A lot has happened since I last wrote. Susan Cunningham and Maureen Coffey have won the Democratic primary which was the first primary in Virginia using Rank Choice Voting. Although Maureen was my third choice, I think she will be an excellent Board member and am delighted that she will be joining Susan as one of our two nominees in the November election.
New Board Member
At the Board’s Saturday meeting, we appointed a new Board member, Tania Talento, to take the seat of Katie Cristol until the winners of the November election take their seats in January. Katie resigned her position early to become the first CEO of the Tysons Community Alliance. By Virginia law, we are required to appoint someone to fill out her term. Tania will be quite capable as our interim colleague. She served on the School Board from 2016 to 2020 and was Chair during the pandemic. For Tania’s full bio, see this link:
Rank Choice Voting
The Board decided that we should NOT use rank-choice voting in the November election for County Board. When we approved using RCV in the primary, it was seen as a pilot, and we agreed that we would decide after that election whether to use RCV in the general election in November. While the elections office handled the first rank choice process in excellent fashion and without a problem, and although many people expressed support for the RCV method of voting, several issues with the method became clear to me and my colleagues during the recent election. While RCV is fairly simple to understand and manage when there are several candidates and one seat up, it is not nearly so simple when there are two seats up for election. Indeed, with two seats up there are different ways to count the votes that can yield different results.
Currently, the state code requires that we count the votes by the method called “single vote transferable.” As each candidate is ranked by the number of #1 votes and the candidates with the fewest votes are removed. Their second and third votes are distributed among the remaining candidates until there are only two candidates left. These two candidates have the most original votes and the most 2nd and 3rd votes from those who have dropped out.
One of the results of this is that the candidate who received the most #1 votes, Susan Cunningham in this case, never has their 2nd and 3rd choice votes distributed. Those who voted as I did for Susan #1 never had their second- or third-choice votes counted. Or, as someone said to me “the losers pick the winners.” This method of tabulation can help ensure that different factions of the electorate are represented by a candidate which could be a good thing….or not. No matter whether you think it is good or bad, I believe we need to make the effects of this tabulation very clear to voters and be clear that this is the effect voters want in their elections before using it for a general election with 2 seats up.
Innovation Fund Catalyst Grant Program
As my readers are likely well aware, the transition to remote work after the pandemic is causing major changes in the commercial office building market, a market that is very important to Arlington’s economy. The effects of fewer people going into offices to work will be felt more and more as leases end and building owners are not able to find tenants wanting to lease the same amount of space, if any at all. This will have a major effect on our budget, which I expect will make next year’s and future years’ budgets difficult. Our staff have been working hard to quickly make our zoning more adaptable to the new market conditions.
In recent months, we have made changes to allow indoor farming, dog daycare and other enterprises that were not permitted in the past. We also are working to form an economic ecosystem that attracts and retains businesses, particularly small businesses that will grow. To that end, we authorized the Innovation Fund Catalyst Grant Program which will help address the issue of access to capital that prevents many small individual businesses from growing or starting at all.
We will also use the funds to provide events and programs to support tech businesses that are just starting. There is an application process and a requirement for matching funds to make sure the businesses are viable and that they stay in Arlington for at least 2 years. We are focusing particularly on underrepresented applicants. All of this should help as we compete with the region to drive our economic growth in a time of much-reduced demand for an increasingly large supply of office space. Grants would be at least $25,000 and up to $50,000 for qualifying tech businesses to cover costs that include staff salaries and training, research and development, and commercial real estate. Applications will be evaluated by a competitive process, and the program will be administered by Arlington Economic Development.
The Fourth Turning
Anyone who has talked to me about the current state of the world and our future has heard me talk about The Fourth Turning, a book published in 1997 that looks at demographic trends over time and predicted a major crisis in 2006 that would probably be financial, and several major crises in 2020 such as a pandemic and/or war and/or climate change. The book also said we would see a rise in authoritarianism in 2020. The author, Neil Howe, has just published an update: The Fourth Turning is Here (available, of course, through Amazon). Neil has agreed to present and discuss his newest book here in Arlington on August 7 at 3 pm. It will be a virtual event but live-streamed and you can ask questions, see below for more information.
I found The Fourth Turning, which he wrote with William Strauss, to be very helpful in 2020 when the pandemic arrived along with challenges to our democracy and the murder of George Floyd. When the world seems chaotic, it is helpful to see some underlying patterns. It also is helpful to know what individuals might do to help our communities get through these turbulent times. I am honored to provide a brief introduction at the beginning of the event and look forward to hearing Neil’s discussion. I hope many of my readers can join in online.
This is an Encore Learning Presents event, co-sponsored by the Arlington Public Library.
Simply connect to Zoom just before the event begins. We look forward to seeing you all online!
Please email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Connect to the presentation online via Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84268052749
Or dial in by phone (for audio only): 301-715-8592
Meeting ID: 842 6805 2749
The Board will not hold another regular meeting until September so we will take a break from our regular newsletter as well in August. That said, I always am happy to hear from my readers so feel free to let me know of any thoughts, reactions, suggestions or questions you have for me.