Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Clerk’s Office Stressed By Extra Work — “Increasing amounts of paperwork – whether of the hard-copy or electronic variety – are putting the squeeze on the staff of Arlington’s clerk of the Circuit Court.” [InsideNova]

Amazon Aiming for Net-Zero HQ2? — “Amazon seems to be eyeing the possibility of constructing ‘net-zero energy’ buildings when it readies its new offices in Pentagon City and Crystal City, and raised the issue repeatedly in negotiations with county officials.” [Washington Business Journal]

APS Lauded for Music Education — “Arlington Public Schools has been honored with the Best Communities for Music Education designation from the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Foundation for its commitment to music education.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Alexandria Running Out of Office Space — “Alexandria’s efforts to lure new companies into the city are being thwarted by a space problem — there’s just not enough of it… there’s a dearth of the the right kind of office space, and that needs to change if Alexandra hopes to step up its game.” [Washington Business Journal]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Arlington County's courthouse and police headquarters

Update at 3:20 p.m. — The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a stay in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling striking down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. Arlington will not be able to grant marriage licenses unless the Supreme Court either declines to take further action or considers and then upholds the ruling.

Update at 4:40 p.m. — Paul Ferguson has issued a statement: “I am disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision but remain hopeful that the Fourth Circuit’s ruling will ultimately be upheld. Our office will be prepared to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples whenever that time comes.”

Earlier: Arlington officials are preparing to issue what could be the state’s first same sex marriage licenses tomorrow (Thursday).

Unless a stay is issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, Arlington Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson says he will start taking applications and issuing licenses to same sex couples at 8:00 a.m.

The applications will be taken on the 6th floor of the Arlington County Courthouse (1425 N. Courthouse Road), but in light of the fact that cameras are not allowed inside the courthouse, Ferguson will also administer oaths outside.

“Since cameras are not allowed, I will administer oaths to those couples who want to be filmed/interviewed outside of the courthouse,” Ferguson told ARLnow.com today. “Also, there will be ministers and civil celebrants outside the courthouse ready to perform marriages for those who would like to get married immediately after receiving the license.”

Arlington County is expecting a large media presence for the event. From 7:30 to 9:00 a.m., the police department is planning to shut down N. Courthouse Road between 14th and 15th Streets to allow for television truck parking.

Arlington will not be joined tomorrow by Arlington’s neighbor Fairfax County, whose clerk, John T. Frey, told RestonNow.com that he would not issue same sex marriage licenses until the court case was “a done deal.” If no stay is ordered, Ferguson said he’s not sure how big of a crowd to expect in his office tomorrow.

“We have redeployed staff from other sections of the office and will do our best to serve people as promptly as possible,” he said. “It is hard to estimate how many couples might request licenses. We have an overflow room for people to wait that is comfortable. I am guessing it will be a festive atmosphere with couples visiting with other couples who are waiting.”

Despite the planning, there’s a chance it could all be for naught, at least for a while.

Following the ruling of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals last week that same sex marriages could begin first thing Thursday morning, state Attorney General Mark Herring requested a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court until it rules fully on the case to strike down the state’s constitutional amendment ban on same sex marriage.

“A stay is warranted,” Herring said in a press release, “in light of the negative impact on Virginia children, families, and businesses if the Supreme Court eventually rules against marriage equality and forces an unwinding of Virginians’ marriages, adoptions, inheritances, or workplace benefits.”

Chief Justice John Roberts has yet to issue a decision.

Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette married his longtime partner, Bob Rosen, last fall, and told ARLnow.com from his office last week that even he was stunned with how quickly the momentum toward legal same sex marriages has grown.

“The pace of this evolution has been remarkable and rewarding,” Fisette said. “In my view, it’s just a matter of time. There’s now an inevitability around marriage equality, as there should be.”

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LGBT rainbow flag (image via Wikipedia)(Updated at 3:25 p.m.) Same-sex marriages could begin next week in Arlington and the rest of Virginia, following this afternoon’s decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond not to delay its ruling striking down the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

The court denied a request to stay the decision while it is appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. That means unless the U.S. Supreme Court intervenes in the next few days, same-sex couples may begin marrying in Virginia next week. State Attorney General Mark Herring’s office tells ARLnow.com licenses can start being issued next Wednesday (August 20), unless the Supreme Court issues a stay.

“Throughout this process, we have fought for the principle of equality, moving the case forward in a swift and orderly way. That is why I have asked the Supreme Court to review the case to quickly and definitively resolve the issue for the Commonwealth and all the states,” said Herring in a written statement. “No one anticipated we would be this close this quickly to the day when all Virginians have the right to marry the person they love. That will be a historic day for our Commonwealth and a joyous day for thousands of loving couples.”

Arlington’s Clerk of the Circuit Court is prepared to issue licenses starting on Wednesday.

“If the Supreme Court of the United States does not intervene, the 4th Circuit decision stands and Arlington would issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” Arlington County Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson told ARLnow.com today.

When asked last month how his office would handle a possible influx of same-sex marriage applications, Ferguson said he and his staff “will do our best to accommodate applicants in a timely manner.”

Last month, the court ruled that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional.

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Morning Notes

Decorated signals in Ballston

APS Still Looking for Teachers — Officials with Arlington Public Schools are still searching for teachers for the 2014-2015 school year, which is only about three weeks away. APS would like about 75 more new teachers in addition to the 225 it already hired. [InsideNova]

Att’y Gen. Asks Supreme Court to Hear Gay Marriage Case — Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has, as expected, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state’s gay marriage case. Herring agrees with the gay marriage ban being struck down, but believes the Supreme Court should look at the case because it could set a nationwide precedent. Last month, Arlington County Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson told ARLnow.com he was waiting for guidance from Herring and would begin performing gay marriages as soon as he received word they would be valid. [Daily Press]

Cemetery to Change Dates on Monument — Arlington National Cemetery has agreed to change the date on a monument to a World War II bomber crew lost in 1944. The stone monument currently shows the year 1946 — which is the year the Army officially classified the crew members as dead — but the plane went missing in 1944. Family members of the crew have been trying to get the date changed for about 12 years. [Stars and Stripes]

Central Library to Loan Garden Tools — Residents soon will be able to borrow garden tools from Central Library. A start date hasn’t yet been set because the library is still gathering gently used tool donations and signing up volunteers to assist with the program. Those interested in helping out or donating tools can get more information online. [Arlington Public Library]

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LGBT rainbow flag (image via Wikipedia)(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) If a federal appeals court ruling goes unchallenged, Arlington County Clerk of the Circuit Court Paul Ferguson says his office is prepared to “start issuing marriage licenses to same sex applicants immediately.”

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond upheld a lower court’s decision that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. State Sen. Adam Ebbin who represents part of Arlington and was the first openly gay member of the Virginia General Assembly, applauded the court’s decision.

“This victory for liberty is in keeping with Jefferson’s admonition that ‘laws and institutions must go hand and hand with the progress of the human mind,'” Ebbin said in a statement. “As the birthplace of America’s civil liberties, it is especially fitting that Virginia provides full equality to all of her citizens.”

The ruling will not take effect for 21 days, according to news reports, and could be put on hold indefinitely if those seeking to uphold the marriage ban are granted a stay while appealing to the full appellate court or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ferguson, who participates in an annual pro-gay marriage demonstration in Arlington, said he believes the appeals process will continue to drag out.

“From what I have heard, it is likely that a stay will be asked for and granted by the Fourth Circuit consistent with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Utah case,” Ferguson told ARLnow.com Monday afternoon. “If the stay is granted, it is likely we will need to wait until the Supreme Court rules.”

Ferguson said he expects to receive guidance from Virginia’s Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, “in the near future.”

Should a stay not be granted, however, Ferguson said “the Arlington Circuit Court Clerk’s office will issue marriage licenses to same sex applicants as soon as we are certain they would be valid.”

“It is possible that the court could rule rejecting the stay sooner,” he said. Asked about the possibility of a crush of gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage licenses, Ferguson said his office “will do our best to accommodate applicants in a timely manner.”

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