Three Democrats are vying for their party's nomination in a special election for the Arlington County Board. Democrats will hold an unassembled caucus this week to pick a nominee. A special election will be held in the spring.
Patch sent a questionnaire to candidates Peter Fallon, Alan Howze and Cord Thomas in advance of the caucus, which will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Key Elementary School and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Kenmore Middle School.
Howze's answers are below.
Name: Alan Howze
Occupation: IBM Strategy Consultant and small business owner
Relevant Experience: I will bring to the County Board a strong combination of experience – government experience on the Hill and in Richmond; extensive community involvement in Arlington; and large and small business experience with a focus on innovative approaches to improve our local government.
1. What would be your top three priorities for Arlington County? Why?
As a County Board member, I would focus on: 1) keeping Arlington schools great and supporting rising enrollments; 2) smart community growth that includes economic development, transportation and affordable housing; 3) strong fiscal management. We must protect our fiscal integrity while continuing to make important investments in our community.
2. What differentiates you from the other candidates in this race?
I bring experience in business, government and community leadership that no other candidate in this race has. And as the only candidate with children attending Arlington Public Schools, I will bring my own personal experiences with school overcrowding to the Board as our community addresses rising school enrollments.
I bring business experience from years working at IBM, where I have focused on bringing innovation to government and working with clients to reduce costs and improve the delivery of government services. I will bring the same scrutiny and focus on innovation to our County government. I also know what it means to be an entrepreneur. Several years ago I started my own small business doing energy audits in Arlington to address the challenge of energy efficiency and global warming.
I bring experience in government. I started my career on Capitol Hill and served as then Governor (now Senator) Mark Warner’s Political Director in Richmond. I understand how government works – and how we can make it work better. I will use those experiences when making fiscally responsible decisions on the County Board.
I bring extensive community leadership experience. I serve as the President of my civic association, Vice-Chair of the Fiscal Affairs Advisory Commission, Board Member of the Alliance for Housing Solutions, active member of the Tuckahoe Elementary School PTA, youth coach with the Arlington Soccer Association, and a member of the Arlington Gay & Lesbian Alliance, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Arlington Committee of 100, Friends of the Arlington Public Library, and Arlington Historical Society. I have also served as a Democratic Precinct Captain and Co-Chair of the Democratic Joint Campaign.
3A. Name one issue you're willing to compromise on for the greater good.
Setting the budget for the County is one of the Board’s most important functions. I would approach budget decisions seeking the best available information, and knowing that compromises would be part of the budget process as different community needs are weighed and discussed. No one gets 100% of what they want in a budget, but I would work closely with the community and Board members to get to YES on a budget that ensures we keep Arlington’s schools great, protects our social safety net, preserves affordable housing, and making important investments for the long-term future of our community.
3B. Name one issue you will not compromise on under any circumstances.
I am guided in decision making by my progressive Democratic values. I believe strongly in freedom, fairness and equality. I will not compromise in efforts to protect the rights of women to choose, or shy away from the fight to bring full equality to our gay and lesbian neighbors. Arlington is at its best when it welcomes immigrants seeking a better life, provides equal rights regardless of sexual orientation, supports a woman’s right to make her own choices, and provides support for the less fortunate among us.
4. Arlington County has invested heavily in maintaining affordable housing for lower-income families. But what about housing for young professionals, or families who may earn too much to be considered "low-income" but still have trouble paying rent here? In other words, what could or should Arlington County do to combat the escalating cost of living for all segments of the population?
Housing affordability is a critical issue for our community. Arlington’s success in building a community with great schools, low unemployment, access to transit and other amenities, means that people want to live in Arlington and are often willing to pay a premium to do so. The downside of this community success is that housing costs have risen rapidly, and the challenge of affordability has driven many people out of the county.
The challenge of affordable housing affects seniors whose rising home appreciation values result in higher real estate taxes that can become difficult to pay on a fixed income. It affects young families who want to send their children to Arlington schools but cannot find affordable housing. It affects middle class residents who are teachers or public safety personnel but who cannot afford a home in Arlington. It affects low-wage workers who can work two or three jobs and still not be able to afford market-rate units in Arlington. And affordable housing affects the most vulnerable among us who are homeless or disabled or infirm and are living on the thinnest of margins.
The loss of market rate affordable housing continues to outpace the supply of new committed affordable housing, making the challenge of affordable housing tougher each year. We should also look at the issue of affordability more broadly – it is not just housing affordability, it is the cost of transportation and access, and utility costs. This is why I support efforts to increase access to transit so that people can get to jobs and the grocery store and elsewhere without having to use a car. It is also why I strongly support efforts to improve building energy efficiency so that we can reduce the percentage of income that people have to pay for heating and cooling – much of which is wasted because of poorly insulated buildings. Concerted efforts to address housing, transportation and utilities can help make Arlington a more affordable community.
5. The planned Columbia Pike Streetcar is only one aspect of a larger attempt to improve transportation and transit across all of Arlington. What's your vision for the future of transportation and transit in this county?
Using smart transportation investments to manage growth in ways that provide benefits to the whole community is the story of Arlington's smart growth – and it is the story of why we as a community are able to spend more per student in our schools than nearly any other county. By focusing on enhancing transit we can create an Arlington that is stronger economically, provides a better quality of life for residents, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Readers can see a fuller explanation of my position on the streetcar on my website – www.alanhowze.com – and why I believe that done right the streetcars in Crystal City and Columbia Pike can benefit all of Arlington.
6. Increasing student enrollment is sometimes said to be a good problem to have — that is, families are moving and staying in Arlington because of its schools. But a finite supply of available land can be more problematic. How would you juggle continued growth with the needs for new or expanded public facilities, open space, and affordable housing?
I would work hard to get to “yes” in finding solutions that meet the needs for expanded facilities, open space and affordable housing. This means we have to think more creatively and harness innovation to drive solutions. With careful planning, these needs do not have to be in competition. The recently completed Arlington Mill Community Center provides an example of how multiple community goals can be achieved in one project.
I will work closely with Arlington’s elected School Board to get to solutions to address our school capacity challenges. I have focused on Arlington schools, and I am proud to have the support of current School Board Member Noah Simon, former School Board member Ed Fendley, and the endorsement of the Arlington Teachers in this race. By working together the County Board and School Board can create solutions that work for our students, our teachers, and the entire community.
7. Name one life lesson you've learned in Arlington and explain how you would apply that to governing.
Raising three children in Arlington is teaching me many lessons – especially the value of Arlington’s many civic-minded residents who volunteer to make this a safe and fun place to live. Pam and I are teaching our children that individual responsibility and cooperation are important personal and community values. On the County Board, I would recognize that governance is important, but that it is only one of the elements required for a vibrant, successful and healthy community.