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.”
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
County Board Debate Tonight — Democratic County Board candidates Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall will debate tonight at 8 p.m. at the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s monthly meeting. The meeting is being held at Lubber Run Community Center. [ACDC]
Northside Social Expanding to Falls Church — Clarendon favorite Northside Social will be expanding to the City of Falls Church this fall. The new Northside Social will be located in the historic Blue and Gray American Legion Post building. [Falls Church News-Press]
Metro Track Work at Rosslyn — In a bit of unscheduled maintenance, Metro replaced track insulators around the Rosslyn Metro station yesterday. Metro has been experiencing problems with its aging track infrastructure, particularly fire-prone insulators and electrical equipment. [Twitter]
Attempted Rape Suspect May Be in Arlington — A man who’s wanted for the attempted rape of a child in Alexandria may be hiding in Arlington, authorities say. The man is being sought the the U.S. Marshals Service. [Alexandria News]
Free Guac and Chips at Cal Tor — California Tortilla, which has locations in Courthouse and Crystal City, is offering free chips and guacamole today. “Just say ‘It’s Guac O’Clock!’ to the cashier while ordering and all that hand-smashed goodness is yours!” the company says on its website. [California Tortilla]
Remembering Tom Richards — Who is Tom Richards and why was he such a pivotal figure in the history of Arlington’s parks and trails? A new article from Arlington County explains. Richards would have turned 90 this month; he collapsed and died on the Metro system in 2011. [Arlington County]
Moving Day for ARLnow.com — We are moving our offices up the Orange Line to Clarendon today. As a result, you may notice some delays in posting articles.
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The three candidates for Arlington County Board debated business and other public policy issues Monday, at a forum sponsored by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
Both Democratic contenders — incumbent County Board Chair Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall — vowed to make it easier for companies to do business in Arlington, for companies large and small.
Early on, Garvey pointed to the difficulty Boeing encountered in trying to build its D.C. area headquarters in Arlington as an example of something that shouldn’t happen again.
“Boeing had planned to build a second building but found the process here so unpleasant that they said they’d never build another building in Arlington,” said Garvey.
Gutshall, who is the owner of a small business, Clarendon Home Services, focused on customer service as the key to improving the experience of operating a business in Arlington.
“I firmly believe that Arlington County needs leadership that will accept nothing less than a culture of get to yes,” said Gutshall. “Too many citizens and business owners continue to have frustrating horror stories of the lack of transparency, accountability and helpfulness of our county. I know because I have more than a few of my own.”
They also discussed transportation, mentioning the need for improved transit infrastructure.
“Transit is largely regional and we really need to make it easy with a single seat ride for folks from Fairfax to Loudon to Prince William to get into Arlington and D.C. This is how we will get more cars off the roads,” said Garvey.
A common theme raised by Gutshall was the need to make infrastructure investments.
“For the sake of our economy and quality of life, we must be forceful advocates for a second river crossing for Metro,” he proposed. Gutshall and Garvey both spoke about transit on Columbia Pike; Gutshall has been critical of Garvey and the county’s lack of action following the cancellation of the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar project.
“I’ll also work to ensure that bus routes on Columbia Pike contribute to the achievement of our main street vision by providing providing frequent 6-10 minute service, 18 hours a day that connects our diverse residents and businesses efficiently to the places they want and need to go — beyond work including more north to south connections in the county.”
Said Garvey: “I am pleased with the proposal to expand the transit way from Crystal City to Columbia Pike essentially running the same route as had been planned for the streetcar and we will have a one seat ride the west end of Columbia Pike all the way west through Crystal City.”
Also discussed was the proposed gondola connecting Rosslyn with Georgetown. Garvey has expressed skepticism about the gondola, while voting to approve funds for a feasibility study. Gutshall said he supported the study.
“I think that the gondola study is worthwhile,” said Gutshall. “I have my reservations and doubts seriously that it will come to fruition… It seems that it was a relatively modest sum for Arlington to kick in a little bit of funds just to see if it has legs and if it might go somewhere. But I will be very honest. I don’t think in the long run its going to have legs.”
Big Changes Planned for Ballston Church — The Central United Methodist Church at 4201 Fairfax Drive in Ballston is planning a complete redevelopment of its 30,000 square foot property. Preliminary plans have been filed to build “a new church, a new preschool space, and a seven-story, 132-unit apartment building — 60 percent market-rate and 40 percent dedicated affordable.” [Washington Business Journal]
McAuliffe Signs Bills at Wakefield HS — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed two pieces of education legislation at Wakefield High School yesterday, as pictured above. The new laws “will lead to an overhaul of the state’s high school graduation requirements, aiming to make high school more relevant to the working world” and better supporting students who start a career after high school. [Washington Post, Twitter]
Reagan Airport Bridge Closed This Weekend — Starting at 11 p.m. tonight, through early Monday morning, drivers heading to Reagan National Airport will not be able to access it via the Route 233 bridge over Jefferson Davis Highway. Ongoing construction prompted the planned closure. [Patch]
Solar House for Sale — A “one-of-a-kind luxury home” is for sale in Cherrydale. The five-bedroom house features a 10KW photovoltaic solar panel array, an energy recovery ventilation system, two-story screened porch, two-car garage, third floor loft with wet bar, a 560 square foot rooftop deck, exercise room with yoga/MMA flooring and an outdoor shower. It’s listed at just under $1.9 million. [Truplace]
Reminder: Chamber Hosts Candidate Forum Monday — The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is hosting a County Board candidate forum this coming Monday. The forum, featuring a discussion of topics important to the Arlington business community, is taking place from 6-8 p.m. at the Rosslyn Hyatt (1325 Wilson Boulevard). Democrats Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall, and independent Audrey Clement, are set to participate in the forum, which will be moderated by ARLnow.com editor Scott Brodbeck. Tickets are $10. [Arlington Chamber of Commerce]
Photo via Arlington County
County Board Contenders Debate — The two Democratic contenders for Arlington County Board, incumbent Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall, debated who would be the most transparent and the best agent of change last night. Gutshall criticized Garvey for the lack of action on new transit options for Columbia Pike and for supporting the creation of a “blue ribbon panel” to study county priorities. [InsideNova, Washington Post]
Residents Concerned About Sex Offender — Some residents in the Bluemont neighborhood and the area around Bon Air Park are concerned about a registered sex offender who recently moved to the area. There have been reports of the man watching children’s soccer games and leaving balloons in the backyard of a family home. Police say they’re investigating. [Fox 5]
Vornado Attracting Millennials With Cool Restaurants — “Vornado has carefully curated its retail in Crystal City and Pentagon City to appeal to creative Millennials, bringing in tenants like DIY design and fabrication space TechShop and hip restaurants like We The Pizza, Sweetgreen and Taylor Gourmet, which just opened Monday. That’s not to mention the Whole Foods anchoring the retail section of Vornado’s The Bartlett, a trendy ‘city within a city’ with nearly 700 residential units.” [Bisnow]
Chinese News Agency Profiles Arlington’s Tech Scene — Xinhua, the state-run news agency that’s said to be the largest and most influential media organization in China, has published a feature story that discusses how Arlington has become a “hot spot for tech startups.” The story notes that in addition to a robust talent pool and the availability of investment capital, “government has also played a vital role in the development of startups in Arlington.” [Xinhua]
Outdoor Lab to Celebrate 50th Anniversary — The Arlington Outdoor Lab, a nonprofit facility that hosts more than 9,000 students annually for outdoor and environmental education, is celebrating its 50th anniversary with an event in Ballston next month. [Arlington Outdoor Lab]
Flickr pool photo by James L.
Metro Delays and Traffic This Morning — There are residual delays on the Orange and Silver lines due to a malfunctioning train near the Clarendon Metro station earlier this morning. For drivers, morning rush hour traffic is noticeably heavier than usual around Northern Virginia inside the Beltway. [Twitter]
Firefighters Applaud New Metro Move — WMATA will now staff its Metrorail control center with a uniformed fire officer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Arlington’s firefighter association applauded the move, calling it a “positive step for the safety of firefighters and citizens in the DMV.” [WTOP, Twitter]
CARD to Hold School Board Debate — The Pike Presidents’ Group and the Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development, which advocates for a wider distribution of affordable housing throughout the county, is holding a School Board candidate debate on Wednesday, May 11. CARD also sent a candidate questionaire to all four candidates seeking the Democratic nomination. Of them, only Tannia Talento declined to respond. [CARD, CARD]
Liberty Tavern Named Top Brunch Spot — A new-for-2016 list of the top brunch spots in the country, compiled from diner reviews by the restaurant reservation website OpenTable, includes The Liberty Tavern in Clarendon. [OpenTable, Patch]
Mall Launches Walking Program — Today, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City is launching a new program called “Walk-Fit.” Open to all ages, the program is described as “an official way for walkers to meet up, exercise, socialize and even enjoy a morning cup of coffee,” all inside the mall.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The forum is being organized by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. It will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Hyatt in Rosslyn (1325 Wilson Blvd). ARLnow.com, a Chamber member, is the event’s media sponsor.
During the forum, incumbent Libby Garvey and challenger Erik Gutshall will be asked a variety of questions, with a special focus on local business.
“This business-themed candidate forum will feature a moderated discussion of topics important to the Arlington business community, and will provide each candidate with the opportunity to engage with local business leaders and address the key issues for the business community,” the Chamber said. “This event will also offer attendees the chance to gain an inside look into the candidates’ views on business in Arlington County.”
(Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement, who has qualified for the ballot again this year, has also been invited to participate.)
In a debate earlier this month, Gutshall lamented that Arlington County’s economic development efforts are “geared towards the types of businesses that are going to fill office buildings,” more so than helping small businesses. Garvey said the county is “aware that small businesses are having issues” and is holding a small business summit next week.
Meanwhile, the county’s high office vacancy rate — some 8 million square feet of office space is vacant in Arlington — remains a significant issue.
This candidate forum is open to the general public. Registration is $10. Light refreshments will be provided.
The Arlington County Democratic Committee is planning its own candidate debate from 7-9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4. The debate will be held at GMU’s Founders Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive).
A near-capacity crowd packed into Mad Rose Tavern in Clarendon Wednesday night for a Democratic showdown between County Board member Libby Garvey and primary challenger Erik Gutshall.
The Arlington Young Democrats-hosted debate was perhaps not the battle royale some were expecting, but there were a few pointed barbs from Gutshall and an assertive defense from Garvey of her record.
Gutshall started his line of attack before the debate even started, by CCing news outlets that morning on a letter to Garvey, questioning why former Republican Congressman Tom Davis donated $1,000 to her campaign. (In 2014, Davis also donated $1,000 to the campaign of independent County Board member John Vihstadt, who Garvey endorsed over Democrat Alan Howze.)
“I was shocked to learn that someone running to be the Democratic nominee would so openly solicit, and accept, campaign contributions from someone whose job and mission it was to defeat Democrats,” Gutshall wrote. He asked Garvey to sign a pledge to only support Democratic candidates and to reject campaign contributions from current or former Republican elected officials.
At the debate, Gutshall said it was “not acceptable” that Garvey had not signed the pledge, also citing her decision not to endorse Del. Rip Sullivan during his campaign.
“Absolutely, unequivocally, 100 percent I will support the Democrat, period,” Gutshall said.
Garvey, meanwhile, declined to make any absolute promises, saying she would make decisions based on “what is the right thing for Arlington… what is best for the people I serve.”
“Generally, that’s the Democrat,” she said. Her answer was followed by a couple loud boos from the crowd.
Gutshall attempted to re-litigate the streetcar battle, saying that Garvey “has sat on the sidelines” since she and Vihstadt helped to scuttle the project, which would have brought light rail transit to Columbia Pike. (The county has said an alternative transit plan will be coming this year.)
“We don’t have the transit that’s there to meet the needs of density” along Columbia Pike, said Gutshall. “We have the right to expect more and do better.”
Garvey said that until January, when she took over the County Board chairmanship, she “did not have the votes” to push a Bus Rapid Transit plan for the Pike. With the addition of like-minded Democrats Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey this year, she said the County Board is functioning well as a team.
“Your board is a very exciting board right now,” she said. “I have done a lot since January. I would like to build on this experience and build on this work.”
Gutshall accused Garvey of abandoning the infrastructure investment mindset that led previous generations of local Democratic leaders to support, for instance, the building of the Metrorail system.
“Progress comes by investing in the future,” he said. “The main reason I’m running here is that I have heard rhetoric that we should turn and look inward and that we cannot afford to meet these challenges.”
A mock Donald Trump vs. Bernie Sanders “comedy debate” will take place at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) next week.
“Trump vs. Bernie: The Debate Tour 2016” is scheduled Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, Feb. 18-20. Tickets are $20.
The show stars comedians Anthony Atamanuik as Trump and James Adomian as Sanders.
“It’s Republican Billionaire vs. Democratic Socialist fighting over the issues before the 2016 presidential election,” trumpets the Drafthouse website. Arlington is the second to last stop for the “unsanctioned debate” on a multi-city tour.
Affordable housing continues to divide the candidates for County Board, with the two Democratic nominees supporting the Affordable Housing Master Plan and the two independents proposing alternative methods at a debate over the weekend.
The County Board candidates all announced varying degrees of support for increasing affordable housing in Arlington, but disagreed on the best way to implement it during a candidate forum held by Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement Sunday evening.
“Everyone’s in favor of everything, and that’s the balancing act in this community,” said independent candidate Mike McMenamin.
The county needs to focus on geographic distribution of affordable housing units, said McMenamin, who has previously said affordable housing is not one of his priorities. The county should also go back and address its 2003 targets for the amount of affordable units, which it only met twice, he added.
McMenamin, who does not support the Affordable Housing Master Plan passed by the County Board last month, said that the County Board needs to look at how to add affordable housing and address school capacity, without sacrificing parkland for more affordable housing units or more schools. Finding the money to support all of these plans is also a challenge, he added.
One of the high costs to the affordable housing plan is the choice to increase the amount of committed affordable units (CAFs) instead of trying to incentivize market-rate affordable units (MARKs), said Audrey Clement, the other independent candidate.
“There is a serious question of whether CAFs are the way to go,” Clement said.
The new Affordable Housing plan calls for 15,800 affordable housing units, and making them all CAFs would be too expensive for the county, she said, arguing that MARKs are cheaper.
“Private developers can build units much more cheaply than the county can, so limit new construction to onsite units in market-rate developments,” she said.
Clement has spoken out against the Affordable Housing Master Plan, and if elected, plans on creating a housing authority to oversee all housing concerns in Arlington, similar to the authorities in Fairfax County and Alexandria.
Both Democratic nominees, Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey, reaffirmed their support in the affordable housing plan.
Beyond affordable housing, candidates all addressed community concerns about the disconnect between Arlington residents and the Board. The “Arlington Way,” the county’s system of community involvement in decision-making, needs some retuning, candidates said.
“It’s not what I am going to do. It’s what you all are going to do, and everybody else in Arlington. You all are going to tell us what is necessary to make sure every voice counts,” he said. “It does not work if elected officials tell you what they are going to do to listen. You have to tell us what we need to do to make sure your voices are heard.”
It’s also about going to meet the community where they are, Dorsey and Cristol said.
“We have to get rid of this excuse that they don’t come to our meetings,” Cristol said.
Increasing community engagement means making meetings at times that are reasonable to community members and personally inviting leaders to come to meetings, she said.
It’s also important that the public is brought into the process at the beginning, not the tail end, said McMenamin, citing the recent discussions about Fire Station 8.
If elected, he plans on going to community meetings, talking to people at farmer’s markets and even knocking on people’s doors to get their opinions about bigger decisions, he said.
“You have to listen to the neighborhoods and do what’s right,” he said.
Addressing the school capacity rate needs to be figured out by both the Arlington School Board and the County Board, Cristol said, adding the community has to be involved from the beginning.
“To me, this issue is one of how do we manage our growth,” she said.
Another Jury Duty Scam — Scammers are once against targeting Arlington residents with phony phone calls about jury duty. At least 15 cases were reported in September of residents receiving calls from someone claiming to be a law enforcement officer and demanding a “good faith” payment over the phone for failing to appear for jury duty. The calls are fraudulent and police are investigating. [Arlington County]
Deaf Inmate’s Lawsuit Against Arlington — A deaf Ethiopian immigrant says the six weeks he spent in the Arlington County jail was torturous. Abreham Zemedagegehu has a limited ability to read or write English, and as a result missed meals and went without needed pain medication during his stay. A lawsuit against the county, filed pro bono by the law firm Akin Gump, says the jail should have had a sign language interpreter. [Washington Post]
Arlington Wages on the Rise — Wages for those who work in Arlington rose 2.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, higher than the national average of 2.1 percent. Arlington has the 10th highest wages among the largest 342 counties in the U.S. [InsideNova]
New Process Proposed for New Schools — The county’s Community Facilities Study Committee has made recommendations for a new “siting process” for new and expanded schools and county facilities. “The siting process is intended to improve upon current practices and function as a project management tool to make siting decisions efficiently, effectively and with ample community input,” according to a press release. [Arlington County, Arlington Public Schools]
Lots of Debates for County Board Candidates — The four Arlington County Board candidates are scheduled to participate in 14 debates in various parts of the county by the time election day rolls around in November. [Washington Post]
Va. State Police Cruisers Hacked — Computer security experts were able to hack into Virginia State Police vehicles, preventing the cars from starting or moving. The hacks were done as a security measure, as part of a state initiative to prevent future hacks of Virginia’s fleet of police cruisers and official vehicles. [Dark Reading]
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month — Today is Oct. 1, the start of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. “The Arlington County Police Department has partnered with Doorways for Women and Families, our community advocate, to bring attention to this worthy cause,” according to a press release. During October, many ACPD vehicles will display a purple ribbon donated by Doorways. Last year, Arlington police were called to 2,086 incidents of domestic violence, resulting in 196 arrests. [Arlington County]
Board Candidates Debate, Find Agreement — Updated at 12:30 p.m. — The four candidates for Arlington County Board participated in a candidates forum organized by the Arlington Forest Civic Association last night. The candidates found agreement on two notable issue: affordable housing shouldn’t be built on parkland — or, at least, certain parkland — and county property taxes shouldn’t be raised at this time. [Washington Post]
JPod Meeting on the Pike — The man behind a proposal to bring a monorail-like pod transportation system to Columbia Pike made his case to residents and to County Board Vice Chairman Walter Tejada at the Walter Reed Community Center last night. There are still several potential deal-breaking questions about the feasibility of the proposal. [InsideNova]
Teachers Training on Digital Devices — Arlington Public Schools continues to train teachers and educate parents about the use of digital devices like iPads and MacBooks in schools. APS is continuing its rollout of “personalized” devices, with the goal of each student having their own device. [Arlington Public Schools]
Exercise Helped Real-World Response at VHC — Arlington County says that an emergency response exercise at Virginia Hospital Center two years ago greatly helped the real-world response to a fire at the hospital last week. Evacuations of patients went smoothly and no one was hurt. [Arlington County]
GOP Presidential Candidate in Arlington Today — Long-shot Republican presidential candidate and former New York governor George Pataki will be speaking at George Mason University’s Arlington campus this afternoon. The speech on domestic and foreign policy is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at GMU’s Founders Hall (3351 Fairfax Drive).
Another South Arlington School Site Identified — A county working group is continuing its effort to identify a preferred site for a new elementary school in South Arlington, to be built by 2019, but in the meantime the group has identified a potential future school site. The South Arlington Working Group says a school could be built by 2024 on parcels of land that currently include the Aurora Hills Community Center, Virginia Highlands Park and a portion of the RiverHouse apartment complex. [InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The candidates fielded questions from Arlington’s civic associations about various issues facing the county, including communication with residents and the commercial vacancy rate during a Civic Federation meeting last night. Arlington residents will vote for two new County Board members on Nov. 3.
Democrats Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol both spoke in favor of the Affordable Housing Master Plan, which the Board will decide on this month, while independents Mike McMenamin and Audrey Clement said they would vote against the plan.
The problem with the affordable housing plan, said Clement, is that it continues to rely on “densification” — building more housing in order to also add subsidized affordable units. Development has made housing more expensive, and has contributed to the loss of market rate affordable housing, she said.
“The actual economic assumption behind it is fallacious,” said Clement.
If voted onto the County Board, one of her first priorities would be the creation of a housing authority, which would put all housing agencies under one roof, similar to Fairfax County, Clement said. She also took issue with what she said would be a $90 million cost that the county would shoulder each year.
Dorsey disagreed, arguing that the plan is good for the county from an economic standpoint.
“When you have people who can live affordably, you have people who can spend money in your community,” Dorsey said.
For Cristol, the plan presents a way to help protect the middle class. While campaigning, she has heard from residents who say they would not be able to afford their homes if they had to buy them today.
“I believe the status quo in Arlington is hostile to the middle class,” Cristol said.
The plan isn’t perfect, Cristol said, adding that some of her South Arlington neighbors have asked for the plan to be more firm about geographic distribution.
“It’s a tough issue,” Cristol said. “It’s a complex issue.”
While housing affordability is an important topic, McMenamin said it is the wrong issue to be prioritizing, separating himself from the three other candidates who include affordable housing as a top platform issue.
“We’re betting everything on affordable housing when we have a school crisis,” he said, referring to the burgeoning student population, overcrowded schools and the proliferation of trailer classrooms across the county.
Arlington also needs to focus on the commercial vacancy rate, McMenamin said, an issue all candidates agreed on.
The county needs to work on “getting businesses back in the county,” he said. The county should focus on becoming a home for large companies like Marriott — which is considering moving from Maryland — but also provide a nurturing environment for startups, he said.
The county needs to find “creative ways, like tax relief,” to make the county more attractive to business, McMenamin said.
Making it easier for small businesses is an absolute must, Dorsey said. He proposed streamlining the process of starting a business in Arlington.
Cristol agreed that Arlington could be a hub for new businesses, such as companies in the medical technology industry, but she said that the county should not keep lowering the tax rate without a plan.
“We need to plan for the Arlington we want to see instead of blindly lowering the tax rate,” she said.
Candidates were also asked about the process behind County Board decisions, which some residents said is unsatisfactory.
All candidates said they would work to be open and more transparent about decisions, acknowledging decisions around the Western Rosslyn Area Plan, Reevesland Farmhouse and Fire Station 8, were not handled properly when it came to informing the community.
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.