With the election in just five days, Arlington County Board Democratic nominee Matt de Ferranti is obviously a VERY busy guy these days. So I really appreciate him sitting down for an interview with me this morning. Here are some highlights.
- I asked Matt de Ferranti about his Republican/”Independent” opponent’s comments the other day, at a County Board debate, that he would have voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 if he had thought the election was going to be close. Matt responded, “I do think it’s a relevant consideration…that my opponent could not bring himself to vote for the one credible candidate who could have prevented what I believe will go down in history as the worst president in the history of the United States…anathema to so much Arlingtonians care about.”
- On John Vihstadt’s claim to be an “independent” even though he’s been a lifelong Republican, Matt said “transparency is also about being honest about where you actually stand on the biggest issues, and…I am a Democrat for the ideals…equality of opportunity, education opportunity, investing wisely in affordable housing and renewable energy and working on hunger…my opponent is…a Republican in the vein of the way Republicans were 20 years ago…but my question is, how can [Trump vs. Hillary] be a close call?…I just don’t think most Arlingtonians find it credible…his vote and his explanation for his decision in 2016…[This] isn’t irrelevant to Arlington’s future…immigration, commonsense gun safety…the expansion of Medicaid…I honestly don’t know my opponent’s position on the 2017 gubernatorial race…It’s relevant information that voters in my view can consider as they make their decisions.“
- Some things Matt wants to focus on when he is elected to the County Board include promoting economic equity, lowering the commercial vacancy rate (“we can’t afford the things that make Arlington Arlington without having a lower vacancy rate – there’s no way“), ending child hunger, addressing the school capacity crunch while bringing down construction costs, commercial energy efficiency (CPACE), residential energy efficiency (“it should be as commonplace to get your home weatherized as it is for folks to buy a hybrid car“), etc.
- Matt talked about internal campaign poll results which I found very interesting – and a strong argument for why Arlingtonians should vote for Matt on Tuesday. For starters, 84% of Arlington voters view Trump unfavorably (79% VERY unfavorably), yet John Vihstadt couldn’t bring himself to vote for the one candidate who could have prevented a Trump presidency. Second, on issue after issue, voters are much more with Matt than with John. For instance, 82% of Arlington voters agree that “Arlington County should be a leader in renewable energy and obtain 100% of its energy from renewable sources by 2035.” Also, 81% agree that “No child should go hungry in Arlington County. We must work to end child hunger.” Third, 66% of Arlington voters believe that “we need to be innovative and bold” and that “we need fresh ideas and new voices to start solving problems today” in tackling our challenges (aka, the exact opposite of Vihstadt). Finally, 76% of Arlington voters want someone with a “progressive vision to tackle all the challenges Arlington County faces.” On all of these, it’s not even a close call between Matt de Ferranti, who is with the vast majority of Arlingtonians, and John Vihstadt, who is in the small minority.
- I asked whether there’s any evidence that Vihstadt has any sort of vision for the future of Arlington. Matt responded, “he said…in debate after debate…it’s about working on the nuts and bolts…but I don’t think there is much of a vision at all on economic competitiveness...we need leaders who have thought about what it means to build cybersecurity, renewable energy and energy efficiency technology…that are going to be our future...it has to be the majority of your time thinking about those issues; you can’t get sucked into just land use…you have to be responsive to people, but the community as a whole also has an interest in that leadership to get our economy growing…we really have to have that vision and leadership to convene the thought leaders and grow businesses here.”
- I asked Matt about the argument you always hear from Vihstadt and his supporters about “balance” – and what that means exactly. Matt said that “this board is different from [the previous] board…if you think about the history of Arlington, balance is not enough, if you think about the decisions to desegregate our schools…finally there was leadership to do that…[Also] passing a $54 million bond to underground the Orange Line; we did something that was thoughtful and the right idea before most other communities had considered it and we have benefited so much as a result of it…There’s an argument that fiscal responsibility and restraint is important…and I would be fiscally responsible…Katie and Christian and Erik, there is a focus on fiscal responsibility…But it’s also smart to make good investments…we can’t cut our way to prosperity…and the idea that we can I think is not honest.”
- I asked Matt if he thinks Vihstadt believes in investing in anything. Matt said he might be willing to invest in our schools, but “I don’t hear a lot of solutions to the challenges that [Vihstadt] raises, I more hear concerns; the word in the last three debates we’ve had is ‘I’m apprehensive’ or ‘I’m worried’ and I don’t discount being worried, but living in this world there are always concerns and life is not certain. Arlington has always embraced challenges and moved forward…that’s what we should be doing for the next four years….We have to be thinking about what we CAN do, not just what we CAN’T do…Folks are looking for thoughtful, forward-thinking vision.”
- On what if anything has surprised him about the campaign, Matt responded, “I knew that I loved living in Arlington; I did not know how many extraordinary people would become part of this. I’ve loved the actual campaigning more than I expected to. People every day say extraordinary things. A guy said to me at the Metro this morning, ‘I’ve looked at your platform and I love it.’ Who looks at a platform?”…It’s just been a total joy, both from meeting all of the voters and then we built this power this wonderful team of volunteers. I have one volunteer who has hand addressed over 5,000 postcards for me…She’s amazing.“
- On his favorite Virginia politician, Matt talked about how Tim Kaine is a “special person…brilliant…he’s always looking ahead…he saw early that Barack Obama was the right choice in 2008…And I think the dynamics that he’s in this after not being able to win as vice president, he saw early the need to re-enroll in the work of creating a better Commonwealth of Virginia and a better country…he said ‘tough times don’t last, tough people do,’ and he’s a tough person.“
- Finally, on whether our neighboring jurisdictions are more competitors or people we should be working closely with, Matt said “the reality is that we are both competitors and collaborators…if Arlington focuses on being the best community that we can be we can compete with everyone and anyone and we can grow again and we can also be good partners in the broader region to the benefit of everyone…I do think that there’s an important role that ‘Greater Greater Washington’ has played and the concept of it sort of connects with what you mention…I’m honored to have gotten Greater Greater Washington’s endorsement and I think it encapsulates a lot of good thinking…On Metro that’s an example of you know where some cooperation is necessary…the entire Northern Virginia delegation with the exception of Tim Hugo, is wanting to move us forward and thinks that we need additional transportation funding for non-Metro…That’s an example of where we need to cooperate next year, change who controls the legislature…It very very much impacts us that Delegate Hugo was doctrinaire and told all of the Republican Assembly members we will not allow Northern Virginia to have a 1% increase in their hotel tax to help pay for additional transportation funding; that’s six to twelve million dollars a year we need to address your roads and your bicycle facilities, those connector points that make biking to work possible.”
With that, I encourage every Arlington voter to cast their ballot next Tuesday (or before, if you vote early/absentee) for Democrat Matt de Ferranti, then watch him roll up his sleeves and get to work making Arlington an even greater place to live than it already is!