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Thursday, December 8, 2022
ArlingtonOpinionEditorial: The choice for Arlington County Board

Editorial: The choice for Arlington County Board

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The all-Democratic County Board is hearing from its mostly Democratic constituents, many of whom are (a) not happy in the least about the Missing Middle zoning changes that are about to be shoved down the community’s throat and (b) equally irked by the we-know-better-than-you attitude of County Board members, so reminiscent of a decade or more ago (with different board members but equal haughtiness).

The question for voters in 2022, therefore, is relatively straightforward: Should incumbent County Board member Matt de Ferranti be turned out of office to send a message to those who remain, or is his overall record during the past four years positive enough to merit returning him for a second four-year term?

De Ferranti’s is the lone County Board seat on the ballot; he is being challenged by independents Audrey Clement and Adam Theo. While we are dubious, there appear to be fears within the Democratic oligarchy that these two challengers, despite having little money and even less campaign infrastructure, could cobble together 40 percent of the vote or more and in the process embarrass the usually un-embarrassable ruling county junta.

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But to get to the point at hand, herewith our analysis of the three on the ballot:

• Theo seems a good guy, but he’s even more extreme on Missing Middle than the County Board is. Not our cup of tea in that regard. He’s out of the endorsement sweepstakes, but we appreciate his being in the race.

• As we said in an editorial a few weeks ago, this could have been Clement’s year. Her opposition to Missing Middle finally gives her a wedge issue to successfully hammer away at and exploit. But Clement’s incessant runs for political office spread over more than a decade, coupled with the fact that she doesn’t acquiesce to the necessary evil of raising money to get her message out, are problematic even before you get to some of her views on other issues.

We respect Clement for staying engaged on the civic battleground, which often can be drudgery, and for bringing an informed perspective to civic discourse. Had she been more ambitious about building a real campaign apparatus in 2022, we might well have been willing to consider giving her the endorsement.

• So it comes down to de Ferranti or nothing. (Four years ago, when de Ferranti essentially was a mystery candidate tapped by Democrats to unseat independent John Vihstadt, we went with Vihstadt. Voters did not.)

Frequently, de Ferranti has tried to play it too much down the middle, unwilling to take forceful roles on key issues for fear of alienating anyone. That’s problematic, as the County Board in recent years largely has been rudderless and abdicated its statutory powers to county staff.

But on the other hand, de Ferranti is reasonable and, unlike many politicians, recognizes that we are given ears and mouths in a 2-to-1 proportion for a reason – he does listen, more so than some others on the County Board. He’s been right on many issues, albeit wrong on others (though sometimes less wrong than some of his colleagues).

Aided by an Arlington Democratic get-out-the-vote machine that since 2016 has successfully mobilized and weaponized (we say with grudging admiration) voters who used to pay no heed to local races, de Ferranti is going to win.

We’d bet he garners 61 percent of the vote, for those placing wagers.

We also think that, despite some flaws and despite the fact that such a fair-sized victory might reinforce the view among some County Board members that the public is approving of their current behavior, de Ferranti has merited re-election for a second term.

We endorse MATT DE FERRANTI. Not without reservations, mind you, but when have we not had reservations about anyone on the ballot?

The harsh reality is that dumping de Ferranti would not stop Missing Middle the way the public’s rebellion of 2014 stopped the Columbia Pike streetcar effort. This County Board seems unlikely to fold but will plow ahead with the grim determination of the old Soviet Politburo. Missing Middle is designed to be the legacy of a number of board members; the public’s views, therefore, have little bearing.

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