(Updated, 4:05 p.m.) As a new aircraft noise study comes in for a landing, Arlington officials admit there remains little the county can actually do about the noise above.
“I know how frustrating this is. I think people don’t understand how little power we actually have,” says Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey. “We really have almost zip.”
They’re not hopeful they can get the Federal Aviation Administration on board with changes, such as shifting National Airport’s flight patterns to less populated areas. A work group plans to ask the agency to shift incoming planes away from more developed areas and is expected to recommend doing the same for departures.
For years, residents have complained about aircraft noise, resulting from the flight patterns in and out of National Airport as well as Pentagon-bound helicopters. It’s gotten marginally worse in recent years after the FAA adjusted flight patterns to push flight paths further west, away from D.C., due to the Secret Service’s concerns about commercial flights encroaching into federal no-fly zones (Prohibited Area 56). The new patterns resulted in complaints among Arlington residents who live close to the Potomac River, including those in Rosslyn.
In 2019, the Arlington County Board sent a letter to the FAA expressing its “strong opposition” to the changes while accusing the federal agency of not engaging with the community and doing something that is “quite possibly in violation of federal law.”
“Aircraft noise is a real thing,” Arlington County Board Member Takis Karantonis tells ARLnow. “It’s a quality of life issue for many Arlingtonians who live under or near flight paths.”
In May 2019, Arlington agreed to jointly fund a study with Montgomery County that would recommend to the FAA ways to reduce aviation noise and limit the impact on residents.
Now, after nearly three years, the “Aircraft Noise Mitigation Study” is reaching its conclusion.
The biggest takeaway is that the study recommends diverting flight paths in and out of National Airport so that fewer people are living directly under them. That means prioritizing noise reduction in more dense and populated areas, as well as “noise sensitive residential areas,” to the extent possible. The study also looked at how takeoff speed, trajectory, and height impact noise.
Last summer, new flight paths for incoming flights were proposed and, just this past December, departing flights were discussed. In addition to shifting paths, a recommendation was made for departures to be split into multiple segments so that there would be a “more equitable distribution of noise.”
The incoming flight paths were approved by DCA Community Working Group, which operates under the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), and the departure paths will be reviewed in April.
It’s expected those recommendations, with possibly a few tweaks, will be approved and proposed to the FAA. But officials are skeptical of whether the FAA and federal agencies take them into consideration.
“Arlington County against the federal government is kind of a little unbalanced in terms of a power setup,” Garvey said, echoing what she said at last week’s recessed Board meeting.
That’s one of the reasons Arlington partnered with Montgomery County on the aircraft noise study, so that two jurisdictions could come together with credible data to ask the FAA and Secret Service to make changes.
The counties are also in talks with D.C. and other local jurisdictions to apply more pressure to the federal agencies. But she understands why some residents may feel like just doing a study is not enough.
“Our residents who are frustrated with the noise see nothing [being done] and they’d like us to sue the FAA or something like that,” says Garvey. “I understand the desire to do that, but that actually would be very counterproductive and not actually get us anywhere.”
(Updated at 4:40 p.m.) Last night’s election gave Arlington’s local Republican and Democratic parties both reason to celebrate, while at the state level, Democrats ceded ground to the GOP.
Meanwhile, Arlington’s Republican party says it is celebrating greater enthusiasm for the party locally than it has seen in years. At the state level, Republicans swept Richmond: Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin beat former governor Terry McAuliffe, while fellow Republicans Lieutenant Governor-elect Winsome Sears and Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares became the first Black woman and Latino respectively to win statewide office.
“Terry was a low-energy candidate,” Arlington GOP Communications Director Matt Hurtt said. “Glenn was a dynamic candidate who enthused Republicans and independents. You have to believe a candidate is going to win, and Republicans believed Glenn was going to win. Even in a place like Arlington, we had a 33% increase [in Republican votes].”
At the county level, 60% of voters secured the re-election of incumbent Democrat Takis Karantonis to the Arlington County Board. Voters handily elected Arlington Democrats-endorsed Mary Kadera to the Arlington School Board, succeeding Monique O’Grady.
Arlington re-elected Virginia House of Delegates members Patrick Hope (D-47), Rip Sullivan (D-48), and Alfonso Lopez (D-49), while Democrat Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, currently the City of Alexandria’s vice mayor, was elected to represent the 45th District, which includes parts of Arlington.
“The tremendous outpouring of Democratic support in Arlington was inspiring and contributed to victories in several critical races,” Arlington County Democratic Committee Chair Jill Caiazzo said in a statement. “At the end of the day, we fell short statewide, but we’re confident that the Democratic leaders elected today will continue the fight for a brighter future in Virginia for everyone.”
Karantonis, who has been through three county-wide elections in 20 months, says largely, the priorities of Arlingtonians — and his three vanquished independent candidates — remain the same: housing, healthcare, economic development, the environment, equity, schools and transportation.
“I do believe this election season has underscored the set of issues that have been present along the entire 20 months that I’ve been in political campaign mode,” he said. “It was just a re-emphasis on things that residents need, and I’ve been proposing approaches that could bring measurable improvement.”
Republicans ride education to victory
While Arlington had a solidly Democrat showing, Hurtt said enthusiasm for Republicans grew leading up to election night. He pointed to the nearly 6-percentage point shift to the right between Donald Trump, who netted 17% of Arlingtonians’ votes, to Youngkin, who received 22.8% of votes.
An Arlington GOP meeting in May had 80 people — the highest attendance in decades, we’re told — and the record was soon broken by an event two weeks ago that netted 200 people and the Tuesday night watch party that attracted 300.
And one new issue drove that support, Hurtt says: education.
“I think the frustration there among parents was palpable,” he said.
That frustration came from a number of new schools issues taken on by Republicans, who’ve traditionally rallied around school choice and homeschooling.
Among them: how systemic racism is taught in schools; policy decisions to eliminate or lower admissions standards for advanced programs in the name of education equity; and in places such as Arlington and Fairfax counties, frustrations over school closures and masking.
“Unequivocally, [Critical Race Theory] 101 is not being taught in Virginia schools. That said, the lens through which every subject is taught… has the lens of critical theory, a philosophy of questioning the institutions,” Hurtt said. “To say to a child that everything around them is stacked against them or stacked in their favor [based on their race] is a destructive way to teach someone who’s forming their belief system.”
On education equity issues, he pointed to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County changing its admissions standards.
At Parents for Youngkin rallies in NoVa, the changes in admission policy at Thomas Jefferson High were more on the minds of many parents than the changes in the list of novels or history texts in their kids' classes. https://t.co/BDjihuFsPw https://t.co/IRo7vOn5wu
— Marc Fisher (@mffisher) November 3, 2021
At the state level, the Virginia Department of Education also cited equity in its decision to eliminate accelerated math courses prior to 11th grade.
Dems wanted the “CRT backlash” to be about crazy people not wanting their kids to be taught that slavery happened. But the issue really bites if it looks like some bureaucrat is going to cancel their kid’s advanced program because it’s not diverse enough.
— David Weigel (@daveweigel) November 3, 2021
On these issues, Hurtt said, McAuliffe wasn’t strong.
“It was clear in the last 96 hours of the campaign that Terry had lost his footing,” Hurtt said. “He gave us the greatest gift by saying, ‘Parents shouldn’t have a say in kids’ education.’ Whether he meant to say it that way or not, that’s what parents went into the polls considering.”
The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) celebrated its 35th anniversary last week with a party at Penrose Square, while unveiling a new name: The Columbia Pike Partnership.
Shannon Bailey, vice-chair of the organization’s executive committee, along with executive director Kim Klingler, made the announcement at its 35th anniversary party on Wednesday (Oct. 13) evening.
“It really does take all of us to create an ecosystem here,” Bailey said. “So we do this together moving forward as a partnership.”
Along with the new name, there’s also a new logo, color scheme, and branding.
“Everything that we do requires our partners and we really realized that during Covid,” Klingler told ARLnow moments after announcing the name change. “We wanted a name that truly reflected who we are today. We have the same mission. We have the same values, but people really didn’t know who we were and we wanted our name to reflect that.”
The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization formed in 1986 in response to the Arlington County Board awarding a $50,000 grant to help make the moribund corridor a more vibrant place to live and do business.
The hope was the money and an organized effort would be “the first step in what some see as a 10-year effort to coordinate improvements that could lead to revitalization of the highway as well as a return of community pride.”
But times and the Pike have changed.
“This really jump started [development] on Arlington’s oldest main street,” Takis Karantonis, former CPRO executive director and current county board member, told ARLnow at the celebration. “Urban development is a slow game. A very slow game. But [the form-based code] and CPRO have brought diverse communities together — developers, shop owners, residents — to make it happen.”
Klingler said it was time to make clear the organization’s role in preserving this reputation.
“We really want to marry diversity and development. People say that is a very challenging thing to do, but I believe we can find that balance,” she said.
Ranked-choice voting is supported by all four candidates for County Board, according to their comments at an Arlington Committee of 100 candidate forum held last night (Wednesday).
The event was the first candidate forum of the fall general election season.
Support is strong among the three independent candidates — Audrey Clement, Mike Cantwell and Adam Theo — who want to unseat Democrat incumbent Takis Karantonis. He won a special election in 2020 and his seat is now up for a full four-year term. Theo, a Libertarian, is the most recent addition to the ballot after officially launching his campaign this week.
While all four support ranked choice voting, the reform would not be ready for the upcoming Nov. 2 election, as the county is still hammering out the logistics of the system. Dismayed at the pace of implementation, the independents said the reform would reveal public support for candidates like them and add political diversity to the County Board.
“I’ve spent a lot of my free time promoting ranked choice voting in Virginia,” said Cantwell, who became the vice president of Fair Vote Virginia, which advocates for ranked choice voting in Virginia, in 2019. “I went to Richmond in February 2020 and lobbied to bring it to Virginia. At that time, to the surprise of many, the legislature passed bills 506 and 1103, which allowed it in [Arlington] and the rest of Virginia. Since that time, [the county has] taken very little action to implement that new law.”
Theo also criticized the lack of movement on implementing the new voting system and educating voters about it.
“It would’ve been awesome to have the logo-picking determined by ranked choice voting,” he said. “That would’ve been a great way to educate the public. Here we are, waiting for the county to proceed and provide results. I have a lot of skepticism for the County Board’s real willingness to push forward real reform. It puts their own positions, jobs, in jeopardy.”
Karantonis said he is on the record supporting ranked-choice voting and voted to fund an initiative to test it out.
“I put money where my mouth is,” he said. “I think this is a great improvement in democracy.”
During the forum the four candidates articulated their positions housing and on Arlington County’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Both Karantonis and Theo said “affordable housing” is the biggest issue facing Arlington.
“I’ve been a housing advocate from day one,” Karantonis said. “The first thing my wife and I experienced [when moving here] was not being able to find housing, not having choices… Arlington is a community that looks back to a solid record of planning carefully for housing, of matching development with assets like transportation, schools and natural resources. We need to bundle these to support the creation of new housing choices because displacement is a real thing.”
“[Housing affordability] poses the problem of pricing out the elderly, low-income, immigrant and disabled people who are clinging on as it is already,” he said. “The number of housing units built in this county is horrifyingly low.”
But he took a jab at the County Board for talking about affordable housing and posing for photos at new developments, while not doing more to prioritize affordability. He spoke favorably of the Missing Middle Housing Study, a county-led effort to see if single-family home areas should be rezoned for more types of moderate-density homes, as a means to increase housing options for the middle-class.
Cantwell said he worries about affordability both in terms of housing and taxes.
“I think the biggest problem facing Arlington is runaway spending and taxes and lack of accountability in county government, [which] stems from lack of political competition,” Cantwell said. “I’m for affordable housing, but I question the outcomes of $300 million spent on a government-run affordable housing program… I think most Arlingtonians are interested in finding a market rate affordable housing place to live in, but not that many are interested in being part of government run program, where they have to submit tax returns, W-2s [and other] bureaucracy.”
Clement said the Missing Middle Study will create more housing, but nothing truly affordable, predicting people will continue to get priced out of their neighborhoods. She added that it won’t promote racial equity, citing a study from New York University that found between 2000-2007, upzoning in New York City “produced an influx of whites in gentrified areas, even as white population plummeted.”
“A far better solution is to repurpose unrented luxury units in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor to moderate income housing,” she said.
(Another NYU study found little link between neighborhood gentrification and displacement of low-income residents, at least in New York City.)
It looks like the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is not going to consider a Metro line through Columbia Pike any time soon.
In December 2019, Metro mulled the idea for a Silver Line extension down Columbia Pike and up Route 7, connecting with the West Falls Church Station, as one of a handful of ways to address congestion in the Rosslyn Metro tunnel, system reliability and future ridership growth. News of President Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, which coincided with WMATA’s deliberations, further crystallized those hopes.
A new study posted this week, however, indicates this extension — which nearly 70% of ARLnow readers supported in an April poll — has been ruled out. That follows a cost-benefit analysis by planners, which favored four other routes — each starting with a second Metro station in Rosslyn and adding an underground Metro station in Georgetown — as well as two options that don’t involve new construction.
Pretty much all of these (admittedly far-off) scenarios call for Metro to finally pass through Georgetown…and you may recall that the city could soon buy a very prominent Key Bridge site for a station there: https://t.co/E1DaxMAn1e https://t.co/Lp0OhMsHGX
— Alex Koma (@AlexKomaWBJ) September 7, 2021
WMATA is looking for the next way to expand Metro on a scale similar to the Silver Line extension to Dulles International Airport, as it seeks to alleviate traffic and congestion in the Rosslyn tunnel and along the the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. In early 2019, it launched the Blue/Orange/Silver Capacity & Reliability Study (BOS Study) to identify a line that would do so.
Metro planners outlined the four finalists, absent the Pike, in an update to the BOS Study that Metro posted this week. The four options use a second Rosslyn station to alleviate congestion at the existing station, and establish a long-discussed underground station in Georgetown, which has never had a Metro connection.
The possible projects, which would cost billions of dollars to build, include a Blue Line loop to National Harbor — which planners think would add the most new riders and revenue to the Metro system — as well as a Blue Line extension to Greenbelt, a Silver Line express tunnel option through Arlington, and a Silver Line to New Carrollton.
The express option “would create a separate tunnel and tracks for the Silver Line, starting at West Falls Church Station,” according to WMATA. A diagram suggests it would skip all Arlington stations except the second Rosslyn station and perhaps a second Ballston station.
“From WFC to a new second Rosslyn station, the new tunnel could support express service, local service or a mix of express and local service,” WMATA said. “From the second Rosslyn station, the Silver Line would travel through Georgetown…. to Greenbelt.”
On a quiet residential street near Arlington Blvd, cars can be heard accelerating as they turn a corner, with their aftermarket exhaust giving off a loud “roar.”
Meanwhile, near Columbia Pike, cars rev up and drag race on S. Columbus Street by Wakefield High School.
“I’m eight stories up — not at street level, so to speak — so maybe you expect the noise to dissipate,” Betsy Thomassen tells ARLnow. “It’s Wednesday, and it’s happened five to six times… it’s just incredibly loud and a nuisance. In my condo, my furniture sometimes vibrates. That’s kind of incredible really.”
According to residents who have spoken to ARLnow, and who’ve posted on social media sites like Facebook and Nextdoor, there been a surge in modified cars speeding through neighborhoods. Some residents say the uptick is particularly bad along the Columbia Pike corridor and in the Clarendon area, and along the highways that crisscross the county.
“Anywhere there’s a corridor, you have high performance cars,” said Clarendon-Courthouse Civic Association President David Cheek, who even compiled a video, below, of modified cars roaring through his neighborhood. “It’s really rude to accelerate in an area with a lot of people, in a loud car, but there’s a ‘do whatever you want’ mentality.”
After nearly a year of receiving more complaints than usual, the County Board is preparing to take a number of steps to mitigate noise in Arlington and enforce noise maximums on cars and motorcycles, according to Board member Takis Karantonis.
One avenue members are pursuing is via the state legislature. The Board aims to have something on their legislative agenda for the next regular session in January, Karantonis said. They’re also looking to train police officers to engage drivers in conversations and get them to change their attitudes.
“I think that the County Board as a whole is interested in a way to enforce and discourage overwhelmingly noisy motoring in Arlington, especially in neighborhoods,” he said.
Diagnosing the problem
A lot of the especially noisy cars are running aftermarket exhaust systems made for racing, Cheek said. He theorizes that with extra time on their hands during the pandemic, more folks got interested in car modifications.
There is an entire, sophisticated industry around these mufflers, but there is very little regulation, Karantonis said, adding that he understands that modified cars sell like hotcakes in motoring and touring fairs.
One reader told ARLnow that the new noise isn’t always associated with higher speeds.
“They often ‘sound’ as though they are also speeding, yet I’ve seen several that are loud, but didn’t appear to be speeding,” one said. “I suspect that those nature of the modifications.”
As a car and motorcycle enthusiast, Cheek said he understands the appeal of modifying a vehicle and wanting to enjoy it.
“I feel for them,” he said. “But they have to understand there are a lot of people who’re upset about it — on Columbia Pike and in Clarendon — and that it’s not fair to everyone else.”
He added that noise pollution “isn’t just annoying — it impacts your mental health, and it actually affects your life.”
Karantonis said there are a few paths on the table, from enacting legislation to educating drivers.
Legislative action will be somewhat tricky, in part because a new state law went into effect in March that says police officers cannot initiate a traffic stop for, among other things, loud mufflers. The code still allows drivers to be ticketed for noise if they were pulled over for a violation such as speeding.
The law, sponsored by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), was passed to reduce racial disparities in traffic stops, as some police officers historically used pretextual reasons — such as a loud car or expired tags — to pull over residents and search their cars.
Primary day was a good day to be an establishment Democrat in Arlington, though not necessarily so for every incumbent.
A primary challenge to incumbent County Board member Takis Karantonis was soundly rejected by voters, who gave Karantonis just over two-thirds of the vote. He defeats Chanda Choun, who ran on a platform of responsive government, technological advancement, and lower taxes, among other things.
Karantonis, who was first elected in a special election and is running for his first full term, will now face a trio of independent candidates in the fall: Audrey Clement, Mike Cantwell and Adam Theo. He thanked his volunteers and Choun for “a positive, well-fought campaign.”
I will continue to fight for our shared democratic values. Onward to November! (2/2)
— Takis Karantonis (@TakisKarantonis) June 9, 2021
In the 49th House of Delegates district, which runs along Columbia Pike, voters said yes to one of the most liberal state lawmakers in the Commonwealth and said no to a candidate running to his left. Del. Alfonso Lopez, who was first elected in 2012, cruised to another Democratic nomination over Karishma Mehta, by a vote of around 70% to 30%.
Mehta, a Pentagon City resident, was endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, the Sunrise Movement and local activist group Our Revolution Arlington. She was openly critical of her new corporate neighbor, Amazon, which is building its HQ2 within the district and will eventually be Arlington’s second largest employer — second only to the Department of Defense.
Lopez thanked voters tonight for their “resounding support.”
THANK YOU to the people of the 49th District for their resounding support – I’m proud to be your Democratic nominee!!
Now onto November – and let’s keep working to build a Virginia that lifts everyone up, and leaves no one behind. pic.twitter.com/3kg7yVSBbg
— Alfonso Lopez (@Lopez4VA) June 9, 2021
The other contested local primary was in the 45th House of Delegates district, which includes portions of South Arlington, Alexandria and southern Fairfax County. In it, incumbent Del. Mark Levine simultaneously lost his reelection bid in the 45th district while also falling short in his run for lieutenant governor.
Emerging victorious is Alexandria Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker, who is garnering nearly 60% of the vote district-wide to 40% for Levine. The margin in Arlington was closer — 53% to 47% — but nonetheless a defeat for Levine, who loaned his campaign nearly $1 million in his unsuccessful statewide run.
Bennett-Parker was endorsed by state Sen. Adam Ebbin, Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti, and County Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol, among others. In declaring victory via social media, she also thanked her campaign volunteers.
Special thanks to our incredible team of volunteers who made phone calls, knocked on doors, talked to your neighbors, and handed out campaign literature. This is a grassroots campaign, and I could not have done this without you.
— Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker (@EBPforVA) June 9, 2021
In statewide races, Arlington voted the same way as Virginia as a whole.
Former Governor Terry McAuliffe is again the Democratic nominee for governor, with 60% of the vote in Arlington and 62% statewide.
Incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring, meanwhile, is also advancing to the November general election after garnering 68.5% of the vote in Arlington and 56% statewide in his race against Jay Jones, who was endorsed by Gov. Ralph Northam.
(Updated 5:40 p.m.) Arlington has seen significantly higher early voting turnout than usual, ahead of the Democratic primary tomorrow.
Neighborhood polling places will be open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. for those who have not voted early or absentee. Voters will see a full slate of Democratic candidates for local and state elections. Primary winners will face non-Democratic candidates in November.
Arlingtonians have been taking advantage of early voting opportunities since April 23. According to the Arlington County elections office, 2,803 people voted early and in-person before that option closed last week — a 140% increase over the last Virginia gubernatorial election cycle in 2017.
Meanwhile, more than 3,900 mail ballots for the Democratic primary were distributed before the May 28 deadline to request a ballot, the office said in a tweet. These can still be returned by mail but must be postmarked by tomorrow (June 8) and received by the local voter registration office by noon on Friday.
On the ballot in Arlington are three statewide elections, two contested House of Delegates elections, and the Democratic race for County Board.
Democrats have a number of potential replacements for Gov. Ralph Northam, including former governor Terry McAuliffe and Jennifer Carroll Foy — both of whom visited Arlington last week — as well as Jennifer McClellan, Lee Carter and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax.
The winner of the gubernatorial primary will face off Glenn Youngkin, who beat out a half-dozen other Republican candidates to win the GOP nomination.
Meanwhile, seven Democrats are competing for Fairfax’s current role as Lieutenant Governor. They are Del. Hala Ayala, Del. Sam Rasoul, Norfolk Council Member Andria McClellan, Fairfax County NAACP President Sean Perryman, Del. Mark Levine and Arlington businessman Xavier Warren.
Voters can also choose between incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring or his Democratic challenger Jay Jones.
Challenging Del. Alfonso Lopez for the 49th District is Karishma Mehta, while Alexandria City Vice-Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker is going up against Levine (who is also running for Lieutenant Governor) in the 45th District.
The 47th and 48th districts are not facing primary challenges on the ballot this year. Incumbent Del. Rip Sullivan (D-48th) faces no challenger and Matt Rogers, who launched a bid to unseat incumbent Del. Patrick Hope (D-47th), is not on the ballot due to a paperwork snafu. He contested a decision by the State Board of Elections not to grant him and two other candidates a filing deadline.
Meanwhile, locals can choose to keep incumbent Democrat Takis Karantonis in his County Board seat or select his opponent, Chanda Choun. In November, the winner will face off a trio of independents: Audrey Clement, Mike Cantwell and now, Adam Theo.
Theo describes himself as a patriotic Libertarian Buddhist. He is the chair of the Libertarian Party of Northern Virginia, which operates in the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church as well as Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties.
Tomorrow also is the deadline for candidates to file the forms needed to have their names printed on the ballot in the November general election.
There is no Republican primary, as “the Republican party did not call for any primary elections in Arlington,” the county elections office noted. Any voter can cast a ballot in the Democratic primary, regardless of party affiliation, as Virginia is an open primary state.
Registered voters can find their polling place on the Virginia Department of Elections website. A pocket guide from the department includes a list of acceptable IDs that voters can use to prove their identity when they arrive at the polls.
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) Arlington’s four candidates for the County Board agree that Arlington County should take more steps to support small businesses.
The County Board hopefuls articulated their plans for supporting the business community and encouraging economic development during an Arlington Chamber of Commerce candidate forum last night (Tuesday).
Candidates suggested providing grants, cutting certain taxes and fees, expanding online permit applications, and improving both the county’s regulatory processes and how county staff help businesses navigate them.
The debate was moderated by Alex Koma of the Washington Business Journal, a former ARLnow reporter. Koma also asked candidates about office space vacancies, housing and development.
Citing his “Freedom and Justice Plan,” Democratic challenger Chanda Choun said he would encourage public-private partnerships that fund grants for startups and minority-owned businesses, which often struggle to get loans. He would also eliminate the Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax, which is calculated based on the gross receipts of a business.
“If you’re a small mom and pop, and you generate revenue — not even profit — of $10,000 or more, you have to start paying business license fees,” he said. “It makes no sense.”
Independent candidate and Yorktown Civic Association President Mike Cantwell said the county should eliminate the business tangible tax — which taxes the assessed value of business furniture, machinery, tools and computer equipment — and instead tax specific things like automated checkout machines.
“The business tangible tax takes in approximately 4% of revenue for the entire budget and it is a highly inefficient tax and an administrative burden on small businesses,” he said, adding that “we have a role to play to make sure machines don’t replace humans.”
Perennial independent candidate Audrey Clement supported expanding the Permit Arlington portal, which took some permits process online in 2019 (a dozen others are already slated to go digital through 2022). She said the county needs to keep up its vaccine distribution efforts and review the real estate assessment process.
Democratic incumbent Takis Karantonis called for small business grants; better customer service for people navigating county, state and federal regulations; and — for big businesses — a review of county processes to see if they are efficient.
“We need to create something that will sustain [the smallest, women-owned and Black- and Brown-owned businesses] in the long term,” Karantonis said, adding that continuing a pandemic-era business loan program “would be a signal that we welcome them and are committed to restoring neighborhood retail and retail diversity.”
New Irish Pub Now Open in Pentagon City — “If your notion of an Irish pub is a static menu of fish n’ chips in a shamrock-decked bar, chef Cathal Armstrong wants to change that perception with Mattie and Eddie’s. The James Beard-anointed chef, who championed seasonal Irish cooking over 14 years at Alexandria’s Restaurant Eve, just opened the gastropub with a large outdoor patio in Pentagon City.” [Washingtonian]
Extended Power Outage in Barcroft — A driver crashed into a utility pole at S. Buchanan Street and 6th Street S. in the Barcroft neighborhood Sunday, initially knocking out power to thousands. Hundreds of homes were still in the dark until early this morning. [Twitter]
Candidate Comes Out Swinging At Dem Meeting — “[Chanda] Choun, who is attempting to unseat sitting Democrat Takis Karantonis in a June primary, did not pull many punches in an April 7 kickoff speech before the Arlington County Democratic Committee rank-and-file. ‘Takis was not the best candidate to represent Arlington’ during a politically and racially charged era, Choun said… If elected, Choun said he would be an elected official who ‘goes beyond the platitudes and buzzwords’ to promote an aggressively left-leaning agenda. One example: Choun said he wanted the county to establish a ‘truth and reconciliation commission’ to focus on equity issues.” [Sun Gazette]
School Board Advances Budget Proposal — “The School Board adopted its FY 2022 Proposed Budget at its April 8 meeting. The proposed budget expenditures total $699,919,805. The School Board amended the Superintendent’s FY22 Revised Proposed Budget by reducing the budgeted expenditures by $6,796,056 and 35.00 FTE and replacing the 2% cost of living adjustment with Compensation Option 1. Compensation Option 1 provides different compensation models by employee scale to ensure that every employee in the school division receives a compensation increase.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Pentagon Police Officer Faces Murder Charges — “Takoma Park police have charged the off-duty Pentagon Force Protection Agency officer they say shot and killed two men Wednesday morning in Montgomery County, Maryland. The officer has also been charged for an alleged assault that happened last year. David Hall Dixon, of Takoma Park, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of use of a handgun in commission of a felony and reckless endangerment.” [WTOP]
Don’t Hang Up on 911 — From Arlington County: “Oops, did you call 911 by mistake? It’s OK, just stay on the line and tell the friendly dispatcher it was an accident. That way, they can confirm there’s no emergency… Otherwise, we’ll have to call you back, taking away a dispatcher who could help someone who needs it.” [Twitter]
The upcoming Arlington County Board primary will see a rematch between two former Democratic rivals.
County Board member Takis Karantonis, who is serving a partial term after being elected in a special election, is facing Chanda Choun, who is hoping the third time is the charm as he again seeks a seat on the Board.
Karantonis and Choun previously ran against each other in the Democratic primary for the special election last year to fill the late Erik Gutshall’s seat. Karantonis won while Choun finished third in the ranked-choice voting. Then, Karantonis went on to win the general election.
The winner of this year’s June primary will move on to November’s general election, where there’s already an opponent waiting for one of them.
The Arlington elections office confirmed to ARLnow that Audrey Clement has filed her paperwork and will once again be on the ballot in November.
Clement, who has run unsuccessfully for office in Arlington nearly a dozen times over the past decade — most recently in November — is again running as an independent.
Karantonis, the former executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO), was an ardent supporter of the planned Columbia Pike streetcar project, which was scuttled in 2014. His current term in office expires on December 31.
“I am running for re-election to the Arlington County Board because I believe that Arlington is resilient, and it has the capacity to adapt to challenges in ways that will provide a great quality of life for all of its residents,” Karantonis wrote in an email to supporters. “My experiences as an immigrant, planner, economist, environmentalist and affordable housing activist have proved critical in my work to build an Arlington that works for all Arlingtonians.”
Additionally, he noted that his top priorities would include safely reopening schools, supporting small businesses, making Arlington a leader in environmental resilience and sustainability, tackling “our housing affordability crisis,” and advancing equity and racial justice.
Chanda Choun is a military veteran and a technology professional who has also run several times for the County Board. In 2018 he lost to Matt de Ferranti and last year he initially was going to oppose Libby Garvey’s re-election but dropped out to run in the special election.
In a campaign email, Choun wrote that he has a “Freedom and Justice Plan” for the county. This includes, according to the note, “securing the local economy amidst the remote work revolution,” reducing residential taxes, closing the digital divide, and making Arlington’s government more representative and responsive.
“Arlington’s current path is not sustainable: financially, environmentally, and socially,” he said. “Arlington needs an elected representative with managerial experience, technical skills, a thoughtful heart, and unique tenacious leadership to make sure we have a fair and livable community 20 years from now.”
Choun notes that, if elected, he would be the first Asian American to serve on the Arlington County Board.
The Democratic primary is June 8 with early voting beginning 45 days before the election, on April 23.