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Metro Wants to Increase Service Next Year, But Arlington Leaders See Major Legal, Financial Challenges

(Updated Thursday at 3 p.m.) Metro leaders are hoping to increase service during the morning and evening rush hours next year, but they could well face an uphill battle in convincing Arlington officials to help fund the change.

WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld proposed a budget for the new fiscal year that doesn’t include any fare increases, but does call for rush hour service to extend to 10 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. to better serve commuters. The budget, set to be reviewed for the first time by Metro’s Board of Directors tomorrow (Thursday), also beefs up service on the Yellow and Red lines and expands all trains to a maximum eight cars as part of a broader bid to win back riders for the struggling rail service.

The catch, of course, is that such service increases won’t come without a steep price tag. Even though Metro expects to bring in some new revenue with the added service, Wiedefeld expects that he’ll need an extra $20 million from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia to afford those changes.

Virginia relies on individual localities like Arlington to chip in for WMATA each year, and that means Wiedefeld’s proposed changes would increase the county’s annual funding obligation to Metro from $75 million each year to $83 million. That works out to a 9.8 percent increase, a number that is giving Arlington officials some real pause.

“It’s not that it’s a bad idea,” County Board Chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow. “It’s a question of, where does the money come from?”

Christian Dorsey, the County Board’s vice chair and Arlington’s representative on the Metro Board of Directors, agrees that he’d love to see some service increases, particularly as Metro wrestles with a thorny internal debate about how to boost ridership. Yet he’s concerned that Arlington won’t be able to afford all of Wiedefeld’s changes, at least all at once.

The county is already dealing with an intense funding squeeze, driven in part by falling revenues but also by the deal struck by state lawmakers to provide dedicated funding to Metro, which already put a larger burden on Arlington’s budget. This latest funding increase could make the county’s already grim financial picture even gloomier, Dorsey said.

“That’s a challenge, and there’s not the ability for any jurisdiction to just say, ‘Let’s take this budget and adopt it as is,'” Dorsey said. “I’ll be honest with you, this surprised me… I can’t quite come up with a rational reason why these service enhancement proposals were developed in this way.”

As Dorsey puts it, “something’s got to give, and something’s got to shift” in Wiedefeld’s proposal. He expects that some of the proposed changes to boost ridership “might need to wait until later,” due not only to Arlington’s specific budget challenges but one specific issue affecting all of Virginia’s localities.

A provision included in the dedicated funding deal prohibits the state from increasing its funding level to Metro by more than 3 percent each year, as part of a bid to control costs. Yet Wiedefeld’s proposal calls for an increase closer to 16 percent for the entire state, though that is largely driven by new construction costs for the second phase of the Silver Line, borne primarily by Loudoun County.

To Cristol, who doubles as the secretary-treasurer of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and argued forcefully for the dedicated funding legislation last year, fighting to exceed that 3 percent cap seems like a perilous decision for Metro.

She notes that the General Assembly included that cap in the funding bill as a way to control costs, and it became an essential way to justify the legislation to lawmakers skeptical of Metro’s management over the years. Cristol believes that the state exceeding that 3 percent cap so soon “flies in the face of” the spirit of what the funding bill was designed to achieve.

“The NVTC has talked a lot about demonstrating that Northern Virginia and the Metro jurisdictions are taking this piece of legislation and, the accountability parts of it, very seriously,” Cristol said. “This is not sending a good signal… and we have to remember that the dedicated funding resolution is still new. It’s fragile.”

Metro spokespeople did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how Wiedefeld plans to manage the challenge of the 3 percent cap. But, according to documents prepared for the Metro board, he seems set to argue that an exception to the cap would allow Metro ask for more money from the Virginia jurisdictions. The law does allow WMATA to ask localities for more cash, but only if it’s to afford an increase in service above and beyond what Metro is obligated to provide.

Yet Cristol points out that Metro is not the sole authority on interpreting Virginia law, meaning that any discussion of upping funding to pay for service increases is essentially “a legal question and not just a policy question.”

Dorsey agrees that the cap “could become a problem,” but he’s waiting to hear Wiedefeld’s pitch before becoming more definitive on the matter. Cristol suggested that Metro might be better served by putting more of the funding burden on D.C. and Maryland to avoid Virginia’s strictures.

But, even if Wiedefeld can find a way to surpass this legal hurdle, Dorsey wonders whether Wiedefeld’s focus on increasing service around the morning and evening rush hours is misplaced.

While Metro ridership has fallen across the board in recent years, he points out that the declines have been steepest during off-peak times and on weekends, when riders might encounter waits of 20 minutes or more for a train. For instance, numbers set to be presented to the NVTC Thursday show that average weekend Metro ridership in Arlington dropped by 15.3 percent between 2016 and 2017.

Wiedefeld’s budget does call for implementing a $2 flat fare for weekend trips, but Dorsey doesn’t expect that will do much to reverse the ridership slide.

“From everything we’ve seen, at least anecdotally, it’s not price sensitivity driving people away, it’s the lack of frequency of service driving people away,” Dorsey said. “That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea, it is not. But, uncoupled with the ability to deliver increased service, I’m not sure we’re achieving what we need to here.”

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ART Sees Steep Ridership Drop for Second Straight Quarter

Arlington County’s bus service saw another substantial dip in ridership this spring compared to the same time last year, new numbers provided to regional transportation planners show.

Arlington Transit recorded a 15 percent drop in riders in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018, covering April through June, compared to the same period a year ago.

The latest figures forwarded to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission show that the bus service recorded 745,850 passenger trips over that three month stretch, down from 874,695 a year ago.

That number is actually a 6.6 percent increase from ART’s ridership figures covering January through March. But those numbers were also disappointing ones for the bus service, as they represented a 17 percent drop from the same time period in 2017, meaning that ART has recorded ridership declines for the last two quarters in a row.

The latest ridership statistics represent an even steeper drop still from the same time period in 2016, when ART recorded 905,661 passenger trips — equivalent to a 17.6 percent decline.

These figures come as bus services nationwide cope with ridership declines, as the D.C. region as a whole struggles to convince riders to embrace public transit. The NVTC’s numbers also show that Metrobus ridership in Northern Virginia localities dipped by 9 percent this quarter compared to a year ago, though Metro ridership did tick slightly upward at most Arlington stations.

“The depth of erosion in bus ridership has been more than what we were expecting,” County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey previously told ARLnow. “As riders returned to Metro after SafeTrack, we would’ve expected a modest reduction, but it’s just been more substantial than we thought.”

The county has indeed previously blamed some of the decline in bus ridership on riders returning to Metro after the aforementioned intense rehab work, though the rail service has continued to deal with lengthy delays due to construction, which recently resulted in some riders embracing bus options this summer. Other potential culprits include the increasing popularity of ride-sharing or telecommuting.

Dorsey says the county’s approach to reversing that trend will remain the same as ever: “keep investing in places where people want to go.” He added that the county is also working to “refresh” some of its older ART buses, which could help lure riders back to the service.

“We’re investing in new coaches for greater comfort, which is always helpful,” Dorsey said. “When ART was introduced, one of the benefits that convinced people to move to the bus was they were cleaner and quieter. But as they’ve aged, that competitive advantage has declined. We just need to reinvest in ART a little bit.”

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Arlington Officials Hail the Arrival of Small Business SyLearn as a Modest, Yet Meaningful, Win

While most ribbon cuttings for new businesses around Arlington tend to be full of pomp and circumstance, SyLearn’s grand opening in a modest Virginia Square office building Wednesday was a family affair.

CEO Jay Chandok, who helped found the new IT training company, busily urged guests to help themselves to a full buffet, as the daughters of Chandok and other staff members snapped pictures of new arrivals with iPhones. One made sure to introduce each visitor to one of her dolls, which she’d given a Hawaiian name: Leilani.

The event, much like SyLearn itself, was relatively small in scale. But Arlington officials say arrival of such businesses in the county is just as important as some of the bigger names economic development staffers are focused on these days.

“People think that they spend all their time on the Amazons and Nestles of the world, and while those are certainly important, this is really the bulk of what they do,” County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey told ARLnow. “It’s these small businesses that we hope will become big businesses someday.”

Chandok says the county indeed helped connect him with real estate brokers as he searched for a home for his new business, which was born out of another, similar program he worked on in Arlington.

He landed on a suite in an office building at 3330 Washington Blvd. It sits just behind George Mason University’s Arlington campus, but a bit off the beaten path of the bustling Rosslyn-Ballston corridor — Dorsey expects that certainly helped “lower the cost of entry a bit.”

Chandok hopes to eventually start hosting as many as 200 students each year in the space, with a pool of eight instructors to help them earn certifications on the latest software, or even make a career change and embrace IT.

“We’re looking to help people who aren’t going through four-year institutions, and we’re not bound by the same red tape as they are,” Chandok said. “We can help career changers, or career upgraders. Anyone who’s looking to test the waters and see what else is out there.”

With a legion of federal agencies, not to mention contractors, nearby, Chandok surely won’t lack potential customers. Dorsey also hopes that the county’s school system will consistently “provide a pipeline of talented students” interested in IT, noting that “we can only do so much” when it comes to career education.

Board member Libby Garvey, a longtime School Board member herself, also pointed out that SyLearn could be a perfect fit for the many veterans in Arlington, should they want to build on the tech training they received in the military.

“They have incredible talent that we need to tap into,” Garvey said.

With that sort of pool of would-be students available, Dorsey expects to be attending another ribbon cutting for SyLearn sooner, rather than later.

“As he grows, I want you to find him a bigger space,” he implored the economic development staff in attendance.

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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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