At a forum last night, the candidates for Arlington County Board discussed ways to address the high amount of empty office space in Arlington while discussing how the county can be more attractive for businesses.
The eight candidates — six Democrats and two Independents — discussed transportation, commercial office vacancy and a diverse workforce during a candidate forum held by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce and Rosslyn Business Improvement District.
The empty space largely comes from the shrinking footprint of the federal government, the candidates agreed.
Arlington has to realize that it cannot rely on the federal government as an employer like it once could, Democrat Bruce Wiljanen said. He suggested that the next major business sector may be high technology companies.
“I’m really encouraged by things happening in Crystal City right now,” Wiljanen said.
To fill the empty space, Arlington needs to do more to encourage businesses to move and stay here, the candidates said. It needs to be easier to open a business in Arlington, Democrats Andrew Schneider and Christian Dorsey said.
“I had a small business owner that said after a year of starting his business that he didn’t have to start — both he and his wife work full-time jobs downtown — that he would have started his business in Falls Church,” Schneider said.
Arlington needs to look at its regulatory processes and weed out what is unnecessary and harmful, Dorsey said. Having a business ombudsman is good — the county recently created the position — but it’s just the first step.
“These are the things, little as they may seem, that give a community the character of a place where business is welcome and it is a good place to do business,” said Dorsey.
Arlington also needs to foster a diverse workforce, candidates said.
Arlington needs to be attractive to both millennials and older workers, Democrat Katie Cristol said. This can be done through affordable housing, she said. Cristol, the youngest candidate in the race, lists affordable housing as one of her top issues.
A commitment to affordable housing is needed, Democrat Peter Fallon said. Arlington has a highly skilled workforce, but in order to keep it, there needs to be housing for Arlington’s employees.
With a more diverse workforce comes a need for more diverse businesses. One area Dorsey listed was through grocery stores. If neighborhoods are more diverse there is a need for standard grocery stores like Giant or Safeway but also for ethnic grocery stores, he said.
James Lander also encouraged a focus on millennials in the new workforce. Lander, a Democrat who is the chair of the Arlington School Board, emphasized the need to focus on invest in community amenities, specifically schools. He also said the county should invest more resources into helping small businesses.
“We can’t turn our back on investment,” Lander said.
The candidates agreed that transportation is one of Arlington’s best features, but also one that has area to improve.
“We have great people and we move them well,” Cristol said.
The Metro has allowed Arlington to be easily accessible and allowed it to be attractive for businesses. Many of the candidates argued that it is necessary for the County Board to get its seat back on the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority Board. With a seat on the board, County Board members could advocate for more investment in Metro infrastructure.
Congestion on Columbia Pike also needs to be addressed, candidates said. The candidates had different views about the need for the streetcar system that was canceled last year, but all agreed it was time to move forward.
“We need to wake up from our post streetcar hangover,” Dorsey said.
Fallon echoed Dorsey in saying that the County Board needs to start planning now for new transit options on Columbia Pike. Such plans need to be reasonable in scope, without requiring too much infrastructure, he said.
Cristol suggested enhanced bus service on Columbia Pike. The buses need to be able to move more fluidly, which could be accomplished with off vehicle payment system and/or doors at both ends, she said.
Wiljanen suggested that a mobile app for the bus may improve service. A real-time location app would help residents know when a bus was coming and, possibly, how many seats were on the bus.
School Bus Stop Violations in Arlington — There were 155 traffic violations issued over a three year period in Arlington for drivers who passed school buses at bus stops. That compares 655 such violations issued in Fairfax County over a three year period. [NBC Washington]
County Board Art Debate? — The operatic organization Opera Nova is trying to host a forum among Democratic Arlington County Board candidates that will cover the topics of the arts, humanities and civic engagement. Should the candidates accept their invitation, the candidate forum will be held on Friday, June 5, just a few days before the June 9 Democratic primary. [InsideNova]
40 Under 40 Nominations Underway — Leadership Arlington is currently accepting nominees for its Arlington 40 Under 40 honors. The group is seeking individuals under the age of 40 who “demonstrate impact through leadership personally and/or professionally.” Nominations are being conducted online. [Survey Monkey]
Chamber Names ‘Business of the Year’ — Rosslyn-based LMO Advertising, which bills itself at the largest advertising agency in the D.C. area, has been named Business of the Year by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “Our team loves working in Arlington and I am proud that we have been recognized as one of the community’s best businesses,” LMO CEO Chris Laughlin said, in a press release. “I look forward to many more years of doing business in Arlington.” [LMO Advertising]
Photo courtesy Valerie
Memorial Day Closures — Arlington County government offices, courts, schools, and community centers will be closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday. Arlington’s public indoor pools will be open, trash and recycling will be collected and ART buses will operate on a holiday schedule. [Arlington County]
Flags In at Arlington National Cemetery — More than 1,000 soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment, also known as the Old Guard, placed small American flags in front some 275,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday. The annual ceremony, known as “Flags In,” has been taking place before Memorial Day for more than 60 years. [U.S. Army]
Arlington Man Convicted of Sexual Abuse — Arlington resident Gary Hankins, a 45-year-old former licensed clinical social worker, has been convicted of sexually abusing a 17-year-old patient. The boy’s parents first contacted authorities after they discovered sexually suggestive texts from Hankins on his phone. [NBC Washington]
Candidates Bash Board’s Reevesland Vote — The Democratic candidates for County Board are criticizing the County Board’s vote this week to sell the historic Reeves farmhouse. At a debate lacking one candidate — School Board Chair James Lander, who had a School Board meeting — candidates took turns bashing the decision, calling it “shameful,” “bad business” and “beneath Arlington.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]
APS to Discuss Swanson, Williamsburg Plans — Next month Arlington Public Schools will hold public forums to discuss “interim options” for addressing capacity issues at Swanson and Williamsburg Middle Schools. “These interim solution options include the use of both on-site or off-site locations to house some portion of the school populations, the possibility of some interior redesign, the use of relocatables as part of the solution, and changes in scheduling,” APS said in a press release. [Arlington Public Schools]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Candidates: APS Needs Better Community Engagement — Arlington Public Schools should be doing a better job of community engagement, both Democratic candidates for School Board said at a debate Friday night. Sharon Dorsey said that APS tends to listen to the “squeaky wheel” while those who don’t have the time, energy or connections to press their case are often largely ignored. Both Dorsey and Reid Goldstein both pointed to the rollout of iPads and MacBooks in schools as an example of an APS decision-making process they would have approached differently. [InsideNova]
Britt McHenry Returns to ESPN — D.C.-based sports reporter Britt McHenry is back at work at ESPN following the release of a video that showed her berating an Advanced Towing employee in Arlington. McHenry issued an apology and was suspended for a week. [New York Post]
More on I-66 Plans — Arlington officials have “softened” their stance on widening I-66, says Virginia’s transportation secretary, but County Board Chair Mary Hynes insists that the county will only consider widening as a last resort — and only after evaluating the impact of changes to I-66 ten years from now. [Washington Post]
County, APS Consolidate After-School Programs — Starting this fall, Arlington Public Schools will take over the previously county-run Charles Drew and Carver after-school programs. “The consolidation is expected to save $123,000 the first year and $160,000 annually after that,” according to a press release. [Arlington County]
Arlington Man Sentenced for Child Porn — Arlington resident Patrick Friedel, 29, has been sentenced to 16 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for the production and possession of child pornography. Friedel pleaded guilty in January, admitting to meeting five underage girls via social networking apps and coercing them to send him sexually explicit images. Prosecutors say Friedel also picked up one of girls and videotaped himself engaging in sadistic and masochistic sexual activity with her.
Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk
Dems Debate in Ballston — The six Democratic candidates for County Board faced off in their first debate last night, before a standing-room only crowd at the NRECA conference center in Ballston. The debate was held by Arlington Young Democrats. Though knowledgable about current issues facing Arlington, candidates were light on specifics about what should be done to address those issues. [InsideNova]
Disruption Corp. Sold to 1776 — Disruption Corp., the Crystal City-based tech investment fund and office space, has been acquired by D.C.-based tech incubator 1776. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. [Washington Post]
Caps Pep Rally at Elementary School — Third grade students at Carlin Springs Elementary School have won a contest to bring a Washington Capitals playoff pep rally to their school today. The rally will start at 12:30 p.m. “There won’t likely be any players, but it will be a great time for all,” a teacher tells ARLnow.com. “The kids will be getting prizes, pictures with Slapshot (the Caps’ mascot) and learning some hockey skills. The Caps are also donating equipment to the school.” [Washington Capitals]
Artisphere ‘Doomed from the Start’ — Artisphere, which is on the budgetary chopping block next week, was “doomed from the start,” according to the artistic director of a theatre company that was booted out of its space at the cultural center two years after it opened. An anonymous Artisphere employee said of the early, over-optimistic attendance and revenue projections: “All of those numbers were so completely false.” [Washington Post]
McAuliffe Signs Special Needs Bill in Arlington — On Tuesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe came to Arlington to sign the ABLE Act, which will allow individuals with special needs, and their families, to set up tax-exempt accounts that will allow them to save for future living expenses. Virginia is the first state to enact such legislation, which received the blessing of the U.S. Congress in December. [WJLA]
Security of Va. Voting Machines Blasted — The touch screen voting machines now being replaced in Arlington and elsewhere in Virginia were “so easy to hack, it will take your breath away,” according to reports. [Ars Technica, The Guardian]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
Arlington’s Population to Decline? — Contrary to the conventional wisdom that Arlington’s population will continue to rise over time, one University of Virginia forecast predicts that Arlington’s population will fall — from 229,302 people today to 197,065 by 2040 — as millenials grow up, have families and seek refuge from urban life and affordable single family homes in the exurbs. The forecast predicts a 56.8 percent increase in population for Loudoun County and a 141.4 percent increase in population for Stafford County. [Washingtonian]
DCA Name Disputes Continue –Many locals still cannot agree on what to call what Congress has named Ronald Reagan National Airport. Some people, particularly Democrats, prefer just to call it “National.” The name change happened 17 years ago. President Clinton didn’t veto the change, his press secretary recalls, in part because “in February 1998 we were rather occupied at the White House with a young lady named Monica.” [Washington Post]
Japanese Artist at DCA — As part of the National Cherry Blossom festival, local artist Yoshiko Oishi Weick will demonstrate the art of Japanese ink painting from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. today at Reagan National Airport’s B/C terminal.
Tenant At Last for National Gateway — The German discount grocer Lidl, which has its sights on the U.S. market, has purchased 217,500 square feet of office space in the National Gateway I building at 3500 S. Clark Street for $56.6 million. The office building, near Potomac Yard, has lacked an office tenant since it was built seven years ago. [Washington Business Journal]
Low-Key School Board Debate — The two candidates seeking the Democratic endorsement for School Board faced off at last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. Reid Goldstein and Sharon Dorsey both said they would raise teacher salaries, but would not commit to specifics. They also both voiced support for additional art education. [InsideNova]
Planners Consider Rosslyn Skyline — The Realize Rosslyn plan is primarily intended to make Rosslyn a more vibrant, pedestrian-friendly place. However, it will also have an impact on Rosslyn’s skyline. Arlington County planners will be working with the community this fall to come up with recommendations related to the skyline. [Greater Greater Washington]
Fmr. NAACP President Dies — Dr. Talmadge Williams, a former president of the Arlington NAACP, died on Saturday. He was 79. Williams was also a champion for the proposed Arlington Black Heritage Museum, which is still searching for a permanent home. [InsideNova]
County Board Candidates Debate, Again — The two candidates for Arlington County Board again debated the merits of the county’s planned streetcar system. Incumbent John Vihstadt and Democratic challenger Alan Howze debated before an audience of 125 at George Mason University’s Arlington campus Monday night. [Washington Post]
It’s October — Today is Oct. 1, the first day of the last quarter of the year. If you’re looking to take advantage of October’s crisp fall weather, there’s a full slate of activities and events in around Arlington on our event calendar.
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann
(Updated on 9/6/14) Bipartisanship or libertarianism. Those were the two primary messages from the half-dozen congressional candidates participating in Tuesday’s Arlington Civic Federation candidates forum.
Democrat Don Beyer, the odds-on favorite in the race to replace retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), stuck to the “proven, principled progressive” theme of his successful primary campaign, while also promising to work across the aisle.
“Anything I need to get done in my first term will likely have to be done with Republicans,” Beyer said, acknowledging the GOP’s majority in the House and potential future majority in the Senate. “This is a very important reason why I want to run… I want to go there as a strong Northern Virginia Democrat to work across party lines.”
Beyer, a former Virginia lieutenant governor and U.S. ambassador under President Obama, also touted his business acumen as co-owner of his eponymous car dealership chain.
“We need to build a new American economy, based on the deepest possible investments in human capital,” he said, while listing a litany of his progressive positions: support for a national carbon tax, tighter gun controls focusing on criminals and the mentally ill, making “improvements” to Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act), universal pre-kindergarten, marriage equality and immigration reform.
Republican Micah Edmond, a former Marine Corps officer, said bipartisanship and a balanced budget would be his first order of business in Congress.
“I see my campaign as a mission to make the American dream achievable again for all people,” he said. “If elected, my top priority will be to work with Republicans and Democrats alike to [enact] a 10-year economic plan that ends sequestration, allows us to pay down our debt responsibly, balances our budget, reforms our tax code, strengthens our entitlement system and allows us to… [make] direct investment into… education, infrastructure and national security.”
“I’m working hard to earn your vote,” Edmond told the packed crowd. A South Carolina native who served as a senior staffer for members of the House Armed Services Committee after leaving the Marine Corps, Edmond described himself as a “pragmatic problem solver.”
Jeffrey Carson, a Libertarian whose website sports an illustration of a star-spangled porcupine, was true to form as the evening’s prickly firebrand.
A former U.S. Army captain, Carson decried the nation’s “meddlesome, haphazard and dangerous interventionist foreign policy; our failed and unconstitutional drug war; NSA domestic spying; militarized police forces and the erosion of our civil liberties.” He accused Edmond of talking about lower taxes while proposing spending hikes rather than spending cuts, then accused Beyer of ignoring the problem of the national debt altogether.
Carson said he would “strip Congress of its power to overspend” by passing a business cycle-balanced budget amendment to stimulate the economy.
“We continue to allow our politicians to continue kicking the can down the road for another year, another election cycle, another generation,” he said. “Is it scary to face these problems head on? You bet.”
Gerard Blais, a candidate under the banner of the Independent Green party, espoused many of the libertarian ideals of Carson, with a pro-transit and social spending twist. He kept his remarks brief in comparison to his fellow candidates.
“I was inspired to run when, working as an intelligence analyst for the U.S. government, I noticed our flawed strategies continuing to fail abroad,” Blais said in his opening statement. “That’s why I would support an immediate pullout from all wars of aggression and choice abroad. I would also support drug legalization… a massive increase in public transportation, universal healthcare and an elimination of the federal income tax on the first $100,000 of income.”
Blais added a free college education and immigration reform to the list of policies he would pursue.
“As an IT worker, I enjoy a very bloated salary” because we’re not allowing enough skilled workers in, he said. “More immigrants will pay more U.S. taxes.”
Gwendolyn Beck, who’s running for Moran’s seat as an independent, said she wants to help facilitate compromise between the two parties.
“I think everyone is disappointed with the gridlock in Congress,” she said. “The Republicans and the Democrats are not talking to each other. I decided to run because I believe that we need to build badly needed coalitions in Congress.”
Beck, who lives near Rosslyn and describes herself as “fiscally responsible, socially inclusive,” said she is “very concerned about the waste of taxpayer money” and wants to fight for the rights of “seniors, children, women — everybody.”
Also participating in the candidates forum was Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Robert Sarvis. Democratic incumbent Mark Warner and Republican Ed Gillespie declined their invitations.
(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) Nominees for the 48th district House of Delegates seat, Republican Dave Foster and Democrat Rip Sullivan, plan to debate at George Mason University’s Arlington campus Aug. 11 prior to the special election Aug. 19.
“I am pleased that even in the short time afforded by this special election, we will be able to discuss the issues,” Foster said in a press release yesterday.
Sullivan, a former Fairfax Transportation Advisory Commission member and Fairfax County resident and partner at Reed Smith law firm, called for a debate soon after he defeated six other candidates in the Democratic caucus on Sunday.
“I’m an issues-oriented guy, which is why I’ve served on boards and commissions dealing with housing, education, transportation, and legal policy over the last 25 years,” Sullivan said in a press release. “I look forward to a substantive debate where we can talk about the issues we’ll face in Richmond.”
Sullivan opposes widening I-66 inside the beltway and will try to “incentivize use of public transportation and expand mass-transit opportunities” if elected, according to his website. He supports Medicaid expansion in Virginia, increased gun control and reproductive health rights for women.
Foster is opposed to the Columbia Pike streetcar, and if elected, would spearhead a public referendum to end the project that he called “impractical and unaffordable.” Foster also “pledged to work for a solution to the Medicaid expansion controversy that has roiled Richmond this year,” according to his website. As a former Arlington School Board member, he said he supports “adequate funding and local decision making” for Arlington schools. Sullivan said on his website that he wants to “tackle the issues of overcrowding and larger class sizes currently facing Arlington.”
After the sudden resignation of Del. Bob Brink (D-48), who retired last month to serve as Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Deputy Commissioner for Aging Services, Sullivan received more votes than six other Democratic nominees in the “firehouse” primary. Foster was the only Republican to run for the open seat.
In addition to the Arlington debate, another debate between Foster and Sullivan is scheduled to take place at the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce on the morning of Aug. 5.
H-B Woodlawn Administrator Dies — H-B Woodlawn assistant principal Dr. Mary McBride died unexpectedly on Monday, May 26. McBride, who started her career at H-B Woodlawn as a teacher, was 70. [Legacy.com]
Torrez Sentenced to Death — Convicted rapist and murderer Jorge Torrez was formally sentenced to death Friday. The former Marine strangled a female sailor to death on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in 2009. He is also accused of killing two young girls in Illinois on Mother’s Day 2005. [Stars and Stripes]
Euille and Levine: No Regrets — At a debate Friday at a meeting of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, congressional candidates Bill Euille and Mark Levine couldn’t come up with an answer when asked what policy positions they’ve taken that they’ve later regretted. Patrick Hope and Adam Ebbin both regret supporting mandatory minimum sentencing, Don Beyer regrets opposing same-sex marriage in the 1990s, and Lavern Chatman said she regrets opposing medical marijuana. [InsideNova]
Testicle Festival Held Saturday — The 10th annual Testicle Festival was held in Virginia Square on Saturday. One attendee said of the Rocky Mountain Oyster tasting: “People who don’t come here and don’t try the balls aren’t living a full life.” [WTOP]
Booze Delivery Service Coming to N. Va. — Ultra, a web-based service that facilitates the delivery of beer, wine and liquor, is launching this week in D.C. and is planning on launching in Northern Virginia “within a couple of weeks.” Ultra promises that most orders will be delivered in 30-60 minutes. The deliveries are made by licensed stores that partner with the company. [Washington Business Journal]
Shuttleworth Releases Poll Results — Former Democratic congressional candidate Bruce Shuttleworth has shared the results of a district-wide poll his campaign conducted earlier this month. The poll shows Don Beyer well in the lead among likely voters, but it also shows a sizable group of undecided voters. Shuttleworth dropped out of the race after the poll results came in, concluding that even if he “went negative” against Beyer he could not overcome the former Va. lieutenant governor’s lead. [Blue Virginia]
Congressional Candidates to Debate — The seven remaining Democrats in the congressional race will face off tomorrow (Friday) in a debate at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. at the NRECA building (4301 Wilson Blvd) and is open to the public. [InsideNova]
Arlington Issues $105 Million in Bonds — Arlington County yesterday issued $105 million in bonds at an average interest rate of 2.8 percent. The bonds will be used to fund capital contributions for Metro, Neighborhood Conservation projects, WalkArlington, BikeArlington, ConnectArlington; street paving, utility projects and Arlington Public Schools projects. The county will also save nearly $2 million thanks to refunding prior debt at a lower interest rate. [Arlington County]
The capacity crunch at Arlington Public Schools and the need for establishing better coordination with county officials were two of the major topics addressed by the three candidates for School Board at a forum last month.
The candidates who are seeking the Democratic School Board endorsement — Barbara Kanninen, Nancy Van Doren and Greg Greeley — politely agreed on many topics, including the urgency of the school system’s overcrowding issues, but some differences did emerge during the two-hour forum at the Arlington Mill Community Center on Columbia Pike.
Kanninen, for instance, was outspoken in her belief that there’s too much emphasis on standardized testing in Arlington Public Schools. She said students shouldn’t be spending an entire week of instructional time preparing for Virginia’s Standards of Learning tests.
“I believe every child in Arlington deserves a bright future,” she said. “They are more than their test scores… we should de-emphasize test prep.”
Greeley agreed, to an extent, saying that he believes the tests are not “an accurate reflection” of many students’ skills and abilities.
“It’s pretty clear that the pendulum for standardized testing has swung too far,” he said.
Van Doren emphasized her volunteer work for students with special needs, including six years on APS’ Special Education Advisory Committee. She said the school system is doing a better job serving students with special needs, but more must be done. Greeley echoed that sentiment.
“If there’s any area where we as a school system must improve, it’s how we treat our students with special needs,” he said.
Asked about the rising per pupil cost at Arlington Public Schools — it will rise past $19,000 next school year, the highest of any school system in the region — Van Doren said most of APS’ costs go to teacher salaries.
“I just don’t see how we’re going to be able to cut that,” she said.
Kanninen said she was “uncomfortable” when it was announced that Arlington was the top-spending school system. She said she believes that it’s possible to cut “hidden” costs in the budget, and that savings can be found by reducing technology and test preparation spending. With the current budget, Kanninen argued, there’s no excuse for poor performance in any Arlington schools.
“We’re funding our school system at a level where we should be the best,” she said. Kanninen, Van Doren and Greeley all expressed concern about student performance issues that have come to light at Drew Model Elementary.
Greeley had some strong words about APS’ allegedly top-down approach to community communication. He said that school staff is told not to attend community forum and discouraged to communicate with the public outside of official channels.
“The notion that we don’t want staff to talk to the community is part of the broader philosophical issue that we need to address,” he said.
The candidates — Del. Charniele Herring, Mark Levine, state Sen. Adam Ebbin, Bruce Shuttleworth, Satish Korpe, Lavern Chatman, former Lt. Gov. Don Beyer, Del. Patrick Hope, Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille and Derek Hyra — each only had time for an opening statement, answers to two questions and a one-minute closing statement. The debate lasted two hours.
The candidates are vying to fill the retiring Rep. Jim Moran’s seat in Congress. Virginia’s Eighth District is considered a deeply blue, safe Democratic seat — thus its attractiveness to a field of candidates trying to pounce on the rare political opportunity.
Moran, who’s been the 8th District’s representative since 1991, started the night with 10 minutes of remarks, touching on his service and the benefits of representing Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County. He said he won’t be endorsing any of the Democrats running in the June 10 primary.
“It’s a great district, and it’s kind of a microcosm of this country,” he said. “In this district, you have far more latitude than any other district in the country, as far as I’m aware of, because the constituency in this district is well-educated, wants to understand things, is extraordinarily open-minded if you want to make a case. I’ve found that I have far more latitude than many of my colleagues.”
The candidates were asked what their first priority would be in Congress, and what their top foreign policy concern is. Many candidates touched on consensus topics among Democrats — women’s reproductive rights, climate change and economic development — while they tried to distinguish themselves from the other candidates.
“We’re all Democrats here and I respect my colleagues greatly, but we all bring different things to this race,” Beyer, who is the frontrunner in polling and fundraising, said in his opening statement. “As a businessman, lieutenant governor and ambassador, I have a proven record, the ideas and the energy to hit the ground running.”
Sitting to Beyer’s left was Hope, the top polling Arlington-based candidate, who defended the Affordable Care Act’s rollout and said the law didn’t go far enough.
“There are some people on this dais who believe the Affordable Care Act has flaws,” Hope said. “I don’t believe the Affordable Care Act has flaws, except one: it did not expand coverage to every single American. Even if Virginia and other states expand Medicaid to the poorest people in their states, we will still have 20 million Americans who do not have health insurance.”
Euille, when discussing foreign policy, touched on his foreign travels and the visitors who have come to Alexandria to ask him about politics. He said his guiding principle in foreign policy is seeking world peace.
“I will never put out troops in combat,” he said. “I will never support a war, because I think it’s the wrong thing to be doing. We need to make certain that the only time we use our troops to fight would be in defense of our own borders.”
Levine, a liberal talk radio host who reminded the capacity crowd of his penchant for pulling out his pocket U.S. Constitution, distanced himself from Euille and some of the other candidates on stage by advocating for a more aggressive military stance.
“We are an ally of NATO and countries look to us for support,” Levine said. “And when Russia is busy invading Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland are nervous, and they look to us for support. A treaty obligation is vitally important, and we should go to war, if we have to, if a NATO country is attacked.”
The debate, at the Arlington Civic Federation’s monthly meeting, was relatively short and did not give the candidates much time to delve deeply into issues. But by and large, Republican- and Green-endorsed independent candidate John Vihstadt tried to position himself as a choice that would be palatable for local Democrats who oppose the county’s big-ticket streetcar and aquatics center projects.
“I don’t want to upset the applecart, I just want to rearrange some of those apples,” said Vihstadt, who arguably has the best shot at being elected to the Board of any non-Democrat in years. “[My wife and I] love Arlington, we want to give back to Arlington.”
Vihstadt said he uses mass transit to commute on a daily basis, but “this $310 million streetcar is not the way to go on Columbia Pike.” He instead said he favors “a modified form of bus rapid transit.”
Vihstadt also differed from the current County Board in calling for an independent county auditor, by wanting to “break down the silos” between county government and Arlington Public Schools, and by suggesting that he opposes some of the development currently taking place in Arlington.
“I have serious differences with this Board about density and where that is taking our county right now,” he said to applause from the Civic Federation delegates.
Vihstadt, however, was also careful to point out areas where he agrees with the County Board. He supports gay marriage, increased spending on schools, and the new homeless services center in Courthouse.
“I support the new homeless shelter,” he said. “On balance I think it’s the right place and the right thing to do.”
“I’m not going to hide my Republican background, but i’m running as an independent,” Vihstadt said. “I’m running to add balance… because we need to recalibrate our spending priorities. We have to concentrate on core services like public education… roads and infrastructure maintenance… and neighborhood quality of life.”
“I’m giving voice to so many people across the political spectrum who are frustrated, who are concerned about where we are going as a county and where we are spending of our dollars at a time of skyrocketing school enrollment,” he said, pledging to be “fair, even-handed, bridge-building and nonpartisan.”
Democrat Alan Howze enters the race as the odds-on favorite thanks to the party’s well-honed get-out-the-vote effort, which will be needed as the race will be decided by a special election. Howze largely toed the party line — supporting a social safety, affordable housing, a “progressive community,” etc. — but suggested that he would be a bit more cautious when it comes to spending and a bit more aggressive when it comes to economic development.
Asked about something about which he disagreed with the County Board, Howze said the design and cost of the $1.6 million James Hunter dog park in Clarendon “well exceeded what was needed for the space and the community.”
Howze touted his private sector experience working at IBM and said he would work to “help strengthen the commercial base in Arlington,” thus combating rising office vacancy rates.
Like Vihstadt, Howze said he supports gay marriage, the county’s new homeless shelter, and increased spending on schools. (“Rising school enrollment is the biggest challenge facing our community,” he said.) Howze, however, supports the Columbia Pike streetcar project and has said he would like to see the Long Bridge Park aquatics center built provided it doesn’t exceed its original $79 million budget.
“We need to improve our community,” he said. “We can’t give any project a blank check, but neither can we stand still. I’m not chicken little… the sky is not falling. We can’t just say no — no is not a solution. Short term solutions that are politically expedient today but don’t lead to long-term prosperity.”
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?”
“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.”
Fallon 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.” (more…)