Candidate Essay: Mary Hynes

by ARLnow.com November 1, 2011 at 1:00 pm 2,786 21 Comments

Last week we asked the three candidates for Arlington County Board to write a sub-750 word essay on why the county’s residents should vote for them on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Two County Board seats are up for election this year.

Here is the unedited response from incumbent Mary Hynes (D):

I love Arlington. It’s been my family’s home for more than 30 years; my five kids grew up here. I love that people from all around the world call Arlington home, that our small business community is very diverse and that our corporate citizens include some of America’s best companies. Our school system is admired; we’re fortunate to have great parks and libraries and many recreational choices. I love that Arlingtonians are not shy about sharing opinions and quick to offer help – whether it’s professional experience that’s needed, neighbor-to-neighbor outreach like Citizen Corps or Neighborhood Conservation, or effective advocacy and creativity on significant challenges like ensuring sufficient affordable housing. Working together we’ve made Arlington a great place!

I am honored to have served my fellow Arlingtonians for more than 16 years – twelve as a school board member and, since 2008, on the County Board. I’m proud of the work I’ve been able to do. During my time as a School Board member, the student achievement gap narrowed, great schools were built across the county, and competitive pay ensured our kids had excellent teachers. As a County Board member, I’ve worked to make sure we take great care of our County parks, roads and other facilities and created a citizen group to advise the County Board in this important area. Working with neighborhoods across the county to help citizens better understand and participate in the work of the County and increasing budget transparency and accountability through the use of performance measures also have been priorities for me.

Over the years, I have come to appreciate the bold and thoughtful choices made by our community’s leaders in the 60s – in particular their decision to locate Metro lines along Wilson Boulevard from Rosslyn to Ballston and through Pentagon City and Crystal City. These decisions contribute significantly to Arlington’s strong transit orientation, financial health, and economic diversity. I believe the question for us now – especially given current economic uncertainty – is “What’s next for Arlington? What vision – what plan – will allow us to become an even more inclusive, healthier community, one that continues to grow and improve in important ways – even as jurisdictions throughout the region adopt plans and policies that Arlington has employed successfully for years?”

The answer, I believe, depends upon our making systematic choices to be smarter, more sustainable, and better prepared. To me, this means:

  • Expanding our housing choices
  • Extending effective transit across the County
  • Encouraging resource conservation
  • Elanning to make it easier to get most of what we need close to home
  • Preparing so we can depend on each other in times of need

Recently, I’ve taken on regional responsibilities I believe will help advance these necessary, ambitious goals. As a Metro Board Member, I work every day on our region’s complex transportation challenges. I bring to that work a clear understanding of Arlington’s transit-dependency coupled with the urgent state and regional need to plan and pay for new ways to efficiently move many more residents and workers. As a Vice-chair of the Region Forward Coalition for the Council of Government, I am an advocate for well-coordinated job, housing and transit policies and plans designed to improve Arlington’s sustainability while ensuring regional vibrancy.

In the end, I am committed to Arlington continuing to be a great place to live, work, learn, play, raise a family and grow older. These are challenging times. It will take all of us working together, listening carefully, and planning thoughtfully to chart our course – one that will guide us for the next 30 years.

I ask for your vote on November 8th for myself and for my running mate Walter Tejada so we can continue the journey together. What a gift we can give to those who come after us!

  • South Walter Reed

    Nice to have a reasonable adult in elected office.
    I’m voting for her.

  • BlueLoom

    If you think she’s a reasonable adult, just wait till she changes the rules on you in the middle of a widely supported change in your community, as she did in ours. And then, of course, denied the change that the community was requesting.

    Lifelong libdem, I will vote Green (Audrey Clement) in this year’s county board elections.

    • drax


      • BlueLoom

        OK, here it is. This is not the most popular issue in Arlington, but it was something that our neighborhood wanted: speed bumps. We are a cut-through street from Lee Hwy to Wmsbg Blvd, and from there over to Glebe Rd. IOW, we are a perfect hypotenuse if you’re heading east on Lee & want to get to Chain Bridge. According to the county’s own study, over 80% of the traffic on our street exceeds the speed limit.

        At the start of the process, the county staff called a neighborhood meeting. We were told that we need signatures of xx% (I forget exactly what the percentage was) of homeowners living within yy# of blocks from our street.

        We did exactly that–we got the signatures. The county staff called another neighborhood meeting and told us that at Ms. Hynes instigation, the rules had been changed. We now had to have more signatures across a wider area (despite the fact that few homeowners on the perimeter of that area would use our street; they’d use Harrison).

        It seems to me that when the process is underway–the county staff has called a meeting; the neighborhood has divided itself into signature-collection committees; the percentage of homeowner signatures we were originally told has been collected; etc.–then the rules in effect at the time the county began the process should continue to apply.

        We are a changing neighborhood. Our 60- and 70-year-old Broyhill houses are being torn down & replaced with McMansions. Our original owners have died or moved to assisted living. (We are third owners of our house and among the oldest folks in the neighborhood.) This is now a neighborhood of young families with young kids. One of these days, a kid is going to tangle with a speeding car on our street, and I personally will lay that child’s injury or death squarely at Ms. Hynes’s feet.

        Sorry, Mary. I’ve voted for you in the past, but never again.

        • Jack Thomas

          Mary Hynes has a speed bump in front of her house. Oh, I forgot. She lives in Lyon Village — my mistake.

        • Undereducated

          Are you refering to Sycamore? If so, I wouldn’t call that a cut through street.

        • drax

          So you’re saying someone told you that a single Board member can unilaterally change the rules? And you believed that?

          Or are you saying that she proposed a change in the rules that was then passed by the Board?

          Did you actually check into these claims? Are you sure you heard them right? Did you hear the staff person say that yourself or did someone relay it to you? Are you sure it was understood correctly? Are you sure it was true even if it was?

          Did you ask Ms. Hynes about it?

        • Kevin Sweeney

          Are you referring to the 2008-2009 unsuccessful neighborhood traffic calming project on North Kensington Street between Williamsburg Blvd. and Little Falls Road? If so, your description of what happened is inaccurate.

  • Major Omission

    She also left out a major accomplishment – forcing DHS and the health clinic to move from Metro-accessible Wilson Blvd to bus-only accessible Sequoia so that the undesirables didn’t have access to her neighborhood.

    • Boomer Toomer

      Hynes also supports her neighborhood (Lyon Village) blocking ALL parking for patrons of the booming Clarendon area. While the neighborhood enjoys its enhanced real estate values by being in walking distance to the Clarendon shopping/dining area, at the same time they block ALL parking.

      Also, if you are lucky enough to get a meeting with Queen Hynes, you will be shocked to sit across from an elected official who openly rolls her eyes at you and smirks. It is quite amazing to see such conduct from an adult, yet alone an elected official.

      • Lou

        Queen Mary just didn’t have the right sound to it?

    • AllenB

      Did you ever stop to think that the “undesirables” weren’t coming by metro anyway? If they needed help at DHS, most likely they weren’t living on the orange line in Rosslyn, Courthouse, Clarendon, VA Square, Ballston or East Falls Church.

  • LEB

    I’ve seen Mary in action in service to Arlington for nearly two decades.

    Throughout that period, Mary has consistently shown an ability to look at issues at several levels — big picture strategic planning, particulars of the issue at hand, and attention to detail on finances, legal wording, and other fine details. And she’s done that with a smile and gracious attitude to all those with constructive efforts and opinions.

    She brings a focus of balance between project social benefits and financial costs that is often lacking among elected officials.

    It was because Mary had shown those qualities as head of the large ACI, the citizen advisory council to the School Board, that she was the first person elected to the School Board after four decades of appointed members.

    Both on the County Board and previously on the School Board, Mary has been a leader in steering the County through difficult budget balancing issues. That’s been particularly tough in the current recession.

    Several months ago, Mary was appointed as our representative to the Metro Board. She immediately became a leader in trying to turn around MetroRail’s financial and long deferred maintenance issues.

    Mary is as good as it gets for good government at the local level.

    • BlueLoom

      And you are, perhaps, a member of her campaign staff?

      • LEB

        Yes, I’ve volunteered for her campaign BECAUSE of those attributes.

        • Smoke_Jaguar4

          Astroturf much?

          • drax

            So anyone who supports a candidate can’t speak in favor of that candidate. Yeah, that makes alot of sense, genius.

        • madisonmanor

          “Mary has been a leader in steering the County through difficult budget balancing issues”

          So the fact that she was a School Board member when a complete absence of planning for the current overcrowding situation doesn’t strike you as counter intuitive for someone supposedly a “big picture strategic planning, particulars of the issue at hand, and attention to detail on finances”?

          If “Mary is as good as it gets for good government at the local level”, Arlington has set its sights way too low.

          • LEB

            I’ve not been engaged in schools issues for over a decade, but was active at the school and county levels on various citizen advisory committees throughout the 1980s-90s. I became engaged in Arlington Public Schools issues in the early 1980s specifically because of changes in school boundaries and utilization — then the problem was closing our neighborhood school due to temporary under-utilization. Lots of kids, but in a changing neighborhood, most were under 3 years old.

            Below are my personal views, and not those of anyone else.

            The county’s demographics have changed each decade, so that school overcrowding and under-utilization have affected different parts of the county every decade since at least the 1970s.

            The county consolidated (e.g, Claremont-Abington), closed (e.g., Gunston MS), and divested (e.g., Fairlington ES) schools in the 1970s-80s. Ten or 15 later, schools were overcrowded due to the influx of immigrant families and developments that replaced older neighborhoods with young families. Kenmore MS was a disaster due to severe overcrowding, so Gunston MS was re-opened after being closed almost 20 years — forcing out various good occupants.

            Mary was a key member of a small group of citizen volunteers who planned and then sold to the appointed school board a plan to revamp school boundaries in the early 1990s. Schools in north Arlington were fine, while there was severe overcrowding in south and central Arlington. In the last decade, the major capital funding issue was replacing our decrepit 1950s high schools. In this decade, overcrowding is back, but in different parts of the county. Mary has not been on the School Board in several years to help resolve the current situation.

            Some things are stable:
            (1) School buildings are inflexible fixed-capacity facilities.

            (2) Demographics sometimes change rather quickly due to inflows and outflows of families with kids, and changing residential areas that attract younger families.

            (3) Parents tend to love the school their kids are in and don’t want children to have to switch to new schools, or for siblings to be split. “We bought a house in this neighborhood because of _____ School. You can’t move MY children.” That’s a huge constraint on balancing utilization. It adds significantly to the inherent issue of fixed inflexible facilities.

            (4) Land for needed new schools is scarce and expensive in our county. There will be inevitable resistance to new schools by NIMBY neighbors and high costs. And the real risk of constructing new classrooms that might become excess one or two decades downstream as neighborhood residents age out. That did happen in the 1970s-80s.

            There is resistance to ANY public works changes. Public works projects usually harm or discomfort immediate neighbors, even when they greatly benefit the community at large.

            I worked on design of MetroRail. Hundreds of angry neighbors would show up at public meetings opposing construction of stations and lines where they lived: construction noise and traffic, high density development in quiet old neighborhoods, operating noise, importing burglars and radicals to the neighborhood (old town Alexandria, Georgetown), increased property taxes when residents had no intention of ever selling, environmentalists opposed Cameron Run flooding fixes that were essential to constructing rail facilities there, etc. High construction costs were the biggest complaint. Republican Gov. Godwin declared it would be less expensive to purchase a car for every family in Northern Virginia than for the Commonwealth to fund part of the MetroRail system.

            Each of those complaints was correct to a greater or lesser extent. The issue was and always is a balance between local negative impacts, cost, and the greater community public good. Well-meaning sensible folks can disagree on where that balance should be. In Arlington, unlike most communities, there is a better opportunity — join one of the numerous citizen advisory committees or commissions associated with the School Board or County Board and have your input early on. They usually meet in the evenings, so geared for volunteers with a real job.

            Coming out to complain for the allotted 2 or 3 minutes just as a decision is about to be made after perhaps two years of study by county staff and citizen committees is often too late in the process to have a significant impact. The advisory committees are the way to seriously influence those plans. Volunteer.

  • Miriam Gennari

    I recommend voting for ONLY Clement. Mary and Walter are very similar on many issues including development. They have even let down their own neighborhoods by breaking the barriers and overbuilding. As we all know in a 26 mile radius one decision in Arlington easily impacts us all. If Walter or Mary have great records, then the one with the best record will rise to the top. A vote for Clement assure a lively discussion on affordable housing, increased density, traffic congestion and environmental issues, all critical issues to Arlington’s future. Take a look at the websites of both incumbants. Mary does not mention the environment. Walter throws the word out like bait on a hook, but offers no plan. Audrey Clement’s plan covers everything from recycling and conservation to renewable energy and air quality studies.

    You tell me, how did either get the Sierra Club endorsement over Audrey? Don’t play politics, vote Clement.

    • BlueLoom

      Agreed. Since the two top vote getters take the positions, those who wish to see Ms. Clement elected should vote for her only and neither of the other two. It increases the probability that Clement will be one of the top two.


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