Three Democrats are vying for their party's nomination in a special election for the Arlington County Board. Democrats will hold an unassembled caucus this week to pick a nominee. A special election will be held in the spring.
Patch sent a questionnaire to candidates Peter Fallon, Alan Howze and Cord Thomas in advance of the caucus, which will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Key Elementary School and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday at Kenmore Middle School.
Thomas' answers are below.
Name: Cord Thomas
Occupation: Entrepreneur/Arlington Small Business Owner
Relevant Experience: Founder of enviroCAB — The Nation’s first all hybrid taxi fleet. Founding partner of Elevation Franchise Ventures (Elevation Burger), which currently operates over 40 restaurants in seven different countries.
1. What would be your top three priorities for Arlington County? Why?
My top priorities for Arlington are fiscal responsibility; addressing the 20% percent commercial vacancy rate; and maintaining and improving our existing education, infrastructure, public safety and green space programs.
First, I believe that being fiscally responsible with our tax dollars is critical. We cannot continue to over spend on capital projects such as Million Dollar Bus Stops and Over-Budgeted Dog Parks. My priority is to take evaluate the process from a business owner perspective with a result that spends tax revenue more effectively and efficiently. As an Arlington business owner, homeowner and tax payer I will be a champion for better stewardship of our tax dollars.
Secondly, my business background provides a unique perspective when attracting new businesses to Arlington and bettering relationships with existing businesses. Through my leadership, I will address the 20% commercial vacancy rate. Leading to more commercially based tax revenue, so that the tax burden on our citizens-many of which are seniors will be offset. Arlington will then be able to afford essential services such as education, public safety and infrastructure.
Lastly, Arlington is a great place to live and I intend to fully support and protect our schools, our green space and to look for strategic ways to improve our infrastructure.
2. What differentiates you from the other candidates in this race?
I am the only Democratic Candidate in this race with business experience. I know how to get things done in an effective and timely manner. I know how to develop a business plan, budget and I will be the only board member who has ever had to meet a payroll. I am not a career politician but a business owner seeking to make a difference in my community. As a business owner and in my personal life I know of the importance a community can make on your success. I was an orphan at 15 and dependent on social safety net programs and as a board member I will ensure the funding and viability of these critical programs.
3. Name one issue you're willing to compromise on for the greater good. Name one issue you will not compromise on under any circumstances.
Compromise is the hardest but best thing that an elected official can do for their constituents. I would consider compromising on capital improvement projects that have been proposed in the past. For example, I believe that an aquatics center would be great for the Arlington Community but not at double the projected cost. Finding a reasonable and affordable alternative that still meets community benefit would be a compromise all Arlington Citizens would appreciate.
One issue I will not compromise on is protecting programs geared towards our seniors. We cannot allow our senior population to be priced out of their homes and community.
4. Arlington County has invested heavily in maintaining affordable housing for lower-income families. But what about housing for young professionals, or families who may earn too much to be considered "low-income" but still have trouble paying rent here? In other words, what could or should Arlington County do to combat the escalating cost of living for all segments of the population?
As a young professional living in Arlington for nearly 10 years and a recent home-buyer, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to be able to afford housing in Arlington. We should look at our zoning codes and see if we can improve upon our inventory of mixed-use spaces. This would enable new development to be more flexible, thus lowering costs for everyone.
5. The planned Columbia Pike Streetcar is only one aspect of a larger attempt to improve transportation and transit across all of Arlington. What's your vision for the future of transportation and transit in this county?
My vision for improving our infrastructure does not include just one mode of transportation, but a tiered approach. Columbia Pike businesses and residents need a more sustainable and efficient form of transportation immediately. I am open to a number of options as long as it does not create a never ending construction project that ultimately drives business out of the corridor. We can develop a cutting edge bus rapid transit system that will immediately enhance the Columbia Pike and allow for growth NOW. I also envision a greener infrastructure plan with more sidewalks and bike paths. As the founder of a transportation company, I feel as though I have the perspective to see these types of projects through on time and on budget.
6. Increasing student enrollment is sometimes said to be a good problem to have — that is, families are moving and staying in Arlington because of its schools. But a finite supply of available land can be more problematic. How would you juggle continued growth with the needs for new or expanded public facilities, open space, and affordable housing?
It is a “good” problem that comes with its various consequences. We should focus on building up and not out. We should look to at non-traditional design where mixed use or dual use space could be provided. By bringing new businesses to the area to increase our tax base, we can ensure that we are keeping housing affordable by not putting the rising costs of education onto our most vulnerable populations.
7. Name one life lesson you've learned in Arlington and explain how you would apply that to governing.
Listen and then speak. I’ve learned we (community leaders, elected officials) need to focus on listening to our neighbors in a much better way. We should listen before we speak and discuss before we develop. I often hear Arlingtonians say, “it doesn’t matter they won’t listen to me” or “they only listen to the same 40 people”. I hope to change that sentiment when elected and I will make it a priority to expand reach outside the perceived circle.
As a small business owner, I have to step back and listen to the customers and as an elected official I will do the same with Arlington Residents. I would accomplish this by knocking on doors year-round, not just during an election. This is a great way to get the ground-level feeling on what the real issues are and what is really important to Arlingtonians. People want to feel safe and their opinions matter. That is the life lesson I’ve learned on this campaign and will be my priority as a member of the County Board.
My Name is Cord, and I’m running for Board.