Arlington, VA

John Vihstadt’s pair of decisive County Board victories four years ago were some of the lowest moments for Arlington Democrats since the county turned decisively blue decades ago — for many, that makes Matt de Ferranti‘s win all the sweeter.

De Ferranti’s seven-point win over the independent incumbent stands in stark contrast to Vihstadt’s double-digit dominations of Alan Howze in both a special election and a general election back in 2014. Those wins were widely seen as a rebuke to the Board’s Democratic majority, particularly with projects like the Columbia Pike streetcar and the Long Bridge Park aquatics center the targets of frequent community complaints.

Accordingly, county Democrats now see such a stark turnaround just a few years later as proof that they learned the lessons of 2014, and have responded to that dissatisfaction from voters.

“This is one of the biggest wins for Democrats in Arlington that I can remember,” Paul Ferguson, Arlington’s clerk of circuit court and a Democratic officeholder in the county dating back to 1996, told ARLnow.

Democrats surely benefitted from an energized electorate as well, owing to a midterm election that sent plenty of voters to the polls looking to send a message to President Donald Trump — nearly 101,000 people cast ballots in the race, about 37,300 more than in Vihstadt’s general election win back in 2014. De Ferranti himself acknowledged that “the broader national mood didn’t hurt” in powering his win.

But county Democrats also argued that de Ferranti’s victory, by a commanding margin, proved that the local party and its officeholders spent the last few years making meaningful changes to their way of doing business.

“That was an astounding recovery from 2014,” said School Board member Barbara Kanninen, who also won a convincing re-election over independent Audrey Clement Tuesday. “John is a very well-liked, very well-respected person. For Matt to put together a campaign to overcome all of those obstacles, the 2014 deficit he was starting with, that is absolutely a demonstration of the blue wave.”

Vihstadt did indeed have plenty of strengths, enough that many political observers around the county believed he could survive such a Democratic wave. He had the backing of a variety of current and former Democratic elected officials, a hefty campaign war chest and plenty of name recognition after years of civic activism in the county.

But all those factors were not enough for him to hold on to his seat, ensuring that Democrats will have unified control of the Board once more — Vihstadt himself declined an interview Tuesday night, and did not respond to subsequent requests for comment.

“People genuinely saw that we heard the message of 2014,” de Ferranti said. “Time doesn’t stand still. We’re evolving as a community and responsiveness is important. Fiscal responsibility is important, but also we have to make investments in our future.”

County Board member Erik Gutshall (D) agreed with that line of thinking, arguing that voters themselves have evolved over the last four years as well.

Vihstadt triumphed in 2014 by winning over many disaffected Democrats, to say nothing of independents and Republicans, largely by insisting on a more fiscally conservative approach to governing and emphasizing the close scrutiny of county projects. De Ferranti criticized that style as one that didn’t lay out a positive vision for the county, and Gutshall expects that voters were sympathetic to that message.

“Arlington has had the chance to reflect about where we are and make a choice about what direction we want to go,” Gutshall said. “Do we want to go toward a bold vision or do we want to stay focused on trying to maintain the status quo? With the benefit of four years, they had a chance to reflect on that and move forward.”

However, Gutshall would stress that such a comment is not “an indictment of John’s service.” While county Democrats have long yearned to unseat Vihstadt, the first non-Democrat to sit on the Board since 1999, none were willing to spike the football too vigorously over his defeat.

“Today, a decent person lost, and a decent person also won — the fact that both statements can still be true in Arlington should give us all hope for the future of our democracy,” county Democratic Committee Chair Jill Caiazzo wrote in a statement.

Board Chair Katie Cristol (D) was even willing to credit Vihstadt for helping the Board learn from his “clear-eyed approach on fiscal issues, in particular.”

“We’ve definitely seen a shift on the Board in how to be more inclusive in our decision-making… and that’s a real legacy for him,” Cristol said.

But Cristol also noted that de Ferranti’s win also completes the near-total transformation of the Board from just five years ago. Only Libby Garvey, a Vihstadt backer and former School Board member, remains from the Board that Vihstadt joined when he won in 2014.

Cristol and Vice Chair Christian Dorsey both joined the Board in 2015, and both were newcomers to the political scene at the time of their victories. When combined with the 45-year-old de Ferranti — a first-time candidate himself, who Ferguson dubbed “the best young candidate I’ve seen in my career” — Gutshall fully expects that the newly reconstituted Board will think, and act, a bit differently.

“It’s a completely different Board, and a Board that’s going to be focused on: ‘How do we meet our challenges and how do we take bold action?'” Gutshall said. “People want to be bold. They want to see progressive values put into action.”

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Katie Cristol will serve as Arlington County Board chair for 2018, with Christian Dorsey nominated as vice chair alongside her.

Both were nominated and unanimously voted in at the County Board’s organizational meeting (video) last night (Tuesday), where members lay out their agendas for the year. This year’s meeting avoided the political wrangling of last year, when Cristol was elected vice chair.

In her remarks after being elected chair, Cristol said she would focus on protecting and adding affordable housing and work to help Metro return to a “sound footing” financially. The Washington Post noted her relative youth — 32 — and said she is the first millennial to lead a county dominated by those in the 20-34 age group.

One of Cristol’s other priorities is to continue work on the county’s nascent childcare initiative, which began this year and is looking to expand options and the quality of child care available in Arlington.

“Child care accessibility similarly speaks to the foundational values of Arlington County,” Cristol said. “The idea that this place is a place for young families is part of our ‘old story,’ at least since an influx of veteran families in the postwar years made Arlington a ground zero for the Baby Boom.”

Dorsey called on the county to establish its own consumer protection bureau to educate businesses and residents about their rights and settle disputes between the two. Like Cristol, he also said affordable housing and Metro will be key priorities this year. The Board last year hiked property taxes to help, in part, to pay for increased Metro costs.

Dorsey said the consumer protection bureau could be a crucial addition, which he said “does not require substantial new funding.”

“We frequently hear complaints involving predatory towing, billing and service issues with cable and telecommunications companies, predatory lenders, identity theft, hired transportation, rental housing, and general contract enforcement,” he said. “I believe there are beneficial outcomes in dispute resolution and prevention that a consumer protection bureau can promote.”

Libby Garvey, now the longest-serving County Board member after the retirement of Jay Fisette last year, said she wants to work on public discussions and ensuring they remain civil. She urged residents to give feedback on a draft guide on Civic Engagement, which will be finalized this year.

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Morning Notes

Beyer Blasts GOP Tax Bill — Rep. Don Beyer is, to say the least, not a fan of the Republican tax bill that is expected to pass the House and be sent to the president’s desk later today. “At its core, this bill is an immoral redistribution of wealth towards the richest among us at a cost of trillions of dollars, and I believe that those who voted for this monstrosity will be held accountable,” Beyer said in a statement. [Rep. Don Beyer, Twitter]

Single Vote Swings Va. House — Thanks to a Democratic candidate in Newport News winning her race by a single vote, as determined in a recount, the Virginia House of Delegates is now evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, ending a majority the GOP has maintained since 2000. [Washington Post]

‘Dominion Pint’ Coming to Arlington — The owner of Meridian Pint (also Brookland Pint and Smoke & Barrel) in D.C. is planning to open a new craft beer-centric outpost somewhere in North Arlington. The location has not yet been announced, but it will be called “Dominion Pint.” [PoPville]

DESIGNArlington Winners Announced — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday recognized the ten 2017 DESIGNArlington award winners for “outstanding architectural or landscape design in the County.” Among the winners are the new Marymount University building in Ballston, the Tellus apartment building in Courthouse, “The Quill” public art project in Rosslyn and two private North Arlington residences. [Arlington County, Arlington County]

Gutshall Sworn In — The newest Arlington County Board member, Erik Gutshall, was sworn in at yesterday’s Board meeting, while outgoing County Board Chair Jay Fisette received a standing ovation. [Twitter]

Changes to Historic Preservation Process — The Arlington County Board voted unanimously last night to revise and further codify the process for requesting historic preservation studies. Until now, any single individual could request a “historic preservation overlay district” study, which requires significant county staff time to complete. Before the vote, such a study could even be requested without consulting property owners in the proposed district. [Arlington County]

Arlington Man Dies in Plane Crash — Paul Schuda, a National Transportation Safety Board official and Arlington resident, was among three people killed in the crash of a small plane in Indiana. [NPR, Legacy]

Photo courtesy Peter Golkin

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Morning Notes

County Aims to Fix Boring Columbia Pike Architecture — “Arlington County Board members on Dec. 16 approved amendments to the county’s zoning ordinance that revamps existing regulations for Pike properties that are built under the Form-Based Code, a 15-year-old process that aims to speed the development timeline but has had the unintended consequence of rendering architectural creativity persona-non-grata on the Pike.” [InsideNova]

McAuliffe Proposes Metro Funding Plan — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is proposing a $150-million-per-year state funding plan for Metro. The plan includes using a portion of Northern Virginia’s regional transportation sales tax and increasing three other regional taxes. [WTOP]

Gutshall to Be Sworn In Today — Erik Gutshall, the newest Arlington County Board member, will be sworn in today at 5 p.m. at county headquarters in Courthouse. [InsideNova]

Pentagon Had UFO Office — The truth is out there, in Arlington —  at the Pentagon, specifically. It was revealed this past weekend that the Pentagon had a secretive program that investigated reports of Unidentified Flying Objects. The “Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program” officially ended in the 2012. [Politico, Washington Post]

Phoenix House Renovation and Expansion — “On time and on budget – and without a dollar of government funding – Phoenix House Mid-Atlantic on Dec. 12 unveiled new and updated facilities in Arlington aimed at giving an extra boost to patients moving through the addiction-recovery process.” [InsideNova]

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Morning Notes

More on Axios Staying in Arlington — Media startup Axios, which just inked a 10 year lease in Clarendon, is getting a $60,000 performance-based “Gazelle Grant” from Arlington County. It is the fourth company to receive the economic development grant, joining Stardog, VideoBlocks and Phone2Action. “Axios is an excellent example of a Gazelle tech company here in Arlington — fast-growing and a leader in Arlington’s robust media industry,” County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a statement. “Axios’ decision to remain here in Arlington as it grows and expands is the true purpose behind the Gazelle incentive program and demonstrates how Arlington’s assets are truly paying off. We are thrilled to continue to work with Axios as a partner in our business community.”

County Giving Away Free Snow Shovel — Updated at 11 a.m. — As part of a social media promotion, the Arlington County Dept. of Environment Services is giving away a free snow shovel, courtesy of Twins Ace Hardware in Courthouse, to one lucky winner who “describe[s] to us [on Twitter] or on DES Facebook your favorite phase of Arlington snow treatment and why.” [Twitter]

Public Invited to Gutshall Swearing-In — “The public is invited to join the Arlington County Board on Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 for the swearing-in of Board Member-elect Erik Gutshall… The ceremony will begin at 5 p.m., and will be followed by a reception outside the Board Room, Room 307 in the County Office Building, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, VA, 22201.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Eric

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(Updated 9:50 p.m.) Arlington Democrats celebrated a triumphant election night for its candidates for Arlington County Board and School Board, as well as all members of the state-level Democratic ticket.

With all precincts reporting, Democratic nominee Erik Gutshall won the race for County Board with 62.82 percent of the vote. Monique O’Grady, the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s endorsee for School Board, took 70.56 percent.

Gutshall took 46,319 votes, ahead of independent Audrey Clement with 17,415 and fellow independent Charles McCullough‘s 8,753. O’Grady won 50,677 votes, ahead of Mike Webb with 12,642 and Alison Dough with 7,271 to succeed James Lander.

In the races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general, the Democratic candidates all won Arlington County’s 55 precincts by big margins to help deliver what looked set to be a clean sweep for the party in Virginia.

Governor-Elect Ralph Northam (D) took 68,315 votes in Arlington, ahead of Republican Ed Gillespie with 16,160. Justin Fairfax (D) garnered 66,687 votes in Arlington in the race for lieutenant governor ahead of state Sen. Jill Vogel’s 17,594, and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) won re-election with 67,111 votes ahead of John Adams’ 17,366 votes.

At the ACDC’s watch party at The Salsa Room on Columbia Pike, great cheers went up when the television networks projected Northam as the winner, as more than 100 attendees celebrated Democrats’ triumph across Virginia.

Gutshall said he was “very grateful” to win, and said he enjoyed hearing from residents as he vied for retiring Board chair Jay Fisette’s seat.

“It was a lot of hard work, a lot of great chances to have some really good conversations with folks in Arlington,” Gutshall said. “Even though it might appear from election results that we are a very blue community, there’s a lot of diversity of opinion within that blueness. It was a good experience for me to hear that diversity of viewpoints on all the different issues that are facing us.”

O’Grady said the campaign was a “humbling” experience, and said she intends to put the work in now to hit the ground running in January when she is officially sworn in.

“It’s what I’ve been trying to do, which is keep up with all the issues, continue to go to the meetings, continue to keep up with the community reactions to so many things on the table,” she said. “In January, there’s a lot of work to do, and so I want to ensure that I’m ready to go. Even though I won’t be sworn in until January, I’m already hard at work making sure I stay engaged.”

ACDC chair Kip Malinosky said it was rewarding to see so many people step up to volunteer in Arlington to help get out the vote. The county’s Elections Office said final turnout was 55 percent, the highest for a gubernatorial race since 1993.

“What feels so good is that so many people stepped up in a big way,” Malinosky said. “We helped out. It was really depressing after last year, but we came back so strong and people bounced back. They got involved, they made calls, knocked on doors, posted on social media. We went to every festival, every event and we got people engaged and said, ‘Look, we’ve got to compete.'”

With three of the county’s four members of the Virginia House of Delegates running unopposed, it was a relatively sedate affair for Dels. Patrick Hope, Mark Levine and Rip Sullivan in Districts 47, 45 and 48, respectively, as all won more than 90 percent of the vote in their districts.

Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49) was the only one to face a re-election challenge, from Republican Adam Roosevelt. But with all precincts reporting, Lopez won 18,536 votes to Roosevelt’s 4,202 in a district that includes neighborhoods along Columbia Pike, around Pentagon City and west to Bailey’s Crossroads and Seven Corners in Fairfax County.

Elsewhere, Democrats were on track to make significant gains in the House of Delegates, and Lopez said it will mean progress on a variety of issues the party’s followers hold dear.

“Everything we care about, every value we care about, every issue we cherish, it can start to happen: Sensible gun violence prevention legislation, passing Medicaid reform, dealing with how we fund our schools, actually protecting the environment in Virginia,” Lopez said in a speech.

Clement, who has run for office in Arlington unsuccessfully seven times, said she is open to running for election again. But in an interview after results were counted, she said she is reluctant to challenge County Board member John Vihstadt (I), who faces re-election next year.

“In my opinion, there are two key components to county government: one is the budget, two is how it deals with development,” Clement said. “Vihstadt and I diverge on the development issue, but we agree on the budget component. We’re both fiscal conservatives, so I would find it difficult to run against him on that account.”

In a statement on Twitter, McCullough congratulated Gutshall on his win and urged him to do more to “put people first.”

“The board can expect that I’ll be there to remind them of that often because I am committed to staying involved and engaging with this wonderful community as it tackles the big issues ahead,” McCullough wrote.

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Morning Notes

Arlington Startup to Appear on Shark Tank — SmartGurlz, an Arlington-based company that makes “a line of dolls that ride robotic scooters, controlled by an app built to teach girls to code,” is set to appear on an episode of ABC’s Shark Tank next month. At least one other Arlington startup has pitched investors on the show, successfully: Zoobean received an investment from Mark Cuban after appearing on the show in 2014. [Washington Business Journal]

Pop-Up Food Venue to Open in Crystal City — What was once an unassuming concession stand in the Crystal City Water Park on Crystal Drive has been renovated and is reopening on Wednesday, Nov. 1 as “The Stand,” featuring a “rotating lineup of pop-ups from the hottest local food vendors.” Among the vendors expected to take up temporary residence are La Columbe coffee, Cookie Dough & Co., B Doughnut, Capital Chicken & Waffle, Timber Pizza Company and Pinch Chinese dumplings. [Eater, The Stand]

Arlington Launches New Tourism Website — Arlington County has relaunched its tourism website. Per a press release: “The new website has the latest features, including responsive design… an enhanced regional events calendar integrating community events from Virginia.org and EventBrite; persistent mapping tied to local business listings; intuitive social media integration; HTML5 full-screen video and more.” [Arlington County, StayArlington]

Gutshall Endorsed by GGW — The urbanist website Greater Greater Washington has endorsed Democrat Erik Gutshall in the upcoming Arlington County Board general election. “Erik isn’t just for smart growth, he has deep experience and a strong track record from his time on Arlington’s Planning Commission and Transportation Commission,” the website wrote. “He’s a strong advocate for missing middle housing, bike infrastructure and transit-oriented development.” [Greater Greater Washington]

Clement Supports ADUs at Board Meeting — Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement spoke in favor of loosening regulations on Accessory Dwelling Units at this past weekend’s Board meeting. “As a tenant in one of the few remaining affordable garden apartments in Westover Village, I welcome the prospect of moving to an ADU as opposed to a flat in an outlying suburb once my building is demolished,” Clement said. [Audrey Clement]

‘Breakfast With the Chief’ — Arlington County Police Chief Jay Farr will be hosting a breakfast for member of the local business community Monday morning in Rosslyn. “The event will provide information on the police department’s engagement with the business community to resolve public safety concerns, crime prevention and safety tips and a presentation by the FBI Cyber Security Task Force,” said ACPD. [Arlington County]

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Earlier this month, the candidates for Arlington County Board faced a bevy of tough questions at a forum hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100.

But after the audience went home and the microphones were turned off, that wasn’t the end of the candidates’ work.

Attendees submitted written questions to the candidates throughout the evening, but due to time constraints, they could not all be answered. So with Election Day just two weeks away, ARLnow collated the unanswered questions and emailed the three County Board candidates for their responses.

(A similar article with responses to follow-up questions for the three School Board candidates will follow in the near future.)

Candidates’ unedited responses are below.

1. What are the challenges you would tackle in the area of affordable housing?

Audrey Clement: 

The biggest challenge would be to convince my fellow Board Members to:

1)  amend the tax code to create Housing Conservation Districts (HCDs) where landlords would be given incentives to rehab rather than tear down existing affordable housing; and

2) loosen accessory dwelling unit (ADU) regulations to allow renting space in private homes, while limiting the impacts of such rentals on residential neighborhoods.

Erik Gutshall:

While Arlington is a great place to live, it’s undeniably getting harder and harder to put down roots here and stay rooted if a smaller home is what you need as your family shrinks.  Housing affordability is a critical component of the progressive values I espouse; it is also an essential component of a strong middle class in Arlington.

As a County Board Member, I will follow a multi-point plan that includes: (1) the creation of medium density “missing middle” housing along our major commercial corridors, (2) modernization of the our zoning ordinance to enable home sharing and facilitate aging-in-place, (3) tireless support for the 2015 Affordable Housing Master Plan, and (4) continued annual funding for the Affordable Housing Investment Fund and Housing grants.  I will also continue the existing, strong partnerships with non-profit housing providers as well as others in the non-profit community who provide services to Arlington residents living in affordable housing.

As detailed in my “missing middle” housing proposal, Arlington cannot subsidize our way to mass affordability, instead we must unlock the potential of the market to deliver the housing we need.  The good news is that there is ample opportunity in Arlington for us to create the neighborhood-scale housing and retail areas known as “missing middle.”  The missing middle framework uses market forces to diversify our housing supply and responds to the needs of residents both young and old.  These modestly scaled lofts, stacked flats, co-ops, and micro units are designed to preserve neighborhood character and can fit into the edges of single-family neighborhoods and along commercial corridors, with ground floor retail and restaurants to serve adjacent homes.

Charles McCullough:

In the area of affordable housing, I would tackle these three main challenges:

Ensuring that developers pay their fair share:

  • Increase the zoning fee for apartment developers who forego affordable units, as it is currently just 1/3 of the fee allowed under state law.
  • Shift housing assistance funds to direct housing grants in order to support more residents earning less than 40% of the area median income.

Approaching certified and market rate housing with a multifaceted approach:

  • Incentivize the development of multifamily structures designed to address senior mobility needs, as well as co-living spaces designed to meet the needs of young professionals.
  • Ensure accessory dwellings become a viable option for housing while not contributing to parking and density concerns.
  • Explore Housing Conservation Districts as a way to maintain larger-scale areas of market rate affordability with careful caution not to unintentionally make these areas into suburban ghettos.

Providing housing affordability programs to address the needs of low- and middle-income Arlingtonians:

  • Develop new homeowner affordability programs to support community/developer partnership models like community land trusts and low-equity housing cooperatives.
  • Bolster existing homeowner assistance programs that enable our teachers and first responders to live in the communities where they serve.

As a progressive, independent voice on the Arlington County Board, I have the ability to advocate for a variety of reasonable housing affordability solutions that “Put People First” instead of defaulting to developers’ demands.

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Libby Garvey has endorsed Erik Gutshall for Arlington County Board.

A Democratic County Board member endorsing a Democratic County Board candidate is not usually noteworthy, but Garvey and Gutshall were engaged in a sometimes bitter primary battle last year. Gutshall later endorsed Garvey after she won the primary.

In today’s endorsement, Garvey said Gutshall — who handily won this year’s primary for retiring Board member Jay Fisette’s seat — will bring a breadth of local experience “to help guide the many difficult decisions that we have to make on behalf of our community.”

More from a Gutshall campaign press release:

Today Libby Garvey announced her endorsement of Erik Gutshall for Arlington County Board. The victor on Election Day this November 7th will fill a vacancy on the board left by retiring County Board Chair Jay Fisette. Gutshall is the Democratic nominee.

“Erik has seen Arlington from many different perspectives: resident, APS parent, small business owner, charity board member, commission chair, and more. He will bring that breadth of experience to the County Board table to help guide the many difficult decisions that we have to make on behalf of our community,” said Garvey in making her announcement. She also noted that, “Erik and I have a shared interest in making county government accessible for all Arlington residents. I look forward to working together with him to ensure that we listen to all residents and communicate effectively with them, and that we streamline public processes so it is easier to engage, and create new channels for residents to observe and participate in their government.”

In response to Ms. Garvey’s endorsement, Gutshall released this statement:

“I am honored and very grateful to have Libby’s endorsement; it means a lot to me. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work with Libby and the other board members to reboot civic engagement. I believe we reach the best decisions when we rely on accurate data, transparent and impartial analysis, and fair consideration of all viewpoints. The chief responsibility of the County Board is to create the environment for good decision-making by ensuring our county government conducts every transaction with our community in a totally honest, transparent, and open manner. Residents should never feel that an answer was already baked into the process. We both agree this is the essence of solving our problems as a community.”

Libby Garvey served 15 years on the Arlington County School Board, including five terms as chair, prior to being elected to serve on the Arlington County Board in 2012. After Garvey’s victory over Gutshall in the 2016 Democratic Primary, he proudly endorsed her for her successful re-election bid to a second term on the Arlington County Board.

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With Election Day less than a month away, candidates for the Arlington County Board and School Board are honing in on their final pitches to voters.

And at a forum Wednesday night at Marymount University hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, the six candidates clashed on a range of issues, from how to engage more millennials in county government to closing the achievement gap in Arlington Public Schools.

The format varied from previous forums, as each candidate was able to ask a question of their opponents before taking further questions from the audience.

Erik Gutshall and Monique O’Grady, who were victorious in the Arlington County Democratic Committee’s caucus earlier this year for County Board and School Board, respectively, both touted their experience in county issues.

Both agreed that while Arlington is largely on the right course, it can do better. Gutshall, who is the current chair of the Planning Commission, said the county must not make too many concessions to developers on proposed site plans.

“If we don’t stick to our plans and our negotiations… and we don’t stick to our values, then we’ve lost,” he said.

Independent County Board candidate Audrey Clement pointed to her regular attendance at the body’s monthly meetings as relevant experience.

And fellow independent Charles McCullough II said that beyond his involvement in the South Arlington Working Group among others, he would represent a fresh face with new ideas if elected to the County Board.

“We need to have other ideas, other experiences,” he said.

On the budget, Clement criticized the Board’s practice of spending closeout funds from higher tax revenue than anticipated. She said that the money should be paid forward to the following year to relieve the tax burden, rather than directed to “pet projects to satisfy its particularized constituencies.”

McCullough argued that developers in Arlington must pay their “fair share” to help make up budget shortfalls, while Gutshall said that rising property values must not be treated as a “blank check” for increased spending.

Among the School Board candidates, there were some sharp differences. O’Grady and fellow candidate Alison Dough agreed that the Arlington Career Center represents a “good opportunity” for a fourth comprehensive high school. But Mike Webb, running for School Board after an unsuccessful tilt at Rep. Don Beyer’s (D-Va.) seat in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, disagreed.

Instead, he said, School Board members should focus on ensuring instruction is as good as possible, and that no students are left behind.

“Before we build another high school, we have to think about the achievement gap that affects all our students,” Webb said.

And on the subject of the upcoming boundary changes in Arlington Public Schools, Dough said that more immersion schools where classes are taught in more than one language could help relieve the capacity pressures on other buildings.

Dough, who said her special needs child inspired her to run for School Board, suggested more language programs, like immersion in Chinese, French or Russian to help APS students embrace new cultures.

“Let’s look at the boundary issue differently and give our parents a reason to switch schools,” she said.

And with the nationwide opioid epidemic also touching Arlington, O’Grady said parents and students alike must be educated on the risks and solutions.

“It’s in our neighborhoods, it’s in our communities,” she said. “Let’s come together to learn how to deal with this.”

All six agreed on the need for elected officials to encourage more county residents to get involved, and help uphold the so-called “Arlington Way.”

“We need to be opening that door,” Webb said. “We have to build that pathway to leadership.”

The candidates will face off in another forum Sunday (October 15) hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street).

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The three candidates for Arlington County Board agreed on the need for more affordable housing at a forum Tuesday night, but offered differing methods on how to achieve it.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the Arlington County Civic Federation at Virginia Hospital Center, the traditional kick-off for the fall campaign season, Audrey Clement, Erik Gutshall and Charles McCullough all argued more can be done.

McCullough, an independent endorsed by the Arlington Green Party, said the county must expand its use of rental assistance programs, especially for the likes of teachers and public safety workers like firefighters and police officers.

Democratic nominee Gutshall argued that the county should use its existing Affordable Housing Master Plan to create what he described as “missing middle housing” like apartments and townhouses for middle-income residents near Metro stations and along major thoroughfares.

“It’s a great formula to redefine our development paradigm and creates housing for the middle class,” he said.

Clement, another independent, argued against the “incredible boondoggle” of redeveloping garden-style apartments — in neighborhoods like Westover, where she lives — into luxury townhomes.

To help prevent continued losses of such housing, Clement said the county should designate more areas as Local Historic Districts to capture architectural heritage and be tougher on developers.

McCullough agreed that developers should be held to a higher standard and compelled to provide more affordable housing and other amenities.

“For too long, development has meant displacement,” McCullough said. “That should not be the way, but unfortunately that has become the Arlington Way.”

Talk of the so-called “Arlington Way” of engaging with residents and gathering extensive community feedback came up when the candidates discussed how to get more people involved in local issues.

Clement argued that the Democrat-dominated County Board deters participation, as does a sense that controversial agenda items are left to the end of monthly meetings.

“It is really an endurance contest and that is really what discourages public participation,” Clement said.

Another emphasis of Gutshall: helping more small businesses open and operate more easily in Arlington. That follows reports of businesses having difficulty navigating the county’s permitting and inspection bureaucracy.

Earlier in the forum, Gutshall argued that he would go beyond party politics, and that the county’s progress has been not down to Democratic values, but “Arlington values.”

Gutshall emphasized that he was not a “hand-picked choice” of his party, after Democrats’ use of a caucus to pick their nominee was criticized as undemocratic by Clement. Both independents argued they would be unencumbered by any need to play “party politics” if elected to the Board.

“I tend to believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and that’s where the voters are,” Clement said, noting that she previously was a member of the Greens but became “disillusioned” after it veered too far left.

“We need to be able to have an unencumbered voice for the issues we have right now,” McCullough added.

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