Home Local Politics Actually, Libby Garvey, There IS a “Republican Way to (Not) Fill Potholes”

Actually, Libby Garvey, There IS a “Republican Way to (Not) Fill Potholes”


Throughout the Democratic primary campaign for Arlington County Board, incumbent Libby Garvey — who has spent the past few years allying herself with Republican John Vihstadt — has repeatedly paraphrased the old Fiorello LaGuardia line about how “there is no Republican or Democratic way of picking up the garbage.”

In Libby Garvey’s case, she has stated repeatedly that there’s “no Republican or Democratic way to fill a pothole.” Just a few problems with that: 1) it’s a totally, even wildly, wrong way to look at the purpose and function of local government; 2) it’s not true; and 3) it ignores the fact that supporting Republicans at the local level harms the overall Democratic Party effort to build a “farm team” for state and federal office. Other than that…brilliant! LOL

Seriously, though, what a bunch of bull. The fact is, there is a drastically different view of government – federal, state or local – between the Republican and Democratic parties at this point. I asked a super-smart Virginia Democratic friend (SSVDF) whether he agreed with Garvey in her argument. Here’s his answer, interspersed with my thoughts and edited for length/clarity:

SSVDF: 100% no. The Democratic Way to fix a pothole is to have a community invest in government services. The Republican Way to fix a pothole is to cut taxes, avoid services, outsource pothole filing to a donor’s company, and let everyone’s transmission and alignment suffer.
Lowell: Citing LaGuardias and agreeing with his “no Democratic or Republican way” nonsense is a common trope/cliche at this point. It’s also a false one. In fact, Republicans and Dems are VERY different at this point, whether at the federal, state or local level. The fact is, under Republicans, you’d have a lot MORE potholes because of underinvestment in road maintenance and transit/transportation in general. Intsead, you’d have a focus on cutting taxes for wealthy people, “starving the beast.”
SSVDF: Also, if there is no Republican way to govern, then why is Garvey begging Republicans to cross over to vote for her?  And if you don’t believe your party  affiliation matters,  why seek the Dem nomination? Garvey could have run as an independent, but by seeking the D line, she is saying she wants to be our representative, even as she minimizes our importance and undermines our efforts to create a better Arlington.
Lowell: Because she wants to stay in power and is happy to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal.

I’d also note that local governance is not just a pothole-filling service company, it’s actually real governance, with real consequences for the well-being/welfare of the real people who live in that community. We’re talking about (positive or negative) impacts on schools; transit/transportation, parks/open space, the environment, affordable housing (or not); services for the disabled, homeless, seniors, immigrants, you name it.

More broadly, in keeping with the two parties’ drastically different political philosophies, it’s about the public good vs. private good. It’s about setting priorities. It’s about whose potholes do or don’t get filled (e.g., poorer communities vs. wealthier ones, including in Arlington), and a lot more than that. In sum, the difference between Republicans and Democrats at the local level reflects the parties’ wildly differing philosophies – at the state and federal levels as well – regarding how they solve (or fail to solve) issues that have serious consequences for people.

It’s also, as I noted above, about building a “farm team” for the Democratic Party. Remember where people like Tim Kaine got his start? That’s right, on the Richmond City Council. Barack Obama? In the Illinois state legislature. Ken Cuccinelli? In the Virginia state legislature. I’m not saying that Democrat Alan Howze would have eventually moved up the ranks, but the point is, by Garvey helping Republican John Vihstadt to defeat him, we’ll never find out. 🙁

P.S. I’m not sure what’s so difficult about any of that for Libby Garvey to understand, but the fact that she so clearly doesn’t understand it is another reason to vote for her opponent, Erik Gutshall, in Tuesday’s Democratic (a word Garvey refuses to say in her emails) primary!


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