Bush/McCain-Palin/Romney-Ryan Donor John Vihstadt Continues Misleading Campaign for Arlington Board


    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.

    • From the Howze for County Board campaign:

      Arlington, Va. – March 31, 2014

      Today, County Board Democratic nominee Alan Howze, joined by members of Arlington’s General Assembly Delegation, called upon Republican-endorsed County Board candidate John Vihstadt to tell Arlington voters where he stands on Virginia’s pending proposal to provide health care to hundreds of thousands of Virginia residents, including over 6,000 in Arlington, through expansion of the Medicaid program. Last week, the Arlington County Board passed a resolution in support of expanding Medicaid.

      “This issue affects every locality in Virginia and local governments like Arlington County are the providers of last resort,” said State Senator Barbara Favola, a former member of the County Board. “It matters where Mr. Vihstadt stands on this issue because Arlingtonians want leaders who empower people to stay healthy.”

      “John Vihstadt needs to come clean with Arlington voters on whether he supports expanding Medicaid to provide health coverage to over 6,000 Arlington residents,” stated Delegate Bob Brink. “Down in Richmond, Arlington’s delegation is unified in fighting Tea Party Republicans to make sure all Virginians have access to adequate health care. We need to know that our local officials have our backs.”

      “I strongly support the efforts of Governor McAuliffe and Arlington’s General Assembly delegation to expand healthcare coverage. Expanding Medicaid will not only create a healthier community, it also will protect the fiscal health of one of our largest private employers, the Virginia Hospital Center,” said Democratic County Board nominee Alan Howze.

      Howze continued, “Arlington County funds local healthcare services that would be covered by the Medicaid expansion. Expanding Medicaid will also free up state funding for other important priorities such as education, public safety, and the environment. Expanding Medicaid is fiscally responsible and it is the right thing to do – for people, for our economy, and for our community.”

      “For too long Republicans in Congress and in Virginia have attempted to delay and deny healthcare coverage. John Vihstadt is the Arlington Republicans’ endorsed candidate. If he supports Medicaid expansion, he should call on the Tea Party Republicans in Richmond to stop their stonewalling and help provide health care for thousands of Arlington residents. If John Vihstadt opposes the Medicaid expansion, Arlington voters deserve to know why,” said Brink.

    • DJRippert


      You write, “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.”

      I found that interesting enough to look at the source document you cite in the link – Tax Rates and Tax Burdens, Washington Metropolitan Area.

      Table 2 on pg 11 of the report lists the six localities along with the major state and local tax burdens for a family of three.  This data is presented for five income levels.

      Arlington County is not the lowest for any income level.  In fact, at the $25,000 income level Arlington assesses the highest taxes.  In one other category it is the second highest, third highest in two categories and fourth highest in one category.  It is never the lowest or second lowest.

      Simply adding up the rankings gives Arlington a 13, Fairfax County gets a 21, Alexandria gets a 19, Prince Georges County gets a 9, Montgomery – 16 and DC comes in at 27.

      In fact, DC has the lowest tax burden in four of the five income categories.

      By my simple method Arlington has the second highest overall tax burden – only Prince George’s County is higher.

      I think Arlington is a great place that serves as an example of how other Northern Virginia areas should be developed.  However, claiming that it has one of lowest tax rates in NoVa is not really true once all taxes are considered along with the exemptions offered to people at some income levels.