Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and some of his Democratic colleagues believe most children up for a hearing at Arlington’s immigration court are being treated fairly — but they worry that could soon change.
Beyer, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and several other members of Congress sat in for some hearings at the federal immigration court in Crystal City today (Thursday), and broadly came away pleased with what they saw, despite the chaos surrounding the Trump administration’s recent practice of separating children from families at the Mexican border.
Yet Beyer and his fellow Democrats fear what might happen should leadership at the court change. They’ve heard rumors that Jack Weil, a longtime immigration judge at the Department of Justice, could soon start hearing cases in Arlington, and they’re disturbed by his history.
Weil attracted nationwide attention after testifying that he believes children as young as 3 years old can represent themselves in immigration proceedings. Though all of the kids the members of Congress saw Thursday had legal representation, the Democrats expressed disbelief that any judge would decide whether a toddler should be deported without a lawyer present.
“It’s really disturbing, especially because we understand [Weil] is training other judges,” Beyer told reporters. “Look at all the conversations we have about the poor decisions of our 20-year-olds… The thought that even a 12-year-old, 13-year-old can make good decisions in court is silly.”
Rep. Nanette Barragan (D-Calif.) noted that many of the cases the congressional delegation observed involved complex asylum applications, underscoring just how complicated an immigration hearing could be even for adults who speak English. She believes it would be “insane” to ask a child to attempt to navigate the process.
Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) felt Arlington’s courthouse generally represented “the best process possible” for kids seeking asylum. But she added that even this court only had Spanish translation services available, when people coming from somewhere like Guatemala could speak one of the country’s other 22 languages instead.
Beyer said Congress should act to provide funding for lawyers for immigrant children, given that that nonprofits stepping up to help can only provide representation for a small fraction of kids making their way through the system. With President Trump tweeting that immigrants should be deported “with no judges or court cases,” the Democrats said they realized the odds were long, but said it would be worth the effort.
“We can do this if we have the will and compassion to do this,” Hoyer said. “This is America. We believe in due process.”
For about a month, it seemed as if Matt de Ferranti would be the only Democrat to throw his hat in the ring and run for County Board this fall.
With the Board’s lone non-Democrat, independent John Vihstadt, up for re-election, local party activists have been eyeing 2018 for years now. Yet, when de Ferranti announced his bid in January, he didn’t have much in the way of competition from his fellow Democrats, a stark departure from the surge in Democratic candidates in other races across the state.
De Ferranti, a lawyer and advocate for Native American education, has spent plenty of time in civic life since moving to the county five years ago — he’s sat on a variety of commissions and volunteered for local Democrats. But he’s also a first-time candidate and far from a sure bet to knock off Vihstadt.
Nevertheless, for weeks, he remained the only Democrat in the race, even as Jill Caiazzo made a pledge to run an open primary for the nomination a key part of her successful run to become chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
Chanda Choun, a cybersecurity staffer for software company Securonix, changed all that when he announced his own run in February, setting up Tuesday’s primary contest.
Choun freely admits that his decision to enter the race caught some in the party by surprise, noting that he only moved to the county in 2015 and became active politically immediately following President Donald Trump’s election. But he also believes his background as a Cambodian immigrant and Army reservist will help him overcome his lack of experience, even though a cadre of Arlington officials and civic leaders have lent de Ferranti their support.
“I understand why there might be confusion or questions about why I was running or who I am,” Choun told ARLnow. “But I believe I’ve answered those over the past four or five months… It’s about providing that different voice, and I think that’s struck a chord with people.”
De Ferranti, however, argues that his “relevant experience” working with elected leaders in county government shouldn’t be overlooked. He may not be quite as young as Choun — de Ferranti is 44, Choun is 30 — but he believes he’d also provide fresh perspective on the Board, informed by his years of experience.
“People want to know if you really have a plan and want to do the job, not just run for the job,” de Ferranti said. “I’m not running to get my name out there. I’m running to win.”
On policy matters, there isn’t much separation between the two. Both believe the Board needs to keep investing in county schools, transportation projects and affordable housing, even as financial pressures squeeze the county government — they’re also both willing to support a potential tax increase next year either, a distinct possibility as commercial tax revenues keep plummeting.
Neither candidate is a big fan of Vihstadt either, though both do acknowledge that the independent hasn’t radically disrupted the Board’s dynamic.
“There is some credit due to scrutinizing and looking carefully at our decisions,” de Ferranti said. “But once that is done, it’s about having the courage in making forward-looking decisions and understanding change is inevitable. It’s working with it, managing it and using change to shape our community in good ways.”
To that end, both Democrats want to see the county lure more businesses to Arlington and reverse the skyrocketing commercial vacancy rates in Rosslyn and Crystal City. The pair differs on how they’d approach that vexing question, however.
De Ferranti prefers to “look toward the next economy” by marketing the county to “clean tech and green tech” companies — he’s also open to further exploring the possibility of using vacant space in Crystal City to house students, a proposal often bandied about as the school system runs out of available land.
Choun wants to step up the county’s marketing efforts to lure in new businesses, but also lean on his experience in the military and in government contracting to bring federal government agencies back to Arlington, after many have fled.
“Let’s get those dollars back in Arlington,” Choun said. “That was our historic economic base. Obviously, we still want to diversify away from it, but let’s grow the pie as a whole.”
Another key separation: their feelings on the oft-discussed, but seemingly sidelined, Rosslyn-Georgetown gondola. Choun is open to studying the project in more detail, but de Ferranti is a bit more ready to write it off.
“I know there was some study, and I respect those who wanted to look into it more deeply,” de Ferranti said. “But almost everyone I talked to, and my own analysis and common sense, says it’s not the right thing for us.”
But with relatively few policy disagreements separating the pair, Choun expects that his background, as both an immigrant and a tech-savvy millennial, will help separate him from de Ferranti.
“It’s about building a coalition: millennials, veterans, military, people of faith, tech professionals, minorities,” Choun said. “It’s not necessarily about platform, but messaging, vision and character.”
De Ferranti, meanwhile, is counting on his more traditional approach of winning local office to carry the day. Beyond just the endorsements of the county’s Democratic establishment, he’s also pulled in plenty of cash from its traditional donors — he’s raised more than $54,000 over the course of the campaign from more than 175 different people, according to state records. By comparison, Choun has managed to pull in nearly $30,000, with $25,000 coming in the form of a loan from Choun himself.
“I’ve got relevant experience on the key issues to make a difference on the biggest challenges that we face,” de Ferranti said. “I believe more and more people are hearing that, and it’s why I have the support of so many.”
The bipartisan pair — Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers, both of Kentucky — will be recording their podcast at the event on April 21, according to a press release.
A number of female Democratic elected officials will be interviewed during the taping, including Del. Hala Ayala (D-51), who became one of the first Latina women to serve in the Virginia General Assembly this past November, and Del. Danica Roem (D-13), who became the first openly transgender elected official in Virginia after last year’s election.
Other recently-elected state officials, including Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy (D-2), Del. Gwendolyn Wendy Gooditis (D-10), Del. Elizabeth Guzman (D-31), Del. Karrie Delaney (D-67), and Del. Kathy Tran (D-42) are also expected to be interviewed.
The delegates will be discussing “why representation matters, the importance of inclusive representation, and how [the delegates] bring multi-layered experiences to governance and the legislative process.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is listed as the evening’s keynote speaker.
Photo via Arlington Democrats
Beyer Blasts GOP Tax Bill — Rep. Don Beyer is, to say the least, not a fan of the Republican tax bill that is expected to pass the House and be sent to the president’s desk later today. “At its core, this bill is an immoral redistribution of wealth towards the richest among us at a cost of trillions of dollars, and I believe that those who voted for this monstrosity will be held accountable,” Beyer said in a statement. [Rep. Don Beyer, Twitter]
Single Vote Swings Va. House — Thanks to a Democratic candidate in Newport News winning her race by a single vote, as determined in a recount, the Virginia House of Delegates is now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, ending a majority the GOP has maintained since 2000. [Washington Post]
‘Dominion Pint’ Coming to Arlington — The owner of Meridian Pint (also Brookland Pint and Smoke & Barrel) in D.C. is planning to open a new craft beer-centric outpost somewhere in North Arlington. The location has not yet been announced, but it will be called “Dominion Pint.” [PoPville]
DESIGNArlington Winners Announced — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday recognized the ten 2017 DESIGNArlington award winners for “outstanding architectural or landscape design in the County.” Among the winners are the new Marymount University building in Ballston, the Tellus apartment building in Courthouse, “The Quill” public art project in Rosslyn and two private North Arlington residences. [Arlington County, Arlington County]
Gutshall Sworn In — The newest Arlington County Board member, Erik Gutshall, was sworn in at yesterday’s Board meeting, while outgoing County Board Chair Jay Fisette received a standing ovation. [Twitter]
Changes to Historic Preservation Process — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously last night to revise and further codify the process for requesting historic preservation studies. Until now, any single individual could request a “historic preservation overlay district” study, which requires significant county staff time to complete. Before the vote, such a study could even be requested without consulting property owners in the proposed district. [Arlington County]
Arlington Man Dies in Plane Crash — Paul Schuda, a National Transportation Safety Board official and Arlington resident, was among three people killed in the crash of a small plane in Indiana. [NPR, Legacy]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
Heartened by Democratic gains in the Virginia House of Delegates in last night’s election, local Democrats are hopeful for progress in Richmond on issues important to Arlington County.
Democrats had picked up 14 seats in the House on Tuesday, with the remaining four seats subject to re-counts and late results.
By early Wednesday, control was tied 50-50 after Democrats picked up another two seats overnight, a big change from the 66-34 advantage Republicans had enjoyed.
And with the Arlington County Board set to finalize its legislative agenda for the 2018 Virginia General Assembly session, which convenes in January, several elected officials said local issues can make some headway in Richmond.
One particularly important issue is Metro, which local leaders say needs a dedicated funding source to help ease its budget worries. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said he will propose a dedicated funding source in what would be a symbolic move at the end of his term.
But with Governor-Elect Ralph Northam (D) to be joined by fellow Democrats Justin Fairfax and Mark Herring as lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively, County Board member Christian Dorsey said that combined with more Democrats in the House could mean more advocates for Metro.
“It’s a game-changer for Arlington, because one of the things on our agenda that we’re trying to figure out, a dedicated funding source for Metro, we didn’t even feel we could bring it forward this year,” Dorsey, who represents Arlington on Metro’s Board of Directors, said. “Now we can, and now we will. It can be a potential game-changer for Arlington and the region.”
“It helps us in Arlington,” said Erik Gutshall, who won Tuesday’s election to the County Board to replace retiring chair Jay Fisette. “The biggest thing that was on my mind that helps me rest a little easier is Metro. I think that was not talked about much, but was hanging in the balance. The way it could have gone differently, it would have been crucial.”
And beyond Metro funding, County Board vice chair Katie Cristol said more Democrats in the House could mean greater investment and advocacy for other transit in Virginia, including the Virginia Railway Express.
Cristol said the election of Danica Roem in the 13th District could be a big help, as she has emphasized solving transportation issues in Prince William County and Manassas Park City.
“One of the things everybody is talking about, even nationally, is Danica Roem being a groundbreaker in terms of transgender equality,” Cristol said, referring to Roem’s election as the first openly transgender state lawmaker. “But I’ve been cheering for her because she’s such a champion for VRE. I think we’re excited about the opportunity to have partners in things we care about like transport funding.”
Beyond those region-specific issues, Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) said in a victory speech that House Democrats can start to look ahead and try and pass issues important to progressives. For Arlington, Dorsey pointed to the long-debated Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, as well as looking to the future of the environment.
“Medicaid expansion would be great to provide a bulwark for what’s going on with the federal government trying to destabilize the health insurance market places. That would be a great thing for Virginians,” he said. “We’ve been trying to do some things on the energy and environmental sustainability side with solar power. These don’t necessarily become real this year, but we can now see a path forward to work toward over the next couple of years.”
Dorsey added that with the new Democrats in the House means that Arlington can be less defensive in its legislative package, and start to advocate more vigorously for issues that matter to its elected officials and residents.
(Among the “wish list” items that were a long shot under GOP control but which may find traction: renaming Jefferson Davis Highway.)
“Our legislative agenda has always been, ‘How can we prevent them from doing the most harm to us, and then how can we build the groundwork to maybe move incrementally forward,'” Dorsey said. “Now we have a chance to say, ‘Hey, we can get some wins.’ So it’s terrific.”
The Arlington County Democratic Committee, meanwhile, attributed the record voter turnout in Arlington to grassroots organizing and opposition to President Donald Trump.
“The thousands of volunteer hours Arlington County Democratic Committee, the Virginia Democratic Party, and Arlington’s progressive grassroots organizations spent registering voters, knocking on doors, and making calls sends a strong message endorsing Democratic leadership,” ACDC said in a statement Tuesday night. “Arlingtonians voted in record numbers in person and via absentee voting, demonstrating that they have a clear idea of where Virginia should go – and it’s not the way of Donald Trump and current national policies.”
“Tonight is a tremendous victory for Arlington and Virginia,” said ACDC Chair Kip Malinosky. “However, as President Obama once said ‘This victory is not the change we seek, but the chance to make that change.’ We must now work to expand Medicaid, work for women’s reproductive health, invest in better schools, and train the workforce of the future – because yes, we still can.”
FBI Seeking Man Who Touched Girl at Cemetery — The FBI’s Washington Field Office is searching for a man who “inappropriately touched a girl as the two stood in a crowd during a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.” [NBC Washington]
Task Force Recommends ‘Fleet Elementary’ — The task force charged with recommending a name for the new elementary school being built next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School has settled its choice: “Alice West Fleet Elementary.” Fleet was the first African-American reading teacher in Arlington’s public school system. The task force did not recommend transferring the name of Patrick Henry, a slave owner, from the current school, which will be transferring its students to new new school when it is complete. [InsideNova]
Bicyclist Group Calls Out Biking Bullies — In a blog post, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association is calling out aggressive male riders who yelled insults at a female bike commuter on two separate occasions on the Mt. Vernon Trail. “This sort of behavior is totally unacceptable,” the group said. [WABA]
Mt. Vernon Trail Upgrade Complete — The National Park Service has completed an upgrade to a portion of the Mt. Vernon Trail that runs through the Theodore Roosevelt Island parking lot. The upgrade includes a new crossing and speed table across the parking lot and the widening of the trail. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlington Sells Bonds at Low Interest Rate — Arlington County solds $185 million in bonds at a relatively low 2.5 percent interest rate. “The interest rate we received today is one of the lowest we’ve ever received,” County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a press release. “However, it is slightly higher than the rate we received last year.” [Arlington County]
Tight Race in Va. Gov. Primary — The two candidates battling it out in the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary are in the midst of a tight race. The race between Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello is being portrayed as a contest between an establishment figure (Northam) and a progressive darling (Perriello). Primary voters will go to the polls on Tuesday, June 13. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
A record number of people turned out for last night’s Democratic Party straw poll, where County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and School Board candidate Monique O’Grady were some of the victors.
Hosted at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), more than 120 people cast ballots for Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board, Arlington School Board, lieutenant governor and governor. The attendance set a record for the event, now in its third year.
Lopez said the event raised around $12,500 from ticket sales, which he said will be funneled to Democratic candidates in other House of Delegates races across the commonwealth. Lopez added that getting people excited about the upcoming races was a big point of emphasis, as opposed to focusing purely on the straw poll results from a limited voter pool.
“I think what’s wonderful about it is people are so fired up,” he said in an interview. “They’re coming into the room fired up, excited about the campaigns, they’re excited about the candidacies, they’re excited about their friends running for office.”
Gutshall won the County Board poll with 38 percent of the vote, ahead of Vivek Patil with 30 percent, Peter Fallon with 22 percent and Kim Klingler with 10 percent.
Gutshall, who won the straw poll last year in his unsuccessful bid for a County Board seat, said creative thinking is required to solve problems like school overcrowding and housing affordability.
“We’ve got a wonderful county here that I’m proud to be a part of,” he said. “But we can’t stay the same.”
In her remarks, O’Grady cited her “experience keeping our school system strong,” as well as being co-chair of last year’s successful $138.83 million school bond campaign.
O’Grady won the School Board straw poll with 46 percent of the vote, ahead of incumbent James Lander with 36 percent and Maura McMahon with 18 percent.
In the statewide races, current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the straw poll for the governor’s race against former Rep. Tom Perriello with 67.5 percent of the vote. Speaking on Northam’s behalf, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) said Northam is a “fighter for our progressive values” and has advocated tirelessly for women, children and ethnic minorities.
“We can count on Ralph to be with us as the 73rd governor of Virginia,” Ebbin said.
Justin Fairfax took victory in the straw poll for lieutenant governor with 64 percent of the vote, ahead of Susan Platt with 20 percent and Gene Rossi with 16 percent. County Board member Christian Dorsey, who spoke on Fairfax’s behalf, praised his grueling campaign schedule and his long-term view on solving problems.
“The question is, who has the skill and the will and will fight for you?” Dorsey said. “In this regard, I am so impressed with Justin Fairfax.”
The Arlington County Democratic Committee holds its caucus for County Board nominee and School Board endorsement on May 9, 11 and 13. Statewide primary elections will be held on June 13.
Local Democrats are planning a series of events, dubbed the “Weekend of Action,” to “send a bold message to the new administration on its first day in office.”
The prelude to the events will kick off Friday night with a poster making party in the basement of the Clarendon Presbyterian Church (1305 N. Jackson Street).
On Saturday, local Democrats will meet on the Arlington side of the Memorial Bridge — accessible via the Arlington Cemetery Metro station; Metrorail will open at 5 a.m. — and around 8 a.m. will walk into the District to join the Women’s March on Washington.
“Walk together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our Commonwealth and our country,” says the Arlington Democrats website. “Marchers may choose to carry signs, shout through megaphones, walk in silence as a member of The Bricksters, or otherwise express their views in a peaceful manner.”
A number of local lawmakers, including Rep. Don Beyer and County Board members Libby Garvey, Katie Cristol and Jay Fisette, are expected to be among the marchers.
Wrapping up the weekend, on Sunday, is the Commonsense Commonwealth Rally and Brunch, featuring Democratic gubernatorial candidates Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello as keynote speakers. That event is scheduled from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at Mad Rose Tavern (3100 Clarendon Blvd) in Clarendon.
(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton would help fix Memorial Bridge and the Metro system if she is elected president, local congressman Don Beyer said today.
Speaking at a brief press conference outside the Courthouse Metro station, Rep. Beyer (D-Va.) said Clinton would make it a top priority in her first 100 days in office to break through Washington’s gridlock and make the biggest investment in jobs and infrastructure since World War II.
Her economic plan would add jobs to the economy via investments in U.S. infrastructure, Beyer said, including Northern Virginia’s “two great priorities” — Memorial Bridge and Metrorail.
Without more investment, Metro’s long-term capital budget and the deteriorating bridge — which just received a federal grant — would continue to suffer, he said.
“We know the incredibly important role that infrastructure plays in job creation, economic development and raising incomes,” Beyer said. “In Virginia, we expect our leaders to enact policies that help our economy thrive. Hillary Clinton is committed to building an economy that works for everyone in Virginia and America, not just those at the top.”
Jared Bernstein, Vice President Joe Biden’s former chief economic adviser, who joined Beyer and Del. Charniele Herring (D) at the news conference, said Clinton’s plan would have economic benefits for everyone.
“Hillary Clinton’s vision is an inclusive vision where economic growth benefits not just those at the very top, but middle class and lower-income households as well, where investments are made not simply in the bank accounts of those at the very top of the scale, but in people across the income scale,” he said.
According to the Clinton campaign, an analysis by Moody’s economist and former McCain adviser Mark Zandi suggests that Clinton’s economic plan would create 271,000 jobs in Virginia, compared to a projected loss of 89,000 jobs under Republican nominee Donald Trump’s economic plan. (Trump updated his plan in a speech today.)
Not everybody was impressed with the mid-morning press conference. An ART bus driver, picking passengers up at a nearby bus stop, asked a news photographer what was going on. Upon hearing that it was a pro-Hillary press conference, and that the candidate would not be attending, the driver said he was voting for Trump, before driving off.
“Slow and steady.” That’s how the voting in today’s Arlington County Board Democratic primary is being described.
As of noon today, precincts around Arlington had recorded only about a 5 percent turnout. Election officials are expecting an approximately 10 percent overall turnout by the time the polls close at 7 p.m., compared to a 8 percent turnout in last year’s local primary.
By contrast, a whopping 46 percent of Arlington’s registered voters cast ballots in the March 1 presidential primary — 29 percent for Democrats, 17 percent for Republicans.
Arlington County General Registrar Linda Lindberg said things have been “pretty smooth” so far today. The biggest problem has been people showing up and asking why the presidential candidates aren’t on the ballot, she said.
Most voters who talked to ARLnow.com said they voted out of a moral obligation, stating that it was their civic duty to get out and vote.
“It’s a civil duty but its almost an obligation and everyone who can vote should vote,” said one voter at a polling station near Clarendon.
Of the voters willing to reveal who they voted for, the majority said they voted for incumbent Libby Garvey, citing as their main motivation her willingness to do things outside of the expected “establishment” Democratic norms.
“I voted for Libby Garvey because I don’t like the idea of ultra orthodox anything, politics or any other realm,” said a voter. “I don’t like the idea that somebody has to adhere to a certain line when they’re presented something.”
Another voter felt that having an independent voice was important.
“One of the reasons that I voted for Libby Garvey is because her own Democratic colleagues… have turned against her because they wanted a unified bloc of voting,” he said. “Since when has unanimity been the goal? You want some sort of discussion and dissent. I think many Democrats were disappointed that the Board does not allow dissent. It’s almost dictatorial in its approach. She didn’t think she had to vote with the entire group of Democrats just because she’s a Democrat and that upset a lot of people.”
One voter interviewed decided to vote for challenger Erik Gutshall, citing his experience and the desire to have a fresh perspective on the County Board.
“I ended up voting for Erik Gutshall. I read all of the propaganda from both of them that came in the mail and he’s been doing a bunch of stuff,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about him before a week and a half ago but he seems to be very active on the Lyon Park [civic] association, Planning Commission and all that and I think it would be interesting to give him a shot at it. I had saved all the things I received in the mail including six from Libby Garvey and they all had the same exact four points with one sentence on each. Not much substance.”
Most of the voters were older, although there were some younger people seen at the polls. When asked about the lack of younger voters, one voter shared his opinion on the matter.
“Older people are probably more invested in voting than most young people who are blissfully unaware,” he said.
When asked about the relatively low turnout, voters and staffers gave a number of reasons including the fact that it was a summertime election, the prevalence of absentee ballots and the more local nature of the election. One man using an ATM outside of a polling location was not even aware that there was an election going on at the moment.
Additional reporting by Adrian Cruz. Photos by Omar DeBrew.
Ballston Restaurant Makes Habit of Breaking Plates — Order the suckling pig at SER restaurant (1110 N. Glebe Road) in Ballston and the chef will chop it at the table with the blunt edge of a plate. After the chopping is done, the chef will smash the plate, as part of a Spanish tradition. [Washington Post]
Dem Dinner May Be Renamed — The Arlington County Democratic Committee is considering renaming its annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner, given that the event is currently named after two slaveholding presidents. [InsideNova]
Oakridge Pedal Desks Get National Attention — The pedal desks at Oakridge Elementary are getting some attention from a national cycling magazine, which write that the desk is “is a novel idea because it allows a child to fidget without creating a distraction.” [Bicycling]
School Bus Cameras to Start Issuing Tickets — Stop sign cameras on Arlington school buses will start issuing $250 tickets on Tuesday, the first day of school. The cameras were installed earlier this year and started issuing warnings this summer to those who drive past school buses while the stop sign is deployed. [ARLnow]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
New Details About 2012 Murder — New details have been revealed about the 2012 murder of Old Glebe resident Mack Wood, Sr. Three men, including Wood’s son, have been convicted of the murder. Mack Wood, Jr., who’s now serving life in prison, reportedly hired two men to kill his 87-year-old, terminally ill father to get an inheritance from his multimillion dollar estate. [Washington Post]
Crystal City Transitway Construction Continues — Construction on the new Crystal City transitway is proceeding as planned. The transitway was expected to eventually serve a Crystal City streetcar line. Now that the streetcar project has been cancelled, it will only serve buses. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlingtonians Satisfied With Their Commute — Arlington residents are more satisfied with their commute to work than those who live in the outer suburbs, according to recently-released survey results. Some 72 percent of Arlington residents said in a survey that they’re satisfied with their commute. The average Arlington resident’s commute is 28 minutes. [InsideNova]
Dems in Disarray Since Streetcar Decision? — Democratic political blog Blue Virginia says that the Arlington County Board’s decision to cancel the Arlington streetcar project has harmed both the county and the Arlington County Democratic Committee. The committee could be spiraling toward “dysfunction and division,” the blog suggests. Meanwhile, there are rumblings that County Board member Mary Hynes may not run for reelection next year, and that Walter Tejada may face a primary challenge. [Blue Virginia, InsideNova]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Silver Line Predictions for Arlington — A new report indicates the Silver Line will transform Reston and Tysons Corner into transit-oriented cities, similar to what occurred along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor after the arrival of the Orange Line. “Our Man in Arlington” notes the Silver Line will increase competition for businesses in Arlington, but quotes the director of Arlington Economic Development, who believes the county can hold onto its businesses. Arlington is expected to experience other changes from the Silver Line, such as changes in frequency for Orange Line trains. [Reston Now, Falls Church News-Press]
Look at Proposed Metro Changes — Metro’s recently announced proposal for a downtown loop , which would include one Arlington “super station” at the Pentagon, is getting some more in-depth looks. Plus, Metro indicates the need for another new line Northern Virginia by 2040, due to anticipated significant crowding on the Silver and Orange Lines. [Washington Post, Greater Greater Washington]
Howze Gains Endorsements — The competition is heating up among the three Democratic candidates seeking the nomination to run for the County Board seat being vacated by Chris Zimmerman. Alan Howze has picked up endorsements from Del. Bob Brink (D) and School Board member Noah Simon. Howze had already secured endorsements from County Board member Jay Fisette and Treasurer Frank O’Leary. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by wolfkann
(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Democratic Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey is explaining in more depth why she has decided to endorse an independent candidate to fill the Board seat to be vacated by Democrat Chris Zimmerman at the end of January.
Garvey is endorsing self-identified Republican John Vihstadt, who announced last week that he would run as an independent in the spring 2014 special election.
Garvey stated that none of the three announced Democratic candidates likely will change the way the current Board members set priorities. She decided to endorse Vihstadt instead because she believes he can provide change.
“The issue is that I don’t think there is a Democratic candidate that has or is going to announce for the endorsement that is going to alter the dynamic on the County Board right now… Vihstadt by far is so much closer to my values, my way of working,” Garvey told ARLnow.com. “He’s going to be the one to help me take the county in the direction I think it needs to go and the others will not. I am a Democrat, but in this case there is not a Democratic candidate that can do what needs to be done for Arlington. John can do that. So I’ve got to support him, why would I not? That’s what’s right for Arlington.”
She said Vishstadt “gets it” and he can help change the way current Board members operate.
“My colleagues are all good people, but they’ve been doing things a certain way for a very long time,” Garvey said. “I think we need a new perspective and a fresh way of looking at things, and John will bring that.”
One of the key reasons Garvey will not provide support to a fellow Democrat is her opposition to the Columbia Pike streetcar. Vihstadt also opposes the streetcar, writing in his announcement of candidacy last week, “Now that the County’s application for federal funding has been rejected, Arlington taxpayers may be directly on the hook to finish a five mile line that will displace small businesses and affordable housing, will not connect to the Pentagon, and which fails to materially improve Pike transit.”
Although Arlington currently maintains a triple-A bond rating, Garvey believes the streetcar eventually could prove “financially disastrous” for the county. She noted that the project still can be re-evaluated considering it will be a while before final votes are taken.
“I know they all talk about how it’s a done deal, but it’s not a done deal until we sign a contract with a company and commit hundreds of millions of dollars to pay that company to build this thing. We’re not anywhere near that yet,” she said.
“The streetcar is useless and will actually make things worse on the Pike,” she continued. “A streetcar is nothing more than a bus on tracks with wires, but it costs a whole lot more… There are ways to accomplish what you want to for a whole lot less.”
Garvey believes a significant amount of money in the county’s Transportation Capital Fund that’s set aside for the streetcar could be used for more beneficial projects such as Metro funding and street paving.
“We’d have to raise taxes to do that right now because all of this money is sitting in a fund that is, as I understand it, reserved for the streetcar,” she said. “This is, again, why I’m supporting John, because I believe he will help me to get the Board to sort of re-examine some of these things and work through the community with it.”
While Vihstadt actively opposes subsidies for Artisphere and wishes to scale back the ballooning costs for facilities at the Long Bridge Park Aquatic and Fitness Center, Garvey isn’t as quick to attack those projects. She said they require further examination before they can be put into the same category as the streetcar. She did, however, note that the Board should get residents more involved in the planning process for such big ticket items.
“I think we need to get more transparent on how we handle big issues,” said Garvey. “We need to be up-front and not do last minute changes as much as we do on these extremely complicated issues.”
On the issue of economic development, Garvey says Vihstadt will work to make the county more business-friendly in the face of heightened competition with Alexandria, Tysons Corner and other areas.
“We hear a lot from local businesses about how difficult it is to work with the county,” Garvey said. “We have to change that, because we’re not the only game in town anymore.”
Although her endorsement and those from other Democrats — like Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, a neighbor and personal friend of Vihstadt –caused a buzz, Garvey doesn’t believe endorsing an independent will necessarily cause the county’s Democratic party to split into multiple factions.
“There have been factions and differences in the party for a long, long time. This, I guess, is the first time the issues are so important and I cannot see a Democratic candidate become close to being able to provide what I think is urgent we provide for Arlington,” said Garvey. “Because we really do need to get ourselves heading in a different direction.”
Garvey remains confident that Vihstadt will win the special election in the spring. She admitted that the election next November will be more difficult, but thinks Vihstadt will pull through then as well, while improving Arlington.
“I think he’ll be a really good Board member. He will change the conversation at the table and that’s a good thing,” Garvey said. “I love Arlington, it’s got a lot of great things going on. It’s known for great government, but we’ve got to get a little bit of a different way of looking at things right now. I think that will be really healthy for everybody, the Democratic party as well.”
Sheriff Sees Former Inmates Around Town — Arlington Sheriff Beth Arthur gets recognized by former inmates when out and about in Arlington. “I’ll be in the grocery store, and they’ll come up to me and say, ‘Hi, I was in your jail,'” she said in an interview. [Washington Post]
Metro Sends Ad Out to Alert Subscribers — Subscribers of MetroAlerts received an ad from WMATA — selling tickets to the BB&T Classic basketball tournament — in their inbox last week, upsetting some customers. Opined a Greater Greater Washington writer: “Spamming riders with promotions unrelated to Metro service reduces the value of MetroAlerts and it wastes riders’ time.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Dems to Control All Elected Offices — Assuming Virginia Attorney General-elect Mark Herring survives a recount following his razor-thin victory, a Democrat will be in every local, state and federal elected office in Arlington for what may be the first time ever. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann