Last night’s Arlington Young Democrats-sponsored County Board debate simultaneously made it harder for me to make an endorsement decision and also easier in terms of clarifying my thinking about whether/who to endorse in this race. How can both those statements be true?
- On the first point, the debate demonstrated that Arlington Democrats are fortunate to have four strong County Board candidates, progressives, environmentalists and good people. We can all be proud of that fact. Of course, that “embarrassment of riches” also makes it harder to choose among them.
- Notwithstanding what I just wrote, in my view there’s one candidate who best combines a bunch of different qualities that I think would make an excellent County Board member: a) is strongly progressive; b) understands and cares about the importance of environmental protection, cutting pollution, preserving tree canopy and green space, etc.; c) is a strong communicator (unlike some previous Board members); d) has excellent interpersonal/social skills and is not “insular” (as certain previous Board members were accused of being); e) is confident but not arrogant; f) is a consensus builder but strong enough to stand up for what he or she believes is right; g) has a deep knowledge and understanding of Arlington County government; h) has a background/skillset that will be a positive addition to the Board; i) is tough enough for the job – not a pushover, in other words – but also not a jerk; j) has demonstrated a commitment to what the “Arlington Way” – a deep commitment to civic engagement, listening to citizen feedback, etc. – is really supposed to be about.
Now, I do believe that all of the Democrats running for Arlington County Board this year possess most (if not all) of those qualities, to varying degrees. My argument isn’t that any of the other candidates are bad or unacceptable in any way, simply that one candidate best combines all the qualities I mentioned above. And that one candidate – in my view – is Erik Gutshall. A few points from Erik’s website and from his Blue Virginia interview help illustrate what I’m talking about:
- He is the current Chair of the Arlington Planning Commission, a “a citizen advisory board authorized by the Virginia State Code” which “promotes the orderly development of Arlington County and its environs by advising the County Board on development and use of land, facilities and zoning.” In other words, Erik knows Arlington land use, facilities and zoning inside and out.
- He has served as a Civic Association president, which means he understands the concerns of neighborhoods in Arlington and how they relate to the County Board.
- He has been heavily involved with the super non-profit group, Doorways for Women and Families, which “creates pathways out of homelessness, domestic violence and sexual assault leading to safe, stable and empowered lives.”
- He has “a business owner’s perspective, focused on keeping Arlington affordable.”
- He has “deep roots in Arlington, and ha[s] taken concrete steps to plan for school and community needs.”
- He has championed the excellent idea of a “missing middle” approach to housing affordability in Arlington (something that also impacts economic and racial diversity, by the way), one which “incentivizes development of low- and medium-density housing along our transportation corridors that young families, empty-nesters, and everyone in between can afford.”
- He is a parent with kids currently in the Arlington public school system, so he’s clearly concerned with/attuned to the challenges we’re experiencing there.
- He has an excellent, practical strategy for protecting and enhancing Arlington’s tree canopy, streams, natural areas, parks, and biodiversity. That includes things like setting a “goal of no net loss of open space;” and perhaps most intriguingly, “set[ting] as a major multi-generational goal the establishment of an uninterrupted ‘green way’ around Arlington that builds on existing multi-purpose trails, creating a contiguous wildlife corridor circumnavigating the County and ideally within a 15-minute walk of every resident.”
- Finally, not that I believe endorsements are the be-all/end-all by any means, but the fact that so many Arlington current and former elected officials – including County Board Chair Jay Fisette, whose retirement announcement triggered this election – support him indicates that they trust Erik to do a great job on the Board.
Bottom line: Erik has a depth and breadth of experience that few others in Arlington have, plus a personal and professional skillset that qualifies him not just to serve, but to do a great job, on the County Board. I strongly endorse his candidacy and encourage every Arlington Democrat to vote for him (first choice or, if not, second choice) on either May 9, May 11 or May 13.