Many residents of Arlington and Alexandria watched Wednesday night’s GOP presidential debate, but there’s an election coming up much sooner which will have a major impact on life in those Northern Virginia localities.
Virginia voters go to the polls Tuesday to elect representatives in local county or city offices and state legislature. In the local races in Arlington and Alexandria, Greater Greater Washington endorses Katie Cristol and Christian Dorsey for Arlington County Board and recommends writing in Bill Euille for mayor of Alexandria.
Left to right: Bill Euille, Katie Cristol, Christian Dorsey. Images from the candidate websites.
Arlington County Board
In Arlington, incumbents Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada both decided not to run for their seats on the five-member board this year, shortly after the other three members voted to cancel the Columbia Pike streetcar.
Democratic nominee Katie Cristol stands out as the strongest on urbanism. In Friday’s debate, she expressed strong support for a better transit network, protected bikeways, and allowing the county to grow.
Christian Dorsey, the other Democratic nominee, is clearly a step behind Cristol on transportation and growth but far ahead of the other two. (Voters will vote for two candidates for two seats.) He supports better transit, but is nervous about transit-oriented development without high parking requirements and doesn’t yet understand the need for protected bicycle infrastructure.
Dorsey also has support from Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt, two members of the county board who won office largely by telling voters in the most affluent parts of the county that they shouldn’t have to pay to build transportation and recreation infrastructure for anyone else. However, this doesn’t mean he will take a similar approach, and he seems open to learning from his colleagues on the board and people in Arlington. He’s also clearly superior to the other two options, Audrey Clement and Mike McMenamin.
Clement thinks Arlington has grown too much and doesn’t want to build more bike trails. McMenamin doesn’t want more density either because it could add to traffic (not realizing that Arlington has grown without making traffic worse), thinks adding more parking is more important than better transit, and would only consider bike infrastructure in the context of how it would affect drivers.
To make an endorsement, Greater Greater Washington polls our regular contributors and makes an endorsement when there is a clear consensus. Here’s what some of our contributors had to say:
- Cristol is great on transit — understanding the need for supporting non-work trips to really enable car-free and car-lite living. She has actual concrete suggestions on improving Columbia Pike bus service. She understands and talks about the economic benefits of cycling infrastructure and supports the expansion of protected bike lanes. She’s the best candidate in the bunch.
- [Cristol and Dorsey] have a firm commitment to affordable housing, without Audrey Clement’s anti-intensification NIMBYism.
- Clement just doesn’t know how cities work and many of her proposed policies are way too proscriptive and busy-bodyish. McNemamin is one of those who sees everything as waste but wants to widen 66 and make parking easier.
- I know Katie Cristol and she is a pleasure to work with. She seems to be the most in line with smart growth ideals than any of the candidates. Dorsey seems OK and better on the issues than the two other candidates, though his positions seem a bit more qualified.
In Alexandria, there is only one candidate for mayor on the ballot, but there’s a hotly contested race nonetheless that will determine the city’s path for years to come. Alison Silberberg narrowly won the Democratic primary by 321 votes over incumbent mayor Bill Euille, but only because Kerry Donley played the role of spoiler, competing for the same base of voters as Euille.
Now, Euille is running as a write-in candidate, hoping the large majority of Alexandrians who supported him or Donley (who has endorsed his write-in candidacy) will help him defeat Silberberg.
As mayor, Euille has generally supported a vision of a growing, active, urban Alexandria which welcomes people getting around on foot or by bicycle. Silberberg, meanwhile, is running hard as the anti-change candidate who will stop Alexandria’s growth and design the city entirely around the automobile.
Here are our contributors:
- Bill Euille supports the development that Alexandria needs both in Old Town and at Potomac Yard. Silberberg represents a contingent who act as if Alexandria is “full” and unable to grow.
- Alexandria’s forward progress on cycling and the Potomac Yard Metro station have both come during Euille’s tenure.
- Euille understands how municipal budgets work. He is a big supporter of economic development and smart growth. He is leading the way for a Potomac Yard infill metro station, and has supported transit corridors and improved bicycle and pedestrian ways.
- Silberberg basically doesn’t understand that you can’t lower taxes and vote “no” on growth while still providing needed infrastructure, supporting the schools, helping the elderly, funding affordable housing, and preserving every brick more than 50 years old.
This election matters a lot for the future of Alexandria. If you live there, we hope you will write in Bill Euille.
There are six at-large councilmembers besides the mayor. Incumbents John Chapman, Tim Lovain, Del Pepper, Paul Smedberg, and Justin Wilson are running for re-election. There is also one open seat, the one Silberberg now holds.
The Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee sent a questionnaire to the candidates, and heard back from Chapman, Lovain, and Wilson, as well as Monique Miles and Townsend “Van” Van Fleet.
Even many of our contributors have not followed this race intensely, and so there were not enough votes to make an endorsement. However, of those who did, there was praise for the five incumbents, particularly Lovain and Wilson.
Here’s what they said:
- Chapman: Good thinker, came out with small business initiatives, supports growth around Metro.
- Lovain: transportation expert; head of TPB next year. Supported streetcars and high capacity transit.
- Pepper: This vote is for experience more than anything. She knows how government works, and has her ear finely tuned to citizen “wants.” She can craft a compromise if needed to help a project move forward.
- Smedberg: For good government, fiscal responsibility, economic development, and environmental stewardship.
- Wilson: The brain of the City Council. He knows the ins and outs of every budget line item; can talk for hours on transportation, schools, budgets; has all the facts at his fingertips.
- Lovain and Wilson are the strongest supporters of Complete Streets, transit-oriented development and Capital Bikeshare. Wilson is also quick to give realistic answers to questions raised by the public, and often gets heat for it because residents don’t always like the answers. During recent “add/delete” budget sessions, Lovain has led the charge for funding Complete Streets.
- Wood and Van Fleet are basically disgruntled about the waterfront plan and don’t have anything positive to offer.
Virginia has vote suppression laws that require voters to have a photo ID; if you don’t have one, you can get a voter-only one on Election Day at the Arlington to Alexandria elections office on Election Day (or an earlier weekday).