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For Arlington County Board: Alan Howze, Peter Fallon

This Thursday and Saturday, Arlington voters who consider themselves Democrats will vote for a nominee to replace Chris Zimmerman on the county board. Greater Greater Washington recommends voting for Alan Howze, followed by Peter Fallon, in the instant runoff vote.

Alan Howze. Photo from the candidate's website.

The Arlington Democrats use a "firehouse caucus" to choose their nominees. Anyone can vote in it who is a registered voter and who is willing to sign a pledge basically saying he or she is a Democrat and will not support a candidate other than the Democratic nominee.

Voters can cast their votes on Thursday night, January 30, from 7-9 pm at Francis Scott Key Elementary School, or Saturday, February 1 from 11 am to 7 pm at Kenmore Middle School. Three candidates are vying for the nomination: Alan Howze, Peter Fallon, and Cord Thomas.

It's an instant runoff election, which means voters can rank their choices, and if their first choice gets eliminated for having the fewest votes, their vote still counts toward the second (and so on, but with only 3 candidates, there are at most 2 rounds).

Arlington has more than one policy issue, but the fact is that this race is turning largely on one: the Columbia Pike Streetcar. 4 of 5 members of the County Board strongly support the project, but there is a very active contingent of people in the county who want to stop the streetcar. They helped elect Libby Garvey in 2012, who has fiercely railed against the streetcar in office.

Streetcar opponents would like to expand their caucus to two, and are backing Cord Thomas, who formerly co-founded Envirocab and now co-owns Elevation Burger. Thomas initially kept quiet about the streetcar, but more recently came out against the project. To the extent party affiliation is important, it's also somewhat unclear if Thomas is or has been a Democrat.

Both Alan Howze and Peter Fallon say they will support the community's plans to improve transit along Columbia Pike by supplementing the existing buses with streetcars. This investment in the community dovetails with the existing Columbia Pike development plans, which include a significant contribution to affordable housing that will only be possible if high-quality transit attracts developers. Additionally, the increased density that will come as part of the plan will only be possible if the new residents are able to get where they're going without getting in their cars.

Alan Howze worked for former Virginia Congressman Rick Boucher and Governor Mark Warner. He impressed Michael Perkins when he ran (unsuccessfully) for an open seat in the House of Delegates in 2009. Howze has a strong position paper on the streetcar, where he clearly lays out the economic and environmental benefits. That helped him win the Sierra Club's endorsement.

Peter Fallon has experience working with the county government, most recently on the Planning Commission. The planning commission is one of the most challenging appointed positions in the county, and his experience with the process and history of Arlington's plans and decisions is and would be a great asset to the community.

In our poll of contributors, all of our Virginia residents who voted said that they like both Howze and Fallon, but all felt the scale tips in favor of Howze based on his public statements at events and in response to questionnaires like the one from Arlington Streetcar Now.

While it is a close call between the two, both are clearly better for Arlington than Thomas. Therefore, we encourage Arlington voters who identify as Democrats to cast their votes for Howze first and Fallon second, or for those who prefer Fallon, vote for Fallon first and Howze second, on Thursday night or Saturday.

The winner will compete against independents and candidates of other parties in the special election, whose date has not yet been set. The winner of that contest will also have to run for re-election in November.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington, written by one or more contributors. Active regular contributors and editors voted on endorsements, and any endorsement reflects a strong majority or greater in favor of endorsing the candidate.


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100% agree. Nicely done, GGW. Peter is a great guy, and well-steeped in how the County works, but Alan really seems to understand the nuanced links between Transportation, Land Use, Economic Development and Affordable Housing. It's hard to fill Chris Zimmerman's shoes, but Alan has the best shot.

If you're an Arlingtonian and consider yourself in any way a Democrat, makes sure you VOTE. Special elections are notoriously low turnout and caucuses for special elections doubly so. This may well be decided by less than 50 votes, so yours really counts!


by Chris Slatt on Jan 28, 2014 2:44 pm • linkreport

Just FYI, Cord Thomas's status as a Democrat *in this election* is not in dispute. He is, after all, seeking the Democratic nomination and has qualified to do so. In order to participate, Cord and the other candidates each signed a statement saying that he is a Democrat, that he is not a member of any other political party, will not participate in the nomination or endorsement process of any other party and that he will not run as, support, endorse or assist any candidate who is opposed to the winner of the Democratic nomination in this election.

This comment is not meant to address whether Thomas "has been" a Democrat at other points in his life, whatever the relevance of that may be.

by A Democrat on Jan 28, 2014 2:44 pm • linkreport

Definitely telling my family not to do carry-out from Elevation Burger anymore. Is that a tad spiteful? Sure. But such is life when you're running for public office and taking public positions on controversial issues.

by nbluth on Jan 28, 2014 3:03 pm • linkreport

Definitely telling my family TO do carry-out from Elevation Burger. Would be nice to have balance on the Board.

by Hondo on Jan 28, 2014 3:10 pm • linkreport

The statement "They helped elect Libby Garvey in 2012, who has fiercely railed against the streetcar in office." Is misleading. Libby did not come out as opposed to the streetcar until shortly before the general election. Prior to that the was still "studying the issue" and abstained from the only streetcar related vote:

During her special election campaign she was neither for nor against the streetcar:

During the race for the Democratic nomination for the special election she was one of several candidates who was non-committal about the streetcar:

She has never run against a pro-streetcar Democrat.

by JohnB on Jan 28, 2014 3:25 pm • linkreport

edit: "She has never run against a pro-streetcar Democrat as an anit-streetcar Democrat."

by JohnB on Jan 28, 2014 3:39 pm • linkreport

JohnB: Garvey ran against a pro-streetcar Democrat when she ran against Melissa Bondi in the 2012 special. Bondi was for the streetcar. Garvey was noncommittal but fairly clearly signaled that she was probably going to be against it.

She said in response to our questionnaire,

While I can see many benefits from a streetcar, the question for me and many people is, are those benefits worth the cost. Arlington needs a clear cost benefit analysis for the streetcar so we can make an informed decision as a board and a community.
Generally people running for office don't say they are against things, they express "concerns" with the thing in order to hedge their bets. Or maybe she really hadn't made up her mind, but either way, it was really no surprise that Garvey, once in office, decided to more vocally outright oppose the project.

by David Alpert on Jan 28, 2014 3:41 pm • linkreport

JohnB: Ah, I didn't see your edit in time. Sure, she only ran against a pro-streetcar Democrat as a streetcar skeptic, likely to become anti-streetcar Democrat.

by David Alpert on Jan 28, 2014 3:42 pm • linkreport

I would also add that when Garvey said "we need a clear cost benefit analysis" there had already been at least 2 detailed cost-benefit analyses. Saying "we need more study" for something that's gotten a lot of study is another way to be against something without risking alienating people who are for it but who aren't as savvy.

by David Alpert on Jan 28, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

I just think you're giving the anti-streetcar crowd a little too much credit for Libby's election. She had a lot of endorsements including the Post's and the most name recognition. One could have easily thought she was hedging her response so that Matt Wavro couldn't pin her down during the special election.

by JohnB on Jan 28, 2014 4:02 pm • linkreport

Funny that you frame this caucus (and election) as about the streetcar. For the majority of Arlington voters, it is about an out of control board that isn't spending money very smartly.

The streetcar is certainly part of that ire, since I've never seen a clear explanation of who is going to pay for it. And given that the problem Arlington is facing is a very weak commercial real estate sector, not sure how the streetcar solves that.

by charlie on Jan 28, 2014 4:04 pm • linkreport

A more accurate statement might have begun, "They have rallied around Libby Garvey..."

by JohnB on Jan 28, 2014 4:05 pm • linkreport

it is about an out of control board that isn't spending money very smartly.

The streetcar argument and board spends too much argument are the same.

And the "board spends too much" is the meme but it's not actually true. The usual things that get brought up are:

The streetcar: despite denial of small starts funds FTA said that the project was good and would likely exceed expectations.

Million Dollar Bus Stop: a big non-issue. People can't seem to pinpoint what it should have cost. Not to mention that the project is on hold and under review to see what needs to be done differently (mainly, don't let WMATA get involved).

Aquatic center: Also on hold, doesn't stop people from asking for it to be on hold.

Meanwhile, Arlington's bond rating is good, building owners are renovating and companies will move back in once prices correct. BRAC hit the county hard but the fundamentals are good.

If you're generally ok with the way the current county board operates then you're also probably ok with the streetcar. And vice versa.

by drumz on Jan 28, 2014 4:33 pm • linkreport

The streetcar argument and board spends too much argument are the same.

I wouldn't say so. The streetcar is a tiny fraction of Arlington's budget over the next few years.

And the "board spends too much" is the meme but it's not actually true. The usual things that get brought up are:

Really? Because the thing I hear most often brought up is the increase in property tax rates. You probably wouldn't be hearing objections about the list of projects if taxes weren't going up. I remember when the rate was close to 90 cents and now it's over a $1 even though assessments are at an all-time high. I'm not necessarily saying that value hasn't been delivered for the increased taxes but the argument that the County is spending too much money is largely based on the fact that the tax rate seems to go up every year, even in years when assessments go up.

by Falls Church on Jan 28, 2014 4:51 pm • linkreport

The streetcar is a tiny fraction of Arlington's budget over the next few years.

I'd agree with this, but that's not what anti-streetcar people say.

Re: tax rates vs. assessments,

That is a big debate and people are fine not to like it. But I still see the outrage focused on the specific projects than the money itself, indeed one criticism that's often leveraged is that the board isn't dedicating enough resources to its schools. I don't think it's a reaction against "government spending" like it has been nationally.

It comes from both sides as well, there is a dedicated liberal wing that would rather see taxes go up to fund more librarys and affordable housing projects and are anti-streetcar in part because they see it as a tool to spread gentrification and push people off the pike as well.

by drumz on Jan 28, 2014 5:04 pm • linkreport

"Iwouldn't say so. The streetcar is a tiny fraction of Arlington's budget over the next few years."

The anti board people rarely complain about the largest items - schools, public safety, etc. Its Streetcar-acquatics center-artisphere over and over and over again, ad nauseum (a few poke at affordable housing, but many don't) And of those the street car is the largest ticket item.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 28, 2014 5:14 pm • linkreport

Who are the Virginia contributors?

by selxic on Jan 28, 2014 6:23 pm • linkreport

"Really? Because the thing I hear most often brought up is the increase in property tax rates"

Yep,nailed it.

The continuing decline in CRE is causing more of tax burden to arlington homeowners. They have noticed, and aren't very happy.

And if the streetcar is going to magically revive Rosslyn and Crystal City (although I see the former Washinton Post is moving into Rosslyn) that woud be one thing. But it isn't.

by charlie on Jan 28, 2014 7:33 pm • linkreport

Cord Thomas owns a burger place and is running for local government? The only thing that could make him more like Jeremy Jamm is if he was a dentist too.

by David C on Jan 28, 2014 9:45 pm • linkreport

Can you imagine if DC had a "firehouse caucus" and you only get to vote at two locations?

by The Jimmy on Jan 28, 2014 11:36 pm • linkreport

"You just got Corded!"

by Igor on Jan 29, 2014 9:07 am • linkreport


Well this is just for the democratic party nominee. Whoever wins this would still have to run for the general election in April which will have all the usual precincts open.

Also, Arlington is one of of the smallest counties by area in the country. No one who lives in the county probably lives more than 4 or 5 miles max from either of the voting sites.

by drumz on Jan 29, 2014 9:21 am • linkreport

@Igor: In progressive Arlington County, Cord cuts you?

by Gray on Jan 29, 2014 9:22 am • linkreport

@selxic: I'm one of them.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2014 10:23 am • linkreport

Thanks, Michael Perkins. Based on bios, it looks like Miles Grant and Adam Lind also live in Arlington while the other VA contributors are in Alexandria, Falls Church and perhaps another location. I wish the process of arriving at the endorsement was more clear since it is a site endorsement. It's not uncommon for Alpert to have a problem with people using "GGW" as representative of more than an individual on certain topics. Were DC and Maryland contributors part of the polling? I appreciate the work of BeyondDC, but it's unclear if his position or the perspective of people outside of Arlington make this largely a streetcar issue.

by selxic on Jan 29, 2014 10:46 am • linkreport

and moments before posting there is a post called "Where we live."

by selxic on Jan 29, 2014 10:53 am • linkreport

selxic: Dan Malouff had nothing to do with the endorsement. We poll the contributors who live in Arlington, and make a decision if there is a clear consensus.

I only am vague about clear consensus because we don't want to get into the place like some groups where there is a hard 50% or 2/3 cutoff and you make an endorsement with 51% but people are divided. In this case there was no question that people agreed first on Howze and Fallon, and between the two, leaned toward Howze.

Dan was not asked, and did not vote nor did he even comment since he wasn't even included in the email. His professional work would forbid that and he had absolutely no role in the endorsement. Of course we know his view on the streetcar, but the Arlington contributors happen to agree.

by David Alpert on Jan 29, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

There was me. I live in Falls Church but was living in Arlington when I started writing for GGW and most of my posts focus there as well since there is simply more stuff happening there than in the little city day to day (though as soon as some construction projects take off I plan on providing some updates).

There are more issues than the streetcar sure. But its a pretty big one and one that is very important to Vishstadt who will likely be the biggest opponent of whoever wins the caucus.

by Canaan on Jan 29, 2014 11:08 am • linkreport

Living in Arlington is the closest you can come to living in Communist China. The polling location is "only" 5 miles awy. Have fun walking there. I know I didn't enjoy the walk in the cold last time to W-L from Rosslyn. Especially the walk home!

And the amazing lack of diversity! Granted it was North Arlington, but I was the only brown face that I saw.

@dave Alpert, so, basically you polled 3 GGW contributors that live in Arlington?

by charlie on Jan 29, 2014 11:11 am • linkreport

Thank you, David for clarifying the process some. I did not believe Dan influenced things (that's why I didn't use his name), but wanted to get my point across.

by selxic on Jan 29, 2014 11:17 am • linkreport

Yes, communist china.

For someone living in Rosslyn, all they have to do is take the metro one stop to Courthouse on thursday evening, or catch the 4A out to Kenmore middle school somewhere in an 8 hour window on saturday. For an election that was hastily organized and still expected to be pretty low turnout (its a party caucus, for a special election, for a local county board seat) I think those wanting to cast a vote will find a way.

by drumz on Jan 29, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

The polling location for Thursday is just a few blocks away from Court House Metro, one of several locations in Arlington that have transit service from all over the county. You have a one-seat ride from a lot of Columbia Pike, Shirlington, Fairlington, the R-B corridor, the Lee Highway corridor, the Arlington Boulevard corridor, the Wilson Boulevard corridor, and the Washington Boulevard corridor.

The Saturday location is a bit harder to get to.

by Michael Perkins on Jan 29, 2014 11:27 am • linkreport

Funny, I though Arlington was a "Walk friendly community".

And yes drumz, stick around for a few years and learn something. ACDC is communist china. Both good and bad.

by charlie on Jan 29, 2014 11:31 am • linkreport

I know you're pulling my chain but I'll allow it if someone chooses to drive to Kenmore on Saturday. Plentiful parking is probably one reason why they chose that location. You can't win 'em all but you can elect someone who wants to build a streetcar on Columbia Pike.

Or even if they decide they must drive to Key on thursday. They might have to pay at a meter though and get stuck behind someone on a bike.

by drumz on Jan 29, 2014 11:38 am • linkreport

Millions of people starved to death, or were murdered by cadres during the Great Leap Forward. Comparing a minor problem with caucus location (BTW Fairfax also uses similar caucuses, and IIUC both FCDC AND FCRC do so) to a totalitarian regime that slaughtered millions of human beings, says more about the maker of such an analogy than it does about ArlCo politics.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jan 29, 2014 11:47 am • linkreport

Rosslyn to Ballston is a strange complaint.

by selxic on Jan 29, 2014 11:57 am • linkreport

There's also a bikeshare station literally across the street from Key School. You have a million ways to get to Key School without a car!

by Igor on Jan 29, 2014 4:00 pm • linkreport

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