Home Local Politics Comically Inept Attempts at Dirty Tricks in Arlington County Board Race

Comically Inept Attempts at Dirty Tricks in Arlington County Board Race


Did you know Arlington Democrats narrowly escaped nominating a House of Delegates member with some very serious ethical questions? That’s right – they could’ve nominated someone who missed a car tax payment. Imagine what a field day the Republican & Green Party candidates would’ve had with that!

That candidate was … me. (Cue Shayna Englin: “Narrowly?” OK, I needed to make it sound more dramatic.) After moving to Virginia in 2002, the first I learned of the personal property tax & Arlington decal fee was a form letter from Treasurer Frank O’Leary’s office telling me it was overdue. I emailed O’Leary promising to pay but pleading ignorance & hoping to get the late fee waived. “It is each taxpayer’s duty to know when taxes are due,” came the terse reply. Welcome to Arlington.

I tell the story because anonymous emailers are now shopping some similar stories about Arlington County Board candidate Melissa Bondi & claiming they make her unfit for office. I will not relate the details because not only do I not reward smears, the attempted smears in question are incredibly boring. I’m sure the people pushing the smears will disagree and be all SURELY YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS and WHY WON’T THE MEDIA COVER THIS SERIOUSNESS and that is what the comments section is for, so go to town making anonymous handles under which to file your complaints. To me, the real questions I’d like answered are about how the anonymous people first learned of the issues, whether they were tipped off by anyone on the Arlington County payroll, and how someone obtained creepy/stalker-ish photos of Bondi’s car from way back in 2006.  

The very anonymity of the attacks is telling. If you won’t put your name behind your incredibly dull & grammatical error-ridden attacks, you’re just making your opponent look formidable. What you’re saying is that you or the candidate you support have nothing positive to run on, are terrified you’re going to lose, and have nothing substantive to attack Bondi with. I’ve already heard from several people who say these desperate smears only make them more likely to support Bondi. (If you’re wondering, I’d vote for Bondi, but I don’t live in Arlington, so who cares.)

Finally, a challenge to the candidates to shake up the race the right way: Say something interesting for once. Aside from Bondi’s pro-Columbia Pike streetcar stance, you’d think all five candidates thought they had the race locked up & just needed to avoid standing out.

And don’t forget to vote in the Arlington Democrats County Board caucuses on January 19th and January 21st.

  • NotJohnSMosby

    I assumed that VDOT and Fairfax actually communicated with each other.  Nope.  I got dinged as well when I called up in December to ask Fairfax Office of Taxation where my car tax stuff was.  Their reply?  “We weren’t aware of it”.  “No problem, here’s the info, what do I owe?” “We’ll get that out to you”.

    A week later, I open my mailbox and see the bill – with a kicker for late payment.  I call back.  “Hey, there’s a late payment penalty on here, it’s a mistake” “No it’s not, it’s December and the taxes were due in October”  “But, you never billed me, I called you to correct your mistake”  “It’s not our responsibility to add your car to the rolls.  You need to do that when you buy it” “But I’ve bought quite a few cars and I’ve never not had them automatically show up come tax time.  When did taxpayers start needing to tell the county to tax us?” “Sometimes VDOT does not get the information to us” “Ok, so, I informed you of the mistake, and you’re penalizing me?” “Yes, your taxes were due two months ago, so you have a late fee”.

    Mind numbing stuff, and that’s for someone who’s lived in Virginia their whole life.

  • Tiffany Joslyn

    Miles, you are my friend and I respect you, but I also disagree with you here and I have to say that the hypocrisy of this entire matter is too much for me.  Isn’t this the same as criticizing Stephanie Clifford for not voting in a Dem primary?  The same as jumping on Patrick Murray for his bus getting in a car accident?  For Cuccinelli not returning money from a suspect PAC?  For Favola accepting money from developers?  The same as Kim Klingler having typos on her website and the comments of some questioning Kim’s ability to run a county when “she can’t even run her campaign”?  

    To then assert that asking these questions is inappropriate and mudslinging wrecks of hypocrisy.  The truth is — the relevancy and the weight of the issue are two different things.  Whether this matters to the voter is for the voter to decide, but it is up to the voter to decide!  And the voter deserves to have the information.  Look, I feel for Melissa — sounds like a rough financial situation on top of her dad’s illness (bravo to her for being such a caring and compassionate daughter).  And the first time she was late paying her PPT, well, okay – that happens.  That’s why there are late fees.  The second time … dragging it out to seizure of a car? Really?  That’s pretty inexcusable.  This is especially so when she is an engaged Arlington community member, heading up civic associations and commissions.  Then she garageed a car here on and off for two years while her dad is sick — okay, so maybe “it was the furthest thing from her mind” … but this is all happening while she is heading up Zimmerman’s re-election campaign in 2006, doing a billion other civic related activities in 2006-08, etc. and she even has time to put campaign stickers on her car … and respond to an inquiry from the tax commissioner but doesn’t think she has an obligation to register the car?  There are several inconsistencies there.  And finally, the tax lien — perhaps she didn’t know.  It’s entirely possible (I guess?) but do I really want a county board member collecting my taxes and running my county who “didn’t know” she had a $20K tax lien?  I mean, in this case, isn’t that something she should have checked BEFORE she filed her candidacy?

    The same thing applies to Kim, who paid her taxes late twice (once by a day and once by a couple days).  She then paid the late fees.  To Miles who didn’t know about the requirement but then paid the late fee.  Does this matter to anyone?  Who knows!  But do the voters deserve to know?  Yes.  

    We all know what campaigns are like.  These are things that you check before you run, these are things you are prepared to answer when the questions come up.  We would be asking every one of these questions of any Republican candidate and I imagine we would ask these questions of any other candidate who wasn’t supported by the establishment, who wasn’t our friend, or who wasn’t a Democratic party insider.  Now, that fact that Melissa is supported by the establishment, is our friend, and is clearly a devoted and dedicated insider sheds some light on the weight we may want to give the matter.  I like Melissa, she is my friend and I do not think in anyway that this makes her a bad person or community member.  But it doesn’t mean the questions shouldn’t be asked.  And it certainly doesn’t mean that every other voter doesn’t have a right to know the facts and determine for themselves what weight those facts have in deciding who to vote for.  

    To claim otherwise is illogical at best and hypocrisy at worst.  To say revealing this information is mudslinging and a smear campaign assumes that these “facts” are untrue.  The facts are facts — how the voters weigh them is a separate matter.  Calling Melissa a scoundrel is a personal attack, and shame on Frank for engaging in such ugly rhetoric, but you can’t brush the entire matter aside because of what one person said.  

    Running for public office means opening yourself to public scrutiny.  Before you run, you better know all your dirt.  If you don’t, then hire someone to find it out.  And then once you have it, review each and every piece to determine whether you can properly explain it.  If you can’t, then don’t run.  But if you chose to run, you better be ready to answer the questions because they will come out.  How they come out may vary and may be a controversy in its own right, but they will come out and you will have to answer them.  This is not a vote to elect the nicest, most dedicated person.  This is not a good person award.  This is a race for election to public office, to be the one who writes the rules for everyone else.  Therefore, public scrutiny of whether you are playing by the rules is not only appropriate, but expected.

    For all those reasons, I wholeheartedly disagree with Miles’ blog post and the various comments across the blogosphere that echo it.  It seems to me that people’s opinions and principles on what is appropriate and what is mudslinging seem to change as often as the weather.  

  • sbenglin


  • mrg.uva

    coming from the same guy who attacked me once on twitter for mentioning how I thought Melissa’s line about “not owning a car” was kind of weird in her ACDC announcement speech and twisting what I said into a blanket statement against the Car Free Diet, which is actually something I really like and passed around literature for it during the Virginia Senate primary.