After serving since 2004, Delegate Al Eisenberg is retiring. Thanks to Mr. Eisenberg for representing my district these past five years in Richmond. His staff was responsive to my questions and concerns during legislative sessions, and for the most part I agreed with his votes and proposed legislation.
Five Democrats are competing in a primary for his seat. No Republicans have filed to run against the winner of the Democratic Primary, so this primary looks like it will determine the winner of the seat. These elections are typically very low turnout (around 2000-5000 votes compared to 10,000 to 25,000 for a general election), so your vote could be very important in this race.
If you’re a Virginia Democrat, please remember to go vote on June 9th. There’s also a three-way nomination contest for Governor, between Creigh Deeds, Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe.
The 47th District (map below) stretches from the East Falls Church metro station, where I live, all the way down to Columbia Pike, over to Ballston and Virginia Square metro stations.
View Virginia House of Delegates District 47 in a larger map
I sent questionnaires about transit to all of the delegate candidates for the 47th District, Miles Grant and Alan Howze responded (links to their responses on scribd). I’m still waiting for Patrick Hope, Adam Parkhomenko, and Andres Tobar.
Miles’ experience comes from his blog "The Green Miles" and groups like Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment; his strong suit is definitely the environment. He’s got Greater Greater Washington in his blogroll, and he appears to be running his largely self-financed campaign on a shoestring. Miles has pledged to keep his campaign carbon neutral, and states publicly how he is minimizing his impact through using recycled materials and reusing things as much as possible. He updates regularly on twitter (@milesgrant), and responds to questions fairly quickly. He seems the candidate most comfortable personally with Web 2.0 technology.
Alan comes to the campaign an experienced political director for Governor Warner, and liason to the House and Senate Delegations. He’s worked closely with the Democratic leadership in Richmond. His environmental credentials are no less sterling than Miles’. He started his university’s first comprehensive recycling program, and is a member of the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club. He worked directly with the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources, and is starting a home energy audit business. He lives with his wife and two children in the Westover area. He is a regular bicycle commuter.
Both Grant and Howze are supportive of the Columbia Pike streetcar project, and both acknowledge that the local residents are apprehensive about the changes the project will bring. Grant states that the issues can be managed, while Howze more specifically states that the County Board should address some of those issues. While Grant expressed support for other transportation improvements like Lee Highway and a Beltway metro (in the very long term), Howze did not mention any additional transit lines in his response.
Both candidates stated that BRT was a valuable option, but only Grant specifically mentioned the development advantage with rail transit: “Would a business set up shop on the Pike because there’s a rapid bus as opposed to a regular bus”? Howze mentioned that there was no one right answer and the mode decision would have to be made on a case basis.
Howze had a much stronger response to a question about how to raise more money for transit, being able to cite his experience working for Governor Warner, and passing legislation through the General Assembly. Grant is basically only able to say that he’ll make the case that blocking transit funding is blocking economic growth. It may be true, but it might not be enough to convince the house GOP, which has until now blocked any new general taxes for transit.
Both candidates gave similar responses to a question about how we make sure transportation funding goes where it’s most effective, essentially committing to striving to get Northern Virginia its fair share, but other than that neither candidate’s answer really stood out. Grant cited the need for a “radically different set of policies”, and Howze cited his experience working at a statewide level.
Both candidates oppose widening 66, citing that increasing highway capacity will just encourage more use. They both support increasing transit capabilities as a tool for reducing highway congestion. Grant more directly mentioned affordable housing as a method of reducing congestion, mentioning that he’d prefer making it easier for a teacher to live in Arlington as opposed to commuting from Warrenton.
Both candidates were for allowing localities to require building standards similar to LEED, and for allowing localities broader powers to address their local concerns. I think both candidates pointed out difficulties with LEED but were supportive of LEED’s intent. As part of his training to be an energy auditor, Howze has studied for the LEED certification.
Both candidates support an increase in the gas tax. Grant supports if the money is carefully appropriated, with a concern that the tax revenue could be sent to other parts of the state. When asked whether fixed-cost fees like licensing and titling were preferable, Grant said that he preferred mileage-based fees because they affect the occasional driver less than the daily long-haul commuter. I think Howze brought up a great point that any fees or taxes need to be stable so that the Commonwealth can raise bonds against them.
I’m split between the two of them. Both candidates have been responsive to questions, understand Northern Virginia’s transportation issues, and understand the link between good transit and land use. It’s unfortunate that you’re only allowed to pick one, I’d prefer a ranked choice voting system or some system that allowed me to vote for more than one.
If other candidates respond to my questions I’ll try to pass that information along.
I’m specifically not making an endorsement other than to say that either Grant or Howze are clearly bright individuals with the experience they need for the office. As Northern Virginia Democrats, they have similar views on transportation, taxes, public finance and social issues. Mr. Howze appears to bring more directly applicable experience to the office, having worked for Virginia public officials, while Mr. Grant appears to have a better feel for the many interlinked topics when it comes to planning, land use, transportation and the environment. At this point, I’m going to vote for one of the two, I’m just not sure which one.