With Election Day less than a month away, candidates for the Arlington County Board and School Board are honing in on their final pitches to voters.
And at a forum Wednesday night at Marymount University hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, the six candidates clashed on a range of issues, from how to engage more millennials in county government to closing the achievement gap in Arlington Public Schools.
The format varied from previous forums, as each candidate was able to ask a question of their opponents before taking further questions from the audience.
Erik Gutshall and Monique O’Grady, who were victorious in the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s caucus earlier this year for County Board and School Board, respectively, both touted their experience in county issues.
Both agreed that while Arlington is largely on the right course, it can do better. Gutshall, who is the current chair of the Planning Commission, said the county must not make too many concessions to developers on proposed site plans.
“If we don’t stick to our plans and our negotiations… and we don’t stick to our values, then we’ve lost,” he said.
Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement pointed to her regular attendance at the body’s monthly meetings as relevant experience.
And fellow independent Charles McCullough II said that beyond his involvement in the South Arlington Working Group among others, he would represent a fresh face with new ideas if elected to the County Board.
“We need to have other ideas, other experiences,” he said.
On the budget, Clement criticized the Board’s practice of spending closeout funds from higher tax revenue than anticipated. She said that the money should be paid forward to the following year to relieve the tax burden, rather than directed to “pet projects to satisfy its particularized constituencies.”
McCullough argued that developers in Arlington must pay their “fair share” to help make up budget shortfalls, while Gutshall said that rising property values must not be treated as a “blank check” for increased spending.
Among the School Board candidates, there were some sharp differences. O’Grady and fellow candidate Alison Dough agreed that the Arlington Career Center represents a “good opportunity” for a fourth comprehensive high school. But Mike Webb, running for School Board after an unsuccessful tilt at Rep. Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) seat in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, disagreed.
Instead, he said, School Board members should focus on ensuring instruction is as good as possible, and that no students are left behind.
“Before we build another high school, we have to think about the achievement gap that affects all our students,” Webb said.
And on the subject of the upcoming boundary changes in Arlington Public Schools, Dough said that more immersion schools where classes are taught in more than one language could help relieve the capacity pressures on other buildings.
Dough, who said her special needs child inspired her to run for School Board, suggested more language programs, like immersion in Chinese, French or Russian to help APS students embrace new cultures.
“Let’s look at the boundary issue differently and give our parents a reason to switch schools,” she said.
And with the nationwide opioid epidemic also touching Arlington, O’Grady said parents and students alike must be educated on the risks and solutions.
“It’s in our neighborhoods, it’s in our communities,” she said. “Let’s come together to learn how to deal with this.”
All six agreed on the need for elected officials to encourage more county residents to get involved, and help uphold the so-called “Arlington Way.”
“We need to be opening that door,” Webb said. “We have to build that pathway to leadership.”
The candidates will face off in another forum Sunday (October 15) hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).
ACPD Sending Supplies to Houston — The Arlington County Police Department is sending relief supplies to Houston Police, “who have been tirelessly serving those affected by Hurricane Harvey,” the department announced yesterday in a tweet. [Twitter]
More on County Board Debate — At Tuesday night’s Arlington Civic Federation debate, the two independent candidates blasted the County Board for supposedly being too pro cozy with business interests. Charles McCullough “several times ripped the county government for extending millions of dollars in ‘payola and corporate welfare’ in an effort to win economic-development successes,” while Audrey Clement “portrayed Arlington leaders as sharing a matrimonial bed with the development community, rubber-stamping new projects to reap the tax revenue they generate.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Encouraging Vanpools — Arlington County, via its Arlington Transportation Partners program, is encouraging commuters to join a vanpool, touting savings of up to $10,000 a year compared to solo commuting. [Arlington Transportation Partners]
Arlington Free Clinic Women’s Health Program — Grants from the Susan G. Komen foundation are funding a women’s health program at the Arlington Free Clinic and in turn saving the lives of breast cancer patients who otherwise could not afford their healthcare costs. Among those who beat breast cancer with the clinic’s help is one of its employees, a mother of three who found a lump while attending a breast health event in 2003. [WJLA]
Nearby: Rabid Raccoon Found — A raccoon found in an Alexandria park has tested positive for rabies. [Patch]
Flickr pool photo by Vandiik
The three candidates for Arlington County Board agreed on the need for more affordable housing at a forum Tuesday night, but offered differing methods on how to achieve it.
Speaking at a forum hosted by the Arlington County Civic Federation at Virginia Hospital Center, the traditional kick-off for the fall campaign season, Audrey Clement, Erik Gutshall and Charles McCullough all argued more can be done.
McCullough, an independent endorsed by the Arlington Green Party, said the county must expand its use of rental assistance programs, especially for the likes of teachers and public safety workers like firefighters and police officers.
Democratic nominee Gutshall argued that the county should use its existing Affordable Housing Master Plan to create what he described as “missing middle housing” like apartments and townhouses for middle-income residents near Metro stations and along major thoroughfares.
“It’s a great formula to redefine our development paradigm and creates housing for the middle class,” he said.
To help prevent continued losses of such housing, Clement said the county should designate more areas as Local Historic Districts to capture architectural heritage and be tougher on developers.
McCullough agreed that developers should be held to a higher standard and compelled to provide more affordable housing and other amenities.
“For too long, development has meant displacement,” McCullough said. “That should not be the way, but unfortunately that has become the Arlington Way.”
Talk of the so-called “Arlington Way” of engaging with residents and gathering extensive community feedback came up when the candidates discussed how to get more people involved in local issues.
Clement argued that the Democrat-dominated County Board deters participation, as does a sense that controversial agenda items are left to the end of monthly meetings.
“It is really an endurance contest and that is really what discourages public participation,” Clement said.
Another emphasis of Gutshall: helping more small businesses open and operate more easily in Arlington. That follows reports of businesses having difficulty navigating the county’s permitting and inspection bureaucracy.
Earlier in the forum, Gutshall argued that he would go beyond party politics, and that the county’s progress has been not down to Democratic values, but “Arlington values.”
Gutshall emphasized that he was not a “hand-picked choice” of his party, after Democrats’ use of a caucus to pick their nominee was criticized as undemocratic by Clement. Both independents argued they would be unencumbered by any need to play “party politics” if elected to the Board.
“I tend to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and that’s where the voters are,” Clement said, noting that she previously was a member of the Greens but became “disillusioned” after it veered too far left.
“We need to be able to have an unencumbered voice for the issues we have right now,” McCullough added.
It may appear overshadowed by this year’s statewide races and political strife nationally, but the three Arlington County Board candidates are hard at work preparing for the fall campaign season.
Things get into high gear as the Arlington County Civic Federation hosts its first candidate forum, the traditional curtain-raiser on the final few months before Election Day. The forum will be held on Tuesday, September 5 in Virginia Hospital Center’s Hazel Auditorium ( ive).
And the candidates — Democratic nominee Erik Gutshall, and independents Audrey Clement and Charles McCullough II — said they are looking forward to getting into the campaign’s final stages and winning over more voters in upcoming debates.
“It’s also education of people, because I think there can be misconceptions about what I stand for and where I come from and those that don’t know me real well… might believe things about me that are flatly untrue, demonstrably untrue,” Gutshall said. “People getting a chance to see who I really am and what I stand for, I think could happen from those forums to the extent I’m able to reach people who didn’t participate in the Democratic caucus process.”
First-time candidate McCullough said he welcomed the opportunity to keep putting his progressive message forward and introducing his policy ideas to more and more people.
“What’s nice about getting in front of folks, just like I’ve been doing this entire time, what’s good is to be able to present that inclusive vision of Arlington and what it means to have a putting people-first attitude of policymaking,” he said. “[When] I’m able to forward that vision, the momentum is going to grow.”
Clement, a perennial candidate, said she is hopeful of picking up more votes as the statewide races come into the spotlight more and more. In last year’s election against Libby Garvey and on the same ballot as the Presidential race, Clement received just over 27,000 votes, something she put down to the high-profile nature of that race.
She said after the violence in Charlottesville at a white supremacist rally, Virginia’s elections take on added significance and that could help her.
“Last year, even though basically Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly took the county, I got a very sizable number of votes because the turnout was so high,” Clement said. “That’s not going to happen this year, but the Charlottesville incident has probably increased interest in the Governor’s race and that should help me. Insurgents always benefit from increased turnout.”
McCullough said in a letter to the County Board and Arlington’s representatives in the Virginia General Assembly on Tuesday, August 15 that they must work to rename Jefferson Davis Highway, the name for U.S. Route 1 in the county from its border with Alexandria into Rosslyn. Such a change would require action by the General Assembly.
In doing so, he said, it would condemn racism and bigotry and distance Arlington from the Confederate president.
“Even one more day of Route 1 as Jefferson Davis Highway is 24 hours too long,” he wrote.
The question of whether to change the name of Jefferson Davis Highway has swirled for several years, but local leaders have said passing a bill in Richmond to change the name is unlikely.
In Alexandria, a group is soliciting name suggestions for its stretch of Jefferson Davis Highway just south of Arlington. A letter from the Virginia Attorney General’s office last year said Alexandria does not need state approval to change the name as it is part of the Urban Highway System, so state bodies do not have naming rights.
McCullough’s full letter is after the jump.
Greens Endorse McCullough — The Arlington Green Party is backing Charles McCullough, an attorney who lives in Nauck, in his run for Arlington County Board. McCullough is “a young progressive who will bring new ideas” to county government, said Green Party head John Reeder. [InsideNova]
Arlington Cops Jump Rope with Kids — The Arlington County Police Department’s Twitter account posted photos of police officers hula hooping and jumping rope with kids at the Gates of Ballston affordable housing complex yesterday. [Twitter]
Rosslyn BID Helped to Woo Nestle — The Rosslyn Business Improvement District played a significant role in helping to convince Nestle to move its U.S. headquarters to Rosslyn. In a bit of a departure from typical functions of a business improvement district, the BID “helped coordinate a series of neighborhood tours for Nestle employees weighing whether to move east with their jobs, showcasing the various restaurants and shops in Rosslyn, brokering discounts and exclusives to local restaurants and playing the overall role of ambassador.” [Washington Business Journal]
County Touts State Dept. Lease — “The federal government’s decision to keep its State Department offices in Rosslyn for another 15 years and create a mini campus there is the latest win for what has been an exciting 2017 for Rosslyn and all of Arlington’s business community,” Arlington County said in a press release. “The State Department, long a fixture of Rosslyn’s economic footprint, is keeping its 280,000 square feet in its existing Fort Myer Drive building, and adding 60,000 square feet of space next door at 1200 Wilson Blvd., which it will share with one of its contractors already in that building.” [Arlington County]
A new name will appear on the ballot for November’s Arlington County Board election, as independent Charles McCullough II has thrown his hat in the ring.
McCullough currently works as a consultant, having previously represented the Australian Embassy in D.C. on education policy in the United States and Canada, worked as an attorney for D.C. Public Schools and been part of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
He said one of his main priorities is to ensure residents’ voices are heard. He said the so-called Arlington Way should be restored in their favor, rather than what he said he perceives as a bias towards developers and planning decisions that have already been made.
“What is this Arlington Way that drives these bargains that favor developers, that only call upon certain communities when it comes to decisions being made?” he said. “I hear people say, ‘We’re not actively consulted, we’re not meaningfully consulted.’ I hear from other folks in North Arlington, who say, ‘When I am consulted, the decision’s already been made. What Arlington Way is this?'”
McCullough was especially critical of the county’s decision to woo Nestle to Arlington with a package of incentive-based grants, and suggested instead that money could be invested to help grow and retain small businesses.
McCullough said one of his other major priorities is adding to the county’s stock of affordable housing, and ensuring more seniors can keep living in Arlington and are not priced out. He suggested following other communities’ lead by expanding the housing voucher program, and requiring that new developments have more affordable units than currently called for by county code.
He added that older citizens must be able to stay in the county, and added that maybe Arlington should look at providing more communities for seniors.