Home 2017 Races My Endorsement for Arlington County Board: Erik Gutshall

My Endorsement for Arlington County Board: Erik Gutshall


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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  • Perseus1986

    Endorsing the campaign that sponsors your blog… makes sense

    • Riiiiiiight.

      • Perseus1986

        It’s not a criticism, just an observation, unless the fact that the banner link to his campaign website sits right below the words “Blue Virginia Sponsor” means something else…

        • Both Ralph Northam and Tom Perriello run ads on Blue Virginia. Both Susan Platt and Gene Rossi run ads on Blue Virginia. Gonna be a tough call there! LOL

  • FakeyMcFakename

    Surely Arlington County needs higher density housing, especially near Metro stations and bus lines? Also a good opportunity to extract from developers promises of permanently affordable apartments or infrastructure upgrades in return for zoning approvals.

  • DanvilleMayor

    And Erik says he is the outsider running for the Board, but with all the ACDC insiders wanting him on the Board, we know he will do exactly what they want. Anyone who Jay thinks will do a good job scares me. Arlington needs term limits, less affordable housing, less money for those in the country illegally, etc. But, the brain dead Arlington voters will pull the level (fill in the spot) for the anointed candidate. And we will be stuck with more expensive programs.

    Amazing how the county sets 100K aside for illegal immigrants, creates a website that focuses on how illegals can evade the proper authorities, and not cooperate. And NOBODY on the board thought this was a bad thing. Arlington is starting to disgust me.

    • dave schutz

      Danno, you say Mr. Gutshall “..says he is the outsider running for the Board..” – I haven’t seen him say that, though at ArlNow he is quoted: “Gutshall was asked if he is a so-called “party insider” due to the endorsements he has received from a slew of former County Board members and current chair Jay Fisette, who will retire at year’s end. “I think it speaks to the fact that I have worked alongside these people for a number of years,” Gutshall said.”

      What follows is a mash-up of a couple of comments I earlier put up at ArlNow, Danno, so if you saw them there, you may want to skip this. It’s extremely interesting that Mr. Gutshall seems to want to deflect the ‘party insider’ label. I can’t take seriously any idea that he is not: both in the precinct primary last year which he lost to Libby Garvey and in this caucus primary he has stacked up a huge number of insider endorsements, Mary Hynes had an event for him at her house, Jay Fisette has endorsed him, Chris Zimmerman has endorsed him. That said, past party insider candidates Bondi, Howze, Howze II, Schneider, Fallon, and Gutshall do not now have nameplates on the dais in the County Board room. Recent precinct primaries have not yielded the results ACDC insiders hoped for (including Libby Garvey’s nomination in preference to Mr. Gutshall last time), and – hey presto! – ACDC insiders chose to do a caucus primary instead of a precinct primary this time. The idea that he’s not the party insider is risible, and that he seems to think that this label is not good for him seems to me pretty significant.

      He has put in a lot of time in the County commission/citizen committee system and seems to understand it very well. Energetic, and his stress on the ‘missing middle’ is interesting – though I have never heard him follow that out to any conclusion about the extent to which our extraction of affordable housing money from developers makes ‘missing middle’ housing more difficult to provide. He is clearly a consensus candidate of the Arlington Dem Party insiders, and that’s a group which won election after election after election here, until suddenly it didn’t. Well qualified. It’s interesting that the Arlington Dem Party insiders have coalesced around him rather than Peter Fallon, who was one of the Arlington Dem Party insiders candidates in the 6-way primary, and seems similarly well qualified and experienced.

      One of – well, two of – the most interesting incidents for me personally in the runup two years ago to the 6-way: two friends each asked me who were the old guard’s consensus candidates, and I told each of them that it seemed pretty clear that they were Schneider and Fallon. And each of these voters said she would look to the other four (one picked Dorsey + Cristol, the other Dorsey + Lander). So these were voters who actively wanted Democrats, but NOT Arlington Dem Party insider Democrats. I have no idea how large that voter group is, Danno, though I am going to guess that you, if you are in fact a Dem, are one of them? And that kind of attitude, if he thinks it’s widespread, would go a long way towards explaining Mr. Gutshall’s skittishness about being called ‘party insider’.

      The Arlington Dem Party insiders whooped through the caucus primary choice at ACDC, and that seems to me to have been because they believe their candidate will do better with the smaller, older, more established-Dem electorate which turns out for caucus primaries. We’ll see how it works. There is a certain amount of bad memory in some voters (I am one of them) about the ‘Libby wants to throw Granny into the street’ flyer which Mr. Gutshall put out last time. I heard sour remarks about his last campaign at the Committee of 100 meeting (and Committee of 100 people are the type who go to caucuses!) couple weeks ago. During the last campaign Mr Gutshall made a great display of his loyalty to the Dems, and of anger at Libby’s apostasy in having backed John Vihstadt, that’s going to be more popular with the voters in this caucus primary than it was with precinct primary voters. So I do think he’s the likely victor, particularly because of the choice to do a caucus primary.

    • Jason Rylander

      Arlington’s average home price is nearly $675,000 and you think we should have less affordable housing? I’m proud that Arlington stands up for all of our residents.

      • This person also used the dehumanizing, racist word “illegals” to describe human beings, so…

        • DanvilleMayor

          So what would you call someone in your home who was not invited. They are just an undocumented guest in your home.
          These people are illegally in this country. And if these folks don’t like the term, then return to wherever they came from so they are no longer illegally in this country.

        • DanvilleMayor

          And how is it racist to call someone illegal. I don’t care if you came from Canada, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, South America. I don’t care if they are black, white or purple. If you are not here legally, go home. You want to treat them special and give them everything and then some. The rest of us get to pay for that.

          • This isn’t complicated. See Why You Shouldn’t Use the Term “Illegals” (“Not only is it offensive, it’s dehumanizing.”); ‘No human being is illegal’: linguists argue against mislabeling of immigrants; ‘Illegal immigrant’ no more:

            “The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term 「illegal immigrant」 or the use of 「illegal」 to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that 「illegal」 should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.”

          • DanvilleMayor

            They are still in the country illegally. And all the PC crap won’t change that. People like you want to wave a magic wand and think it will go away. It won’t. If we don’t have secure borders, and tough immigration laws, then we may as well just open our borders and become the cesspool that Europe is becoming. Oh well. All Arlington wants from me is my money. So they can spend it helping those who came here illegally, work here illegally, and get housing paid for by taxpayers. Nice gig.

          • Let’s just quickly review what Arlington County spends its money on.


            Total expenditures: $1.548 billion
            County Government: $730.7 million
            Schools: $581.9 million
            Utilities (including utilities capital): $119.5 million
            Police: $65.8 million
            Affordable housing: $57.3 million
            Fire: $56.5 million
            Sheriff: $41.6 million
            Parks and Recreation: $40.0 million
            Transportation capital: $36.6 million
            etc., etc.

            So where’s the expenditure for “helping those who came here illegally, work here illegally, and get housing paid for by taxpayers?” Not finding it.

          • dave schutz

            Danno, you should note that this is a guy who wants to have a commenter say ‘streetcar’ instead of ‘trolley’…

          • Fabio Rubiera

            Thank you for standing up for the rights of purple people. /s

      • DanvilleMayor

        Less than 1/3 of the people in affordable housing in Arlington work in Arlington. Which completely obliterates the argument that we should pay for people to live near where they work.

        There are people who live in affordable housing in Arlington who work in Loudoun County, Prince William, PG, Montgomery, etc.

        If they work there, why shouldn’t those taxpayers pay to provide their housing. Makes no sense to me that we have to pay for them.

        • Jason Rylander

          I question your statistics (and their relevance given that Arlington is so small and the majority of our residents likely commute to DC and other juristictions), but no doubt there are a few. And there are far more people who live well outside of Arlington who commute into it. Perhaps if those jurisdictions provided affordable housing and efficient transportation as well more people could live near their work.

          • DanvilleMayor

            Google Affordable housing in Arlington County. They did the survey themselves. They published the numbers, not me.

            Again, why should Arlington residents pay to support workers who are not working here. It defeats the whole argument people use about affordable housing.

      • Arlington needs to do a lot more to make housing affordable in our county, well beyond dedicated affordable housing assistance. For instance, I’ve recommended for years that Arlington do whatever it can to increase the supply of housing (shift the supply curve outwards), preferably near transit, in Arlington. Right now, because it’s so expensive to live in Arlington, people are forced to live further out, which costs them commuting time and money (an extra car is very expensive to own/operate/insure) plus harms the environment and increases fossil fuel consumption/pollution. That’s all in part due to Arlington not having sufficient housing in a price range that’s affordable to all income levels.

  • disqus_yJb6ycEy0r

    Lowell what about the other candidates? Im a tad disappointed that you don’t offer much comparison with the different experiences and priorities of the other candidates. Peter’s experience on the planning board is extensive and his commitment to disadvantaged groups rivals if not exceeds Erik’s, and Kims perspective as a first responder and Viveks experience as an immigrant and entrepreneur is worth considering.

    • I noted that I thought we had four excellent candidates, all good people who I ike. I have no desire to get into anything negative here, would rather stick to a positive endorsement of Erik and leave it at that.

  • From the Erik Gutshall for Arlington County Board campaign:

    Delegates Lopez, Sullivan Endorse Gutshall

    Arlington, VA — Today, Delegates Alfonso Lopez and Rip Sullivan endorsed Erik Gutshall in the Democratic firehouse primary for the Arlington County Board on May 9, 11, and 13.

    “Erik Gutshall has the experience, passion, and progressive values that Arlingtonians deserve from their County Board members,” said Delegate Lopez. “Erik’s extensive experience in transportation, planning and entrepreneurship will bring a unique voice to the County Board, and I trust Erik to fight every day for all Arlingtonians.”

    “Erik’s impressive resume as a small business owner and community activist will bring a valuable voice to the County Board,” said Delegate Sullivan. “As a father of children enrolled in Arlington County’s public schools, Erik understands the importance of supporting our public schools. As an entrepreneur, Erik appreciates strong financial stewardship. Finally, as a civic leader, Erik respects the value of broad community input.”

    “I am honored to earn the support of Delegates Lopez and Sullivan,” said Gutshall. “In the General Assembly Delegates Lopez and Sullivan, both members of the Democratic leadership, have championed efforts in support of working class families, like housing affordability, education and transportation. As state leaders, they understand the importance of working together with regional partners, appreciate responsible budgeting, and have a record of putting progressive values into action. On the County Board, I’ll work closely with our partners in Richmond and the region to make Arlington an even better place to live, work and raise a family.”

    Delegates Lopez and Sullivan join Senator Barbara Favola in supporting Gutshall. Every current state legislator who represents Arlington and who has endorsed in the Democratic firehouse primary has endorsed Gutshall.