Home Local Politics Video: Arlington Board Member Walter Tejada Rips John Vihstadt for Creating “Culture...

Video: Arlington Board Member Walter Tejada Rips John Vihstadt for Creating “Culture of Distrust”

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As Arlington County Board member and progressive champion Walter Tejada (D) winds ups his 12+ years of service on the Board, he’s not going quietly, that’s for sure. And thank goodness someone is speaking up, calling out the lies, disinformation, disingenuous and anti-government rabble rousing by Republican John Vihstadt and his allies over the past couple years. In this case, the discussion is whether Arlington County should have a new, independent auditor (see Patricia Sullivan’s Washington Post story for more on this; also, thanks to her for the “heads up” on this) “to oversee county spending.” Yesterday, the Board voted 4-1, with Walter Tejada strongly disapproving, to approve this $200,000-per-year  position. Here are Tejada’s key points, followed by Vihstadt’s (faux?) indignant response (which basically proves Tejada’s point, by the way), followed by Tejada…well, watch and see, it’s highly informative AND entertaining. 🙂

*Tejada noted that Arlington has received a “triple, AAA bond rating” “every single year he’s been in office,” and that’s not “because we’re nice people,” but for good reason (e.g., based on the bond rating agencies’ independent analyses of Arlington’s management, fiscal situation, etc.).

*Tejada says: “I don’t drink the Kool-Aid that has been put out in the community to allege a culture of distrust of government which – is well known by the Republican Party to question and to allege mismanagement.”  Tejada compares it to Republicans’ ellegations of nonexistent “voter fraud,” “without a shred of evidence,” and points out, 100% correctly, that this “kind of CRAP happens all the time.”

*Tejada argues that the independent auditor will simply expand the bureaucracy for no good reason, as it’s “redundant,” “not needed,” and simply being pushed forward to “foster a distrust of government.” Even worse, Tejada charges that this is “part of the new era in Arlington – the timid and stagnant era of distrust.”

*Vihstadt responds with a bunch of (faux?) indignant nonsense, including repetition of his fallacious/wildly exaggerated/demagogic talking points from his campaign last year, about a “million-dollar bus stop,” “cost overruns…in our ill-fated aquatic center,” “an Artisphere that went sideways,” blah blah blah. Typical right-wing “crap,” as Tejada puts it, in other words. Oh, and the best line, stated without a hint of irony or self awareness, is that it’s actually Walter Tejada – not John Vihstadt himself, the master of politicization and political demagoguery – who’s “trying to make a partisan issue out of this.” That’s some serious, Trump-level chutzpah right there, I’ll grant Vihstadt that!

*Tejada responds, with appropriate dripping sarcasm, “congratulat[ing]” Vihstadt for “reciting the talking points that you’ve been using time and again to create that alleged distrust of government.” Tejada adds that this is “indeed part of [Vihstadt’s] party’s platform to create a distrust of government…whether you like it or not, that’s exactly what it is.”

*Tejada concludes that “this is part of your timid and stagnant era you’ve brought [to Arlington]…it’s not unusual for Mrs. Garvey or yourself.”

All I can say is that I wish we had a lot more Democrats like Walter Tejada, willing to call out Republicans for what they’re doing, not pussyfoot around, afraid that there might be “conflict” with Republicans (which, of course, already exists).  The problem with that latter strategy is it lets right-wing bullies and demagogues like Vihstadt seize control of the debate, win elections (even in “blue” Arlington), and create serious damage (in the case of Arlington, cancelling the street car project with no viable alternative, killing the Artisphere just when it was starting to find its footing, fostering ill will and a culture of distrust of government, etc.).

At the national and state levels, Democrats have spent far too much time NOT calling out Republicans for this “crap,” and the result has been…what? Last I checked, it didn’t work either in policy OR political terms, as Republicans now control most state legislatures, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, while instituting policies that do great harm to our country, our states, etc. The question for cities and counties like Arlington is whether they’re going to allow that same pattern to repeat itself in their jurisdictions as well.

  • Jason

    Sounds like a lot of money for a position that we may not need and which is unlikely to pay for itself.  

  • Andy Schmookler

    That’s what Tejada is doing in this session. And that is what you’re doing too, Lowell, in putting your spotlight on this exchange. My hat is off to you both.

    In this target-rich environment, we need more like you, unafraid to fire away.

  • loudoun independent

    Transparency and accountability can only INCREASE trust in government. A government that fights against transparency and accountability is exactly what creates distrust in the first place.

    I’m certain the three Democrats who voted for the auditor agree with this as well.

    I remember similar arguments were made against having an independent auditor look at VDOT… then it finally got passed and we found $1 billion.