Home 2019 Elections Endorsement: Erika Yalowitz for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (Providence District)

Endorsement: Erika Yalowitz for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (Providence District)

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The June 11 Democratic primaries are fast approaching, so I suppose it’s time to put up or shut up in terms of who I support. 🙂  Also, I just saw how Greater Greater Washington (GGW), which I greatly respect (for its relentless, smart, persuasive advocacy in support of an “inclusive, diverse, growing Washington, DC region where all people can choose to live in walkable urban communities”), endorsed for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, and that’s definitely factoring in to my thinking.

Also factoring in to my thinking, but in the opposite/negative way, is the Washington Post’s/Lee Hockstader’s all-male, all-“establishment” endorsement editorial the other day. From what I can tell, there’s been a “hella” backlash to that one, at least on social media, and for good reason IMHO. So anyway, that’s playing around in my head right now, along with the GGW endorsement post, plus what I’ve read and seen the past few months from the various candidates.

With that, I’m going to start today by endorsing Erika Yalowitz for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (Providence District). Here are my reasons.

  • I’ve had the chance to sit down with two of the candidates in Providence District – Erika Yalowitz and Phil Niedzelski-Eichner – and talk to them at length. Other than that, I haven’t spoken to the other three (Edythe Kelleher, Dalia Palchik, Linh Hoang), although I’ve certainly been impressed with much of what I’ve seen from them. However, I can’t say I was *more* impressed with any of the three I didn’t speak with (note: of those three, I’d say that Edythe Kelleher came across to me as most impressive – knowledgeable, experienced, progressive, etc.), so that basically narrowed my choice down to Yalowitz and Niedzelski-Eichner.
  • As for Niedzelski-Eichner, GGW points to a recent mailer of his (see image, below), which I’d also seen several days ago, about which they are really, really not pleased. Here’s what GGW has to say: “We wanted to give a dishonorable mention to this mailer from candidate Phil Niedzielski-Eichner…Many people do live on top of each other quite effectively and affordably in some of Fairfax County’s excellent apartment buildings. And while Niedzielski-Eichner has been supportive of density in some areas and not everyone may want to live in a multifamily building, this mailer takes a pejoratively anti-urban attitude we cannot condone. Niedzielski-Eichner was also the only candidate who answered our questionnaire whose top transportation priorities were about road widening (or so it sounds from how he talked about ‘traffic mitigation’).”
  • Honestly, I had a similar reaction to Niedzelski-Eichner’s mailer, even though – as he explained to me in a recent exchange we had – on the “flip side” from the strange “We can’t live on top of each other” graphic, he talked about how he “believes in growth in the right areas,” “supports innovative solutions to our growth” and “knows housing affordability is a problem.” But yeah…that image just really sticks in my mind – see below and click to “embiggen” – and not in a good way, at all. So…unfortunately, even though I’m very impressed with Niedzelski-Eichner in many ways (e.g., he’s got a great deal of experience, very impressive background), that mailer – along with GGW’s comments and the WaPo pissing me off – really tips the scales for me to endorse someone else.

  • Another factor in my mind is that Fairfax County is a VERY diverse community – “majority minority” or close to it. Despite this, Fairfax County currently has a board that, with only one African American and no Latinos, no immigrants, and no Asian-Americans, definitely doesn’t look like the county’s demographics. Also consider that the members who are retiring include its only minority member (Cathy Hudgins, who is African American), and three Democratic women overall (Linda Smyth in Providence District, Cathy Hudgins in Hunter Mill District, Board Chair Sharon Bulova). Which means that, if these supervisors are all replaced by white guys (as the WaPo wants) – with one exception, Rodney Lusk, who is an African-American man – the board will become even *less* diverse than it is now. And sorry/not sorry, but going backwards on diversity right now, given the makeup of Fairfax County, the white-supremacist-sympathizing occupant of the White House, the “blackface” scandals in Virginia, etc., is simply not acceptable IMHO.
  • Fortunately, one of the candidates running in the Providence District Democratic primary – Erika Yalowitz – combines a bunch of factors that tip me towards deciding to endorse her. Those include: a) she’s a passionate and committed progressive on every issue, as far as I can determine; b) she’s strong on the issues GGW cares about (“smart growth,” equity, etc.) – they said she gave “many excellent answers to our questionnaire”; c) she’s a passionate environmental activist and advocate (e.g., see here for her work thoughts regarding saving Blake Lane Park); d) she’s an immigrant from Colombia, a Latina and a woman, adding MUCH-needed diversity to the County Board; e) she has an impressive record of civic involvement, including the Tysons Partnership, the Fairfax Federation of Citizens Associations, the Providence District Council, the Virginia Menstrual Equity Coalition, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee; f) her work history is impressive as well, including the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Service Unit in Arlington and the Office for Women and Domestic & Sexual Violence (OFWDSVS) in Fairfax; g) from talking to her, I can confidently say that she’s got a great deal of commitment, passion, energy and integrity for public service – in other words, she’s doing this for the right reasons.
  • Finally, I’d note that Yalowitz is not the “establishment” pick in this race (that would be either Palchik or Niedzelski-Eichner), and that this really brings us back to Sean Perryman’s excellent post about “power and how groups try to maintain it.” As Perryman wrote, “When we look around the current political landscape and see elected officials that do not represent our interest and do no look like their constituents, it’s because people with power are usually the ones deciding who is deserving of taking power. And these powerful individuals put up artificial barriers for entry. And they decide who may pass.” In this case (as in most cases), the “people with power” are most comfortable with the candidates they “know” and are “comfortable with,” which is understandable of course, but no particular reason for voters to simply follow their lead. Instead, I’d encourage everyone in Providence District, and elsewhere, to research the candidates themselves and come to their own decisions who they want to represent them. You know, that whole “informed and engaged citizenry” thing. 🙂 For my part, I’ve informed myself sufficiently to where I’m convinced that Erika Yalowitz would make an excellent Providence District Supervisor, which is why I’ve written this endorsement.