Left to right: Melissa Bondi, Libby Garvey, and Kim Klingler. Images from the candidates’s websites.
5 Democratic candidates are vying for Barbara Favola’s vacated seat on the Arlington County Board. Where do they stand on the issues? 3 of the candidates responded to a Greater Greater Washington questionnaire about the major issues facing Arlington.
Favola was elected to the Virginia State Senate in November, leaving an open seat on the 5-person board. Arlington Democrats will hold 2 caucuses on January 19th and January 21st to nominate a replacement. No Republicans will challenge the Democratic candidate.
Since the race got underway in November, candidate Melissa Bondi has received notable endorsements from sitting board members Walter Tejada and Chris Zimmerman, while former School Board member Libby Garvey just announced an endorsement from Favola for her own former position.
I distributed a questionnaire to 5 participating candidates, and received responses from Bondi, Garvey, and Kim Klingler. The questionnaire asked about the candidates’ positions on the Crystal City Sector Plan, the Columbia Pike streetcar, the need for more affordable housing, and more. The candidates also participated in a January 4th debate at GMU’s Founder Hall that featured many similar questions.
While the 3 respondents agreed on many points, key distinctions emerged. Bondi and Klingler offered more pointed, direct suggestions for bolstering Arlington’s affordable housing stock, while Garvey’s experience serving 15 years on the Arlington County School Board gave her detailed knowledge of the ACPS system’s current efforts at mitigating the capacity crisis.
All 3 candidates, when asked about the County Board’s October 2011 decision to approve Boeing’s new regional headquarters in Crystal City, cited concerns with poor urban planning and citizen involvement throughout the process.
Below are exerpts from the candidates’ positions on some of the most significant urban issues in Arlington County right now.
What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Arlington County today?
From the need for more affordable housing to transparent governance, each candidate expressed a different view on Arlington County’s greatest challenge. What all three candidates appeared to agree on in their answers, however, is the need for collaborative, systematic planning between the County Board and the County’s citizens for Arlington’s growth.
I think the most pressing issue is to mitigate the continued threats to, and losses in, Arlington’s affordable housing stock. A significant portion of our diverse Arlington population, from immigrants to seniors to persons with disabilities and young families need access to safe, decent affordable housing.
As Arlingtonians, I believe our most pressing issue is to be able to maintain our identity, diversity, and quality of life as we continue to grow as a community. Therefore, we must pay special attention to:
a. Smart Growth and Transportation.
b. County/Schools Collaborative Planning.
c. Maintaining a Diverse and Caring Community.
I think the most pressing issue is the need for more intentional and transparent systems for planning and improvement to manage growth: an overall strategic plan with clear goals, measurable data points and monitoring systems to see if we are progressing towards our goals and working as efficiently as possible.
What are your thoughts on the practicality and cost of the Columbia Pike streetcar? Is this project a good use of funds?
Arlington plans a $261 million streetcar project along Columbia Pike, which leaders say will drive economic growth and improve mobility far beyond what buses can provide, but critics charge is too expensive to justify the benefits. Bondi is a strong supporter of the project, while Garvey and Klingler expressed some doubts in their answers.
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.
In order to determine whether this $261M investment is justified, we need to take a step back and address the following:
a. What do Arlingtonians want? What is their strategic vision and plan for Arlington?
b. How will the street car project be implemented?
c. Can we afford it?
d. Do we have the resources to appropriately manage the contractors?
With the appropriate planning I think the Columbia Pike streetcar could be a promising investment; however, per my points above, I would need to be convinced that now is the right time.
I am a supporter of the Columbia Pike Streetcar, as an integral piece of Arlington’s transportation network that will insure mobility for the residents of Columbia Pike in the near term, and for the region in the long term. Major transportation efforts, like a modern streetcar system, require extensive planning and are subject to rising costs. We need to be able to explain any changes in costs and to provide context that helps to reinforce the overall value Arlington residents will realize through such an important investment.
What is your opinion of the Crystal City Sector Plan and its impact on the economic development of Crystal City?
In response to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, which could take up to 18,000 jobs from Crystal City and leave millions of square feet of office space empty, Arlington embarked on a years-long planning process to develop a Sector Plan to shape the neighborhood’s future growth.
The plan calls for a modified street grid and a shift in demographics to better balance workers and residents. In their responses, Bondi and Klingler are supportive of the Sector Plan, while Garvey is skeptical that Crystal City residents truly had their voices heard throughout the planning process.
If it can be fully executed, the plan will favorably impact the economic development of Crystal City. [However], the plan will need to be updated to address: offering competitive pricing per square foot, lowering and maintaining emergency response times to Crystal City, planning for additional school and health services, and designing appropriate transitions between denser areas and traditional neighborhoods.
Among the positive achievements I see in the plan are: 1) generally better urban design, more walkable streets, enhanced parks and public spaces; 2) affordable housing targets, perhaps the most ambitious yet included in an Arlington sector plan; 3) a commitment to transportation infrastructure, especially streetcar, which is essential; 4) inclusion of a vehicle for on-going citizen participation and monitoring in implementation, through the “CCCRC,” a permanent advisory body led by residents.
Residents of Crystal City value the underground networks for their convenience and protection from the weather. They value the small open spaces that provide relief from many tall buildings. [With the Plan], these amenities will be lost. I’ve heard from several the sense that excellence in planning, emphasis of transit use and preserving the amenities valued by residence were not included in the plan. Only two residents were on the task force and many residents who tried to participate and work on the plan as citizens, finally quit the process in frustration and anger. This is very unfortunate.
Tomorrow, we’ll post Bondi’s, Klingler’s, and Garvey’s responses on the impact of defense spending cuts on the Arlington economy, the capacity crisis in Arlington County Public Schools, and what each candidate would most like to improve about Arlington County.