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Cord Thomas Won’t Run for County Board

Democratic County Board candidate Cord ThomasCord Thomas, widely rumored to be a candidate for Arlington County Board this year, has announced that he has decided not to run.

Thomas, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic County Board nomination last year, made the surprise announcement via Facebook this afternoon.

“To my friends and supporters, I want to thank you for the kind support and encouragement to run for the Arlington County Board,” Thomas said. “While my enthusiasm to represent our community remains, I have decided not to run in 2015.”

“At this time, with commitments to the continued growth and success in my business and family, I would not be able to focus 100% of my time on the needs of Arlington,” Thomas continued. “I am very encouraged that we have wonderful candidates currently seeking the office and I look forward to hearing how they intend to be good stewards of tax dollars and their vision for the future of Arlington.”

Thomas is a businessman who co-founded two locally-based companies: EnviroCab, which he has since sold, and Elevation Burger, the growing chain of burger restaurants.

So far, two Democratic hopefuls have publicly announced their candidacy for the two open County Board seats: Andrew Schneider and Katie Cristol. Other widely-rumored candidates include Christian Dorsey and Peter Fallon.

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Cord Thomas: Why You Should Vote for Me

Democratic County Board candidate Cord ThomasThis week, we asked the Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them in the Democratic caucus. The caucus is being held from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. today and from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Here is the unedited response from Cord Thomas:

This election is about asking several very important questions:

  1. Would Arlington benefit from a different perspective?  Or do you want the status quo (more of the same)?
  2. With a 20 percent commercial vacancy rate and dwindling tax revenue, who is the best person to improve our small business relationships, recruit new business, and support entrepreneurs? A consultant, and accountant or a small business owner and entrepreneur?
  3. Do you want a candidate who continues to spend on large, unnecessary capital projects? Or do you want a small business owner who understands how to deliver projects on time and on budget?
  4. Do you think a non-establishment candidate with strong Democratic values and business experience would be an added benefit to the board?

If you answered these questions like the majority of Arlingtonians, then please allow me to introduce myself … My name is Cord and I am running for Board!

Like the opinions of thousands of Arlingtonians, I too believe that the greatness of Arlington is in its diversity of experiences — and that is why I’m running for Board. I believe in the importance of real-life experience. At 15 years old, I had lost both of my parents; my mother to a violent crime and my father after an auto accident.  As an orphan, I had to rely on social safety nets and the kindness of a school teacher.

Nearly 10 years ago, I moved to Arlington and started enviroCAB, the nation’s first all-hybrid taxi company. EnviroCAB changed an industry proving that transportation and the environment are not mutually exclusive. I am also a founding partner of Elevation Burger’s Franchise Company. Today, Elevation Burger operates over 40 restaurants in seven different countries. Because of my experience in business, I know how to build relationships and get things done. I will bring these same skills-sets and resolve to the Arlington County Board.

Arlington is a great place to live, shop, and work. However, our communities are growing and schools face overcrowding while our tax base is shrinking. Now more than ever, we need to bring new business to Arli

ngton and focus on ensuring our tax dollars are spent wisely. I am the only Democratic Candidate that has said publicly that I lack confidence in Arlington’s ability to build the “Columbia Pike Streetcar.”  I am also the only candidate that has taken issue with the Long Bridge Aquatics Center and its outrageous costs.

If elected, I will help our community focus on essential services by not funding legacy projects but rather funding community projects. I will prioritize reaching out to our shrinking commercial tax base and will actively support and recruit new businesses.

I am the only candidate running who has developed, built, and operated a successful business in Arlington County. Through my business experience, I have a proven track record of fiscal responsibility.  My personal experience gives me an appreciation of the impact of social safety net programs.

The current Board is currently comprised of champions of affordable housing, education, and environmental issues, however, the Board lacks the perspective and experience I have when it comes to what accounts for 50 percent of our tax base: business.

At the end of the day, this election is a job interview. My resume, real life experience, and desire to serve all Arlingtonians — not just the same 40 people in a room — is why I am the best candidate for the Arlington County Board.

And heck, my name even rhymes with the job … CORD for BOARD … so vote for me Jan. 30 and Feb. 1!

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County Board Candidates Push Economic Development, Transit in Debate

From left, Peter Fallon, Cord Thomas and Alan Howze at the Arlington Young Democrats County Board debateEncouraging young professionals to stay in Arlington and future transit options were prime topics for the three Democratic Arlington County Board candidates during their second debate of the month.

Alan Howze, Cord Thomas and Peter Fallon debated for an hour and a half in front of a standing-room only crowd of Arlington Young Democrats in Ballston Wednesday night. AYD President Max Burns told ARLnow.com that it was the largest crowd at an AYD meeting he could remember.

Howze and Fallon advocated for the Columbia Pike streetcar as an economic engine and as a long-term, visionary transit plan while Thomas, who in the first debate said he was “not a fan of the Columbia Pike streetcar,” advocated for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) instead.

“We need to focus on a robust BRT system like our neighbors in Fairfax and Alexandria,” Thomas, 31, and a co-founder of EnviroCab, said. “At the end of the day, people just want to get where they’re going. If you can have something that’s state of the art, at one-fifth of the cost, why wouldn’t you choose that?”

Democratic County Board candidate Cord ThomasHowze — an Arlington native who said he remembers when the Orange and Blue lines were built — said that despite the up-front costs, the streetcar is a sound financial investment.

“If you go back and look at the conversation from 40 years ago, you hear echoes from this debate today,” Howze said. “When you look at the life cycle cost, there’s a strong argument to be made that streetcar is cheaper than buses in the long term.”

Fallon, in addition to speaking out in support of the streetcar, said the county needs more north-south transportation options and says the ART bus’ schedule should be expanded for later service. His primary focus during the debate was on affordable housing; he was touting his record as a planning commissioner in creating more than 1,000 units of designated affordable housing.

“The price of admission to Arlington is very high,” Fallon said. “The people who are here, you end up losing them, unless you’re able to capture them.”

Arlington County Board candidate Peter FallonFallon said he wants to re-examine Arlington’s incentive policies for asking developers for affordable housing units or funding. Fallon believes developers should be asked to contribute more than they already are, saying, “we need to get more bang for our buck so we have more of these units available.”

Moderator Gordon Simonett asked the candidates if they were worried about Arlington’s young population moving to cheaper, neighboring communities like Falls Church and Fairfax. All three candidates answered “yes,” but with varying degrees of concern. Thomas said there’s a reason so many young people are in Arlington in the first place.

“My friends constantly talk about moving somewhere” less expensive, Thomas said, but “Arlington’s a terrific place to be when you’re young.”

“There’s definitely a wonderful sense of young people, entrepreneurs and really young professionals here,” he said. “That’s why when I got here, it was really the place for me. Falls Church might be a little bit cheaper, but it doesn’t have what Arlington has.”

Democratic County Board candidate Alan HowzeHowze said later in the debate that part of the reason the streetcar was essential was to keep people from moving away once other communities have more transit options.

“The Silver Line is the first significant expansion of the Metro system in decades,” Howze said. “The effects of that reverberates in housing prices and other tradeoffs people need to make to be able to live in Arlington… We shouldn’t, as a region, be backing away from transit as a way to move our community forward, to move people where they need to go and to drive economic growth.”

While Fallon hung his hat on his affordable housing accomplishments, Thomas, who is the co-owner of Ballston-based Elevation Burger, focused his message almost entirely around his business acumen. When asked what his experience in public service was, he replied “investing all of myself into my business.”

Thomas said the County Board’s policies are partly to blame for the now-20 percent office vacancy rate.

“We need to approach businesses differently than we do now,” he said. “We’re not open and welcoming like we talk about. When businesses are choosing to leave, they’re choosing to leave because they feel unwelcome when they first got here. We have a commercial vacancy rate because we are driving people away.”

Arlington Young Democrats fill the room during their County Board debateThomas said the key to providing more social services — which he said he was “raised on” since he was a child — is to grow the tax base by attracting new businesses, not increasing taxes on the ones that are already here.

In his closing statements, Fallon said his focus, besides affordable housing, is on “strong schools, strategic, priority-based investments in our community infrastructure, and fiscal accountability.” Fallon also said he wants to see artificial turf replace all public grass athletic fields in the county to increase field availability.

Howze focused on his diverse experience, from working in the federal government, helping to start businesses and serving in community organizations. Howze is considered the favorite after winning 59 percent of the vote in an unofficial Democratic straw poll.

“I care about Arlington,” he said. “This is a community that I love that has been a part of my life since before I was born. I believe in public service to do good. As you take our measure here today, I encourage you to look at experience in government and leadership.”

Thomas voted for Ron Paul in the 2012 Republican presidential primary and wasn’t active in the local politics scene before this race. He said his focus on his businesses since he moved to Arlington makes him the best candidate despite his relative lack of experience.

“I may be a newcomer to Arlington politics, but I’m not a newcomer to Arlington,” he said in his closing statement. “I may be the only one here who is truly capable of increasing economic development because I’m the only one who has created jobs. We have tremendous people [on the Board] when it comes to affordable housing, tremendous advocates when it comes to schools, but we do not have anyone with real world experience in creating businesses.”

The next Democratic County Board debate will  be held on Saturday from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at Campbell Elementary School (737 S. Carlin Springs Road). The Democratic caucus, to select the nominee to fill the seat held by the retiring Chris Zimmerman, will be held on Jan. 30 and Feb. 1.

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Morning Notes

The dog's perspective... (Flickr pool photo by wolfkann)

Two of Three Dem Candidates Endorse Streetcar — Two of the three Democratic candidates for County Board — Alan Howze and Peter Fallon — have voiced support for the Columbia Pike streetcar project. The third Democratic contender — Cord Thomas — has concerns about the proposal. [Sun Gazette]

Lack of Decal in Fairfax Affects Arlington — Eight years ago Fairfax County became the lone jurisdiction in Northern Virginia to abandon car tax decals, and Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary believes that’s costing Arlington $300,000. O’Leary said it’s too labor intensive to check every single vehicle parked in Arlington without a decal to determine if the vehicle is from Fairfax or if the owner didn’t pay Arlington taxes. [Sun Gazette]

Civic Leadership Program Deadline Extended — Arlington County has extended the deadline for residents interested in signing up for the eight week Neighborhood College program. Participants will learn communication and influencing skills, how to organize for action and how to give and receive feedback, among other things. The deadline to sign up for the free series is now January 10, and classes begin February 13. [Arlington County]

Police Officer Profiled — A member of the Arlington County Police Department — Capt. Kamran Afzal — has been profiled in Asian Fortune. The Pakistani American studied economics in college before turning to a life in law enforcement. He has been with the department for 20 years. [Asian Fortune]

Christmas Tree Collection Begins — County workers began collecting discarded Christmas trees yesterday. The trees are collected curbside until January 17 and will be turned into mulch. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by wolfkann

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EnviroCab Founder a Surprise Candidate for County Board

Arlington County Board candidate Cord ThomasEnviroCab co-founder Cord Thomas announced he was running for the vacant seat on the Arlington County Board at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee, declaring a platform of job growth and fiscal responsibility.

Thomas is a newcomer to Arlington politics, having not held a public position before, but after he and his uncle, Hans Hess, sold EnviroCab six months ago, he decided he wanted to do more for the community.

“I don’t have a lot of experience in Arlington politics, but I have a lot of experience in growing Arlington,” Thomas told ARLnow.com. “I know what it’s like to spend money that’s your own. Everyone likes to spend other people’s money, but when it’s their own, they look at it more seriously.”

Thomas, a Nauck resident, is also a co-owner of Ballston-based Elevation Burger, which has grown to more than 40 locations worldwide.

Thomas was a surprise inclusion in the group of Democratic candidates vying for the seat made available by Board Member Chris Zimmerman’s impending resignation. Joining Thomas in the race will be Highland Park-Overlee Knolls Civic Association President Alan Howze and former Planning Commissioner Peter Fallon.

Howze’s and Fallon’s candidacies were widely known among local Democrats, to the point where many officials endorsed one or the other at the Democratic committee meeting.

“I was disappointed after I made my speech that so many elected officials had already made an endorsement,” Thomas said. “It seemed rather closed off, almost. I didn’t realize this was happening.”

Thomas, 31, said he plans to represent county constituents he feels are not represented at all on the County Board: small businesses and the county’s largest demographic, 25-34 year olds.

“I have an understanding of what it’s like to buy a home in Arlington these days,” Thomas said; he bought a home in Nauck six months ago. “A lot of small business owners support me in doing this. They really want a voice, and I think that’s important.”

Thomas doesn’t have a stated position on the Columbia Pike streetcar or the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center, but said that fiscal responsibility must be a priority in deciding on all issues. Thomas said he swims at the Wakefield High School pool, but questioned the size of the investment the county was making with the aquatics center.

“With the streetcar, I’m really waiting for the county to have real numbers,” he said. “I want to see companies come and give us real projections. Until that comes out, I don’t think it would be responsible to make a decision on it. When the information comes out, if it supports economic development like we all think it will, then fantastic. But we need to be responsible here.”

Thomas is concerned with many of the ways the current County Board has allocated its dollars, emphasizing his business experience to show that he could correct the Board’s policies and be, as he put it, “good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

“In business, every dollar counts,” he said. “However you spend it, you need to make sure you get the bang for your buck out of it. I don’t believe that’s really looked at in the board. In fact, I know that’s not really looked at. I don’t think anybody wants to cut any programs, and neither do I, but we have to learn how to increase our revenue through growth. In order to spend money you have to bring money in.”

Photo courtesy Cord Thomas

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