Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Northern Virginia Sierra Club Endorses Alan Howze for Arlington County Board

Campaign finance laws may let the Koch brothers spend as much as they want on elections, but they make it much harder for local conservation groups to get involved in local elections. Tax-exempt non-profits known as a 501c3s can't get involved in elections and it costs something like $10,000 to set up a 501c4 political wing, so if your group only has a budget of, say, $75,000 for the entire year, having a say in local politics can be prohibitively expensive.

The Sierra Club makes campaign endorsements a priority on the national, state and local levels, and it's desperately needed to elevate conservation and transit-oriented growth in races like this:
The Sierra Club is pleased to announce its endorsement of Alan Howze in the Democratic Caucus on January 30 and February 1 for the the Arlington County Board.

Running in a strong field, we are endorsing Mr. Howze given his depth of knowledge and understanding of the key environmental issues facing the County, including his support of the Columbia Pike streetcar, which the Sierra Club supports as vital to the future of the growing community along Columbia Pike. In endorsing Mr. Howze, we recognize that such a significant investment in transit will require close monitoring by the County Board and its staff. We applaud Mr. Howze all the more for so clearly outlining the long-term benefits of the streetcar, which the Sierra Club views as the defining transit investment in Arlington – perhaps as significant to the County in promoting smart growth as Metrorail was to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor a few decades ago.
When I ran for Virginia House of Delegates in 2009, Alan was one of my Democratic primary opponents and I told campaign volunteers at the time that if I hadn't been running, I'd have voted for Alan. Considering the winner of that primary, Patrick Hope, has been a great delegate and one of Virginia's most progressive state legislators, that's saying something.

Since then, Alan has worked as a certified home energy auditor providing residential energy audits & efficiency improvements, served as president of the Highland Park-Overlee Knolls Civic Association, and has been active in local Democratic politics. Plus - and TOTALLY MOST IMPORTANTLY YOU GUYS - he was a supporter of Westover Beer Garden in its battle to protect fun from overzealous county regulators.

The proposed Columbia Pike Streetcar has become a key issue in this race and Alan understands that this issue isn't just about whether the project can pass some economist's dry cost-benefit analysis - Columbia Pike needs and deserves this investment. Throwing some new buses the Pike's way would save money, but it wouldn't provide the redevelopment spark of a permanent investment in streetcars, sending a clear message to prospective residents and businesses that pinching pennies mattered more than making life on the Pike better. Also, it's odd that one urban streetcar project would get such scrutiny when suburban road projects get truckloads of money dumped into them without the austerity crowd blinking an eye.

So if you're in Arlington, go vote for Alan in this weekend's Democratic caucus and in the special election in early April (date TBD). And even if you're not in Arlington, go like Alan's Facebook page, because conservation candidates everywhere deserve your support.

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