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.”
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.
“I believe improving civic dialogue and general civility in our discussions is another challenge for us,” Garvey said in her remarks. “[Perhaps] it is because of the poor examples we are seeing on the national stage, but I’ve been hearing more and more, recently, about inconsiderate and unpleasant interactions in public meetings on County issues right here in Arlington.”
Independent Board member John Vihstadt, who is running for re-election this year, said the county should strive for more transparency in government, have greater fiscal discipline and better mitigate the impacts of development.
Vihstadt said cost/benefit analyses should be required of every new development, something he called a “cardinal recommendation” of the 2015 Community Facilities Study.
“Other jurisdictions do this; so can Arlington,” he said. “Let’s leverage the new political dynamic in Richmond by broadening the scope of community benefits to find new ways to help offset the cost and stress of additional development on our surrounding neighborhoods.”
Erik Gutshall is new onto the Board for this year, having won last November’s election to replace Fisette, who retired after 20 years. He noted in his remarks that the budget “will be rife with difficult choices constrained by a harsh revenue gap,” but pledged to support public education, affordable housing and civic engagement.
“As we catch a glance in the rear-view mirror, check our current speed, and peer up the road ahead, it’s clear that we are blessed with a strong foundation, deeply rooted in our shared values, that will sustain our continued success as we meet the tumultuous challenges brought upon us by outside forces,” he said.
The County Board’s first regular meeting of the year is set for Saturday, January 27.
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
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]
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
(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.
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]
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?
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.
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.
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.
2. What skills from your day job would you bring to the County Board?
For the past twenty plus years I’ve been employed as a statistical programmer on a contractual basis by various federal government agencies. My job is demanding. It not only requires technical skill, it also requires analytical ability to assess client needs and offer optimal solutions.
These latter two skills are directly applicable to local government administration, particularly as it pertains to oversight of the budget process, and I look forward to applying those skills on the Board, for the betterment of Arlington’s citizens.
In addition I have a Ph.D. in Political Science from Temple University in 1993 with a focus on American voting behavior, as well as experience working on the Hill. Thus I have the political know how to lobby for and implement policies beneficial to all Arlingtonians.
Owning a small business has given me the opportunity to wear many different hats. On any given day, I am human resources director, chief financial officer, or network engineer. I have to understand legal contracts, taxes, and regulatory requirements. My knowledge, skills, and experience in all the facets of a business has grown as my company has grown to 10 employees.
The chief skill that runs through almost everything I do on a day to day basis, however, is communicating with people. Being an effective leader, whether business, or civic requires excellent communication. I enjoy being able to communicate technical information to my clients, and nuanced customer requirements to my employees. It’s rewarding to see that light bulb go off when someone truly understands. On the Planning Commission, I try to be a voice for the community when I think that a developer, or county staff doesn’t understand. Of course, great communication is fundamentally two-way, which requires that I be a good listener first. I have found this to always be true – with my wife, my customers, my employees, and with citizens.
Three of my strongest skills from my day job that I would bring to the county board are decision making, strategic planning, and relationship building.
- I know how to make balanced decisions. As board chair of the US Postal Service Federal Credit Union, I led the organization to implement new financial services providing economic relief to members in Arlington and beyond while maintaining strong reserves.
- I know how to conduct inclusive strategic planning that results in cost-effective responses to long-term societal challenges. As an attorney, I led the development phase of a multimillion-dollar, Gates Foundation-funded initiative to improve education quality.
- I know how to build mutually beneficial relationships that attract new businesses to communities desiring economic growth. As an embassy staffer, I helped forge partnerships between cutting-edge tech startups and Fortune 500 companies.
These skills and my well-rounded background will help the board craft policies that anticipate and address the challenges facing Arlington.
3. What is your vision and strategy for addressing the opioid addiction crisis?
This question came up at a recent School Board forum. First, I would pursue a strong drug avoidance educational program as part of hygiene instruction in our public schools. Reaching our student population is crucial, and I am sure parents and caregivers would appreciate that, too.
As for adult opioid users and abusers, enforcement of existing drug laws is paramount, with an emphasis on jail time for traffickers and rehabilitation for users.
I am gravely concerned that opioid addiction has the potential to overwhelm our human services infrastructure with devastating consequences much as the crack epidemic of the late 1980’s gutted many communities with consequences still reverberating today. As we learned at the recent Opioid Community Town Hall, this crisis is not limited to the urban poor, this one is right in our own living rooms.
Recognizing that the most successful response will be coordinated across multiple agencies, the most important role of the County Board in addressing the crisis of opioid addiction is to ensure that the Department of Human Services, Courts, Police and Fire Departments, Arlington Public Schools, hospitals, and our non-profit partners all have the resources, data, and action plans they need. I also support designating a Deputy County Manager to lead our coordinated response, the Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative.
As a parent with teens and tweens, I am grateful our schools have taken necessary initial steps and are ready to play a crucial role in educating our youth and their parents of the dangers, warning signs, and treatment options for opioid abuse. I support efforts to prioritize treatment over prosecution for addicts while also assigning detectives to an FBI Task Force to specifically target opioid distributors. I have confidence that our highly professional non-profit and medical providers will train and follow updated best practices for prevention and treatment of addiction. Finally, Arlington has the wherewithal to collect, analyze, and share real-time data to optimize our response across stakeholders.
Unfortunately, there is no easy solution to a crisis deeply imbedded in larger national issues, but Arlington must act swiftly and decisively to save lives of our children, parents, friends and neighbors.
I envision an Arlington that has effectively implemented a national model for addressing the opioid crisis, returning opioid overdose rates to precrisis levels within one year and eliminating opioid overdoses in the county by 2021.
As an educator, attorney, and son of a police officer, I recognize opioid addiction as a public health emergency which Arlington must address with a three-pronged strategy:
- Through education initiatives Arlington should work with schools, community groups, and houses of worship to educate the public on the proper disposal of enabling medications and to assist those showing signs of addiction.
- Through outreach programs targeting addicts and their families, Arlington should offer treatment plans and training on how to use Nalaxone to prevent overdoses.
- Through partnerships with other local law enforcement agencies, nonprofits, and national grantmakers, Arlington should continue to evaluate and refine the existing Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative to ensure the use of best practices, cost efficiency, and access to additional non-taxpayer-based funding.
4. What, specifically, will you do to improve the quality of life for seniors in Arlington? (Note that last few years, 2 senior centers have been closed.)
Probably the greatest challenge for seniors in Arlington County is their tax burden. If elected, I am going to say no to tax rate increases for the foreseeable future.
I am also going to try to curtail rising property assessments while, at the same time, working to expand the number of affordable market rate housing units in the county. And for those seniors who are renting, let’s remember that property tax increases have the unwanted side effect of forcing landlords to increase rents. If we can limit those tax increases we can keep rent increases to a minimum. That’s a win-win for everyone.
Another challenge for seniors is their ability to get around in an increasingly congested county. If elected, I am going to address that concern by requiring an impact analysis for every major site plan development project, in order to determine its actual benefit to the people of this county.
Let me be clear. I am going to insist that the Board get serious about mitigating the impact of development on our streets, schools, parks and public safety.
Creating a healthy community calls for an Arlington that is livable for all ages. We need to accommodate the needs of Arlingtonians of all ages, and implement initiatives to improve housing, walkability, health care access, tax burdens, lifelong education and inter-generational social connections. Focusing on older adults is especially important because the gift of increased longevity means that these older residents have years of productivity ahead of them.
Please see my full issue statement on Arlington’s older adults at my website. Here are some highlights of what I would do on the County Board; I will:
- Encourage and incentivize homeowners and builders to make homes adaptable by creating flexible spaces to accommodate changing needs and physical abilities, and
- Simplify zoning and practical requirements to make it easier for older adults to share their homes and create space for caregivers.
- Support and strengthen Arlington’s Real Estate Tax Relief (RETR) program
- Advocate for Safe Streets, making crosswalks more visible, adding pedestrian islands in the middle of busy streets, and shortening the distance to cross busy roads.
- Support services such as Super Senior Taxi and encouraging companies (ex: Red Top Cab) that provide older adults with discounts or other workable options.
- Promote health care and other services that enable aging at home, help fight isolation and support caregivers.
- Work with Arlington Neighborhood Village, George Mason University, Virginia Hospital, Goodwin House, innovative startups, and others on new public policy and initiatives to promote older adults’ health.
- Support Arlington County services such as adult day programs, nutrition programs, mental health support and personal advocates.
- Promote good quality of life through inter-generational interaction, recreation, art and music, lifelong learning and community participation. Staying physically active, enjoying new experiences, and being part of a social network help all of us as we age.
- Co-locate senior programs with our schools to leverage the talent and wisdom of older adults to the benefit of young students eager to learn.
- Support Arlington programs (ex: Encore Learning, 55+) that offer appealing classes and experiences for a range of older adults.
Arlington’s seniors are a growing, vibrant, and active community. Arlington should work more closely with our senior community to harness their creativity, knowhow, and wealth of experience so that they can age-in-place with dignity. To improve the quality of life of seniors, Arlington must focus in the following areas:
Preparing health and human services for the future:
- Fund and plan for the growth of existing housing, health/dental, and transportation programs that enable seniors on a fixed income to afford the costs associated with independent living.
- Expand programs that develop our own first responders and attract trained first responders from other jurisdictions to prepare for increased demand for emergency services.
Creating programs to address senior needs:
- Utilize a joint-use facility model for senior centers to maximize space as well as more efficiently provide access to health and human services.
- Develop companionship-building initiatives, such as regular meals and senior-only areas in facilities, that address depression among seniors.
Maximizing opportunities for seniors:
- Update and develop a more comprehensive Elder Readiness Master Plan to address how the county intends to coordinate and advertise services.
- Revise one-size-fits-all business regulations to make it easier for seniors to open small businesses for supplementary income or as a second career.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Also participating in Tuesday night’s forum was School Board candidate Monique O’Grady, who earned local Democrats’ endorsement at the caucus in May.
She was the lone candidate debating, after Mike Webb was barred from participating for allegedly not turning in the correct paperwork, while a third candidate, Alison Dough, was absent. Webb was in the audience and met voters before and after the forums.
In her remarks, O’Grady said she would focus on keeping standards high in academics, ensure any redrawn school boundaries respect the county’s diversity, address Arlington Public Schools’ rising capacity and ensure there are more open channels of communication.
On the latter, she said she would be open to having more conversations with teachers and students, either candidly in their schools or at School Board meetings. But O’Grady said with APS having added 1,000 new students in one year, the Board must act quickly and decisively.
“We’re short on money, we’re short on seats and we’re short on time to fix this problem,” she said.
The candidates are set to debate several more times ahead of Election Day on November 7, including on October 11 at a forum hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100 at Marymount University.
It may appear overshadowed by this year’s statewide races and political strife nationally, but the three Arlington County Board candidates are hard at work preparing for the fall campaign season.
Things get into high gear as the Arlington County Civic Federation hosts its first candidate forum, the traditional curtain-raiser on the final few months before Election Day. The forum will be held on Tuesday, September 5 in Virginia Hospital Center’s Hazel Auditorium ( ive).
And the candidates — Democratic nominee Erik Gutshall, and independents Audrey Clement and Charles McCullough II — said they are looking forward to getting into the campaign’s final stages and winning over more voters in upcoming debates.
“It’s also education of people, because I think there can be misconceptions about what I stand for and where I come from and those that don’t know me real well… might believe things about me that are flatly untrue, demonstrably untrue,” Gutshall said. “People getting a chance to see who I really am and what I stand for, I think could happen from those forums to the extent I’m able to reach people who didn’t participate in the Democratic caucus process.”
First-time candidate McCullough said he welcomed the opportunity to keep putting his progressive message forward and introducing his policy ideas to more and more people.
“What’s nice about getting in front of folks, just like I’ve been doing this entire time, what’s good is to be able to present that inclusive vision of Arlington and what it means to have a putting people-first attitude of policymaking,” he said. “[When] I’m able to forward that vision, the momentum is going to grow.”
Clement, a perennial candidate, said she is hopeful of picking up more votes as the statewide races come into the spotlight more and more. In last year’s election against Libby Garvey and on the same ballot as the Presidential race, Clement received just over 27,000 votes, something she put down to the high-profile nature of that race.
She said after the violence in Charlottesville at a white supremacist rally, Virginia’s elections take on added significance and that could help her.
“Last year, even though basically Hillary Clinton overwhelmingly took the county, I got a very sizable number of votes because the turnout was so high,” Clement said. “That’s not going to happen this year, but the Charlottesville incident has probably increased interest in the Governor’s race and that should help me. Insurgents always benefit from increased turnout.”
McCullough’s campaign received a boost in late June, as the Arlington Green Party announced they were endorsing him in the upcoming election after meeting with him several times.
The Greens do not have a nominee in this year’s election, but have previously endorsed Clement and John Vihstadt, who sits on the County Board as an independent after a long association with the local Republican party, which also endorsed him. Arlington Greens chair John Reeder said McCullough is very impressive on issues like small business, curbing development, helping ease school capacity worries and adding more affordable housing.
“We like what he said about issues that we’ve been really deeply involved in over the past few years,” Reeder said. “He’s young, he’s progressive, we think he’s very personable. So we think he would be a good addition to the County Board.”
And while McCullough emphasized his independence from any party, he said it shows that momentum is gathering behind his campaign.
“It is snowballing, it’s growing,” he said. “I’m grateful for the endorsement. It shows I’m strong on parks and strong on the environment, and what I hope to do is have endorsement from voters across the political spectrum. It’s all about us all being meaningfully included.”
Beyond candidate forums, all three said they are looking forward to stepping up their campaigns ahead of Election Day on November 7. Reeder said the Arlington Greens will provide McCullough support with fundraising and by holding joint events, as well as encouraging party members to volunteer for his campaign.
Meanwhile, Clement said she will look to target millennial voters by having her paid canvasser drop campaign literature in the large apartment buildings in Rosslyn, Clarendon, Ballston and possibly Crystal City.
And Gutshall said his campaign is working to finalize a “listening tour” to get the perspectives of businesses in the county and what the local government can do to help them grow.
The Democrats running for Arlington County Board and the Virginia House of Delegates say they are united with the Board in its desire to rename Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway.
Arlington County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and incumbent House of Delegates candidates Mark Levine, Patrick Hope, Richard “Rip” Sullivan and Alfonso Lopez praised the County Board’s stand. In a statement, an excerpt of which is below, all five applauded what they described as “a powerful statement from the Arlington County Board rejecting racism and bigotry.”
The county will need to first obtain the legal authority to rename both stretches of state highway within its borders, an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled General Assembly. But the incumbents pledged to try to do so, so the county can choose “who in our history we want to honor and celebrate.”
Erik Gutshall, Democratic nominee for Arlington County Board, said “I am proud to live in a community that has long shared the values of diversity and inclusion. I fully embrace the County Board’s determination to garner local control of the names of our roadways, as I know Arlington’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly do.”
“It’s long past time for us to rename highways that were labeled to send a hateful and divisive message to people of color in our community,” said Delegate Alfonso Lopez (49th District), House Democratic Whip. “I look forward to working with the Arlington County Board to make sure they have the necessary authority from the General Assembly to make these important changes.”
Delegate Patrick Hope (47th District) said, “I have long-supported the renaming of Jefferson Davis Highway and Lee Highway in Arlington and commend the Arlington County Board for this bold statement of leadership. I look forward to supporting legislation to grant Arlington and all localities the freedom to rename buildings, roads, and to remove monuments that do not reflect our values.”
“Giving localities the authority to rename highways — like Jefferson Davis Highway — is long overdue,” said Delegate Rip Sullivan (48th District), “This is not about erasing or trying to change history — indeed, we must never forget the evil that led to our Civil War. Rather, this is about a community choosing who in our history we want to honor and celebrate. Arlington County should have that choice. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’ This matters, and I applaud the County Board for choosing not to be silent on this important issue.”
“I’m very pleased that the Arlington County Board is committed to renaming the Jefferson Davis Highway, ” said Delegate Mark Levine (45th District). “Changing those street signs will no longer honor the Mississippi traitor (with little or no connection to Arlington) who was President of a rebellious group of states that seceded from the union to enforce and protect their cruel and odious institution of slavery. Street signs bearing the current name of this highway do a gross injustice to Arlingtonians who are loyal to their nation and who abhor slavery. I know the vast majority of us are looking forward to seeing these signs no more.”
Arlington Man’s Dog Found Days After Fatal Crash — Ten days after 57-year-old Arlington resident William F. Schlesinger died in a crash on I-95 in North Carolina, his dog has been found alive. Nellie is being called a “miracle dog” after she wandered into a convenience store late at night with a broken leg and numerous bug bites. She had been riding in the pickup truck with Schlesinger when he reportedly fell asleep, veered off the highway and slammed into a tree. [Fayetteville Observer]
Local Election Fundraising Very Light — The frontrunners for Arlington County Board and School Board only have a few thousand dollars apiece in the bank as of the beginning of the month. Their opponents have even less. “It may turn out to be one of the least costly County Board general elections in recent history,” the Sun Gazette reports. [InsideNova]
State Dept. Office Staying in Arlington — The U.S. State Department is keeping its footprint in Rosslyn for another decade-and-a-half. The GSA signed a lease worth just over $200 million over 15 years for nearly 350,000 square feet of office space in central Rosslyn. The lease extends over two buildings, with one of the buildings also housing a private State Department contractor. [Washington Business Journal]
Update: W-L Expected to Reopen Next Week — Washington-Lee High School is expected to reopen for summer school classes next week after an air conditioning issue closed the school this week. W-L’s summer school classes were temporarily moved to Yorktown High School this week. [Arlington Public Schools]
‘Capital Bikeshare Fiesta’ in Nauck — “Arlington’s Dieta Cero-Auto program will be promoting Capital Bikeshare this Saturday at Drew Sprayground (3514 22nd Street S.) from 2-5 p.m. Stop by and purchase your CaBi membership for 50% off!” [Event Calendar]
Discovery Named ‘Green Ribbon School’ — “Discovery Elementary School is being recognized as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School… Discovery is one of 45 schools being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Bryce Harper Sightings — There have been a number of sightings of Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper in Clarendon in recent days. In addition to his Clarendon activities — two people claim to have seen him on separate days at smoothie shop South Block — Harper has been busy on the baseball field, setting an MLB record for runs in the month of April. [Twitter]
Gutshall Endorsed by GGW — The urbanist website Greater Greater Washington has endorsed Erik Gutshall for Arlington County Board in the upcoming Democratic caucus, calling him “thoughtful and insightful.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Northam, Perriello in Ballston — Democratic candidates for governor Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello were in Ballston last night for a progressive forum. Technical difficulties cut off part of Northam’s appearance from the forum’s livestream video. [Blue Virginia]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman