Monday, June 29, 2009

HeraldTrib on Kojo Nnamdi TODAY

Kojo's show is covering hyperlocal journalism and placeblogging today. I'm one of the guests along with bloggers from DC and Maryland.

88.5 FM, 12:00.

Check it out and call in to chat!

Listen to the show here.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

HeraldTrib Today Thursday June 18, 2009

Who will run the BCCA?...

Now that Pat Hope, the Buckingham Community Civic Association president, has won the Democratic primary for the House of Delegates’ 47th seat, who will head the BCCA? The conventional wisdom says that, as the Democrat, Pat most likely will win the November election and become the Delegate. He indicated at his victory party that the community will have to find a new leader if he wins in November. He did not say, but I can imagine that this job will be just one too many for his schedule (Pat is very active in the community).

It’s not a simple question, either, given two very important facts: 1, the BCCA meetings are often lightly-attended. So the pool of potential applicants is small. 2, the person needs a decent understanding of government machination as well as some political smarts to be able to talk with other groups in the neighborhood. The tenants group BU-GATA is the big one, but there’s also the informal groupings of people at the Buckingham Outreach Center, and there’s a rather large Bangladeshi community, too. I’m probably forgetting others.

No one jumps to mind as the perfect candidate right now, but I’ll start making inquiries.

County board talking but not saying…

The County Board met in a closed session last week with the county manager, Ron Carlee, and county staff to discuss the legal issues surrounding the historic preservation ordinance.

“No actions were taken,” county public relations rep Mary Curtius wrote in an email, so they do not need to report what was talked about.

Basically, the ordinance is a zoning ordinance giving the county, its commissions and boards the right to regulate, in this case, outside renovations in a historic district. Just so you know.

I heard about this session when I went to the open meeting of the board and the county manager where they spoke of long-term transportation and parking issues. It was the first of these sorts of meetings in which the full board sits with the manager to ask questions and get feedback before the main, public, Saturday-morning board meeting.

The old method had the board members catching up with one another, discussing ideas and questions and then individually meeting the manager in a similar way.

Board member Mary Hines told me later that, as the newest member of the county board, she really liked being able to ask questions and even more to be able to listen to the questions and remarks of others.

It strikes me, as a citizen, that this is much better. I know the law about meetings and quorums can be rather clear that too much talking behind doors turns an informal chat into a real meeting that should be conducted in public. I am not accusing the board of having stepped over the line, but it seems these monthly, open chats has clarified the line.

Confusion in mini-golf story…

I have to apologize for the confusion with the story covering the park at the corner of N. Glebe Road and N. Randolph Street. County planner Scott McPartlin and I were misunderstanding one another, but we have that cleared, and I think the story is now accurate.

The fledgling blue jays are just too cute…

I’m gone for a week…

I feel as though I get started in the summer when other commitments pull me away. Alas, this is the last post for about a week. I’m glad I was able to get to the county board meet regarding Village 3. With luck, nothing exciting will happen next week. I’ll write to you when I return.

Arlington Oaks' annual yard sale, June 27…

I forgot to put this in a moment ago when I updated the site: Saturday June 27, 8a.m. to 1p.m. People are selling all over the property on both sides of N. George Mason Drive between N. Pershing Drive and Arlington Blvd. Property maps will be available so shoppers can find the sales throughout the community; towing will be suspended during the yard sale.

The Week’s Headlines…
As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

Today's Headline:

  • Dreams of Homeownership Run Deep

  • Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • County Board OKs BV3 Affordable Housing Plan
  • Foresters Eyeing Former “McGregor’s” Space
  • Police Notes: June 4 -12
  • Barrett Students Take Runner-Up in “Shorties”
  • Buckingham Villages Updates
  • Go Remy’s “Arlington”: Mugging Includes Hot Cocoa
  • Adventure Park, Town Center, or Mini-golf Considered for Glebe/Randolph Corner.

  • Special Primary Election Coverage

  • From Hopeful to Humble at Post-Election Parties
  • 8,000 Vote in Primary; Hope, Deeds Win
  • Letter: No Lines Today
  • Turnout Looks Brisk, Despite Weather
  • Republican Enters Race for 47th
  • Letter: Feld Hasn’t Called Hope “Names”

  • Dreams of Homeownership Run Deep

    Juan Bonilla has lived in the same one-bedroom Buckingham Village apartment on N. 4th Street for 10 years with his wife, the past four years with their children. After months of attending meetings to save affordable housing and the neighborhood of people who come with it, he is wondering if he will be able to buy one of the two- or three-bedroom apartments in the condominium that will be created on the Village 3 property.

    Juan Bonilla and his wife Maria Sanchez hope to buy a three-bedroom apartment in a Buckingham Village 3 condominium. They rent a one-bedroom apartment with heir children Eugenia, 4, and Joana, 10 months. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Right now, the rules say no.

    Mr. Bonilla is a “rod-man” for the Miller-Long construction company, helping place the steel reinforcement bar in the huge columns that keep high-rises vertical. In that job, he makes about $25 per hour, up near $50,000 a year. And that’s just not enough according to the current rules that county staff, Telesis Corporation, and that company’s management partners are considering for home ownership in the condominium.

    The current rules say that the total income of residents in the unit must be 60 to 80 percent of the Area Median Income. The AMI is set by the federal department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Bonilla would need to make about $61,000 a year to qualify.

    Still, there is some hope.

    The county board OKed an affordable housing program for Buckingham Village 3 at its meeting Tuesday night. It opens the process of creating a 48-unit condominium in five buildings along N. Pershing Drive between N. George Mason Drive and N. Thomas Street. However, the board left open many of the details of what the condominium finances would look like and who would be able to buy.

    “I think I can qualify,” Mr. Bonilla said from a chair in his living room one recent afternoon. He said he has a high credit rating and savings. Plus, the rules dictate the total household income, not one person’s. Perhaps a relative of his would be interested in sharing the mortgage and sleeping in one of the rooms.

    His daughters are growing older. Joana is 10 months (and already walking), and Eugenia will turn five in October and will go to the pre-school program at K.W. Barrett Elementary School this fall. It might take a couple years before the units are ready for sale.

    “We don’t know when this is coming, so my wife could work too,” in time to qualify, he said. His wife, Maria Sanchez, has been staying home with their children.

    Lois Athey and others at the county board meeting urged the board to consider lowering the standard for owner-qualifications. She is a long-time representative of BU-GATA, a tenants’ association in the neighborhood.

    “Some of these people will qualify with good credit scores and savings…you’d be surprised,” she told the board.

    Mr. Bonilla addressed the county board, saying, "I ask that you approve this program so that we can stay in Arlington." (Click to enlarge the image.)

    The question of what income level to serve was discussed at length in the Buckingham Village 3 Working Group, a group set up at the direction of Ron Carlee, the county manager. It is a group of all the stakeholders involved including Telesis Corporation (the new owners of the Village 3 complex), tenants, county staff and others.

    “We didn’t come to a complete consensus” on that issue, said Reshma Holla, an assistant project manager with Telesis. Her company will develop and manage the property with the National Housing Trust and other partners.

    County staff, she said, got nervous at the level of subsidy when the income level dropped. Currently, the county subsidy is expected to be about $140,000 per unit. If the subsidy has to increase in order to help people at the lower income level, the price rises to about $200,000, she said.

    “Ultimately that means we’d be asking for more county subsidy,” she said, adding that county staff just wasn’t comfortable with that number.

    It is not just the subsidy but the idea that this level of help has not been done in the county for homeownership before.

    “The 60 to 80 percent [of AMI] is consistent with what we’ve done elsewhere,” said David Cristeal, a lead county planner on the project. It is a “nuanced answer” but the county has to be careful to avoid a precedent it cannot keep.

    But there still is the possibility that the 50 percent AMI level can be reached, Ms. Holla said.

    “The goal is we’d still like to reach that lower income level,” she said. They will be looking to other sources, maybe private sources, for the money.

    At the board meeting Tuesday night, Jose Castellon, an 18-year Village 3 resident, told the board to put the emphasis on “a variety of income ranges.”

    After the meeting he said, “I’m happy” that the board passed the affordable housing plan. But he still hopes to be able to buy.

    “I got good credit,” he said, adding later, “I don’t want to go away.”

    He has two children who will be in high school next year. “I don’t want to pull my kids out of school.”

    In Mr. Bonilla’s living room, he said he likes the access to Metro, the Glebe Market, the good schools.

    “I like the neighborhood. It’s a very good neighborhood,” he said. If he can’t buy, he said he would not move away, but would most likely rent a two-bedroom unit. His daughters can share a room.

    “They’re two girls, they can live in one bedroom,” he said.

    But would he resent not being able to buy, despite his work on the Buckingham Village 3 working group?

    “I wouldn’t be disillusioned because someone from my community would be getting the benefits,” he said.

    Editor’s Note: Lois Athey, a long-time activist with BU-GATA, the tenants’ association in the neighborhood, translated the interview with Mr. Bonilla in his living room. --ST

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    Wednesday, June 17, 2009

    Board OKs BV3 Affordable Housing Plan

    Last night the county board OKed a plan to keep 92 rental units of Buckingham Village 3 affordable for the next 75 years, possibly longer, while creating a condominium of 48 units for sale, and resale, at below-market prices for the same period.

    Jay Fissette (Click to enlarge the image.)

    The meeting of the five grew mildly tense at times, when county board member Chris Zimmerman attempted to understand if the rental units and the condo units could be readied for occupancy at the same time, and board Vice Chair Jay Fissette quizzed county staff about the lack of detail concerning geothermal heat pumps as a possible green alternative heat source for the redevelopment.

    In the end, the board unanimously approved the affordable housing plan—something never really in question—but will hear more about the geothermal plan during their July meeting.

    This allows Telesis Corp. and National Housing Trust, the new owners (with others) of the Village 3 complex, to get their financial ducks in a row for the August 5 opening of the Virginia tax credits competition.

    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    The affordability of these units works best if certain federal and state tax credits are received. There is a finite amount of money in the Virginia tax credit hopper, which is doled out starting August 5, so it helps to be the first in line.

    On the rental side, the county has paid about $14.9 million for the purchase of the land and will receive about $10 million back during the long-term lease with Telesis. That leaves about $4 million of county financing in the project, or about $110,000 per rental unit, reported David Cristeal, a lead county planner in the project. He said that the cost to the county for the condominium would be nearly $7 million or about $143,000 per unit. The county may receive some of this money back as the units are sold.

    He said last night’s decision required the board to vote so that the company would “sufficient time to meet the time frame of early August.”

    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Only one of the 10, or so, civilian speakers last night was negative. Long-time county activist Jim Hurysz wondered if the price tag of $110,000 per unit was too expensive.

    “Are there better options [to purchase affordable housing] like buying old duplexes” or small apartment buildings at $50,000 per unit, he wondered aloud. He did not give an example of where or how many of those might exist in the county.

    In the past, county board and staff have said they liked the idea of saving so much affordable housing all at once, in Buckingham, and of saving the community itself, allowing as many people as possible to remain in the neighborhood while renovation and redevelopment takes place.

    If all goes as planned, renovation of the units—all 140 in Village 3 will be renovated—begins next spring.

    Mr. Zimmerman focused on making sure the rental units and condo sales happen together since that would mean the least disruption for people who want to buy but are currently renting in Village 3. He said that developing the home ownership segment while maintaining the community is a large point of this project. If the county and Telesis get the home ownership segment moving, but the people in the neighborhood who might have bought have already left, then what is the point, he wondered.

    Many of the exact details of how the home ownership would work are still to be worked out.

    Mr. Cristeal said that there were site plan concerns with the condo and parking concerns along with setting up the purchasing assistance program for the potential buyers. As well, the county has to sell the section of the property that the condo will own.

    “We ought to be able to expedite those,” especially the site plan and housing assistance processes, given that they are under county control, Mr. Zimmerman said.

    But then there’s the problem of phased redevelopment—how does Telesis keep people in some units on the property while renovating others?

    Perhaps they don’t, Mr. Zimmerman said, offering that they could move people to apartments elsewhere in Buckingham. That has happened during the renovation of The Gates of Ballston and Historic Ballston Park. Now, Buckingham Village 1 has the new Madison at Ballston Station with units that rent at affordable rates.

    “One of the obstacles to getting the timing of the ownership units on line with the rental units…was the difficulty of trying to maintain people on site,” Mr. Zimmerman said.

    Aimee McHale of the National Housing Trust, explained, “There’s an astronomical cost with relocating people off-site. We should have said that up front.” They plan to renovate one or two buildings at a time and shuffle people around on the property as they do so.

    Mr. Zimmerman wondered if perhaps some fraction could move off-site if that meant the condo renovation would keep pace with the rentals.

    Scott Kline (Click to enlarge the image.)

    “We will look at that. Clearly we have a lot to do with respect to phasing. We’ve been focused on the housing program so that we can be ready for the 9 percent tax-credit application that’s due on August fifth,” said Scott Kline, vice president of the National Housing Trust. “We do have a lot more work to refine our renovation plan.”

    When board Vice Chair Jay Fissette had his opportunity he wondered why the plans for the use of geothermal heat pumps were conflicting and inspecific.

    “[W]hen I read this, I get really mixed messages from the memo,” he said. The use of the pumps which use naturally-occurring heat deep in the earth to heat the apartments would require Historical Affairs and Landmarks Review Board approval, and might interfere with old-growth trees which might have to be removed, and the initial installation is expensive.

    But the use of the heat-pumps might still be worth it if it meant that the people who lived in the units would have much lower utilities bills long into the future, Mr. Fissette said.

    “We can’t always being thinking about affordable housing without thinking about the context of affordable living,” Mr. Fissette said. He couched his argument for the geothermal heat pump in the idea that people should only be encouraged to buy and rent units if they can also afford to live there long-term. Lowering utilities bills would help that, he said.

    In the end, he was willing to draft the motion to approve the affordable housing program while asking for more information about the geothermal program at next month’s meeting.

    Click the lines for more information. View larger map

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    Tuesday, June 16, 2009

    Foresters Eyeing Former "McGregor's" Space

    A group of Arlington Foresters is hoping to build more community with a high-end market, coffee, ice cream or other "neighborhood hang-out" in either the vacant Mrs. McGregor's Garden Shop space, the Country Curtain space, which will be vacant in August, or both. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    A group of neighbors in Arlington Forest want the Arlington Forest Shopping Center to feel like a destination, a place neighbors could go to sit, talk and meet. None of the stores or restaurants has that drop-in and hang around feel that a coffee shop, an ice cream shop, or even a small, upscale market might have.

    Now might just be the time to make the destination happen, since the space that was Mrs. McGregor’s Garden Shop has been vacant for months, and the Country Curtain is moving to Fairfax in August.

    “Right now, we’re wanting to know if the landlord is even interested,” said Michele Cato, an organizer of a group of Foresters looking into the business idea.

    The answer is: probably not.

    The problems are quite a few, and the neighbors know this, Ms. Cato said.

    Van Woodley, the leasing agent for the space, said he has been contacted by people in Arlington Forest.

    The small, basement space formerly Mrs. McGregor's Garden Shop will not work as a coffee shop, the leasing agent said. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    “We’re not encouraging a coffee thing for that location, without ventilation, limited air conditioning,” he said. He works for A.J. Dwoskin and Associates, of Fairfax. He said they haven’t had a lot of luck with coffee shops, but one might work if it could be on the main level near the Brick’s Pizza and Chrystal Thai, but of course, there is no space open there.

    Yet there’s trouble beyond the ventilation. The rent for the small space in the basement of the shopping center, on the side of the shopping center that faces houses, will be about $4,000 a month plus utilities, and they want a five-year lease. Mr. Woodley said someone has to guarantee the roughly quarter-million dollars over five years that the lease will require. Without a financial backer, any idea would be tough to pull off.

    “Being tucked under like that has some drawbacks,” he said. The fact that it faces homes, and therefore is restricted in what it can be, is a big issue for the leasing agent. His company is looking toward a small, professional service such as a tax accountant.

    Drainage issues and a wet basement are drawbacks that Ms. Cato said she sees. Parking is a concern for both sides.

    Ms. Cato thinks her group might come up with an idea that would use both the Country Curtain and McGregor's spaces together. That's an idea that Mr. Woodley said his firm has been pursuing with other companies interested in the property. They have a "wide range" of different retail companies interested in the space, he said, but he would not elaborate.

    The Arlington Forest group is looking at creating a co-operative of some sort, possibly, or of finding a financial backer. Ms. Cato said her group knows that anything is a long shot, but they are thinking of an upscale market that would serve coffee, ice cream and pastries, but would also sell food and baked goods.

    She said there is some historical precedence for this, too, as the original plans for the center called for some sort of market.

    “We want something community based,” she said. “There’s an amazing amount of interest in the community.”

    She knows that parking would be an issue for anything, and she believes the community would not support a regular grocery store or convenience store. Her group, which met last week for the first time, divvied-up the jobs, doling out roles to match the people’s strengths. One is calling the landlord, another is looking into the co-op option. The group is strong in the time they can dedicate and in skills, she said.

    She admitted that it would be OK if they’re group did not put together a winning proposal, so long the space got something that the community could use to congregate. If the Brick’s Pizza just had nice seating, that would work, she said, adding later that she wanted it to feel more like the Westover Shopping Center on Washington Blvd., with its ice cream and coffee shops, a hardware store, nice restaurants and other places for the community to gather.

    “We’ll work with all the neighborhood groups,” Mr. Woodley said.

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    Monday, June 15, 2009

    Police Notes June 4 -12

    These notes are compiled from Arlington County Police Department crime reports. They cover the reports from in and around the Buckingham, Arlington Forest and Ashton Heights neighborhoods. --ST

    June 4: Exposure, 3800 block of Wilson Blvd. At 9p.m., two women were walking down the street when they saw a man standing near a bush exposing himself. A suspect has been named.

    June 7: Assault and Battery (Arrest), 900 block of N. Stafford St. At 7a.m., a man was sitting in his car in a parking lot when three subjects assaulted him. Police located the subjects fleeing the area. Petch Bhumibhanit, 29, Chaichat Noprapa, 28, and Sanhajuta Lampoonphong, 29, all of Arlington, were charged with Assault and Battery.

    June 11: Indecent Exposure (Arrest), 4400 block of S. 1st Road. At 1:30p.m., a woman was on the W&OD Trail and saw a man exposing himself to people passing by. Police located the suspect. Donald McGown, 58, of no fixed address, was charged with Indecent Exposure. He was held on a $2,000 bond.

    Click the icons and lines for more information. Red=Person-to-person crime; Yellow=person-to-structure/vehicle crime; Blue=stolen vehicle; Purple=vehicle-to-vehicle crime; Aqua=miscellaneous. A dot in the icon indicates more than one suspect or victim. Click here to view larger map.

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    Friday, June 12, 2009

    Barrett Students Take Runner Up in "Shorties"

    "Spaghetti Monster: A Spaghetti Western," a film by K.W.Barrett Elementary School students, was the runner-up in the Live Action category for 7 to 10 year olds in the Shortie Film Festival.

    Students at Abingdon Elementary School won the 7 to 10 animated film with "The Lost Colony" and Hoffman-Boston students were runners-up in the best news in an elemenatry school category.

    "Established in 2001, The Shortie Awards: Student Film and News Festival recognizes original digital media productions created by student filmmakers, ages 7-18, and their teachers. The Shortie Awards focuses on nurturing imagination," the festival web site says. The films are no longer than 10 minutes.


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    Buckingham Villages Updates

    Project Manager Micheline Castan-Smith reports via email that the next step in the Buckingham Village 1 redevelopment is to prepare what will be the county’s property on the site. Now that the Madison at Ballston Station apartment complex is completed and is being leased, Paradigm Development Company will focus on space for the extension of N. 3rd Street and the county park just north of the Madison (see the image).

    (Illustration Thurston; image, Paradigm Development Co. Click to enlarge the image.)

    The third street extension will replace what had been a cut-through alley and parking lot between the Culpepper Garden and Buckingham Villages apartments. The change will make the new road an official county street and will be close to, but not exactly where, the alley is.

    At the recessed board meeting next Tuesday the county is expected to OK an extension of the Tenant Assistance Fund. Set-up in 2007, this fund was designed to help low-income residents of various Buckingham Village apartments to stay in the neighborhood, according to the county manager’s report.

    As buildings were torn down and replaced, this fund has helped 11 families who were already in the neighborhood, stay in the neighborhood, the report states. The fund, with $125,000 taken from the Affordable Housing Investment Fund two years ago, is still in the black and does not require additional money. Nine families are still receiving the help, the report states.

    Finally, the board will discuss and vote on major elements of the Buckingham Village 3 redevelopment.

    In preparation for this meeting, last month the board met with Telesis Corp. the owners and managers of the property to determine the best mix of home rental and ownership and what type of ownership should be involved. The final decision came down to 92 rentals and a condominium of 48 units. All of the units will be rented or purchased at below market rates.

    The question that will remain even after Tuesday’s meeting is how the condominium units will be resold when a purchaser decides to sell. All the units are to remain affordable, almost in perpetuity, so the owner who bought at affordable rates and wishes to sell, cannot do so at market rates. The conventional wisdom says that the owner should be able to reap some reward on his or her investment, but should sell at an affordable price as well. The details of this have yet to be worked out. (More on this story after the meeting next week.)

    Related stories…
  • County and Telesis Prep for June Meeting (May 2009).
  • County Board OKs Leasing and Financing of BV3 (March 2009).
  • Arlington to Enter Deal with Telesis (February 2009).
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    Go Remy's "Arlington": Mugging Involves Hot Cocoa

    Perhaps this video by comedian song-writer Remy, as one reaction on the youtube site puts it, is too "north Arlington."

    The poster of that message said, we up here, even in just-barely-north Arlington have access to the Starbucks and the Starbucks, and the Starbucks, but they have Weenie Beenie and Bob and Edith's down below the Pike. True that.

    Remy represents on the O-Line, not the likes of Buckingham, or even "West Buckingham," foshizz. Still, it's funny.


    Yeah, we kinda got a mall
    You know you can't stop us.
    It's got everything, but nothing good
    It's kinda like tapas

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    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    From Hopeful to Humble at the Appreciation Parties

    Patrick Hope, right, talks to supporters at his campaign victory party last night. The tally gave Mr. Hope the win in the Democratic primary for the House of Delegates' 47th seat with about 36 percent of the vote. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Early last evening at Miles Grant’s post-campaign party, when campaign volunteer Christopher Gill was “hopeful, but realistically so,” he said, “This is the local McGovern campaign.”

    He meant that they may have lost, but they, especially the volunteers, will continue.

    “The mere fact of trying creates a positive effect,” Mr. Gill said. He and other volunteers met for one last campaign party at Union Jack’s English pub in the Ballston Commons Mall.

    The five Democrats ran to replace Al Eisenberg, pictured at Patrick Hope's victory party last night. The three-term delegate is not running for a fourth. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Although their candidate took fourth place in the five-way Democratic primary in the House of Delegates race, many of the volunteers who stopped to mingle over hors d'oeuvre and drinks said the experience was a good one and that they would continue with other activities, maybe even try for office themselves.

    “We had a great campaign,” running on important issues like environmental action and equal rights for all Mr. Grant said in a brief interview at the pub. “I’m just happy to be drinking my first beer since being a candidate.”

    At his campaign party, Andres Tobar told a few gathered in a north Arlington living room, “I didn’t make it...I just wanted to thank you so much.”

    He said Patrick Hope would take the fight for the House of Delegate’s 47th seat to the November election. “I’m very delighted with his victory.”

    Mr. Tobar, who came in fifth place, left his own party to go to congratulate Mr. Hope at his.

    The scene at the home of Mr. Hope's campaign chair was decidedly more upbeat as party-goers, some of the elite from the Arlington political scene, including Al Eisenberg, the incumbent who is stepping down after six years in the House of Delegates.

    Andres Tobar gives Patrick Hope a congratulatory hug after the election results came in Tuesday evening. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    “You have supported so many great people over the years,” Mr. Eisenberg said.

    “Including you, Al!” another person yelled.

    Mr. Eisenberg’s wife, Sharon Davis, picked up the speech from there, “We’ll work with Patrick to make a smooth transition next year.”

    Miles Grant campaign volunteer Christopher Gill checks early poll results with another volunteer at Union Jack's English Pub last night. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Ted Bilich, a donor to Mr. Hope’s campaign and a supporter from Ashton Heights, said, “This is exciting. I think he’ll be good for our district.”

    For his part, Mr. Hope, looking tired, and hot, and a little overwhelmed, said, “It’s still such a shock.”

    “I’m looking forward to a lot of work,” he said, and was thankful for all the support. “I’m relieved, but I’m also very humble.”

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    8,000 Vote in Primary; Hope and Deeds Win

    Despite thundering skies, 374 people cast votes at the K.W. Barrett Elementary School yesterday. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Despite a thunderstorm in the morning and another in the afternoon, Arlingtonian Kasara Williams turned out to vote in yesterday’s Democratic primary. Why?

    “Guilt,” she said, laughing. She said she works in politics.

    “If I don’t vote, then everything I’ve worked for is useless,” she said on the front porch of the K.W. Barrett Elementary School, the Buckingham precinct polling location. Her picks did not win the day, however.

    A campaign worker in Wisconsin during John Kerry’s 2004 bid for the presidency, she had met Terry McAuliffe when he was chair of the Democratic National Committee.

    “I enjoyed talking with him,” and she liked his message, she said, so she voted for him. She also said she voted for Adam Parkhomenko in the House of Delegates race because one of his staffers handed her a flyer at the last minute.

    Neither Mr. McAuliffe nor Parkhomenko won their races last night, as Creigh Deeds took the gubernatorial nomination from (some would say out from under) Brian Moran and Mr. McAuliffe. Patrick Hope won a shot at the House of Delegates seat in the 47th District. Mr. Hope will face Green Party candidate Josh Reubner in the fall. Arlington Republicans released the name of Eric Brescia as their candidate, but that has not yet been confirmed with the Arlington electoral board.

    Slightly more than 8,000 votes were cast in yesterday’s election.

    Kate Hughes ducked the rain and voted for Creigh Deeds for governor and Patrick Hope for the House of Delegates. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Mr. Hope took 36 percent of the 8047 votes cast; Alan Howze won 19, Adam Parkhomenko won 17, Miles Grant won 14, and Andres Tobar won 12.

    In Mr. Hope’s home precinct of Buckingham, he took 220 of the 374 votes cast. Mr. Grant took second place there with 47 votes. In Arlington Forest Mr. Hope took 201 of 449 votes cast, while Alan Howze, 76 votes, edged Adam Parkhomenko, 74 votes, for second place. In Ashton Heights, Mr. Hope won 236 of the 609 total votes, with Mr. Howze receiving 126 votes.

    Echoing what others interviewed said throughout the day, Kate Hughes said, “They’re all good candidates,” in the House of Delegates race. For governor, she voted for Mr. Deeds who will face Republican Bob McConnell in November.

    “It’s a tight race,” she said of the gubernatorial run, adding later, “I think we’re going to have a tough fight.”

    The sense of civic duty drew Keith Eishcheid to his Ashton Heights polling station at the Clarendon United Methodist Church where he met with Mr. Hope, Mr. Tobar and Mike Signer, who lost to Judy Wagner in the primary race for Lt. Governor.

    The three candidates stood ready to speak with last-minute voters at a poll that hit over 20 percent voting, high for a rainy primary.

    In the 2007 Democratic primary about 6,600 votes were cast in the race for Arlington County treasurer, the only race on the docket. In 2006, when now Sen. Jim Webb ran in the primary against Harris Miller, about 11,000 votes were cast. Even that number is less than 10 percent of the registered voters.

    The granddaddy of them all, of course, was last year’s race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the Democratic side, and Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Ron Paul on the Republican side. A total of about 54,000 people voted, about 45 percent of the total registered, according to Arlignton County records.

    “I like to vote,” Mr. Eishcheid said, umbrella in hand. He made a point of thanking each candidate for coming.

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    Tuesday, June 09, 2009

    Letter: No Lines Today


    No line at all to vote today. Was there around 8:15. I parked in the parking lot at Culpeper Gardens, so I avoided all the campaign people stationed on the sidewalk on N. Henderson Road.

    Dan Felsenheld
    Arlington Forest

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    Turnout Looks Brisk, Despite Weather

    Despite the rainy skies and early morning thunder, people have turned out to vote in the Democratic primary today, saying that it was their duties as citizens or that in a small-turnout primary their votes really matter.

    Zelmira McCann, at the Buckingham precinct, said she voted for Miles Grant and Terry McAuliffe. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    At 9:15 this morning, about 112 people had voted at the Buckingham precinct and 166 had voted at Arlington Forest. The primaries last year--the one which John McCain and Barack Obama won--had a turnout of about 1100 voters on the day (Democrat and Republican) at the Buckingham precinct, or just shy of 100 an hour on average, compared to about 60 an hour above. Voters of any party can vote in Virginia primaries, so there is no way to tell if the voters are only Democrats. Neither the Republican nor the Green parties are holding primaries in Arlington this year.

    No clear winner is stepping forward in the 47th seat in the House of Delegates race if a handful of interviews at the Buckingham and Arlington Forest precincts are any indication.

    Patrick Hope and Miles Grant seem to be the favorites in these neighborhoods, but Andres Tobar also was mentioned. No one spoken with mentioned Alan Howze. Adam Parkhomenko was often cast as the person chosen not to vote for because of his age and inexperience. At the same time people were quick to say that Mr. Parkhomenko was a hard worker.

    Generally, people said they found all five candidates in the House race to be OK and had a hard time picking the one to vote for. Sara Ellen Swatt, of Buckingham said she would have liked to have seen a woman run for the House of Delegates and blamed the party for not having a strong feeder system to get women into the position to run.

    Khyati Desai, at the Buckingham precinct, said she voted for Patrick Hope and Brian Moran. (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Stephen Goldman was 15 minutes into his commute when he saw a person holding an campaign sign and remembered that he had to vote, so he turned around to get back to his Arlington Forest precinct.

    He said that during the campaign he asked three House candidates--the three who stopped at his door--to explain how they were different from each other, and was a little disappointed to find their answers "evasive," he said. "But I voted anyway."

    The number of people interviewed was much too small to make any of this accurate beyond anecdote.

    Zelmira McCann at the Buckingham Precinct, said she came out to vote to “keep the ball rolling with Democrats” who have had major victories in statewide elections in recent years. She chose Terry McAuliffe for governor and Miles Grant for the House of Delegates, she said.

    “He’s the ‘Green Party’ type,” she said of Mr. Grant, adding that she’s trying to go green herself.

    Khyati Desai, also at Buckingham, said she went with Brian Moran for governor and Patrick Hope for House of Delegates saying that Mr. Hope has made service in the community a career. She said its best to be engaged in the process early, so she made sure to vote in the primary.

    A couple blocks away at the Arlington Forest precinct, Anne Fullerton said if she were a “single-issue voter” that issue would be immigration, so she cast a ballot for Andres Tobar, who is also a friend of hers from church.

    Jackie Kramer, at Buckingham, voted for Patrick Hope in the House race; she had helped Mr. Hope campaign, and has been active in other campaigns in past years. She voted for Creigh Deeds in the three-way primary for governor.

    “He’s in the best position to win,” she said. Much of her decision to vote for Mr. Deeds was based on the idea that Mr. Moran is too liberal to beat Bob McDonnell, the Republican candidate for governor. Republicans will not be able to paint Mr. Deeds as a liberal--"He's not a liberal," she said.

    “We love Brian, personally, he’s our guy. But it’s really a question of who can win.”

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    Monday, June 08, 2009

    Republican Enters Race for 47th

    Updated June 16; it's officially in that Brescia has entered the race. I had posted this as "unconfirmed" for a number of days until I was sure the paperwork was in. --ST

    Republican Eric Brescia has entered the race for the 47th House of Delegates seat. He enters a race that tomorrow will see a the five-way Democratic primary turn a hopeful into the party's nominee. Those running for the Democrats include: Miles Grant, Patrick Hope, Alan Howze, Adam Parkhomenko, and Andres Tobar. The Green Party is running Josh Ruebner.

    From a press release June 9:

    Eric Brescia today announced his candidacy to represent the people of Arlington's 47th House District in the Virginia House of Delegates.

    Brescia accepted the nomination of the Republican Party and will run against [Patrick Hope] the winner of the five-way Democratic primary to succeed retiring Delegate Al Eisenberg.

    A professional economist, Brescia will bring his problem-solving skills and experience with financial markets and economic development to the State House during this time of economic uncertainty and growing discontent with politics as usual.

    Brescia looks forward to sharing with the residents of Arlington County and the 47th District his common-sense, economic approach to governance. As Delegate, Brescia would work with both parties to get Virginia's fiscal house in order, reform government programs to make them more efficient and effective, and protect and extend personal freedom and civil liberties for all Virginians.

    As the first Republican to run in the 47th district since 2003, Brescia hopes to create some balance in the partisan representation of Arlington in Richmond so that Arlington will have a clear and effective voice on both sides of the aisle.

    "For too long, the good people of Arlington have elected only one party to its six seats in Richmond and all county offices," explained Brescia. "But as our neighbors in Alexandria just demonstrated in their city council elections, Americans are understandably uncomfortable with one-party rule."

    "It's about time the people of Arlington be given a choice between more of the same and a candidate who can work with both parties to bring about real and lasting change for all Virginians."

    "I've already heard frustrations from many Arlingtonians, and am looking forward to engaging in an aggressive dialogue about ideas on how to reform our state government, keep and attract private-sector jobs in Virginia, and ensure that Virginians hold their elected leaders and representatives accountable," Brescia added.

    Brescia is a resident of Arlington's Virginia Square neighborhood. He is a graduate of Providence College in Providence, RI.

    "I am excited that Eric has decided to enter this race," said Mark Kelly, Arlington County Republican Chairman. "At a time when our economy is struggling, Eric will be able to put his expertise as an economist to work for us. And, I think the people of Arlington will like his thoughtful approach to all the issues. Eric will make a great candidate and an outstanding Delegate."

    More information on the 2009 GOP state and local campaigns in Arlington is available at

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    Adventure Park, Town Center, or Mini-golf Considered for Glebe/Randolph Corner

    County planners release their ideas for the intersection and hire Brailsford and Dunlavey to analyze the financials and marketability of the space.

    This post has been edited twice for clarification since its original post yesterday. Sorry for the confusion and inconvenience. --ST

    After about a year of analysis, county planners want to see if an adventure park, a town center, or a mini-golf course would work best in the empty space at the corner of N. Glebe Road and N. Randolph Street, a triangle of grass next to the Ballston Commons Mall parking garage.

    Last week the county engaged the services of Brailsford and Dunlavey, a facilities planning firm, to analyze which of the three, if any, would hit the county’s goals to activate the space with an aesthetically pleasing design. At the same time, the programming held there would have to be revenue neutral.

    County planner Scott McPartlin said B&D, the firm that helped plan Washington Nationals’ baseball park, will be looking at the financial feasibility and marketability of all three ideas.

    “There are good examples of all three [ideas] nationwide,” Mr. McPartlin said.

    “I’m hoping the results [from B&D] will be good,” he said. But if not, “we go back to the drawing board.”

    This site, adjacent to the Ballston Commons Mall parking lot may become a town square, an adventure park or a mini-golf course. (File photo; click to enlarge the image.)

    It would not be the first time back.

    In October 2007, the county posted a request for interest in a mini-golf course at the site, and in the spring and summer of 2008, the Buckingham Community Civic Association pushed back, saying that the idea was being forced on the community without enough community input. County planners have maintained that part of their jobs is to narrow choices to those likely to succeed in the space, and that there will be opportunities for input.

    In 2008, the county, deciding internally to look closer at the matter, put together an interdepartmental team from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources; Arlington Economic Development; and Community Planning to reinvestigate the use of the space.

    Buckingham Community Civic Association President Pat Hope, a leader in the push back a year ago, said that he still wants the county to ask the basic question: “What does the community want?” before they push forward with any idea. A charette regarding the best use of the space, he said, should include the Bluemont, Buckingham, Ballston and Ashton Heights neighborhoods as well as commissions and committees that would have a stake in the project.

    Mr. Hope said he takes issue with the idea that the park must be “activated.”

    “I haven’t gotten past the original discussion of ‘what do you want here?’” he said. The question to the community would ask whether they want an active or passive park or something else.

    “I’m happy that [the offerings are] more than mini-golf, but I still want a discussion,” he said.

    He warned the planners that the “worst thing that could happen” is 15 people show up at the county board meeting saying that they don’t like any idea put forward.

    “We ought to be the ones to drive this discussion,” he said.

    [Other civic leaders could not be reached before this posting. –ST]

    The current plan is that B&D will finish their analysis by the end of the summer, and public discussions over the different ideas would occur in the fall, Mr. McPartlin said.

    The town center might be a space to hold performances, civic meetings, shows or ceremonies, Mr. McPartlin said. In April, he said the idea that the county had decided only on performance space was a “rumor.” Today, he said that the county is keeping any possible uses of a town center open, even ice skating, though the Kettler Capitals Iceplex sits atop the parking garage adjacent to the park space.

    “That’s why we hired B&D, to look at the feasibility,” Mr. McPartlin said. “We’re looking at these ideas as examples. We’re not excluding any one [idea].”

    People climb through the massive "MonstroCity" in St. Louis. (Click to enlarge the image; City Musuem of St. Louis. )

    The adventure park might include rock climbing and huge climbing structures such as that found at the City Museum of St. Louis or Port Discovery in Baltimore. This might also include a skate boarding park or a wave pool where people could surf or kayak, Mr. McPartlin said.

    The "Earthscapes" mini-golf course in Minnesota. Each hole offers a lesson about the effect of water on the earth's surface. (Click to enlarge the image; Science Museum of Minnesota. )

    He cited the historic and educational possibilities of mini-golf as a reason to recommend the idea. The “Earthscapes” 9-hole mini-golf course at the Science Museum of Minnesota allows players to see the role of water in shaping the surface of the earth.

    “This 30,000 square-foot course gives the words ‘water hazard’ a whole new meaning!” their web site says. In Philadelphia, players putt through the liberty bell and into Independence Hall.

    A partnership with a private company most likely will be required in such a way that the company can make a profit while servicing the needs of Arlingtonians. Part of the decision-making will come down to how the financing is structured with a partner, Mr. McPartlin said.

    Related stories and sites…
  • Mini-golf Plans Progressing, September 2007
  • Mini-golf It Is, June 2008
  • Earthscapes mini-golf
  • City Museum of St. Louis

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  • Letter: Feld Hasn't Called Hope "Names"


    Where have I ever called Patrick Hope a "name?" Perhaps you're confusing me with someone else? I have criticized Hope on his I-66 widening stance, as well as his endorsement by an anti-helmet-law, Ron Paul supporter. That's about it as far as I know.

    - Lowell Feld

    Mr. Feld pens "Blue Virginia" a blog that, among other things, supports Miles Grant in the race for the House of Delegates. He is referring in the letter to yesterday's HeraldTrib Today column where I explained why I like Patrick Hope in the race and how I am tired of seeing name calling by Mr. Feld and Ben Tribbett, another blogger supporting Miles Grant. I should have said that Mr. Feld in my opinion is unnecessarily mean-spirited, while Mr. Tribbett is the one who calls people names. --ST

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    Friday, June 05, 2009

    HeraldTrib Today June 5, 2009

    Polls, polls, polls…

    The race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, if you haven’t been following, is coming down to the wire, with Creigh Deeds gaining momentum, if the Washington Post and other pollsters are to be believed. (In an odd turn, I was called by some pollster asking if I would be voting for Terry McAuliffe, Creigh Deeds, or Jim Moran. I am guessing that is not a good sign for Jim's brother Brian Moran who is actually running for governor.)

    I don’t know of any independent poll in the Democratic primary race in the 47th House of Delegates seat. I was called by the campaigns themselves to give my opinion on those running.

    Alan Howze’s, Adam Parkhomenko’s and Miles Grant’s campaigns have conducted “ID calls” or surveys rather than polls.

    Polls are much more scientific and ask about age, ethnicity, income and other factors that allow the results to be filtered, their campaigns said. Both Andres Tobar and Pat Hope said they did not conduct polls.

    Those that conducted the calls are not giving up the numbers.

    Joe Lestingi, Alan Howze’s campaign manager, said that they conducted an ID call, which only asks if voters have decided but does not focus on who has been chosen. It allows the campaign to target undecided voters, he said. Adam Parkhomenko’s campaign said they had conducted an ID call, as well.

    Miles Grant emailed back yesterday that a survey he conducted over the Memorial Day weekend did not really generate a whole lot of information, given that it was a holiday weekend. Again, it was not a poll since it did not rise to the level of scientific accuracy.

    The survey included only four questions covering a couple topics such as people’s attitudes toward coal-powered electricity, gay marriage and, finally, which of the five candidates the person planned to vote for.

    “We got so few responses, I honestly don't even know what the final numbers ended up being -- the only broad takeaways I remember were…that the few responders we got were very supportive of a ban on new coal-fired power plants and full marriage rights for all,” Mr. Grant wrote in an email.

    The Alan Howze campaign was not going to tell what they found in their ID call. “I’m not telling you that. It’s like giving away the game plan,” Mr. Lestingi said, adding, “We’re confident.”

    Informal discussions with people in- and outside of the campaigns don’t point to a clear winner either, from what I can tell.

    “I can tell you this,” Mr. Tobar wrote in an email, “most people are still undecided.”

    The primary is held this Tuesday June 9. Voting takes place in your normal voting location:

  • Buckingham: K.W. Barrett Elementary School, 4401 N. Henderson Road.
  • Arlington Forest: Culpepper Gardens Senior Center, 4435 N. Pershing Drive.
  • Ashton Heights: Clarendon United Methodist Church, 606 N. Irving St.

  • Why I Like Pat Hope…

    He’s an honest broker. The stuff on his web site and in his materials that he said he has done in Buckingham, he has done. I’ve seen it.

    It might sound like a small step to create the Buckingham Community Civic Association; it might sound as though all he had to do was to get a hundred signatures and he was done. But that’s wrong.

    In 2002, about a year before the BCCA was formed, Emanuel Vouvakis tried to start the civic association, and he failed. That September, Mr. Vouvakis held a special meeting to debate the merits of a civic association, and no one showed up. No organizers from the different vested groups attended. When he saw the conflict brewing, Mr. Vouvakis decided the best plan was to draft the by-laws and then rally people to them.

    It was Pat Hope, as part of that group, who said at the time exactly what the problem was: the group wanting the association--homeowners mostly--had not gotten buy-in from the renter organizations in the neighborhood first. He told me, when I edited the Buckingham Independent News, that his group needed to work with tenant groups and assure them that their needs would not be “swept under the rug.” There were deep divisions that Pat had to work through, so the process took about a year.

    Under Pat’s leadership, the civic association conducted a huge survey of the neighborhood, including going door-to-door with Spanish speakers, a Spanish language version of the survey in hand, to make sure all voices were heard.

    That survey became the focus for the neighborhood to move forward, to get county monies for repairs, to build a strategic plan.

    I have been in the room with Pat as he mediated a disagreement between two groups at the Buckingham Community Outreach Center, where it was clear those present respected and trusted his leadership. I know it has often been money from his wallet that has paid for gifts that the needy children of Buckingham have received at Christmas time.

    During the current campaign, I have liked his focus on the neediest of Virginians. To me, that’s what being a progressive liberal, in the best sense of the word, is. A government should run so as to keep those on the edge from falling over.

    That is why I get so angry at the name-calling by the political bloggers supporting Miles Grant. It is not that they support Miles. Miles has run a solid campaign and is standing on a good platform of issues. And it’s not that they are against Pat. I know, as do most people in Arlington, that we can have honest disagreements on issues or on the best ways to handle them.

    I have disagreed openly plenty of times on this blog with people and politicians. At times, I have even gotten snarky. Political rhetoric sometimes is biting.

    But is name calling really necessary?

    That is my problem with Lowell Feld and Ben Tribbett. They don’t seem to understand the difference between a good person with ideas they don’t like and a bad person. Name-calling says the person is bad. Arguing over the issues says the ideas are bad. Frankly, name-calling is childish. Especially when it comes from people who sit on the sidelines and watch while other people do.


    If endorsements are important to you, I would suggest checking out the web sites of the five candidates running for the House of Delegates' 47th seat. This list has grown over the last week. Perhaps the most surprising (actually it seemed almost out-of-the-blue for me) is the endorsement of Adam Parkhomenko by Gen. Wesley Clark.

    Below, Patrick Hope was endorsed by Willians Silva, a housing and tenant-issue leader in Buckingham (scroll down for the link).

    Web sites for the five candidates:

  • Miles Grant
  • Patrick Hope
  • Alan Howze
  • Andres Tobar

  • If you did not see them earlier this week, here are the HeraldTrib interviews with the candidates.

    Will the grass remain?...

    Will the grass on this corner stand tall or be downtrodden? (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Walking by the new construction at the corner of N. Henderson Road and N. Thomas Street, I couldn’t help but notice the shape of the sidewalks. I think the corner will look really nice when the sidewalks are done and the grass has grown in.

    Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how much of the grass will survive. People being what they are, will--I'm afraid--cut over the grass rather than swerve with the pavement. Alas.

    A few things happening over the next couple weeks…

    Bethel United Church of Christ is hosting its annual strawberry festival tomorrow, Saturday June 6, 3 to 7p.m. For more information, click here.

    Central Library is hosting a high school study night just before finals
    The library is located at 1015 N. Quincy Street. Parking is available.

    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    Arlington Oaks Condominium is holding its annual yard sale Saturday June 27:
    8:00a.m. to 1:00p.m.

  • Set up right in front of sellers’ buildings.
  • Property maps will be available so shoppers can find the sales throughout the community
  • Towing will be suspended during the yard sale
  • Advertising will run in area papers, web sites and on signs in the neighborhood.

  • The Week’s Headlines…
    As always, you can scroll down to see all the recent stories, or simply click the links below (if the link doesn't work, scroll down to find the story, and email to tell me what's busted: --Steve Thurston).

    Today's Headlines:

  • B'ham Civic Activist Silva Endorses Hope
  • Police Notes for May 29 to June 3

  • Headlines from Earlier in the Week:

  • Barrett Bus Drivers Heading to Richmond "Rodeo"
  • Memorial Day Pride of 'Four American Veterans.'
  • Labels: , , , , , ,

    B'ham Civic Activist Silva Endorses Hope

    As a Latino and Arlington resident, I support Pat Hope and I urge everybody to vote for Pat Hope. He has worked hard in the Buckingham neighborhood advocating for our efforts to build a fulbito court and also supports our annual Buckingham Community Festival. Hope is the only candidate of those running for the Virginia Legislature who knows us well and who I can trust to fight for our issues.

    Yo, como Latino y residente de Arlington, apoyo a Pat Hope y le pido a toda la comunidad del área que vote por Pat Hope. El ha trabajado fuertemente en el área de Buckingham apoyando los esfuerzos para conseguir nuestro cuadro de juego de fulbito y también apoya nuestro festival anual comunitario de Buckingham. Hope es el único candidato que esta corriendo para el Congreso de Richmond que nos conoce bien y en el cual yo tengo total confianza que que luchará para nuestras intereses.

    --Willians Silva

    Mr. Silva is a long-time civic activist and affordable housing proponent in Arlington. He lives in the Buckingham neighborhood. "Fulbito" is soccer played on a truncated field (largely in urban/dense areas). --ST

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    Police Notes for May 29 to June 3

    These notes are compiled from Arlington County Police Department crime reports. They cover the reports from in and around the Buckingham, Arlington Forest and Ashton Heights neighborhoods. --ST

    May 31: Disorderly Conduct (Arrest), 3200 block of Washington Blvd. At 1a.m., police responded for a report of a fight. One suspect was disorderly during the police investigation of the fight. Adam Ortberg, 27, of Washington, was charged with Disorderly Conduct. He was released on a summons.

    Click the icons and lines for more information. Red=Person-to-person crime; Yellow=person-to-structure/vehicle crime; Blue=stolen vehicle; Purple=vehicle-to-vehicle crime; Aqua=miscellaneous. A dot in the icon indicates more than one suspect or victim. Click here to view a larger map

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    Tuesday, June 02, 2009

    Candidate Interviews: House of Delegates, 47

    I sat down with four of the five Democrat Party candidates for the House of Delegates’ race in the 47th District (which includes Buckingham, Arlington Forest, Ballston and Ashton Heights) in the first couple of weeks of May, and have put together the interviews here. The primary election is next Tuesday, June 9. The Green Party has already selected its candidate, Josh Ruebner, and the Republicans have yet to field a candidate.

    I hadn’t planned on doing these interviews since I am a friend of candidate Patrick Hope, and I did not want to conduct what might be seen as biased interviews.

    But when Alan Howze came to my door and said to me, “Let’s get coffee” in a way that said, “I can change your mind,” I thought if I got coffee with him, why not with everyone? I called and emailed all five candidates and four agreed to sit and talk with me on tape (or, actually, digital recorder). I was up front with all about my leanings toward Mr. Hope, and have always listed my friendship with him at the bottom of articles about the race.

    The interviews (see below) with Miles Grant, Patrick Hope, Alan Howze and Adres Tobar took place at various restaurants and coffee shops in the 47th, and lasted 30 to 45 minutes. Adam Parkhomenko’s campaign said he did not have time in his busy schedule to have coffee, despite being the only candidate who has made campaigning a full-time job. Make of that what you will, but to add context, I should say that I pretty much excoriated him after the Arlington County Democratic Committee debate; I was hoping he would want the interview, just to set me straight.

    I had a great time conducting these interviews, and I want to take a moment to thank the four candidates for taking time from a very busy campaign season to sit and speak with me. I found the interviews to be a lot of fun and very informative. It’s nice to know that the 47th has strong candidates in this race. In the interest of full disclosure: I bought the coffee, muffins, eggs, toast or whatever else we consumed while chatting.

    The full transcripts which I typed ran about 2,500 to 6,000 words. I tried to get these interviews to similar lengths, lengths which I thought would be informative and readable. They each run about 2,000 to 2,300 words, which is long (but don’t worry, the real test isn’t until next Tuesday, June 9. You have week to study-up!). I like the long-form of the responses as I think they show the candidates’ personalities as well as their ideas and policy goals. You’ll find, too, that the candidates work through answers, showing nuance and complete ideas that might not make it into shorter interviews. It makes for convoluted sentences at times, but that’s the nature of a discussion-based interview, rather than something that approximates an interrogation.

    Obviously, I cut a lot from each of the interviews, and occasionally I added words to clarify what was left. I edited my questions often to shorten them, and to clarify them.

    I often, but not always, cut the word “and” or “but” from the speakers’ words and started a new sentence if the speaker’s sentence was just getting too long, a common problem in these sorts of interviews.

    If I took out more than a word or two (or if the words I erased were more substantial than “and” or “but”), I inserted a three-dot ellipsis (…); this was particularly the case when we got off topic, or when the speaker started and then stopped to restart the sentence.

    If I inserted anything the speaker did not actually say, I used square brackets [like these] to show my insertion.

    Otherwise, the words a wholly theirs, full quotes. Despite having to remove a lot of content from each of the interviews, I try to make sure the quotes still make sense and are in context. I will happily run corrections or clarifications if the candidate or his campaign can show that it is merited.

    Click on the names of the candidates below to read each of the interviews. They are listed randomly (the list chosen by coin-flip).

  • Alan Howze
  • Andres Tobar
  • Patrick Hope
  • Miles Grant

  • Please review my policy on emails-to-the-editor and comments: emails sent to me, I assume, are meant for publication and will be published so long they come with a name and a neighborhood at the end of them. (Email me here: Comments can be added to the end of any of the interviews. They may be anonymous (though I encourage everyone to use their names). Libelous, potentially libelous, or overly mean comments will be erased; emails with similar content will not be published.

    Related campaign web sites…
  • Miles Grant
  • Patrick Hope
  • Alan Howze
  • Andres Tobar

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  • Interview: Miles Grant

    The interview with Mr. Grant took place on Friday May 8 at the Bruegger's Bagels in Ballston.

    To get this interview, as well as the others that I conducted, to a similar, readable size, I had to cut quite a bit of material. If I took out more than a word or two (or if the words I erased were more substantial than “and” or “but”), I inserted a three-dot ellipsis (…). If I inserted anything the speaker did not actually say, I used square brackets [like these] to show my insertion.

    Otherwise, the words are full quotes. Despite having to remove a lot of content from each of the interviews, I try to make sure the quotes still make sense and are in context. I will happily run corrections or clarifications if the candidate or his campaign can show that it is merited.

    My own questions were edited, at times, for clarity and length.--ST

    Buckingham HeraldTrib (Steve Thurston): Pre-school for all Virginia’s kids, Universal Pre-K, is supported by all the candidates in the race. It lost during the last legislative session. Assuming we don’t have the money again in the upcoming year for this, what’s your second-best idea for this?

    Miles Grant: How that gets dealt with next year, is going to depend on the outcomes of the elections in November, that it depends on who has control of the House of Delegates. It depends on who has control of the governor’s mansion.

    That’s why, as a Democrat, I think it’s so critical that whoever gets the [gubernatorial] nomination, be it Terry [McAuliffe], be it Brian [Moran], be it Creigh [Deeds], we campaign our butts off for them, and that we try to pick up those six seats in the House of Delegates…Then I think you’re going to look for some new sources of revenue to try to pay for education, and try to prevent us from having to make too many draconian cuts in the budget…

    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    When I talk about Universal Pre-K, I see it as more of a long-term goal, along the lines of the clean energy goals that I talk about, along with marriage rights for all. But it’s something we’re going to have to fight for and strive towards, but in the short term, we have to play a little defense with the budget, just because of the economic climate that we’re in.

    BHT: But do you see a short-term win?

    MG: If anything what we’re looking at is trying to provide a higher level of funding state-wide so that communities don’t have to rely so much on things like property taxes for their education budget because we are talking about the two Virginias…We have northern Virginia which certainly provides for the needs of its children, for the needs of its special-needs kids, for the needs of its bi-lingual kids.

    In the rest of the state, I think there’s a real question of whether we’re providing that minimal level of education in the rest of the state. We have places where the drop-out rate is approaching 40 percent. In places like that, forget about things like universal Pre-K, which we’re talking about achieving at a high level. We’re talking about failing at a bare minimum of getting our kids a high school diploma.

    BHT: At the Arlington County Democratic Committee debate Andres Tobar said, I thought rightly, that if we think we’re getting off coal quickly to move to clean energy, we’re fooling ourselves.

    MG: …I wish he wouldn’t say things like that because who’s talking about getting rid of coal tomorrow? Nobody. No environmentalist is talking about getting rid of coal tomorrow, and stuff like that is really playing into the Republican talking points that, ‘Oh, we can never get off fossil fuels, so why should we try?’

    When we talk about our goals for clean energy, look at President [Barack] Obama’s goal: 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. That’s something that’s long-term, that’s achievable. And when we talk about these things, we’re really talking about starting the transformation now because Americans go into this shock-and-trance thing when it comes to fossil fuels. We get shocked by the $4-a-gallon gas prices. Then they come back down and we go into this trance where, well maybe if we don’t do anything, everything will stay the same, and you know, we’ll be fine.

    But now is the time that we need to start moving away from some of these things. I mean, you know energy bills went up 18 percent in September, 1.5 percent in January, and now Dominion [Dominion Virginia Power Co.] wants to raise them another seven percent. That’s due to the rising cost of coal.

    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    I think when somebody goes around saying, oh, well we can’t get off coal tomorrow, well when are we going to get off coal? When is it OK for us to get off coal? If not tomorrow, what about next week? What about next month? What about next year?

    BHT: So what do you want to do in Richmond in January, along those lines?

    MG: I think the first thing we need to do is frame this as an economic issue. Republicans aren’t going to get on board with us because we’re trying to save the planet, or anything like that. But if we can, say, Look, let’s do an efficiency bill where we’re trying to save consumers money on their energy bills, that we’re trying to weatherize people’s homes.

    We’re trying to make Dominion [Virginia Power Company] more of a partner…Dominion currently makes their profit by selling us as much energy as possible. If our home isn’t so energy efficient, that’s no skin off their back. So I think an efficiency bill is first step toward that. It’s businesses here in Virginia that are starting to say, there’s opportunities here for clean energy.

    You see the commercials that are on TV now that single windmill needs 250 tons of steel. Well, where are those windmills going to get built? Are we going to let them get built in Pennsylvania, are we going to let them get built in Germany? Or are we going to build them here?…

    Look at the last few elections. In 2004, this was not talked about on a national level. In the governor’s race with Governor [Tim] Kaine and [Terry] Kilgore, this wasn’t talked about. But for the first time, you’ve seen President Obama talk about it. Now you’re seeing McAuliffe and Moran talk about it.

    (Click to enlarge the image.)

    And I think the more voters hear about it, the more they’re going to expect not a Democratic or Republican solution, but a solution. The party of “No” is not going to be the right answer anymore. And if you see people like [Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob] McDonnell just saying, oh, “Drill, baby, drill,” voters are going to realize that that’s not a real answer, and Republicans are going to have to get on board with something.

    BHT: You stepped out with a campaign pledge not to take contributions from Dominion Power or their employees. Now you’re saying we’ve got to make Dominion a partner. Was that pledge a statement you felt you needed to say to get elected, but something else is how I really feel, or what?

    MG: There’s a difference between working with somebody and taking their giant checks…There’s a difference between having fund-raisers at Dominion executives’ houses, and saying, ‘Look, I’m not interested in your check, but I do want you to be a partner with us.’ I think there has to be a happy medium in there somewhere, and Virginia politicians tend not to find that when it comes to large checks and contributions. I’m just saying, look, I want to have an objective relationship with you, where we’re working together for consumers, and it’s not about, quid-pro-quo, or anything like that.

    I’ve talked to some delegates from Richmond who’ve said ‘It’s easy for you to talk tough on Dominion when you’re not down here.’ I say, look, I’ll talk tough, but when it comes time to sit down at the negotiating table, let’s cut a deal.

    BHT: You have gotten support from the gay and lesbian community. The way I’ve heard it, is that you’re tending toward getting the younger people from that community while the older people are tending toward Pat Hope.

    MG: Sure. Well, I think the question is, do you want somebody who’s going to be, you know, more of the bolder person who’s going to be stepping out and saying marriage rights for all, you know, like we were talking about, you know, marriage rights for all sooner, or marriage rights for all later? Patrick at the Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance was saying, I don’t think we can do this right now. I would disagree with that. I think we’ve got to start fighting now, or else when is it OK to start fighting? Next year? Next decade? I don’t know.

    BHT: At the ACDC debate you listed gas taxes as a way to fund transportation. (Currently they’re about $0.38 a gallon, $0.19 federal, $0.18, state.) Where do you think it should be and why that level?

    MG: Gov. Kaine had proposed in the past year raising it 30 cents. I think that’s a very sensible first step. I think long term we need to give drivers a pricing that will say, look when you’re going to buy that next car, gas prices are going to be a bit higher than they are now. So that hybrid that you’re thinking about buying is going to be a good investment. Drivers right now have absolutely no idea where gas prices is going be, and if you buy a [Toyota] Prius right now, you’re sort of making that leap of faith that gas prices are going to stay high or even if they go lower, well it’s going to make me feel good.

    Feeling good is not going to get us out of the climate crisis and our energy crisis. We need to give people a cost certainty and I feel the gas tax is one way to do that. The added benefit of the gas tax is that we can then take that revenue and spend it either on the funding that Metro needs or on the funding for our road maintenance that it needs.

    I think the one thing that we’ve done poorly lately is focus on expanding our existing roads. And that’s not a solution. Those beltway HOT [High Occupancy Toll] lanes they’re putting in…a month after they’re done, they’re going to be full. Drivers are going to be complaining that they’re not really helping them get anywhere faster because the people who right now are taking [Route] 123 or Glebe Road or something like that are going to be trying to get on these HOT lanes. Same with expanding [Interstate] 66. People who take back roads now, or who take Route 50 now, or who take public transportation now, will think, ‘Oh, 66 is wider, it will take me there in two minutes.’ Well, it won’t.

    BHT: You first entered the race before Al Eisenberg, the incumbent, got out of the race. I was curious about your strategy there.

    MG: I’ve been very open…I’m not going to be the guy with the most money in this race. I’m not going to be the guy who gets the most [Democratic Party] establishment support. But I do think I have the strongest message when it comes to the progressive issues that we care about: clean energy and climate action, civil liberties for all Virginians, and community engagement and civic activism. Getting into the race early allowed me to build that volunteer base. Now I get 10 people for every volunteer event that I have. And that’s really going to be my edge in this race…

    I’m 31 now. I’ll be 32 in November…I’ve got enough of a resume to run on. Chair of Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment. Chair of Community Volunteer Network. [I’ve worked on] Arlington Young Democrats and helping out with the [President Barack] Obama campaign.

    I’ve been here. I’ve been fighting for these issues. It’s not like I’m just popping out of the weeds and saying, “OK everybody, here I am.”

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