[Sun Gazette editorials represent the viewpoint of Sun Gazette Newspapers, which provides content to, but is otherwise unaffiliated with, InsideNoVa or Rappahannock Media LLC.]
Those who live in Arlington’s single-family neighborhoods traditionally have dominated the direction of local governance. They are the ones who have controlled the selection of local officials and then, through activism, ensured public policy proceeds the way they desire.
But if Arlington’s 2019 election season taught us anything, it was that – given enough cash to barrage apartment-dwellers with campaign mailers of questionable veracity – it’s possible to sway those folks (who often have short-term interests in a community they do not plan to live in forever) to get out and vote in races that previously had been of purely local import.
Anyone think that, absent the hundreds of thousands thrown in by the Soros brigade, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti would have defeated Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos in June? Even given all that moolah to sway the urban-village corridor, Tafti’s victory was relatively narrow.
(Which brings to mind the purported mantra Joseph Kennedy imparted to his bagmen when he was spreading cash around West Virginia in 1960 so his son John could win the Democratic presidential primary. Don’t go overboard with the largess, Papa Joe reputedly said. I just want him to win; I don’t need to buy him a landslide.)
The result of last June, unseemly though it may have been to many of us, may reverberate in one of the next big issues facing the county’s power structure: the upcoming battle between retention of inviolable single-family zoning and the desire of some to see Arlington vastly expand its housing opportunities through more zoning creativity.
The battle currently is being fought out in places like the Committee of 100 and the Arlington County Civic Federation via verbal jousting, but the rubber will not meet the road until County Board members (current or future) decide to address the issue, one way or another.
The best way to describe the current County Board would be “cautious” – they seem (appropriately) too skittish to enact major revisions to turn zoning into a free-for-all (although there was some movement in that direction earlier this month, with revisions to existing zoning rules). Yet that very wariness to go too far, too fast, might embolden interest groups to anoint new candidates and thrust them into office via well-heeled campaign spending.
The 2019 election season changed the way politics is conducted in Arlington. The impact will be felt in many areas, some of them as yet unknowable. But be prepared: The “woke” culture that was swayed to enact purported criminal-justice reform will be gunning for others – perhaps even single-family neighborhoods – next.