Questions For Each Arlington County Board Candidate

Monday, May 25, 2015

(These seem like serious and fair questions to me, so I'm promoting the diary... - promoted by lowkell)

On June 9th, Arlington Democrats will nominate two candidates for the County Board seats being vacated by Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada. Though there have been many debates and candidate forums, there still are some unanswered questions about the candidates that I have been hearing through the grapevine.  With two weeks left in the campaign, it's important that the candidates have an opportunity to address some of the harder-hitting questions that many Arlington Democrats have been asking behind-the-scenes but that have not come up in debates or forums. Therefore, below I have posed questions to each candidate, and I invite them to respond in the comments section. Questions are posed to the candidates in alphabetical order.Katie Cristol
Many people have questions about your professional background. You work for Education First Consulting, which seems to advocate on behalf of, among other things, charter schools. For example, one of the clients listed is the SEED Foundation, which supports charter schools across the country. Furthermore, many of the high-ranking Education First staff listed on the firm's website come from charter school backgrounds and have either founded or lobbied for charter schools across the United States. What is your position on charter schools, and would you support them as a member of the County Board?Furthermore, over the weekend the Arlington Education Association's PAC endorsed Christian Dorsey and Peter Fallon.  This seems odd given the fact that you work as an education consultant. How do you explain the AEA not supporting your candidacy?
Christian Dorsey
At two different debates, candidates were asked if they would support Libby Garvey or John Vihstadt for Board Chair.  Traditionally the chair rotates among board members, and so it is likely that Garvey, and possibly Vihstadt, will become chair during their tenure. However, a more important question is whether or not you will commit to not supporting John Vihstadt for County Board in 2018. One of your top supporters, Peter Rousselot, was instrumental in John Vihstadt's win last year, and your campaign manager was on Vihstadt's campaign staff. Assuming Libby Garvey wins re-election next year, she will likely again support Vihstadt's re-election. Given the close ties between your top supporters/staff and John Vihstadt's, will you commit now to supporting a Democrat for County Board in 2018?
ArlingtonObserver123 :: Questions For Each Arlington County Board Candidate
Peter Fallon
Your long history of service to Arlington County is commendable and much appreciated, and it's likely why the Washington Post endorsed your candidacy. However, some believe that, evidenced by your 2012 and 2014 campaigns for County Board, it was all in preparation for a run for elected office. I think even you would agree that if you lose this time your political career is likely finished. Thus, if you do not win the nomination on June 9th, will you commit to still continuing to serve Arlington in non-elected capacities even without a future in elected office?
James Lander
Many view your decision to seek the chairmanship of the School Board while simultaneously holding a full-time job and running for the County Board as irresponsible. At a time when our schools face critical issues, our children and teachers deserve a full-time School Board Chair, not someone juggling other responsibilities while focusing on running for higher office. Furthermore, questions have arisen about your work ethic on the School Board, and how prior to becoming Chair, you would oftentimes come to meetings unprepared. When Barbara Kanninen challenged you in 2013, her supporters claimed you were absent from roughly 50% of meetings. How do you justify your decision to seek the chairmanship and higher office, and will you commit to making the County Board a full-time job?
Andrew Schneider
Last year you seemingly came out of nowhere to run for Delegate in the 48th District. Only a few short months later you were making it known to the Arlington Democrats that you were running for County Board, leading some to believe that you just want to be an elected official. If you could choose between being a member of the County Board or being a member of the House of Delegates, which would you choose? Why?
Bruce Wiljanen 
Last reporting period, you reported receiving only $1400-- $200 as an in-kind contribution and $1200 worth of loans from yourself. In a Countywide primary election where voter contact is critical and expensive, and turnout is expected to be around 10,000, do you really have a shot at winning? Can you convince people that voting for you isn't a waste of one of their two votes?

Response from Katie Cristol (4.00 / 1[delete comment]
Hi, BlueVirginia and community: Thanks for the opportunity to address concerns directly.I'm always glad to have a conversation with neighbors and fellow progressives on charter schools; I think there's some interesting debate within our party right now. The short answer is that I'm anti-bad charters, and think that districts and states that grant charters freely and then don't move quickly to shut down poorly-performing charter operators are violating the public trust; and I'm pro-good charters, because they've demonstrated a powerful counterexample to the tired trope that "poor kids/kids of color can't learn" and forced us to have some difficult conversations about what it would take to close achievement gaps at scale.  If anyone wants to hear - or share - more, shoot a note to my team and me at - let's talk!
But the more relevant answer to this campaign is that our County Board has little, if any, role on the authorization of charter schools in Arlington - that role is specifically delegated to School Boards under Virginia's current charter laws - and I'm absolutely NOT looking to expand the County Board's influence on the issue or push the School Board in any direction. (If folks have particular hypothetical County Board situations or votes in mind, I'm happy to respond to them).
Regarding the Arlington Educators Association endorsement: I can't speak for them, but I think they had great candidates to choose from and that a lot of folks in Arlington are making hard decisions - and congratulations to Peter and Christian on earning their endorsement. I CAN tell you that charter schools didn't come up at all in our conversation or in their questionnaire (and if the AEA is comfortable, I'd be happy to share my answers to that questionnaire publicly on BlueVirginia).