Press Club
Voting stickers (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Early voting kicks off today (Friday) for the June 21 primary, with only one race on the ballot in Arlington.

In the 8th Congressional District Democratic primary, incumbent Rep. Don Beyer faces political newcomer, Arlingtonian Victoria Virasingh.

Virasingh, a daughter of immigrants, was born and raised in Arlington and is active with the Arlington County Democratic Committee. She was previously part of Communities in Schools at Barcroft Elementary School. Her professional resume includes work for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the IRS Criminal Investigations Unit, and tech company Palantir.

Virasingh’s website lists some campaign priorities as housing for all, equity in education, securing a living wage and Medicare for all.

Beyer has held onto the 8th District, which also includes Alexandria, the City of Falls Church and parts of Fairfax County, since he won a crowded primary for former Congressman Jim Moran’s seat in 2014 and the general election later that year.

Among issues Beyer lists on his campaign website are climate change, housing, immigration, gun violence prevention, the federal workforce and others.

The winner will face any non-Democratic candidates in November. A convention to decide the Republican Party’s nominee — open to all Republicans in the 8th District — is set to be held on May 21. There is a slate of Republicans looking to catch the wave that elected Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

How to vote early

Any voter can cast a ballot in the Democratic primary, regardless of party affiliation, because Virginia is an open primary state. Voters can also go to any early voting location.

Courthouse Plaza, 2100 Clarendon Blvd, Ste 311, will be open for early voting every weekday except for Memorial Day through June 18. Its hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Additional hours on Saturdays and in the evenings are scheduled as follows:

  • Madison Community Center, 3829 N. Stafford Street. Saturday, June 11, and Saturday, June 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesday, June 14, and Thursday, June 16, 2-7 p.m.
  • Walter Reed Community Center, 2909 16th Street S. Saturday, June 11, and Saturday, June 18, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesday, June 14, and Thursday, June 16, 2-7 p.m.

Early voting for the primary runs to June 18. The deadline to register to vote, or update an existing registration is May 31.

Voters can also cast an absentee ballot by mail. Mailed ballots will start to be sent out starting tomorrow. Requests for mailed ballots can be made through June 10, according to the Arlington County elections website.

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Arlington School Board candidate Brandon Clark (left) and the Clark family (right) (courtesy of Brandon Clark)

A candidate for the Arlington School Board has withdrawn his name from the Democratic endorsement process.

Brandon Clark, a teacher at Gunston Middle School, said he decided to remove himself from consideration this week so he could run independent of party affiliation. He realized the partisan process did not align with his beliefs, he said.

“The more I thought about it, the more I was like, wait, this shouldn’t be part of the process,” he told ARLnow. “Education shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”

The caucus “represents a small microcosm of Arlington County,” Clark said. ‘It’s not up to the Arlington Democrats to decide who the School Board member’s going to be.”

The Arlington County Democratic Committee will now vote in June on whether to endorse Bethany Sutton, the only remaining candidate seeking the party’s endorsement, ACDC Chair Steve Baker said.

Clark had been steered in the direction of going through the Democratic Committee’s voting process when he decided to run in the otherwise nonpartisan election, he said.

“Because as a family, both of us being teachers, we don’t have a lot of disposable income to spend on a campaign, so I was told this is the only way you’re going to win,” he said. “It shouldn’t have this air of like, ‘this is the process where you win the race.’ No, the people need to decide and that happens on Election Day.”

Clark thanked the volunteers who began to lay the groundwork for the four-day caucus that will no longer take place.

James Vell Rives IV is also running without a party affiliation. Rives and Clark are the only two candidates who have qualified to be on the ballot so far, according to the Arlington elections office.

The Democratic endorsement process has been scrutinized for its overrepresentation of white, affluent Arlington residents, and discouraging participation in the general election while potentially making nonpartisan officials beholden to a political party, among other concerns. Calls for reform were ultimately defeated.

Clark said he hadn’t realized there were groups criticizing the caucus until he started going through the process.

“But I’m seeing now why these organizations have the grievances that they do,” he said. “In my opinion, it seems like a very insider kind of process.

This past weekend, before he pulled his name from endorsement consideration, he criticized local Democrats for selling a “Russian named vodka” at their Blue Victory Dinner, saying it “speaks to being out of touch on what our community might regard as tasteless and, although seemingly insignificant to others, [and] represents tacit support for Russia.”

He said as a teacher, he encourages his students to look at all sides of an issue to make well-informed decisions, so he didn’t think it was appropriate to align himself with a political party.

“In the future, I hope this process is more inclusive and more open and that there is a support for individuals who are trying to run,” Clark said.

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The Arlington School Board during its April 7, 2022 meeting (via Arlington Public Schools)

(Updated at 11:35 a.m.) Arlington’s School Board race is starting to take shape.

With School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen’s seat up for grabs, a few hats have been tossed in the ring so far.

Wednesday marked the end of the filing date for the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s endorsement process, which has a few changes this year in light of calls for a broader reform that were ultimately defeated.

Two candidates are seeking the Democratic endorsement in the otherwise non-partisan November school board election. A four-day voting process to determine the endorsee will be held in June.

Bethany Sutton is hoping to get the endorsement over Brandon Clark, the first person to qualify to run for school board through the Voter Registration and Elections Office. And James Vell Rives IV has also qualified for the November ballot.

Sutton is a certified leadership coach, executive search consultant and a former PTA president. She has lived in Arlington for more than 20 years and has a background in governance, strategic planning, staff and leadership development, and nonprofit management, according to her profile in the ACDC announcement of candidates.

Sutton served on Randolph Elementary School’s PTA board for seven years, three of which she was president of the board. Since spring 2020, she has led the Randolph Food Pantry, a community-based volunteer effort to support families affected by the pandemic.

Bethany Sutton, who is running for School Board (via Arlington Democrats)

For her work at Randolph Elementary, she was awarded the APS Honored Citizen Award in 2021 and the Distinguished County Service Award in 2020 from Volunteer Arlington and the Leadership Center for Excellence.

She also serves on the Arlington County Food Security Task Force and is chair of the APS Advisory Council on Teaching and Learning, which she has been on since 2018.

“She has a passion for excellence in student learning and a deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” according to the ACDC writeup.

Sutton grew up in the Philadelphia area, attended college at the University of Mary Washington and graduate school at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She also completed a graduate program in leadership coaching at Georgetown University.

Arlington School Board candidate Brandon Clark (left) and the Clark family (right) (courtesy of Brandon Clark)

Clark, a Gunston Middle School teacher, says he wants to bring a needed employee perspective to the school board, while pushing to improve the school system’s communication and engagement efforts.

While Clark is seeking the Democratic endorsement, he expressed displeasure with the party over the weekend. He told ARLnow via email that he left ACDC’s Blue Victory Dinner, held at a Ballston hotel Saturday night, miffed at the choice of vodka offered given the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“I briefly attended an event hosted by Arlington Democrats as a school board candidate… I left early and before the event started, when I saw that Russian named vodka, originally started in Moscow, was being offered for purchase,” he wrote. “I am confused and appalled by this and would like to say that this is an oversight and greater symptom of a larger problem in Arlington politics.”

A day after the initial publication of this article, Clark clarified that the vodka issue was not the only reason he left the event early, while adding that it “speaks to being out of touch on what our community might regard as tasteless and, although seemingly insignificant to others, [and] represents tacit support for Russia.”

Rives, meanwhile, is not seeking the Democratic endorsement, and is running as an independent. He is a psychiatrist and serves as co-chair of Arlington Public Schools’ School Health Advisory Board.

Rives has lived in Fairlington with his wife Carmen since 2003, and their children attend Wakefield High School and Claremont Elementary.

As a physician with a background in mental health, he said he can bring a unique perspective to the board. He particularly wants to help as schools recover from the effects of the pandemic, keeping schools open so students can catch up on lost skills and ensuring the school system retains its teachers.

“Restarting has been bumpy,” he said. “I want to help get back on track.”

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Polling place sign outside Madison Community Center (file photo)

Arlington voters may notice a some changes on their voter cards this year.

The precinct name and the number that you’re used to seeing will be standardized.

Currently, precincts are named after various things — neighborhoods, streets, buildings, etc. In Waycroft-Woodlawn, it is named after the neighborhood  — 024 Woodlawn. The polling place is at the Glebe School on Glebe Road. However, there’s another precinct named 030 Glebe a couple of miles away, with a polling place at Drew Elementary on 23rd Street S. in Green Valley.

The 54 voting precincts are currently numbered with a one or two-digit number — albeit starting with one or two zeros — which will change to a three-digit number beginning at 101. So Precinct 1, will now be 101 and Precinct 54 would be Precinct 154, etc.

“The State requires a 3-digit number,” notes a report to the County Board, adding: “Precincts have been named after neighborhoods, facilities, and streets where they are located. All have proved problematic.”

The solution proposed by county staff is to switch that first leading zero to a one, while also eliminating the confusing names.

The new name for Woodlawn will be simply “Precinct 124,” while the Glebe precinct will become “Precinct 130.”

“The Arlington County Electoral Board and General Registrar hope the renaming and renumbering of precincts will help create a more seamless voting experience for Arlington County residents,” said Tania Griffin, community and outreach coordinator for the county’s Office of Voter Registration & Elections.

The request has to go to the state attorney general for approval, which can take up to 60 days, but changes will be made in time for the June 21 primary election.

The County Board voted to request these changes at its meeting on Saturday.

There were also some run-of-the-mill location changes for polling centers, approved by the Board ahead of the upcoming election. Voters in the Lexington 31, Overlee Knolls 17 and Buckingham 45 precincts may want to note the new locations below.

  • Precinct 117 (currently “Overlee Knolls”) will move from Resurrection Lutheran Church to Cardinal School, 1644 N. McKinley Road.
  • Precinct 131 (currently “Lexington”) will move from Lee Community Center, which closed indefinitely, to Westover Library at 1644 N. McKinley Road.
  • Precinct 145 (currently “Buckingham”) will move from Barrett Elementary to the Lubber Run Community Center at 300 N. Park Drive.

Redistricting, meanwhile, could bring other precinct changes to the general election in November. The Arlington View precinct along Columbia Pike was split between the 2nd and 3rd House of Delegates districts and each must be in a single district.

The elections office has proposed three options to remedy the problem: Redraw the boundaries of precincts 10, 15, and 38; request a waiver to have a split precinct; or create an entirely new precinct.

The changes will not affect the June primary.

“We continue to get feedback from the community and options will be presented to the County Board before the November election,” Griffin said.

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Morning Notes

A tulip in a pot along Crystal Drive in Crystal City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Local Unemployment Rate Still Falling — “Arlington’s unemployment rate, which bumped up at the start of the year, dropped back down in the latest data. With 149,651 county residents in the civilian workforce and 3,192 looking for jobs, the county jobless rate stood at 2.1 percent in February, down from 2.6 percent a month before and off from 3.6 percent in February 2021.” [Sun Gazette]

Tree Pollen Levels Rising — From the Capital Weather Gang: “Tree pollen spiking. Today’s count is HIGH or 429.39 grains per cubic meter. Grass pollen is low/moderate. Further rises next few days with highs well into the 70s today and near/above 80 Wed and Thur.” [Twitter]

New School Board Candidate — “Bethany Sutton, chair of the Arlington Public Schools Advisory Council on Teaching and Learning, announced she is seeking the Democratic Party’s endorsement for the Arlington School Board. Sutton, a 20-year resident of Arlington, is a former PTA president and a parent of two daughters who attend middle school and high school in Arlington Public Schools.” [Patch]

No Dem Challenger for de Ferranti — “There is one less election on the horizon for Arlington this year. The April 7 filing deadline came and went with no challenger emerging to take on incumbent County Board member Matt de Ferranti in the June 21 election. As a result, the primary will be canceled and de Ferranti moves on to the general election.” [Sun Gazette]

Library Worker Helping With Ukraine Archive — “Arlington Public Library’s Digital Archivist, Greg Pierce at the Center for Local History (CLH), has been part of global volunteer effort to back up Ukraine’s digital heritage, currently at risk of being erased by the Russian invasion. Pierce’s involvement includes database verification, task and link wrangling, and internal communications with other volunteers.” [Arlington Public Library]

Marymount Announces Commencement Speakers — “In mid-May, approximately 1,080 students will receive their degrees.. The newest graduates of the mission-based university will hear from three distinguished speakers – the first female Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S., Princess Reema; physicist and former NASA research center director Dr. Julian M. Earls; and global financier and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein.” [Press Release]

It’s Wednesday — Warm and mostly cloudy throughout the day. High of 80 and low of 59. Sunrise at 6:36 am and sunset at 7:44 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Arlington School Board candidate Brandon Clark, left, and the Clark family, right (courtesy of Brandon Clark)

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) The first Arlington School Board candidate has stepped up — and he is a current teacher in Arlington Public Schools.

Gunston Middle School world geography teacher Brandon Clark says he is running to provide a point of view he says is missing on the School Board. Most of the five members are current and former parents, while some have past experience as educators.

“What we don’t have is someone who is a current APS employee,” he tells ARLnow. “We don’t have someone who understands how these decisions impact our students, families and community.”

He will vie for the seat that opens up when School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen steps down in December. So far, he is the only candidate on the ballot for the November general election. If elected, he would resign as a teacher.

Clark has been an APS teacher for five years. He and his wife both teach at Gunston, where she is a math coach. They have young twins who will one day go to APS, says Clark, a graduate of Wakefield High School.

Since joining the school system, he has taken on leadership positions at Gunston and on the Teachers’ Council on Instruction, which advises the superintendent. In these roles he says he saw systemic problems in how APS communicates and allocates resources.

“I’m running because I believe we have to do better — and do better now,” he said. “We can’t wait until we have to do damage control. We have serious systemic issues that need to be fixed and we need strategic ways to deploy our resources to fix them.”

Clark had mulled running for three years, but a communications mishap two months ago tipped the scales for him.

In January, APS notified him some of his students had tested positive for Covid. He received two communications from APS, each telling him to quarantine for two different lengths of time.

“The more I communicated with people, the more I learned it was happening all over APS,” he said. “I figured they had it all figured out, but they didn’t. I realized how bad things were. It was a symptom of a greater systemic problem — a mismanagement of policies, communications and resources.”

If elected, he said, Clark intends to direct Superintendent Francisco Durán to review how APS sends information to staff and families and find more efficient, centralized alternatives.

To the extent that is legally possible, he said, people “should be able to see what was sent to teachers and parents on a single landing page that is convenient and easy to access. There are too many avenues of communication. When you get that, you breed confusion.”

The number of siloed committees for parents and teachers makes it harder to be heard by APS administrators, he asserted.

“Parents and teachers need to realize they have power together and they can actualize that by meeting,” he said. “If you really want feedback, you have to streamline all these committees — parents and teachers should be in the same room.”

Beyond communications, APS can be more strategic is in its budget, selecting just one or two priorities per year and showing how every expenditure aligns with them, Clark said.

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Arlington School Board member Mary Kadera during the board’s Feb. 17, 2022 meeting (via Arlington Public Schools)

Mary Kadera says she’s had a change of heart about the Arlington’s Democratic party’s School Board endorsement caucus, which helped her to land a School Board seat.

Kadera, who said she initially voted to keep the process after careful study, wrote in a blog post on Monday that it’s time to listen to dissenting voices and try something else.

The Arlington County Democratic Committee holds a caucus to determine which School Board candidates are bona fide Democrats and should be considered for the party’s endorsement. It’s not a primary, since school board races in Virginia are nonpartisan, but the results are similar to one because losing candidates agree not to run in November.

It’s been criticized by the Arlington NAACP and the pandemic-era group Arlington Parents for Education for, among other reasons, effectively limiting participation by communities of color, confusing voters and limiting the range of qualified candidates.

Arlington Democrats debated in February whether to use the caucus this year. After a spirited discussion, members — including Kadera — voted overwhelmingly (117-22) to keep it.

Now, she says, the dissenting voices she heard made her realize “holding on to the Caucus comes at too great a cost.”

“[A]t its very heart, this question is about white people needing to cede and share power with people of color, and that doing so is not a zero-sum game,” she writes.

Many critics of the caucus who spoke in February were Black, including community activists Wilma Jones and Zakiya Worthey, an Arlington Public Schools parent representing a new group called Black Leaders of Arlington.

They said the caucus is a glaring exception to progressive Arlingtonians’ commitment to racial equity. They argue the majority of caucus voters come from heavily white areas of North Arlington and pick well-connected, establishment Democrats who don’t prioritize the students of color in APS who have fallen behind.

“It’s faux-progressive and surface level,” Worthey tells ARLnow. “A lot of Black advocates, when we’re fighting, we’re not fighting against Republicans — we’re fighting against so-called progressive Dems.”

Kadera credited Jones and Worthey for her change of heart.

“They reminded me that hearing and valuing the voices and lived experiences of people of color means that when many of them are telling me that I am perpetuating a system that does them harm, I need to prioritize that over any ‘what if’ scenarios that make me afraid to dismantle the system,” she said.

Caucus proponents, including current School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen, member Cristina Diaz-Torres, and former member Monique O’Grady, who is Black, posed those “what if” scenarios in their arguments for keeping the process. They and others said without it, the School Board is open to “Republican infiltration,” even in heavily Democratic Arlington.

Kadera conceded that this “very well could” happen, but it’s not for certain unless ACDC tests it out.

The local party says it is still open to suggestions for improving the process, the rules for which will be decided in mid-March and ratified in April.

“We are going to continue the community engagement and we’d love to hear from stakeholders and interested groups in the community who have ideas on how to make the process better,” ACDC Chair Steve Baker said during a meeting last night (Wednesday).

The caucus is slated for June with in-person voting at some public schools and likely a handful of other places that are in South Arlington or Metro-accessible. Voting last year was held electronically due to the pandemic and participation surpassed local records.

ACDC members will go door-to-door in under-represented precincts to inform people how they can participate.

Jones, Worthey and Arlington NAACP President Julius “J.D.” Spain, Sr. tell ARLnow that they are still formulating their next steps.

“We’re going to keep working,” Jones said.

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups, founders, and other local technology news. Monday Properties is proudly featuring 1515 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. 

Phone2Action, the Rosslyn-based government affairs technology company, has changed its name to Capitol Canary.

The rebranding comes as the company has expanded beyond what it was founded in 2012 to do — help organizations mobilize citizens via their smartphones — through acquisitions in late 2020.

That’s when Capitol Canary bought KnowWho, which provides an up-to-date directory of policymakers, and GovPredict, which helps users track bills and regulations.

With these two platforms, Capitol Canary says it now offers clients, who currently number 1,200 companies, organizations and advocates, a full-service government affairs solution that can help them push legislation through and energize voters.

A name change has been in the cards for a while now, co-founder Jeb Ory told ARLnow in a statement.

“We’ve kicked around name changes for years — as we grew and did more and more for our clients, we knew that rebranding would be something that would make a lot of sense,” he said. “We kicked the process off in earnest last summer. Once we down-selected to a handful of names, it pretty quickly became clear that Capitol Canary was the winner.”

So why Capitol Canary?

“‘Capitol’ immediately says government. Legislation. Policy. These are at the heart of what we do,” he said.  “‘Canary’ immediately implies relevant information and decisive action. Canaries are smart little birds that have helped people know what to do for centuries.”

Cofounder Jeb Ory and CEO Steven Schneider (courtesy photo)

The name change also comes ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, and in anticipation of these elections, Capitol Canary is rolling out some new features:

  • an “advocacy dashboard,” which customers can check to see if their campaigns are successful at moving the needle on an issue and engaging key lawmakers.
  • “impact reports,” generated in minutes, which stakeholders can use to run meetings with policymakers. These reports provide everything from bios of lawmakers and their committee assignments to the level of sway an organization has within a lawmaker’s district or state.
  • “get-out-the-vote” tools, which help employees, advocates and supporters check their voter registration status, learn about candidates and find information on how to vote.

And the Phone2Action era ends on a high note, according to Capitol Canary. After riding multiple tidal waves of civic engagement in 2020 — a global pandemic, nationwide social-justice campaigns and a contentious presidential election — the company recorded staggering engagement numbers in 2021.

More than 15.6 million people took roughly 25 million actions — such as signing a petition, calling their lawmaker, sending an email or tweeting at them — on policy issues ranging from COVID-19 relief to infrastructure using the Phone2Action platform. They also used it to access 12.6 million federal, state, local and regulatory policy documents.

Meanwhile, Fortune 100 companies such as Walmart and Uber, associations including the National Restaurant Association and PhRMA, and nonprofits such as the Innocence Project and the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, used the platform to execute more than 14,500 campaigns.

“Since our founding in 2012, thousands of organizations have trusted our platform to help them shape public policy and elevate stakeholder’s voices. Together, we have transformed how constituents engage with their lawmakers and how public policy is formed, from Capitol Hill to city hall,” said Capitol Canary CEO Steven Schneider in a statement.

While the rebranding reflects this transformation and will kick off a second decade of growth, the company’s goal remains to provide “government affairs and advocacy teams with the tools, intelligence and data they need to do the hard and vital work of shaping policy,” he said.

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Morning Notes

The Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, the Memorial Bridge, and the 14th St. Bridge over the Potomac River in fog (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Free Outdoor Wi-Fi at Libraries — “During the month of January, 2022, two new free outdoor Wi-Fi hot spots were installed at the Cherrydale and Glencarlyn Libraries. Library patrons and Arlington residents have now 24×7 access to the free Arlington County Wi-Fi network ‘ArlingtonWireless’ at all library branches, both outdoor and indoor, and at various locations around the County. No ID or password is required for the free service.” [Arlington Public Library]

Four Arlington Joints on Best BBQ List — Post food critic Tim Carman’s new “best barbecue” list includes a number of Arlington favorites: Texas Jack’s (9), Smokecraft Modern Barbecue (6), Smoking Kow (5), and Sloppy Mama’s (3). [Washington Post]

W&OD Bridge Work Complete — “The re-decking of the bridge east of Wilson Blvd in Arlington is completed!” [Twitter]

County Conducting Satisfaction Survey — “Arlington County is conducting its sixth County-wide, statistically valid community survey to measure satisfaction with major County services and gather input about issues facing the community. The results enable County officials to assess performance across many County agencies and services.” [Arlington County]

AWLA Selling Pentagon Chicken Shirts — From the Animal Welfare League of Arlington: “No-one asked for this but we did it anyways – get your official #PentagonChicken shirt now! With the Henny Penny stamp of approval, proceeds will go to help keep other wayward poultry out of government buildings.” [Twitter]

Beyer Delivers Boxes of Protective Equipment — “A constituent reached out notifying U.S. Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th) that Restart Partners, a West Coast-based charity involved in planning for and procuring PPE, learned of a significant amount of it available in a local warehouse. Partnering with the owner (who wishes to remain anonymous), Beyer identified two charities (Doorways and PathForward) that needed the items for those they serve and for their staffs.” [Sun Gazette]

De Ferranti Makes It Official — “County Board member Matt de Ferranti kicked off his bid for a second term on Feb. 2 with a call for Arlington leaders to accelerate efforts to enact Democratic priorities and serve as a bulwark against the new Republican majority in Richmond.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Friday — Rain before today 5 p.m., then a chance of rain and snow. Patchy fog before 1 p.m. Temperature falling to around 37 mid-afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 22 mph. Little or no snow accumulation expected. Sunrise at 7:09 a.m. and sunset at 5:35 p.m. This weekend will be sunny with highs in the 30s. [Weather.gov]

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Arlington School Board at a meeting (file photo)

(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) Arlington Democrats voted loud and clear: the School Board endorsement caucus process should stay. 

Members of the Arlington County Democratic Committee voted 117-22 to use the caucus process to select which School Board candidates to endorse during the general election. ACDC met last night (Wednesday) to hear both sides of the issue and the results were announced today (Thursday).

Now, ACDC has to establish rules for the 2022 process, informed by four listening sessions, last night’s debate and an internal review. 

“Education is a top priority for us and we support great public schools that provide children with the education and curriculum they need to succeed in life,” Arlington Democrats Chair Steve Baker said today in a statement. “Arlington Democrats will always be an ally and supporter in that effort and we want our process to be as open, inclusive and equitable as possible. We know it takes hard work to achieve real results but we’re ready and committed to that process.”

This vote applies only to using the process this year, and future votes can reprise the issue, Baker told ARLnow. A seat will open up next year following School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen’s resignation announcement.

Virginia school board races are nonpartisan, so Arlington Dems can only endorse candidates — not nominate them. As part of ACDC’s process, however, candidates agree in May not to run in the general election, making the end result similar to a primary.

This was the first time the committee voted on the use of the caucus, according to deputy chief Mike Hemminger, and it came after the Arlington Branch of the NAACP, the pro-open-schools group Arlington Parents for Education and a group of self-identified Democrats separately called on ACDC to end or significantly reform the process. 

“Last night, we heard genuine concerns regarding the equity of the endorsement process,” Hemminger said today in a statement. “Systemic inequities are present in any structural system. It is vital that Arlington Democrats partner with all community members to break down barriers to access and include these voices and perspectives in each of our processes.”

Arguments against the caucus include that whiter, wealthier North Arlington residents are over-represented in it, that it discourages broad election participation, discourages federal employees from running due to the Hatch Act, effectively determines who wins in November, and makes nonpartisan officials beholden to a political party. 

But the School Board is nonpartisan only on paper, according to some committee members. They said the caucus is the best means of ensuring Democrat values prevail in Arlington against the right-wing forces trying to influence Virginia school boards.

“Republicans have shown their hands,” said School Board Chair Barbara Kanninen. “In Richmond, they’re openly promoting a public school system that serves the haves better than the have nots. We Democrats cannot let them succeed.”

Without the caucus, she said, the board could not move forward “a progressive, Democrat agenda,” including removing School Resource Officers, supporting transgender students, removing Confederate names from buildings, adding world holidays to the school calendar, building green schools and approving equity policies, among other aims. 

School Board member Cristina Diaz-Torres and former member Monique O’Grady also offered their support.

“Conservatives who lost the White House are laser-focused on using their resources to target school board elections,” O’Grady said. “Virginia was a test case for this. It’s happening in other districts and there’s a thinly veiled attempt happening here in Arlington.” 

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Independent County Board candidate Adam Theo (courtesy photo)

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) The race is on for incumbent Matt de Ferranti’s County Board seat.

Independent Adam Theo announced Thursday morning he’s running for County Board, and another familiar independent candidate, Audrey Clement, intends to run. But de Ferranti doesn’t plan to let go of his seat.

This is Theo’s second time running for the County Board in as many years. Last year, he joined Clement and another independent candidates in what became a crowded County Board race for the spot that Democrat Takis Karantonis occupies. Although his bid was unsuccessful, Theo previously told ARLnow that his campaign would set the groundwork for a full run in 2022 or 2023.

In his second run, his announcement has come out strong against the current board.

“The COVID crisis exposed a disastrous lack of leadership on the board that’s been hiding in plain sight for years,” he said. “They are rubber-stamping each other’s bad ideas, spending big on band-aids instead of investing in smarter long-term solutions, and merely copy-catting ideas from neighboring cities and counties instead of making Arlington the regional leader it should be.”

He’s running on a platform of expanding government accountability, prioritizing public safety and making housing affordable.

Incumbent Matt de Ferranti, who was elected as a Democrat in 2018 to the seat, has not officially announced his run for re-election — yet. He tells ARLnow an announcement is coming.

“I’ve focused on COVID response, racial equity and the priorities I identified when I ran in 2018–affordable housing, hunger, funding our schools to support educational opportunity for all students, fighting climate change, and inclusive economic growth,” he said. “Next week, I will officially announce my intention to seek re-election. I take nothing for granted and look forward to listening to our residents’ concerns and working to earn each and every vote.”

Theo describes himself as “a fierce non-partisan free-thinking ‘progressive libertarian.'” He said he was in the Air Force Reserves as a civil engineer and deployed to eastern Afghanistan. He has also worked as a consultant within the Department of Homeland Security.

He’s the vice president of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association, a voting delegate to the Arlington County Civic Federation and co-founder of a regional housing advocacy group.

His campaign website says he is opposed to deals the Arlington County Board has given to Amazon, steep increases in property taxes and the “county’s slow progress on housing affordability.”

The experiences he could bring to the county board are unique, he said. He was incarcerated for four months as a young adult in his home state of Florida, has experienced homelessness and has been a longtime renter in search of a home in Arlington County.

“It is these formative life experiences that make me uniquely suited to empathize with and serve all Arlingtonians, and why I will work so hard to be your next independent member on the Arlington County Board,” his website reads.

In his announcement, Theo invited people to attend a virtual open house at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Thursday).

Audrey Clement tells ARLnow she plans to run for County Board this year as well but will announce later. She wants to reduce taxes, stop up-zoning, and preserve parks, trees and historic places. The Westover resident has been a perennial candidate over the last decade and says she believes once people realize the missing middle housing push will rezone some neighborhoods, they will support a candidate like her.

The primary election will be held June 21 and general election on Nov. 8.

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