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For Arlington County Board: Alan Howze

Greater Greater Washington endorsed Alan Howze for Arlington County Board in the recent Democratic caucus. He is still the best candidate in what is shaping up to be a very competitive special election April 8.

Image from the candidate website.

Howze strongly supports Arlington's streetcar plans, investment in transit, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. He deeply understands the connection between land use and transportation, between density and affordable housing.

While the streetcar is not the only issue in Arlington, it is the main focus of this campaign. Howze wrote a convincing argument in Arlington Streetcar Now's questionnaire explaining how streetcar is an investment that will pay dividends and support other county projects, rather than just another desirable amenity.

The recent return on investment study shows clear economic benefits for the streetcar versus the "enhanced bus" alternatives that streetcar opponents have been pushing. That has not stopped a contingent of dedicated opponents from rallying behind Howze opponent John Vihstadt, who is a member of the anti-streetcar group AST.

Vihstadt is trying to win with a coalition of streetcar opponents, residents upset about some other specific county initiative, and those who oppose county spending in general, because much of it doesn't benefit them directly. He has been trying to paint the current county board as profligate spenders, when in fact investing in projects that make the county better during times of strong budgets is a wise move.

Janet Murphy, an Independent Green, agrees very strongly with our views on many issues, but is not running a significant campaign and has raised virtually no money. Stephen W.C. Holbrook's candidacy is also marginal and he is running essentially on one issue, against a homeless shelter in the Courthouse area.

This election will likely draw very low turnout. In such a strongly Democratic county, the Democratic candidate would be the overwhelming favorite in a November election, but many Arlington residents are not paying very close attention to the issues or don't even know there is an election. Vihstadt may be able to assemble enough angry and motivated voters with his platform that opposes the streetcar and other popular county initiatives.

It is very important for Arlington voters to participate on April 8 and we urge them to support Alan Howze.

This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. To determine this endorsement, regular contributors who live in Arlington discussed the race and reached a consensus about the endorsement.


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Alan Howze will be a great addition to the County Board. I expect he will be a Board leader in the years to come.

Let's hope he thinks big -- it's time for Arlington to get more ambitious in promoting walk-bike-transit!

by Ed Fendley on Apr 2, 2014 2:38 pm • linkreport

Alan seems like a nice guy, and I appreciate his views and participation in cycling, but he is not the board member Arlington deserves.

To put it bluntly, he is a servant of the party and his own political ambitions. He has no meaningful achievements or participation in serving the public interest.

Vhidstat on the other hand has the experience and will serve selflessly instead of viewing this seat as a rung on the ladder of political advancement. Don't believe me? He has several high profile Arlington Democrats endorsing him over their own candidate. That speaks volumes.

Of course I expect to see the ad-hominem attacks (he's really a Republican!) to follow here shortly. Go read Ed Fendley's endorsement of Howze on ArlNow, which is really not a reason to vote for Alan, but reasons not to vote for John. Sorry Ed, but that was a shameful endorsement of your candidate.

by Pen on Apr 3, 2014 12:29 am • linkreport

Alan Howze would do a great job on the county board. He approaches decisions by listening to the stakeholders and figuring out what is the right thing to do for the present and for the future. Most municipal government decisions are not dramatic, but very important for the quality of our lives. Alan is willing and capable to do the hard work of developing the right solutions.

Like Alan Howze, John Vihstadt has done a lot of good work in Arlington, but his campaign has sought to use the streetcar as a wedge issue, falsely claiming that schools funding is being directed to streetcar construction. That is both wrong and disingenuous. People can disagree, but Vihstadt launched a campaign against the streetcar without first even asking the stakeholders why we favor it. That shows me his interest is in sound bites and wedge issues, not solutions.

by John Snyder on Apr 3, 2014 8:26 am • linkreport

IF Vihdstat isn't really a Republican in sheep's clothing, why is he endorsed by them? All of my neighbors who typically have Republican signs in their yards now have Vihdstat signs. He may be more moderate than those in the tea party, but the "independent" thing seems merely a device to get elected in a progressive county where if he ran as a Republican he wouldn't have a chance.

His opposition to most of these investments as boondoggles seems like the typical pandering to the right.

by DE on Apr 3, 2014 9:14 am • linkreport

GGW's endorsement of Howze is hardly surprising, but Vihstadt's fiscal responsibility and challenge to the Arlington County Board's mindless group think, wasteful public spending, and rigged Streetcar "studies" makes him the true Smart Growth candidate. For that reason, I support Vihstadt wholeheartedly.

Few Arlington taxpayers oppose public spending or the proposed Streetcars because it "doesn't benefit them directly", as evidenced by the consistent strong support of Arlington voters for school bond referendums. Rather, Arlingtonians are increasingly fed up with wasteful and unnecessary public spending and an insular, self-satisfied, and unresponsive County Board. Since when is wasteful and unnecessary public spending "smart"?

by Allen Muchnick on Apr 3, 2014 10:52 am • linkreport

Calling something wasteful doesn't automatically make it so.
Things often seem unnecessary to those who don't directly benefit from them.

by DE on Apr 3, 2014 11:03 am • linkreport


its quite possible that someone who does not use the schools, sees good schools as raising their property value. Ditto someone who lives near ColPike, but does not plan to ride the street car. But someone who lives in N Arlington, might well not be concerned about raising property values on the Pike. Thats not the only reason for opposition, but I do believe its one reason.

I beleive that proponents of smart growth who think that by weakening the county board majority, they will get continued smart growth, but minus the streetcar, are mistaken.

I note again that the notion that street car money can be spent on education - a point made by street car opponent peter Rosselot - is incorrect, and (given the familiarity such experienced pols have with these issues) likely deceptive.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 11:13 am • linkreport


Money is fungible. Assuming the board can raise taxes up until the point they are voted out on their collective tokuses (tooki?) any "extra" revenue can be spent on whatever project they desire. So yes every cent spent on the streetcar could be spent elsewhere, though I believe education usually gets half of the ordinary tax revenues.

by Pen on Apr 3, 2014 11:33 am • linkreport

All of Arlington's high schools have been rebuilt recently. I don't think there's really too much of a shortage of money for education. I think the overcrowding of some schools is a result of population influx being more than projections, and limited space to build new schools.

by DE on Apr 3, 2014 11:35 am • linkreport

It's not completely true that all money the county has to spend is fungible. If it's money from the state or federal government then there is usally some sort of stipulation that it be dedicated for a purpose lest the county lose that money.

by drumz on Apr 3, 2014 11:44 am • linkreport

"Money is fungible"

The money for the street car is from a special tax on commercial property that is over and above the standard property tax paid by both commercial and residential properties - its justified on the notion that transportation improvements help commercial properties. I think justifying a higher tax rate on commercial property to fund education would be difficult, and would be strong opposed by owners of commercial property.

In any case, if Mr Vilstadt or Mr Rosselot has actually advocated converting the transport tax into a general extra tax on commercial property that could be used for education, I am not aware of it. Instead they speak as if the issue simply did not exist.

And yet they accuse street car proponents of dishonesty.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 11:47 am • linkreport

"So yes every cent spent on the streetcar could be spent elsewhere, though I believe education usually gets half of the ordinary tax revenues."

Arlingtons local share of Pike Rail funding is to come not from ordinary tax revenue, but from the transportation tax on commercial propety owners, 100% of which is spent on transportation.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 11:54 am • linkreport

Ah, the special tax district, aka the BID or whatever flavor it's called. Those in the BID suffer from a double tax whammy. Ordinary + BID.

Just wait till those in the BID complain about their tax burden and the assessors are told to lay off. Can't have a revolt of the peepul, can we? It's easier to spread the pain across a larger population, and to do it quietly and out of sight. This is the current boards M.O., something Howze is more than willing to be a part of.

by Pen on Apr 3, 2014 2:02 pm • linkreport

Pen, it's not a BID. It is a county-wide tax. In addition to that tax, the new State Transportation compromise that recently went into effect also puts a portion of the new NOVA sales tax into the same account, similarly limited by law to be spent on Transportation. That is money that can only be spent on transportation by State law. Feel free to argue that some other transportation project is more deserving, but arguing that the streetcar money can be spent on schools, fire fighters or affordable housing is simple false.

by Chris Slatt on Apr 3, 2014 2:32 pm • linkreport

What Chris said - this is not a special tax district for the street car. Its a county wide tax that is and will be collected street car or no street car. It could be spent on more buses, or on repaving roads more frequently, but it cannot be spent on education or public safety.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 2:50 pm • linkreport

Doesn't really matter as the point is money is fungible. If businesses can stomach a surtax for this project, then the county could just as easily change the commercial rate and not fund the rail. Businesses care about their bottom line. Don't tell me a business in ballston is going to care one whit about a streeetcar on CP.

And with commercial occupancy being what it is, this tax is not going to come at a good time.

by Pen on Apr 3, 2014 3:03 pm • linkreport

Don't tell me a business in ballston is going to care one whit about a streeetcar on CP.

Umm, they should, because the resulting increase in people along CP means more potential customers and a greater employment base closer to them.

I would question the sense of a business owner who thinks changes less than two miles from them have zero impact on their business.

by MLD on Apr 3, 2014 3:05 pm • linkreport

Doesn't really matter as the point is money is fungible.

In the abstract yes. But not in the context we're discussing.

Businesses care about their bottom line.

Which is why many love it when rail transit is offered near them.

by drumz on Apr 3, 2014 3:16 pm • linkreport

Its not that they care about Pike rail necessarily (though MLD is right that they might) but that they will, as a body, oppose shifting it from transport to education.

you seem to be under the impression that the tax was instituted for PikeRail. My understanding is that tax has been collected since 2007.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 3:18 pm • linkreport

"Doesn't really matter as the point is money is fungible."

NOt in govt or non-profit management, where there are often dedicated funds that cannot be moved around freely. Have you ever done finance, if not for a govt, than for a university, a private school, a hospital or a religious congregation? money is NOT fungible.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 3:20 pm • linkreport

If the bias against buses is true, then how do they get from CP to Fairfax Dr?

I don't know what kind of business you are thinking of, but the value to that area would be diminimus. .

by Pen on Apr 3, 2014 3:24 pm • linkreport

"If the bias against buses is true, then how do they get from CP to Fairfax Dr? "

no one has ever said people won't ride buses, but that street cars attract MORE riders (and provide more capacity). and more folks living on col pike means more folks who might bike to North Arlington. Or even drive at off peak times (no one said all new residents would be carfree they could even use zipcar)

But again, the point is NOT that a biz in ballston will fight for Pike Rail - they will fight to keep the transport capital fund used for capital improvements.

Again, if that is not the case, why does Mr Vilstadt not make diverting $$ from the transport capital fund to the general fund part of his platform?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 3:28 pm • linkreport

The assumption (or mine) is the county is not going to get fed help. Let's see where Arlco is going to get funding. The last time they tried, the Feds basically laughed at their bogus estimate.

If they can get the fed to pony up at the expense of the rest of the country, I'd be ok with that. Of course there are other spending boondoggles at play here. We don't need any more "yes men" issuing rubber stamps.

by Pen on Apr 3, 2014 3:31 pm • linkreport

they were rejected for FTA small starts because FTA thought there estimate was a bit too low (not enough for contingencies etc) They are now lining up for the New Starts program instead. I am quite sure they will not proceed till they get that.

The other spending boondogles, whether boondoggle or not ( I am no expert on swimming), are simply not big enough to have a large bearing on tax rates, education, etc.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 3, 2014 3:35 pm • linkreport

FTA did not laugh at their estimates. They even told Arlington to expect higher ridership than the county had estimated.

by drumz on Apr 3, 2014 3:51 pm • linkreport

In any case, if Mr Vilstadt or Mr Rosselot has actually advocated converting the transport tax into a general extra tax on commercial property that could be used for education...

They haven't specifically advocated it of course but they have repeatedly stated it's an either/or choice. It's simply dishonest. I really do hope someone raises that question tonight at Arlington Mills. Just how is Vishtadt going to use/move money meant for transportation by law and apply it towards schools?

by Tom S on Apr 3, 2014 4:02 pm • linkreport

I take Metrobus for about 85% of my trips into DC because its cheap and convenient. I'm not against streetcars. I'm against **overpaying** for the service based upon a "we could be right" study.

I'd like to believe the study that we just paid for, but frankly I can't. It was all too easy to get exactly the report they were looking for. Is this a conspiracy? I wouldn't go that far, and wouldn't say our current board is corrupt or drunk on their own power, but they definitely are a little buzzed.

There are of course other things that are important to Arlington besides the streetcar, so it is sad to see GGW make that their sole objective behind their endorsement.

by Pen on Apr 3, 2014 5:58 pm • linkreport

Let's not forget to mention Howze's unusual method of dispute resolution. He physically assaulted a political opponent with a shopping cart.

by VivaLesPaul on Apr 3, 2014 7:54 pm • linkreport

Chalk one up for the good guys. Howze is 0 for 2.

by Pen on Apr 8, 2014 8:23 pm • linkreport

Wow, Howze didn't just lose, he lost big time which says a lot for such a deep blue County.

What is GGW now in election endorsements the past 3 or 4 years...1 for 4? Man oh man...

Bye bye Columbia pike street car.

by Woof on Apr 8, 2014 10:46 pm • linkreport

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