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by Progressive Voice September 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Krysta Jones

A few years ago I had the pleasure of being invited to serve on the Women’s Monument Commission of Virginia, which is leading awareness and fundraising efforts for a first of its kind monument on the Capitol Grounds in Richmond. The monument will honor 12 women who have made an impact in Virginia.

Coincidentally, the monument is scheduled for completion just shy of 2020, when we will celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote. There are several initiatives around the country to highlight and share years of research exploring how a movement of a diverse group of women fighting for the right to vote succeeded in securing the right to vote – primarily for white women.

After the Women’s March in January 2017, which galvanized a new energy and birthed a growing crop of activists, I have been even more aware of divergent movements within the women’s movement. While some saw the march as an opportunity to celebrate all women, others were disappointed with the lack of diversity among the organizers and the attendees.

It is no surprise that the “women’s movement” has been historically been run by white females, often older, who have become the stalwarts and spokespeople for what it means to fight for equal pay, reproductive rights, affordable childcare, or other traditional women’s issues.

As I have worked to motivate more women from all backgrounds to take an active interest and leadership role in all fields, and advocate for women’s issues, I have always noticed that many don’t see women like themselves on the front lines. While it is true that there is something special about seeing yourself in those who lead, it’s even more important for the overall good and progress of society to build relationships and learn from those who are different from ourselves.

The Women’s Monument Commission of Virginia seeks to do just that. The Commission selected women to honor with a view toward diversity of races, professional backgrounds, ages, time periods and geography. A major goal was to help us move past traditional stereotypes of what it means to be a woman leader.

When people walk up to the monument and read or hear about each statue, we want them to see some of themselves — as well as people different from themselves — as they reflect on the accomplishments of the women honored and at the same time reflect on what they can aspire to in their own lives.

Some of the women featured in the monument include:

Maggie L. Walker, who was one of the great entrepreneurs of her time and, with the founding of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, the first woman to charter a bank in the United States.

Cockacoeske, who was a Pamunkey chief and an astute politician and ruled the Pamunkey for 30 years until her death in 1686. As Chief, she signed the Treaty of Middle Plantation on May 29, 1677, restoring important rights to native Virginia tribes and commemorated in an annual ceremony among the chiefs of the Mattaponi and Pamunkey tribes and the Governor of Virginia during Thanksgiving week in November. 

Laura Lu Copenhaver, who as Director of Information of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation helped expand southwestern Virginia’s agricultural economy by emphasizing cooperative marketing of farm products to improve the standard of living for farm families.

On October 4 at the Woman’s Club of Arlington, I will moderate a conversation with former State Senator (and former Arlington County Board chair) Mary Margaret Whipple about her leadership journey, her service as Commission vice chair, and stories of the women who will be featured with statues as part of the monument.

My hope is that we can encourage additional dialogue in Arlington in advance of the completion of the monument to inspire an appreciation and celebration of the true power of all women.

Krysta Jones is founder and CEO of the Virginia Leadership Institute and former Chair of the Arlington Commission on the Status of Women. In 2014, Krysta was named by Leadership Arlington as a Top 40 Leaders Under 40 awardee.

by Progressive Voice September 14, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Maggie Davis

With back-to-back record setting hurricanes Harvey and Irma, there is no mistaking it: climate change is real, and it’s here. Our fellow Americans and others living in or visiting the Caribbean and along the Gulf coast now face the massive task of recovering and rebuilding.

In rebuilding, community and governmental leaders should make every effort to “build back better”  to replace the destroyed damaged infrastructure with new materials better equipped to withstand the storms our changing climate is making more intense and more damaging.

The ability for a community to come back better from a disaster — weather related or otherwise — is directly tied to the investments a community makes well before a disaster. In the urgency of rebuilding from an immediate disaster, it is incredibly difficult for a community to identify and implement new design or technology when rebuilding.

Instead, community resilience requires us to be proactive, adaptable and diverse in our investments so we can withstand the next weather-related disaster as well as other adverse events.

Proactive. Arlington leaders have proactively addressed environmental concerns in planning. From its 2013 Clean Energy Plan to lower greenhouse gas emissions to improving road intersections to make transit easier for bicyclists and pedestrians, Arlington is making a concerted effort to curb climate change.

But an even larger part of community resilience is proactively addressing the needs of our residents’ ability to thrive. This includes addressing systemic issues that are more difficult for residents to sustain through a disaster.

Resiliency in the face of an adverse community event — whether it is a hurricane, a terrorist attack like the one we experienced on 9/11, or an economic crisis — often depends on the overall stability in a person’s life as well as access to resources a person has before that event.

If it is difficult for community members to make ends meet during the best of times, it highly likely that a disaster would set them back even farther. This is why we need to proactively address long-term underlying issues such as low and stagnant wages and housing affordability.

Adaptable. In building a more resilient Arlington, we must be willing to adapt to changing times. This includes both general policy and the underlying reality that to invest in the future the county needs to have revenue to invest.

Arlington has struggled with a large commercial vacancy rate for at least the last five years, and in an era where many jobs can be completed with a laptop and a wifi connection many companies are increasing productivity while decreasing the physical space need to operate.

Moving forward, the county should critically examine the current vacancies and continue to pursue flexibility in how certain vacant or nearly-vacant are used. By being more flexible, we may be able to lower the commercial vacancy rate and increase tax revenues to further invest in the community.

Diverse. Arlington needs a diversity of skills, abilities, and resources to grow and thrive in these tumultuous times. In recent years the county has done a good job at diversifying our underlying economy, with the Nestle Corporation moving its headquarters to Rosslyn and the county’s intention to entice Amazon to open its second headquarters here, Arlington is moving toward an economy somewhat less reliant on federal agencies, workers and contractors even while remaining competitive in the federal space given Arlington’s location next to the nation’s capital.

This economic diversity makes the County less susceptible to threats of federal budget cuts and government shutdowns. It also provides a workforce with a greater diversity of skills by drawing in tech entrepreneurs, engineers, marketers, artists and more alongside the many bureaucrats, lawyers, and policy makers who have called Arlington home for years.

In sum, emergencies can come in many forms and without advance warning. Arlington is known and respected for its planning. We are more resilient than many communities for that reason. But waiting for emergencies to create sufficient resiliency is a mistake. That is why it is important to be proactive and adaptable while diversifying our skills, abilities and resources.

Maggie Davis is President of the Arlington Young Democrats. She lives in the Radnor Heights- Ft. Myer neighborhood and works as an emergency management law and policy analyst.

by Progressive Voice September 7, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By John Grant

Labor Day is in the rearview mirror, students are back in school, and football is in the air. Fall is here and — since we live in Virginia where we have elections every year — that means we have another election in just a few short weeks.

On November 7, the eyes of the nation will be on Virginia as we elect our next Governor. This will be the first major statewide election since the 2016 Presidential election.

If you’re disheartened or angered by what’s happening across the Potomac River, you have a chance to send a message to America — and the world — by making sure we send the right person to the Governor’s mansion.

I believe Dr. Ralph Northam is the right person for the job. He’s a pediatric neurologist who also served as a U.S. Army physician from 1984-1992. He is also our current Lt. Governor, having previously served two terms in the Virginia State Senate.

Dr. Northam has the right experience to keep Virginia moving forward and continue the great work of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D). He has worked side by side with McAuliffe in strengthening and diversifying Virginia’s economy — particularly in communities like Arlington that have substantial federal spending as part of their local economy.

Dr. Northam is a thoughtful listener and a pragmatic problem solver. Given what we’re all seeing on the news every day, doesn’t that sound like a breath of fresh air?

My grandmother always said you can tell a lot about people by the company they keep. Dr. Northam’s endorsements show that his agenda and his values fit well with Arlington — the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, NARAL Pro Choice Virginia, the Virginia Education Association, the Virginia Professional Firefighters and Equality Virginia are some of many organizations endorsing Dr. Northam’s candidacy. Ralph’s company is Arlington’s company.

Dr. Northam grew up on the Chesapeake Bay. Stewardship of our natural heritage is in his DNA. In his time in Richmond, Dr. Northam has taken steps to combat the climate crisis, promote the new energy economy and the jobs it creates, and advance clean energy solutions.

Dr. Northam’s vision for our environment stands in stark contrast to the efforts by Ed Gillespie to take Virginia backwards in terms of energy production. That led Tom Perriello to recently highlight the importance of electing Ralph Northam in this piece on Blue Virginia.

I know a lot of people are just realizing we have an election this year. There’s plenty of time to do your homework. You can learn a lot more about Dr. Northam here. I believe you’ll agree with me that Dr. Northam is the right person to stand up for Arlington values in Richmond.

While you’re learning more about Ralph Northam, keep in mind that Virginia Democrats also have great candidates for Lt. Governor (Justin Fairfax) and Attorney General (Mark Herring). Their values and positions on the issues also align with the majority of Arlingtonians.

Here are a few things you can do right now:

1) Make sure you’re registered to vote. Moved recently? New to the Commonwealth? Out of town on Election Day? You have until Monday, October 16 to update your registration and until Tuesday, October 31 to request an absentee ballot. I know we’re all busy, so consider this your five-week warning. You can find information about voting in Arlington here.

2) Out of town on Election Day? You have until October 31 to request an absentee ballot. Or you can vote in-person absentee at Courthouse Plaza starting on Friday, September 22.

3) Feeling fired up and ready to go? You can volunteer via the Arlington Democrats or via the Northam campaign here.

John Grant is a past Chair of the Arlington County Transportation Commission. He lives in Nauck with his wife, toddler and Alaskan Malamute.

by Progressive Voice August 31, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Emma Violand-Sánchez

On the morning of Thursday, August 24, I stood at Courthouse Plaza next to Lizette A., an extraordinary young woman, as she led a press conference to announce that she and 10 other Dreamers and their allies would spend the weekend marching from Charlottesville to Richmond to advocate for the immigrant community.

Lizette said that she and her fellow Dreamers could not continue to sit and wait as politicians “use our futures as a bargaining chip while having our families and communities torn apart.”

Lizette was referring to the agonizing uncertainty about whether the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs will be ended by the current administration and Congress. These programs, instituted under the Obama Administration, have allowed nearly 800,000 students and young working adults to contribute to the country that is their home.

Lizette is an inspiration. I have known her since she graduated valedictorian from Wakefield High School. She was only two months old when her parents brought her to the United States. Lizette qualified for DACA, earned a scholarship to attend college and now works at an educational non-profit.

But instead of rejoicing in their success, Lizette and other DACA recipients live under stress because Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and other attorneys general have given President Trump an ultimatum that if he does not phase out DACA by September 5, they will sue the federal government.

How can it be that an exceptional professional who has lived virtually her entire life in Arlington and considers herself an American – it is the only country she has known – faces such a threat to her future and that of about 800,000 DACA recipients? Without DACA, these young people will lose work permits, their defense against deportation, and their chance to go to college at in-state tuition rates.

More than 600 college and university presidents wrote to the President to uphold and continue DACA. It is not just a moral imperative but an economic benefit to the nation: The Center for American Progress has calculated that the country would gain $433.4 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) if DACA is continued.

What is to be gained by pulling the rug out from under the feet of these hard-working young people? What is the source of this bigotry? Sadly, recent events in Charlottesville reminded us all of how strong are the forces of hate and division in this country.

And shortly after Charlottesville, the President of the United States pardoned a sheriff who was convicted of using racial profiling to target immigrants. Think about that: Our president pardoned a man who was found guilty of discrimination and contempt of court.

Lizette is one of the founding Board members of the Dream Project. The Project’s mission is to empower students whose immigration status creates barriers to education — by working with them to access and succeed in college through scholarships, mentoring, family engagement, and advocacy.

The Dream Project has awarded 77 scholarships for the 2017-18 academic year. This past year, we had an exceptional retention rate in college of over 83 percent and 24 of our Dream Scholars have graduated from college. They currently are working as engineers, medical professionals, researchers, and journalists.

In times of such darkness as we face today, it is tempting to give in. In times of such hatred as we face today, it is easy to hate back. But as Martin Luther King once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

This is why we must continue to shine light on our work so that more people can see what our Dreamers are striving for, what they aspire to achieve, how they hope to contribute to this great nation, and what inspiring young men and women they are.

And we must resist the desire to hate back at those who hate us: The rightness of our cause will be proven by our deeds, by our values, by our character. Our Dreamers don’t have time to hate – they are too busy building productive and creative lives, caring for their families, and contributing to their communities and their country.

Dr. Emma Violand Sánchez is the founder and President of the Dream Project Board. She is a former chair of the Arlington School Board member and retired administrator. In January 2017 she was selected as a Washingtonian of the Year and in June 17 she received the Woman of Vision Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arlington Commission on the Status of Women.

by Progressive Voice August 24, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Paul Friedman

It was said by some that Barack Obama’s election and presidency was a reflection that America had become a post-racial society.

For many people, that was a positive, hopeful – albeit optimistic — statement. For others, it was a reason to discredit diversity and inclusion efforts and declare that institutional racism no longer existed; that discrimination against people of color could not exist in a land that had elected an African American president.

For still others — including President Donald Trump – President Obama’s election was illegitimate. It was the culmination of societal change favoring people of color and foreigners at the expense of white Americans who had made this country great. President Obama was to be opposed and delegitimized. The attack on white America was to be exposed. America was to be made great again.

These forces led to the election of Donald Trump. In August 2017, they led to the invasion of Charlottesville and the University of Virginia by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK. They led, in turn, to a President signaling support for those invaders.

What a far cry from March 1965, when America recoiled from the racism of state police nearly killing marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. The brutal display – almost exactly 100 years after the end of the Civil War – led to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The post-racial society illusion would underlie a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court 5-4 decision stripping the Voting Rights Act of Section 4, one of its most important provisions that required certain states to get advance federal approval before making any changes impacting voting.

Led by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court claimed that states with a long history of slavery, segregation, racism and voter suppression had evolved and were no longer in need of close federal supervision. Contrary to the Chief Justice’s unjustified and convoluted logic that Section 4 was no longer necessary, the result of the decision has been a concerted push to eliminate from the voting rolls African Americans and other people of color.

Those who felt the need to oppose and delegitimize President Obama provided the political catalyst for Donald Trump, who boldly launched his campaign against President Obama in March 2011 on “The View” by asking: “Why doesn’t [Obama] show his birth certificate? There’s something on that birth certificate he doesn’t like.”

On Fox News five days later, he said, “I’m starting to wonder myself whether or not he was born in this country.” Two days later, he went on Laura Ingraham’s radio program and declared: “He doesn’t have a birth certificate, or if he does, there’s something on that certificate that is very bad for him. Now, somebody told me … that where it says ‘religion,’ it might have ‘Muslim.’ And if you’re a Muslim, you don’t change your religion, by the way.”

Off to the races, Trump has not looked back. He initially declined to disavow the support of David Duke. He used Twitter to send coded messages, sometimes via his family members, about his support for racists and anti-Semites – amazingly despite his daughter becoming Jewish, marrying a Jew and raising Jewish children.

Then, in the wake of the hatred and anti-Semitism on display in Charlottesville, America saw its elected national leader take his strategy, and the expression of his personal views, to a whole new and previously unthinkable level. President Trump actually said that there were “many fine people” among the neo-Nazis and KKK’ers despite videos of them chanting racist and anti-Semitic epithets as they marched with torches. He has not backed away from his statement.

And he wants to ensure that we keep monuments in place to uphold our “heritage.”

Think back to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in March 1965. Pettus served as a Confederate general during the Civil War. After the war he was a Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan and a Democratic U.S. Senator. The bridge was named for him in 1940 to send a message of support for his involvement in the KKK. It was one of many such acts by those seeking a return to a world in which white people were viewed as superior to African Americans in the law and in daily interactions.

Is this the heritage President Trump wants to preserve?

We have an opportunity in Virginia in 2017 to send a strong signal to President Trump that his vision does not reflect our values. I hope voters will send that signal on November 7.

Paul Friedman is an attorney and a long-time resident of Northern Virginia. He has been active in nonprofit organizations, civic organizations, and as a business consultant. He is currently the Executive Director of a national advocacy organization.

by Progressive Voice August 17, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Graham Weinschenk

At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, I stood in front of the Arlington School Board along with fellow members of the Student Advisory Board leadership team and declared that we had just experienced “The Year of the Student” in the Arlington Public Schools.

Multiple times throughout the school year, large numbers of students had expressed themselves in front of the School Board and attempted to influence policy; something unseen before this year.

Most notably, on February 16 over 100 students, parents and staff from Yorktown High School walked into the Arlington Education Center and took their places facing the School Board. Nearly 40 of those students spoke out, providing over an hour and a half of testimony. They spoke out because after dozens of incidents of racism, homophobia, xenophobia and hate, the response from the Yorktown High School administration appeared to be non-existent. There was either no punishment or little punishment for those who made inappropriate and callous remarks. Targeted students had no tangible support from their school administration.

So, the students took their concerns to the School Board. Thirty-nine speakers later, the members of the School Board gave their responses. The Superintendent of the Arlington Public Schools, Dr. Patrick Murphy (whose contract was recently renewed a year early), said, “I am stepping up. This is not acceptable.” Yet, what has come to fruition from the outrage expressed by parents, teachers and, most importantly, students?

Speaking as the former Vice Chair of the APS Student Advisory Board, my conclusion is that seven months later we have yet to see a single proposed policy change. The School Board and the Superintendent heard, but they did not listen.

Today, we continue to hear a lot of talk, but there remains no tangible commitment by the Arlington Public Schools to make changes on this issue. The frustration that still exists among students, especially on this topic, leads me to call for a student representative to the Arlington School Board.

Student representatives are nothing new, and it would be fairly easy to introduce one to the Board. The Virginia Code (§22.1-86.1) has allowed for the appointment of student representatives to local school boards since 1999. The Alexandria School Board has had two appointed student representatives since 2013 while the Fairfax School Board has had a student representative since 1986.

Under state law, student representatives are eligible to sit with school boards during public and closed meetings, introduce resolutions for consideration, and be able to say how they would have voted. However, there are still some restrictions. Student representatives are not allowed to vote on matters before the board, and they are not allowed access to confidential information, including information related to a specific student, teacher, or employee.

Last school year was a hallmark year for student involvement in the Arlington Public Schools. Like never before, students were able to translate their anger and disappointment on numerous issues into direct action – at times flooding the board room to make their voices heard on multiple occasions and for numerous issues.

The frustration that many students feel goes beyond not feeling included; it stems from a feeling that not only is the student voice not wanted, but that it is also not an important factor for consideration in the decision-making process. The relationship between the Arlington School Board and the Student Advisory Board is similar to the relationship between a teacher and a student and as long as that attitude of keeping students at arms-length exists, the voices of students will never truly be heard.

Now more than ever, students need a sign from APS that they matter, and a student representative on the School Board would show that the student voice is important. Student apathy toward the Arlington Public Schools is dead. It is time to include us in the decision-making process.

Graham Weinschenk is a former Yorktown High School student who graduated in 2017. He served as the Vice Chair of the Arlington Public Schools Student Advisory Board for the 2016-2017 school year. Outside of APS, he serves as the Secretary of the Virginia Young Democrats and will be attending the College of William & Mary in the fall.

by Progressive Voice August 10, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Andres Tobar

Today’s national media attention on immigration is primarily focusing on the deportation of undocumented immigrants and on the building of a border wall and who will pay for it.

Less attention is focused on the positive work being achieved in local jurisdictions where immigrants are viewed as an asset, not a liability, and the work that they do to bring a civil tone to the immigration debate.

In Arlington County, many Latino activists have worked over the years with other community and civic leaders to ensure that Arlington remains a place of welcome and inclusion. One outstanding leader is Leni Gonzalez, a Latina from Mexico who came to the United States several decades ago to study on a Fulbright scholarship. She later moved to Arlington when, in 1986, she married her husband, Lee Niederman. Later this month, Leni will leave Arlington to move to El Salvador, where her husband has accepted a job.

During her time in our community, Leni has always worked to improve the lives of immigrants and new Americans. In the last decades, her experience and compassion for others has made her an important leader on numerous fronts.

For example, Leni was one of the founders of the Shirlington Employment and Education Center (SEEC), a day laborer center established in 2000 to help immigrants find employment by matching them with employers who are in need of temporary labor. She has been a member of the Executive Board, including serving as its Chair for the past several years. Leni has worked closely with SEEC’s community partners to strengthen SEEC’s programs and build upon its successes.

SEEC is the only local nonprofit organization in Virginia that works with the County government in providing a welcoming venue for immigrants seeking temporary employment and a convenient process for employers.

As SEEC Board Chair, Leni’s leadership helped expand SEEC’s mission to train immigrant women on using green cleaning products in their housekeeping businesses, improve their marketing and safety, and increase their business opportunities. Leni also championed a SEEC program to train Latinas on starting their own businesses, an initiative that SEEC has hosted in partnership with El Poder de Ser Mujer (The Power of being a Woman).

Leni was one of the founders of the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO), a coalition of Latino organizations advocating for immigrant rights and in opposing anti-immigrant legislation in the Virginia State legislature. Leni served on its Executive Committee and for more than 10 years helped organize advocacy activities in Richmond by bringing immigrants, many of them students, as well as members of the faith community, to meet with General Assembly members to express opposition to numerous anti-immigrant bills.

A number of these bills focused on immigrant students and higher education. These bills were intended to block immigrant students, even if they graduated from our local schools, from entering college or paying in-state tuition. The testimony of the students helped humanize immigrants before legislators, most of whom had rarely encountered this community in their everyday life.

Leni’s understanding of the Latino community and the need to participate in the political process led to her being the first Latino leader to Co-Chair an Arlington Democratic Joint Campaign in 2000.

In 2002, Leni worked in Gov. Mark Warner’s Administration, followed by a similar appointment in Gov. Tim Kaine’s Administration. Most of her work was in the Department of Motor Vehicles, where Leni was a Department Liaison to the community. She did extensive work in clarifying the driver’s license eligibility requirements for legal residents. Leni also promoted through the Latino media information to help immigrants navigate DMV processes.

For Leni’s years of service as a multicultural outreach worker, she has received recognitions and honors, including Northern Virginian of the Year in 2016, Distinguished Latina Women Life Achievement Award in 2014, and Arlington County’s James B. Hunter Human Rights Award in 2015.

There are few Latinos in Virginia who have demonstrated over time the ability to work effectively with both state and local government agencies and in the immigrant community. Leni is one of those few. Fortunately, she has set an example that other Latinos have learned from and will be able to follow.

Leni will be dearly missed by both the immigrant community and those in government circles who had the privilege of working with her.

Andres Tobar has been the Executive Director of SEEC for the past 13 years and has worked and served with Leni on many Latino advocacy and political organization efforts.

by Progressive Voice August 3, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Matt de Ferranti

In recent months, this column has highlighted a positive, progressive agenda advanced by the 8th Congressional District Democratic Committee. We now turn to county-level issues.

Schools, Metro and transportation, housing affordability, parks and open space and Arlington’s Energy Plan are all important issues worth discussing in detail.

I believe each is linked to economic opportunity, so that’s where I begin.

Economic Opportunity in Arlington is Strong: At our county’s core, just like our country’s, is the idea that the American Dream is achievable for those who work hard. By that standard — how achievable is the American Dream — Arlington is a great place to live.

Measures of economic opportunity confirm this. Our unemployment rate is 2.2 percent. Our population is amongst the most educated in the country. Our median household income is fifth highest in the country.

Arlington Faces Economic Challenges: Despite being a place where most can realize their versions of the American Dream, we do have challenges. Our commercial vacancy rate over the last five years has been between 18-20 percent, reflecting the reality that many federal tenants left Crystal City and Rosslyn in the aftermath of September 11 and that the economy is shifting from heavy reliance on office buildings to working from home and the technology-driven workplaces of the 21st century.

Arlington’s 8.8 percent poverty rate is another challenge we must face. In 2015, the poverty line for a family of four in the County was $24,250. In such a great county, we should take measures to help our neighbors in need — many of whom already work full time — above the poverty line.

Embrace The 21st Century Economy: As the workplace changes, we will need to be a great place to work and play to retain and attract businesses and talent. We must embrace the technology based economy and the green economy as they lead to new economic growth in the years to come. That means embracing Arlington’s Energy Plan and driving toward even more renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Acquire Land Necessary to Grow: The newly formed Joint Facilities Advisory Committee has recommended that we acquire the land necessary to provide public services important to all Arlingtonians. I believe the County Board should approve the purchase of the land on S. Carlin Springs Road and the Buck Property. We will need both properties to facilitate public safety and transportation services needed to serve our people and keep our economy growing.

Invest in Metro: Metro has enabled many of us to get to work and has brought many businesses to Arlington. While there have been significant problems over the past few years, it’s also true that Metro is an investment in the middle class that has paid off many times over and that Metro’s role in businesses success and accommodating population growth make it indispensable. We must be committed stakeholders, demanding accountability while investing wisely. We cannot let Metro fail.

Commit to Building a Fourth High School: Over the long-term, economic growth will be heavily influenced by the quality of our schools. To keep our schools world class, I believe we must work to reduce construction costs and find efficiencies, while also committing to providing funding necessary to build a fourth, full-service high school.

Protect and Preserve Housing Affordability: Arlington must be a place where the middle class and those who want to work their way into the middle class can afford to live. Teachers, police officers, nurses, restaurant workers and construction workers must be able to afford to buy a home or rent. Seniors seeking to age in place must be able to find a way to stay here. Millennials must be able to afford to rent and realize their dreams of owning. And, yes, we must fully commit to funding the Affordable Housing Investment Fund so that we maintain affordability and diversity as Arlington continues to grow.

Practice Fiscal Restraint: Over the last two years, the County Board has made good, hard decisions on the budget such as choosing to close Artisphere and focus our funding for the arts on Signature Theatre as well as deciding to sell the Reeves Farmhouse while keeping the surrounding land as parkland and for historic uses. We will need to make similar hard decisions in the years to come so that we can have the resources to serve those in need and invest wisely in our future.

Conclusion

Arlington truly is a great place to live. Progressive ideas can make our community even better.

Matt de Ferranti serves on Arlington County’s Housing Commission as Vice Chair, is a member of the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission and is Chair of the Budget Advisory Council to the Arlington School Board.

by Larry Roberts July 27, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Larry Roberts

This is the final installment in a series of columns about how Arlington progressives and 8th Congressional District (Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax) Democrats responded from a policy perspective to the 2016 Presidential election.

I am providing – again without editorial comment — the progressive agenda as defined by resolutions adopted by the 8th Congressional District Democratic Convention delegates. This is a window into the views of progressive voters entering a gubernatorial election year with an outcome that will have a dramatic effect on progressives, Arlington County and the Commonwealth’s future.

Support for Local Moderate Income Down Payment Assistance Programs. We support Virginia developing local down payment assistance programs for well qualified first-time homebuyers; income limits for those who can qualify should consider multiple independent income earners in conjunction with or rather than total household size; and adding minimum annual student loan payments to the formula for determining income limits.

Thanking Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) for His Service to Virginia. McAuliffe has served as Virginia’s Governor with distinction. He restored public trust and confidence in the office in the wake of conflict of interest scandals surrounding his predecessor. On his first day in office, the Governor signed an executive order imposing a $100 gift ban on himself, his family and members of his administration and their families.

Under his leadership, Virginia has announced 926 projects, created 189,200 new jobs and attracted $15.86 billion in new capital investment. McAuliffe has worked to prepare the Commonwealth for the effects of climate changes and to reduce Virginia’s contribution to its causes. To promote Virginia’s State Park System, he will visit every state park.

In addition to positive leadership on important policy issues, the Governor has been an essential bulwark against the mean-spirited attempts of the Republican-controlled General Assembly to take Virginia backwards on many social and economic issues. He has vetoed 91 bills and has amended many additional ones. Absent his actions, Virginia would be far less welcoming to many of its residents.

Therefore, the Convention congratulates McAuliffe on a job well done and urges voters to elect a Democratic successor to continue his efforts to curb the excesses of the Republican-controlled General Assembly.

Title IX. Protections for transgender students should be reinstated and guidance issued, and investigations commenced by the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education should be continued per the current standards. Additionally, the OCR should be fully funded to ensure that all students in Virginia are protected so that they can attend public schools and universities safely and free of discrimination. All K-12 and Virginia higher education institutions should advance and enforce the principles and legal standards of equality promulgated under Title IX.

Title X. Title X of the Population Research and Voluntary Family Planning Program provides significant and critical health and economic benefits for individuals, families and society. Millions of low income men and women in the United States rely on publicly funded services through Title X, family planning services, and other health care services including early detection and treatment of STIs and cervical cancer.

Without adequate funding to Title X to pay for these services, many men and women in Virginia will have no access to these lifesaving and family planning services. Sufficient funding should be provided to adequately meet the needs of the residents of Virginia who rely on services funded through Title X. The Federal government should prohibit discrimination against Title X providers that perform abortions with non-federal funds.

Voting Rights. We condemn any measure that seeks to gain political advantage by hindering citizens from exercising their fundamental right to vote; urge Congress to act promptly to fix Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act so that states with a recent history of discrimination will once again be subject to pre-clearance review by the Department of Justice; urge the General Assembly to enact a no-excuse in-person early (absentee) voting procedures, repeal the recently-enacted voter ID laws, and streamline voter registration procedures; and commend McAuliffe’s actions to restore voting rights to convicted felons who have served their time without the unnecessary and time consuming application process previously imposed.

The General Assembly must amend Article II, Section I of the State Constitution to remove Jim Crow-era felon disenfranchisement provisions. The Virginia Parole Board and other government organizations should actively educate Virginians on their restored voting rights and assist them in registering to vote.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice who has previously served in the state Cabinet as Counselor to Governor Tim Kaine and as Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair. He has been Chair for three successful statewide political campaigns, including Justin Fairfax’s campaign to be the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor in 2017.

by Larry Roberts July 20, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Larry Roberts

This is the fourth of five in a series of columns about how Arlington progressives and 8th Congressional District (Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and parts of Fairfax) Democrats responded from a policy perspective to the 2016 Presidential election.

In that same context, this week will bring an opportunity to see how this year’s gubernatorial candidates will try to define their agenda and that of their opponent as the Virginia Bar Association will host its traditional first gubernatorial debate of the campaigns season at 11 a.m. on July 22 at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia. The public will be able to see the debate via a PBS live stream and there is generally substantial press coverage.

While we await the debate and coverage of it, I am providing – again without editorial comment — the progressive agenda as defined by resolutions adopted by the 8th Congressional District Democratic Convention delegates as a window into the views of progressive voters in an area of the Commonwealth that will be an important indicator of the level of Democratic enthusiasm during a general election that will receive national attention.

Opposition to Proposed 2018 Federal Budget: The Convention opposes the proposed federal budget as it would harm the economy and citizens of the Washington, D.C. region generally, including Northern Virginia, and encourages Democrats to hold elected officials accountable should they actively and/or passively support budgetary policies harmful to Northern Virginia.

Opposition to Gerrymandering: Gerrymandering of districts must end and voters should be allowed to select their political representatives instead of officeholders selecting their voters. Any solution should be independent, objective, and transparent. As a Constitutional amendment may be necessary to assure the independence of the redistricting process, the General Assembly should act in its 2018 session so that the amendment can take effect before the 2021 redistricting.

Pay and Benefits: Congress should establish a national paid family and medical leave policy that guarantees at least 12 weeks of compensated leave to care for new children or deal with family medical emergencies. Congress and the Commonwealth should incentivize businesses to adopt profit sharing systems such as employee stock ownership plans to ensure workers receive a fair share of large employer success. Virginia should explore ways to provide options and incentives for employers to voluntarily offer increased pay and benefits in these areas.

Political Contributions from Public Service Corporations: General Assembly members should reject campaign contributions from a public service corporation. The Convention supports legislation prohibiting candidates for the General Assembly or statewide office from soliciting or accepting campaign contributions from a public service corporation and urges Virginia’s state and local elected officials to establish the fight against climate change as a top legislative priority in accordance with Virginia’s constitutional mandate to “protect [Virginia’s] atmosphere, lands, and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction.”

Preserving the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): The proposed federal budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency are detrimental to protecting the nation’s clean air and water. Congress should use a full life cycle cost analysis in setting budget priorities rather than ideological agendas.

Primaries Instead of Caucuses: The Convention recommends that the Democratic Party of Virginia and the local Democratic committees conduct primaries whenever possible.

Religious Freedom: The Convention condemns the Trump Administration in the strongest possible terms for allowing an employer to interfere with employee health care benefits based on the employer’s religious beliefs. This policy is a direct infringement of the employee’s religious views. Congress should overturn these hasty and ill-advised actions so as to restore the right of every citizen to hold their own religious views and to reach their own views on political issues without taxpayer subsidized lectures advocating partisan positions from the pulpit.

SNAP and Nutrition: This nation should make sufficient resources available to end hunger in the United States. The Convention opposes the conversion of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program into a block grant to the states. The federal agricultural program should include nutritional assistance as an integral part of its mission. The Convention opposes steps that would attack nutritional education and the promotion of good eating habits by school children and by the population as a whole.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice who has previously served in the state Cabinet as Counselor to Governor Tim Kaine and as Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair. He has been Chair for three successful statewide political campaigns, including Justin Fairfax’s campaign to be the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor in 2017.

by Larry Roberts July 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Larry Roberts

This is the third in a series of columns about how Arlington progressives and 8th Congressional District (Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and parts of Fairfax) Democrats responded from a policy perspective to the 2016 Presidential election.

Arlington Democrats now have in place a “state house to school house” ticket for the November 2017 election – Ralph Northam (Governor), Justin Fairfax (Lt. Governor), Mark Herring (Attorney General), Patrick Hope, Mark Levine, Alfonso Lopez and Rip Sullivan (House of Delegates), Erik Gutshall (County Board), and Monique O’Grady (School Board).

As the ticket’s electoral agenda comes into focus, the progressive agenda as defined by  resolutions adopted by the 8th Congressional District Democratic Convention delegates – again presented without editorial comment – remains instructive.

Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: Encourages strict enforcement of existing laws regulating the manufacture and distribution of addictive opioids, as well as the following actions (1) law enforcement should assist drug manufacturers in their internal investigations of possible overprescribing and counterfeiting of opioid drugs; (2) Virginia health officials should continue to provide guidance to medical professionals about the appropriate medical use of opioids following guidelines published by the CDC, and should monitor and periodically publish statistics on the volume of opioids prescribed in the state; (3) Virginia should establish and fully fund expanded treatment and rehabilitation programs for opioid abuse to ensure that opioid addiction is properly viewed as a public health issue rather than simply leading to increased incarceration rates; and (4) Virginia should establish and fully fund expanded economic, educational, and social programs designed to relieve systemic causes of addiction, including, but not limited to long-term unemployment and under-employment.

Gun Violence Prevention: The Governor should (1) encourage, facilitate and incentivize the world-class technology enterprises of Virginia to pave the way in developing and marketing ground-breaking and affordable technology applications to gun safety issues; and (2) promote, fund and incentivize the academic institutions of Virginia to participate in a “Manhattan Project” type of collaborative effort to lead the nation in developing low-cost and readily accessible personalized and other safety devices for hand guns, with particular emphasis on child safety and safety in the home.

The General Assembly should empower localities to enact ordinances to prohibit guns in government facilities and in establishments serving alcohol. Congress should promote, authorize, aggressively fund, and incentivize programs and projects that will result in the immediate availability of personalized safety devices for hand guns. The Federal government (through appropriate agencies) should fund studies and collect statistics on the nature and extent of gun violence in the United States.

Helping Working Families Afford Retirement: Congress should support retirement savings and expand retirement savings options through initiatives such as (1) allowing workers without employer sponsored options to enroll in auto IRAs; and (2) creating minimum pension plans for workers and employers at businesses with 50 or more employees. Virginia should establish a state savings plan option.

High Quality Child Care and Universal Pre-K to Virginians: To remain competitive in the 21st century and to reduce the burden on middle-class Virginian families, the Commonwealth must provide high quality child care and universal pre-K to all Virginians; The General Assembly should (1) make a High-Quality Child Care Tax Credit available that is paid directly to providers on a monthly basis to help families afford child care with families contributing up to 10% percent of their income toward child care fees on a sliding scale; and (2) amend Virginia Code Section 22.1-254 to make free public education available starting at age 3, rather than age 6.

High School Democrats of America Joining the DNC: The High School Democrats of America should receive two Delegate At Large positions for the HSDA Chair and Vice Chair, become voting members of the Democratic National Committee, and join the Young Democrats of America and College Democrats of America as recognized DNC stakeholders.

Immigration, Deportation, and Muslim Ban: The Committee condemns in the strongest possible terms the “Muslim Ban” and the ongoing deportations of undocumented residents living in the United States peacefully; opposes any future efforts to ban entry into the United States on the basis of religious belief or national origin as well as any future funding for an expanded deportation program; and calls upon the Congress to renew its bi-partisan efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

Instant Runoff Voting in Primaries: Section 24.2-532 of the Code of Virginia should be amended to provide local parties the option of specifying that a primary should be conducted using either IRV or the current one-round method.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice who has previously served in the state Cabinet as Counselor to Governor Tim Kaine and as Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair. He has been Chair for three successful statewide political campaigns, including Justin Fairfax’s campaign to be the Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor in 2017.

by Progressive Voice July 6, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Krista O’Connell

Some Democrats are stuck in a paradox: they yearn for President Donald Trump to be impeached yet want him to complete his first term to drive Democratic turnout in upcoming elections. This dangerous mindset puts party over country.

If the President has colluded with Russia, obstructed justice, or accepted money from foreign governments, he should be impeached immediately. And if Democrats can effectively communicate their values and policies to voters, then they have something to fall back on to drive turnout separate from anti-Trump fervor.

The Democratic Party must be a progressive party with a vision for the future and cannot be a reactionary party defined by opposition. As the vanguard of the Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee must invest in more than the anti-Trump fervor highlighted in most of its press releases and its Twitter feed.

There is much about President Trump’s administration worth opposing — from a travel ban that reneges on America’s founding principles to his decision to leave the Paris Accord that puts special interests over the general welfare. But blanket opposition must be paired with promotion of a positive agenda. Opposition should be backed up with strong alternative policies.

The same problems and policies that plague the Trump Administration were apparent in his campaign, but voters still elected him. Trump speaks for himself. Will Democrats find their voice?

While anti-Trump fervor will bring some short-term gains, Democratic organizations must champion their own policies so they can lead effectively and promote a progressive agenda once President Trump is out of office or when Democrats gain control of Congress.

Furthermore, Democrats shouldn’t overlook two important factions – members of progressive, grassroots organizations that are leading much of the resistance; and voters who are becoming fatigued by the endless coverage of President Trump and are losing faith in democracy and politics as a result. Democratic organizations can reach each of these factions by supporting the resistance while offering a strong, positive agenda.

The national Democratic Party has an impressive platform, but it must be communicated effectively. Democratic policies have the potential to reach and energize voters — especially young people – through the planks of ending LGBT employment discrimination; making the minimum wage a living wage; expanding access to healthcare; creating a path to citizenship for undocumented Americans; and making debt-free college a reality.

While local party chapters (like the Arlington Young Democrats) have done a good job of advocating for these issues, national Democrats must do a better job of framing the national narrative.

Democrats focused primarily on obstruction should look to Republicans’ health care resistance without a positive alternative as a cautionary tale. For seven years, Republicans campaigned against President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, repeatedly voting to repeal knowing they could not override a veto.

Yet, even after winning the White House, Republicans have struggled to come up with an alternative to ACA. The House and Senate proposals are both deeply unpopular and will leave Republican members of Congress at risk even if they manage to pass a bill.

While Democrats absolutely must continue to oppose the Republican bills, they must also propose how they would amend the ACA to address some of the shortcomings that do exist. That way, when Democrats regain control of Congress, they will be ready to act and have a mandate for doing so.

The Democratic Party has its challenges — the recent election exposed a rift in the party between moderates and progressives and also between the old guard and young activists. Opposing President Trump is a good way to find common ground among liberals (and even with some Republicans), but being strategic about politics shouldn’t come at the expense of policy and values.

Instead of ignoring this divide and putting off internal debate, the party should engage in some serious soul-searching. There is no shortage of analysis on what went wrong in the 2016 election, now it’s time to decide in which direction to steer the ship.

At the end of the day, anti-Trump sentiment might get some voters to show up to Democratic meetings and vote in 2017 or 2018, but it’s not going to get them to stay. Democratic leaders and national Democratic organizations need to give people reasons to vote Democratic besides voting against President Trump.

To do so, the Party must reach voters – whether newly engaged in the resistance or instead becoming disillusioned by the democratic process — with a positive message of social, economic and environmental justice.

Krista O’Connell is a member of the Arlington Young Democrats executive board who is passionate about education policy. Follow her on Twitter @krioconnell.

by Progressive Voice June 29, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Nathan Saxman

In March, the Alexandria-Arlington Regional Workforce Council released its 2017 assessment of the regional labor market. The report was prepared by Dr. Mark C. White of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis and serves as an overview of the two counties’ workforce assets and liabilities.

Of the conclusions drawn, many will be familiar to Arlington residents — most notably that our economy is almost entirely services-based and highly dependent upon federal government activity.

Residents will also likely know that the local population has an extremely high level of educational attainment, with over 65 percent having earned at least a bachelor’s degree. It may even be common knowledge that the region’s workforce is disproportionately young and that the prohibitive cost of local housing tends to push this younger, more mobile workforce out of the region as it ages.

The region’s strengths are frequently advertised and rightly so. Demonstrating that Arlington and Alexandria have educated, young and motivated workforces will be key to attracting investment. While uncertainty about federal government spending in the region will continue to shake up local industries, the skilled workers we tout will adapt and prosper, or simply move on.

However, while these indicators might satisfy those worried for the health of Arlington’s workforce, they don’t paint the whole picture. The wage distribution by occupation is polarized, with 45 percent earning more than 120 percent of the average wage and 37.6 percent earning less than 80 percent of the average wage.

More than 50 percent of the types of occupations in Arlington and Alexandria required a high school diploma or less and most of these jobs paid less than $40,000 annually; well below the average wage and cost of living. Mid-skill occupations requiring an associate’s degree or post-secondary certification, such as computer support specialists or auto mechanics, comprised less than 10 percent of all jobs, further narrowing the path for workers in low-skill occupations to move up the ladder.

Divisions between high and low-skilled workers in Middle America was a theme throughout the 2016 presidential campaign and likely affected the election’s outcome. These divisions exist even in our backyard.

Earlier this year, I spoke with David Remick, Executive Director of the Alexandria-Arlington Regional Workforce Council, about workforce development in Arlington. The Arlington Employment Center, which implements many of Arlington’s workforce development programs, has sought to connect job seekers with employers since its creation in 1989. Today, it is housed in the Arlington Department of Human Services and administers training and placement funded through various revenue streams, most notably the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

In our conversation, Remick voiced his own concerns about the low number of middle skill opportunities, as compared to low and high-skilled jobs, and the risks faced by low-skilled workers unable to advance to higher wage occupations.

AEC has focused on providing in-demand credentials to trainees that will empower them to find employment in fields with projected growth, such as healthcare services, computer systems support and occupations requiring a commercial driver’s license.

These credentials and training programs are also ones that would be difficult for low-skilled workers to obtain without guidance and AEC has stepped up to fill that role. AEC also actively seeks out partnerships with local employers and routinely assesses where higher paying job opportunities will become available.

As with all public initiatives, budgetary limitations constrain the quantity and types of certifications that AEC can offer. Under WIOA, AEC may offer $3,500 in value for the “up-skilling” of qualified customers that seek out training. The type of training is guided by both market demands and the personal preferences and competencies of customers.

Last year, of those served by AEC, 18 percent earned credentials relating to hospitality or culinary arts, 33 percent in healthcare, 19 percent in construction or CDLs, and 18 percent in I.T. support fields. While the quantity of mid-skilled job opportunities is demonstrably small in Arlington (especially compared to other jurisdictions in Virginia), these are the fields that are most likely to experience growth.

There is always more to be done to improve workforce qualifications, but AEC and the Regional Workforce Council provide existing frameworks that address local deficiencies proactively.

These initiatives should be supported, both financially and through visible promotion. With resources limited, AEC and the Regional Workforce Council access their vast network of community-based organizations, local businesses, and residents to help promote their services to the public, ensuring that workforce development services are made accessible to those in need.

Nathan Saxman is a graduate of James Madison University and an Arlington resident. He has been politically active in Virginia since 2008 and presently serves as Programming Director with the Arlington Young Democrats. Professionally, Nathan is a paralegal in the field of international trade law.

by Progressive Voice June 22, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Matt de Ferranti

Over the past four months, Arlington Democrats have reached out to the community on issues at stake at the national, state, and local levels.

We’ve held forums with interested Arlingtonians on health care, immigration, climate change and labor/income inequality.

Our Issues Forum Team – part of the Arlington Democrats community outreach effort — worked to share facts about policies, increase awareness, and generate ideas for action.

The team consisted of Fatima Argun, Becky Dick, Eric Gibble, Susie Lee, Vivek Patil, and Jacki Wilson.

Here’s what we learned and what you can do to make a difference.

Health Care

Who would have known when we met at Key Elementary School in February that Obamacare would still be the law of the land today? Congress may well pass a bill to overturn the progress made under Obamacare, but activism and the CBO’s estimate that 23 million Americans would lose health care coverage under the House Republicans’ proposal has changed the conversation.

The health care forum included a panel of experts on federal, Virginia, and local health care policy and a discussion with community members. One shared conclusion: Virginia voters must hold accountable those who will not support expansion of Medicaid.

The most powerful moments were hearing personal stories from our neighbors, including one woman who shared the story of her fight with insurance companies over the care she was seeking for her son as he fought against the cancer that ultimately took his life. People in the room were moved to honor the mother’s request that we act so that affordable, comprehensive coverage — that actually pays claims — is available to all.

Immigration

During our immigration forum on March 28 at Patrick Henry Elementary School, we heard from two individuals who have been impacted directly by policies that veer from our nation’s founding values of welcoming those affected by poverty and violence elsewhere to join their stories with the American story.

A young Dreamer — valedictorian at Wakefield High School – told us how she had to leave Virginia to attend college, despite having lived in Arlington since she was a child, in large measure because the in-state tuition provisions put in place by Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) were not yet the law.

A woman from Sudan described earning asylum to come to the United States and the fear she felt when President Trump tried to impose an unconstitutional travel ban that would have prevented her from returning from a trip to care for her elderly mother.

Both speakers and the broader discussion inspired us to ensure that Arlington’s leaders and residents are welcoming to new neighbors.

Climate Change

Discovery Elementary School, Arlington’s first net-zero school, was a perfect venue for our forum on Climate Change on April 27, which occurred prior to U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and Gov. McAuliffe’s subsequent commitment to carbon emissions reduction targets for Virginia.

The speakers encouraged the audience to call, write, and speak out. We collected signatures and provided an opportunity for participants to join ongoing advocacy efforts.

At the local level, we learned that Arlington is implementing a plan to convert County buildings to renewable energy.

Americans and Arlingtonians know that we must make better choices than the President’s withdrawal decision and embrace green technology now and in the years to come.

Labor, Income Inequality and the Middle Class

Our last forum addressed the central importance of an economy that helps create a country, Commonwealth and county where the middle class and the American dream thrive. We heard about the presence of real poverty even in affluent Arlington, how economic insecurity is threatening many in the middle class, and the need for policies to address these problems.

So What Did We learn?

Whether the subject is health care, immigration, climate change, or labor and income inequality, all will be addressed more successfully if we elect a Democratic governor and a Democratic majority in the House of Delegates in Virginia in November 2017.

So we ask you to join the Arlington Democrats at www.arlingtondemocrats.org to help make a difference on these issues and others at stake this year. With your help, a strong voter turnout in Arlington will be an important element in winning a very competitive election in November.

Matt de Ferranti is a Co-Chair of the 2017 Arlington Joint Democratic Campaign. He wishes to thank the Issue Forum Team members for their joint leadership on the Forums and their critical contributions to this column.

by Larry Roberts June 15, 2017 at 1:00 pm 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of their organizations or ARLnow.com.

By Larry Roberts

Three weeks ago, I wrote about how Arlington progressives and 8th Congressional District (Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church, and parts of Fairfax) Democrats were responding from a policy perspective to the November 2016 Presidential election outcome that few Democrats in Arlington anticipated.

Other recent elections reflect a challenge to the view that the election of Donald Trump and the earlier Brexit vote that might have anticipated a Trump election reflect a rightward turn in U.S. politics and in western democracies.

Closer to home, the 2017 statewide primaries in Virginia showed a markedly higher level of enthusiasm among Democrats than Republicans. In the Democratic gubernatorial primary, 542,615 Virginians cast votes compared to 366,244 votes in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Of the votes cast in the simultaneous primaries, 59.7 percent were Democratic and 41.3 percent were Republican.

This was a dramatic 70 percent increase in Democratic votes this year compared to the last contested Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia – from 319,168 in 2013 to 542,615 in 2017.

The 2017 turnout in traditionally Democratic Arlington was very high for a primary. Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 28,167 to 5,151.

Compared to the 2013 primary, Democrats saw a 42.8 percent increase – from 19,715 in 2013 to 28,167 in 2017.

Results in France and Britain have also reflected a move away from the right.

In France, Marine Le Pen’s National Front party had led opinion polls from November 2016 until mid-January 2017 but ended up losing by 66.1 percent to 33.9 percent to Emmanuel Macron of the Republic on the Move, who criticized Le Pen as too far to the right and cast himself as a radical centrist. Macron’s party has gone on to dominate subsequent parliamentary elections and is expected to win over two-thirds of the seats.

And in Britain, Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to call a snap election to consolidate her party’s position strongly supporting Brexit backfired when the Conservatives lost 13 seats and Labour gained 30, a result substantially weakening Britain’s Brexit negotiation position.

Against this backdrop, below is a second piece of the progressive agenda as defined recently by a set of 32 resolutions adopted by the delegates to the 8th Congressional District Democratic Convention – again presented without editorial comment.

Death Penalty: The Convention calls upon the Virginia General Assembly to abolish the death penalty in Virginia.

Defending the ACA: The Convention opposes any efforts on the part of the Trump administration, or anyone else, to undermine the Affordable Care Act; opposes any further efforts to repeal and replace the ACA with legislation that will reduce affordability and/or provide less coverage to Americans; and affirms that healthcare is a human right to be afforded to all Americans and endorses the eventual adoption of a universal single payer healthcare system.

Economic Prosperity and Justice: The Convention urges the Virginia Congressional Delegation to: re-prioritize the spending of tax dollars to focus on universal health care, public education, environmental protection, public infrastructure, and the equitable rule of law; make room for the above spending priorities by substantially reducing wasteful military spending; ensure that America’s wealthy, and corporations, pay a progressive share of taxes as a proven method to lower inequality, stimulate economic growth, strengthen businesses, and keep the public debt from exploding further – and that deductions and overseas loopholes be eliminated before any reductions in tax rates be considered; corporate tax revenues should be restored to 20 percent of Federal current tax receipts; pass a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act; and ensure the continuation and undiminished funding of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to protect the budget and public from further Wall Street excesses.

Election Transparency: The Convention urges enactment of a Virginia General Assembly bipartisan bill requiring all candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General to submit at least five years of Federal and state tax returns to the Board of Elections in order to appear on the ballot and all Presidential candidates to submit at least the last five years of Federal tax returns to the same body before the presidential primary. These returns shall be made open and available to the public at least 45 days prior to a presidential primary or any general election.

Expansion of Medicaid in the Commonwealth of Virginia: The Convention affirms that healthcare is a human right to be afforded to all Americans; supports Governor McAuliffe’s proposed amendment to the state budget to set the expansion of Medicaid in motion; believes Virginia cannot afford to be left behind by continuing to not expand Medicaid.

Larry Roberts is an attorney in private practice, a former Chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee, and a former Counselor to the Governor. He has followed Virginia politics for more than 30 years and chaired three successful statewide political campaigns including the Lt. Governor campaign of Justin Fairfax, who won the Democratic primary on June 13.

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