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Vihstadt Argues for Another Delay of Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center

County Board member John Vihstadt is renewing his push to delay the construction of the Long Bridge Park aquatics center.

Vihstadt is waging a lonely battle against the oft-postponed project as the county’s budget picture grows increasingly grim. He says the $60 million the county’s set to spend on the new pool would be better spent on building new schools or buying additional park land, particularly considering that Arlington is feeling a financial squeeze at the moment.

Between sending more money to Metro and declining commercial tax revenues, the County Board is facing some challenging headwinds as it nears a final decision this weekend on a new, 10-year plan for construction spending. Vihstadt, the Board’s lone independent who is running for re-election this fall, thinks the 72,000-square-foot pool complex can wait a bit longer.

The project’s skyrocketing costs have convinced the Board to repeatedly adjust its plans it over the years, and Vihstadt made an effort to drive down its cost a key plank of his 2014 bid for office. But he still feels that even the facility’s reduced cost is too much for Arlington to take on right now.

“Times change, circumstances change, and I just don’t think it’s right to go forward on that project,” Vihstadt told ARLnow. “Schools have a higher priority. Parks have a higher priority.”

Yet, just as when he cast the lone vote against the project’s construction last December, Vihstadt appears to be in the minority on that position. His four colleagues on the Board all told ARLnow that they wouldn’t support any effort to postpone the Long Bridge project, even with the county’s money troubles in mind.

“Raising these issues when he first ran for election was an important contribution, because it shifted that narrative to value engineering,” said Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey. “That success is something John ought to feel he positively contributed to. Now, it’s the responsibility of the rest of us to follow through.”

The pro-pool Board members all point out that the project has been in the works for decades, with the community formally signing off on money for the aquatics center as part of a bond referendum back in 2004, and would fill a void for such a facility in the Crystal City area.

But they also stress that the process of unwinding the work the county’s already done would be so costly as to make the effort pointless. County Manager Mark Schwartz believes that cancelling the county’s existing contract to build the facility would prompt extensive litigation, with financial consequences to follow.

“We cannot simply break the contract,” Board member Libby Garvey wrote in an email. “Likely there would be real financial penalties for us if we did, to say nothing of the damage to our reputation among builders. Companies bidding on our projects in the future would likely add extra cost because we could not be trusted to fulfill our contracts.”

The aquatic center’s proponents also see any move to reverse the Long Bridge decision as one that would send the wrong message to the community, or as an effort to “re-litigate the past,” as Board member Erik Gutshall puts it.

“If you can’t trust our word and the votes of the Board, it’s just inviting an endless cycle of pitting project against project right up to the point the ribbon is cut,” said Board Chair Katie Cristol.

But Vihstadt believes taxpayers would appreciate the Board’s willingness to re-examine its priorities as fiscal realities change. For instance, as debate about amenities to be built for high schoolers at the Career Center site heats up, Vihstadt suggested redirecting some of the Long Bridge money to add a pool at that location instead.

“A pool in a high school… makes more sense than an aquatics center, which is going to be used more heavily by folks outside of Arlington,” Vihstadt said.

Gutshall believes such an idea could’ve been viable if it was proposed “five or 10 years ago,” but he feels the county is too far down the current path to consider that sort of plan now.

“Where do we draw the line and say, ‘Enough is enough’ when it comes to replaying this sort of debate?” Gutshall said.

Democratic nominee Matt de Ferranti is eager to provide a contrasting view in that discussion as part of his bid against Vihstadt.

“We should not only study things forever,” de Ferranti said. “Eventually we have to act with courage and conviction to improve the community… and with a reduced cost, it’s the right thing to do to move forward.”

Yet Vihstadt argues that his obstinance on the subject is the just sort of thing that helped him win in the first place — and a clear demonstration of the independent streak he brings to the Board.

“We have to scour things, ask questions and, on occasion, say ‘No’ or hit the pause button and say ‘Not now,'” Vihstadt said. “I think a lot of people appreciate the constructive attitude I’ve had to ask questions and not just nod my head.”

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With a Low-Turnout Primary Win Under His Belt, de Ferranti Looks to November

Matt de Ferranti scored a decisive, 20-point win in his bid to become the Democratic nominee for the Arlington County Board — but with that success comes the daunting task of figuring out how to beat an incumbent who twice put up double-digit margins of victory four years ago.

De Ferranti, an advocate for Native American education, didn’t have much trouble overcoming cybersecurity professional Chanda Choun in yesterday’s primary. He earned more than 7,000 of the roughly 11,500 votes cast, and lost just two precincts to Choun, even though both were first-time candidates.

Yet the real challenge for de Ferranti will be translating his primary victory into a win this fall against independent John Vihstadt, who won both a special election and general election in 2014 after assembling a unique coalition of disaffected Democrats, Republicans and even local Green Party supporters.

“I’m looking forward to building the strongest grassroots campaign the county’s ever seen, because that’s what it will take to win,” de Ferranti told ARLnow. “But there’s time yet to get to the general. For now, I’m just very grateful for the team we built and the support we were able to build across the county.”

Many of the county’s top Democrats seem to think de Ferranti has what it takes — he earned the endorsement of three state legislators, two School Board members and a whole host of former elected officials during the primary. The county’s Democratic Committee also praised de Ferranti as a “terrific addition” to the party’s ticket in a statement Tuesday night, praising his focus on “maintaining our excellent schools, addressing housing affordability, improving our transportation system and stimulating a strong economy for all.”

Other observers, however, are less optimistic. While de Ferranti did win handily, he also ceded roughly 40 percent of the vote to a candidate in Choun who was broadly unknown in political circles before suddenly jumping into the race in February. Even with predictions of a “blue wave” election in November, it might not be enough to get de Ferranti over the top.

“It just really shows that his support is very thin, and there’s not much of it,” said Ben Tribbett, a veteran Democratic strategist. “John Vihstadt has got to be ecstatic… In my mind, it will be very difficult to lose as a Democrat in Arlington in this kind of environment, but it’s possible he’ll do just that.”

In particular, Tribbett points to the anemic turnout in the primary as reason for de Ferranti to be concerned. Though he never expected voters to flood to the polls for a local primary, he noted that Alexandria’s mayoral primary attracted roughly 10,000 more voters to the polls than the County Board race did.

Considering that Arlington has roughly 70,000 more residents than Alexandria, Tribbett finds that result “very telling.”

“A primary electorate of 11,500 shows it was essentially the people who always show up and vote, it doesn’t indicate real levels of support,” Tribbett said. “He’s trying to run as an establishment politician, when he’s not a politician and nobody knows him.”

The primary turnout represented just 7.7 percent of the county’s registered voters, according to the Arlington elections office, and did pale a bit in comparison to even past Board primaries. For instance, more than 15,200 people cast ballots when Erik Gutshall challenged Libby Garvey in 2016, and nearly 20,000 participated in 2015’s six-way race.

De Ferranti, however, said he was generally “pleased” with the turnout in the primary, especially considering that there wasn’t any other race at the top of the ballot to attract Democratic voters — neither U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) nor Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) drew primary challengers.

“We had a great contest with a couple of really strong candidates,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol, a Democrat. “Credit goes to both of them for running inspiring campaigns that drew a lot of people to the polls.”

Yet Tribbett wonders just how inspiring de Ferranti will prove to be for Democrats who backed Vihstadt last time around, and even some who are considering doing so again this year. Garvey has already announced her intentions to support the independent once more, as have Democrats in two countywide offices: Treasurer Carla de la Pava and Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos.

“Look at who endorsed [de Ferranti] and who stayed out of it: why would any of them endorse him now?” Tribbett said. “What is his reason for why people are replacing John Vihstadt?… He’s not invulnerable, but you can’t beat somebody with nothing.”

None of the other three Democrats on the Board have lent the newly minted nominee their support as of yet — Cristol, for her part, said she’s “not ready” to discuss who she’ll be supporting — but de Ferranti believes he’ll have no trouble outlining his case against Vihstadt for skeptical Democrats.

“I’ll be acknowledging, ‘this is a decent person,’ but also making it clear that the values that I’ll bring to the position are different,” de Ferranti said. “I’m focused on returning Arlington to a fiscally reasonable approach, but one that’s open to visionary decisions like building the Orange Line, which required some investment.”

Photo via Facebook

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De Ferranti Captures Democratic Nod for County Board

Matt de Ferranti has won the Democratic primary for Arlington County Board and will face incumbent John Vihstadt in the November general election.

De Ferranti captured about 61 percent of the vote, to 39 percent for Chanda Choun, a relative newcomer to civic life in Arlington.

A lawyer and advocate for Native American education, de Ferranti has sat on a variety of commissions and volunteered for local Democrats since moving to Arlington five years ago.

Between the Democratic County Board primary and the three-way Republican U.S. Senate primary, in which Corey Stewart emerged victorious, overall voter turnout in Arlington was light — just over 10 percent.

https://twitter.com/ArlingtonVotes/status/1006690893963956224

The Arlington County Democratic Committee congratulated de Ferranti, calling him a “terrific addition to this solutions-oriented ticket.” More from an ACDC press release:

Arlington Democrats congratulate the Democratic Nominees across Virginia, and in particular, Matt de Ferranti for becoming the Democratic Nominee for Arlington County Board. Arlington Democrats came out to vote today because we clearly recognize that the best way to maintain the momentum of progressive change and blunt the Trump administration chaos is to keep voting!

Now that the voters have chosen the Democratic nominee for the County Board seat, Arlington Democrats are ready to work hard to elect the entire Democratic ticket, which also includes Tim Kaine for U.S. Senate, Don Beyer for the U.S. House of Representatives, and Barbara Kanninen for the Arlington School Board. These progressive leaders have delivered for Arlington, and they deserve reelection. Matt de Ferranti is a terrific addition to this solutions-oriented ticket.

Jill Caiazzo, Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, expressed, “We thank both Matt de Ferranti and Chanda Choun for conducting a positive, issue-oriented and energetic primary. We are excited to have Matt on the ballot because he will move Arlington forward by maintaining our excellent schools, addressing housing affordability, improving our transportation system, and stimulating a strong economy for all.”

Caiazzo further noted: “Flipping Virginia Blue this year begins in our own backyard with this important County Board seat.” Since 15 elected seats were flipped blue in Virginia last year, Democrats have succeeded in expanding Medicare for 400,000 Virginians, even without a majority in either the House of Delegates or the Senate. Flipping the County Board seat blue will help Arlington make even more progress on issues that make a difference for all residents.

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Arlington Elections Remain Safe from Cyberattacks, Local and Federal Officials Say

Arlington voters can rest easy that Tuesday’s primary contest will be safe from cyberattacks, as local and federal election officials alike tout the county’s sound methods for counting ballots.

County election administrators welcomed a contingent from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security today (June 12), who swung by to study how Arlington is managing its voting technology as the threat of foreign meddling continues to loom large ahead of the fall’s midterms.

County Registrar Linda Lindberg touted her office’s “practical and low-key approach” during the visit, noting that the county uses paper ballots for all its elections. Though it may seem like an antiquated approach in the age of smartphones, election security experts have increasingly urged localities to abandon electronic voting machines in favor of having a paper record of all ballots cast, should intruders find a way to breach their systems and attempt to alter vote totals.

“Arlington takes a very pragmatic and a keep-it-simple approach,” Chris Krebs, a senior DHS official focusing on cybersecurity, told reporters. “We need to continue that trend toward a voter-verifiable paper trail… That’s the progress that we’re seeing nationwide.”

Krebs says he’s spent the last few months making similar trips and sitting down with state and local officials to make sure they understand the cybersecurity risks associated with voting technology. He added that federal officials are hoping to offer any help they can to localities struggling with securing their systems, though he noted that Arlington doesn’t need much in the way of resources.

Lindberg says her office has all manner of “checks and balances” throughout the process of testing vote-counting machines to insure that nothing was amiss before voters started showing up at the polls. She also noted that she’s set up a robust screening system for “spear phishing” attacks, after would-be hackers targeted elections officials in other states to try and trick them into clicking on fraudulent emails, giving them access to election systems.

“Arlington County actually has very strong, stringent controls in terms of the phishing attacks we’ve seen, mostly through emails,” Lindberg said. “We have good training, good screening of spam emails. In fact, important emails sometimes end up in my spam folder so you have to go back and look at that sort of thing.”

By and large, however, Krebs says DHS hasn’t seen the same sort of attacks on election officials that they did ahead of the 2016 election. But with intelligence leaders continuing to warn that Russian operatives could very well try to interfere with the midterms as a preamble to the presidential race in 2020, Krebs also doesn’t want to see local officials let their guard down.

“Even though we haven’t seen any activity the way we did in 2016 with direct threats to election infrastructure, we don’t need that direct threat,” Krebs said. “We take this issue very seriously.”

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Candidate Essay: Chanda Choun

Last week, we asked the two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in tomorrow’s primary. 

Here is the unedited response from Chanda Choun:

Hello!  I am Mr. Chanda Choun (pronounced CHAHN-duh CHOON), a resident of central Arlington. I work as a senior business manager and engineering leader for a cybersecurity tech company. I am also a part-time Army Reserve soldier assigned to the United States Cyber Command. My community involvement stretches across the County from civic associations to faith ministries to business groups to service organizations.

I came to America as a little child from war-torn Southeast Asia and grew up poor in a small Connecticut town. Regardless of challenging circumstances, duty compelled me do whatever needed to be done to succeed and serve my family, faith, and country.  Now, I want to serve you on the Arlington County Board.

So what am I going to do for Arlington? My governing platform can be summed up in three missions: Economic Development, Social Advancement, and Political Leadership.

Economic Development is #1. We need more money. Due to our 20% commercial office vacancy rate, there was a $20 million shortfall in our county government budget this year. Next year, taxes and fees may be further raised on businesses and residents. More cuts may be made to programs and services such as parks, roads, and schools. My goals are to attract new businesses, retain and grow existing businesses, and thus ultimately provide more job options and pay for all Arlington workers while lowering tax burdens on residents.

Big businesses fill our tall buildings and provide thousands of jobs along our transit corridors. I have worked with and in corporations managing multimillion dollar projects and will coordinate between civic and economic organizations to win large tenants.

The downsizing of federal agency and military buildings the last decade resulted in Arlington losing millions of square footage of occupied office space. But now the US Defense budget has been increased by $100 billion.  I will leverage my military/business experience and understanding of government procurement to guide these dollars back into Arlington.

We cannot forget small businesses. I started my career as a roadside diner dish boy and coffee shop coffee boy. Let’s keep local government processes from overwhelming business owners and managers with paperwork and paranoia. For example, Arlington did not allow online payment of building permits until this year! Small shops also keep neighborhoods distinct and memorable; some even call funky. As a civic leader, I will push for Arlingtonians, especially young people, to turn their gaze away from DC and patronize great places and people right in their backyard.

Social advancement is the second mission of my campaign. I want everybody to have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Education is foundational to creating a better self and society. My goals are to find the material and monetary resources needed to accommodate our rapidly growing student population, recruit and retain high quality educators, and create better outcomes in life for all children.

Housing is next. Our opportunities are limited when the cost of living takes too much of a person’s paycheck. My approach to making housing more affordable is by increasing supply and lowering demand. There are parts of Arlington right now where denser, lower cost housing cannot be built due to outdated zoning regulations. Let’s explore zoning modifications and exceptions in our county’s General Land Use Plan. To lower housing demand, encouraging employers to allow telecommuting (work from home) and expanding Metro deeper into Virginia will alleviate population pressures that are concentrating so many people in our part of the Commonwealth.

Civic identity is key to pride in person and place. Symbolizing Arlington as the North Star of Virginia will give people an easy to remember visual to recognize and communicate to others. As more people proudly identify themselves as Arlingtonians, we can grow an engaged community that brings crowds to civic groups and local service organizations.

Political leadership is the third mission of my campaign. Arlington and its leaders need to elevate our profile, our model, and our values to the rest of America. As your County Board Member, I will be an ever present and highly known servant leader to Arlington’s quarter million people. I will present Arlington to the rest of Virginia as a visionary, well-planned urban county to be emulated when it comes to smart growth and high quality of life. I will present our County Board to the Nation as a model of caring, intelligent leadership shining across the Potomac River against the corruption and negativity in Washington DC. Arlington can be the North Star of Virginia… and America.

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Candidate Essay: Matt de Ferranti

Last week, we asked the two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in tomorrow’s primary. 

Here is the unedited response from Matt de Ferranti: 

I am running for County Board to tackle Arlington’s biggest challenges. I know and love this community and have the values, relevant experience, and vision to expand opportunity for everyone in Arlington over the next four years.

Our three biggest challenges: building the schools to educate all of our students, housing affordability for families and individuals at different stages of life and income levels, and a local economy that needs to be strengthened and expanded for our future and neighbors in need. We also need leadership to improve our transportation system and address climate change.

Our Schools

I am committed to educational opportunity and making sure Arlington Public Schools has the resources to provide every student with an excellent education. This commitment is reflected in my professional life.  I began my career as a teacher and now work as an advocate for Native American students at the National Indian Education Association.

I serve as the Chair of the Budget Advisory Council to the School Board. One of the main reasons I am running is to address our school capacity challenges. We must build additional seats in a cost effective manner so that we can educate every child as if they were our own.

Housing Affordability

I have worked for Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together and believe deeply that housing must be affordable for middle class Arlingtonians and those working to get into the middle class. Teachers, firefighters, police officers, and everyone who works or lives in our community should be able to afford to live here. Residents should also be able to age in place.

I serve on the Housing Commission, which works to expand affordability so that everyone in our community can have a place to call home. I know that meeting the goals for affordable housing in our Affordable Housing Master Plan will not be easy. I will not be able to do it alone or overnight, but I will work on this issue with courage, creativity, and relentless commitment if I have the honor of serving you.

An Economy that Works for Everyone

I have worked as an attorney for local governments, so I understand land use law and the need for a vision and plan to address our commercial vacancy rates and encourage economic growth across the County.

I serve on the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission, which was created to improve coordination between the County Board and the School Board. As a graduate of Leadership Arlington and Arlington Neighborhood College, I know that we must pursue a vision for our community that brings jobs here that build upon our educated workforce and targets clean-tech, green-tech, and the knowledge-based industries that will help us thrive in the years to come. We must also value small businesses as critical community stakeholders and base all of our economic decisions on the best interests of all of our residents, now and in the future.

Economic Opportunity

Our economy must serve all Arlingtonians and provide opportunity for those in need.  We are the fifth wealthiest county in the nation, but we still have families who go hungry here. There are 2,200 households served by the Arlington Food Assistance Center every month. I will lead the effort to eliminate child hunger in Arlington.

The Choice We Face on Tuesday

So, on education, housing affordability, and our economy, I bring Arlington values and relevant experience.

I would bring these same core values to the other key issues we face. On transportation, I am committed to funding Metro, making good on our promises along Columbia Pike, and seeking revisions to the recent funding cuts to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. On our environment, I believe in our Community Energy Plan and will help lead our efforts to combat climate change. I will stand steadfast for an inclusive, compassionate community on immigration and LGBTQ rights. And I will speak out and work for common sense gun safety measures because all of us have a moral responsibility to act on this issue.

I have earned the endorsements of Greater Greater Washington, Blue Virginia and the Sun Gazette News. I also have the support of Delegate Rip Sullivan, Delegate Alfonso Lopez, State Senator Adam Ebbin, Clerk of the Court Paul Ferguson, Vice-Chair of the School Board Reid Goldstein and School Board Member Tannia Talento. To see a list of supporters or learn more please, go to www.mattforarlington.com.

I would be honored to earn your vote tomorrow and to serve you on the Arlington County Board.

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Morning Notes

More Capacity for Yorktown, Career Center — The Arlington County Board this weekend is expected to approve use permit amendments that will allow 300 additional seats at Yorktown High School, thanks to internal modifications, and another 200 seats at the Arlington Tech program within the Arlington Career Center. [InsideNova]

Crystal City BID Considering Expansion — “The Crystal City Business Improvement District is weighing plans to include Pentagon City and Potomac Yard within its borders, creating a single, unified submarket that could also serve as a larger canvass for Amazon.com Inc. as it homes in on potential locations for its second headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]

Entry-Level Homes Remain Sparse — One of the challenges facing the real estate market in Arlington and Northern Virginia as a whole is a dearth of entry-level homes for sale. Likewise, the inventory of homes for sale in general is low. Said one agent: “In hot areas like Merrifield, Arlington, Reston and Tysons, my buyers are experiencing multiple-offer situations.” [InsideNova]

ACFD Removes Handcuffs from Student’s Wrist — “Interesting call of the day: When you’re playing with handcuffs and the key breaks! [Rescue] 109 cut off a pair of handcuffs that had got stuck on a student’s wrist. No injuries except a broken pair of cuffs.” [Twitter]

GGW Endorses in County Board Race — The urbanist website Greater Greater Washington has endorsed Matt de Ferranti in the Democratic Arlington County Board primary. de Ferranti told the website that he supports “building housing that would be affordable across a variety of incomes and available to younger workers who can build income and own homes in the future.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

‘Indivisible Arlington’ Event Wracked By Division — “A town hall with local Virginia lawmakers dissolved into chaos Saturday and police were called after Latino activists confronted Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington) about his previous consulting work for a private company that operates detention facilities for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

H-B Victorious at Ultimate Tourney — The H-B Woodlawn girls ultimate frisbee team won the prestigious Amherst Ultimate Invitational over the weekend. [Twitter, Greenfield Recorder]

No County Board Candidate for Arlington GOP — No one filed by the May 9 deadline to run as a Republican against incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt, the Arlington GOP announced over the weekend. Vihstadt, an independent, was endorsed by the local GOP when he first ran in 2014.

ACPD Sergeant Tapped as School Police Chief — Sean Bryson, a 20-year veteran of the Arlington County Police Department, has been named the chief of police for the Upper St. Clair School District, outside of Pittsburgh. It’s a homecoming for Bryson, who graduated from Upper St. Clair High School. In addition to his police work, Byson co-founded and has served as race director for the annual Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial 5K. [Trib Live]

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Morning Notes

Clement to Face Kanninen Again — “The 2018 Arlington School Board race is likely to be a rerun of 2014. Audrey Clement and incumbent Barbara Kanninen have qualified for ballot access, county elections chief Linda Lindberg told the Sun Gazette, setting up a reprise of their campaign from four years ago.” [InsideNova]

PenPlace Sketches Released — JBG Smith has released new sketches of its planned PenPlace development in Pentagon City. The development includes “two seven-story apartment buildings totaling 300 units, 40,000 square feet of ground-floor retail and a future park.” [Washington Business Journal]

Arlington Palooza Set for Saturday — The second annual Arlington Palooza,”a free outdoor program for all ages with live music, art, games and more,” is set to take place Saturday from 1-4 p.m. at Alcova Heights Park. [Arlington County, Twitter]

Arlington Historical Society Getting Donation — Per a press release: “The Arlington Historical Society will receive a significant donation this spring as Arlington welcomes National Capital Bank to the Courthouse/Clarendon area on Wilson Blvd. National Capital Bank President Randy Anderson, who grew up in Arlington, called to inform AHS President Johnathan Thomas that the Society was chosen as one of the charities the Bank will support with a grant award.”

Real Estate Inventory Crunch — “Long & Foster says… the number of houses and condos on the market, in D.C., Loudoun County and Arlington County was down 22 percent in March compared to a year ago.” [WTOP]

Live Construction Cam in Ballston — The new 672 Flats apartment building (an ARLnow.com advertiser) in Ballston set up a live camera to track the construction progress. The camera is viewable online and shows an aerial view of the apartments and a portion of the neighborhood. [OxBlue]

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Democratic Candidates For County Board Debate Issues

The two candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for the Arlington County Board debated issues like predatory towing and county spending at last night’s debate.

Hosted by the Arlington Young Democrats and moderated by Virginia Public Radio’s Michael Lee Pope, the debate between candidates Chanda Choun and Matthew de Ferranti was held at the Walter Reed Community Center.

While there was agreement on the impending vote on the county’s budget and other financial issues, Choun and de Ferranti held different opinions on renovating county government headquarters.

Choun was in favor of renovating the building, saying that it has been years since it was renovated and adding environmental efficiencies and handicap accessibility were necessary.

For de Ferranti, he “would rather spend the money on schools,” or other programs, citing cuts to school mental health professionals in the budget. The candidate added that there were higher priority investments that could be made for the sake of county employees, and that wage raises were a start.

Both candidates were in favor of a stronger stance against predatory parking, with de Ferranti saying that he has been towed himself and that he was sure others at the debate had been towed as well.

Choun specifically stated his support of a secondary signature requirement for towing, which was passed by the County Board but shot down by the state legislature. He later mentioned his support for extended parking meter hours.

The issue of the minimum wage was raised, with both candidates in favor of a higher local minimum, which is not currently an option — despite attempts by local legislators — given the Dillon Rule.

“If you work 40 hours a week in Arlington, you should be able to afford a place to live that is not more than 40 percent of your income,” said De Ferranti. He believed that the minimum wage should be raised to $10.

Choun saind that Arlington “should match if not exceed the District of Columbia’s minimum wage,” which will reach $15 per work hour in 2020.

Though he was against several proposed budget cuts, such as those relating to Lee Highway planning, Choun favored cuts that he found to be duplicative or irrelevant. He cited the cutting of the county’s cable administrator position as a step in the right direction to eliminate unnecessary spending.

De Ferranti said that the county needs “to be fiscally smart” and that he was concerned with the amount spent on facilities.

Though professing a deep devotion to the county, Choun only moved to Arlington in 2015.

“I always wanted to be here,” he said following a question regarding his motivation to run from Pope. “It just took time personally and professionally to get here.”

“That doesn’t mean that I don’t have anything to offer,” Choun added, mentioning his background as a Cambodian refugee, a tech professional, and a military veteran.

Originally from McLean, de Ferranti was not asked about his reason for running for a County Board seat but was asked about an endorsement from Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Va.).

Lopez has been criticized for his financial links to a privately run Immigration Centers of America detention facility in Farmville, Va. De Ferranti said that “if you look at [Lopez’s] work in Richmond, he’s been a strong leader for us in Richmond on affordable housing and immigration.”

“I’m grateful for his support, but I’m also focused on what I can do and I hope that you’ll judge me on my actions on immigration with respect to Arlington,” de Ferranti added.

The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 12 and the nominee will face incumbent County Board member John Vihstadt in the November election. Vihstadt, an independent, was elected in 2014 and received the endorsement of the Arlington GOP. He became the first non-Democrat to sit on the Arlington County Board in 15 years.

Reporting contributions from Anna Merod

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Morning Notes

Beyer’s GOP Challenger Holding Arlington Event — “Republican congressional candidate Thomas Oh will host a campaign kickoff on Tuesday, April 24 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Spider Kelly’s, 3181 Wilson Blvd. Oh is the GOP challenger to U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th), who is seeking a third term. He was the only Republican to file for the nomination.” [InsideNova]

Local Scenes on Sale at Arts Fest — Among the artists at the upcoming Arlington Festival of the Arts in Clarendon will be Joseph Craig English, whose “silkscreens and lithographs capture local landmarks and street corners in vivid colors,” including “an architectural juxtaposition of old buildings and new construction in Courthouse; Potomac River vistas; local murals and street signs known to commuters who’ve passed by them for years.” [Arlington Magazine]

Arlington Tourism Surtax Gets Gov’s Signature — “The Arlington County government will be able to continue collecting a surtax on hotel stays to pay for tourism promotion, now that Gov. Northam has signed legislation extending the measure for three more years.” [InsideNova]

Don’t Try This at Home — Per scanner traffic, police officers responding to a call yesterday afternoon were advised that “the suspect is known for using hand sanitizer as an alcoholic drink.”

Nearby: Alexandria OKs More Funding for Metro Station — “Plans to build a new Metro station at Potomac Yard in Alexandria, Virginia, took a crucial step forward Tuesday. Alexandria City Council unanimously approved raising the budget from $268 million to $320 million. The change was made in part to reflect the rising cost of materials and labor.” [WTOP]

Photo by Dwayne Stewart

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Morning Notes

DHS Official Charged With Beating Wife in Arlington — A “senior career official with the Department of Homeland Security who… handles a ‘high volume’ of classified information in his role as an intelligence briefer,” served jail time after a 2016 incident in Arlington in which he was charged with assaulting his wife, breaking two ribs and causing bruising around her neck. [Washington Post]

Anti-DUI Event at Shamrock Crawl Tomorrow — The Arlington County Police Department will hold a St. Patrick’s Day-themed anti-DUI event dubbed “Don’t Press Your Luck” in Clarendon tomorrow (Saturday). The event will coincide with the planned Shamrock Crawl bar crawl. [Arlington County]

More on Wakefield’s Championship Run — But for a great defensive play by Varina, the Wakefield High School boys basketball team might have emerged victorious from yesterday’s state championship game in Richmond. [Washington Post]

Arlington to Co-Star in Travel Video — Arlington County has received grant funding that will help pay for its share of a new Virginia tourism video that will also feature Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Loudoun County, Richmond and Staunton. [Arlington County]

Long Branch Creek Profiled — “A mostly residential section of south Arlington, Long Branch Creek is a diverse community where almost 75 percent of residents are renters. In addition, there are condominium buildings, townhouses, duplexes and one single-family home.” [Washington Post]

Fire Station History to Be Recognized — Last month Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz established a “Fire Station No. 8 History and Legacy (FS8HL) Working Group,” to record and celebrate the history of the first Arlington fire station staffed by African Americans. [Arlington County]

Kanninen Gets Democratic School Board Nod — “An Arlington County Democratic Committee School Board caucus? Fuggedaboutit. Incumbent School Board Chairman Barbara Kanninen was the lone candidate to file to run in the caucus, which had been slated for several days in May. With no opposition bubbling up, the caucus was nixed.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Rex Block

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Morning Notes

Golf Course Tax Bill Passes — A bill that would provide a massive tax break to two Arlington country clubs has passed the Virginia General Assembly. The bill, if signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam (D), would cost Arlington $1.5 million or more in tax revenue. [Washington Post]

Military Couple Fights Wife’s Deportation — The wife of a retired Army special forces veteran was to face deportation in an Arlington-based immigration court next week, but the Dept. of Homeland Security is now offering to drop the proceedings. Prior to the reversal, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) called said via social media: “Military families should not be targeted like this. It’s unconscionable.” [Military Times, Twitter]

Cherry Blossom Bloom Prediction — The National Park Service expects peak bloom for the Tidal Basin cherry blossoms to take place March 17-20. [PoPville]

Beyer’s GOP Challenger — “The Republican challenger to U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D) used a Feb. 28 meeting of the Arlington County Republican Committee to introduce himself to the county’s GOP rank-and-file. ‘I look forward to the campaign,’ said Thomas Oh… an Army veteran and currently a contractor in Falls Church.” [InsideNova]

Marymount Joins New Conference — Marymount University in Arlington and five other schools have formed the new Atlantic East Conference within NCAA Division III. [Marymount University, Twitter]

County Seeking Budget Feedback — Arlington County is seeking feedback on its proposed budget. The online survey asks residents to weigh in on various priorities, including county employee raises, economic development, Metro funding, school funding, infrastructure investment and affordable housing. [SurveyMonkey]

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Morning Notes

Murder of Crows Pooping All Over Shirlington — A large contingent of crows have taken up residence in Shirlington, and locals are getting fed up with cars and sidewalks being covered in bird doo-doo. [WTOP, NBC Washington]

Design Contest for 2019 ‘I Voted’ Sticker — “In an effort to gin up voter enthusiasm during what is expected to be a slow 2019, Arlington election officials… plan to hold a competition to design a logo for next year’s election.” [InsideNova]

Arlington No. 3 on ‘Best Counties’ List — A new list of “best counties” in the U.S. ranks Falls Church — a city — No. 1 while Arlington is No. 3 and Fairfax is No. 6. The list was compiled by the website 24/7 Wall Street. [WTOP]

Mitten Given the Boot By Grand Rapids — The city of Grand Rapids, Michigan is restarting its search for a new city manager after an outcry from residents and interest groups. Arlington Deputy County Manager Carol Mitten was among the three finalists for the job to speak at a community forum, prior to the city announcing the restart. [Fox 17, MLive]

Police Recruiting for Student Safety Patrol Camp — “The Arlington County Police Department’s School Resource Officer Unit is currently accepting applications to the Summer Safety Patrol Camp. This weeklong camp is offered to incoming 4th and 5th grade students who want to participate in safety patrols during the upcoming 2018-2019 academic year.” [Arlington County]

More on Market Common Redevelopment Approval — The redevelopment of a portion of Market Common Clarendon will widen a narrow sidewalk that was the source of resident complaints, among other community benefits. Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey hopes the project can help “bring a little funkiness back into Clarendon.” [Arlington Connection]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Another Democrat Enters County Board Race

This year’s Arlington County Board race has a new entrant: Chanda Choun.

Choun, who lives in the Buckingham neighborhood, announced his candidacy this morning with a press release on his website.

Highlighting his background as a Cambodian refugee, an Army veteran and a cybersecurity professional, Choun says he wants to be “a new face for Arlington and a different voice at the table for good jobs, affordable housing, fast transportation, strong schools, security and safety, and service to the community.”

Though he was not born here, Choun says Arlington is “the love of my life.”

“I will get married in Arlington. My children will run through the parks of Arlington. I will die in Arlington and be buried in Arlington National Cemetery,” he wrote on this website.

Choun will face Matt de Ferranti, and any other Democrat who enters the race, in June’s Democratic primary. The winner of that contest will challenge incumbent Board member John Vihstadt, who is running as an independent, in the November general election.

More about Choun from his press release:

Chanda Choun (pronounced CHAHN-duh CHOON), a resident of the Buckingham neighborhood of Arlington County, filed his campaign committee Statement of Organization and unveiled his campaign website in February, making public his run for the Arlington County Board in 2018.

Choun declared that he wants to “Make Arlington the North Star of Virginia.”

“I am running for the Arlington County Board this 2018 because there is no immigrant, military veteran, or technology professional in our local government leadership today. I want to be a new face for Arlington and a different voice at the table for good jobs, affordable housing, fast transportation, strong schools, security and safety, and service to the community; a 21st century approach in a rapidly changing world, but still holding on to the values that made our community great.”

Chanda Choun lives in the historic, diverse Buckingham neighborhood of Arlington County, Virginia near the Ballston Metro Station and works as a senior business manager and engineering leader for a cybersecurity software company headquartered in Dallas, Texas. He is also a part-time Army Reserve soldier occasionally on duty with the United States Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland. His community involvement includes being Vice President of the Buckingham Community Civic Association, Delegate to the Arlington County Civic Federation, Lifetime Member of the John Lyon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3150, Parishioner of St. George’s Episcopal Church of Arlington, and previous Executive Board Member of the Arlington Young Democrats.

“Every day I wake up and ask myself: ‘How do I make us happier, healthier, and wealthier?’ I run to serve the County. I run to serve the Commonwealth. I run to serve the Country.”

Choun will make his first public remarks as a candidate at 7:00pm on Wednesday, February 7th at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting, held at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (4301 Wilson Blvd, Arlington, VA 22203). The Democratic Primary Election is scheduled for June 12th.

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