The Voice requested that all candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for the County Board submit answers to a series of questions. Mr. Karantonis's responses follow. For more information on all the County Board candidates, please visit the Candidate Page https://arlingtondemocrats.org/vote/candidates/
Q: What is an important issue that you believe does not get enough attention? How will your past work inform your approach to that issue in the County Board?
Planning. Arlington cannot thrive in the absence of careful, long-term planning. I have a breadth of knowledge in economics and urban planning, combined with a depth and specificity of knowledge about Arlington.
I have a Master’s degree in urban and regional economics with an emphasis on inequality in urban development from the Free University in Berlin, Germany. I have worked in municipal procurement, public sanitation contracting, airport development, and the energy sector in many parts of the world.
And I have intimate, on the ground experience in Arlington that has allowed me to understand and recognize our county’s goals and needs, such as equitable governance, fiscal and environmental sustainability and resilience, and principled and inclusive long-term planning. As former Director for the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO), I was part of the working group that delivered the Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Plan and Form Based Code. I am also a passionate housing and transportation advocate, currently serving on the Transit Advisory Committee and as Vice Chair of the Alliance for Housing Solutions. I continue to advocate for expanding and further funding transit along our development corridors and addressing our housing supply issue to support Arlingtonians of all income-levels and ages: the middle class, seniors aging in place, families moving into and remaining in our community, and young professionals embarking on their careers.
We are inescapably part of a major, growing metropolitan area. We need to meticulously plan for this growth rate through planning efforts such as the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC), and my substantive planning knowledge makes me the best candidate to do so.
Q: The COVID-19 health crisis continues to have unforeseen impacts on County revenues and expenditures. What thoughts do you have about how the County budget should be adjusted to respond to them?
Recovery. In addition to responding to our community’s immediate needs caused by the pandemic (such as health issues, unemployment, food insecurity, and housing instability), we must plan our economy to ensure it is one that is sustainable, resilient, and diverse in a post COVID-19 world. My experience collaborating with businesses and investors at a time when Columbia Pike lost major public investment informs my thoughtful response to the COVID downturn.
The County Board has already committed resources to expand the social safety net, support our first responders and the most vulnerable in our community, but we have to do more long-term planning. We must learn from the COVID experience, collect data on the impact of government intervention, and retool our agencies to improve outcomes.
To rescue small businesses, I support a revolving microloan fund that goes beyond already committed first-response grants because this is necessary for their survival and recovery. Through my work with the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC), I recognize how beneficial such a program would be at the county level. Small businesses sustain a critical number of jobs and we cannot afford to let them fail. This revolving fund would allow them to pivot and adapt to current economic conditions, keeping them afloat until recovery kicks in.
Additionally, we must not abandon critical, long-term planning efforts such as the Lee Highway process. We must maximize every dollar and invest strategically to aid our economic recovery and reap the pay-off when our economy rebounds.
Q: What is one quality or experience that sets you apart from your fellow candidates? How will that quality or experience influence your perspective as a member of the County Board?
Community relationships. My relationships with a diverse field of stakeholders – current Board members, local elected officials, planning committees, local businesses, civic associations, and an economically and ethnically diverse resident population are one of my strongest assets. In fact, numerous times, I have advised our leaders in public office and in civic associations on the challenges facing a particular neighborhood, street, or business. That is why I am a member of the Arlington Career Center Building Level Planning Committee, where I provide input and feedback on the expansion of the Career Center to increase student capacity.
I speak 8 languages, have lived in 8 countries, and work every day in a multi-cultural and multi-lingual environment, which has given me an in-depth, cross-cultural competence that enriches my approach to public office.
Our County Board would be best served by someone who already has these strong relationships in place to sustain and expand the trust of important stakeholders to get the job done.