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Kelly: Board is Out of Touch, Needs Diversity of Opinion

by ARLnow.com September 9, 2010 at 1:40 pm 2,687 28 Comments

Republican County Board candidate Mark Kelly says county government spending is out of control and he’s the man to help reign it in. If elected to replace incumbent Democrat Chris Zimmerman, Kelly said he would bring “diversity of opinion” to the “out of touch” county board.

“Between 2000 and 2009, the all-Democrat county board increased spending at a rate nearly three times inflation,” Kelly said in this opening remarks at Tuesday night’s Civic Federation debate. “Mr.  Zimmerman recently called that ‘cautious and careful fiscal management… only inside the Beltway would we call that cautious and careful fiscal management.'”

Kelly proposes to scrap the $150 million Columbia Pike trolley system, championed by Zimmerman. If elected, Kelly said he would push for the release of all county spending information online and support a 10 percent pay cut for board members to help pay for it.

Zimmerman, meanwhile, cited the rosy state of the county’s economy and standard of living as evidence that Arlington is on the right track. He rattled off a list of accolades recently received by the county: best place to weather the recession, best place to raise a child, top 10 intelligent cities in the world, and the highest fiscal rating by bond agencies.

“I’m proud of what we achieved,” Zimmerman said.

In particular, Zimmerman said he was proud of promoting smart growth, public transportation — including the creation of the ART bus system — and affordable housing.

“When you have prosperity, affordable housing becomes more of a problem,” Zimmerman said. “That’s what makes it the thing we have to work the most on.”

On the topic of zoning, Kelly called for more flexibility in the county’s dealing with local business. He said the recent controversy over dog murals in Shirlington and the three-and-a-half hour board discussion about signage and cafe seating is evidence the county is “micromanaging businesses.”

For his part, Zimmerman called for “new strategies to meet the needs of small business.”

“I continue to be dedicated to Arlington’s participatory tradition in planning and government,” he said.

Re-election campaigns have been a relative cakewalk for Zimmerman up to this point. The last time he ran, he carried every single county precinct. But this time, Zimmerman has three things working to his disadvantage.

First, the nationwide wave of anti-incumbent voter discontent, which may or may not have managed to trickle into Arlington. Second, a particularly strong opponent: Republicans we’ve talked to are pretty jazzed about Kelly, who served as the Arlington GOP chairman for the past two years. And third, the albatross around Zimmerman’s neck known at the Metro Board.

Kelly wasted no time haranguing Zimmerman about the recent slew of problems at Metro, the organization he has helped to steer as a member of its board of directors.

“Mr. Zimmerman has been on the Metro board for 12 years, presiding over a tremendous decline in the safety and reliability of the system while our taxes and fares go up,” Kelly said. “It is the culture at Metro that’s the problem.”

Zimmerman made no apologies.

“I’m proud of the work I’ve done one the Metro board,” he said.

Zimmerman suggested Metro is facing a perfect storm of problems: an aging system, a lack of investment in infrastructure, and a record number of riders — 40 percent more than 10 years ago.

While Zimmerman called for more money to help Metro overcome its problems, Kelly called for an independent voice on the Democratic-controlled Metro board.

“For me it’s a leadership issue, not a money issue,” Kelly said.

Also participating in Tuesday night’s debate was Green Party candidate Kevin Chisholm.

Chisholm said he doesn’t place as much blame on Zimmerman for Metro’s problems, but agreed with Kelly that “a lot of it did have to do with the culture.” He added that more taxpayer dollars should be steered to Metro, so they wouldn’t have to raise fares while running near-empty buses.

Chisholm said that county employees could be asked to look for “creative solutions to budget challenges, so we can keep libraries and community centers open longer.”

“Arlington needs new ideas to meet the complex challenges of our times,” he said.

Chisholm’s closing remarks were focused on the role of young people in solving environmental problems.

“We need to help channel the spirit and creativity of our youth, and to let them know that we are there with them to meet the challenges of a planet under stress,” he said.

  • Greg

    “diversity of opinion” is the key. Kelly, outnumbered 4 to 1, has no chance to scrap the trolley system or make other drastic changes. But I have no doubt that someone with a different viewpoint will benefit the County.

    If there were 2 Republicans on the Board already, I wouldn’t vote for Kelly. But I think one GOP member could be valuable and certainly an 80/20 split is more representative of the County demographic.

    Zimmerman needs to move on anyhow.

  • Jack

    Kelly will definitely bring a new perspective to the board and represent the interests of the taxpayer. Having the entire board controlled by a single party machine is never a good idea. Only when ideas are openly debated and challenged can good ideas flourish. With Bob McDonnell getting almost 35% of the votes in Arlington – it is wrong for those voices not to be heard on the board.

    • NPGMBR

      Kinda makes ya wonder what all the bad things about how the County Government is run are…..I’ve been here since 1995 and have never had to complain about anything. This is the most effective County Government I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing.

  • Lou

    I support Kelly’s tactic of using Metro’s problems as criticism of Zimmerman, but not necessarily because I want Zimmerman off the County Board. It continues the discussion of the need to reconstitute Metro’s board into something more professional and effectual, rather than a part-time job for local politicians.

  • charlie

    i would not be proud of anything i did on the metro board. borderline dillusional.

  • Tess

    If I thought Kelly could get rid of Melinda Artman – Arlington County’s Zoning Administrator – I’d vote for him. Unfortunately, he can’t. She doesn’t care about enforcing the “code” – she just likes to interpret it anyway she pleases – regardless of the Arlington County code – or Virginia State code for that matter. I mean, c’mon – a dog mural with no logo, no “signage” really – as far as most people knew it was an enhancement to the dog park – but her favorite phrase is “NO”. Too bad she doesn’t even live in Arlington County, so that she would have to abide by the regulations she so freely “interprets.” Don’t even get me started on the appeals process in Arlington County! Argh!

    • charlie

      malinda artman has a long history in local government in nova and has worked for alexandria, fairfax, loudoun and now arlington. everyone has always been happy when she has moved on.

      • Anthony

        Not true. Loudoun County was happy to see her go.

        • Greg

          Is that not what Charlie is saying? Maybe I misread?

          • Anthony

            Yeah, you’re right. I misread.

  • Arlington County is the best county around. Why mess with success?

    • NPGMBR

      +1

  • Republicans never think fixing anything costs money — they always promise something for nothing. Why should Mark Kelly worry about being honest with voters when he works for an ultra conservative group as intellectually bankrupt as the Tea-Partying, ExxonMobil-funded Heritage Foundation?

  • Jason P

    I agree with Mark Kelly with regard to the board needing to provide more flexibility in the county’s dealing with local businesses. I live in Shirlington, the mural on the side of Wagmore Dogs is awesome, no reference to the business is made, the mural is along an actual dog park with dogs on it. For the cafe that had its sidewalk sign confiscated by a county inspector, Arlington needs to pick its battles and put common sense over the fine print. I am currently a democrat but continue to question the decisions made by democrats currently on the board. Kelly is right that the board has lost touch, cut the red tape out.
    For abandoning the street car project, I don’t agree. It is a unique project that will enhance what makes Arlington unique. If anything, I think the project should be expanded to go down Walter Reed to connect Shirlington, Northern VA Community College, Alexandria Campus and Mark Center.

    • Jack

      expanding the street car to shirlington and mark center… that would be awesome, and probably more beneficial than taking it out to bally’s crossroads, where you need a car to cross the street.

      • MB

        If I’m not mistaken, that’s pretty much the original Metro plan for the area. I think GreaterGreaterWashington.org has more on that. (Very interesting exploration of why Mark Center is where/what it is.)

    • Neighbor

      The street car is a no brainer and I’d be willing to bet Kelly doesn’t live in the Columbia Pike/Shirlington part of town.

    • S. Arl. resident

      If Kevin Chishold says that metro buses are almost empty, then why is a trolley necessary? Is this, “If we build it, they will come?” No, people won’t come to Columbia Pike unless interesting, small businesses can thrive. And, not just bars – we need a hardware store/garden center so we don’t have to go to Home Despise for a bag of potting soil. It is very obvious that small businesses have a difficult time with Arlington County rules and regs.as we have read on ARLnow. Why aren’t the business spaces full at Halstead and Sienna Park? And, what is throwing $90M in Crystal City going to do? More incentives to developers like Charles E. Smith Company?

      • Jack

        well – Clarendon has done pretty well without a hardware store. that would be nice, but not necessary for economic development. young professionals want bars/restaurants way more than stores.

      • NPGMBR

        I think the smarter questions are: 1) Has the ECONOMY made it more difficult for businesses to open in the Halstead? 2) Whether business owners believe there is enough foot traffic in that corridor to warrant them taking a chance on opening a shopt there.

  • MB

    You know what would be great context for this? An article exploring the tenure of the last Republican that Arlington gave a chance on the County Board.

    • Amit

      ha ha, very funny MB. actually a better person to look at is Frank Fallon in Alexandria. Even though is he out numbered similar to how Kelly would be, he mentioned in a speech earlier this year that simply being in the room during budget negotiations saved Alexandria $40M. Probably hard to prove but not hard to believe.

      • Amit

        sorry, Frank Fannon not fallon

  • Eric H.

    Is this supposed to be an objective article?

  • fatkidspecial

    Wish there was a better alternative. I completely agree with the argument that there needs to be a balance but Kelly isn’t a great option. I just hope someone competent comes forward to challenge Favola in the next election.

  • Miles Grant’s comments really showcase ppl’s feelings about the election.

    Kelly is staying on message, while Dems bring up the fact that he works for Heritage…get a clue..NO ONE CARES!

    Its like how y’all keep blaming Bush…let me know how that goes on Nov. 2!

    • stevis

      The Heritage Foundation promotes global warming denial. I have no problem with a conservative voice on the Arlington board; I do have a problem with one that rejects the process of science. It doesn’t speak well for Kelly’s ability to make and follow rational lines of argument when necessary.

  • MB

    More info here – http://twitter.com/MarkDKelly2, where Mr. Kelly passes along things like “Leadership Institute & Tea Party Patriots to Launch Online Activist Training July 4th #tcot #tlot http://fb.me/yfuaDxEm” If you think Arlington needs more of this, Mr. Kelly’s your man.

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