A few key quotes from outgoing Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada’s appearance on the Kojo Nnamdi Show early this afternoon. I can’t really disagree with anything he has to say.
*The demise of the streetcar project “will go down as one of my major disappointments,” but “it’s not about me,” it’s about “the countless numbers of people that went into a very legitimate public process, totally vetted, with best practices and having a package that would have required the Columbia Pike area ZERO single-family-home taxpayer dollars to make it happen.”
*The streetcar also would have “spurr[ed] economic development” and preserved “not some but all of the affordable housing.”
*”Part of the problem…is it takes too darned long for the federal government to process applications for these types of infrastructure projects that will help revitalize an area…you need to find ways to shorten the time that it takes for these types of things,” in part so costs don’t escalate. These are “strategic investments” that need to be prioritized and moved quickly through the approval process.
*The rejection of the streetcar “was a really bad step backwards” for Arlington County.
*Regarding Bus Rapid Transit, Tejada reiterated that Arlington County couldn’t have had the “rapid” part, since Arlington isn’t allowed by the state to dedicate a lane specifically for buses on Columbia Pike. So, “it was VERY disingenuous for those who were suggesting” that BRT could happen. That was part of the “choir of negativity that attacked our project with misinformation…How many times have you heard those who opposed the streetcar says BRT since the [streetcar] project was cancelled?”
*Tejada said he’s concerned about the board changing in the direction of those who are not “honest,” do not use “factual information,” and don’t offer alternatives. “OK, you were able to kill the streetcar, and now what, what is your alternative, where is your plan…what is your specific vision?”
*Tejada said he’s an “unapologetic progressive” who wants to keep Arlington a Democratic “stronghold.” “I reject this thing about ‘fusion candidate’…what have the Republicans done…but obstruct?…We have to decide in Arlington whether we are no longer going to be progressive and Democrat[ic]…”
*Tejada said part of the reason for Arlington’s political shift could be that it “has gotten less diverse than others in the Washington metro region,” with most of the “choir of negativity/anti-streetcar movement” coming from North Arlington. Meanwwhile, Tejada said that “the candidate who was running against the streetcar LOST the election in the Columbia Pike precincts, [where] 65% of the population is diverse; so folks can make their own conclusions…but those are facts.”
*Tejada urged people not to just “tune in when you’re angry,” but to stay engaged.