This was supposed to be the Year of the Angry Voter, when pent-up November frustrations, climbing tax bills and a moving van full of new candidates would provoke wild-eyed fervor for the May 6 elections.
So much for that foolishness. Arlington’s hottest city council race came to the Webb neighborhood for a forum Saturday morning, and the voters barely outnumbered the candidates.
A breakfast buffet for 20 went nearly untouched at Masonic Lodge No. 1454 as an audience of four lodge members heard tax hawk Pablo R. Frias, veteran campaigner Marvin Sutton and promising political newcomer Roxanne Thalman explain why each should succeed retiring Councilman Robert Rivera.
Only one of the four voters actually lived in District 3, and his fervor primarily seemed to involve Arlington’s recent ban on barroom smoking.
Even for a city where an average 1 in 20 voters turns out for most city and local elections, it was a tepid response, particularly since District 3 is the only open council seat and mailboxes are filled with fliers for or against applying state civil service rules to city firefighters.
For the candidates, it was 90 minutes they could have spent knocking on doors. But they stayed and gently answered questions about civil service, smoking and two less frequent City Hall issues, patriotism and flag-burning.
Sutton, 54, actually broke from the others and staked a new position, saying he now supports firefighters’ civil service (Proposition 2) after earlier saying he was uncertain.
8miles from the Webb neighborhood in southeast Arlington to City Hall.
“I thought it would hurt the city financially, but it doesn’t,” he said.
Thalman, 34, aimed for the political middle-right where most Arlington elections are won. She said she is neutral on civil service but agreed with the council on the smoking ban, while explaining that she did not “wholeheartedly” support the broader proposal by Smoke Free Arlington.
Frias, 28, is a liberty-minded conservative working to overcome the stigma of a misdemeanor conviction over videoing police as a “cop watch” activist. He said he opposes both the civil service proposal and the smoking ban.
Voting begins April 24 in city, school and local board elections. The last day is May 6.
Sutton, like Thalman a U.S. Air Force veteran, defined patriotism as “being willing to die for your country.” Frias described patriotism as “limited government.”
At one point, lodge member David Keefer said sadly that the 1906-vintage former church 8 miles from downtown Arlington “used to be the center of this whole Webb community. Now people don’t even know there was a Webb community. All they want to do here is have a house and raise their families.”
Sooner or later, they’ll need to know somebody at City Hall.