missing Middle” housing along our transportation corridors so that young families starting out, seniors aging in place, and everyone in-between can afford to live here.

Solving the school capacity crisis is critical to Arlington’s future.  The fact that more and more families are invested enough to put down roots here despite the high cost of housing speaks volumes about the community we have built, but pitting community needs against each other is a recipe for failure.  The School Board and County Board must work together to squeeze the most out of our limited space and dollars.  I will champion the work of the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC) to find innovative solutions for the school and community facilities we need, while balancing the preservation and expansion of parks and open space.

As a small business owner, I passionately believe that the future of Arlington’s prosperity is in the hands of our entrepreneurs and innovators.  Our small businesses are the “heart and soul” of our community with deep roots as they hire locally and invest locally.  My first priority to restore Arlington’s reputation as a great place to start and grow a business will be to foster a “Get to Yes” culture of customer service so that our businesses can spend more time on their customers, and less time dealing with frustrating bureaucracy.

Inclusive, transparent, and collaborative problem-solving guided by progressive values yields innovative, durable solutions.  That is the secret sauce of Arlington’s success.  I’ve been working with you for the last 15 years, and with your support, I’ll be honored to do it for the next four as your board member.  For detailed issue statements on my focus on the future of Arlington, please visit Erik4Arlington.com.  Find your polling place and photo ID requirements at ARLVotes.com and please vote for me, Erik Gutshall, on Tuesday, November 7.

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Audrey Clement: Why You Should Vote For Me

Last week we asked the three Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in Tuesday’s election.

Here is the unedited response from independent candidate Audrey Clement:

 Arlington County needs new leadership. Here’s why.

Although it is one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S., Arlington is paying corporations millions in taxpayer subsidies to stay here, small businesses struggle, and too many longtime residents are being gentrified out of their homes.

At 18 percent, Arlington’s office vacancy rate is unacceptably high, as federal agencies move to cheaper digs elsewhere in Northern Virginia.

The County has recruited some high profile corporate tenants, and shaved a percentage off the vacancy rate. But small businesses are hurting and are likely to hurt even more should the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts go into effect.

In fact the George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis predicts that 10,000 federal sector jobs may be eliminated from Northern Virginia should Congress adopt the president’s budget.

http://www.loudountimes.com/news/article/economist_proposed_trump_budget_could_cost_northern_virginia_up_to_10000_jo

This could spell hardship for Arlington County, which depends on tax revenue generated from federal jobs.

County Board increased the property tax rate this year even as it estimated a surplus. That was unfortunate, since neither the government workers who live in the County nor the local businesses that rely on their patronage needed another tax grab while facing the prospect of an economic downturn.

Arlington County also has a spending problem. County Board just voted to approve the design of a new Lubber Run Community Center with a whopping $47.9 million price tag. The new Wilson High School is currently estimated at $100 million.

By comparison, the town of Vienna recently completed renovating its community center for just $6.5 million, and the cost of a new high school under construction in Loudoun County is $81.7 million —- much less than the projected cost for Wilson High.

It’s obvious that Arlington taxpayers are paying a lot more for the same public services than elsewhere in Northern Virginia. This is not only wasteful, it may also prove to be unsustainable in the long run.

Clearly the current County Board is too complacent to change course now. It will continue to ignore the need for belt tightening. In the face of economic uncertainty, independent leadership is needed to constrain spending while optimizing services provided to County residents.

As an Independent candidate and long-time civic activist–with a Ph.D. in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow, I am qualified to fill that role.

As an independent voice on County Board I pledge to:

  • Seek tax relief for both residential and commercial taxpayers.
  • Save our parks, not pave them over.
  • Use bond money to fund schools–not Taj Mahals for some students and trailers for others.
  • Stop recycling garden apartments into luxury town homes and cutting down our precious tree canopy for more parking.
  • Stop the back room deals that too often govern the decisions made by County Board.

In addition, if elected, I will:

  • Require a fiscal impact analysis for every major site plan development project to assure that it actually benefits the County.
  • End the County’s pursuit of wasteful vanity projects.
  • Redirect funds to basic needs like streets, schools, libraries and public safety.
  • Consolidate housing programs and other public services.
  • Install renewable energy on County owned buildings.
  • Provide a voice on County Board for all taxpayers.

I am a thirteen year Arlington resident with a ten year track of civic activism. With a Ph.D. in Political Science and experience on Capitol Hill, I have both the commitment and political know how to translate policy into practice.

Visit AudreyClement.com to find out more about my campaign for a better Arlington and donate to my campaign.

Let me know if you want to volunteer at the polls on Election Day and remember to vote for me, Audrey Clement, Independent, on November 7.

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Monique O’Grady: Why You Should Vote For Me

Last week we asked the three Arlington School Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in Tuesday’s election.

Here is the unedited response from Monique O’Grady:

Arlington Public Schools is at a crossroads. APS is short on seats, short on money, and short on the time to fix these problems before they reach a crisis level. It’s time to bring new ideas with a fresh perspective built on years of experience.

As a former PTA president, community volunteer, schools advocate, and parent of three children who attended five public schools in Arlington, I will bring my 19 years of experience advocating for our schools to bear on the challenges facing Arlington Public Schools.

I firmly believe our children should not just like school, but should also develop a lifelong love of learning. Our kids go through the school system only once; they only get one shot at success. We owe it to them to fight for our schools–and all too often our School Board hasn’t been up to the task. We can and must do better, by focusing on the ABCs:

Academics

We need a renewed focus on academics, putting as much emphasis on school instruction as we do on school construction, and a real strategic plan that ensures our teachers have the training and resources needed to help all children succeed.

We must balance using technology to foster innovative ways of learning with tried-and-true teacher-student personal interaction. Finally, we can’t keep “teaching to the test” and expect our students to learn and grow; rather, we must ensure each child receives the comprehensive education she deserves.

Boundaries

School boundary decisions should respect communities while also embracing diversity. Our students won’t take an SOL in multiculturalism; that test will come in life and those who learn in diverse settings will be best prepared to succeed in a multicultural world.

Our schools must be open and welcoming to all students, and it is imperative that we ensure that every child under our care feels safe and secure.

Capacity & Communication

Arlington is growing fast, and our public schools are facing a capacity crisis. For too long, the School Board and APS have failed to get in front of this challenge, resulting in overcrowded schools and a series of band-aids when we really need solutions.

We need a fourth comprehensive high school, whose students can enjoy the same amenities and opportunities to learn as those enrolled in the other three high schools. We need creative solutions that don’t overburden neighborhoods or existing schools.

But we can’t stop there. We must find innovative ways to make use of our community’s limited resources and space while still maintaining the high educational standards Arlington families expect and deserve.

As a leader on the South Arlington Working Group to site a new elementary school, I did just that: my creative proposal, adopted by APS, leveraged the building of a new elementary school while also addressing several other capacity challenges. It is just this new, outside-the-box thinking that we need if we are to finally get in front of the capacity crisis.

Lastly, we must rebuild trust between the School Board and parents, students and teachers. We must communicate better, with data and enrollment projections we can rely on, an open door policy for constructive criticism, and commitments kept when made.

Arlington Public Schools is indeed at a crossroads, but our challenges are not insurmountable. I will fight every day to meet them head on, and to ensure a love of learning for all Arlington children. I hope I will earn your vote for Arlington School Board on November 7.

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Alison Dough: Why You Should Vote For Me

Last week we asked the three Arlington School Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in Tuesday’s election.

Here is the unedited response from Alison Dough:

A couple years ago, I had a serious issue with my son with special needs at his elementary school.  It could not be resolved at the school and I did not hesitate to contact my elected school board officials and the superintendent and his staff.  Not a soul from the school board responded.  At that point, I realized as a parent, I did not have a voice when an issue arose that could not be resolved.  The people I had voted for and elected were not my voice on the school board.  I can write my congressmen at the state and federal level and receive responses within 3 days – silence was my response from the school board.

I believe the unresponsiveness stemmed from disengagement – members of the school board who even have children – their children have aged out or are aging out of the system.  What is their reason to be engaged?  Parents with children in the school system should have a voice – they need a voice.  I have a vested interest with two elementary school children and one in diapers.  I have a vested interest in the here & now of what is happening and what will happen in my children’s future.

My priorities are as follows:

  1. Inclusion. Arlington needs to catch-up with the rest of the state of Virginia and move towards an across the board inclusion policy. This issue is near and dear to my heart. Studies show students coming out of isolated programs cannot function in normal society and have trouble learning a vocation. Studies show inclusion benefits the special needs children and studies show inclusion benefits the general education students just as much teaching them communication skills, to accept others with special needs as peers, compassion, empathy, and prepares them to be better members of society.  Including special needs children up to 80% of the time is a win-win for all involved.  I would push for full inclusion (up to 80% of the day) to be implemented over a 2-4 year timeframe basing on best practices of other school systems in Virginia.
  2. With a county so rich in culture and language – why does Arlington only offer Spanish immersion? Why don’t we offer Mandarin, French, Arabic, Hindi or other languages?  Children have so much more ability than adults to learn these languages.  We know we have overcrowding in certain areas of Arlington.  Why not give parents a reason to want to move schools instead of redistricting them and battling over boundaries?  I would send my child across the county in a heartbeat if she could participate in a French immersion program.
  3. Increased recess. Recess time has disappeared after the “No Child Left Behind Act”.  Lack of recess has shown to have a negative impact on classroom behavior, learning, health, and social development. Studies show that when kids and teens get more exercise, they are better focused and also have less anxiety.
  4. Year-round school. I think we need to take a look at the benefits of year-round school. Year-round school helps to keep the kids and teens engaged.  Also, with several working families in Arlington, parents are burdened with the costs of expensive summer camps.  I know, as a full-time working mother, I could more easily schedule time off intermittingly throughout the fall, winter, spring and summer than trying to take several weeks back-to-back off in the summer tp spend with my children.
  5. Parent teacher partnership. Parent involvement is imperative in our children’s education. So many parents don’t know what is going on and they want to know.  There needs to be a partnership between parents and teachers and between parents and schools.

Parent involvement is a key to the success of our children.  We need to be involved.  We need to be running for the school board.  This is our board and we need to take ownership of it. I hope that as a fulltime working mother with three young children, I inspire others to seek this office as well. To paraphrase JFK as parents: we should ask not what your school can do for you – ask what you can do for your school.

Give our children, parents with children, and parents with special needs children an engaged and vested voice on the Arlington County School Board. Vote Alison Priscilla Dough for Arlington County School Board.

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Monique O’Grady: Why You Should Vote For Me

Last week we asked the three Arlington School Board candidates who are seeking the Democratic endorsement to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the May 9, 11 and 13 caucus.

Here is the unedited response from Monique O’Grady:

Arlington Public Schools is at a crossroads. APS is short on seats, short on money, and short on the time to fix these problems before they reach a crisis level.  It’s time to bring new ideas with a fresh perspective built on years of experience.

As a former PTA president, community volunteer, schools advocate, and parent of three children who attended five public schools in Arlington, I will bring my 19 years of experience advocating for our schools to bear on the challenges facing Arlington Public Schools.

I firmly believe our children should not just like school, but develop a lifelong love of learning.  Our kids go through the school system only once; they only get one shot at success.  We owe it to them to fight for our schools–and all too often our School Board hasn’t been up to the task. We can and must do better, by focusing on the ABCs:

Academics

We need a renewed focus on academics, putting as much emphasis on school instruction as we do on school construction, and a real strategic plan that ensures our teachers have the training and resources needed to help all children succeed.

We must balance using technology to foster innovative ways of learning with tried-and-true teacher-student personal interaction.  Finally, we can’t keep “teaching to the test” and expect our students to learn and grow; rather, we must ensure each child receives the comprehensive education she deserves.

Boundaries

School boundary decisions should respect communities while also embracing diversity.  Our students won’t take an SOL in multiculturalism; that test will come in life and those who learn in diverse settings will be best prepared to succeed in a multicultural world.

Our schools must be open and welcoming to all students, and it is imperative that we ensure that every child under our care feels safe and secure.

Capacity & Communication

Arlington is growing fast, and our public schools are facing a capacity crisis.  For too long, the School Board and APS have failed to get in front of this challenge, resulting in overcrowded schools and a series of band-aids when we really need solutions.

The answer is not, however, to create a “mega high school” that crams 4,000+ students into Washington-Lee, as some on the School Board have suggested.

Rather, we need a fourth comprehensive high school, whose students can enjoy the same amenities and opportunities to learn as those enrolled in the other three. We need creative solutions that don’t overburden neighborhoods or existing schools.

But we can’t stop there. We must find innovative ways to make use of our community’s limited resources and space while still maintaining the high educational standards Arlington families expect and deserve.

As a leader on the South Arlington Working Group to site a new elementary school, I did just that: my creative proposal, adopted by APS, leveraged the building of a new elementary school while also addressing several other capacity challenges.  It is just this new, outside-the-box thinking that we need if we are to finally get in front of the capacity crisis.

Lastly, we must rebuild trust between the School Board and parents, students and teachers.  We must communicate better, with data and enrollment projections we can rely on, an open door policy for constructive criticism, and commitments kept when made.

Arlington Public Schools is indeed at a crossroads, but our challenges are not insurmountable.  I will fight every day to meet them head on, and to ensure a love of learning for all Arlington children.  I hope I will earn your vote for Arlington School Board on May 9th, 11th or 13th.

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Maura McMahon: Why You Should Vote For Me

Last week we asked the three Arlington School Board candidates who are seeking the Democratic endorsement to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the May 9, 11 and 13 caucus.

Here is the unedited response from Maura McMahon:

My husband, Michael, and I chose to live in Arlington largely due to the reputation and quality of Arlington schools. We have a daughter in the 4th grade at Barcroft Elementary and a son in the 6th grade at Jefferson Middle School.

My school and community involvement has grown over the past seven years and has fueled my passion for education in Arlington – particularly for the future of Arlington Public Schools.  We have much to be proud of, from our awarding-winning schools to our innovative instructional programs. But we are also facing considerable challenges.

I have served as PTA Vice President, as Odyssey of the Mind Coordinator and in other volunteer roles, and as representative to the County Council of PTAs – for which I currently serve on the executive board.  I also have had the privilege to be part of both the Thomas Jefferson and South Arlington Working Groups.  These experiences have given me a deep appreciation for the diverse needs of our community, the strength of collaboration, and the need for fresh, innovative solutions and long-range planning.

I am the only candidate or board member with the point of view of a current elementary school parent – a valuable perspective absent from the Board and missing in its decision-making.  I know our problems first-hand. I am focused on the future and how we can maintain the quality of all of our schools as we continue to grow.

I will bring focus to the broader issues challenging our schools today: educational equality and opportunity, ways to foster diversity beyond “choice” and boundaries, and County policies as they impact APS’ needs and ability to serve its students–housing, transportation, development.  My advocacy efforts in our community are evident in the County’s Affordable Housing Master Plan and in a number of policy recommendations currently being considered as the School Board revises APS’ admissions and transfer policies.

I will provide the leadership APS needs to:

  • implement a vision for instruction, but focus on managing the infrastructure, resources, and tools our teachers need to engage students in the joys of learning;
  • solve our capacity crisis cost-effectively through long-range planning, including a 4th comprehensive high school, and thoughtful growth of option programs to maintain students’ access to opportunities;
  • develop a network with County departments, community groups, and businesses to increase available resources and streamline services in ways that mutually benefit APS and the broader community;
  • establish an Academic Partner School program that brings students of different backgrounds and abilities together to understand the benefits of diversity firsthand rather than learn about diversity from books and special presentations;
  • foster PTA collaborations for joint-programming, fundraising, and advocacy efforts.

I will be a strong advocate for our school system by:

  • making sure our County leaders understand how their decisions impact APS;
  • ensuring schools are an integral component of the community’s overall planning;
  • pushing the County to resolve existing traffic and student safety problems along Carlin Springs Road and in other places to enable the most efficient use of APS properties;
  • working with the County now to plan for the additional facilities we expect to need and how we are going to pay for them.

As our school system continues to grow and evolve, our leadership needs to adapt to our changing needs.  Our past ways of thinking and problem-solving no longer fit APS today.  We need a new voice, a fresh perspective, and a different approach.

I have stepped outside my comfort zone as a parent and advocate to run for school board because I feel so passionately about the critical issues our schools face today.

I appreciate the contributions each of my fellow candidates has made to our community over the years.  But I will bring the fresh perspective, proactive thinking, and the voice our schools need today.

Please join me by making me your first-choice candidate in next week’s caucus.  For more information, visit mauramcmahon.org and follow me at facebook.com/mcmahonforarlington.

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James Lander: Why You Should Vote For Me

Last week we asked the three Arlington School Board candidates who are seeking the Democratic endorsement to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the May 9, 11 and 13 caucus.

Here is the unedited response from incumbent James Lander:

I’ve been honored to serve as your Arlington School Board member for the past seven years. I am seeking reelection to ensure that Arlington Public Schools will continue to provide a world-class education that empowers every child to succeed, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, gender, language, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Arlington Public Schools needs an experienced, seasoned leader. I am that leader. It’s no secret that our schools are growing. We have averaged 1000 new students a year during my seven years on the School Board. The challenges in meeting the needs of this rapidly expanding school system are many, including: changing the landscape of instruction to meet the needs of all students; implementing plans to address our enrollment growth; and continued successful collaboration with the County Board on a long-term strategy to ensure every student has a seat to learn while maximizing our limited resources in ways that benefit the whole community.

I am passionate about educating our children; it is the key to everything. My work on the school board has prioritized quality instruction, high expectations for all students, and educating the whole child. Working with you to provide our children with the resources and tools they need to be successful in life will continue to be my sole focus.

As your School Board member, I have successfully completed eight budget cycles to fully fund the school system, implemented the 2011-2017 APS Strategic Plan, and oversaw more than $600M in Capital Improvement Projects, including award winning designs for sustainability. While serving as Chair, I lowered the cost per pupil spending by hundreds of dollars, redesigned the School/County revenue sharing agreement, and provided salary increases for teachers and staff in each of the past seven years. I am honored to have earned the endorsement of the AEA-PAC representing Arlington’s educators, for my work on the school board.

I offer to you my School Board service as evidence that I am best situated to lead continued Arlington Public School progress. Finally, I have been a responsive, engaged, thoughtful voice on the school board. This is the type of leadership that has made Arlington Public Schools an outstanding school system that attracts diverse families and remains a foundational driver of our local economy.

You have honored me with your trust on two previous occasions and I thank you for your support and encouragement along this journey. I ask you now for your support and your vote to continue my elected service to our wonderful community.

Voting begins, Tuesday, May 9th from 7p-9p at Key Elementary School, Thursday, May 11th from 7p-9p at Drew Elementary School, and Saturday, May 13th from 11a-7p at Washington-Lee High School.

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Vivek Patil: Why You Should Vote For Me

Last week we asked the four Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the May 9, 11 and 13 caucus.

Here is the unedited response from Vivek Patil:

My name is Vivek Patil and I am an engineer, entrepreneur, and community builder. As a leader at a global life science company and founder of two biotech startups, I have consistently faced seemingly impossible ideas requiring innovative thinking and persistence to make a reality. I’ve put this perspective into practice since my appointment to Arlington’s Economic Development commission, where I lead an advisory group exploring innovative and disruptive economic development ideas with the potential to transform Arlington.

In my experience, an equitable economy cannot be built without buy-in from all stakeholders. That is one of the reasons why I co-founded Building Bridges, a community outreach group that has built meaningful relationships with communities across Arlington. Our mission has been to reintegrate the diverse voices and visions of community stakeholders into our political and community processes through persistent outreach, listening, and engagement. In conversation, I have heard wonderful things about our progressive values, our inclusive and welcoming community, and Arlington’s remarkable livability. However, I have also heard stories of fading economic opportunity and housing affordability, a growing divide in incomes as well as our community issues and interests. I felt compelled to run for County Board to incorporate these voices into our ‘Arlington Way,’ and facilitate civic engagement that seeks out our community’s broad range of perspectives and collectively addresses school capacity, housing affordability, transportation infrastructure, and the fostering of economic opportunity.

This campaign is about re-imagining a bold, new economic vision for Arlington; one that transforms our community by creating a green and clean tech innovation economy. While nurturing our current business infrastructure, Arlington possesses the ingredients to build a green energy innovation hub rivaling Boston’s biotech space or Silicon Valley’s information technology economy. This new economy emphasizes our region’s talent, expertise, geography, and financial and strategic resources and it speaks to our progressive values of compassionate capitalism, equitable economic opportunity, and environmental protection.

Constructing this economy will require a regional DMV-area partnership that leverages our globally competitive green tech anchor companies and federal energy expertise to attract new entrepreneurs and startups. It will require strengthening of our university consortium along Fairfax drive and creating high-tech incubators to house and nurture new technologies and innovators. Older buildings in Crystal City and the metro corridors could be redeveloped through creative financing and cooperative investment models to house new companies as well as future entrepreneurs, employees, and families.

The green and clean tech sector is unique in that it requires an innovate-build-manufacture economy, utilizing both skilled and unskilled labor at each step of the way. A skilled workforce of engineers can design the next generation batteries or solar panels and trained workers can build them in facilities in Arlington or across the Commonwealth. It creates an economic opportunity continuum, bridging divisions between Virginia’s counties by advancing prosperous yet equitable growth.

Our schools and universities are indispensable to this economic transformation. I propose stronger collaboration between the County and School Board focused on preparing our children to be globally competitive in this innovation economy. Programs like Arlington Tech that offer project-based learning can partner with universities and employers, providing an applied learning construct with career opportunities for our high-school, career center, community college, and four-year university graduates. After all, Arlington only succeeds when all Arlingtonians succeed.

If elected to the County Board, I will act expeditiously and decisively to facilitate this bold new vision, well aware that it will require strategic collaboration, community engagement, and patience. A more sustainable, equitable, and diversified economy will help us generate the wealth necessary to fund our 21st century multi-modal transportation system, develop globally competitive schools, nurture our burgeoning arts infrastructure, and create a more biophilic and energy-efficient urban infrastructure. Arlington is uniquely qualified to lead this sector and I stand ready to lead our community in meeting this challenge. I hope you join me in achieving this innovative vision and I ask for your vote at the Democratic caucus on May 9th, 11th or 13th.

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