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Democratic County Board Contenders Debate Tonight

The two Democrats vying for the chance to run for a seat on the Arlington County Board this fall will square off in another debate tonight.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee will host the debate between Chanda Choun and Matthew de Ferranti at 7 p.m. at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association building in Ballston. Karen Nightengale, president of Arlington’s chapter of the NAACP, will moderate the event.

Voters will pick a Democratic nominee in the June 12 primary. The winner of the two-way race is set to run against incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt, an independent who is vying for his second term on the board after winning in 2014.

Arlington Republicans endorsed Vihstadt in that race, though the committee has put out a call for candidates that’s set to close next Tuesday, May 9. The GOP will hold a mass meeting on May 23 to pick a nominee if multiple candidates express interest in running, though committee spokesman Matthew Hurtt says it’s possible that no Republican steps forward for the race. Heitham Ghariani, an IT worker at the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, has filed to run as an independent.

Democrats hope that a surge of enthusiasm associated with the national midterm elections helps the party restore its total control of the five-member County Board; Vihstadt was the first non-Democrat to win a seat on the board in 15 years.

De Ferranti, who currently works as legislative director of the National Indian Education Association and sits on several county advisory committees, has so far earned the support of local elected Democrats in his primary bid. Former County Board Chairman Jay Fisette announced his endorsement of de Ferranti on April 30, joining several other state legislators and local officials.

Choun works for a cybersecurity company and as a part-time U.S. Army reservist. He’s also the vice president of the Buckingham Community Civic Association and serves as a delegate to the Arlington County Civic Federation.

Photo by Anna Merod

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School Board Candidates Respond to Follow-Up Questions from Recent Forum

This month, the three candidates for the Arlington School Board faced a series of questions at a forum hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100.

Like the three Arlington County Board candidates earlier this week, they then faced additional unanswered questions from the audience — due to time constraints — that ARLnow collated and emailed to them.

Two candidates’ unedited responses are below. (A third candidate, Mike Webb, did not respond.)

1. How do you plan to deal with the exploding student population in Arlington schools?

Alison Dough:

The simple and easiest answer would be to build more schools. If land is not available – build schools up. Ashlawn Elementary is an example of a school that recently and successfully built-up to address the increase in students.

I think that the school board needs to partner with the county board on this issue as it economically impacts both boards and together we should be able to work towards a possible solution that resolves the need for overcrowding in the schools and classrooms.

Monique O’Grady:

APS must get in front of its capacity crisis with better planning and a strategy on how to effectively provide seats for all of its students. As a member of the school board, I will work with my colleagues to plan with members of the county board to make best use of our limited dollars, limited space, and limited time. Through this collaborative effort we can reach decisions that will not only best serve our students, but also make efficient use of Arlington tax dollars.

2. Do you think a career teacher should be paid enough to afford to live in Arlington?

Dough:

Perhaps we need to consider housing-vouchers for teachers that make a very good case for the need to live in Arlington County. I work for a non-profit in Arlington and I know many of my coworkers would rather not commute in from Fairfax, Alexandria, Loudoun, eastern Maryland, Baltimore – but they do because they cannot afford to live in Arlington.

O’Grady:

Yes. Arlington should continue to find ways to support middle class residents who are at risk of being priced out of living in Arlington. This “missing middle,” as County Board candidate Erik Gutshall calls it, is an essential and invaluable component of our community and workforce. Teachers want to be able to live where they work. It fosters a closer connection between educators and their students as well as between educators and the larger community; this connection assists teachers with their work, making them even more effective in their jobs. Therefore, it makes sense to look for ways to attract the best and brightest teachers, including supporting policies that make it easier for our teachers to make Arlington home.  This will help recruit and retain teachers – one of the current strategic plan goals.

3. Identify the area of waste you would like to eliminate if elected.

Dough:

I propose looking at areas that do not directly impact the children. We should first take a look at administrative costs and other overhead.

O’Grady:

As a new member of the school board I would welcome an emerging practice that gives APS the ability to consider three different plans for new school buildings. Plans will be offered that show a design using the minimum budget, a mid-range budget, and maximum budget. This policy would seek avenues to eliminate waste, yet not at the expense of essential, quality services.

I also welcome more collaboration between the school board and county board. I think collaborative planning will help eliminate wasted time, eliminate wasted dollars with consultants and contractors, and will lead to more efficient use of our tax dollars and limited county- and school-owned land. 

4. If elected, would you support changing the name of Washington-Lee High School?

Dough:

I believe changing the name of Arlington’s first high school should not be a determination made by the school board.  This is a decision that should be made by the people of Arlington County. I would support moving this decision to a general election vote.

O’Grady:

As a strong supporter of community empowerment and the democratic process, I support the evolving process to review our Arlington school naming policy. The policy is actually up for renewal and the discussion is timely. Like the current school board members, I recognize that the tragic deaths that occurred in Charlottesville remind us that the presence and veneration of Confederate names and symbols can often serve as incubators of hate that divide communities. This process will give our community an opportunity to determine the impact closer to home, while also looking at our own history, which can help us set a path forward for the future.

I look forward to hearing from a variety of Arlington stakeholders on this issue. I will respect the process and garner input and guidance from those who will study the issue during this process. This process will also give Arlingtonians a chance to evaluate items like whether a person must be deceased at least 5 years before using that person’s name. This was a stumbling block for Discovery Elementary School which considered naming the school after astronaut and Senator John Glenn.

5. What would you propose to ensure fair school boundaries? 

Dough:

Realigning school district boundaries may not necessarily be the answer. Something that has surprised me about Arlington County is the lack of variety in immersion schools especially in an area that is so diverse in languages and cultures. We have Spanish immersion schools – what about French, Mandarin, Arabic, Hindi or others? If I had the opportunity to send my daughter to a French immersion school on the other side of Arlington – I’d take that opportunity in a heartbeat.  If we want to realign school boundaries – let’s give the parents a chance and desire to want to shift schools – so realigning boundaries isn’t the only option.

O’Grady:

I believe many items must be thought through to ensure that Arlingtonians feel the boundary process and results are fair.  That includes drafting boundaries that maximize traits that help our students and divisions succeed. Looking at items that will benefit instruction should have weight, along with other factors.

6. How would you manage school growth?

Dough:

Please see my answer to #1.

O’Grady:

Proper planning that involves the community and the county board will help us get in front of our capacity crisis. This planning should value instructional focus as much as it manages construction.

7. What are your views on the common core standards?

Dough:

I think the common core standards are important.  People need to be able to move to another state and know that similar core standards are in place state to state and county to county.

O’Grady:

Virginia does not use common core standards. It has created its own standards of learning to evaluate our students’ comprehension of important material at different grade levels. Fortunately, that gives our school district more opportunities to weigh in on whether the testing (and how that testing is administered) meets the needs of our students.

I believe testing requirements can negatively tip the scale, resulting in teachers testing so much that it gets in the way of actual education. I support evaluating the amount of state-mandated testing, which can increase anxiety among our students and hinder why they go to school in the first place – to learn.  I also support a path the state is now investigating which includes evaluating new ways for students to demonstrate their knowledge on important subject matters.

8. Do you promote inclusion in Arlington Public Schools?

Dough:

Yes, inclusion is my #1 priority. The state of Virginia has adopted an inclusion policy of 80-100% of the day spent in a general education setting for special needs children.  Arlington is significantly behind in implementing this policy.  I constantly struggle to keep my son included on his IEP. Students coming out of isolated programs cannot function in a normal society or learn a vocation that interacts with the general population. Studies prove that general education students rapidly adjust to learning how to accept special needs children as peers.  This benefits all students empathetic and socioemotional development. In many counties, this has also shown to save money by schools not needing to support two educational systems in the same school.

O’Grady:

Yes. I look forward to APS’ new process to promote inclusion in our classrooms. I think there is much to be gained by having students of different abilities working together. I believe if we want this to be successful we must be willing to provide teacher training and be open to pushing support staff into the classroom instead of pulling students out of classrooms. We must also give our teachers the tools they need to administer more individualized instruction, which will benefit all students.

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County Board Candidates Respond to Follow-Up Questions from Recent Forum

Earlier this month, the candidates for Arlington County Board faced a bevy of tough questions at a forum hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100.

But after the audience went home and the microphones were turned off, that wasn’t the end of the candidates’ work.

Attendees submitted written questions to the candidates throughout the evening, but due to time constraints, they could not all be answered. So with Election Day just two weeks away, ARLnow collated the unanswered questions and emailed the three County Board candidates for their responses.

(A similar article with responses to follow-up questions for the three School Board candidates will follow in the near future.)

Candidates’ unedited responses are below.

1. What are the challenges you would tackle in the area of affordable housing?

Audrey Clement: 

The biggest challenge would be to convince my fellow Board Members to:

1)  amend the tax code to create Housing Conservation Districts (HCDs) where landlords would be given incentives to rehab rather than tear down existing affordable housing; and

2) loosen accessory dwelling unit (ADU) regulations to allow renting space in private homes, while limiting the impacts of such rentals on residential neighborhoods.

Erik Gutshall:

While Arlington is a great place to live, it’s undeniably getting harder and harder to put down roots here and stay rooted if a smaller home is what you need as your family shrinks.  Housing affordability is a critical component of the progressive values I espouse; it is also an essential component of a strong middle class in Arlington.

As a County Board Member, I will follow a multi-point plan that includes: (1) the creation of medium density “missing middle” housing along our major commercial corridors, (2) modernization of the our zoning ordinance to enable home sharing and facilitate aging-in-place, (3) tireless support for the 2015 Affordable Housing Master Plan, and (4) continued annual funding for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund and Housing grants.  I will also continue the existing, strong partnerships with non-profit housing providers as well as others in the non-profit community who provide services to Arlington residents living in affordable housing.

As detailed in my “missing middle” housing proposal, Arlington cannot subsidize our way to mass affordability, instead we must unlock the potential of the market to deliver the housing we need.  The good news is that there is ample opportunity in Arlington for us to create the neighborhood-scale housing and retail areas known as “missing middle.”  The missing middle framework uses market forces to diversify our housing supply and responds to the needs of residents both young and old.  These modestly scaled lofts, stacked flats, co-ops, and micro units are designed to preserve neighborhood character and can fit into the edges of single-family neighborhoods and along commercial corridors, with ground floor retail and restaurants to serve adjacent homes.

Charles McCullough:

In the area of affordable housing, I would tackle these three main challenges:

Ensuring that developers pay their fair share:

  • Increase the zoning fee for apartment developers who forego affordable units, as it is currently just 1/3 of the fee allowed under state law.
  • Shift housing assistance funds to direct housing grants in order to support more residents earning less than 40% of the area median income.

Approaching certified and market rate housing with a multifaceted approach:

  • Incentivize the development of multifamily structures designed to address senior mobility needs, as well as co-living spaces designed to meet the needs of young professionals.
  • Ensure accessory dwellings become a viable option for housing while not contributing to parking and density concerns.
  • Explore Housing Conservation Districts as a way to maintain larger-scale areas of market rate affordability with careful caution not to unintentionally make these areas into suburban ghettos.

Providing housing affordability programs to address the needs of low- and middle-income Arlingtonians:

  • Develop new homeowner affordability programs to support community/developer partnership models like community land trusts and low-equity housing cooperatives.
  • Bolster existing homeowner assistance programs that enable our teachers and first responders to live in the communities where they serve.

As a progressive, independent voice on the Arlington County Board, I have the ability to advocate for a variety of reasonable housing affordability solutions that “Put People First” instead of defaulting to developers’ demands.

2. What skills from your day job would you bring to the County Board?

Clement:

For the past twenty plus years I’ve been employed as a statistical programmer on a contractual basis by various federal government agencies. My job is demanding. It not only requires technical skill, it also requires analytical ability to assess client needs and offer optimal solutions.

These latter two skills are directly applicable to local government administration, particularly as it pertains to oversight of the budget process, and I look forward to applying those skills on the Board, for the betterment of Arlington’s citizens.

In addition I have a Ph.D. in Political Science from Temple University in 1993 with a focus on American voting behavior, as well as experience working on the Hill. Thus I have the political know how to lobby for and implement policies beneficial to all Arlingtonians.

Gutshall:

Owning a small business has given me the opportunity to wear many different hats.  On any given day, I am human resources director, chief financial officer, or network engineer.  I have to understand legal contracts, taxes, and regulatory requirements.  My knowledge, skills, and experience in all the facets of a business has grown as my company has grown to 10 employees.

The chief skill that runs through almost everything I do on a day to day basis, however, is communicating with people.  Being an effective leader, whether business, or civic requires excellent communication.   I enjoy being able to communicate technical information to my clients, and nuanced customer requirements to my employees.  It’s rewarding to see that light bulb go off when someone truly understands.  On the Planning Commission, I try to be a voice for the community when I think that a developer, or county staff doesn’t understand.  Of course, great communication is fundamentally two-way, which requires that I be a good listener first.  I have found this to always be true – with my wife, my customers, my employees, and with citizens.

McCullough:

Three of my strongest skills from my day job that I would bring to the county board are decision making, strategic planning, and relationship building.

  • I know how to make balanced decisions. As board chair of the US Postal Service Federal Credit Union, I led the organization to implement new financial services providing economic relief to members in Arlington and beyond while maintaining strong reserves.
  • I know how to conduct inclusive strategic planning that results in cost-effective responses to long-term societal challenges. As an attorney, I led the development phase of a multimillion-dollar, Gates Foundation-funded initiative to improve education quality.
  • I know how to build mutually beneficial relationships that attract new businesses to communities desiring economic growth. As an embassy staffer, I helped forge partnerships between cutting-edge tech startups and Fortune 500 companies.

These skills and my well-rounded background will help the board craft policies that anticipate and address the challenges facing Arlington.

3. What is your vision and strategy for addressing the opioid addiction crisis?

Clement:

This question came up at a recent School Board forum.  First, I would pursue a strong drug avoidance educational program as part of hygiene instruction in our public schools. Reaching our student population is crucial, and I am sure parents and caregivers would appreciate that, too.

As for adult opioid users and abusers, enforcement of existing drug laws is paramount, with an emphasis on jail time for traffickers and rehabilitation for users.

Gutshall:

I am gravely concerned that opioid addiction has the potential to overwhelm our human services infrastructure with devastating consequences much as the crack epidemic of the late 1980’s gutted many communities with consequences still reverberating today.  As we learned at the recent Opioid Community Town Hall, this crisis is not limited to the urban poor, this one is right in our own living rooms.

Recognizing that the most successful response will be coordinated across multiple agencies, the most important role of the County Board in addressing the crisis of opioid addiction is to ensure that the Department of Human Services, Courts, Police and Fire Departments, Arlington Public Schools, hospitals, and our non-profit partners all have the resources, data, and action plans they need.  I also support designating a Deputy County Manager to lead our coordinated response, the Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative.

As a parent with teens and tweens, I am grateful our schools have taken necessary initial steps and are ready to play a crucial role in educating our youth and their parents of the dangers, warning signs, and treatment options for opioid abuse.   I support efforts to prioritize treatment over prosecution for addicts while also assigning detectives to an FBI Task Force to specifically target opioid distributors.  I have confidence that our highly professional non-profit and medical providers will train and follow updated best practices for prevention and treatment of addiction.  Finally, Arlington has the wherewithal to collect, analyze, and share real-time data to optimize our response across stakeholders.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to a crisis deeply imbedded in larger national issues, but Arlington must act swiftly and decisively to save lives of our children, parents, friends and neighbors.

McCullough:

I envision an Arlington that has effectively implemented a national model for addressing the opioid crisis, returning opioid overdose rates to precrisis levels within one year and eliminating opioid overdoses in the county by 2021.

As an educator, attorney, and son of a police officer, I recognize opioid addiction as a public health emergency which Arlington must address with a three-pronged strategy:

  • Through education initiatives Arlington should work with schools, community groups, and houses of worship to educate the public on the proper disposal of enabling medications and to assist those showing signs of addiction.
  • Through outreach programs targeting addicts and their families, Arlington should offer treatment plans and training on how to use Nalaxone to prevent overdoses.
  • Through partnerships with other local law enforcement agencies, nonprofits, and national grantmakers, Arlington should continue to evaluate and refine the existing Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative to ensure the use of best practices, cost efficiency, and access to additional non-taxpayer-based funding.

4. What, specifically, will you do to improve the quality of life for seniors in Arlington? (Note that last few years, 2 senior centers have been closed.) 

Clement:

Probably the greatest challenge for seniors in Arlington County is their tax burden. If elected, I am going to say no to tax rate increases for the foreseeable future.

I am also going to try to curtail rising property assessments while, at the same time, working to expand the number of affordable market rate housing units in the county.  And for those seniors who are renting, let’s remember that property tax increases have the unwanted side effect of forcing landlords to increase rents.  If we can limit those tax increases we can keep rent increases to a minimum.  That’s a win-win for everyone.

Another challenge for seniors is their ability to get around in an increasingly congested county.  If elected, I am going to address that concern by requiring an impact analysis for every major site plan development project, in order to determine its actual benefit to the people of this county.

Let me be clear. I am going to insist that the Board get serious about mitigating the impact of development on our streets, schools, parks and public safety.

Gutshall:

Creating a healthy community calls for an Arlington that is livable for all ages.  We need to accommodate the needs of Arlingtonians of all ages, and implement initiatives to improve housing, walkability, health care access, tax burdens, lifelong education and inter-generational social connections.  Focusing on older adults is especially important because the gift of increased longevity means that these older residents have years of productivity ahead of them.

Please see my full issue statement on Arlington’s older adults at my website.  Here are some highlights of what I would do on the County Board; I will:

  • Encourage and incentivize homeowners and builders to make homes adaptable by creating flexible spaces to accommodate changing needs and physical abilities, and
  • Simplify zoning and practical requirements to make it easier for older adults to share their homes and create space for caregivers.
  • Support and strengthen Arlington’s Real Estate Tax Relief (RETR) program
  • Advocate for Safe Streets, making crosswalks more visible, adding pedestrian islands in the middle of busy streets, and shortening the distance to cross busy roads.
  • Support services such as Super Senior Taxi and encouraging companies (ex: Red Top Cab) that provide older adults with discounts or other workable options.
  • Promote health care and other services that enable aging at home, help fight isolation and support caregivers.
  • Work with Arlington Neighborhood Village, George Mason University, Virginia Hospital, Goodwin House, innovative startups, and others on new public policy and initiatives to promote older adults’ health.
  • Support Arlington County services such as adult day programs, nutrition programs, mental health support and personal advocates.
  • Promote good quality of life through inter-generational interaction, recreation, art and music, lifelong learning and community participation. Staying physically active, enjoying new experiences, and being part of a social network help all of us as we age.
  • Co-locate senior programs with our schools to leverage the talent and wisdom of older adults to the benefit of young students eager to learn.
  • Support Arlington programs (ex: Encore Learning, 55+) that offer appealing classes and experiences for a range of older adults.

McCullough:

Arlington’s seniors are a growing, vibrant, and active community. Arlington should work more closely with our senior community to harness their creativity, knowhow, and wealth of experience so that they can age-in-place with dignity. To improve the quality of life of seniors, Arlington must focus in the following areas:

Preparing health and human services for the future:

  • Fund and plan for the growth of existing housing, health/dental, and transportation programs that enable seniors on a fixed income to afford the costs associated with independent living.
  • Expand programs that develop our own first responders and attract trained first responders from other jurisdictions to prepare for increased demand for emergency services.

Creating programs to address senior needs:

  • Utilize a joint-use facility model for senior centers to maximize space as well as more efficiently provide access to health and human services.
  • Develop companionship-building initiatives, such as regular meals and senior-only areas in facilities, that address depression among seniors.

Maximizing opportunities for seniors:

  • Update and develop a more comprehensive Elder Readiness Master Plan to address how the county intends to coordinate and advertise services.
  • Revise one-size-fits-all business regulations to make it easier for seniors to open small businesses for supplementary income or as a second career.
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Podcast: Committee of 100 Candidate Debate

Last week the Arlington Committee of 100 hosted a debate at Marymount University among those running for local office.

At the debate, the six candidates for County Board and School Board in the 2017 general election clashed on a range of issues, from how to engage more millennials in county government to closing the achievement gap in Arlington Public Schools.

For those who missed it, we have the audio from the full event on this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast. Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Morning Notes

ACPD Sending Supplies to Houston — The Arlington County Police Department is sending relief supplies to Houston Police, “who have been tirelessly serving those affected by Hurricane Harvey,” the department announced yesterday in a tweet. [Twitter]

More on County Board Debate — At Tuesday night’s Arlington Civic Federation debate, the two independent candidates blasted the County Board for supposedly being too pro cozy with business interests. Charles McCullough “several times ripped the county government for extending millions of dollars in ‘payola and corporate welfare’ in an effort to win economic-development successes,” while Audrey Clement “portrayed Arlington leaders as sharing a matrimonial bed with the development community, rubber-stamping new projects to reap the tax revenue they generate.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Encouraging Vanpools — Arlington County, via its Arlington Transportation Partners program, is encouraging commuters to join a vanpool, touting savings of up to $10,000 a year compared to solo commuting. [Arlington Transportation Partners]

Arlington Free Clinic Women’s Health Program — Grants from the Susan G. Komen foundation are funding a women’s health program at the Arlington Free Clinic and in turn saving the lives of breast cancer patients who otherwise could not afford their healthcare costs. Among those who beat breast cancer with the clinic’s help is one of its employees, a mother of three who found a lump while attending a breast health event in 2003. [WJLA]

Nearby: Rabid Raccoon Found — A raccoon found in an Alexandria park has tested positive for rabies. [Patch]

Flickr pool photo by Vandiik

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Roosevelt and Lopez Clash on Medicaid Expansion, Agree on Immigration at Forum

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) and Republican challenger Adam Roosevelt clashed on whether Virginia should expand Medicaid, but found agreement on immigration, during a candidate forum on Tuesday night (September 5).

Lopez, who has represented the 49th District for three terms in the Virginia House of Delegates and serves as the Minority Whip, said expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act should be done for moral and economic reasons. That plan has been unsuccessful both through the General Assembly and executive action.

“There are working families without health insurance in Virginia,” Lopez said. “It’s immoral not to expand Medicaid.”

But Roosevelt, who is challenging Lopez in the district that includes neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, around Pentagon City and west to Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners in Fairfax County, said it is unaffordable and will cost Virginians more in tax dollars.

“That is what they will not tell you: your taxes will increase, and we have enough taxes as it is,” Roosevelt said. The debate, at Virginia Hospital Center, was attended by about 100 people.

The rivals appeared to be in broad agreement on immigration and the status of illegal immigrants, the same day as President Donald Trump announced he would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. To start, they agreed that illegal immigrants who commit crimes in this country should be deported.

Both also pledged to protect legal migrants and undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children and have otherwise not committed crimes. Lopez said decisions about immigration must come from the federal level, not the state.

“What we have is a fundamentally broken immigration system at the federal level,” he said.

At times, there were frosty moments between the two as they sparred over issues like climate change, a woman’s right to choose and redistricting reform. After Lopez outlined his record on the environment, including co-founding the Virginia Environment & Renewable Energy caucus to advocate for issues in Richmond and across the state, Roosevelt cut in.

“I’ll remind my opponent we’re talking about the 49th District here,” Roosevelt said, arguing that the discussion should be focused more on local issues than statewide topics.

Later, the two disagreed on how boundaries should be redrawn for Virginia’s Congressional and General Assembly. Boundaries will be redrawn after the next census in 2020, but that could come sooner depending on a case making its way through the courts.

Lopez called for a non-partisan commission to draw new boundaries separate from General Assembly leadership, but Roosevelt said he had not done enough in Richmond to bring about such changes.

“My opponent has quite a voice tonight and quite a position to stand in to effect these changes,” he said.

And the pair differed on their belief in a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion. Roosevelt said the life of both the woman and a fetus must be protected and said the issue should not be politicized, but Lopez did not equivocate in his view and criticized others in the General Assembly who have tried to take the right to choose away.

“How many times do we have to get up on the floor of the House of Delegates and fight people who want to take away a woman’s right to choose?” he asked.

Lopez and Roosevelt are on the ballot on November 7, while Arlington’s three other delegates are all unopposed.

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Morning Notes

Police Warn of Fraud Scheme — The Arlington County Police Department is warning that home repair and tree service fraud schemes become more prevalent in the spring. Police say to be wary of would-be service providers who approach or knock on your door unannounced, pressure you to make an immediate decision, claim to have leftover materials or to be working in the area, and only accept cash payment. [Arlington County]

Arlington Restaurant Makes Sietsema’s Top 10Ambar in Clarendon has been included in restaurant critic Tom Sietsema’s list of the top 10 new restaurants in Washington. It is the only Virginia restaurant on the list. [Washington Post]

Beyer Supports Budget Bill — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) says that while it’s not perfect, he supports the compromise omnibus funding bill that passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Beyer says the bill contained key environmental protections and funding for scientific research. [Rep. Don Beyer]

No Endorsement from Garvey — County Board member Libby Garvey says she will vote in the upcoming Democratic caucus, but so far she is not endorsing any candidate for County Board. [InsideNova]

ACDC Candidate Forum — The Arlington County Democratic Committee held its candidate forum/debate last night, with all four candidates for County Board weighing in on topics from affordable housing to WMATA and transit to diversity in county government. [Blue Virginia]

Trustify’s Swanky Digs — Arlington-based startup Trustify’s new 8,000 square foot office in Crystal City has “a view that arguably is one of the dreamiest” among local startups. The design of the office was “‘film noir’-inspired.” [DC Inno]

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Morning Notes

Bryce Harper Sightings — There have been a number of sightings of Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper in Clarendon in recent days. In addition to his Clarendon activities — two people claim to have seen him on separate days at smoothie shop South Block — Harper has been busy on the baseball field, setting an MLB record for runs in the month of April. [Twitter]

Gutshall Endorsed by GGW — The urbanist website Greater Greater Washington has endorsed Erik Gutshall for Arlington County Board in the upcoming Democratic caucus, calling him “thoughtful and insightful.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Northam, Perriello in Ballston — Democratic candidates for governor Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello were in Ballston last night for a progressive forum. Technical difficulties cut off part of Northam’s appearance from the forum’s livestream video. [Blue Virginia]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

McDonald’s to Open Next Week in Rosslyn — The new McDonald’s restaurant in Rosslyn is expected to open on Monday, May 8. It will feature “mobile and kiosk ordering, with six touch-screen kiosks,” as well as “table service, with servers bringing customers their food after orders are placed using the screens.” [Washington Business Journal]

Petition Against Proposed APS Policy — Among those signing a petition against a proposed new school enrollment and transfer policy is former U.S. CTO Aneesh Chopra. He writes: “We need to be expanding, not restricting access to Arlington’s award-winning, integrated elementary school science curriculum! Counter to the data-driven ‘Arlington Way,’ this proposal is inappropriately rushed with debate or impact analysis. Sad!” [Change.org]

ACPD Officer to Be Added to Memorial — Arlington County Police Cpl. Harvey Snook is being added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in D.C. Snook died last year of cancer caused by his service during the recovery effort at the Pentagon following the 9/11 attack. Snook will also be added to Arlington’s Peace Officers Memorial on May 10, the first name added since 2005. [WTOP, Arlington County]

Arlington Woman, 109, Still Stays Up Late — Viola Graham, a 109-year-old resident of Arlington, says she still feels young and still doesn’t go to bed until midnight. Graham also “takes no medicine, besides the occasional Tylenol.” [WUSA 9]

Britt McHenry Goes Off the Air — Arlington’s own Britt McHenry is among the mass layoffs at ESPN. Though the sportscaster is going off the air, she said last week via Twitter that her fans would see her again on TV “soon.” McHenry formerly worked for WJLA (ABC 7) in Rosslyn. [Florida Today, Twitter]

Gubernatorial Candidates in Arlington — Democratic candidates for governor in Virginia, Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello, will be debating at a progressive forum in Ballston tonight. [Facebook]

Flickr pool photo by GM and MB

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County Board Candidates Argue for Better Treatment of Small Businesses

Four of the five candidates for County Board argued that county government must be easier for small businesses to navigate in order to better encourage economic growth.

With less than two weeks to go until the start of the local Democratic Party’s caucus to determine its nominee, tax relief and helping new businesses were high on the agenda at a forum hosted last night by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce at Synetic Theater in Crystal City.

Peter Fallon said county staff must be less “zealous” in enforcing rules and become more focused on customer service, while Erik Gutshall argued for a wider culture change in county government.

“When you’re that zealous, you don’t have the flexibility of thinking about what you’re trying to do,” Fallon said.

“The culture of ‘get to yes’ doesn’t exist because it doesn’t have a champion,” said Gutshall. “And I want to be that champion.”

Independent Audrey Clement, on the campaign trail ahead of November’s general election in the race to replace retiring Board chair Jay Fisette, said the best way to help small business is to cut taxes.

She criticized the recent 1.5-cent hike in property taxes, and accused the County Board of “basically hoarding money” by keeping tens of millions of dollars in cash reserves.

Clement added that the Board was “bamboozled” on raising taxes by County Manager Mark Schwartz, who was directed to provide a series of budget cuts to halve his proposed tax rate increase from two cents to one.

The cuts to a variety of neighborhood and other programs brought out droves of local residents to oppose them, and the County Board backed off.

Kim Klingler, a Democratic candidate, said putting those 24 projects on the table for cuts was a mistake given their direct impacts on the community.

“That makes it really hard when you have 24 lightning-rods on the table, and then have to talk about cutting taxes,” she said.

Candidates also said that the County Board should do a better job of ensuring residents’ concerns about development are heard, and that decisions on new projects are not, as Gutshall put it, “baked in.”

“If residents are going to participate in the ‘Arlington Way,’ we need to make sure they are heard, and they have clear expectations set for them,” said Klingler.

In Vivek Patil’s absence, his campaign manager Nathan Saxman read a prepared statement arguing for a “green and clean tech economy” focused on innovation and new industries.

“This is an economic model that places Arlington at the epicenter of job creation in the commonwealth,” said Saxman.

The four Democratic candidates will debate next Wednesday at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s monthly meeting, ahead of May’s caucus.

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County Board Candidates Criticize Arlington’s Nestle Subsidy

The four Democratic candidates for County Board may hold differing positions on a number of issues, but they agree on one thing: Arlington’s subsidy to lure Nestle might have been better spent elsewhere.

At a forum last night hosted by the Arlington Young Democrats, less than three weeks before the local party’s caucus, the four Democrats running for the Arlington County Board said the package of $12 million in state and local performance-based funds could have better served the local community.

“This is good for Arlington, good for filling our office space, but I would rather have seen some of that money go towards child care in Crystal City and Rosslyn, for example,” said Erik Gutshall.

“At the end of the day, we have to consider who is getting a subsidy and if they deserve it,” said Peter Fallon, who added that given the competition between jurisdictions for such moves, incentives can play a role in the right situations.

Both Kim Klingler and Vivek Patil drew a comparison to the small businesses throughout the county, and asked if they could have been assisted like multinational Nestle was, in particular through the building of a website showing all that Arlington has to offer.

“If we can stand up a website for Nestle [employees that showcases the county] in three weeks, imagine what we can do for our small businesses in three weeks,” Klingler said.

“That red carpet should be rolled out for small businesses and entrepreneurs,” Patil agreed.

In addition to general questions about the county’s tax rate, business community and the environment, each candidate faced questions specific to their campaigns and backgrounds from moderator Michael Lee Pope, a reporter with Virginia Public Radio.

Gutshall was asked if he is a so-called “party insider” due to the endorsements he has received from a slew of former County Board members and current chair Jay Fisette, who will retire at year’s end.

“I think it speaks to the fact that I have worked alongside these people for a number of years,” Gutshall said.

Fallon spoke about what he learned from his time on the planning commission and said that the county’s comprehensive planning at times has failed to keep up with the demand of county services.

Patil reiterated his call for a “green and clean tech economy” to encourage innovation and new industries in the county. “There is no city or state that owns that right now,” he said.

Following her run in 2012, Klingler said she was inspired to run again by the results of last year’s presidential election.

The candidates will be joined by independent Audrey Clement at a forum next Wednesday hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce at Synetic Theater, then they will debate again the following Wednesday at ACDC’s monthly general meeting.

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School Board Candidates Clash on Diversity, Capacity At Forum

Three candidates for Arlington School Board looked to stake their claim for the Democratic endorsement in a forum dominated by talk of capacity, boundaries and diversity.

Incumbent James Lander faced challengers Maura McMahon and Monique O’Grady on Wednesday night at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s monthly meeting. All three are vying for ACDC’s endorsement at next month’s caucuses.

And while there was broad consensus among all three on several issues facing Arlington Public Schools, there was some disagreement over respecting the system’s diversity and solving its capacity needs.

Lander said the School Board’s decision to issue a statement in support of its immigrant families earlier this year showed that APS stood with them.

But O’Grady said the statement did not go far enough to help support families in light of some of the anti-immigrant rhetoric stemming from President Donald Trump’s administration.

“We do have to do a better job of making those families feel safe in our community,” she said. “Putting a statement out is just a start.”

And in her closing statement, McMahon said respecting diversity includes ensuring a quality education for all students, regardless of economic or social background.

“We may all be at the same Arlington party that Mr. Lander refers to,” she said, “but we are not all eating the same meal.”

The candidates also differed on their approaches to solving APS’ capacity needs, as each year the system adds approximately 800 students. Lander said the provision of a short-term plan to add 5,000 seats at all levels in 10 years as well as a long-term plan would help ensure every student has a seat, but his challengers advocated for thinking differently.

O’Grady said more collaboration with the County Board is needed, as well as ensuring a school’s instructional program — whether a choice program or comprehensive — fits with the location’s needs. McMahon said APS must look at its current sites and examine if they are being used as efficiently as possible, and shake things up if needed.

“It might mean more complicated shifting around if necessary, but it will help in the long-term,” she said.

All three appeared broadly supportive of the additional 1 cent real estate tax hike proposed by County Manager Mark Schwartz to pay for APS’ budget needs.

They also agreed that the current practice of providing each elementary school student an iPad should be discontinued, if it means being able to pay for other budget needs like psychologists or social workers.

“We want to make sure our students have a love for reading, and some of that is done with a book,” said Lander.

The three candidates are on the ballot for the Democratic caucuses on May 9, 11 and 13, where a County Board nominee will also be chosen.

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Morning Notes

Rainy drive in Clarendon

Civic Federation Debate — The candidates for Arlington County Board, School Board and Congress took the stage at Tuesday’s Arlington County Civic Federation meeting, marking the unofficial kickoff of general election campaign season. During the County Board debate, independent challenger Audrey Clement went on the attack against “backroom deals” allegedly facilitated by incumbent Libby Garvey. [InsideNova, InsideNova, InsideNova]

September Heat Wave — Temperatures are expected to soar into the upper 90s today, and the heat and humidity will stay mid-summer-like through Saturday. [Capital Weather Gang]

New Flight Path Closer to Arlington? — To appease unhappy Northwest D.C. residents, the FAA is considering a new northern departure flight path for Reagan National Airport that’s closer to Arlington. A community meeting will be held to discuss the plan on Tuesday, Sept. 13 from 6:30-9:30 p.m., at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington. [WUSA 9]

Outdoor Movies on the Pike — Four films are left on the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization outdoor movie calendar. Tonight, the critically-acclaimed film Brooklyn will be screened outside the Arlington Mill Community Center. [CPRO]

Clement Against Lubber Run Plan — County Board candidate Audrey Clement says it’s “inappropriate and unnecessary, given the county’s current 20% office vacancy rate,” for Arlington County to be planning to spend $46 million on a new four-story Lubber Run Community Center that will include new offices for the Dept. of Parks and Recreation. [Audrey Clement]

Beware the Cute Puppy Scam — Scammers are active on some local Facebook groups, trying to convince people to part with their cash and personal information to adopt a (fake) cute puppy from a (fake) man who can no longer afford to take care of it. [Fox 5]

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County Board Candidates Debate on Kojo Show

With the Arlington County Board primary fast approaching, Democratic candidates Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall took to the airwaves in their final debate before voters head to the polls on Tuesday.

The candidates went on Kojo Nnamdi’s WAMU-FM radio show, The Politics Hour, Friday afternoon.

Some of the topics covered included the capacity crunch in county schools, affordable housing and the ongoing battle with aircraft noise.

The full debate can be viewed above. Here are some highlights:

Garvey on what she wants voters to know about her time serving Arlington 

“I think over the past 20 years I’ve done a pretty good job serving Arlington. Fifteen years on the School Board help make our schools among the best in the country. And in my 4 years on the County Board I’ve done quite a bit to make our government more responsive and more transparent. One of the things we just started to do was video streaming our work sessions. Up until then if you wanted to watch the board actually getting work done at work sessions, you had to sit in the room and that was hard for a lot of people to do.”

Gutshall on why he’s running

“I’m running because I think I’m better qualified to make sure that we are meeting the challenges that we face today with solutions for tomorrow.

We’ve got to make long-term strategic investments. We have a capacity crisis in our school that’s in our sixth year and we still don’t have a plan for getting out in front of rising student enrollment. We have to make sure that we’re making investments in our transportation infrastructure and we’re dragging our feet in moving forward with the capital improvement plan for doing that.

We’ve got a major issue in Arlington County of housing affordability. It’s the issue that’s going to define our time, our day. We are not moving forward in the way that we need to and the way that I believe Arlingtonians want to in order to make sure that the middle class does not get squeezed out of Arlington.”

Garvey on her long-term plan for handling the school issue

“My long-term plan is to be supporting the School Board. I’ve been on the County Board for four years. That’s really the School Board’s job to come forward to us with plans.

I will say that little over a year ago, the School Board came to the County Board asking to build a school on the Thomas Jefferson site. Four of my colleagues unfortunately thought that it needed more of a community process. I was the one vote to go ahead and move forward with that. A year later, the whole board moved to move forward and we lost a whole year in the process. I have always been supportive of moving our schools forward and getting the work done.”

Gutshall on balancing the seat numbers with the growing student population

“I would hope it wouldn’t wait until I took office on January 1 to move forward with the implementation of the Community Facilities Study. Moving forward, what we need to do is we need to make sure that we’re having a conversation with the School Board and we’re going to miss the opportunity on this CIP now. We need to move forward on laying out a comprehensive plan where all seats, elementary, high school, middle school, all neighborhoods, north, south, east and west are accountable.”

Gutshall on housing and development

“What we have here is a problem that’s created by our success. Everybody wants to be here, that’s a good thing. Rising property values, that’s a good thing. But we need to make sure that we are keeping an eye on what we can do for the problem and risk of squeezing out the middle class. What I’ve been talking about is what’s called the missing middle: the idea where you have medium density, not the high rise density of our Metro corridors and not the low density in our single family neighborhoods, but in between that, the missing middle for example along Lee Highway and Glebe Road and other major arterials served by transit where right now you might see a lot of old strip malls, used car lots, basically underutilized land.

We can look at our zoning ordinances. We can open up opportunities for developers to come in and create different housing choices for young families just starting out, for seniors who want to age in the community.”

Garvey on housing and development

“I don’t think there is a disagreement. We adopted an affordable housing master plan last year and we’re working on implementing that. I was just at the groundbreaking yesterday for Columbia Hills, which is a project that will have 229 affordable units when it is complete. We’ve been moving forward on that.

Recently, when our staff asked us about implementing the plan, they said they wanted to move forward on accessory dwelling units, brand new flats. The Board actually said no, that’s not what we need to concentrate on. We need to concentrate on our zoning and what we can do to preserve the existing affordable housing that we have. In the area of Westover right now, there are a number of buildings that are affordable and they’re getting bought up and turned into townhouses, that’s our concern.

We need to look at rezoning and we need to look at ways of encouraging our partners who build affordable housing to be able to purchase them and keep them. I am totally committed to this. I talk about an economic ladder which I think any healthy community has and it has the bottom rungs all the way to the top for both housing and living. You need to support that ladder.

One of the many things we also need to look at which the government can do is not just housing. People who are having trouble affording their housing are also having trouble affording transportation and childcare and I think we need to make Arlington affordable for living and I’m also working on trying to find more ways to support childcare and improve transit so people can get around without a car.”

Gutshall on airplane noise

“We do have a citizens advisory commission on that and I think they work very hard. We are in constant negotiations with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and its about regional compromise and making sure that the community is heard but we understand the economic importance of the airports.”

Garvey on airplane noise

 “I’ve held a couple of community meetings to get the information out there there. That actually prompted MWAA to start a meeting. One of the things that’s helped is that we cut back on the MD-80s. They were the worst, they’re flying some of them out of National but we’d like to cut them way back. They make a lot of noise and this is a huge issue. It will take a while.”

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Morning Notes

The Church at Clarendon

County Board Debate Preaches to Choir — Arlington County Board candidates Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall participated in a debate Sunday night. Reported the Washington Post: “Nearly all the 50 people in the Campbell Elementary School audience Sunday night were campaign workers or committed supporters for each candidate.” In a new line of attack, Gutshall criticized Garvey for a $250 donation from a real estate developer she accepted in 2011. [Washington Post, Blue Virginia]

Campaign Criticism Prompts Reactions — Supporters of County Board candidate Erik Gutshall have penned a joint statement defending some of his attacks on Libby Garvey as substantive policy issues. However, there appears to be something of a backlash to two of Gutshall’s campaign mailers — at least among those who write letters to the Sun Gazette. County Board member Christian Dorsey, meanwhile, has published a statement on what he says is a “mischaracterization” of Garvey’s (and thus, the Board’s) record. [Blue Virginia, InsideNova, Facebook]

Elementary School’s Satellite Located — Two students from Morehead State University have located the “Cubesat” satellite created by students at St. Thomas More Elementary School in Arlington. The satellite was launched into orbit from the International Space Station but, for a few weeks, nobody was able to make contact with it. [Daily Independent]

Update on Rescued Baby Ducks — The six ducklings rescued from an Arlington storm drain are doing well and are undergoing rehabilitation, with the goal of being released back into the wild in a couple of months. [Washington Post]

Clarendon Co-Working Space Filling Up Fast — The new 40,000 square foot MakeOffices co-working space in Clarendon is more than half full already and is expected to be sold out by early July. The location, just across from the Clarendon Metro station, is the Arlington-based company’s tenth, but has been deemed its new flagship location. [Bisnow]

Nauck Profiled in WaPo — The Washington Post real estate section has profiled Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood, noting that “affordability is a major selling point in Nauck, where about half of current listings are priced under $500,000.” [Washington Post]

Photo by Jackie Friedman

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