Last night, Arlington County Board Democratic candidate Erik Gutshall debated incumbent Libby Garvey (D? I?) for the second time (note: you can watch the first debate here). Again, Gutshall went after Garvey aggressively, and for the most part effectively, although the questions this time weren’t particularly pointed, and also were very repetitive, as you’ll see from the video, which didn’t allow him a great deal of leeway to go after her. I’d say that, unlike the first debate, Garvey didn’t make a bunch of cringe-worthy, unforced errors this time. However, she still said things that were highly questionable (e.g., that she’s played a huge role in creating a supposedly wonderful, highly functional County Board) or downright false (e.g., “Bus Rapid Transit” on Columbia Pike).
With that, here’s some video, starting with Gutshall saying that it’s time to “turn the page” on a period of “divisiveness” in Arlington politics, in large measure thanks to Garvey and her ally John Vihstadt (R).
Now, here’s Erik Gutshall’s opening statement, in which he argues we can “do a much better job of planning for our future” and that we must make “strategic investments.” He criticized Garvey for “divisive leadership,” “rhetoric and name calling,” creating a “political wedge issue” on the aquatic center (e.g., calling it “a vanity project,” “gold-plated,” “the Taj Mahal”). “Arlington deserves forward-thinking leaders who bring us together” and about “what’s in it for ALL of us,” not just what’s in it for me.
Here’s a question on Columbia Pike transportation. Note that Garvey repeats her canard that we can have true “Bus Rapid Transit” on Columbia Pike. She also fails to take any responsibility for the fact that 1 1/2 years after she helped kill the streetcar (and the millions in state funding that came with it), there’s been no tangible progress on upgrading transit on the Pike. Gutshall said it’s time to “show some leadership,” that “almost a year and a half has lapsed since the streetcar was canceled, and we’ve had no leadership…When Columbia Pike lags behind, we all lag behind.”
This question is about affordable housing. Gutshall says “this is another example” of lack of leadership, that on Lee Highway, we’ve had a “tremendous grassroots civic-led effort…to jumpstart…reinvention of the future of [that corridor]” (including affordable housing and access to transit), but “unfortunately we’ve had leadership that’s allowing that prime opportunity…to rot on the vine, and instead of moving forward and building on the momentum that we have, now that’s been back-burnered by the County Board, so we risk losing that momentum.”
On I-66 widening, Gutshall says “we need to continue to push, every step of the way, for investment in multimodal transit” and be vigilant about spillover traffic onto local, Arlington streets.
On closing the achievement gap, Gutshall said the County Board “does have a role to play here” in working with the School Board, also in encouraging economic and cultural diversity in the County, noting that “success breeds success.” Gutshall noted that in 2011, despite school overcrowding, Garvey said a “major concern of the School Board was to make sure we don’t OVERbuild schools.”
On government transparency, Gutshall said that as a planning commissioner, he has always supported webstreaming meetings. He said that Garvey was yet again creating a “wedge issue on something that’s not an issue.” Gutshall said government transparency has to be a “two-way street,” citing the “Blue Ribbon panel” shows “an incredible lack of transparency…no public input…I challenge anyone to go read that charge and figure out where’s the transparency…how is this going to involve public input.”
In Gutshall’s closing statement, he said there’s a “very clear choice” — “a direction towards an unelected, 6-member panel, snuck in…with no public input and pushing aside the community facilities study that was the work of 200+ volunteers, I don’t think that that’s the right direction.” Gutshall said we have “serious challenges in front of us” — education, transportation, parks and open space, etc. — but the key is “trust in how we do local government, and that’s the fundamental reason why I’m running.”
Government responsiveness. Gutshall says this has to be a “culture of customer service,” “a culture of how we get to get to yes,” and it has to “come from the very top.”
Accessory Dwelling Units
Affordable housing for older Arlingtonians. Gutshall says there need to be options for older people to stay in the community, and there would be options if we would “move forward with planning” and look at the “missing middle.” Gutshall said that Garvey has proposed cutting tax relief for seniors, but apparently has now “reversed herself.”
Garvey opening statement, in which she claims to have been a lifelong Democrat, including “campaigning for Democratic candidates,” despite the fact that she spent much of the past couple years campaigning AGAINST Democrats and FOR Republican John Vishtadt. Amazing.
Garvey closing statement