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Dorsey: Stop Trying to ‘Protect Neighborhoods’ from Density

County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey is urging people around Arlington to embrace density in their communities and abandon the idea of “protecting” certain neighborhoods from development.

Without that sort of shift in mentality, Dorsey expects the county will never meet its stated goals of bringing down housing costs and making Arlington more accessible for people of all income levels.

“We have to look inward and look at ourselves and some of the things that are holding us back,” Dorsey told the audience at last month’s annual Leckey Forum put on by Arlington’s Alliance for Housing Solutions. “We can’t kid ourselves into thinking we can have it both ways, to tout our progressive bonafides with housing and affordability while also accepting the framework that certain neighborhoods need to be protected. Ask ourselves: protected from what?”

Dorsey would concede that he doesn’t want to “change in any way the notion that neighborhoods are for people who want to grow their families and stay in Arlington for generations.”

But he did challenge people in wealthier neighborhoods to consider that fighting against more dense development often amounts to “preserving a level of unaffordability and segregation” that already exists across the county.

“Often, you hear, ‘We want to mitigate density, we want to concentrate density in certain areas, we want density to be something that we don’t deal with,” Dorsey said. “If that’s our framework and our paradigm, we are losing a key tool to deal with affordability.”

In the past, some critics have charged that the county is facilitating the overdevelopment of affordable housing in places like the western end of Columbia Pike while exempting large swaths of affluent North Arlington from more affordable development.

Dorsey sees the constant churn of redevelopment of small, single-family homes into ever larger homes on the same property as helping to contribute to this problem, arguing that “the whole idea that we have one dwelling per lot and we allow for the increase in footprint on said lots, that absolutely factors into our affordability challenge.”

“It restricts housing supply and increases the pricing of housing on those parcels,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey acknowledges that forcing this sort of shift in attitudes won’t be easy, however, and he lamented that “the pursuit of effective public policies to achieve these outcomes are often thwarted by political considerations.”

Yet he also has hope that “these considerations… are not immutable,” and he believes people in the county will prove to be receptive to his arguments, if they’re framed correctly.

“What I hear as often as, ‘We want to protect our neighborhoods and mitigate density,’ is that ‘I want my neighborhood to be a place where I can interact with people of diverse backgrounds, I want my kids to go to school where they interact with people from diverse communities and diverse life experiences,'” Dorsey said. “We need to hold people to that, and engage them on those levels and expose them to tools to actually make that a reality.”

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Northam Pledges to Revive Tax Increases to Fund Metro, Send Transportation Money Back to Arlington

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) says he’ll renew his push for a set of Northern Virginia tax increases to fund Metro next year, a move that could help Arlington win back some critical transportation dollars.

Republicans in the General Assembly narrowly defeated Northam’s efforts to add the tax hikes to legislation providing the first source of dedicated funding for the rail service earlier this year.

The tax increases would’ve been relatively modest, bumping up levies on real estate transactions and some hotel stays, but they could’ve helped the state avoid pulling roughly $80 million in annual funding away from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The group uses regional tax revenue to fund transportation improvements across Northern Virginia, and the NVTA has already had to scale back its plans to help Arlington pay for construction projects like second entrances at the Ballston and Crystal City Metro stations.

That’s why Northam says he plans to propose the tax hikes once again when lawmakers reconvene in Richmond in January, setting up another tussle over the issue several months ahead of an election where all 140 state legislators will be on the ballot.

“We’ve got to be so careful pulling resources out of the [NVTA],” Northam told ARLnow in a brief interview in Rosslyn. “It threatens other projects we were working on. It also makes Northern Virginia compete with other parts of Virginia. It was a bad idea, and that’s why I amended [the original bill]. We’re going to continue to work on that.”

There’s no guarantee that Northam’s second effort will be any more successful than his first, however. Republicans still hold a slim, 51-49 majority in the House of Delegates where GOP leaders, particularly Del. Tim Hugo (R-40th District), have pledged to beat back any tax increase to fund Metro.

But Democrats are eager to take up the fight once again, especially with other contentious issues, like Medicaid expansion or the freeze on state utility rates, off the table.

“It’s worth coming back and doing this right,” said Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District). “The way we funded this thing was clearly shortsighted.”

Neither Hugo nor a spokesman for House Speaker Kirk Cox responded to a request for comment on Northam’s Metro plans. But Hope believes Republican lawmakers, particularly those outside of Northern Virginia, will come around on the tax hikes as they begin to feel the impacts of the funding deal’s structure.

Specifically, he points out that without seeing all the money they’d like from the NVTA, Northern Virginia localities like Arlington have already started applying for more funds from statewide entities. That will put Northern Virginia projects in competition with applications from cities and counties without the same level of traffic congestion as the D.C. region, meaning places like Arlington could end up winning out in plenty of cases.

“Everyone else is going to get less money,” Hope said. “Nobody likes to be stuck in traffic and nobody wants to get blamed for causing that.”

County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey points out that applications for the state’s “SmartScale” transportation funding program have already “more than doubled” this year, with counties like Arlington on the hunt for more construction dollars. He expects that will only continue as time goes on, and he was similarly pleased by Northam’s plans to bring the tax increases back.

“It wouldn’t just relieve the funding pressures on us, but everyone else,” Dorsey said. “The way Metro funding was accomplished this year ends up hurting the entire state.”

In the meantime, however, Dorsey notes that the county can’t assume that Northam’s efforts will be successful.

As the Board has started work this summer on its latest revision of Arlington’s 10-year construction spending plan, county staff have repeatedly expressed hope that the Metro funding equation changes and opens up more room for spending on big transportation projects. But without any certainty on that count, they have to prepare as if things will remain the same.

“Hopefully, this is something we can correct in two years,” Dorsey said. “But we can’t know for sure.”

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Upped to Voting Member on Metro Board — Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey has been appointed as one of the two principal voting members of the WMATA Board of Directors from Virginia. He previously served on the Metro board in a non-voting alternate capacity. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Miss Arlington Takes State Crown — Miss Arlington, Emili McPhail, has been crowned Miss Virginia and will compete in the Miss America pageant. [WDBJ7]

Alex Trebek in Arlington — Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek stopped by the WJLA studios in Rosslyn on Friday for an interview with the station’s anchors and to help with the weather forecast. [WJLA]

VOA Profiles Choun’s County Board Run — The Voice of America’s Cambodian service followed up on Cambodian-American Chanda Choun’s run for Arlington County Board. Though Choun did not receive the Democratic nomination, he did over-perform the expectations of many. Despite the defeat, he also is encouraging “other non-traditional candidates to run to make local US elections more competitive.” [VOA Cambodia]

Lidl Faces U.S. Headwinds — German grocer Lidl, which established its American headquarters in Arlington near Crystal City, has had a rocky go of it as it tries to expand in the U.S. The company is adjusting its strategy after disappointing results from the stores it has opened thus far. [Philly Inquirer]

Six Achieve Eagle Scout Status — “Six members of Boy Scout Troop 638, affiliated with Little Falls Presbyterian Church, recently ascended to Eagle Scout during a ceremony held June 9 at the church. Recent Yorktown High School graduates Owen Gorman, Aubrey Bouchoux, Jack Durham, Tim Kent and Michael Mellett  and recent H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program graduate Ben Mundt were honored at the ceremony.” [InsideNova]

Photo courtesy @bethanyhardy

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Protesters Rally Against Arlington Social Security Office Closure

Despite this afternoon’s heat, dozens of protesters crowded the sidewalk in front of Rosslyn’s Social Security Administration office to rally against its potential closure.

The office, those speaking at the megaphone argued, is a vital component of serving the area’s Social Security benefit recipients.

“If you close this office, you’re cutting a social security benefit,” said J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees. “It’s just like cutting somebody’s social security check — you’re cutting the ability for them to access the services that they need.”

The activists’ argue that many people who receive benefits are either aging or disabled and need an easily accessible, local office. That portion of the population needs to be able to consult a human being face-to-face in order to maximize their benefits.

Using an internet portal, they say, was inefficient for some benefit recipients because they tend to not include sufficient or accurate information on forms, have difficulty using a computer, or don’t have the ability to access the internet.

County Board member Christian Dorsey made an appearance, arguing that there’s plenty of room for the Social Security Administration to maintain an Arlington presence.

“This pains me to say as a public official, but office space is not that expensive in Arlington right now,” said Dorsey, pledging to use county resources to find the SSA a more amenable lease. “There are plenty of opportunities for the SSA to stay.”

The Social Security Administration has an office in Alexandria, but anyone looking to get there from Arlington would have to take a trip down the Blue Line to the Van Dorn Metro station and then hop on a bus. The SSA’s website doesn’t even list that office as being nearby if users enter a Rosslyn zip code to find a location.

“To lose the ability to connect people to an office thats within a short walk of heavy rail and to put them in an office more than a mile away from the closest Metro station speaks of poor planning and speaks of insensitivity,” said Dorsey. “We want to reverse that.”

Dorsey himself only learned of the closure a few weeks ago from an Arlingtonian who works with AFGE.

“You would expect, in a world where there’s a governmental asset, that you’d at least get a heads-up when there’s a rethinking of delivering that service — but that’s not the world we live in,” Dorsey said.

About 90 people come to the office every day to use the office, according to Dorsey.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) has also written a letter to the SSA’s internal watchdog requesting an investigation into the agency’s decision to close the office.

A full video of the rally has been made available by Social Security Works, an organization in favor of expanding the program.

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Cristol Elected County Board Chair, Dorsey New Vice Chair

Katie Cristol will serve as Arlington County Board chair for 2018, with Christian Dorsey nominated as vice chair alongside her.

Both were nominated and unanimously voted in at the County Board’s organizational meeting (video) last night (Tuesday), where members lay out their agendas for the year. This year’s meeting avoided the political wrangling of last year, when Cristol was elected vice chair.

In her remarks after being elected chair, Cristol said she would focus on protecting and adding affordable housing and work to help Metro return to a “sound footing” financially. The Washington Post noted her relative youth — 32 — and said she is the first millennial to lead a county dominated by those in the 20-34 age group.

One of Cristol’s other priorities is to continue work on the county’s nascent childcare initiative, which began this year and is looking to expand options and the quality of child care available in Arlington.

“Child care accessibility similarly speaks to the foundational values of Arlington County,” Cristol said. “The idea that this place is a place for young families is part of our ‘old story,’ at least since an influx of veteran families in the postwar years made Arlington a ground zero for the Baby Boom.”

Dorsey called on the county to establish its own consumer protection bureau to educate businesses and residents about their rights and settle disputes between the two. Like Cristol, he also said affordable housing and Metro will be key priorities this year. The Board last year hiked property taxes to help, in part, to pay for increased Metro costs.

Dorsey said the consumer protection bureau could be a crucial addition, which he said “does not require substantial new funding.”

“We frequently hear complaints involving predatory towing, billing and service issues with cable and telecommunications companies, predatory lenders, identity theft, hired transportation, rental housing, and general contract enforcement,” he said. “I believe there are beneficial outcomes in dispute resolution and prevention that a consumer protection bureau can promote.”

Libby Garvey, now the longest-serving County Board member after the retirement of Jay Fisette last year, said she wants to work on public discussions and ensuring they remain civil. She urged residents to give feedback on a draft guide on Civic Engagement, which will be finalized this year.

“I believe improving civic dialogue and general civility in our discussions is another challenge for us,” Garvey said in her remarks. “[Perhaps] it is because of the poor examples we are seeing on the national stage, but I’ve been hearing more and more, recently, about inconsiderate and unpleasant interactions in public meetings on County issues right here in Arlington.”

Independent Board member John Vihstadt, who is running for re-election this year, said the county should strive for more transparency in government, have greater fiscal discipline and better mitigate the impacts of development.

Vihstadt said cost/benefit analyses should be required of every new development, something he called a “cardinal recommendation” of the 2015 Community Facilities Study.

“Other jurisdictions do this; so can Arlington,” he said. “Let’s leverage the new political dynamic in Richmond by broadening the scope of community benefits to find new ways to help offset the cost and stress of additional development on our surrounding neighborhoods.”

Erik Gutshall is new onto the Board for this year, having won last November’s election to replace Fisette, who retired after 20 years. He noted in his remarks that the budget “will be rife with difficult choices constrained by a harsh revenue gap,” but pledged to support public education, affordable housing and civic engagement.

“As we catch a glance in the rear-view mirror, check our current speed, and peer up the road ahead, it’s clear that we are blessed with a strong foundation, deeply rooted in our shared values, that will sustain our continued success as we meet the tumultuous challenges brought upon us by outside forces,” he said.

The County Board’s first regular meeting of the year is set for Saturday, January 27.

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Podcast: Arlington County Board Member Christian Dorsey

Christian Dorsey joined the County Board in 2016 and now also represents Arlington on the WMATA Board.

On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we talked to Dorsey about whether SafeTrack and new train cars are improving Metro. We also discussed schools, parks, land use, development, the Shirlington Dog park controversy, issues with the Arlington Way, gentrification, affordable housing, and a proposed pedestrian walk from Crystal City to Reagan National Airport.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Morning Notes

Sunset on Four Mile Run

ACFD Battles New Year’s Day Fires — The Arlington County Fire Department had a busy New Year’s Day. In the afternoon the department battled a fire in a duplex on the 2400 block of S. Nelson Street. That night numerous ACFD units assisted Fairfax County Fire in battling a high-rise apartment fire on S. George Mason Drive. [Twitter, NBC Washington, Twitter, Twitter]

Dorsey on Metro’s Service Hours — Arlington County Board member and WMATA Board member Christian Dorsey writes in a Washington Post op-ed that planned cuts to Metrorail’s late-night hours are painful but necessary. “These service cuts are necessary to protect our riders from the risk of injury or worse,” Dorsey wrote. “It is our ethical and public duty to take every reasonable step to ensure that we don’t harm Metro riders in the worst and most irreparable ways.” [Washington Post]

W-L Soccer Team to Be Lauded — The Virginia General Assembly is expected to approve a joint resolution saluting the Washington-Lee High School boys soccer team for winning its first state title last year. [InsideNova]

Wakefield Reaches Tourney Championships — Over the holiday break the Wakefield High School boys basketball team reached the championship of the George Long Holiday Hoops Tournament but fell to Glenelg Country. The Wakefield girls, however, beat Parkview to win the Parkview Classic tournament. [Washington Post, Wakefield Athletics, Twitter]

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Local Officials React to Trump’s Election with Both Apprehension and Hope

It’s probably safe to say that “shock and horror” was the predominant reaction among local Democrats to Donald Trump’s surprise victory in Tuesday’s presidential election.

In Arlington, only 17 percent of those casting ballots voted for Trump, while 76 percent voted for Hillary Clinton. Early on, as the results just started coming in, some officials we spoke to at the Democratic victory party in Clarendon refused to even concede that there was even a possibility that Trump could be elected.

Both the surprise over the result and the fear over what a Trump presidency means for Arlington and the nation was on display at Wednesday’s Arlington County Board meeting. Each Board member weighed in with their thoughts on the election. (See video, above.)

Here’s a bit of what Christian Dorsey had to say:

The outcome of this Presidential election was not what I desired, nor what I ever thought possible. This morning, my wife Rachel and I had to tell our budding feminist, 8-year-old daughter, who just a couple of weeks ago dressed as a suffragette for Halloween and explain to her that our candidate lost. That was hard. But harder still was finding answers to her very natural follow up questions, why, how? But I have to tell you that hardest of all, were finding words of reassurance to an outcome that in my opinion has dramatic consequences for our country. I hope to be proven wrong. Tens of millions of Americans, 20,000 Arlingtonians, and for all I know, perhaps some of you in this room chose Mr. Trump. I won’t try to believe it, but I will try to accept it.

County Board Chair Libby Garvey said a Trump presidency will not change the nature of the Arlington community.

At this point, I know we need to not give into fear, we need to not give into anger, we need to not assume that we know why everybody voted the way they did. And we need to continue what we have been doing here. This is a beautiful, wonderful community and we will do everything we can to preserve it and I am hopeful that we can. The rule of law and the rule of our constitution must prevail.

Jay Fisette said he was trying his best to cope with the results and give the new president a chance.

Yesterday was likely the most consequential election in my lifetime, for our country, to our world, to our understanding of democracy, the economy and our environment. Earlier today, I watched Hillary Clinton’s poignant and gracious concession speech and I actually took to heart her advice.

Number one, to respect the orderly transition of power that which is fundamental of our constitutional democracy. Two, to work with ourselves to open our minds and give our President Elect a chance to lead. And three, to continue to believe in our vision, in our values for the community, for the country.

In each of these, the first is easy for me. Everyone must and will come together to respect and accept the election results, as that is how we work, via the example that was set by our very first president, George Washington. So congratulations, Mr. Trump.

The second will be harder for some, like me, to open my mind and give our President Elect a chance to lead, yet we must do that. After we each finish our own grieving, those that supported Mrs. Clinton, and our assessment of what happened and why it happened, we must give the President a chance.

Independent John Vihstadt, the lone non-Democrat on the Board, said he was disappointed by the slate of presidential candidates this year.

Regardless of our political perspective, everyone in the nation and across the globe is still processing the remarkable outcome of yesterday’s election. Many are jubilant, others are apprehensive, or even fearful, and many others no doubt are conflicted. In my view, all four party nominees on the Virginia ballot for President this year fell short of what our nation deserved and needed in 2016. I voted, but did not vote for any of them. Still, the American people have spoken.

I am confident that our democratic institution will heal and endure, and I hope and pray, that people of goodwill will come together, lower our voices, and work together to find common ground to advance the human condition.

I’m reminded of the statement chiseled in stone above the main door to the state capitol of my home state of Nebraska, “the salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.”

Katie Cristol said Arlington County would “navigate the coming days as we have other major economic and political events in the past” thanks to residents, county staff and prudent planning.

Cristol said the county would continue to respect the rights of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, in the face of Trump’s deportation promises.

I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm what has been a hallmark of Arlington County: inclusion and protection of our diversity and of our residents. I want to reaffirm that my commitment to the safety of our immigrant neighbors, emphasizing as this board did in 2016 that all residents and visitors to Arlington County have a right to public safety protection. That it is our longstanding policy that Arlington County law enforcement does not monitor, detain, interview or investigate people solely for the purpose of determining their integration status, and that the services we provide in Arlington County, including education, public transit, access to our parks and to our libraries are not restricted based on immigration status.

Arlington Democrats monitor the election results at Sehkraft Brewing in Clarendon on Nov. 8, 2016At an Arlington Committee of 100 event Wednesday night, a number of local political figures discussed what the election meant to Arlington County.

Jim Presswood, chairman of the Arlington GOP, told ARLnow.com that “we’re a little bit unclear” on the exact ramifications of a Trump presidency on the county.

“With the new administration you’ll have new people coming in, that will be a change,” he said. “Maybe government is a bit more restrained, so that might have impacts as well.”

Presswood said a more limited government under Trump, with streamlined regulations, will create more business opportunities, which will be good for business and for the working class.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to take a look at this whole segment of our population, especially in the industrial Midwest, which has been facing lots of job losses with manufacturing going overseas,” he continued. “The key thing is jobs, especially for the working class, creating more economic opportunity for them. That’s not something that would have much effect in Arlington, I suppose, given how many folks here have advanced degrees, but there are people here that are part of the working class so that’s not to be forgotten.”

Kip Malinosky, chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, was also a speaker at last night’s event. He told ARLnow.com that he remains worried about Trump’s divisiveness.

I hope that there will be a minimal impact on Arlington, but I am worried that there could be significant harm. Arlington is a welcoming community that thrives with immigrants and residents from all over the world. Trump’s rhetoric and platform could put our diverse community in jeopardy. Furthermore, our ability to attract top businesses from around the world would likely become much more difficult. Again, I hope for the best and that Trump will leave some of his most incendiary rhetoric and policies behind, and concentrate on being President of the entire United States of America.

During our live election night broadcast, from Sehkraft Brewing in Clarendon, we asked some local Democrats about a potential Trump victory, which at that point still seemed unlikely.

State Senator Adam Ebbin weighed in on what a Trump presidency might mean for Arlington by focusing on the military.

They both support a strong defense. Clinton has a sensible plan, has the experience and the advisors to do appropriate planning and make sure our military is right-sized. To hear Trump talk about it, he would just invest a lot in the military; I don’t know if he would do that haphazardly or if Congress would go along with that. I don’t know if he has a detailed or well-informed policy plan based on his own knowledge.

ARLnow columnist Peter Rousselot, meanwhile, had serious reservations about Trump being elected.

If by some stretch of imagination Donald Trump is elected president, I think you would see a lot of negative reaction in the country, certainly in Arlington, a lot of bitter disappointment.

We’ve got to make sure Hillary gets elected, I hope we’ve done it. I think we would be spending the next four years trying to maintain the rule of law and our constitution, because I don’t think Trump and those supporting him really understand the Constitution, and the rule of law is what makes our nation great. Anytime you’ve got people living together you’ve got disputes. You’ve got to learn to solve them through the law, not who has got the biggest gun or the biggest fists and that’s going backwards.

More investing in our people is what I think we need to do as a nation. Investing in education, healthcare, childcare, all of those things. I think Trump is interested in investing in himself.

Additional reporting by Samantha Moore

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County Board Members Join Strike at Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington County Board members Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol joined more than 25 contract groundkeepers in their strike this morning outside of Arlington National Cemetery.

The strike by the members of Local 572 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) began today at 7 a.m. It comes after eight months of delays in reaching a new contract. The walkout is believed to be the first strike by workers at the cemetery, says LiUNA.

“This is about workers and their ability to provide for their families and their ability to live,” said Dorsey. “You really can’t do so if your wages don’t keep up with the cost of living.”

Cristol said she was at the strike to support “dignity and fair practices,” adding that the high cost of housing locally makes it hard to raise a family on the wages the groundskeepers are being paid.

The workers, who are jointly employed by Davey Tree Expert Co. and Greenleaf Services Inc., are looking for sick leave time and a pay raise of 4 percent from their current approximately $13 per hour rate.

“I don’t think our ask is that dramatic at all,” said LiUNA assistant organizing director Keon Shim. “We’ve negotiated on things that are non economic and when it came to economics, the company basically said no to everything that we proposed so far.”

“When you think about the incredibly enormous job and the important job of beautifying our cemetery, making it a sacred place and also making it hospitable for visitors, we shouldn’t take the low road with those employees who make that happen,” said Dorsey.

There will be negotiations tomorrow between the workers and the companies, according to the union. If the company is not willing to sign a new contract for workers, union representatives said, the strike will continue.

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Morning Notes

Goldenrod (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

More Cars on Local Streets Due to I-66 Plans? — Will plans to toll I-66 inside the Beltway during rush hour send cars spilling onto local streets in Arlington? Not exactly. Traffic studies suggest the opposite will happen: more cars will use the highway rather than seek alternate routes through Arlington. [Washington Post]

Metro Begins Installation of Cable for Cell Service — Metro has begun the process of installing 100 miles of cable in Metrorail tunnels in order to allow mobile phone and better emergency radio coverage. [WMATA]

Optimism from Arlington’s New Metro Board Member — Freshman Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey is serving as the county’s representative on the WMATA board. Though he says the agency is facing “a fair number of problems,” he says Metro expects “to see some significant improvements” in 2016. [InsideNova]

Potholes on GW Parkway — The northbound lanes of the GW Parkway had to be closed from Spout Run to the Beltway for pothole repair last night. This morning, crews were dispatched to fill potholes in the southbound lanes. [Twitter]

County Combines Budget Hearings — In previous years, Arlington held separate budget hearings to discuss proposed expenditures and the tax rate. This year, those topics are being combined and members of the public can weigh in on either at two budget hearings: one on Tuesday, March 29 and another on Thursday, March 31. The county is also accepting online budget feedback. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Here’s What We’re Going to Be Asking the New County Board Members Tonight

Katie Cristol Christian Dorsey

Tonight ARLnow.com and Sarah Fraser are hosting new Arlington County Board members Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey for a discussion about local issues at Mad Rose Tavern (3100 Clarendon Blvd).

The event is being held tonight (Wednesday) from 6:30-8 p.m. There’s still time to get your tickets online, or you can get it at the door.

Each ticket is only six bucks and is good for a drink and a guaranteed seat at Mad Rose.

We’ll be asking Cristol and Dorsey about a variety of local issues, including:

  • The compromise deal to widen I-66
  • The change they hope to bring to Arlington
  • Millennial and minority participation in county government
  • Bar crawls
  • Post-streetcar plans for Columbia Pike
  • How they managed to win last year in a very competitive Democratic primary

We’ll also be asking three questions suggested by readers, which had the most upvotes as of Tuesday:

  • Moo 2.0: “Why do we have to pay $33 for a car sticker even though we already pay personal property tax on the vehicle and registration fees?”
  • Obvious Troll: “The county board has repeatedly shown a willingness to approve new high density developments without accounting for the increased stress the added students living in those developments will place on nearby schools. Will you start requiring builders to make direct contributions towards new PERMANENT student seats in the county (not just trailers), rather than settling for ‘public art’ concessions? If not, why not?”
  • Arlington Guy: “What is your plan for lowering the tax burden on existing residents? Isn’t that the best way to keep our seniors in their homes and get the younger folks to stay here instead of moving further out when it comes time to start a family?

Attendees will also have an opportunity to ask their own questions during the latter half of the event.

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Next Month: Meet the Two New County Board Members in Clarendon

ARLnow Presents: The County Board Young Bloods logo

The old guard of the Arlington County Board is out and new leadership is in.

With the election of Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey in November, the County Board became younger and more geographically diverse. Cristol and Dorsey, who both live along Columbia Pike, bring a fresh perspective to a Board that has been perceived as being most responsive to affluent, north Arlington homeowners.

So what sort of changes do the new Board members hope to bring to Arlington? And what, specifically, do they plan to do to better serve younger and minority Arlington residents?

The millennial generation comprises nearly 40 percent of Arlington’s population — making Arlington the most millennial-soaked “city” in the U.S. — yet younger residents are under-represented in many aspects of Arlington County civic life. As are minority groups — also about 40 percent of the county’s population.

Join ARLnow.com and host Sarah Fraser as we discuss those and other issues with Cristol and Dorsey at next month’s ARLnow Presents.

The event will take place at Mad Rose Tavern (3100 Clarendon Blvd) in Clarendon from 6:30-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 10. Tickets are on sale for only $6 and are good for one drink at Mad Rose Tavern during the event.

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Morning Notes

Crane from JBG's Central Place development in Rosslyn

Garvey Named 2016 Arlington County Board Chair — Libby Garvey, who is facing a challenge in this year’s Democratic primary, has been named the Chair of the Arlington County Board. Articles to follow.

Update: Family Given Lease Extension — An Arlington family with a disabled son has been given a 30-day lease extension, after they went to the media to protest the landlord’s reported refusal to renew their lease. The family said the manager of Columbia Pike apartment complex complained about them making too much noise. [Washington Post]

Dorsey to Serve on Metro Board — Christian Dorsey, who along with Katie Cristol began his first County Board term on Jan. 1, has been chosen to serve as Arlington’s non-voting representative on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors. [InsideNova]

Reminder: Arlington Is the Smallest Governing County — Arlington County is the smallest self-governing county in the United States. Kalawao County in Hawaii, New York County in Manhattan and Bristol County in Rhode Island are smaller, but don’t have their own separate county governments. [Arlington County]

Favola Proposes Allowing Cigarette Tax Hike — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) has proposed a bill that would allow Arlington and Fairfax counties to double local cigarette taxes. The extra funds would be used to support education. [InsideNova]

Free Breakfast at Northside Social — It’s unclear whether the promotion is still going on as of publication time, but Northside Social this morning was giving away free breakfasts and coffee courtesy of the new CBS show Angel from Hell, starring Jane Lynch. [Twitter, Twitter]

Christmas Tree Collection Starts Today — Christmas tree collection in Arlington County starts today and runs through Friday, Jan. 15. Trees will be collected curbside on regular trash collection days. Those who live in apartments or condos without county trash collection can bring their trees to the Solid Waste Bureau near Shirlington. [ARLnow]

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Election Analysis: ‘Back to Normal in Arlington’

Democrats' victory party at P. Brennan's on Columbia Pike

Local Republicans see a silver lining in the lopsided defeat of Mike McMenamin in Tuesday’s Arlington County Board. But one local political watcher says it signals that the narrow window of opportunity to elect conservatives to local office in Arlington has passed.

McMenamin, an independent candidate with the endorsement of the local GOP, garnered 19 percent of the vote to 36 and 34 percent respectively for Democrats Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol. Perennial candidate Audrey Clement, who ran as an independent after several elections under the Green Party banner, received 10 percent of the vote.

Democrats say they were pleasantly surprised by the election results.

“It turned out much better than I predicted it to be,” said Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Kip Malinosky. “I think people responded to an inclusive, welcoming message.”

“We always took [McMenamin] seriously,” Malinosky continued. “We knew he had a good record of public service. But we didn’t hear a positive vision for Arlington from Mike. Voters heard a lot of ‘no.'”

Matt Wavro, Chair of the Arlington County Republican Committee, sees things a bit differently. Via email, he told ARLnow.com that all four candidates in the race ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility — a victory of sorts, even though the GOP’s favored candidate did not win.

Mike ran a solid independent campaign. The Arlington GOP was very proud to endorse his independent candidacy. Mike’s earnest desire to bring people together to solve issues facing the county should be acknowledged by everyone involved in politics in Arlington.

The future of the Arlington GOP is strong. Our goals of cancelling the streetcar, reducing the cost of the Million Dollar Bus Stop, ending the subsidy of the Artisphere, preventing a property tax rate increase, and turning back the plan to build subsidized housing in our parks enjoyed and continue to enjoy wide community support.

With the exception of a firm commitment that subsidized housing should not be built in parks, every candidate for the County Board campaigned on our issues. Even the candidates who were leveling partisan attacks against Mike were trying to appropriate the very issues we considered as the basis for endorsing Mike.

Democrats on the County Board were very effective in 2015 at clearing the decks of issues that highlighted how out of touch narrowly partisan Democrats were from their more rational and reasonable neighbors of all political persuasions.

“Looking out at the issues that are likely to be taken up in the next year, our platform will continue to be a consensus-building counter-point to the partisan Democrat group-think we saw from our County Board members in 2013 and the decade prior,” Wavro added.

Despite Wavro’s optimism, one veteran Democratic campaign operative and election watcher thinks the result shows a return to normalcy in heavily-Democratic Arlington after a brief flirtation with center-right politics.

“It’s back to normal in Arlington,” Ben Tribbett told ARLnow.com. “The voters Tuesday were strongly Democratic, where they’ve always been.”

Tribbett, who correctly predicted the demise of Arlington’s streetcar project on the night of independent County Board member John Vihstadt’s election last November, said McMenamin’s defeat is “embarrassing” for Vihstadt.

“Vihstadt’s endorsement [of McMenamin] had no legs, voters basically ignored it,” Tribbett said.

The center-right flirtation was made possible by the streetcar, the Long Bridge Park aquatics center and other poorly managed, big-ticket projects that drew voter ire. With those out of the way, and with all candidates calling for some degree of fiscal responsibility, voters returned to other issues as deciding factors — issues that favored the Democrats.

Katie Cristol with Libby Garvey at Democrats' victory party at P. Brennan's on Columbia Pike(Other political watchers have suggested that it wasn’t just the streetcar that propelled Vihstadt to victory, arguing that he was a uniquely strong candidate with a long history of community involvement, thoughtful debate performances and well-tuned political acumen. There are no other Vihstadt-like candidates on the Republican-slash-Independent bench, some say.)

The Arlington electorate seems to have “lost their appetite for reform-type candidates,” Tribbett contended. That, he said, could signal trouble for Libby Garvey, who’s up for reelection in 2016.

Garvey, a Democrat, went against the party by speaking out against the streetcar and endorsing Vihstadt last year. She could face a tough primary challenge this coming spring as a result.

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Dems, McMenamin Trade Barbs on I-66, Parks

Multimodal transportation along I-66Democrats say independent County Board candidate Mike McMenamin’s stance on I-66 would ” threaten the quality of our parks.” McMenamin says that his opponents are “purposely distorting his position.”

The latest skirmish involving a County Board candidate started when an automated call from Del. Rip Sullivan (D) started ringing in thousands of Arlington homes Sunday.

Sullivan’s recorded voice ripped into McMenamin for suggesting that he would support adding an extra lane to I-66 within the existing VDOT right of way in Arlington, tying that position into an issue near and dear to many Arlingtonians: parks.

Hi, this is Delegate Rip Sullivan. I have served on a Park Authority and Transportation Commission, and I’ve got an important message for you about the use of parks and green space in Arlington.

Independent-Republican for County Board, Mike McMenamin, supports widening I-66, which would threaten the quality of our parks at Madison Manor, Bon Air, Thrifton Hills, McCoy, and other parklands across the County. It would also threaten the quality of the Custis Trail. To protect parkland throughout Arlington County from development, join me in supporting Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol. If protecting Arlington’s parks and green space is important to you, then vote on Tuesday, November 3rd for the two candidates committed to protecting parks and green space: Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol.

Paid for and authorized by Christian Dorsey for County Board and Katie Cristol for County Board.

McMenamin responded in turn by accusing the Democrats of tying to “hide their weakness on parks.” From a press release:

Mike McMenamin today accused Delegate Rip Sullivan of making an 11th-hour attack purposely distorting his position on I-66.

“It shows that the political establishment in Arlington is worried about losing,” said McMenamin, who is running as an Independent for the County Board.

In a robo-call to thousands of voters on Sunday, the Democratic delegate said that McMenamin’s support for widening the interstate freeway would threaten the quality of various county parks.

McMenamin countered that he would only tolerate widening the highway within the current right of way and no further. Such widening, he said, would not take away any parkland at all.

“My opponents have been unwilling to say that they won’t build affordable housing on parkland, a position they know is unpopular, so they are trying to muddy the waters with these dubious attacks,” McMenamin said. “In fact, I am the only candidate committed to not building on our parks.

The Independent candidate said he is committed to keeping parkland and trails intact. “If any VDOT proposal would negatively affect any parks in Arlington, I think I would be the most effective voice for the neighborhoods.”

“While I don’t like the idea of having to widen 66, I fear the State is inevitably going to do just that,” he said. “After all, VDOT owns the road. So, I have taken the position that Arlington must strike the best deal possible.”

McMenamin also opposes tolls for I-66, saying it will lead to more surface traffic in nearby neighborhoods.

In a press release of their own, Dorsey and Cristol quoted Sullivan again.

“There’s only one candidate in this race whose policy positions would undoubtedly diminish the quality of Arlington’s parks and green space, and that’s Mike McMenamin,” Sullivan said. “Throughout this campaign, Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol have articulated their support and appreciation for Arlington’s parks and green space. Arlington voters are smart, and I’m confident they’ll see right through McMenamin’s false attacks on Dorsey and Cristol when it comes to park space. If Arlington voters want to protect the integrity of our parks, the choice is clear: vote for Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol this Tuesday.”

Voting in the County Board race and other state and local races will take place between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday.

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