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.
For the latest 26 Square Miles podcast, we spoke with County Board member John Vihstadt about last week’s elections in Virginia, his reelection bid next year and various issues facing Arlington County, including budget pressures and development.
We also asked Vihstadt about the possibility of Arlington landing Amazon’s second corporate headquarters.
Beyer Blasts GOP Tax Bill — Says Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) regarding the tax bill that passed the House yesterday: “I am adamantly opposed to the House Republican tax bill, H.R.1. The bill will raise taxes on millions of middle class Americans in order to fund tax cuts for the wealthy, and yet still manages to explode the deficit.” [Rep. Don Beyer]
Crystal City Scores 320 Jobs — A Georgetown-based nonprofit is moving much of its staff to a new office in Crystal City, leasing 90,000 square feet and adding 320 jobs in Arlington County. The move was announced by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who approved a $500,000 state grant to assist Arlington with the project. [Virginia Business, Bisnow]
Dems Seek Ways to Defeat Vihstadt — “John Vihstadt, who in 2014 broke the Democratic stranglehold on the Arlington County Board, is ready to go back to the voters in 2018. And Arlington Democrats already are strategizing on how to oust him from office.” [InsideNova]
Charges Dropped Against ‘Laughing Librarian’ — Arlington librarian and Code Pink activist Desirée Fairooz, who was arrested after laughing during the confirmation hearing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has had the case against her dropped by the Justice Department. [American Libraries, NPR]
Incident at Kenmore Middle School — A tipster tells ARLnow.com that a Kenmore Middle School student was arrested yesterday afternoon for assaulting a PE teacher. An Arlington Public Schools spokesman, however, did not confirm that an arrest was made, saying: “There was an incident earlier today between a student and a teacher. Staff is following normal disciplinary procedures. But beyond that, we can’t disclose anymore because it is a student matter.”
Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman
Vihstadt Wants Ads Atop Aquatics Center — County government could raise some extra money by placing corporate logos atop the future Long Bridge Park aquatics center, which could be seen by those flying in and out of Reagan National Airport, says County Board member John Vihstadt. He is also pushing the idea of ads on ART buses, transit stops and Capital Bikeshare stations. [InsideNova]
Pupatella Named Best Pizza in Va. — The expanding Pupatella Pizza has been named the best pizza in Virginia again, this time by USA Today. The Bluemont pizzeria will celebrate its seventh anniversary on Saturday. [USA Today]
Plaudits for The Bartlett — The Bartlett, an amenity-filled, 699-unit apartment tower in Pentagon City, has been named the year’s best residential project by the Washington Business Journal. The building, the design of which was “inspired by buildings in New York City,” leased up so quickly that plans for a “pop-up hotel” utilizing vacant units had to be pulled back. [Washington Business Journal]
Pebley Recognized for Civic Leadership — Jim Pebley was honored with a resolution of thanks from the Arlington County Republican Committee this past Wednesday. Pebley, who never ran for office but has a long resume of civic service in Arlington, is retiring to North Carolina this summer. “It is safe to say Jim Pebley is one of the most active citizens in Arlington, and has been for decades,” said one well-wisher. “[He is] extremely well-respected across the political spectrum.” [InsideNova]
Condo Resident Opposes VRE Expansion — In a WaPo op-ed, a condo resident who lives next to the VRE station in Crystal City says he opposes the planned expansion of the station because it will “will mar our precious green space” and “derail the lives of Crystal City residents through more noise and possible destruction of property during station construction.” [Washington Post]
Nearby: Threats to Falls Church Abortion Clinic — A building housing an abortion clinic in Falls Church was evacuated twice yesterday due to perceived threats. In the first instance, someone set off fireworks in the building’s elevator; in the second, someone stamped the word “bomb” on pieces of paper found near the rear entrance. An Arlington County Police K-9 unit assisted with the investigation “because F.C. police’s own K-9 unit is still in training.” [Falls Church News-Press, DCist]
County residents could see a property tax hike of up to 2 cents per $100 of assessed value after the Arlington County Board voted Saturday to advertise the possible maximum increase.
County Manager Mark Schwartz said the hike would pay for what he described as the “extraordinary circumstances” facing the board in increasing costs for Arlington Public Schools and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
Under the 2-cent rise, APS and WMATA would each receive half of the added tax revenue. The average tax and fee burden for residential properties would increase by around $300 a year, factoring in a rise in property assessments, while the residential property tax rate would reach $1.011 for every $100 in assessed value, the highest rate since 2001.
Board members approved the measure by a 3-2 vote, with Libby Garvey and Christian Dorsey voting against. The vote included a proposal by board member John Vihstadt to request that Schwartz explore alternative budget options if property taxes increase by only 1 cent.
But both Dorsey and Garvey criticized Vihstadt’s plan, saying it was “too late in the game” to be introducing such a proposal.
“I totally support the whole idea of exploring these alternatives, but the way we do it now by rolling it into this action, we’re changing the budget process,” Dorsey said.
Board chairman Jay Fisette said that Schwartz’s proposal is just the beginning of talks about the county’s budget.
“Today we received the manager’s proposed budget, and we set the maximum tax rates and fees that we can consider,” Fisette said. “Now the responsibility shifts to us. This is the start of the Board’s conversation with the public about priorities for fiscal 2018. For the next nearly two months, we will be scrubbing the manager’s proposed budget and listening to the community.”
The proposed $1.2 billion fiscal 2018 budget includes $759.3 million in the county operations budget, a 3.9 increase over fiscal 2017. Also proposed are increases in household solid waste rates, a water/sewer rate increase, a new accessory homestay permit fee of $60 for those who use online booking platforms like Airbnb and various parks and recreation program fee changes.
Schwartz said APS faces challenges around its growing enrollment, which he said grows by approximately 1,000 students each year. His budget would include $478.3 million funding for the school system, an increase by $11.1 million.
“Simply put, Arlington Public Schools is facing an enrollment tsunami,” Schwartz said. “Each year, they have additional students come; whether they want them or not, additional students show up and they need to be be educated.”
Metro represents another fiscal stumbling-block for the county, as well as the region at large. Currently, Schwartz said, Arlington pays 8 percent of the agency’s total operating costs, to the tune of $56 million.
Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld proposed all jurisdictions increasing their subsidy, with its fiscal 2018 proposal asking that Arlington increase its subsidy to around $71 million.
That subsidy would be funded in part by state transit aid, staff reductions at WMATA, gas tax funding and money from the Transform I-66 project. It would leave a gap of approximately $6 million, with the additional penny of real estate tax adding $7.4 million.
The board will hold a series of budget work sessions next month, then public hearings on the budget and the tax rate on March 28 and March 30, respectively. The latter will include discussion on members’ possible pay rises. The board is expected to adopt the budget on April 22.
Police Warn of Jury Duty Scam — The Arlington County Police Department is again warning about a jury duty telephone scam targeting Arlington residents. The fraud involves a caller claiming to be a law enforcement officer and claiming that the call recipient failed to appear for jury duty. The scammer then demands the payment of a fine over the phone. [Arlington County]
Plow Plows Into Bus — Updated at 2 p.m. — One lane of Lee Highway was blocked for a period of time during last night’s evening rush hour after a minor accident involving an VDOT snow plow and an ART bus. [Twitter]
Vihstadt Speaks Out Against Gondola — County Board member John Vihstadt is not a fan of the potential gondola from Rosslyn to Georgetown. “Now is not the time to spend upwards of $90 million on a Disney-like gondola to Georgetown while current modes of public transit need significant new investment,” Vihstadt said earlier this week. [InsideNova]
Crystal House Renovated — Crystal House is a big apartment complex in Crystal City that has been around for a long time. Chances are, someone you know has lived there at one point or another. The 825-unit complex recently completed the first phase of a major renovation project and is showing it off via video and press release. [PR Newswire, YouTube]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Jay Fisette was unanimously elected County Board Chair during the Board’s annual organizational meeting last night. This is Fisette’s fifth time serving as chair since he was first elected to the Board nearly 20 years ago.
It is a long-standing tradition that Board chairmanship rotate among members by seniority, with the vice chair assuming the chairmanship the next year. Often it corresponds with election cycles, with the member who is up for reelection the following year being elected vice chair. But the Board broke with tradition by electing one of its newest members, Democrat Katie Cristol, over independent John Vihstadt.
The snub was, however, in keeping with another long-standing practice: as the Sun Gazette’s Scott McCaffrey pointed out, the party in power on the Board has “always installed its own people in the leadership… going as far back as I can tell.”
In his remarks, Vihstadt suggested that “partisan politics alone” led to the contested race for vice chair.
“People with the word Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian or Socialist stamped on their foreheads, are sorted and stereotyped forever as a result,” Vihstadt said. “I’ve been there myself. It’s why I ran as an independent and have governed that way every day.”
Cristol responded: “In Arlington, being a Democrat is not just partisan, it’s shorthand for values and what we prioritize: meaningful investments and affordable housing, for deep commitments to schools.”
Fisette, who acknowledged the contested vote was an “unusual situation,” backed Cristol, while Libby Garvey, the outgoing Chair, backed Vihstadt.
Ultimately, the board followed the new Chair’s lead, with Garvey and Vihstadt on one side of the vote, and Fisette, Cristol and Christian Dorsey on the other.
After the polite political quarrel, Fisette outlined his priorities for the year. As chair, Fisette said he will focus on:
- The need for facilities, including schools, within the constraints of limited land; strengthening the County’s economic competitiveness;
- Housing affordability;
- Environmental sustainability; and
- Helping the region find a “sustainable path forward” for Metro and “staying true to our vision and values.”
Additionally, Vice Chair Cristol said she hopes to “work to ensure that Arlington will still be a home for all economic classes,” adding that she looks forward “launching a series of coffees focused on ‘big picture’ issues targeting young Arlingtonians in particular, as well as exploring other models to tap the brainpower of Arlingtonians across different walks of life.”
Arlington County can “no longer can we rely on the federal government to guide and support us with allegiance to shared purposes and our common humanity,” added Fisette, alluding to the recent affirmation of the Republican majority in Congress and the election of Donald Trump.
“This year is likely to bring dramatic, unsettling changes in our national government and on the international scene,” Fisette said. “Arlington will feel some effects. But we’ll respond as we have before in times of turbulence and periods of more gradual change: with sensible actions inspired by a shared community vision and shaped through thoughtful dialogue and open debate.”
This past weekend, the Arlington County Board approved new regulations on Airbnb and other short-term home rentals.
The move was cheered by Airbnb, which said Arlington is now the “first D.C. area municipality to pass an ordinance creating fair rules for middle class residents and families to continue sharing their homes.”
The regulation officially makes Airbnb legal in Arlington, whereas it might have been technically illegal before, under the local zoning ordinance. But there was one issue not addressed by the county press release that Airbnb hosts will want to consider going forward: taxes.
ARLnow.com did some more digging and it turns out that Airbnb hosts (along with those using services like Homeaway, Craigslist, etc.) will have to pay the same 7.25 percent Transient Occupency Tax as hotels. And they’ll have to pay it in the same way — by creating an account with the county and filing monthly tax returns.
That’s a burden that may discourage casual hosts from, say, just renting their place for the inauguration, assuming they want to stay on the right side of the law.
“The Commissioner of Revenue will require each person renting property to transients, including those who obtain an accessory use permit for short term homestays under the new County ordinance, to collect and remit the TOT to the County,” Ray Warren, Arlington’s Deputy Commissioner of Revenue, tells ARLnow.com.
“This is done and will be done the same way as it is with every other entity providing transient accommodations,” Warren said. “We will set up an account for the accommodation provider. They must file each month by the 20th for the previous month’s activity.”
What if a homeowner did not rent his or her property in a given month?
“They should file monthly, but it is easy (especially online) to file a zero return,” Warren said. “Otherwise we don’t know if they had no business or merely neglected to file.”
So monthly tax returns will be the norm for anyone renting their place on Airbnb. If the homeowner decides to stop renting for the foreseeable future, they can notify the Commissioner of Revenue’s office and stop filing.
“It would not be proper, however, for the homeowner to again advertise the property for rent without opening a TOT account,” noted Warren.
Because Airbnb does not publicly list the addresses of rental properties, Warren said that compliance will primarily be accomplished through tips. Another compliance mechanism: checking the tax records of those who have applied for the new “accessory homestay” permit.
“We have made efforts this year, but we depend on tips and voluntary compliance,” he said. “To the extent there are those who do not comply with the County’s new ordinance (and get an accessory use permit) we will continue to rely on tips from the public.”
“Homestay rentals, unlike other public businesses, do not generally have signage or other markers, so that can be difficult otherwise,” Warren added. “We will also be reviewing individual (state) income tax returns to look for persons reporting such rental income. I suspect that bringing the vast majority into compliance through the County ordinance will also increase the number of leads as to non-compliant locations.”
County Board member John Vihstadt, the lone “no” vote on the short-term rental ordinance, said had “some serious reservations” about it and thought the process was “too rushed” and left “issues inadequately addressed.”
Contacted by ARLnow.com two days after the vote, he said he was not sure how taxes would be collected on Airbnb properties.
“That is something, frankly, that is not clear,” he said. “We need to make this easy for the hosts and guests.”
It’s probably safe to say that “shock and horror” was the predominant reaction among local Democrats to Donald Trump’s surprise victory in Tuesday’s presidential election.
In Arlington, only 17 percent of those casting ballots voted for Trump, while 76 percent voted for Hillary Clinton. Early on, as the results just started coming in, some officials we spoke to at the Democratic victory party in Clarendon refused to even concede that there was even a possibility that Trump could be elected.
Both the surprise over the result and the fear over what a Trump presidency means for Arlington and the nation was on display at Wednesday’s Arlington County Board meeting. Each Board member weighed in with their thoughts on the election. (See video, above.)
Here’s a bit of what Christian Dorsey had to say:
The outcome of this Presidential election was not what I desired, nor what I ever thought possible. This morning, my wife Rachel and I had to tell our budding feminist, 8-year-old daughter, who just a couple of weeks ago dressed as a suffragette for Halloween and explain to her that our candidate lost. That was hard. But harder still was finding answers to her very natural follow up questions, why, how? But I have to tell you that hardest of all, were finding words of reassurance to an outcome that in my opinion has dramatic consequences for our country. I hope to be proven wrong. Tens of millions of Americans, 20,000 Arlingtonians, and for all I know, perhaps some of you in this room chose Mr. Trump. I won’t try to believe it, but I will try to accept it.
County Board Chair Libby Garvey said a Trump presidency will not change the nature of the Arlington community.
At this point, I know we need to not give into fear, we need to not give into anger, we need to not assume that we know why everybody voted the way they did. And we need to continue what we have been doing here. This is a beautiful, wonderful community and we will do everything we can to preserve it and I am hopeful that we can. The rule of law and the rule of our constitution must prevail.
Jay Fisette said he was trying his best to cope with the results and give the new president a chance.
Yesterday was likely the most consequential election in my lifetime, for our country, to our world, to our understanding of democracy, the economy and our environment. Earlier today, I watched Hillary Clinton’s poignant and gracious concession speech and I actually took to heart her advice.
Number one, to respect the orderly transition of power that which is fundamental of our constitutional democracy. Two, to work with ourselves to open our minds and give our President Elect a chance to lead. And three, to continue to believe in our vision, in our values for the community, for the country.
In each of these, the first is easy for me. Everyone must and will come together to respect and accept the election results, as that is how we work, via the example that was set by our very first president, George Washington. So congratulations, Mr. Trump.
The second will be harder for some, like me, to open my mind and give our President Elect a chance to lead, yet we must do that. After we each finish our own grieving, those that supported Mrs. Clinton, and our assessment of what happened and why it happened, we must give the President a chance.
Independent John Vihstadt, the lone non-Democrat on the Board, said he was disappointed by the slate of presidential candidates this year.
Regardless of our political perspective, everyone in the nation and across the globe is still processing the remarkable outcome of yesterday’s election. Many are jubilant, others are apprehensive, or even fearful, and many others no doubt are conflicted. In my view, all four party nominees on the Virginia ballot for President this year fell short of what our nation deserved and needed in 2016. I voted, but did not vote for any of them. Still, the American people have spoken.
I am confident that our democratic institution will heal and endure, and I hope and pray, that people of goodwill will come together, lower our voices, and work together to find common ground to advance the human condition.
I’m reminded of the statement chiseled in stone above the main door to the state capitol of my home state of Nebraska, “the salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen.”
Katie Cristol said Arlington County would “navigate the coming days as we have other major economic and political events in the past” thanks to residents, county staff and prudent planning.
Cristol said the county would continue to respect the rights of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, in the face of Trump’s deportation promises.
I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm what has been a hallmark of Arlington County: inclusion and protection of our diversity and of our residents. I want to reaffirm that my commitment to the safety of our immigrant neighbors, emphasizing as this board did in 2016 that all residents and visitors to Arlington County have a right to public safety protection. That it is our longstanding policy that Arlington County law enforcement does not monitor, detain, interview or investigate people solely for the purpose of determining their integration status, and that the services we provide in Arlington County, including education, public transit, access to our parks and to our libraries are not restricted based on immigration status.
Plane Makes Emergency Landing at DCA — An American Airlines flight taking off from Reagan National Airport had to turn around and make an emergency landing after a bird struck and disabled one of its engines. The incident happened around noon on Tuesday. No one was hurt. [NBC Washington]
That’s a Lot of Parking Tickets — Arlington County issued some 109,000 parking citations last year. The two most ticketed spots in the county: the county-owned surface parking lot in Courthouse and the county-owned parking strip next to Northside Social. [WJLA]
Vihstadt Pens Statement of Support for Garvey — County Board member John Vihstadt (I) writes of Board chair Libby Garvey, who’s facing a challenge in the Democratic primary: “While we don’t agree on everything, she continues to be my ally on key priorities like championing open, accessible and transparent County government, adequate schools funding, robust transit solutions on the Pike and elsewhere, and streamlining our business processes.” [Libby Garvey]
GGW Endorses Gutshall — Urbanist blog Greater Greater Washington has endorsed Erik Gutshall, who’s challenging County Board chair Libby Garvey in the June 14 Democratic primary. Writes GGW: “Overall, Gutshall has demonstrated a strong grasp of the challenges facing Arlington and an ability to work with others to find solutions. Libby Garvey, his opponent, has not demonstrated these qualities.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Paving on Columbia Pike — Crews are repaving the westbound lanes of Columbia Pike between S. Glebe Road and S. George Mason Drive, through Friday. [Twitter]
Raising Funds to Help Baby Hear — An Arlington resident has launched an online fundraiser to help pay for travel expenses and medical expenses associated with his baby daughter’s participation in a clinical trial that will help her hear via an auditory brainstem implant. [GoFundMe]
Power Outage at Courthouse Metro Station — A power outage has been reported at the Courthouse Metro station. The outage turned off most of the lights and trapped some customers in the station’s elevator, according to Twitter accounts. The station is said to now be operating on emergency power. [Twitter, Twitter]
Interview with John Vihstadt — Washingtonian has published a Q&A with Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt. During the interview, Vihstadt said of county government: “by and large, it’s well managed.” Before he was elected, however, Vihstadt said the county was in danger of losing its way. “There was a growing consensus that we were too self-congratulatory. There was too much ‘Aren’t we doing great?’ And if there was room for improvement, it was nothing another taxpayer dollar couldn’t solve.” [Washingtonian]
Another AAA Rating for Arlington — Bond rating agency Fitch Ratings has again assigned Arlington County its top AAA rating. The high rating allows the county to borrow money more cheaply than less creditworthy jurisdictions. [BusinessWire]
Rising Sea Levels and Arlington — A new interactive map shows what rising sea levels would mean for D.C. and Arlington. The good news is that the two meters of sea level rise predicted to occur by 2100 would result in little impact for most of Arlington; the most vulnerable areas are portions of Reagan National Airport, East Potomac Park in D.C. and other areas along the banks of the Potomac. [Washingtonian]
Arlington Little League Opening Day — It looks to be a cool and cloudy start to the local little league season this weekend. Arlington Little League’s 30th anniversary season kicks off at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Barcroft Park. [Twitter]
One Year Anniversary for Shirlington Restaurant — Osteria da Nino in Shirlington (2900 S. Quincy Street) is celebrating its one year anniversary on Sunday. The restaurant will offer a complimentary glass of Prosecco and appetizers for guests from 4-6 p.m. [ARLnow]
Flickr pool photo by Airamangel
Rosslyn is getting some new street furniture, featuring a design that evokes the neighborhood’s skyline at night.
The Rosslyn Business Improvement District held a press conference today to herald the arrival of the new sidewalk elements, which were designed by New York-based industrial designer Ignacio Ciocchini.
For now, the new items — benches, trash and recycling cans, bike racks, mobile information kiosks, newspaper box corrals and informational signs — have only been installed around the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Oak Street. Officials will gather public feedback on the new streetscape design before starting the process of installing such items throughout the Rosslyn commercial district.
“The purpose behind creating a unique streetscape design is to create a distinct contemporary identity for Rosslyn in addition to encouraging pedestrian activity, connectivity and enjoyment of the neighborhood,” said Lucia de Cordre, Urban Design Director of the Rosslyn BID, in a statement. “The elements were also created to extend the benefits of current redevelopment projects and the long-term vision of the Realize Rosslyn sector plan to the street level. This isn’t design just for aesthetics’ sake, this is a deliberate, functional approach toward supporting retail, walkability and an active public realm.”
County Board member John Vihstadt spoke at the unveiling today and praised the efforts to modernize Rosslyn, noting that the Rosslyn skyline, which inspired the new streetscape design, is often the public face of Arlington.
“Rosslyn is Arlington’s downtown, it’s Arlington’s front door,” he said. “That door needs to be open for businesses, residents and visitors so Arlington can thrive.”
“It was a great place to bring your grandmother,” he quipped.
Vihstadt said there are “unique things going on” in Rosslyn that will help ensure its desirability as an urban place that mixes office and residential uses.
“It’s not exactly Manhattan on the Potomac, but it’s not Mayberry either,” he said.
The full press release from the Rosslyn BID, after the jump.
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) Arlington County has taken a proposed update to its child care regulations off its website after County Board members called the inclusion of certain controversial provisions “troubling.”
As ARLnow.com first reported Monday, the most recent draft of the child care regulations would have required child care centers to encourage mothers to breastfeed and would have dictated what type of milk, juice and birthday treats could be fed to children, among other provisions.
That’s in addition to new staffing and employee education requirements that panicked the operators of small and part-time child care centers, who said such rules would put them out of business or at least drive up the cost of daycare and preschool programs.
“This situation, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that it’s really the most troubled roll-out of a county initiative since the ill-conceived and ill-fated Public Land for Public Good,” said County Board member John Vihstadt. “I really think that this is close to an unmitigated disaster. If our goal is to increase the supply and the affordability of child care throughout Arlington County, this in my view seems to do exactly the opposite.”
Anita Friedman, Director of Arlington’s Dept. of Human Services, said the creation of the new regulations is an “iterative” process that has been underway since 2014, with input from directors of child care centers and consultation from a Kentucky-based nonprofit association.
Despite what she described as a positive public outreach process, Friedman acknowledged that there has been “a lot” of negative feedback, particularly from owners of smaller child care centers and the parents who use them.
“There are some issues with the current version,” she told the Board. “In some places, I think, because some of the enthusiasm of the child care centers and our Arlington Way of striving for the best, we may have probably overreached in terms of the best practices that we want to incorporate in there, that don’t belong in the code.”
That didn’t satisfy new County Board member Katie Cristol, who included affordable child care as part of her policy platform. She called the inclusion of some of the provisions “silly season business.”
“At a time when we have young families leaving this county because it costs as much if not more to have your child in daycare as it does to pay rent… I think we have broader concerns than making sure kids have the absolute best environment,” Cristol said.
“This is really troubling to see this level of best practice conflated with code and with regulation,” she continued. “I am not comfortable inserting unbidden county government in encouraging anybody to tell a mother how to feed her child, whether that’s best practice or regulation.”
“Distraction is not a strong enough word for the real issue at play here. We have been hearing loud and clear from members of our community that this undermines trust in government. It exacerbates a sentiment that Arlington is hostile to child care centers and small businesses.”
Local Republicans see a silver lining in the lopsided defeat of Mike McMenamin in Tuesday’s Arlington County Board. But one local political watcher says it signals that the narrow window of opportunity to elect conservatives to local office in Arlington has passed.
McMenamin, an independent candidate with the endorsement of the local GOP, garnered 19 percent of the vote to 36 and 34 percent respectively for Democrats Christian Dorsey and Katie Cristol. Perennial candidate Audrey Clement, who ran as an independent after several elections under the Green Party banner, received 10 percent of the vote.
Democrats say they were pleasantly surprised by the election results.
“It turned out much better than I predicted it to be,” said Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Kip Malinosky. “I think people responded to an inclusive, welcoming message.”
“We always took [McMenamin] seriously,” Malinosky continued. “We knew he had a good record of public service. But we didn’t hear a positive vision for Arlington from Mike. Voters heard a lot of ‘no.'”
Matt Wavro, Chair of the Arlington County Republican Committee, sees things a bit differently. Via email, he told ARLnow.com that all four candidates in the race ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility — a victory of sorts, even though the GOP’s favored candidate did not win.
Mike ran a solid independent campaign. The Arlington GOP was very proud to endorse his independent candidacy. Mike’s earnest desire to bring people together to solve issues facing the county should be acknowledged by everyone involved in politics in Arlington.
The future of the Arlington GOP is strong. Our goals of cancelling the streetcar, reducing the cost of the Million Dollar Bus Stop, ending the subsidy of the Artisphere, preventing a property tax rate increase, and turning back the plan to build subsidized housing in our parks enjoyed and continue to enjoy wide community support.
With the exception of a firm commitment that subsidized housing should not be built in parks, every candidate for the County Board campaigned on our issues. Even the candidates who were leveling partisan attacks against Mike were trying to appropriate the very issues we considered as the basis for endorsing Mike.
Democrats on the County Board were very effective in 2015 at clearing the decks of issues that highlighted how out of touch narrowly partisan Democrats were from their more rational and reasonable neighbors of all political persuasions.
“Looking out at the issues that are likely to be taken up in the next year, our platform will continue to be a consensus-building counter-point to the partisan Democrat group-think we saw from our County Board members in 2013 and the decade prior,” Wavro added.
Despite Wavro’s optimism, one veteran Democratic campaign operative and election watcher thinks the result shows a return to normalcy in heavily-Democratic Arlington after a brief flirtation with center-right politics.
“It’s back to normal in Arlington,” Ben Tribbett told ARLnow.com. “The voters Tuesday were strongly Democratic, where they’ve always been.”
Tribbett, who correctly predicted the demise of Arlington’s streetcar project on the night of independent County Board member John Vihstadt’s election last November, said McMenamin’s defeat is “embarrassing” for Vihstadt.
“Vihstadt’s endorsement [of McMenamin] had no legs, voters basically ignored it,” Tribbett said.
The center-right flirtation was made possible by the streetcar, the Long Bridge Park aquatics center and other poorly managed, big-ticket projects that drew voter ire. With those out of the way, and with all candidates calling for some degree of fiscal responsibility, voters returned to other issues as deciding factors — issues that favored the Democrats.
(Other political watchers have suggested that it wasn’t just the streetcar that propelled Vihstadt to victory, arguing that he was a uniquely strong candidate with a long history of community involvement, thoughtful debate performances and well-tuned political acumen. There are no other Vihstadt-like candidates on the Republican-slash-Independent bench, some say.)
The Arlington electorate seems to have “lost their appetite for reform-type candidates,” Tribbett contended. That, he said, could signal trouble for Libby Garvey, who’s up for reelection in 2016.
Garvey, a Democrat, went against the party by speaking out against the streetcar and endorsing Vihstadt last year. She could face a tough primary challenge this coming spring as a result.
Vihstadt Endorses Dorsey, McMenamin — Independent Arlington County Board member John Vihstadt has endorsed fellow independent Michael McMenamin and Democrat Christian Dorsey for County Board. Dorsey said in a statement that he is “honored to have the support of all five members of the Arlington County Board, including John Vihstadt,” but also reiterated his support for Democratic ticket mate Katie Cristol. [InsideNova]
ACFD Responds to Small Fires — The Arlington County Fire Department has battled two small fires within the past two days. On Saturday around noon on the 2300 block of S. Arlington Mill Drive, firefighters extinguished a fire on the back porch of a home. This morning ACFD extinguished a small apartment fire on the 4200 block of 2nd Road N. [Twitter, Twitter]
‘JPod’ Discussion Tonight — The Columbia Heights Civic Association tonight will discuss monorail-like “JPods” as a possible transit alternative for Columbia Pike. Residents will hear from JPods booster Bill James at tonight’s meeting at the Walter Reed Community Center. [CHCA]
Affordable Housing Opponents Vow Budget Fight — Now that Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan has been approved, opponents of the plan are planning to try to stymie it within the county’s budget process next year. “The plan didn’t obligate the county, directly or indirectly, to spend money,” the chair of the Arlington County Republican Committee is quoted as saying. “The testimony at the budget hearing is going to determine how that is funded.” [InsideNova]