Lawmakers Regret Hasty Reaction to Scandals — “If they had to do it all over, members of Arlington’s legislative delegation acknowledge it might have been better to hit the pause button before rushing in to judge the actions of embattled statewide officeholders.” [InsideNova]
Arlington Adds Stanley Cups to Recycling List — “Stanley cups made of silver and nickel alloy and won by the Washington NHL franchise in 2018 should be maintained and recycled by the team annually for continued Arlington-Washington regional delight. #ALL CAPS #Back2Back” [Arlington County, RMNB]
Blues Fest Lineup Announced — “Riding a wave of accolades for his just-released CD Somebody Save Me (Forty Below Records) and two 2019 Blues Award nominations, soul/blues vocalist Sugaray Rayford headlines the 24th Annual Columbia Pike Blues Festival, on Saturday, June 15, 2019.” [Columbia Pike]
Police Participating in Drug Take-Back Day — “On Saturday, April 27, 2019 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Arlington County Police Department, Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public its 17th opportunity in eight years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by huskerdont77
(Updated at 10:45 p.m.) About a year ago at this time, Arlington looked to be in serious trouble down in Richmond.
In mid-March 2018, county officials faced the decidedly unpleasant prospect that they’d come out on the losing end of a bruising legislative battle with two local golf and country clubs.
One of the county’s foremost foes in the General Assembly had engineered the passage of legislation to slash the clubs’ tax bills, potentially pulling more than a million dollars in annual tax revenue out of the county’s coffers.
Arlington had spent years tangling with the clubs, which count among their members local luminaries ranging from retired generals to former presidents, arguing over how to tax those properties. Yet the legislation from Del. Tim Hugo (R-40th District) would’ve bypassed the local dispute entirely, and it was headed to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk.
That meant that Arlington’s only hope of stopping the bill was convincing the governor to strike it down with his veto pen.
In those days, long before evidence of Northam’s racist medical school yearbook photos had surfaced, the Democrat was well-liked in the county. He’d raised plenty of cash from Arlingtonians in his successful campaign just a year before, and had won endorsements in his primary contest from many of the county’s elected officials.
Yet the situation still looked dire enough that the County Board felt compelled to take more drastic steps to win Northam to their side. The county shelled out $22,500 to hire a well-connected lobbying firm for just a few weeks, embarking on a frenetic campaign to pressure the governor and state lawmakers and launch a media blitz to broadcast the county’s position in both local and national outlets.
“It became apparent to all of us that every Arlingtonian had something at stake here,” then-County Board Chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow. “At a time when we were making excruciating decisions about our own budget, the idea that you would take more than million dollars and put it toward something that wasn’t a priority for anyone here was so frustrating.”
An ARLnow investigation of the events of those crucial weeks in spring 2018 sheds a bit more light on how the county won that veto, and how business is conducted down in the state capitol. This account is based both on interviews with many people close to the debate and a trove of emails and documents released via a public records request (and published now in the spirit of “National Sunshine Week,” a nationwide initiative designed to highlight the value of freedom of information laws).
Crucially, ARLnow’s research shows that the process was anything but smooth sailing for the county, as it pit Arlington directly against the club’s members. Many of them exercise plenty of political influence across the region and the state, and documents show they were able to lean heavily on Northam himself.
“One would expect a Democratic governor to be highly responsive to one of most Democratic jurisdictions in the state,” said Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. “But this was a matter of great concern to a bunch of very important people in Virginia, and that may well be the reason why additional efforts were necessary.”
And, looking forward, the bitter fight over the issue could well have big implications should similar legislation ever resurface in Richmond.
“Structurally, this bill could absolutely come back someday,” Cristol said. “And the idea that a bill that has such deleterious consequences for land use and taxation in jurisdictions across Virginia could come back and garner support because of an effective lobbying interest is very much a real threat.”
One of the country’s leading progressive activists and researchers is launching a new fundraising push for primary challengers to two Arlington lawmakers.
Sean McElwee, a co-founder of Data for Progress, announced yesterday (Wednesday) that his organization would be launching “The Progressive Virginia Project,” an effort to raise cash for four candidates in Virginia’s statehouse races this fall. Among the group set to benefit from the fundraising is Nicole Merlene, who is challenging state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) and J.D. Spain, who is looking to unseat Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District).
In a tweet describing the new program, McElwee wrote that his group is seeking to elect “progressives who are fighting for a Virginia where Dominion Energy doesn’t set the agenda.”
The utility company’s influence in Richmond has become an increasingly controversial issue for the state’s Democrats in recent years, with many (Lopez included) swearing off contributions from Dominion. The General Assembly helps regulate the company, convincing many lawmakers and activists that it’s inappropriate to then rely on Dominion’s largesse when election season rolls around.
Any money taken in by the program will be divvied up among Merlene, Spain and two other candidates: Del. Lee Carter (D-50th District), the legislature’s lone Democratic socialist and a fierce Amazon opponent, and Yasmine Taeb, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35th District).
McElwee was previously a leading voice in supporting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s insurgent progressive candidacy in New York, and launched a similar initiative during the 2018 midterms to elect several other candidates in statehouse races across the country. In all, his group was able to raise more than $448,000 to support races in eight states.
Data for Progress wrote on the new fundraising page that it picked the four candidates not only for their opposition to Dominion, but their support for a “Green New Deal, universal healthcare and racial justice” in Virginia.
— we’re going to pass AVR 🍉🍉 (@SeanMcElwee) March 6, 2019
Merlene, who up until recently held leadership positions with the Arlington County Civic Federation and the county’s Economic Development Commission, has framed her run against Favola as a chance for a new generation to take the reins in Richmond.
In addition to criticizing Favola’s acceptance of Dominion cash — she’s taken $9,500 from Dominion over the last eight years — Merlene has blasted her work as a lobbyist while also serving as a senator. Favola runs a lobbying and consulting firm representing influential local institutions like Virginia Hospital Center and Marymount University.
Spain has also sworn off corporate cash in his challenge to Lopez, but that doesn’t provide quite the same contrast between the candidates. Lopez has refused money from both Dominion and Amazon (though he has taken Dominion money in past years), and draws most of his campaign cash from progressive groups.
Spain, currently the president of Arlington’s NAACP, has focused his campaign thus far on providing fresh representation in Richmond, and beefing up support for affordable housing and schools in the South Arlington district. He has not, however, attacked Lopez over his much-discussed consulting work for an ICE contractor, which McElwee highlighted in his support for Spain. The activist has made calls to “Abolish ICE” a central part of his work, prompting a broader debate within the Democratic party about the agency’s role.
It remains to be seen, however, just how much traction either candidate has gained in their primary challenges thus far — statehouse candidates won’t report how much cash they’ve raised again until April 15. A June 11 primary will decide the intraparty contests.
Photo of Merlene, left, via Facebook
A new bill just passed by state lawmakers could soon allow localities like Arlington to start waiving many fees for new affordable housing developments, a change that advocates expect could have big impact on the county’s housing crunch.
New legislation backed by Dels. Lamont Bagby (D-74th District) and Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) would let officials across the state pass ordinances to do away with any building permit fees or other local levies on affordable housing plans, in a bid to ease the construction of such projects.
The bill unanimously passed the state Senate last week, after earning similarly swift approval in the House of Delegates, and now heads to Gov. Ralph Northam’s desk for his signature. The legislation was designed as part of a broader package of bills aimed at bringing housing costs down, due not only to rising concerns about Amazon’s impact in Northern Virginia, but also to new research showing the Richmond and Virginia Beach areas with some of the highest eviction rates in the entire country.
“Every Virginian deserves a safe place to call home,” Bagby wrote in a statement. “By supporting more affordable housing, we can address the devastating impacts of Virginia’s high eviction rates.”
Michelle Winters, the executive director of the Arlington-based Alliance for Housing Solutions, told ARLnow that the county doesn’t currently waive fees for affordable developments, but could well embrace such a tactic in the near future.
She points out that a coalition of affordable housing advocates called for the county to take just such a step in a 2017 report outlining potential strategies for officials to meet their own goals for building more reasonably priced homes.
Arlington officials have already struggled to meet those goals for creating homes guaranteed to remain affordable to renters of modest means, known as “committed affordable” units, prompting housing advocates to pen the report and press for progress. And with Amazon bringing its 25,000 (or more) highly paid workers to the county, Winters believes its conclusions are all the more important for leaders to consider.
“The report estimated that waiving ‘permit and tap fees’ for affordable housing projects would save $1.4 million per year, or allow the addition of 16 more committed affordable units each year,” Winters said.
That would only be a small change in the grand scheme of the county’s housing needs — the county created or preserved 515 affordable homes last year, short of the 585 homes officials hope to produce each year — but housing researchers still expect waiving such fees would make a meaningful difference.
“Although the total amount of fees imposed by local governments during the development review process can vary by locality, affordable housing developments operate under extremely complex financing mechanisms and tight margins,” said Andrew Clark, vice president of government affairs for the Home Builders Association of Virginia, wrote in a statement. “Reduction or elimination of these local fees could be a significant incentive for a private-sector development considering an affordable housing development and could also help incentive the private-sector developer to re-invest those savings into amenities, building materials or labor.”
The report, titled “Fulfilling the Promise: Meeting the Production Goal of Arlington’s Affordable Housing Master Plan,” uses the recently completed “Columbia Hills” project backed by the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing as an example of how county fees impact such projects.
APAH spent about $91.1 million on the project in all, but that included close to $701,000 in fees including building permit fees, sewer and water levies and zoning review costs.
“If all of these fees had been waived for this affordable project, it would have reduced the costs of development, freeing up resources for the development of eight (8) additional [committed affordable units],” the advocates wrote.
The report also notes that other cities around the country have already adopted such a strategy. In Austin, Texas, for instance, the city waives fees on a sliding scale based on what portion of a development’s homes are priced to be affordable to people making less than 80 percent of the area median income.
Of course, it might be a tough pill to swallow for county leaders to forego any revenue while times are tough for Arlington financially.
But officials have seen some reason for optimism about the upcoming budget recently, and Winters says county workers have already assured her that they plan to examine the impacts of waiving affordable development fees as part of a broader study of Arlington’s permitting process.
Photo via @APAH_org
Arlington school leaders could soon gain the power to start classes before Labor Day, as some long-stymied legislation finally seems set to pass in the General Assembly.
State lawmakers are gearing up to finally repeal a provision widely known as the “King’s Dominion Rule,” which has barred school systems across the state from starting class before Labor Day for the last 30 years in a bid to provide Virginia’s theme parks with a robust pool of potential patrons, and student workers, each summer.
Many schools have already earned “waivers” to disregard the rule (including large school systems like Fairfax and Loudoun counties) and momentum has built in recent years to do away with the law entirely. Arlington officials have been particularly keen on kicking off class early, hoping to better align high school calendars with the slew of standardized tests that dominate the latter half of each school year.
And while it’s not a done deal just yet, Arlington could well get its wish this year. The House of Delegates and state Senate have now both passed a bill from Del. Roxann Robinson (R-27th District) to allow school systems to start classes up to 14 days before Labor Day — so long as they give students the Friday before the holiday off.
Lawmakers will now need to determine the bill’s next steps. General Assembly leaders could opt to send it along to Gov. Ralph Northam as it is, or convene a conference committee for additional negotiations as a competing bill from Sen. Amanda Chase (R-11th District) heads to the House floor for a vote.
Some local Arlington legislators — Sens. Barbara Favola (D-31st District) and Janet Howell (D-32nd District) — were backing narrower bills to give only Northern Virginia localities the power to control their school calendars. But those efforts were quickly rolled into Chase’s legislation instead, as it became clear that the tourism industry and school administrators might be able to strike a compromise on the legislation.
“We think this is a good compromise,” Chase told a House committee yesterday (Monday). “Our desire is really this to give the power back to the school boards, the parents and the PTAs, as opposed to big business determining when our young people go to school.”
Both bills would grandfather in school systems that already have waivers to start more than two weeks before Labor Day, a key demand from school leaders. Those localities also wouldn’t be required to give students the Friday before the holiday off.
Chase, and groups representing the state’s school boards and superintendents, said they would’ve much preferred a full repeal of the law to let school systems set calendars however they’d like.
By contrast, representatives of the state’s theme parks say they’re not thrilled with the prospect of schools starting the full two weeks before the holiday, but insisted on students receiving a four-day weekend as a bit of a compromise.
Tom Lisk, a lobbyist for the Virginia Restaurant, Lodging and Travel Association, told House lawmakers yesterday that the interest group is generally opposed to the legislation, but wouldn’t condemn the effort in its entirety.
“There’s an opportunity to work to find middle ground still,” Lisk said.
As of yet, however, there’s not much sign that lawmakers will bend to pressure from the hospitality industry on the bill.
The House’s education committee altered Chase’s bill to make it identical to Robinson’s on a 16-6 vote yesterday — should the House then pass the legislation, the final decision will rest with Northam. Or, the House could always alter Chase’s bill, setting up the potential for a conference committee, where a small team of negotiators would hash out the differences between the two pieces of legislation.
Regardless of just how lawmakers work out the details, Arlington’s School Board will be watching the proceedings quite closely. As the group set the calendar for the 2019-2020 school year on Feb. 7, Board member Barbara Kanninen told staff that she’d be “very interested” in seeing options for a pre-Labor Day start next year, so long as the legislature follows through.
“Ultimately, I’m a big fan of year-round school, and this gives us a chance to start working in that direction,” Kanninen said.
(Updated at 9:30 p.m.) Arlington Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) now says he’ll introduce articles of impeachment to remove Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax from office on Monday if he doesn’t step down, now that another woman has come forward to accuse the second-most powerful Democrat in the state of sexual assault.
Hope announced the move tonight just a few hours after Meredith Watson accused Fairfax of raping her when the pair attended school together at Duke University in 2000. She wrote in a statement that the details of her assault mirrored those laid out by Vanessa Tyson, who previously said that Fairfax assaulted her in a Boston hotel room in 2004.
On Monday, I will be introducing articles of impeachment for Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax if he has not resigned before then.
— Patrick Hope (@HopeforVirginia) February 8, 2019
Democrats had been hesitant to call for Fairfax to step down since Tyson’s statement, but pressure is now mounting for the lieutenant governor to step aside. Friday night, the state House and Senate Democratic caucuses released a joint statement, urging Fairfax to resign.
Joint House & Senate Democratic statement:
"Due to the serious nature of these allegations, we believe Lieutenant Governor Fairfax can no longer fulfill his duties to the Commonwealth. He needs to address this as a private citizen. The time has come for him to step down."
— VA Senate Democrats (@VASenateDems) February 9, 2019
The Virginia Legislative Black Caucus issued a similar statement.
Virginia Legislative Black Caucus Statement on Most Recent Sexual Allegations Against Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax pic.twitter.com/Bbj8sn4gF5
— VLBC (@VaBlackCaucus) February 9, 2019
The bulk of Virginia’s congressional delegation has also demanded Fairfax’s resignation, including Arlington Rep. Don Beyer (D-8th District).
“Lt. Governor Fairfax has also shown exceptionally poor judgment in his handling of these allegations,” Beyer and Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-11th District), Elaine Luria (D-2nd District), Abigail Spanberger (D-7th District) and Jennifer Wexton (D-10th District) wrote in a statement. “He repeatedly attacked his accuser, he reportedly used vile and degrading language to describe her, he mischaracterized an investigation into the encounter, and he sought to blame others for events in his own past. These actions do not meet the standard to which we hold Virginia’s highest elected officers.”
For now, it would seem Fairfax is resisting pressure to step aside.
Statement from VA Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax denying second sexual assault allegation, ends with “I will not resign.” pic.twitter.com/Tuj81iPRP7
— Sarah McCammon (@sarahmccammon) February 8, 2019
Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has been similarly steadfast in the face of calls to resign over a racist photo on his medical school yearbook page, writing an email to state employees today saying he does not plan to step down. The fate of Attorney General Mark Herring (D) is also unclear, after he revealed he wore blackface while in college.
Earlier today, Hope posted a video on Twitter urging Northam and Herring to learn from their experiences, but stopped short of demanding their resignations. He’d previously supported calls for Northam to step down, but was silent on Herring, who he previously endorsed in Herring’s early stages of mounting a campaign for governor in 2021.
Hope said in the video that he believed Fairfax’s first accuser and thought an investigation was necessary.
Around 9 p.m. Friday, Hope held a press conference in front of Arlington Central Library in Virginia Square, laying out his case for the impeachment of Fairfax, should he refuse to resign. The press conference was attended by CNN, CBS, NBC and local D.C. stations.
Del. Patrick Hope (D) holding a press conference in front of Arlington Central Library https://t.co/1UWsA2DLdX
— Arlington Now (@ARLnowDOTcom) February 9, 2019
Photo via Facebook
County Democrats and local activists are planning a series of community forums to talk through the issues of race and sexual assault that have roiled Virginia politics for the past week.
With all three of the state’s top Democrats — Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring — now mired in scandal, many within the party are searching for a way forward. There’s no telling whether any or all of the group will resign, leading to quite a bit of uncertainty at the top ranks of the party’s leadership.
In the meantime, the county’s Democratic Committee is planning two “listening sessions” covering some of the matters at the heart of the scandals in Richmond.
The first will focus on “racial equity” and will be held tonight (Thursday) at 7 p.m. at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street S.).
The revelation that a racist photo appeared on Northam’s medical school yearbook page, and the governor’s subsequent admission that he once wore blackface, kicked off the current crisis plaguing state government. Herring’s admission yesterday (Wednesday) that he too once donned blackface added further fuel to the political fire.
The next listening session will focus on sexual assault, after a college professor accused Fairfax of assaulting her in Boston in 2004. The lieutenant governor has faced a bit less pressure to resign than Northam, but some have started to ramp up calls that his accuser deserves to be heard.
The event will be held on Sunday (Feb. 10) at 6:30 p.m. at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street).
A group of local activists also plan to hold a listening session to discuss the Northam controversy and its “implications for those who want to be allies in the fight for racial justice,” according to the event’s Facebook page.
The event will include four panelists, and will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd) at 7 p.m. on Friday (Feb. 8).
Photo via Facebook
Republican lawmakers have scuttled Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposal to ramp up state funding for affordable housing, a move that’s irked advocates hoping for more state help as Amazon starts to move into Arlington.
GOP leaders in both the state Senate and House of Delegates have now put forward budget proposals without the $19.5 million spread across two years Northam had hoped to see flow into the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, a program offering low-interest loans for developers hoping to build reasonably priced housing.
Though the fund would be available to applicants across the state, the governor’s effort to massively ramp up cash flowing into the fund was broadly seen as a small way the state could prepare for Amazon’s expected impacts on the housing market across the Northern Virginia region.
“We are outraged that selected members of Virginia’s money committees stripped this critical support for housing for Virginia families,” a coalition of 40 affordable housing advocacy groups wrote in a statement. Signatories include the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, the Arlington Housing Corporation, the Alliance for Housing Solutions, the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network and the Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance.
The Senate’s proposed budget includes just $1 million for the fund over the next two years, while the House proposal includes no cash whatsoever.
Northam had planned to fund the increase as part of a suite of proposals to use $1.2 billion in new revenue generated by the federal tax reform passed in 2017. But Republicans, who hold narrow majorities in both chambers in the General Assembly, have been steadfast in removing those spending proposals from the budget as part of a broader fight over the tax revenues, arguing that the state would be better served by sending the money back to some middle-class taxpayers.
“We started building our budget with guidelines to remove from consideration any revenue based on the federal tax changes and to eliminate any spending based on that revenue,” said Del. S. Chris Jones (R-76th District), the head of the powerful House appropriations committee. “We are continuing our multi-year efforts to responsibly invest in a stronger economy, provide more funding and flexibility to local schools and make college more affordable.”
Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-49th District) was hoping for an even larger, $50 million influx into the fund on a one-time basis, yet that push is seemingly facing an uphill battle given the latest GOP budget proposal. He’d also proposed a bill to establish a permanent funding stream for the fund to avoid yearly appropriations battles, but that died on a party-line, 4-3 vote in a House subcommittee.
.@Lopez4VA: "Doubling down on the Trump tax scheme is not more important than helping vulnerable populations secure affordable housing in localities across the Commonwealth."
House GOP budget cuts the VA Housing Trust Fund for affordable housing.
— VA House Democrats (@VAHouseDems) February 7, 2019
The budget is still a long way off from being finalized, however. The House and Senate still need to reconcile the differences between the two proposals and, ordinarily, Northam would have a chance to negotiate for his spending priorities with Republican leaders.
But with the governor still facing pressure to resign, and Virginia’s two other top elected officials now engulfed in scandal, there’s no telling just how the remainder of the General Assembly session will play out. It’s currently set to wrap up on Feb. 23.
Good News for Ed Center Project — “It may not come with all the bells and whistles, but county school officials should be able to convert the Arlington Education Center building into classroom space without exceeding the $37 million budgeted for the project. Two estimates… came in slightly under budget to turn the former school-system headquarters into classroom space for 500 to 600 students.” [InsideNova]
Succession Question for Va.’s Leaders — Under fire for each of their own controversies, resignations by Virginia’s Democratic governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general could end up triggering a special election or even elevating a Republican state lawmaker into one of the top jobs. Meanwhile, the chaos in Richmond was the lead story on the national evening news this week — twice — and made the cover of this morning’s New York Post, with the headline “Virginia is for Losers.” [Politico, Twitter]
Amazon and Homelessness — “Along with the promise of 25,000 high-paying jobs will come more expensive housing, and possibly, more people priced out of homes, and some, falling through the cracks. Seattle, where Amazon is based, has a huge problem with homelessness. Will Seattle’s problems become ours?” [WUSA 9]
Possible Presidential Candidate Lives in Arlington — Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is considering a run for president, reportedly rents a three-bedroom home in Arlington with her husband, for their time in the D.C. area. The current rent is estimated at $4,500 per month. [Heavy]
Merger of Banks with Local Branches — “BB&T will buy SunTrust Banks for about $28 billion in an all-stock deal, the companies said on Thursday, creating the sixth largest U.S. lender in the biggest bank deal since the 2007-2009 financial crisis.” [CNBC]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Democrats across Virginia have been shocked by yet another scandal today (Wednesday), after Attorney General Mark Herring admitted that he also once donned blackface at a college party.
Herring called a sudden gathering with the General Assembly’s Legislative Black Caucus this morning to deliver the news, then released a statement to that effect shortly afterward. Herring said he dressed up in a wig “and brown makeup” in order to imitate a rap artist when he was in college, explaining it was due to a “callous and inexcusable lack of awareness and insensitivity to the pain my behavior could inflict on others.”
“It was really a minimization of both people of color, and a minimization of a horrific history I knew well even then,” Herring wrote. “That I have contributed to the pain Virginians have felt this week is the greatest shame I have ever felt.”
His admission comes as politicians of both parties continue to press Gov. Ralph Northam to resign for similar reasons, after the discovery that a racist photo appeared on the governor’s medical school yearbook page and Northam’s subsequent admission that he once wore blackface rocked the state capitol. The man in line to replace Northam should he step down, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, has become mired in scandal as well since then, as a woman has come forward to accuse Fairfax of sexually assaulting her in 2004.
The attorney general’s disclosure leaves the state’s top three elected officials in limbo — should all three resign, Republican House Speaker Kirk Cox would be in line to become governor.
Herring said in his statement that he would have “honest conversations and discussions” about whether he’d seek to stay in office, as both Northam and Fairfax have so far sought to do. Herring joined virtually all of the state’s Democrats in calling on Northam to resign soon after the discovery of his yearbook page, but other Democrats have yet to demand that the state’s top lawyer step down with the same speed that they called for Northam’s job.
Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine expressed shock and surprise at the revelation when reporters questioned them about it this afternoon.
SEN. WARNER reacts to the news coming out of Virginia, saying he’s “shocked and disappointed” by what he’s heard thus far about the Attorney General.
“This has been an awful week for Virginia,” he said for the first time on camera since the Gov. Northam news broke last week. pic.twitter.com/ruucjbGTHx
— Marianna Sotomayor (@MariannaNBCNews) February 6, 2019
.@timkaine on Herring: "I am shocked and saddened to learn of this incident. This revelation throws salt in a wound opened wide in recent days."
— Jenna Portnoy (@jennaportnoy) February 6, 2019
Other state lawmakers have yet to comment on Herring’s admission, including Arlington’s delegation or local Democratic committee.
The news could also torpedo Herring’s nascent campaign for governor — he’d already announced plans to run for the top spot in Virginia politics in 2021, and earned the early endorsement of local Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th District) a few weeks ago. Hope did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Herring’s admission.
Northam put pen to paper on the legislation last night, a day before it was set to become law without his signature. An identical companion bill is still pending in the state Senate, but Northam’s approval and the General Assembly’s overwhelming support of both pieces of legislation likely means its passage is a mere formality.
Unlike the massive media circus Northam convened to herald Amazon’s selection of Crystal City and Pentagon City for a massive new headquarters, the governor signed the incentives bill without so much as a press release. The governor is currently facing relentless calls to resign, after the revelation that a racist photo appeared on his medical school yearbook page and his subsequent admission that he once wore blackface during a dance competition.
But even that scandal was not enough to derail the completion of the Amazon deal, which Northam and his staffers took the lead in negotiating alongside a small group of state lawmakers.
“This is an investment in the growth of Virginia,” Amazon spokeswoman Jill Kerr wrote in a statement. “It will help diversify the economy and serve as a catalyst for drawing in other businesses and sought-after jobs. We believe the establishment of our headquarters in Virginia and 25,000 new, high-paying jobs, is a benefit to the entire commonwealth, and we are excited for what the future holds.”
Under the terms of the deal, state officials will send the tech giant $550 million in grant money to defray the company’s tax burden, so long as Amazon comes through on its promise to bring those 25,000 jobs to Arlington between now and 2030. Amazon could earn another $200 million if it adds another 12,850 jobs at the new headquarters through 2034, but it’s not committed to doing so.
The legislation just approved by Northam may be the single largest piece of the county’s offer to Amazon, but it’s far from the only sweetener state officials dangled to attract the company.
Two transportation projects promised as part of the deal — a second entrance for the Crystal City Metro station and an expansion of the Crystal City-Potomac Yard bus rapid transit system to Pentagon City — recently won tens of millions in state funds, though three remaining transportation improvements still need to find funding.
Officials also agreed to invest $800 million over the next 20 years to help state universities hand out 25,000 degrees in high-tech fields, in a bid to provide a “tech talent pipeline” that could fuel Amazon’s new headquarters. A Senate bill establishing the program passed that chamber unanimously yesterday (Tuesday), while an identical companion in the House of Delegates also passed that body on a 92-5 vote.
Finally, Arlington officials need to sign off on their own incentive deal with the company, designed to send about $23 million to Amazon over the next 15 years. The money will be drawn from an increase in hotel tax revenues expected to be driven by Amazon’s arrival.
The County Board had long planned to consider the issue at the end of the month, but has since backed off that timeline in favor of examining the deal no earlier than mid-March.