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In one sense, the selection of County Board members in Arlington these days is of less importance than in times gone by. For more than a decade (closing in on two), elected officials largely have deferred to staff rather than providing leadership of their own.
Oh, there are times when public outcry forces a retreat from the staff position on this issue or that, but in general, since the days of County Manager Ron Carlee (a supremely competent administrator), elected officials for the most part have tended to be followers, not leaders.
That tangent aside, voters are now tasked with the choice between two Democrats in the June 8 County Board primary:
• Takis Karantonis, the former executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization who last year won a special election to fill the seat of Erik Gutshall, who died in office; and
• Chanda Choun, an active, engaged and personable Democrat who is now making his third (or fourth, depending on how you do the math) run for the board.
About the biggest knock we can make on the performance of Karantonis over the past year is that he comes off too professorial – this is nuts-and-bolts, fill-the-potholes local governance, not a college civics class.
Beyond that, he’s proved to be smart, informed, thoughtful and willing to go further than some of his colleagues in pushing back on staff recommendations.
Has he had any great initiatives during his almost year in office? Not particularly. He’s learned the ropes, been constructive and gotten the lay of the land. Hard to complain about that.
We like Choun, but he’s got everyone scratching his head as he flits from campaign to campaign.
Last year, don’t forget, Choun initially was going to challenge incumbent Libby Garvey in the Democratic primary – where he at least had an outside chance at victory – but then switched mid-stream to try his hand in the special election, a move many saw as a political blunder.
Give Choun credit for enunciating policy positions – he’s serving up a largely left-of-center agenda with economic-development ideas and commiseration thrown in for the increasing tax burden being shouldered by residential homeowners.
But like so many challengers, Choun isn’t quite telling the electorate what the incumbent is doing, or not doing, to merit being displaced. We are left to figure it out on our own, apparently.
For our part, we are hard-pressed to find significant reasons that TAKIS KARANTONIS doesn’t deserve a full term. We support his bid on June 8.