1. They absolutely, positively should NOT back off on the streetcar project. All the evidence indicates that this is a huge winner for Arlington, generating billions of dollars in development and enough tax revenue to more than pay for the streetcar. If that's not a "no brainer," I don't know what it is. Also, politically, backing off the streetcar at this point will just look politically craven, phony, etc, after all the strong arguments made by the Board and by Alan Howze in favor of the project. Flip-flopping now, after a low-turnout special election, would be a lose-lose any way you look at it.
2. They absolutely, positively SHOULD forcefully counter the disinformation, distortions, and outright lies about the streetcar project. For instance, the claim that the streetcar has taken away from "core services" is utterly absurd, since the county hasn't even spent any money (other than a small amount in studying it) on the streetcar yet -- so how could it have taken away funds from anything else? Also, in the future, the streetcar will NOT take money away from "core services," since it will a) have a dedicated funding source that isn't "fungible" with other things; and b) again, it will bring in enough new revenues to MORE than pay for itself. Finally: if anything, the streetcar will - ceteris parabis - results in lower tax rates for Arlingtonians, not higher ones. The list goes on and on...call out the lies!
3. The Board absolutely, positively SHOULD examine the way it does business. The perceptions of "arrogance," "insularity," "non-communicativeness" and "opacity" are most definitely NOT figments of people's imaginations. Heck, I've experienced them many times myself. So did Cord Thomas, who told the story about how hard it was to get a simple response from County officials, when he was offering to create jobs and economic activity in Arlington County. That's unacceptable. It's also unacceptable that the Clarendon businesses assessment fiasco reported by ArlNow back in February has STILL not been seriously addressed. Also, why on earth aren't those assessments available online, for all Arlingtonians to see, on a real-time basis? And why can't reporters get any answers from the Director of Real Estate Assessments in Arlington County? I tried weeks ago, for instance, and never heard back. Why not?
4. Alan Howze needs to give people reasons to vote FOR him. That includes calling out - angrily/passionately when justified - Arlington County government when it's seriously off course, as with the assessment fiasco. It also includes giving voters a vision for what he might bring to the board, for instance from his experience at IBM. As an Arlington Democratic friend of mine said yesterday: "How about making the county a wi-fi hot spot? turning crystal city into a tech incubator? working with his old boss Warner to bring tech businesses here. upgrading county computer systems so people have an easier time doing x, y, z. Gimme something. Honest to god that was what he came up with. GPSs on snowplows."
5. Any Democrat who says that we should chill out because we'll "win easily" in November, when Mark Warner is on the ballot and turnout is way up, needs to stop talking. Immediately. And everyone else needs to stop listening to them if they DO talk. Seriously, that's one of the stupidest and most arrogant/clueless things I've ever heard in my life. Whether in sports, business, politics, or any other field, the LAST thing you want to do is take your opponent lightly (especially when said opponent just kicked your a**), to assume you're going to win (which is exactly when you are most likely to lose!), and in general to take your pedal off the metal. Instead, assume we're a run or two down in the final innings of the baseball game, and play like your future career in the major leagues depends on how you perform in the final weeks/months of the season! I'd also argue that the argument's just fundamentally flawed, that just because turnout will be higher, that those voters will go overwhelmingly for the Democratic candidate for County Board. To the contrary, I'd argue that if voters could easily split their ballots, going for Mark Warner, the Democratic nominee for House of Representatives, and John Vihstadt for County Board (especially if he performs well from now through election day in November). Assuming anything else is simply political malpractice of the highest order.
RICHMOND -- As Senator Mark Warner travels the Commonwealth speaking to constituents about real issues facing Virginia, it has been 84 days since the launch of Ed Gillespie's campaign and he's yet to hold an event open to press. While he's found plenty of time to talk to right-wing reporters and pundits, we have found no evidence that Ed allowed Virginia reporters into a single campaign event in March.
“As a seasoned spokesman, Ed Gillespie has never been one to shy from the cameras. However, now that he's the candidate, he's in hiding," said DPVA Spokesperson Ashley Bauman. "It's time Ed Gillespie show his face and answer questions on some of the most pressing issues facing the Commonwealth today, including where he stands on closing the coverage gap, helping unemployed Virginians, protecting health care choices for Virginia women, and other important issues."
Eric Cantor, Randy Forbes, Bob Goodlatte, Robert Hurt, Scott Rigell, Rob Wittman, Frank Wolf
Now, why was this vote so horrendous?
*According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, "some 69 percent of the cuts in House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's new budget would come from programs that serve people of limited means." For instance, "Under the Ryan plan, at least 40 million low- and moderate-income people - that's 1 in 8 Americans - would become uninsured by 2024."
*As if that's not bad enough, the "Ryan budget cuts SNAP (formerly food stamps) by $137 billion over the next decade."
*The Ryan/Republican budget also "cuts Pell Grants for low- and moderate-income students by up to $125 billion" and "cuts an additional $385 billion - beyond its SNAP cuts - from the budget category containing many mandatory programs for low - and moderate-income Americans, such as Supplemental Security Income for the elderly and disabled, the school lunch and child nutrition programs, and the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits for lower-income working families."
*In addition, the Ryan/Republican budget would "cut Medicare spending by $356 billion over the 2013 - 2023 period compared to CBPP's current-policy baseline" and "replace Medicare's guarantee of health coverage with a flat premium-support payment, or voucher."
*Finally, can we say "war on women?" According to the National Women's Law Center, this budget would: "Put families at risk for losing coverage;" "Prevent low-income women from receiving the services they need;" "Put coverage for the most vulnerable women at risk;" "Roll back coverage for women currently insured by Medicaid;" "Threaten older women's economic well-being;" "Allow insurance companies to discriminate against women;" "Cause millions of women to lose [health care] coverage;" etc.
Next time you hear a Republican try to claim that the "war on women" is a figment of Democrats' imaginations, just point them to the National Women's Law Center - and laugh at them. As for Republicans being anything other than the party of the rich and privileged, the near-unanimous GOP adoption of this Ayn Randian fever dream of a budget settles that argument. Oh, and note how even supposed "moderate" Republicans like Frank Wolf voted for this war on working people and women? Hmmmm...perhaps the Washington Post and others who claimed for years that Wolf really was a "moderate" were not quite right about that?
More great work by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. It's even greater when you compare it to the horrendous record of former AG Ken Cuccinelli, climate science denier and all around anti-environment extremist.
~ Brief defends Virginia's Bay restoration plan and ability to work cooperatively with other Bay states and federal partners ~
RICHMOND--Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced that he has filed an amicus brief to protect Virginia's efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay and to defend the right of Virginia and other Bay states to work together to protect and restore the Bay. The brief in American Farm Bureau v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which was decided in favor of the Bay states at the district level and is currently on appeal before the Third Circuit, lays out the economic, environmental and historic reasons Virginia is compelled to weigh in on the case and the reasons that the long history of cooperation between Bay states should be honored. Virginia is the first Bay state to defend the Bay restoration plan in the case.
The brief also refutes the arguments in the recently filed amicus brief from 21 attorneys general, all but one of whom are from outside the Bay watershed, that opposed the ability of Bay states and the EPA to work cooperatively to address the health of the Bay, which is North America's largest estuary and a major economic force for the region, annually contributing an estimated $2 billion and 41,000 jobs from commercial fishing, $1.6 billion and 13,000 jobs in saltwater angling, $70 million in crabs, and $680 million in tourism.
"The Chesapeake Bay is unequaled in its economic impact, environmental significance, and its ability to bring together the states whose rivers and streams flow to its waters," said Attorney General Herring."When the most promising plan to protect and restore the Bay comes under attack, I am going to stand up for the health of Virginia's families, for Virginia's economic interests, for Virginia's efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay. This case is simply about whether Virginia and the other Bay states have the authority to work cooperatively to manage and restore the Bay, as they have done for decades. Each Bay state, including Virginia, voluntarily entered into the current Bay restoration plan because of the economic, recreational, environmental, and intrinsic value of a healthy Chesapeake Bay. I hope the courts and my colleagues, none of whom serve a state which touches the Bay, recognize that fact and allow Virginia and its partners to continue their work."
Do the 2014 elections look promising for the Democrats? Not so far as I can tell.
Do the Democrats have a bold plan to inspire the American people to turn the House back over to them? Not so far as I've heard.
Is there a solution available? I think there is.
We've got a Supreme Court that just doubled down on its disgraceful 2010 decision in Citizens United, continuing in the new case (McCutcheon vs. FEC) to pretend to believe that opening the floodgates still wider for big money to flow into our elections does not corrupt our political system.
And we've got poll data that indicates that the overwhelming majority of the American people - across the political spectrum - believe there's too much money in our politics, and that the rich are getting too large a voice at the expense of average Americans. The people, it seems, understand that our "democracy" is being put up for auction. And they don't like it.
There's an opportunity there. It's an opportunity that not only could benefit the Democrats, but also would be right and noble to seize. It could help rescue this nation from its present descent into oligarchy, in betrayal of the democracy our founders had in mind.
Here are a few national and Virginia news headlines, political and otherwise, for Thursday, April 10. The photo is of Del. Mark Keam as he joins grassroots activists, "Fast for Families Across America: A Call for Immigration Reform and Citizenship," as they traveled through Virginia on their way to Capitol Hill. Here, they "rallied in front of Congressman Frank Wolf's office in Fairfax County, urging him and all other members of Congress who are blocking the House from taking up comprehensive immigration reform legislation."
I was debating whether or not to do a "Winners and Losers" list for the Arlington County Board election yesterday, but ultimately decided what the heck, I'll throw my picks out there to get a conversation going, if nothing else. I'm going to do it a little bit differently this time around, as you'll see below. Also, check out Ben Tribbet's "What Happened In Arlington" post at Not Larry Sabato. Finally, as always, note that this is not - repeat, NOT! - a comprehensive list, just a few things that jumped out for me. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks.
Losers 1. Chris Zimmerman: A major undercurrent of this election was Arlingtonians' attitudes regarding the legacy, vision, and personality of long-time Board member Chris Zimmerman, whose resignation earlier this year prompted the special election in the first place. Clearly, many voters wanted to send a message that they weren't pleased with Zimmerman, even though (as I pointed out to a liberal Democratic neighbor who told me she was voting for Vihstadt to "send a message" to the Board) isn't even on the Board anymore. Clearly, Zimmerman was a powerful force on the Board, and I'd argue that was mostly a good thing. But, as we saw yesterday, a decent number of Arlingtonians - a majority of the small percentage who actually voted, anyway - weren't pleased with Zimmerman's vision for the Columbia Pike streetcar project, nor did they necessarily like his governing style (the words "arrogant," "insular" and "non-communicative" came up over and over again) or personality (again, I hear the word "arrogant" frequently when Zimmerman's name comes up in conversation). The question is whether this election was a short-term or long-term setback for Zimmerman's vision for Arlington - on the streetcar and possibly in other areas as well. Another question: was this election a "one-off," in that voters wanted to "make a statement"/"send a message" once, but now that they've gotten it "out of their system," they'll come back to the Democratic fold? We'll find out in November, I guess.
2. Jay Fisette, Walter Tejada, Mary Hynes. In addition to anger directed specifically at Zimmerman, almost 13,000 Arlingtonians yesterday voted to put a Republican on the County Board, whether because these voters are Republicans, or because they're independents and Democrats who believe Arlington needs someone on the Board to check and/or oppose Fisette/Tejada/Hynes. Again, the words "insular," "arrogant" and "non-communicative" come up frequently with regard to these three Democratic County Board members. I'd add "lack of transparency" as well, on such things as the ArlNow story about absurdly high assessment increases on Clarendon businesses, to which there's STILL been no substantive response as far as I'm aware, other than that there would be a review. Alrighty then, feeling better now?!? Ha. Anyway, the big question for these Board members is whether the message voters intended to send got through, and whether it will result in any changes - in policy, attitude, responsiveness, whatever. Almost 24 hours since the polls closed yesterday, I haven't really heard anything from the Board regarding what they thought the voters were saying yesterday, whether they HEARD what voters were saying yesterday, and also whether they believe any changes - substantive, stylistic, whatever - should be made in response to yesterday's election.
3. The "Arlington Way". I'd argue that this has mostly been an empty slogan for a long time now. As one Arlington Democratic friend said to me, the reality is that county "staff holds all the cards and citizens, even on our vaunted commissions, are given no authority, no real place at the table, other than to nod and smile." Then we have examples like this hypocrisy (quid pro quo?), or this (major real estate developers with tremendous influence over Arlington County government). In general, if the "Arlington Way" is to mean anything, it comes down to several requirements: a) responsiveness to constituents (aka, "taxpayers," "customers"); b) two-way, respectful, open communications (that includes use of social media, which most County Board members seem averse to using); c) empowerment of more people than a select few (e.g., a system in which decisions are driven by the community, which does not seem to be the case today);" d) transparency; e) honesty; f) accountability; etc. Right now, a significant number of Arlingtonians aren't feelin' it.
4. "Million-Dollar Bus Stops": I personally think this whole issue was wildly overblown, but it apparently symbolizes for many Arlingtonians a lot of what drives them crazy about the Board, and about Arlington County government in general. I mean, ok, people make mistakes, even big ones, but as an Arlington Democratic friend of mine wrote on Facebook, "people lost faith in the Board after staff's ridiculous response to the amount that was spent on one superstop, etc....Nobody was fired, however, so there is a lack of accountability as well...[and] the Board never communicated with the public as to what type of funds (state? federal? general fund?) are used for what projects." Ugh.
5. Streetcar Advocates: I've been saying this for a couple years now, but advocates of the streetcar project have needed to step up their game big time. Instead, it seemed like these folks were largely absent from the discussion the past couple years, with articles and comments on local forums (e.g., ArlNow) overwhelmingly against the project. As far as I've observed, supporters generally were not out there fighting back (at least not effectively) against all the disinformation, and making their strong case for the project. Why not? Did they just assume the project would go forward, and that the arguments against it were so ridiculous (which many of them, like the Tea Party's insane "Agenda 21" conspiracy theorizing, certainly were), so they didn't think it was necessary to fight for it? It's baffling to me.
*On torture, Hannity says, "We waterboarded three people...and you know what, I would have done it myself."
*On House Speaker John Boehner, Hannity says, "I don't think John Boehner is equipped for the job." Hannity also says it might be "time for a third party" and complains that Republicans are "alienating the Tea Party with the lies of John McCain and Bob Corker fighting them."
By the way, I also wonder if Sean Hannity agrees with Barbara Comstock participating in the February 2008 Virginia Democratic Presidential primary to cast a vote for Barack Obama. Would Hannity and Comstock support Democrats voting in the upcoming 10th CD Republican nominating process, perhaps to vote for "Sideshow Bob" Marshall as the potentially weaker candidate for the general election? Inquiring minds want to know. ;)
Arlington County polls closed at 7 pm, results should be coming in shortly (unlike in DC, where they take hours for no apparent reason - heh). Here's a bit of background to provide context.
*The last Arlington County Board special election was held in March 2012. Democrat Libby Garvey won that race with 7,025 votes (49.17%) over Republican Mark Kelly (6,211 votes, or 43.47%) and Green Party candidate Audrey Clement (1,007 votes, or 7.04%). That's a total of 14,243 votes, and a margin of victory for the Democratic candidate of just 814 votes.
*You can see the precinct-level results here for that 2012 special election. As you'll quickly notice, even in deep-"blue" Arlington, special elections can be very close, in part because "federal voters" tend to turn out in much lower numbers, which overwhelmingly hurts Democrats. Also note that in special elections, there are several Arlington precincts (e.g., Aurora Hills, Crystal City, Madison) that have a Republican lean to them. Strong Democratic precincts include Abingdon, Glebe, and Virginia Square. We'll definitely keep an eye on those as results come in...
*By most accounts, turnout today was fairly low, but we'll see soon enough. At the precinct I volunteered at (Virginia Square) for a couple hours, turnout seemed to be running very close to what it was in the 2012 special election. All else being equal, I'd expect higher turnout to help the Democratic candidate (in this case Howze), while lower turnout should help the Republican candidate (in this case Vihstadt, who has claimed to be an "independent" or even "fusion candidate" - yeah, whatever).
UPDATE 9:18 pm: I just got back from the party at Whitlow's for Alan Howze. Video coming later...or maybe tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, the final results are: Vihstadt 12,656 (57%)-Howze 9,107 (41%). Also, Janet Murphy of the Independent Green Party got 250 votes (1.1%, and Independent Stephen Holbrook got 161 votes (0.7%).
UPDATE 7:58 pm: My instant analysis of this is what I've been telling people for months, pretty much. First, the "energy" has been far more on the anti-streetcar, anti-aquatic-center, anti-County Board side. Second, this is in large part the result of a serious failure over the past few years by the board (and other leaders in Arlington) to communicate clearly and to not come across as (the oft-heard-combo) "insular, arrogant, and uncommunicative." Third, Vihstadt et al. ran a strong campaign; even if it was fundamentally dishonest, it tapped into real anger and frustration out there effectively, and in politics, that's ultimately what matters. Fourth, I'd say that Alan Howze is a smart, level-headed guy who would make an excellent board member, but he was in an extremely tough position given the aforementioned. The main thing I wish he'd done differently would have been to call out Vihstadt's dishonesty more directly, and also to tell voters that he "got it" regarding their anger at the Board on a variety of issues (e.g., I think Howze could have really spoken up about the outrageous assessments in Clarendon, what the deal was with that and why the Board had provided no transparency on that, weeks after the story broke on ArlNow). Anyway, enough for now...other than to report that with 47/53 precincts reporting, it's currently County Board member-elect Vihstadt 11,451-Howze 8,393. Oh, and can we NOT assume that Howze will win in November? Thank you. :)
UPDATE 7:53 pm: With 44/53 precincts reporting, it's now Vihstadt 9,648-Howze 7,052. By the way, so much for Frank O'Leary's turnout model (it had predicted 30k-33k turnout; it looks like we're actually getting maybe 20k).
UPDATE 7:43 pm: With 39/53 precincts reporting, it's now Vihstadt 8,850-Howze 6,518. I'd say this one's done, stick a fork in it. (One good thing: at least the bad results came in quickly and didn't drag on for hours, as in DC the other day! LOL)
UPDATE 7:34 pm: With 24/53 precincts reporting, it's now Vihstadt 5,382-Howze 4,161. Really really not looking good now for the "blue team." :(
UPDATE 7:27 pm: With 9/53 precincts reporting, it's now Vihstadt 1,228-Howze 1,005. Not good.
UPDATE 7:21 pm: The first two precincts reporting in are a bit concerning, as Howze won Monroe by a smaller margin than Garvey won it in 2012, and Vihstadt won Crystal City by a wider margin than Mark Kelly won it in 2012. Current total: Vihstadt 207-Howze 167.
This piece appeared this morning as an op/ed in the Roanoke Times.
Imagine that the American people elect as president someone promising to institute an important reform to address an obviously major problem - a problem that every year costs the nation a trillion dollars and tens of thousands of lives.
Imagine further that, once elected, the president tries to fulfill his promise with a moderate solution based on ideas from the other party - more moderate than the policies of all the other major democracies on the same matter.
How do you think our nation's Founders would feel about an opposition party that responds to all this by going all-out to block enactment of these reforms, making the reform worse, trying to overturn the reform even before it's tried and hindering its proper implementation?
I think our Founders would be outraged. They'd say that once the people make a fundamental choice, the question then is, "What is the best way to implement what the people have chosen?"
Our Founders gave us a system combining two important virtues: giving the people ultimate power to make fundamental decisions about what kind of society we'll be and providing for thoughtful deliberation on the best way to realize the people's goals. That's representative democracy.
The health care reform that President Barack Obama promised in the election of 2008 bears on what kind of society we'll be. In electing Obama president, the American people decided we'd stop being a society in which 45,000 of our citizens die every year because they lack the reliable access to health care provided to the citizens in every other advanced democracy.
For two main reasons, I have decided I will definitely NOT be supporting Bill Euille in the 8th CD Democratic primary. First, there's the fact that his campaign hasn't lifted a finger to help Democrat Alan Howze in today's Arlington County Board election campaign against Republican John Vihstadt. No explanation, either, just no help (calls? emails? door knocks? fundraisers? poll greeters? anything?). #FAIL
Second, see the flier below (click to "embiggen"), in which Bill Euille proudly announces that his "friend" Sheila Johnson will be holding a fundraiser for him. So what's wrong with Sheila Johnson, you ask? Other than her $50,000 contribution to Bob McDonnell on September 30, 2009, during the McDonnell-Deeds gubernatorial contest. That's bad enough, but then Johnson - supposedly a Democrat - proceeded to mock Creigh Deeds for having a speech impediment (see video above). As I wrote at the time:
This is disgusting, Sheila Johnson - a "Democrat" who has nonetheless endorsed "Barefoot and Pregnant Bob" McDonnell for governor - mocking Creigh Deeds for having a (slight) speech impediment. Sheila Johnson should be ashamed of her behavior, and Bob McDonnell should condemn her for it.
What Johnson did to Creigh Deeds was, and remains, unacceptable.
Oh, and it's not as if Johnson just gave money to McDonnell, she also made an ad for the guy, in which she claimed McDonnell is "a bipartisan leader who gets results."
Yeah, "results" - like claiming that Verbena Askew being a lesbian "certainly raises some questions about the qualifications to serve as a judge." Or maybe it was McDonnell's infamous thesis that he wrote for theocrat Pat Robertson's loony-tunes law school, in which he wrote, "when the exercise of liberty takes the shape of pornography, drug abuse, or homosexuality, the government must restrain, punish, and deter?" Anyway, whatever the reason, there was no excuse for Sheila Johnson to have contributed to and cut an ad for McDonnell over Deeds in 2009, and there was certainly no excuse for Johnson to mock Deeds' speech impediment. For Bill Euille to proudly accept her support reflects back on him, and not in a good way.
P.S. Famous last words for Johnson after she realized how badly she screwed up on Bob McDonnell ("I feel like I was thrown under the bus on that one... The lesson that I've learned in all of this is I will never get involved in politics again."). So why is she getting involved in politics again after her vow not to do so?
Over the past few years, there have been several cases of individuals running for the Democratic nomination despite a track record of voting for Republicans. For instance, Chris Wade ran for the Democratic nomination for Braddock Distric (Fairfax County) Supervisor in 2011 despite being a "strong" McCain-Palin supporter in 2008. And recently here in Arlington, we had a candidate (Cord Thomas) running for the Democratic nomination for County Board, despite having voted in the 2012 Republican Presidential primary (he told me he voted for Ron Paul). My attitude is generally that unless you have a da** good reason for voting Republican, or at least a convincing explanation as to your (sudden) political evolution, to me it's an almost automatic disqualifier for the party's nomination.
Anyway, now we have a case on the Republican side which is simply bizarre. According to this morning's Washington Times:
Delegate Barbara Comstock's congressional campaign attempted to stiff-arm reports Monday that she voted for Barack Obama in Virginia's 2008 Democratic primary by claiming it was part of a conservative bid to affect the Democratic presidential primaries six years ago.
The campaign defended the vote for Mr. Obama by arguing that it was part of Operation Chaos, a movement spearheaded by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh in late February 2008 as Mr. Obama's campaign was picking up steam and had won several consecutive primaries over Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Just one problem, though: Rush's effort was "meant to ensure Mr. Obama got 'bloodied up' politically...in May 2008 as Mr. Obama was on the cusp of securing the nomination." So, if "Operation Chaos" encouraged Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton to "bloody up" the likely nominee, Obama, why would Barbara Comstock have voted for Obama? It makes absolutely zero sense as far as I can tell, and it would piss me off big-time if a Democrat did something like that. Perhaps Republican primary voters will be more forgiving? Regardless, I think it's a fascinating window into the way Comstock thinks, and I don't see how it's particularly flattering.
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