(Updated at 10:25 p.m.) Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey has won the Democratic County Board nomination, despite a tough challenge from within the party.
With all precincts reporting, Garvey had 55 percent of the vote to 45 percent over challenger Erik Gutshall. The final vote tally was 8,362 to 6,878.
Today’s County Board primary featured typically low turnout for a local race — 11 percent of registered voters — although it was notably higher than last year’s primary turnout of 8 percent.
Voters who spoke to ARLnow.com outside the polls today said they admired Garvey’s willingness to go against “establishment” Democratic orthodoxy. It was Garvey’s fight against the Columbia Pike streetcar project and her endorsement of independent John Vihstadt over a Democratic candidate in the 2014 County Board race that was perhaps the biggest impetus for a primary challenge.
During the race, Gutshall — a small business owner and member of the Arlington Planning Commission member — criticized Garvey’s leadership, Democratic bonafides and her supposed lack of effective long-term planning.
Gutshall amassed a long list of endorsements from current and former Democratic elected officials, including state Sen. Adam Ebbin, Dels. Alfonso Lopez and Rip Sullivan, County Board member Jay Fisette and former Board members Mary Hynes, Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman.
Fisette was among those who stopped by Garvey’s victory party at a Columbia Pike restaurant Tuesday night.
“It’s a really high bar to run against an incumbent,” Fisette told ARLnow.com, citing Garvey’s name recognition from nearly two decades as an elected official. “I couldn’t be prouder of [Erik] as a candidate. I have great respect for him and I think he ran a great campaign.”
Fisette said he expects the Board to continue to work well together. In a press release, Arlington Democrats were quick to unify, with Gutshall endorsing Garvey.
“Tonight I endorse Libby Garvey for County Board and look forward to voting for her in November,” said Gutshall. “Now that the primary is over, it’s important that we come together as Democrats to ensure we keep Arlington blue, from the White House to the School House.”
“Libby Garvey is already a consensus building Chair of the County Board and we are honored to have her as our nominee,” said Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) Chair Kip Malinosky.
Among those in attendance at Garvey’s victory party were Vihstadt, Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, Arlington Treasurer Carla de la Pava, former School Board member Abby Raphael and former ACDC Chair Peter Rousselot.
Going precinct-by-precinct, Gutshall’s strongest support was along the Columbia Pike corridor and the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.
All precincts in- Garvey (winner) precincts in green, Gutshall precincts in blue: pic.twitter.com/2QpdkjeERG
— (((Ben Tribbett))) (@notlarrysabato) June 15, 2016
“I worked the entire county [but] there’s only so much I could do,” Garvey said of the Columbia Pike vote. “I’m going to continue to serve the entire county and in four years I hope to have everyone’s vote.”
“This is about all of us… diversity is our strength,” she said. In a statement, Garvey said she looks forward to continuing her work on the Board as a Democrat.
“I am proud to go on to November to represent you as the Democratic nominee for County Board. I have based my campaign, as I have my service, on my idea that Arlington is a great community, but we have the potential to be even better. It means working together to support each other in friendship, knowing that together we can achieve so much.”
Garvey will face independent candidate Audrey Clement in November’s general election.
“Slow and steady.” That’s how the voting in today’s Arlington County Board Democratic primary is being described.
As of noon today, precincts around Arlington had recorded only about a 5 percent turnout. Election officials are expecting an approximately 10 percent overall turnout by the time the polls close at 7 p.m., compared to a 8 percent turnout in last year’s local primary.
By contrast, a whopping 46 percent of Arlington’s registered voters cast ballots in the March 1 presidential primary — 29 percent for Democrats, 17 percent for Republicans.
Arlington County General Registrar Linda Lindberg said things have been “pretty smooth” so far today. The biggest problem has been people showing up and asking why the presidential candidates aren’t on the ballot, she said.
Most voters who talked to ARLnow.com said they voted out of a moral obligation, stating that it was their civic duty to get out and vote.
“It’s a civil duty but its almost an obligation and everyone who can vote should vote,” said one voter at a polling station near Clarendon.
Of the voters willing to reveal who they voted for, the majority said they voted for incumbent Libby Garvey, citing as their main motivation her willingness to do things outside of the expected “establishment” Democratic norms.
“I voted for Libby Garvey because I don’t like the idea of ultra orthodox anything, politics or any other realm,” said a voter. “I don’t like the idea that somebody has to adhere to a certain line when they’re presented something.”
Another voter felt that having an independent voice was important.
“One of the reasons that I voted for Libby Garvey is because her own Democratic colleagues… have turned against her because they wanted a unified bloc of voting,” he said. “Since when has unanimity been the goal? You want some sort of discussion and dissent. I think many Democrats were disappointed that the Board does not allow dissent. It’s almost dictatorial in its approach. She didn’t think she had to vote with the entire group of Democrats just because she’s a Democrat and that upset a lot of people.”
One voter interviewed decided to vote for challenger Erik Gutshall, citing his experience and the desire to have a fresh perspective on the County Board.
“I ended up voting for Erik Gutshall. I read all of the propaganda from both of them that came in the mail and he’s been doing a bunch of stuff,” he said. “I didn’t know anything about him before a week and a half ago but he seems to be very active on the Lyon Park [civic] association, Planning Commission and all that and I think it would be interesting to give him a shot at it. I had saved all the things I received in the mail including six from Libby Garvey and they all had the same exact four points with one sentence on each. Not much substance.”
Most of the voters were older, although there were some younger people seen at the polls. When asked about the lack of younger voters, one voter shared his opinion on the matter.
“Older people are probably more invested in voting than most young people who are blissfully unaware,” he said.
When asked about the relatively low turnout, voters and staffers gave a number of reasons including the fact that it was a summertime election, the prevalence of absentee ballots and the more local nature of the election. One man using an ATM outside of a polling location was not even aware that there was an election going on at the moment.
Additional reporting by Adrian Cruz. Photos by Omar DeBrew.
With the Arlington County Board primary fast approaching, Democratic candidates Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall took to the airwaves in their final debate before voters head to the polls on Tuesday.
The candidates went on Kojo Nnamdi’s WAMU-FM radio show, The Politics Hour, Friday afternoon.
Some of the topics covered included the capacity crunch in county schools, affordable housing and the ongoing battle with aircraft noise.
The full debate can be viewed above. Here are some highlights:
Garvey on what she wants voters to know about her time serving Arlington
“I think over the past 20 years I’ve done a pretty good job serving Arlington. Fifteen years on the School Board help make our schools among the best in the country. And in my 4 years on the County Board I’ve done quite a bit to make our government more responsive and more transparent. One of the things we just started to do was video streaming our work sessions. Up until then if you wanted to watch the board actually getting work done at work sessions, you had to sit in the room and that was hard for a lot of people to do.”
Gutshall on why he’s running
“I’m running because I think I’m better qualified to make sure that we are meeting the challenges that we face today with solutions for tomorrow.
We’ve got to make long-term strategic investments. We have a capacity crisis in our school that’s in our sixth year and we still don’t have a plan for getting out in front of rising student enrollment. We have to make sure that we’re making investments in our transportation infrastructure and we’re dragging our feet in moving forward with the capital improvement plan for doing that.
We’ve got a major issue in Arlington County of housing affordability. It’s the issue that’s going to define our time, our day. We are not moving forward in the way that we need to and the way that I believe Arlingtonians want to in order to make sure that the middle class does not get squeezed out of Arlington.”
Garvey on her long-term plan for handling the school issue
“My long-term plan is to be supporting the School Board. I’ve been on the County Board for four years. That’s really the School Board’s job to come forward to us with plans.
I will say that little over a year ago, the School Board came to the County Board asking to build a school on the Thomas Jefferson site. Four of my colleagues unfortunately thought that it needed more of a community process. I was the one vote to go ahead and move forward with that. A year later, the whole board moved to move forward and we lost a whole year in the process. I have always been supportive of moving our schools forward and getting the work done.”
Gutshall on balancing the seat numbers with the growing student population
“I would hope it wouldn’t wait until I took office on January 1 to move forward with the implementation of the Community Facilities Study. Moving forward, what we need to do is we need to make sure that we’re having a conversation with the School Board and we’re going to miss the opportunity on this CIP now. We need to move forward on laying out a comprehensive plan where all seats, elementary, high school, middle school, all neighborhoods, north, south, east and west are accountable.”
Gutshall on housing and development
“What we have here is a problem that’s created by our success. Everybody wants to be here, that’s a good thing. Rising property values, that’s a good thing. But we need to make sure that we are keeping an eye on what we can do for the problem and risk of squeezing out the middle class. What I’ve been talking about is what’s called the missing middle: the idea where you have medium density, not the high rise density of our Metro corridors and not the low density in our single family neighborhoods, but in between that, the missing middle for example along Lee Highway and Glebe Road and other major arterials served by transit where right now you might see a lot of old strip malls, used car lots, basically underutilized land.
We can look at our zoning ordinances. We can open up opportunities for developers to come in and create different housing choices for young families just starting out, for seniors who want to age in the community.”
Last month we asked the two Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them in the June 14 primary.
Here is the unedited response from County Board Chair Libby Garvey:
I have been privileged to serve you on the County Board for the past four years, following fifteen years on School Board, and I am seeking your vote for a second full County Board term. Our work together has helped make Arlington a great place to live, work, and play, but we have the potential to be better. I am running for reelection to the County Board to help Arlington achieve our potential. County government can do that by providing excellent customer service, expanding civic engagement, and helping residents build our community.
We must make sure all our services work well for all people. We recently introduced e-filing of building permit applications so residents no longer have to pay for costly printed drawings and wait to hand them in. In my next term, I will work to continue improving processes and tools like these. I will also work to make it easier for people to get around, including realizing premium bus service on Columbia Pike and throughout Arlington and the region. Regional cooperation is particularly important for transportation because so many of us travel from Arlington to DC, Alexandria, Fairfax, and even Maryland. In my years in office, I have built the relationships we need with leaders around the region to improve Metro and to build new regional transit to benefit all of us. Similarly, I will use my experience to support our School Board as they work to solve our capacity crunch.
Many talented Arlingtonians want to participate in our community processes, but cannot through our traditional, very time-intensive ways of involvement because of family and work commitments. We need to try different ways of connecting so that everyone who wants can interact with their local government. This year, the County Board started webcasting our work sessions so residents can follow our work without having to sit in long meetings. This simple solution makes it easier for everyone to participate. I will continue to push for online tools that allow easy access to public data so residents know what’s happening. I will also work to explore how we can use technology to create new channels for residents to connect with each other and to provide feedback to their government.
We need to make sure Arlington is a place where it is easy for everyone to live and work. This year, I supported dialogues to bring people together on different sides of issues like Fire Station 8 and the Stratford school driveway to discuss options openly before moving forward. Everyone can’t have their preferred outcome, but the people involved tell me that they feel like they are finally being heard and can contribute to the ultimate decision. We still need a strategic plan to bring all of our specific master plans together. Coming up with an overall strategic plan will take time and must include everyone; and we must design a process that brings us together to ensure we hear everyone’s voice and perspective. I look forward to focusing on this process in my next term.
Together with residents and businesses, Arlington County government can be a force for bringing out the best in our community. I ask for your vote on Tuesday to continue serving you to work to realize our full potential.
Sun Gazette Endorses Garvey — County Board Chair Libby Garvey has picked up the endorsement of the Sun Gazette newspaper in her re-election battle against Democratic challenger Erik Gutshall. “[Garvey’s] efforts, however inelegant at times they have been, to press needed reforms on an elected body too long aloof from the public should be rewarded,” the paper wrote. [InsideNova]
Gutshall Holds Education Press Conference — Erik Gutshall held a press conference with former School Board Chair Elaine Furlow and others yesterday evening. Gutshall called on his opponent, Libby Garvey, to “stop dragging her feet” on the County Board and implement the key recommendations of the Community Facilities Study in order to more quickly add needed school capacity. [Blue Virginia]
Gutshall’s Hyperlocal Mailers — Erik Gutshall’s campaign is sending postcard-sized mailers to potential primary voters, targeted by neighborhood and printed with the names of supporters in that neighborhood. [Twitter]
CivFed Aims to Plant 100 Trees — The Arlington Civic Federation, which turned 100 this year, is celebrating its centennial by encouraging the planting of 100 trees around the county. The Civic Federation was formed in 1916, four years before Arlington was even called “Arlington.” [InsideNova]
Garvey Out-Raises Gutshall — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey out-raised Democratic challenger Erik Gutshall by more than $20,000 in April and May. Garvey raised $57,143 to $36,751 for Gutshall. Both candidates received donations from about 300 people. [Washington Post]
More People Biking to Work — The traffic woes and Metrorail headaches caused by Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance work is apparently pushing more people to commute to work via bike. On Monday, Arlington’s “Bike-o-Meter” near the Key Bridge recorded 2,325 bike trips, double the normal number for a Monday around this time of year. The pleasant weather probably helped, too. [WJLA]
Outdoor Lab Exceeds Fundraising Goal — Saturday’s fundraiser for the Arlington Outdoor Lab shattered the $50,000 fundraising goal, garnering pledges of $84,000 for the educational facility. [Falls Church News-Press]
New Chef at Water & Wall — John Leavitt, previously of Provision No. 14 in D.C., is taking over kitchen duties at Water & Wall in Virginia Square from proprietor and chef Tim Ma. Expect a new menu to roll out next month. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Credit Union Branch Opens in Crystal City — The Lafayette Federal Credit Union has opened a branch at 2231 Crystal Drive in Crystal City. The 80-year-old local financial institution will mark the opening of its seventh branch with a grand opening celebration next Thursday, June 16 at noon. [Layfayette FCU]
Nearly two weeks of continuous single tracking between East Falls Church and Ballston, on the Orange and Silver Metro lines, begins tomorrow (Saturday) morning.
Major travel disruptions are expected during Metro’s maintenance “surge,” dubbed “SafeTrack.” WMATA General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, along with Arlington County Board members Libby Garvey and Christian Dorsey, held a press conference this afternoon at the East Falls Church Metro Station to discuss preparations.
“We are going to make this work, it is a team effort,” said Garvey, touting Arlington’s plans to assist commuters and ease congestion. “We’re all working together.”
Metro riders can seek commuting alternatives such as carpooling or telecommuting. Free shuttle buses between Ballston and East Falls Church and Ballston and West Falls Church will be offered during the project. Additional Capital Bikeshare stations are being installed at the East Falls Church station in preparation for the work.
The single tracking will last for 13 days, ending on Thursday, June 16.
According to Wiedefeld, the worst impacts on the Orange and Silver lines will be west of Ballston. Orange Line trains will run only every 18 minutes between Vienna and Ballston, while Silver Line trains will run every 18 minutes. Additional trains will be placed in service east of Ballston.
The biggest effects will be felt during rush hour — riders are being told to expect “extreme crowding and delays” in each direction.
“Remember, the reason we are doing this is to make the system more reliable and safer,” said Wiedefeld.
The track work is just the first of numerous SafeTrack projects planned over the next year, many of which will impact Arlington riders.
Arlington County streamed a video of the press conference on Facebook, and yesterday released a video discussing SafeTrack (below).
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Libby Garvey and I ran against each other in 2012. At the time, Libby was still undecided on the Columbia Pike streetcar issue. A point I made to everyone I met on the campaign trail who was against the project. Libby won the fairly (for Arlington) close race and eventually came down on the right side of the streetcar issue – becoming the sole dissenting voice on the County Board.
Regardless of whether you agree with her, speaking out against four other fellow Democrats on a signature big ticket issue like the streetcar was an act of political courage.
The streetcar project was emblematic of what the County Board had become — an insular echo chamber. In spite of escalating costs, the project’s questionable transportation benefits, and the failures of the similar D.C. project across the Potomac, the other four Board members were marching forward. They were relying on a years-old “decision” rather than honestly re-evaluating the plan based on current facts and circumstances.
Many Board watchers, including this one, knew that to shake up the status quo, it would require a seismic shift. Only if it was proven a Democrat could actually lose an election in Arlington, would there be an impetus for a change.
Libby seemed to put her finger on pulse of the community. And at the risk of her own career, Libby reached out to support John Vihstadt when he ran as an Independent candidate in late 2013 after Chris Zimmerman’s resignation.
Vihstadt not only won the Special Election, but he handily won the full term in November 2014. The streetcar project was shelved shortly thereafter.
Since that time, Vihstadt and Garvey have worked together on a number of issues to reflect the concerns of a majority of people in Arlington who want to see more fiscal discipline, transparency and accountability from the County Board. Late last year, they even raised concerns about the tens of millions of dollars spent in the closeout process being done with virtually no public comment.
Libby’s decision, however, was not without political consequences. Her willingness to think independently of her party earned her a primary challenge from a fellow Democrat this spring. The case for his candidacy is nothing more than Garvey’s decision to dare to upset the apple cart in 2014.
I offer no endorsement in this race for two reasons. One, I have never endorsed a Democrat. Two, it probably would cost a candidate votes in an Arlington Democratic primary.
I do offer a question. I have often heard Democrats say they want to find Republicans who are willing to work across party lines. Now that they have a fellow Democrat willing to work with an Independent, will Democrat primary voters toss her overboard for doing so?
Mark Kelly is the chairman of the 8th District Republican Committee, a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.
Update at 4:30 p.m. — Gutshall’s campaign has published an explanation of its claims here.
Libby Garvey says she’s not “threatening the ability of our most vulnerable seniors to live in Arlington,” as alleged in a mailer from the campaign of County Board challenger Erik Gutshall.
The mailer, sent in advance of the June 14 Democratic primary, said that Garvey “wants to eliminate tax exemptions for seniors” and “repeatedly voted against funding for affordable housing.”
(Another Gutshall mailer alleged that Garvey, who formerly served on the School Board, did not act quickly enough to address the capacity crunch at Arlington Public Schools.)
Garvey is firing back at the “putting Arlington’s seniors at risk” mailer, posting a response on her website entitled “Setting the record straight: I want seniors to afford their homes.”
Here’s what Garvey wrote:
I work hard for an Arlington that provides affordable living options for all people, of many income levels and at all stages in their lives. We face many challenges in realizing this vision, and one particularly acute one is how to help seniors whose property tax bills are rising beyond their ability to pay because of the ever increasing value of their property. We need to make sure that they can remain in the homes where they built their lives and helped build our community.
My opponent in this election recently sent a flyer claiming that I am “threatening the ability of our most vulnerable seniors to live in Arlington.” I assure you that this claim is false.
Arlington has two major programs for senior tax relief. One defers taxes until the house is sold, at which time the back taxes are paid from the proceeds of the sale. I believe that we probably should lower the qualification levels for this program so that it is available to more seniors. The second program forgives the taxes entirely. Under this second program, when the home is sold, whoever sells — whether the senior or the beneficiaries after the senior’s passing — keeps the entire proceeds of the sale and never pays the taxes. This can provide quite a windfall to the beneficiaries.
I, along with the entire County Board by a 5-0 vote, asked our staff to study these programs to see if we are publicizing them adequately. We did this to ensure that everyone who needs them is benefiting from them. We also asked our staff to review the criteria for appropriateness to see who is truly benefiting from them. Among the questions we asked our staff to consider is the possibility of eliminating that portion of the tax forgiveness that goes only to beneficiaries, because the program was never meant to benefit beneficiaries — it is meant to benefit seniors. I want our staff to explore whether making this change will free up more money to enable us to expand both programs for our most vulnerable seniors.
W-L Soccer Advances to Semis — The Washington-Lee High School boys soccer team notched a 2-1 quarterfinal victory last night, to advance to the 6A North region semifinals next week. [Washington Post]
Dodgeball Tourney Next Weekend — For the second year in row, a pair of Yorktown High School students are organizing a free dodgeball tournament. The event, for ages 8 and up, will be held at Marymount University on Saturday, June 4. Proceeds from donations made by participants will be donated “to help support schools in need of better playground and physical education equipment.” [Arlington Dodgeball]
Arlington GOP Stops Short of Supporting Garvey — At a meeting on Wednesday, the chair of the Arlington County Republican Committee put the kibosh on a member’s proposal for Republican voters to support Democrat Libby Garvey in her County Board re-election effort. “We’re about Republican candidates,” said Jim Presswood. [InsideNova]
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]
After months — maybe even years — of constant “harassment” from an anonymous neighbor, North Highlands resident Mary McCutcheon had enough, as did the rest of the community.
On Thursday, McCutcheon organized a neighborhood meeting in front of her house — in the small community just north of Rosslyn — to discuss a neighbor who was constantly calling Arlington County to report supposed violations of zoning codes in local yards. It was enough of an issue that even County Board Chair Libby Garvey showed up.
“The county enforces some of the property maintenance and zoning codes in response to complaints and almost never in a proactive way,” McCutcheon told ARLnow.com. “This wouldn’t be bad except it effectively deputizes the small number of complain-o-holics around town with a great deal of power.”
Over the last couple of years, McCutcheon has constantly battled Arlington County over her plants. The owner of three properties in the neighborhood, she has received numerous violation notices as a result of complaint-driven code enforcement. In a letter to the editor sent to ARLnow in 2014, McCutcheon described in detail an instance in which an Arlington County inspector deemed her in violation of a weed-related ordinance following a complaint.
And she’s not alone. Someone, it seems, does not like the aesthetics of other nearby properties, either. And neighbors are fed up with it.
“Finally there is a critical mass of people who have been complained about,” she said, of the meet. “We have approached the County Manager and the County Board and the higher-ups in zoning and code enforcement.””
Some 20 neighborhood residents attended the meeting, along with Garvey and the county’s new Resident Ombudsman, Robert Sharpe.
At the meeting, McCutcheon displayed the offending items including her overgrown rose bushes, a fence surrounding the property and a small library she kept in front of her home.
“I think that complaint-driven code enforcement has so many inherent evils that we must put an end to it,” said McCutcheon. “We must have codes in this county that are enforceable and will be enforced and are worthy of being enforced, otherwise rewrite them. When code is enforced capriciously like this, I hope the county stops accepting this type of complaint.”
Garvey seemed sympathetic, agreeing that the code should have room for interpretation in situations where the perceived violation is not a threat to safety or other people’s property.
“There are situations where things should apply where they shouldn’t and there ought to be a way to exercise judgment,” said Garvey. “This property is beautiful but it doesn’t fit the narrow definitions of what we have had. I’m not sure what the solution is because I can’t say we’re not going to enforce our code but maybe there is a way of giving the code a little judgment or some situational awareness.”
McCutcheon was not the only one there who experienced the passive aggressive wrath of an anonymous resident.
One resident mentioned an incident where her babysitter received an threatening letter from an anonymous source due to her parking her car in the wrong location. The letter contained profanity and other threats and it was signed “The County Board.”
McCutcheon claimed the harassment began after she took down a white mulberry tree that was on public land near her house. The white mulberry is known to be an invasive species, crowding out native species. After removing the tree, McCutcheon says that a particular neighbor immediately became hostile, claiming that the tree was the only thing blocking his view of townhouses in front.
After the initial event, she described how this neighbor — a particularly grumpy British man — would become increasingly aggressive and rude to her in later encounters on the street. Soon after, she began receiving calls from county officials about the complaints, which she assumed came from the same person.
“One time I was walking my dogs and he was walking backwards just to scream at me. I was so scared I wrote a letter to Adult Protective Services but I never sent it,” said McCutcheon.
Other residents shared their own experiences, suggesting that the prickly Brit was the source of the complaints.
While she was describing the chronology of events, the neighbor in question exited his house and quickly became upset with the gathered group. He also began aggressively questioning the presence of a reporter, an ARLnow.com intern, and threatened to call the police after another resident tried to intervene.
Sharpe arrived soon after, temporarily defusing the situation as he took the man aside to discuss the issue.
After speaking with the man, Sharpe recommended that for the short term, McCutcheon comply with the directives to trim her rose bushes in order to avoid further conflict while the county comes up with a more permanent solution.
The mystery, however, deepened after the meeting adjourned.
In a later email, McCutcheon notified ARLnow that after speaking with Sharpe, it was confirmed that the neighbor was not, in fact, the source of the complaints.
“[He] is still a nasty man,” McCutcheon said. “But it is someone else who is complaining.”
The Arlington County Board voted unanimously Tuesday to defer implementation of the “blue ribbon panel” it voted unanimously last month to create.
The six-person panel was intended to advise the County Board on strategic priorities. The rushed vote to establish the panel on April 19, and questions about what exactly it is intended to accomplish, led to criticism from some community groups.
Its principal backer, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, has also faced criticism of the panel on the campaign trail from Democratic primary challenger Erik Gutshall, who has raised it as an issue of government transparency. Garvey defended the idea and clarified the intent of the panel at Tuesday afternoon’s Board meeting.
Jay Fisette, who was critical of the plan last month but voted to support it nonetheless, created the motion to defer its implementation. His motion was supported unanimously.
Fisette issued the following statement about his motion to defer.
Since we voted on the charge for this Blue Ribbon Panel in April, I have been inundated with questions and concerns. Many in our community are either angry at how this happened or confused about what actually happened. I was challenged to explain how I could vote for something after having publicly expressed significant concern about it. I had no good response.
This Board has received letters of concern from groups such as the Alliance for Housing Solutions (an umbrella group representing over 35 Arlington non-profits, churches and other organizations), the Planning and Urban Forestry Commissions and Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement.
The letters raised concerns with the process. One stated, “There was virtually no notice that the Board would adopt the Charge and the language was not available for public review and comment. This flies in the face of repeated messages by many Board members of the need for greater transparency and adequate public advance notice of Board actions.”
And another remarked, “When the Board takes action in this manner, abrogating its own stated commitment to transparency and accountability, it seriously undermines the importance of citizen engagement that should be the goal of everyone in the County.”
Others spoke to the panel’s charge itself. One commission was concerned that “the Panel’s charge is largely duplicative of the responsibilities of the Planning Commission as outlined in the Code of Virginia” and that “it was unclear from the Panel’s charge how members of the public would participate in its meetings or contribute to its work.”
And one letter summarized the concerns of many, “In short, the panel is duplicative; the charge is murky and invests far too much power in 6 people to potentially dramatically alter priorities resulting from the involvement of many Arlington residents already; and the Board’s action in creating it seriously undermines the good governance goal of encouraging and valuing citizen engagement. Thus, we urge you to rethink the panel.”
Clearly, the community has said that our April vote to approve this Panel without public notice was flawed, and today’s vote is a step toward rectifying that action. I very much appreciate my colleagues’ support for taking a step back and asking for feedback from some key stakeholders as well as from the larger community.
My support for this step should not be taken as support for the Panel. I remain skeptical, yet I am glad that the process will be opened, and I am willing to see if the purpose can be clarified and made useful.
Finally, we must thoughtfully consider the recommendations of the Community Facilities Study Committee (CFS Committee) and their relationship to the charge of this Panel. Many of the members of the CFS Committee have been unhappy with the lack of action on their recommendations, which was further inflamed by the creation of the Blue Ribbon Panel.
Honestly, if anything deserved the Blue Ribbon monikor, it was the CFS Committee. It was a model process with compelling and serious recommendations to guide our future. It was a true collaboration between the schools and the county, with a clear charge and broad representation, and it concluded within the established 10-month timeline.
To remind us, the CFS Committee was tasked to identify the principal strategic challenges that Arlington faces, point out the barriers to overcoming those challenges and recommend ways to address them.
And the key recommendation they made for responding to these challenges was to establish, “A new system for more open, systematic and coordinated County and School Board decisions about setting priorities for future facility budget and location decisions.” And they told us exactly how to do this.
It is this recommendation, that provides guidance on how to set priorities for much of our community’s future capital needs, that deserves our immediate attention and should be top of mind as we reconsider this Panel. I am especially interested in the feedback that we have requested of the CFS Committee in this regard.
Gutshall, who is challenging County Board Chair Libby Garvey for the Democratic nomination, is, according to APAC, “a consensus-builder, with an eye to transparency and engagement all along the way.”
Garvey formerly served on the Arlington School Board.
From a press release:
APAC, the political action committee of the Arlington Education Association, has recommended Erik Gutshall for the County Board seat to be contested in the Democratic primary June 14th. The APAC Steering Committee was impressed with Mr. Gutshall’s vision for the county, viewing his ideas as both far-sighted in scope and inclusive of all segments of the community. APAC Steering Team co-chair Gerry Collins noted that Gutshall has applied his knowledge of the county and experience at the planning level to lay out some well-considered ideas on housing, transit, schools and revenue streams.
Collins added, “Erik Gutshall approaches decision-making as a consensus-builder, with an eye to transparency and engagement all along the way. We support his view of the schools as both institutions of opportunity for our students as well as assets for community activities and events, and are encouraged by his support for school funding.”
Gutshall, Garvey and independent candidate Audrey Clement will face off during an Arlington Chamber of Commerce candidate forum tonight from 6-8 p.m. at the Rosslyn Hyatt (1325 Wilson Blvd). The event is being moderated by ARLnow editor Scott Brodbeck
Two Add’l Endorsements for Gutshall — Democratic County Board Erik Gutshall has picked up two more endorsements. The campaign announced this week that Gutshall was endorsed by Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson and former county treasurer Frank O’Leary. [InsideNova]
Garvey’s Idea for I-66 — In an interview with the urbanist blog Greater Greater Washington, County Board Chair Libby Garvey, who is running for reelection, talked about her belief in more Bus Rapid Transit service as a transit solution and her plans for making Arlington a “great” place to live. Among her ideas: building large decks over I-66 to provide more parkland, more bus parking and to “knit our community back together.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Barley Mac Grand Opening — Barley Mac in Rosslyn is holding its grand opening celebration this weekend: “The party will kick off each night at 8:00 p.m. and go until 2:00 a.m., and we’ll serve [complimentary] passed appetizers and light bites in the bar from 8:00-10:00 p.m.” [Facebook, Rosslyn BID]
Native Species Returning to Arlington — The removal of invasive species from Arlington’s parkland is paying off. A number of plant and animal species once thought to be gone for good have started returning to the county, including certain frogs, otters, foxes and turkeys. The county announced this in a press release with the alliterative headline “Nurtured Nature Nets New Natives.” [Arlington County]
Inexpensive Local Art on Sale — The Arlington Artists Alliance is holding an art show and sale later this month where every work of art is priced at $95 or less. [Patch]
Real Housewives Filming in Clarendon? — An episode of the Real Housewives of Potomac was reportedly being filmed at Oz restaurant in Clarendon last night. The restaurants is owned by cast member Ashley Darby and her husband. [Twitter]