Let’s count the ways lifelong Republican (and major GOP donor – to George W. Bush, McCain/Palin, Romney/Ryan, etc.) John Vihstadt is running a misleading campaign for Arlington County Board, as exemplified in this ad and in his mailings.
1. He’s about as much of an “independent” as I am. Based on his lifelong record of Republican activism and the thousands of dollars in donations he’s given to hard-right Republican candidates, the guy’s a hard-core Republican, end of story. Anything else is a big lie.
2. He claims he loves Arlington, yet then proceeds to trash pretty much everything that makes it the great place it is, including its commitment to transit-oriented, high-density development, as well as strategic investments in our future to attract residents and businesses to the county.
3. He claims our “tax burden is still rising,” but that’s highly misleading. In fact, Arlington has one of the lowest tax rates in the entire region (effective rate lower than Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax Counties, Falls Church and Alexandria cities), and the proposed rate for 2015 stays the same. So yes, the “tax burden” is rising, but as Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan explains, that “primarily reflects the 5.3% increase in the average residential property assessment.” That’s right, Arlington’s property values are rising, for the very reason that it’s one of the best places to live in the entire Washington, DC region. And that, in turn, is due to the strategic investments and far-sighted planning that have made Arlington a great place to live. All of which John Vihstadt disparages.
4. Vihstadt claims “it’s time to refocus our priorities towards core services – public education, public safety, infrastructure maintenance.” So, where ARE Arlington’s expenditures going right now? According to the Arlington County proposed 2015 budget, 39% goes to schools, aka, public education. Another 12% goes to “public safety” (plus 6% for “Courts & Constitutionals”), bringing us to 51% (or 57% if you count the courts and constitutionals) of the budget. Add in spending on transportation (including Metro) plus core services like utilities, plus required items like debt service payments, and you’ve accounted for a large majority of the Arlington County budget. Add in things I’d consider crucial like libraries and housing assistance, and you’ve covered a huge percentage of the budget. So what on earth is John Vihstadt blabbering about? Who the heck knows, really. As far as I can tell, it’s just hot air and demagoguery. The bottom line is that Arlington County ALREADY is focusing on “core services,” has been doing that for years, and is planning to continue doing that – with or without Republicans like John Vihstadt sniping from the sidelines.
5. Vihstadt claims the Columbia Pike streetcar project is “wasteful and extravagant,” but a new study on the streetcar’s “return on investment” (ROI) vs. the ROI of enhanced bus service makes it clear that the streetcar is by far and away the smartest, most cost effective (in a “bang for the buck” sense) of the penny-foolish, pound-foolish approach Vihstadt’s advocating. It’s also completely untrue that there are “better, more flexible transit options” for Columbia Pike. Again, read the new study. The bottom line is that if Vihstadt had been around when Metro was being debated a few decades ago, he undoubtedly would have been arguing that it was too expensive, “wasteful and extravagant,” and that Arlington should instead increase bus service. Can you imagine what Arlington would look like if we had listened to the John Vihstadt’s of that time? Thank goodness we didn’t, now let’s make sure we don’t listen to the John Vihstadts of OUR time!
6. Finally, with regard to the “$80 million-plus aquatic center,” there’s no doubt that project has gone over budget, which is why it’s currently being reconsidered, again no thanks to the John Vihstadts of the world. Also, keep in mind that “most of the money to pay for the aquatics center comes from two bond referendums approved by county voters and $15 million from the real estate company Vornado Realty Trust, the county’s biggest taxpayer, as part of a deal that allowed the construction of the nearby PenPlace commercial development.”
Yeah, I know, details details; don’t bother John Vihstadt with any of those, as it might interrupt his litany of doom, despair, and demagoguery about what is arguably the best place to live in the entire DC Metro region. If you want to keep it that way, I urge everyone to vote for Democrat Alan Howze, a strong progressive and environmentalist, on April 8. Thanks.