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Arlington County Board candidate Natalie Roy (courtesy photo)

A realtor who says she has doubts about the current Missing Middle proposal has emerged as an Arlington County Board candidate.

Realtor Natalie Roy, founder of the Bicycling Realty Group, is vying for one of two seats on the County Board that will be left open after Katie Cristol and Chair Christian Dorsey step down. She is running for the Democratic nomination in the party’s June primary.

Roy is the second Democrat to launch a campaign this week, following Tony Weaver, a local businessman and an Arlington County Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission member.

The two will face off against three others who have already announced their bids: Julius “J.D.” Spain, Sr.; Maureen Coffey; and Jonathan Dromgoole.

She tells ARLnow her tagline is “I would love to be your Bicycling Board member,” as she bikes everywhere for her business. She is a 32-year resident of Arlington, where she and her husband raised three daughters.

Roy says she believes “the Board needs an energetic and experienced community activist who will serve the entire county.”

In listing her key issues, below, she said she supports “a more community-supported, planning-oriented approach” to housing than the “sweeping” Missing Middle proposal, which is up for an initial vote this weekend.

  • Protecting our environment, by increasing green space, bringing back glass recycling, and protecting Arlington’s tree canopy;
  • Promoting affordability and diversity in our neighborhoods through a more community-supported, planning-oriented approach than the County Board’s current sweeping proposal;
  • Forging new partnerships between the Board, the school board and APS;
  • Improving public transit throughout the County and creating more protected bike- and pedestrian-friendly routes;
  • Enhancing Arlington’s fiscal sustainability and economic vitality; and
  • Promoting our health and well-being by providing exercise opportunities for everyone, from the most focused competitor on the soccer field and pickleball court to the casual stroller.

Before starting her real estate career 10 years ago, Roy says she worked for ran and worked for various national and state organizations, advocating for clean water, pollution prevention, clean beaches, recycling and gun control.

She has served on and led the PTAs of the local public schools her daughters attended and recently retired from a 17-year stint coaching varsity tennis at Yorktown High School. She is active in the Lyon Park Civic Association and the Lyon Park Board of Governors, which manages the Lyon Park Community Center, owned and maintained by the neighborhood.

Roy graduated from the county’s civic leadership program, Neighborhood College, and served on the Arlington Sports Commission as well as the county’s Complete Vaccine Committee.

For several years, she played on an Arlington mature women’s soccer team, the Speed Bumps, whose motto was “We might not beat you, but we will slow you down.”

Roy will officially launch her campaign for a seat on the Arlington County Board tomorrow (Friday).

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(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) All three candidates looking to replace Sheriff Beth Arthur, who retired at the end of last year, say they have ideas for changing how the jail is run.

They each say their ideas could help save the lives of those detained in jail, which is overseen by the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office.

In the last seven years, seven men have died while in jail, six of whom were Black, which led the Arlington branch of the NAACP to begin pushing for greater transparency from the office as well as changes to jail operations.

In most cases, the cause of death was ruled to be a “natural cause” — such as heart disease caused by high blood pressure — although opiate withdrawal was a complicating factor in one such case. One man died because of a mix of drugs in his system and another died by suicide.

“I’m concerned because the status quo is not working,” candidate Wanda Younger, who recently retired from the Sheriff’s Office after 31 years of service, said when she announced her campaign to the Arlington County Democratic Committee last week. “I will work with the County Board and state legislators to ensure there is 24-hour mental health and medical care for those detained.”

She later told ARLnow that outcomes would improve at the jail with this 24/7 supervision, as well as new leadership and more deputies on staff. The Sheriff’s Office, like the Arlington County Police Department, has been experiencing attrition that has made it harder for the department to perform basic duties, she says.

“I am committed to changing the lives of the staff, changing the lives of the detainees and changing your lives,” she said in her speech.

Jose Quiroz, who took over as the interim Sheriff yesterday (Monday) after Beth Arthur retired, says he wants to implement biometric screening — something the Sheriff’s Office has been discussing but has yet to purchase.

Inmates in the jail’s infirmary, which consists of 12 beds, would wear devices to monitor their vital signs , notifying staff of a medical emergency such as a substance use withdrawal. Depending on funding, he says, he would eventually like all inmates to wear such devices.

“We’re in 2023, technology is advanced — let’s use that to our advantage,” he tells ARLnow, adding that jails in some less urban, less wealthy jurisdictions from Alabama to Montana are already using this technology.

James Herring, a police officer with Arlington County, says the county should bring medical care in house. He suggested staffing the jail with psychiatrists and therapists who report to the county as well.

“We need to shift from a system that only treats people when something goes wrong to a system that” identifies problems before they arise, he said, adding that the jail should conduct baseline physicals and mental health checks, Herring told us after announcing his candidacy last week.

That may be more expensive, but it would give the Sheriff’s Office “full control and full knowledge” over what’s going on.

“Ms. Arthur started as a budget analyst,” he said. “We got what you’d expect to get when a budget analyst takes over.”

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Three Arlington County Board hopefuls announced their candidacies to a packed house of local Democrats last night.

They are former NAACP Arlington Branch president Julius “J.D.” Spain, Sr. researcher and Center for American Progress policy analyst Maureen Coffey and Jonathan Dromgoole, who facilitates LGBT appointments within the Biden administration for the LGBTQ Victory Institute.

Last night (Wednesday) at the Lubber Run Community Center, more than a half dozen people told Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting attendees about their intentions to run for the County Board, Sheriff, Commonwealth’s Attorney and seats in the state legislature.

The three County Board candidates are vying for the two seats that immediate past Chair Katie Cristol and current Chair Christian Dorsey will vacate at the end of this year. In June, the candidates will participate in a party primary to see which voters will get to run with a “D” by their name in the November election.

Coffey bills herself as a Millennial renter with expertise in housing discrimination and child welfare policy. Jonathan is also a Millennial renter who leads the official Latino caucus for Virginia Democrats. Spain is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who has, at times, challenged the Arlington County Democratic Committee on its influence over local politics.

Coffey says she has seen first-hand how hard work is sometimes not enough to overcome life circumstances such as drug addiction and incarceration. She pledged to prioritize the most vulnerable in Arlington and more clearly articulate the County Board’s long-term vision for the county:

I’ve worked to become an expert on young children, and families and the adults that support them, which provides an understanding of almost every policy area that families come in contact with in their daily lives. This work has taught me to see every part of our lives as interdependent and woven into one. That’s the vision I want to bring to the County Board. Arlington has been a leader and a model for good policy for a very long time, but I have to ask myself, ‘Where are we going?’ We know we don’t have enough affordable housing, we know we don’t have enough child care, and we know we don’t have enough mental healthcare. We need a plan to meet these needs and, at the same time, protect what we love about Arlington: safety, parks, a sense of community.

Dromgoole introduced himself as a proud immigrant from Mexico and a proud product of public schools and teenage parents who came to America for a better life.

From a young age, he acted as the family interpreter for everything from doctors visits to navigating the education system and the family budget. He says Latino residents need that voice on the County Board.

We need to have conversations that will re-engage and inspire our neighbors to be part of the solution rather than feel left out because they weren’t part of a board and feel their voice doesn’t matter. Some in our community aren’t asking for much: Some want streets to be safer for their kids by investing in street lights, reducing speed limits and improving roads. Some are asking for their voices to be heard and policies to be explained in a language they understand. Some want the County Board to be reflective of their lived experiences as someone who has chosen to call Arlington home but fear they may never have the opportunity to buy into that American Dream.

Spain told the audience that what voters need on the County Board is experience — “personable and inclusive leadership.”

I believe that every child who grows up in Arlington should be able to live here as an adult and that means prioritizing affordable housing. I believe we should try to ensure that every corner of our community prospers and that means providing access to job training, ensuring living wages and supporting workers’ rights. With one in five Americans suffering mental illness, I believe that we should fully address the mental health crisis in our comm, and that means ensuring our gov has resources to support everyone with support services. I believe that means everyone should be able to live in Arlington without fear, that means standing with public safety officials while also assuring appropriate oversight and accountability. It is our duty to protect the environment and that means prioritizing sustainability and reinforcing our infrastructure.

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Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County Board vice-chair Christian Dorsey says he will not seek reelection next year.

He released the following statement to ARLnow this morning.

Now that the County Board has concluded its meetings for 2022, I am ready to turn my attention to 2023 and have decided that I will not seek re-election to the County Board.

It has been my distinct honor to have represented and served this community as a Board Member since 2016. Together, we have navigated tough times and advanced key priorities and initiatives that have made Arlington stronger, and I look forward to continuing that work in the year ahead while welcoming new leaders for 2024 and beyond.

Dorsey, the Board’s lone Black member, declined to answer additional questions about his decision “at this time.”

“We can wait a bit on the reflections,” he said. “Much work still to do.”

First elected in 2015 — along with Board Chair Katie Cristol, who is also not seeking reelection — Dorsey’s tenure on the Board was marred by a messy personal bankruptcy, tax filing and payment problems, and his resignation from the WMATA board following campaign finance ethics concerns.

His official county biography lists some of his accomplishments during his time on the Board.

During his tenure as Chair, Mr. Dorsey guided the Board’s adoption of: the Vision Zero transportation safety plan, the update to the Public Spaces Master Plan, the update to the Community Energy Plan, the renaming of Route 1 to Richmond Highway, the economic performance agreement and land use entitlements for Amazon’s headquarters in Arlington, principles of collaboration with the City of Alexandria on joint efforts to ensure inclusive growth with expected economic development, and an Equity Resolution that detailed the scope of work in Arlington’s mission to realize racial and social equity.

Christian is Chair of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), where he has represented Arlington since 2016. Previously, Mr. Dorsey served as Arlington’s Member on the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) in 2019 and 2021. Additionally, Christian served as a Principal Member of the Board of Directors for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, aka Metro, and as a Commissioner on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission from 2016-2020.

In 2022, Christian is serving as the County Board liaison to the Civilian Oversight Board, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Human Rights Commission, the Neighborhood Complete Streets Commission, the Sports Commission and Aquatics Committee, the Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission, the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission, the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center, the Clarendon Alliance, the Arlington County Fair Board, and the Rosslyn BID. Christian is also Co-Chair of the County Board’s Audit Committee.

Outside of public service, Mr. Dorsey engages as a policy and communications consultant supporting progressive organizations in realizing their missions. Prior to joining the Board, Christian was a senior leader at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that promotes economic policies that foster broadly shared prosperity.

Dorsey’s decision sets up a Democratic primary in June for two open Board seats. The primary will, for the first time in an Arlington County-run election, feature ranked choice voting.

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(Updated at 10:10 a.m.) Candidates are starting to emerge in the races to replace two retiring, long-time local elected officials.

Last night’s Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting featured candidate announcements from Jose Quiroz, who is running for Arlington County Sheriff, and Kim Klingler, who is running for Commissioner of Revenue.

Quiroz, a 21-year veteran of the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office who would be the county’s first Latino sheriff, has the endorsement of retiring sheriff Beth Arthur.

More from a press release:

Tonight, Jose Quiroz announced his candidacy to be the Democratic nominee for Arlington County Sheriff before the Arlington County Democratic Committee. Jose has served the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office for over 21 years, rising through the ranks of the office and gaining experience in virtually every division.

“As Sheriff, I am committed to running a safe and progressive jail focused on rehabilitation and refocusing lives.” said Jose, “As part of this commitment I will explore eliminating phone and video call fees from the jail so that people in jail are able to maintain contact with their friends and family, which will make it easier for them to rejoin the community after incarceration.”

Additionally, current Sheriff Beth Arthur announced her early retirement this evening. As Chief Deputy, Jose will succeed Sheriff Arthur in January 2023. “I am incredibly thankful to have the support of Sheriff Arthur, a true leader and trailblazer as the first female Sheriff in Arlington County. I wish her well in her retirement after nearly 36 years with the office.”

On assuming the office, Jose will be the first Latino Sheriff in Arlington County. More about his platform and experience can be found at his campaign website: joseforsheriff.us

In Arlington County, the Sheriff’s Office is responsible for running the jail, providing courtroom security, transporting prisoners, serving summonses and assisting with traffic enforcement.

Also announcing a run for public office last night was Kim Klingler, a local civic figure who currently runs the Columbia Pike Partnership. Klingler is running for Commissioner of Revenue — the elected head of the local tax collection office — and would replace Ingrid Morroy.

Morroy, who first took office in 2004, announced her retirement and endorsed Klingler, according to a press release from the Columbia Pike Partnership.

Last night during the Arlington Democrats monthly meeting, Ingrid Morroy announced her retirement as Commissioner of Revenue for Arlington County and endorsed Kim Klingler, Columbia Pike Partnership Executive Director as her successor.

The Columbia Pike Partnership supports Kim’s decision to run for Commissioner of Revenue. “We’re excited about this opportunity for Kim. During the campaign and months ahead, Kim, the staff, and the board will remain focused on our mission and work in the community,” says Columbia Pike Partnership Board Chair Shannon Bailey.

The Columbia Pike Partnership does not endorse any political candidate in the 2023 election.

Klingler has twice unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for County Board, in 2012 and 2017.

Morroy and Arthur have both been relatively popular in their respective roles, re-elected with more than 95% of vote in 2019 after running unopposed.

More recently, Arthur has faced scrutiny after a series of deaths at the jail, primarily among Black men. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Arthur and the Sheriff’s Office earlier this year by the family of one of the men who died. The jail has since updated some of its medical protocols.

More candidate announcements are expected in the coming weeks and months. Two County Board seats will be on next year’s ballot and at least one will be open, with County Board Chair Katie Cristol not seeking reelection.

“We’ll have a lot more candidates announcing,” Arlington County Democratic Committee chairman Steve Baker told the Sun Gazette. “Next year will be a busy year.”

Next year’s Democratic primary will be held in June and will feature a ranked-choice voting system.

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Josh Katcher (via Josh for Arlington/Facebook)

Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti now has a challenger — someone who once worked for her.

Former Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Josh Katcher will go up against the incumbent in the Democratic primary in June. Katcher was hired as Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney by Theo Stamos in 2012 and he was promoted to deputy in 2021 near the outset of Dehghani-Tafti’s tenure.

“I am running because my opponent Parisa Dehghani-Tafti has not only broken her promises on reform prosecution, she also has broken the office in the process,” he said in an email to supporters, reprinted on Blue Virginia.

In a separate statement, tweeted out by Washington Post reporter Teo Armus, Katcher says he brings “unique insight” to the “multiple failings under the current administration’s leadership.”

“Crime is rising in Arlington,” Katcher said in the announcement. “There is no doubt about it and we have the data from the Arlington County Police Department to prove it. People are concerned about their safety and their property. Denying this or falsely alleging it is part of some media-driven narrative doesn’t solve the problem.”

Katcher said his first two promises are to acknowledge what he says is rising crime in Arlington and to increase transparency by releasing data housed in the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney within a year of taking office.

“The stakes could not be higher for our community,” Katcher said. “This election is not about whether we should be engaged in reform prosecution. The question is really whether we are going to miss this generational window of opportunity to get it right. Every victim, witness and defendant who comes through the doors of the courthouse deserves a Commonwealth’s Attorney that delivers real reform and real justice.”

Reported property crimes offenses increased 7.4% over 2020, according to the 2021 ACPD crime report, mostly driven by fraud and theft, but also increases in vandalism, robbery and burglary. In 2021, ACPD says it arrested several suspects who were “frequently responsible for multiple cases within Arlington or regionally.”

Crimes against people increased 24%, driven by increases in simple and aggravated assaults, an upward trend since 2018, according to ACPD stats. The police department, meanwhile, has cut some services, such as follow-up investigations on “unsolvable” property crimes, in the face of staffing shortages.

In interviews with ARLnow and statements on Twitter, Dehghani-Tafti says that crime is not, in fact, trending upward. She points to low murder rates and to the fact that Arlington’s overall crime rate remains well below state and national averages.

In response to concerns about property crime sprees and repeat offenders, she has said the approach for the last 40 years is to blame, as is a lack of investment in diversion programs.

Dehghani-Tafti beat incumbent Theo Stamos in the 2019 Democratic primary, with a platform focused on criminal justice reform. She pledged to fix systemic flaws in the criminal justice system such as cash bail and punishment for marijuana possession.

Since taking over, her office has launched a wrongful conviction unit and a restorative justice program for young adults. Her critics, however, say she offers criminals lenient plea deals and lets them go free as a result of bond reforms.

Ahead of the primary, Katcher says he faces “an uphill road” to victory because Dehghani-Tafti will “receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from PACs outside of our community.”

She has received a substantial donations from the Justice and Public Safety PAC, which is funded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros. By contrast, Katcher promises a “people-powered” campaign.

Whoever wins the Democratic primary in June will face off, in November, with any independent or Republican challengers who may emerge over the next year.

Katcher was born and raised in Fairfax County, according to his website. He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia and briefly worked in litigation in New York City before becoming a local prosecutor.

He currently lives in Arlington with his wife Jill, their children Juliet and Jamie, and their dog Louie and has served in a variety of roles within the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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Election Day in Arlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

On Election Day, a majority of Arlingtonians approved six bond measures, worth $510 million, that will fund a variety of projects throughout the county.

The biggest expenses for the next 10 years include upgrades to its Water Pollution Control Plant, where local sewage goes, and funding to build a new Arlington Career Center campus.

Arlington County finances these big-ticket projects by selling bonds, mostly to institutional investors like Travelers, State Farm and Blackrock, but also — to an extent — to retail investors and residents. It uses bonds, in the aggregate, to pay for smaller-ticket items: new park playground equipment or upgraded HVAC units, lighting and kitchens and new, more secure entrances in Arlington Public Schools.

But earlier this month the bond market took a huge hit, falling more in one day than it had in a decade, the Wall Street Journal reports. Investors had sold off government bonds — normally seen as an “ultrasafe” investment for companies and retirement accounts — in response to higher interest rates, which the Federal Reserve raised to tackle inflation.

That might mean a new type of investor buying Arlington’s bonds.

“With the historically low interest rates over the past decade, smaller retail investors have not been as big a presence, however with recent rate increases their participation may increase,” county spokesman Ryan Hudson said.

A list of top bond holders from 2020 (via Arlington County)

But for Chris Edwards, a researcher with the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, the current market is more of a reason why wealthy jurisdictions like Arlington should not be using bonds to pay for projects.

“There’s more of an argument for a government to issue debt when interest rates are near zero, which they were a few years ago,” he tells ARLnow. “The era of historically low interest rates for last 10 years is over. It seems we’ll have inflation for a number of years now and that means Arlington’s borrowing costs are going to be higher. It’s the same reason now is not a good time to buy a house with a 30-year mortgage.”

For the county, bonds are a “generational equity issue,” Hudson said.

“The use of municipal bonds spreads payments over ten or twenty years, which more closely aligns with the useful life of County projects and requires future residents to bear some of the burden of paying for the costs of projects from which they directly benefit,” Hudson said.

In other words, it wouldn’t be fair or financially feasible for current residents to fully fund multi-year capital projects, like the $48 million issued for the Lubber Run Community Center, in one year.

Support for county bond referenda has plateaued since the 1980s, after climbing from an average passage rate of 58% from 1951 to 1979 to an average rate of 75% from 1980 to 2021, Edwards wrote in a blog post discussing bond passage margins in Arlington since the 1950s.

Bond support in Arlington since the 1950s (courtesy of Chris Edwards/Cato Institute)

While the 2022 bond referenda all passed, registered voters were marginally more supportive of wastewater plant updates (85% approval) and stormwater improvements (80% approval) — perhaps in response to recent flooding events — than they were for renovations to county buildings (72%), parks (79%) and schools (77%), according to results from the Virginia Dept. of Elections.

Although three-quarters of Arlington residents generally vote for bonds, there is some criticism about the method for funding projects as well as to the kind of projects it is applied.

“I think, especially a place like Arlington, I don’t see an advantage in using debt,” Edwards tells ARLnow. “If the County Board thinks it needs a new library or high school, they should make the case to raise property taxes to fund the things they want. In my view, that would be more transparent.”

Voters tend to reject tax increases but they tend to support bonds, he said. That dissonance, he concludes, is the result of “a case of misinformation.”

“Bonds increase taxes in the future because the government is going to have to pay the interest on those bonds,” he said. “Who are we, today, to impose interest costs on Arlingtonians 10-20 years down the road?”

He said he is not against debt for big projects with long-lasting benefits, such as D.C.’s bonds to fund sewage improvements. But smaller things, like school improvement projects, should not be bond-funded.

There is also concern from some that the county is close to maxing out some of the limits that it self-imposes in order to regulate how many bonds it issues. These limits exist to ensure Arlington maintains its triple-A bond rating, given by credit agencies that have determined the county has an excellent track record of paying back its debts.

The county tries to keep how much debt is paying off to 10% of its general expenditures. Over the next 10 years, the ratio is expected to peak at 9.85%.

Ratio of tax-supported debt service to general expenditures (via Arlington County)

Another ratio that the county is close to maxing out is the ratio of debt per person to income per person, which cannot exceed 6% and over the next 10 years could range from 4.5-5.9%.

It is possible for the county to max out on how many bonds it can issue, Hudson said. But when asked if Arlington County could still issue bonds in the next 10 years, Hudson said “the short answer is yes.”

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Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti at Arlington Democrats election watch party in November 2019, when she was elected to office (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Parisa Dehghani-Tafti announced today (Tuesday) that she is running for reelection as Commonwealth’s Attorney for Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.

Dehghani-Tafti, who campaigned on criminal justice reform, won her first term in 2019, after beating incumbent Theo Stamos (D) in a contentious and expensive primary that saw more than half a million dollars in donations to the challenger from a justice reform group.

She pledged to fix systemic flaws in the criminal justice system to which, Dehghani-Tafti asserted, Stamos was blind. This included cash bail, a requirement that defense attorneys hand copy all the prosecutor’s files about their criminal case and punishment for marijuana possession.

“Three years ago, when I first sought our community’s support, I promised that our community would become a model for how to run a criminal justice system that provides safety and justice for all,” Dehghani-Tafti said in a statement. “In just three years, in the midst of a global pandemic, in the face of constant resistance from the forces of the status quo, and fighting against a right-wing recall campaign against me, we’ve achieved that and more.”

The recall effort, which never amounted to a serious threat to her seat, was led by a political group named Virginians for Safe Communities that also targeted as her counterparts Buta Biberaj and Steve Descano in Loudoun and Fairfax counties, respectively.

Today, in a press release announcing her reelection bid and on Twitter, Dehghani-Tafti says she has made good on many of her campaign promises.

Her office launched Virginia’s first Conviction Review Unit to investigate wrongful conviction claims, after the General Assembly passed a law expanding the pool of defendants who can challenge convictions.

It started a program, dubbed “the Heart of Safety” program, to find alternatives to prosecution in certain misdemeanor and felony cases committed by juveniles and young adults. It also partnered with local and national nonprofits to create diversion programs that reduce racial disparities in the criminal legal system, and received a U.S. Department of Justice grant to run restorative justice program.

In her Twitter thread, she added that her office never asked for cash bail and stopped prosecuting simple marijuana possession before the General Assembly decriminalized it. She says her office assigns one prosecutor to preside over a case from start to finish and allowed defenders to access court records electronically. Over the last three years, the jail population has dropped by 30%, as have certain types of crimes.

Additionally, she says, her office did not certify a single child as an adult in 2021 and Arlington’s behavioral health docket now allows individuals experiencing mental health crises to obtain treatment without incurring a criminal record.

“We did all of this while making sure our community remains safe,” she said in today’s statement. “While homicides rose 30% nationwide, in our community they dropped by 50%. In 2021 and for about 16 months, Arlington County and the City of Falls Church recorded zero homicides. This year, to date, one.”

Critics, however, have asserted that crime is up under her tenure. They accused Dehghani-Tafti offering criminals lenient plea deals and letting them go free as a result of bond reforms. In one case, an Arlington County Circuit Court judge rejected her plea deal — a local example of a broader judicial tug-of-war between judges and reform-minded prosecutors — and Dehghani-Tafti fought for prosecutorial discretion, with support from a criminal-justice organization. Read More

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Sheriff Beth Arthur at Arlington Democrats watch party (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur says she will not be seeking reelection next year.

The first female sheriff in Arlington and in the state announced her decision in a statement released this morning. She has presided as Arlington County Sheriff for more than two decades.

“It has been a privilege and an honor to serve the citizens of Arlington County as their Sheriff but after 22+ years as Sheriff and 36 years with the Sheriff’s Office I think it’s time to hang up my spurs,” she said in a statement. “My focus has always been the employees in the Sheriff’s Office and the exceptional work they do each day, the safety and security of the jail/courthouse and ensuring those incarcerated are treated with dignity and respect.”

Arthur started in the Sheriff’s Office in January 1986 as the budget analyst under then-Sheriff James Gondles. In 1988, she was promoted to Director of Administration, overseeing human resources, budgeting, training and IT functions.

The Arlington Circuit Court appointed her Sheriff on July 7, 2000, and she was subsequently elected in a special election that November, per the press release. She was reelected in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019. During that time, she joined several organizations, such as the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association, where she became the first woman elected president and today serves on its Board of Directors and legislative committee.

Arthur thanked her staff of 298 for the “tireless work they do” to “prepare individuals to have tools and resources to return to their community to be productive members of society.”

She praised them for their Covid response, saying they “worked diligently to adapt policies and practices and they have done an outstanding job.”

Reflecting on her time in office, she expressed pride in how her deputies responded to 9/11. They served as first responders at the Pentagon, provided meals from the jail kitchen and screened delivery trucks.

“I am proud of our Arlington community as we rose to the challenge and embraced each other as one,” she said.

But, she said, her work is also about “those remanded into our care,” which included an average of 272 inmates a night between July 2021 and June 2022.

Her tenure saw upgrades to the inmate library, as well as the launch of the Community Readiness Unit — which provides transition services to inmates and follows them after their release — and work partnership programs, pet therapy and increased partnership with Offender Aid and Restoration, which works with incarcerated individuals in Arlington and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church.

During this time, however, seven men died in as many years while in jail. It’s unclear what caused the uptick, but the Sheriff’s Office previously told ARLnow reasons range from a lack of medical care outside of the jail to drug withdrawal.

The death of Darryl Becton in 2020 in particular sparked increased scrutiny of the jail’s practices, from the Arlington County Board but mostly the Arlington branch of the NAACP, of which Arthur is also a member. After Becton died, the NAACP called for an independent investigation, and this year, after the death of another inmate, Paul Thompson, it escalated this refrain by calling for an investigation by the U.S. Dept. of Justice.

Meanwhile, Becton’s family filed a wrongful death suit this spring and the Virginia’s Jail Review Committee, part of the Board of Local and Regional Jails, conducted its own investigation.

It found evidence suggesting the jail had broken state regulations in Becton’s death, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. After the Sheriff’s Office outlined steps it took — hiring a quality assurance manager, making plans to buy a new medical tracking device, updating health check protocols and changing healthcare providers — the review board concluded that “no further measures are necessary” and closed its investigation.

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Election Day 2022 in Arlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

In the primary election next June, registered voters will be able to rank their preferred candidates for a seat on the Arlington County Board.

The change comes after the Arlington County Board unanimously endorsed testing out ranked-choice voting for County Board elections on Saturday.

“This reform alone will not be sufficient to overcome… the forces trying to undermine our democratic traditions,” Board Chair Katie Cristol said. “Nevertheless, I think this is worth trying. I hope that we can not only excite Arlington voters about the potential, give them an opportunity to express the full range of their preferences, but also provide a model to other communities.”

The Board’s decision makes Arlington the first locality in Virginia to move forward on adopting ranked-choice voting.

UpVote Virginia, a newly formed nonpartisan organization that supports changes like ranked-choice voting, celebrated the move.

“It’s not everyday in Virginia you can say you were the first to do something, but this resolution truly does signify a historic opportunity,” UpVote Virginia Executive Director Liz White said. “Looking forward, we hope your example today will set the stage for other localities across the Commonwealth.”

The change, which would only apply to primaries run by the county’s Office of Elections, comes months ahead of the primary. Legally, the Board has until March 22, 2023 to enact RCV for the June 20 primary.

Local political parties will declare whether they will pick their nominee via a primary run by Arlington’s election office or a party-run convention.

According to White, the method has bipartisan support.

“Even longtime political rivals have found common ground in support of ranked-choice voting,” she told the Board on Saturday. “At UpVote Virginia’s launch event in August, we heard remarks in favor of RCV from your very own Democratic Congressman Don Beyer and former Gov. George Allen, a Republican. It’s not often you get those two speaking at the same event, but that really encapsulates how broad RCV’s appeal can be.”

And in Arlington, a recently closed survey that netted 786 responses found that the majority of respondents support the change.

Support for ranked-choice voting drawn from a survey of Arlingtonians (via Arlington County)

Per the survey, support fluctuated some based on zip code. Support was weakest in the 22207 zip code — residential northern Arlington, which trends a bit more conservative than the rest of deep blue Arlington — where 63% of 152 residents support it. That compared with 75% of 177 residents in the 22201 zip code, which includes part of the Rosslyn-Ballston Metro corridor.

Other zip codes with smaller response rates had higher favorability rates.

Support for ranked-choice voting by zip code in Arlington (via Arlington County)

The potential change comes on the heels of other voting reforms enacted by the state, including expanded access to absentee ballots, new automatic and same-day voter registration and new legislative maps.

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Katie Cristol (Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol does not plan to run for reelection in 2023.

Cristol confirmed her decision to ARLnow last night, after it was mentioned near the bottom of a Washington Post article about Tuesday’s election.

She released the following statement about her decision.

I plan to conclude my service on the Board after two terms for a number of reasons. Among the most important is the same reason I decided to run in the first place: Arlington is stronger when the full community is represented, and it’s time to make room for new perspectives.

In 2015, I argued that representation of the County’s growing plurality — under 35, renter (or in my case then, very recent renter and new homeowner), resident of our urban corridors — would benefit everyone. I believe that many of our accomplishments over the past eight years have borne that out. Young professional talent has been a key asset in Arlington’s major economic development achievements like landing Amazon’s HQ2, for instance. Major expansions in our supply of childcare for families have significantly improved our whole community’s resiliency. Having transit riders represent Arlington on, and chair, regional bodies as we achieved landmark infrastructure investments (in VRE, in the Long Bridge expansion, in the historic Metro capital funding agreement) has helped knit our whole region closer together and has elevated the County’s role in that region.

Eight years on, there’s a new generation that deserves its own chance to be heard. I’ve also had many conversations with community members over the past two years about race, equity and power in Arlington. For me, that’s highlighted that “stage of life” isn’t the only demographic experience that makes residents feel under- or unrepresented in decision-making in the County.

It’s of course up to the voters to determine who will serve next. But in the same way that Arlington voters took a chance and gave me an opportunity in 2015, I want to make space for a new perspective on the County Board now. I really do believe we’ll all benefit when we’re all represented.

Cristol and Board Vice-Chair Christian Dorsey will be finishing up their second term next year. There have been rumors for months that neither are running again.

Dorsey did not tip his hand when reached for comment.

“I have no announcement to make at this time,” he told ARLnow.

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