Arlington, VA

Peter FallonLast week we asked the six Democratic Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them during the June 9 primary. Two County Board seats are up for grabs this year.

Here is the unedited response from Peter Fallon:

I have a reputation for speaking plainly. That’s why, even though the challenges facing Arlington are complex, I can sum up my solutions in just three words: transparency, accountability and communication.

I’m proud to be a Democrat. The long-term vision of Democratic leadership on the County Board has made Arlington a magnet for new residents and economic growth, and one of the finest communities in America. I should know – Arlington welcomed me when I moved here nearly 30 years ago, and I knew this would be where I raised my family.

I’ve proudly served our community for over 25 years as a Planning Commissioner, Transportation Commissioner, Civic Association President and Progressive activist. I’ve led initiatives that built six schools, three major parks and over 1,000 units of committed affordable housing in our community. I’ve had a front row seat as we’ve blossomed as a community.

It wasn’t always easy. Some of these projects weren’t popular at the time, but I fought for them because I believe a strong Arlington requires making tough, long-term decisions. Here’s how we’ll do it again.

Transparency

Good government requires transparency, both in sharing information and decision making. I support requiring a minimum of 72 hours for the release of Board documents. When voters feel the Board is acting without proper notice, it erodes the community relationship we depend on for effective governance. We can’t live up to our Arlington values when people feel they are irrelevant.

Accountability

I support the decision to create an independent audit function to provide better value for tax dollars and to keep our county programs efficient and effective. We also need firm deadlines on decision making. This will end the continual delays around tough decisions on school construction, community services and vital transportation improvements. We can no longer afford delays.

Communication

Voters often tell me they feel unheard by the County Board. Recent controversies surrounding school capacity, Reevesland and the future of the Wilson School show we must rebuild public trust in County Board operations. It’s time to get back into the community in a visible way, and that means practicing humility and owning our shortcomings in past community engagement.

Voters are eager to implement these ideas, and more.

Voters want a leader who will pay close attention to our finances, and ensuring we spend tax dollars wisely on real community priorities, and speak up when something is wrong.

Voters want to keep our schools strong and retain quality teachers. They want our children out of crowded trailers and in modern classrooms that prepare them for excellence.

Voters want a transportation plan that works for Columbia Pike and Crystal City. Just because we canceled a streetcar doesn’t mean we can dodge finding another solution. The County Board offered enhanced bus service as an alternative – now it’s time to bring residents into the conversation and act.

These best practices resonate with our leadership, too.

I’m proud to have the support of our strongest community voices, including Sen. Barbara Favola, Del. Patrick Hope, Del. Rip Sullivan, former Treasurer Frank O’Leary, The Sun Gazette, The Virginia Sierra Club and The Washington Post. But the endorsement I most seek is yours.

I hope you’ll join me in building a transparent, accountable and communicative Arlington by casting one of your two votes for me on June 9th. And I hope you’ll share your priorities with me at www.FallonforCountyBoard.org.

I can promise you this: even when we do not agree, I will always be transparent with you, and respectful of the diverse opinions that make our community strong. The County Board – our County Board – should pledge nothing less.

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Morning Notes

Blue Jay in Arlington (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

AWLA Cats Star in Movie Trailers — The Animal Welfare League of Arlington is releasing a mock movie trailer each week this month starring their very own cats. The adoptable felines will then be given the star treatment at the shelter. “Guests who visit AWLA each Friday in June will be invited to walk the ‘Paw of Fame,’ enjoy some popcorn and take a photo with one of the starring ‘caters’ or ‘catresses’ or to take one home for free,” The first trailer is set to a “Jurassic World” theme. [Facebook]

Arlington Sells $77 Million in Bonds — Arlington County issued $77 million worth of bonds Tuesday, at an average interest rate of 2.8 percent. “Our Triple-AAA rating has helped ensure the lowest interest rates possible, ensuring taxpayer dollars for bond funded projects are used as effectively as possible,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a press release. [Arlington County]

Sierra Club Endorses Fallon — Peter Fallon has picked up a key environmental endorsement ahead of the June 9 Democratic County Board primary. The Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club has endorsed Fallon, saying he has “a long history of community activism,” is “well versed in the environmental issues facing the County” and is “a strong supporter of [Arlington’s] Community Energy Plan.” Though there are two open County Board seats, the group said it “opted to only endorse one candidate.”

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Biker pooch during Rolling Thunder 2015 (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Honoring War Dead at ANC — At the annual Memorial Day service in Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, President Obama said the country should “never stop trying to fully repay” Americans who have died in battle. It was the first Memorial Day in 14 years without a major American ground war — the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan ended in December. Over the weekend, Boy Scouts and other volunteers placed some 88,000 roses on the graves at the cemetery. [Associated Press, Stars and Stripes]

Post Endorses Cristol, Fallon — The Washington Post’s Editorial Board has endorsed Katie Cristol and Peter Fallon in the upcoming Democratic Arlington County Board primary. The Post lauded Cristol’s “drive and intelligence” and Fallon’s “command of policy.” The political action committee that represents Arlington public school teachers, meanwhile, has endorsed Fallon and Christian Dorsey. [Washington Post, InsideNova]

Bus Fire on I-395 — A tour bus caught fire on I-395 Saturday evening, near the 14th Street Bridge and the Pentagon. No injuries were reported. [InstagramNBC Washington]

County’s Bond Rating Reaffirmed — The three major credit rating agencies have reaffirmed Arlington’s triple-A bond rating, the highest rating possible. There are only 39 counties, including Arlington, that have a perfect triple-triple-A rating. “Retaining the County’s AAA ratings is critical to ensuring the absolute lowest interest rates on our General Obligation bonds,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a press release. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Flowers outside a Rosslyn office building

Mercedes Catches Fire After Lightning Strike — An Arlington man’s beloved Mercedes 430 CLK convertible was “burned to a crisp” Monday night after a lightning strike. The lightning apparently struck a power pole, which then fell over. A sparking power line ignited the Mercedes. [Washington Post]

Arlington Honors 16 Trees — The Arlington County Board recognized 16 “Notable Trees” around the county at its meeting yesterday afternoon. During the 10-minute ceremony, details about each tree were read individually as the tree’s owner came up to the front of the room to collect a plaque or certificate. Of the 16 trees, 14 are located in north Arlington and only 2 are located in south Arlington. [Arlington County]

Shirlington Apartment Building Loses Power — Io Piazza, an upscale apartment building in Shirlington, had been without power for more than 24 hours as of last night. An underground transformer that serves the building failed during Monday’s thunderstorms. [Patch]

Year-Round Gift Wrapping at Pentagon City Mall — Starting May 8, the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City will be offering year-round complimentary gift wrapping service. The service is available for purchases of $250 or more at luxury stores. Previously, the service was only offered during certain holidays.

Fmr. Treasurer Endorses Fallon — Frank O’Leary, who retired as Arlington County Treasurer last year, has endorsed Peter Fallon for County Board. “Peter Fallon is a mature, thoughtful, fiscally responsible candidate with an amazing grasp of the issues that confront our county,” O’Leary said in a statement. “I enthusiastically support his approach to improving Arlington.” [InsideNova]

Cristol Published Buzzfeed Listicle — County Board candidate Katie Cristol has published a Buzzfeed listicle, complete with animated GIFs, highlighting “7 Reasons to Vote in Arlington Virginia.” Among the reasons are “housing is getting less affordable,” “over 50% of Arlington is under 35,” “women need a strong voice in Arlington” and “it’s fun.” [Buzzfeed]

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Katie CristolThe six Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board are all pushing plans to increase affordable housing and encourage more mixed-income neighborhoods in the county.

The Alliance for Housing Solutions asked each candidate — Katie Cristol, Christian Dorsey, Peter Fallon, James Lander, Andrew Schneider and Bruce Wiljanen — about their priorities and solutions for the county’s rising cost of living and rapidly shrinking stock of residences affordable to middle class families.

Each candidate, in their responses, declared affordable housing a strong priority, and vowed solutions to make it easier for lower-income individuals to find a home in the county. Many of the responses touched on the same themes — public-private partnerships as a solution, the county’s lack of land as an obstacle — as the candidates try to distinguish themselves for the two open seats on the Board.

Cristol, the youngest of the candidates, said she would advocate for creative solutions, like the planned WeLive space in Crystal City and making it easier to build additions in single-family homes. The Columbia Pike resident also vowed to protect the affordable housing policies already on the books, like the Affordable Housing Ordinance, which requires developers to contribute affordable units or money to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund if they want to build more density than otherwise allowed by zoning.

Christian Dorsey“Over the past decade, the Affordable Housing Ordinance … has been critical in linking affordable housing to economic redevelopment across the County,” Cristol wrote. “I believe the approach of the Affordable Housing Ordinance is a key mechanism to mitigate the loss of our market-rate affordable stock in the decades to come, and I will champion its protection.”

Dorsey said his affordable housing priorities would be to expand the stock of committed affordable units alongside market-rate affordable units and he, along with the other candidates, argued that a mix of housing prices was key for the county’s long-term economic prosperity.

“Employers consider a community’s ability to house its workforce a critical factor in determining where to locate their business,” Dorsey wrote. “Moreover, since housing is the biggest line item in the budgets for most families, reducing housing costs yields increased income that can be spent on goods and services–increasing demand and thus business sustainability.”

Peter FallonPeter Fallon, who is trying to capture the Democratic nomination for County Board for the second time after losing to Alan Howze in the special election primary last year, said part of the problem with implementing affordable housing problem is the messaging — many people don’t understand why it’s a key issue.

“We need to be honest about the perception of affordable housing in Arlington,” he wrote. “Some residents view affordable housing residents as ‘takers’ who don’t add to the economic vibrancy of the community. As a County Board member, I intend to be a voice for all Arlingtonians, and that means correcting misperceptions about residents of affordable housing — many of whom are long time residents and the same young, middle-class families who make Arlington a top destination for new residents.”

James LanderSchool Board Chair James Lander said he wants to “implement key components” of the Columbia Pike Neighborhood Plan — which calls for the preservation of 6,200 affordable units along the corridor — as a way to spur the development of mixed-income neighborhoods throughout the county.

“Neighborhoods with residents of mixed income levels directly impact the goals of diversity, inclusion, and economic sustainability,” he wrote. “Neighborhoods with residents of mixed income levels directly impact the goals of diversity, inclusion, and economic sustainability. Prioritizing these shared values ensures that our teachers, construction workers, seniors, hospitality and service employees all have increased opportunities to make Arlington their home.”

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Peter FallonArlington County Board candidate Peter Fallon has picked up two key endorsements in his bid for County Board.

Two Democratic state legislators who represent parts of north Arlington, Dels. Rip Sullivan and Patrick Hope, have endorsed Fallon, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination in the June 9 Democratic primary.

Fallon placed a distant third in last year’s County Board primary, picking up 18 percent of the vote compared to 52 percent for Democratic nominee Alan Howze and 30 percent for Cord Thomas. Neither Howze nor Thomas are running this year.

In an election cycle notable for a slate of younger candidates calling for change, Sullivan and Hope both cite Fallon’s long track record of community involvement, including his recent service on the Arlington Planning Commission, as a reason to vote for him.

“Peter Fallon lives and breathes Arlington,” Sullivan said, in a statement. “He has a record of deep commitment and significant contribution to the Arlington community. A long track record of community involvement and leadership. He’ll make a terrific addition to the County Board.”

“Arlington is losing a lot of experience on the County Board this year,” said Hope. “Peter Fallon has the planning expertise that the Board will need. He knows this community well, and that’s why I support Peter’s campaign and strongly encourage Arlington voters to give him one of their two votes for County Board this year.”

Hope has also endorsed Christian Dorsey in the race. Two County Board seats are open this year due to the impending retirement of Board members Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada.

State Sen. Barbara Favola, who endorsed Fallon in 2014 and is quoted on his campaign website, said today via Twitter that she is “giving all 5 candidates for Arlington County Board a chance to present themselves [to] voters” before making any endorsements.

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Arlington County Board candidate Peter FallonThis week, we asked the Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay describing why Arlington residents should vote for them in the Democratic caucus. The caucus is being held from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. today and from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday.

Here is the unedited response from Peter Fallon:

Arlington is a caring community that promotes equality, values diversity, helps those at risk, has great schools, invests in our future, and practices good government. My priorities in this campaign represent these shared values.

As I’ve reached out to voters, the message I’m hearing back has been consistent. People tell me they don’t think the County Board’s decision-making is representative of the community as a whole. I consistently hear that no one is listening to them. Well, I’m here to tell you that I’m listening, and I want to be your voice on the County Board.

I work as a tax accountant and small business advisor. I understand the struggles entrepreneurs face working to make their dream a reality. I also understand that Arlington must reposition itself to attract quality employers to fill our vacant office buildings and maintain our commercial tax base. As an accountant and former auditor, I know when the numbers “don’t add up right.” I pledge to bring a new focus on both transparency and fiscal accountability to Arlington’s decision-making. We must rebuild the public’s confidence in the County’s ability to manage large capital projects both on-time and on-budget.

Arlington has long held a reputation for good government, grounded in the tradition of electing county board members with deep roots in our community and years of service on our advisory commissions. I share this tradition.

My family and I have called Arlington home for more than 27 years. In 1991, we purchased our first home in the Donaldson Run neighborhood where we still live today. Our children attend a local preschool and our eldest will enter Taylor Elementary in September.

I started out as a community advocate, as the President of the Donaldson Run Civic Association for 11 years and represented my neighborhood on the Civic Federation and Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee (NCAC) for over a decade.

I’ve been privileged to serve on the County Planning Commission, the Housing Commission and the Transportation Commission. Over the years, I’ve acquired direct experience across all major areas of responsibility of the County Board from affordable housing to zoning and long range planning. I have a record of working with the community and respecting the diversity of opinion that accompanies all issues in Arlington.

I have been part of the smart growth story that has made Arlington successful, while preserving our established neighborhoods and protecting our high quality of life.

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From left, Peter Fallon, Cord Thomas and Alan Howze at the Arlington Young Democrats County Board debateEncouraging young professionals to stay in Arlington and future transit options were prime topics for the three Democratic Arlington County Board candidates during their second debate of the month.

Alan Howze, Cord Thomas and Peter Fallon debated for an hour and a half in front of a standing-room only crowd of Arlington Young Democrats in Ballston Wednesday night. AYD President Max Burns told ARLnow.com that it was the largest crowd at an AYD meeting he could remember.

Howze and Fallon advocated for the Columbia Pike streetcar as an economic engine and as a long-term, visionary transit plan while Thomas, who in the first debate said he was “not a fan of the Columbia Pike streetcar,” advocated for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) instead.

“We need to focus on a robust BRT system like our neighbors in Fairfax and Alexandria,” Thomas, 31, and a co-founder of EnviroCab, said. “At the end of the day, people just want to get where they’re going. If you can have something that’s state of the art, at one-fifth of the cost, why wouldn’t you choose that?”

Democratic County Board candidate Cord ThomasHowze — an Arlington native who said he remembers when the Orange and Blue lines were built — said that despite the up-front costs, the streetcar is a sound financial investment.

“If you go back and look at the conversation from 40 years ago, you hear echoes from this debate today,” Howze said. “When you look at the life cycle cost, there’s a strong argument to be made that streetcar is cheaper than buses in the long term.”

Fallon, in addition to speaking out in support of the streetcar, said the county needs more north-south transportation options and says the ART bus’ schedule should be expanded for later service. His primary focus during the debate was on affordable housing; he was touting his record as a planning commissioner in creating more than 1,000 units of designated affordable housing.

“The price of admission to Arlington is very high,” Fallon said. “The people who are here, you end up losing them, unless you’re able to capture them.”

Arlington County Board candidate Peter FallonFallon said he wants to re-examine Arlington’s incentive policies for asking developers for affordable housing units or funding. Fallon believes developers should be asked to contribute more than they already are, saying, “we need to get more bang for our buck so we have more of these units available.”

Moderator Gordon Simonett asked the candidates if they were worried about Arlington’s young population moving to cheaper, neighboring communities like Falls Church and Fairfax. All three candidates answered “yes,” but with varying degrees of concern. Thomas said there’s a reason so many young people are in Arlington in the first place.

“My friends constantly talk about moving somewhere” less expensive, Thomas said, but “Arlington’s a terrific place to be when you’re young.”

“There’s definitely a wonderful sense of young people, entrepreneurs and really young professionals here,” he said. “That’s why when I got here, it was really the place for me. Falls Church might be a little bit cheaper, but it doesn’t have what Arlington has.” Read More

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Morning Notes

The dog's perspective... (Flickr pool photo by wolfkann)

Two of Three Dem Candidates Endorse Streetcar — Two of the three Democratic candidates for County Board — Alan Howze and Peter Fallon — have voiced support for the Columbia Pike streetcar project. The third Democratic contender — Cord Thomas — has concerns about the proposal. [Sun Gazette]

Lack of Decal in Fairfax Affects Arlington — Eight years ago Fairfax County became the lone jurisdiction in Northern Virginia to abandon car tax decals, and Arlington County Treasurer Frank O’Leary believes that’s costing Arlington $300,000. O’Leary said it’s too labor intensive to check every single vehicle parked in Arlington without a decal to determine if the vehicle is from Fairfax or if the owner didn’t pay Arlington taxes. [Sun Gazette]

Civic Leadership Program Deadline Extended — Arlington County has extended the deadline for residents interested in signing up for the eight week Neighborhood College program. Participants will learn communication and influencing skills, how to organize for action and how to give and receive feedback, among other things. The deadline to sign up for the free series is now January 10, and classes begin February 13. [Arlington County]

Police Officer Profiled — A member of the Arlington County Police Department — Capt. Kamran Afzal — has been profiled in Asian Fortune. The Pakistani American studied economics in college before turning to a life in law enforcement. He has been with the department for 20 years. [Asian Fortune]

Christmas Tree Collection Begins — County workers began collecting discarded Christmas trees yesterday. The trees are collected curbside until January 17 and will be turned into mulch. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by wolfkann

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