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County Board Candidates Strike Note of Fiscal Conservatism

by ARLnow.com January 13, 2012 at 3:00 pm 3,914 65 Comments

The six candidates for County Board each struck a note of fiscal conservatism at local civic association debates this week.

Even as Arlington has avoided the worst of the stagnant economy, fears about the impact of federal spending cuts on Arlington’s tax base, combined with the reality of a burgeoning school population, has ushered in a slate of candidates largely devoid of ideas for sweeping new county initiatives. Instead, candidates are talking about prioritizing spending and, perhaps, pulling back on big ticket items like the struggling Artisphere cultural center and the planned Columbia Pike streetcar and Long Bridge Park aquatics center.

Iraq veteran and West Point graduate Terron Sims was perhaps the most blunt of the five Democrats in race when it came to spending.

“We do need to prioritize,” Sims said. “We spend money as though it’s coming out of trees… Though we have the money, that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to spend the money.”

“I’m disturbed at the trolley’s cost,” Sims said of the Pike streetcar’s $250 million price tag. “As for the Artisphere, it’s a failed investment, or at least it appears to be at this time.”

Peter Fallon, an Arlington County Planning Commission, was also candid about his views on spending — particularly when it comes to the streetcar.

“Let’s face it, we need to do a much better job of deciding what we need versus what we want and what we can have,” Fallon said. “I am certainly very pro-transit… however, I am not convinced that $250 million for a five mile rail in the ground is necessarily the way to go.

“If I’m on the County Board, I’m not going to sign off on it until I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do for all of Arlington, and I have not seen that analysis yet,” Fallon added. “There are cheaper ways to enhance traffic and transit throughout Arlington County.”

School Board member Libby Garvey said that some big ticket items sound good in theory, but must be put in perspective when it comes to other needs.

“I think the streetcar sounds like a great project, I think the [proposed Long Bridge Park] aquatics center sounds like a great project, the Artisphere had really good possibilities — they all sound great,” she said. “Meanwhile, our schools are busting at the seams, our police force has not had an increase in 10 years. There are a lot of issues we are facing, and the news is we cannot do it all — or we cannot do it all right now.”

“We need a strategic plan to pick out what our priorities are and decide what we’re going to do first,” Garvey continued. “So if we put money into an aquatics center but we don’t build a school, we’re saying that the aquatics center is more important than a school. Our budget statements are value statements.”

Kim Klingler, a Democratic activist and a senior manager at a large consulting firm, said she would bring her “private business perspective” to the County Board if elected. Klingler said the Board needs to “prioritize and spend wisely.”

“This may not be the time” for the Long Bridge Park aquatics center, she said, adding a . “That doesn’t mean there isn’t a time, but maybe not today with our capital maintenance and school needs.”

Klingler also expressed skepticism about the Columbia Pike streetcar project, but did not outline any specific action she would take if elected.

Melissa Bondi, who has expressed support for the streetcar, said that the county must be thoughtful in deciding how to invest taxpayer funds.

“All of us need to be very vigilant in looking at how we invest resources so that it will be used well,” she said.

Bondi said Artisphere was a victim of a failed planning process that did not seek enough input from the community or from those with economic and cultural expertise.

“The Artisphere was something that was supposed to reflect our community’s needs,” Bondi said. “What was really difficult to see was a business plan… that was not vetted by the community, that was not vetted by the economic development commission or the arts commission in a meaningful way.”

Fallon also criticized Artisphere’s “incredibly over-optimistic” initial business plan.

“The people weren’t there. It might have worked if you could have dropped the Artisphere in Clarendon,” he said. “They need to hire a non-profit arts group to actually manage the thing.”

Audrey Clement, a Green Party member who’s currently the lone candidate in the race who’s not a Democrat, continued to hammer away at Arlington’s “vanity projects” — as she has done in past races.

“The county has cut social safety net programs by approximately 10-15 percent over the past three years,” Clement noted. “One way we can refund those programs is to stop spending money on vanity projects.”

“Eliminate wasteful funding,” Clement said, mentioning Artisphere, the Long Bridge Park aquatics center and the Columbia Pike streetcar. “The County Board misappropriates taxpayer dollars for extravagances the county doesn’t need.”

Clement was also skeptical of the $10 million price tag of the county’s proposed year-round homeless shelter.

“I definitely want to provide year-round housing to the homeless, but at a reasonable cost,” she said.

Clement did, however, suggest some new spending priorities, including keeping branch libraries open sevens days a week instead of five, repaving local roads, and hiring 4-6 county inspectors to investigate recycling compliance at apartment and office buildings.

Photos by Erin Schwartz Sutherland

  • Andrew

    Talk is cheap. Streetcars are not.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      Hmmmm. Sounds like a lot of the right noises, but actions do the real talking.

  • Swag

    …followed by a symphony of spending.

    • KalashniKEV

      +1

      Where are the non-Dems?

      • Dan

        The GOP couldn’t even nominate a candidate….which I think speaks volumes about the state of politics in Arlington.

        Getting rid of at-large elections would help I think to restore a semblance of democracy in Arlington.

        • Just Tired

          The Republicans’ inability to nominate a candidate has nothing to do with at-large elections, and everything to do with their own failure – failure to find someone who has viable ideas and a coherent platform. It does indeed speak volumes . . . about the state of Republicans, not politics, in Arlington. The US is a democracy – if you feel you aren’t represented in Arlington, your party needs to try harder to appeal to voters in this County. Stop whining, get off your ass, and run yourself. That goes for KKKev and all the right-wingers on this site.

          • TGEoA

            Punks like you deserve a punch in the mouth.

          • Just Tired

            Now that’s the way to get representation: threaten those who tell it like it is. You rock, dude.

          • truth be told

            Actually, the reason there is no Republican candidate has more to do with the electorate than the Republican party. The electorate in Arlington is so overwhelmingly extreme left that there is little reason for the right to even try. It is wasted energy better spent elsewhere.

          • Dan

            “The Republicans’ inability to nominate a candidate has nothing to do with at-large elections”

            Hogwash, who wants to run for office if you know that you are going to lose and that is what the result will be in an at large election.

            If there were districts and people elected by districts there would be at least one republican on the board and the ACDC damn well knows this which is why they were so vociferous in their opposition to the somewhat inept petition drive.

            I mean attacking people with shopping carts…come on.

          • Just Tired

            Right. You lost the petition drive. In fact, your minions were indicted and jailed for their illegal activities.

            If Republicans want a voice in Arlington, they need to find a candidate who can speak to actual voters. The electorate here is not extreme left. It’s just educated, and not apt to fall for scare tactics or poorly thought out firefighter’s union petition drives.

          • Riiiiiight

            If only I were bette educated, I would think exactly like you! Will you pay for my college? Thanks.

          • Dan

            You don’t address point: why would the ACDC be actively funding a group whose sole purpose is to oppose electing the of county board members by district if they didn’t somehow think that it benefits them.

            Try to stay focused…….

          • Just Tired

            I can’t speak for ACDC, I’m not a member. All I know is what I read in the Post and on here, which reported that several petition gatherers for that effort were arrested and jailed. Why support an illegal operation like that? Stay focused, brah.

            As for the other one who wished he were better educated: if you were, you’d be able to spell “better” better.

          • truth be told

            Wrong. The electorate is extreme left, regardless of the education they have. I have three degrees. Yet I’m a little to the right of the middle. Education has little to do with it. Personal beliefs, values, and opinions do. Your statement just insults those not fortunate enough to have obtained higher education.

          • truth be told

            “As for the other one who wished he were better educated: if you were, you’d be able to spell “better” better.”

            Just Tired: This statement just proves my point. You attack someone for his education on a typo? You are just one of those extreme left individuals you claim Arlington isn’t full of. You’ll spew your venom about how educated you are and you’ll blindly cast your left handed ballot come election day, putting down any right handed candidate without using your self-touted education to evaluate them. You sir, are a lemming.

          • Just Tired

            You’re right, ragging on typos was immature. I apologize. This is not an extreme left jurisdiction, though. San Francisco or Berkeley is extreme left. Arlington is just Democratic.

          • thecharlesriver

            I’m an Independent and a former Dem. As far as your comments are concerned, it’s really difficult to nominate a candidate in an area where the zombie masses simply analyze public policy and politics in terms of Duh……Republican Bad…….Democrat Good…..Duh.

          • truth be told

            Thank you.

          • thecharlesriver

            I will also add that college degrees do not generally equate to COMMON SENSE.

          • KalashniKEV

            We are in total agreement on this issue.

          • thecharlesriver

            Reasonable people can usually find common ground.

  • John Fontain

    I don’t know a lot about Terron Sims, but from what I have seen so far, he seems to be the most budget-minded of the dems that are running. That goes a long way in my book.

    • GT

      Personally, I would rank them thusly:

      Fallon/Sims (tie)
      Klinger
      Clement
      Niedermeyer
      Bondi

      • Arlingtoon

        Did you omit Libby Garvey intentionally?

        • gt

          No

  • GT

    “Let’s face it, we need to do a much better job of deciding what we need versus what we want and what we can have,”

    We’re looking at you, Chris Zimmerman.

  • JimPB

    Garvey speaks truth: “Our budget statements are value statements.”

    What our top values?

    How do they translate into a 10 year budget (revenues and expenditures) plan?

  • Andrew

    While I think it is good that these candidates are addressing some of the projects, what about the current board members? Is the newly elected member going to be able to stop any of this (streetcar, artisphere, etc)?

    • jan

      Their re-election turn will come.

      • Dan

        And when was the last time an incumbent lost an election here in Arlington ??

  • Ashton Height Bob

    Bondi’s latest version for failing to pay federal taxes:

    “Bondi confirmed that the address listed on the lien is hers, but when pressed about whether she received IRS warning letters, she said she was waiting to see what is in the IRS file.” Arlington Mercury.

    Wow! Either she received notices or she did not. If ArlNow gets a chance to ask Bondi more questions, ask if her current paycheck is being garnished by the IRS — a response would be either “yes” or “no”, not “I am looking in to it.”

    With each changing answer and the absolute failure to provide any explanation, the attempt to cover-up simple facts is getting very odd.

    • EastArlingtonian

      I commented elsewhere about the house she owns (though not in Arlington). They could have sent the lien letters there, I guess. This is getting more interesting every day!

    • bemused bystander

      What current paycheck?

  • jus’ saying

    Locked in? This nitwit county board took over ownership and perpetual upkeep of Columbia Pike from VDOT for their silly streetcar project. Now try to get VDOT to take it back. Good luck.

  • jus’ saying

    The county took over Columbia Pike on Oct. 1, 2010, according to VDOT website. Seen any improvements to the road in the nearly year and a half since?

    • Bender

      If you call bigger bumps and deeper ruts “improvements,” then, yes, there have been huge improvements.

  • Burger

    Small issue. In the future could there be captions placed under the candidates listing who is who. Most of the candidates are “unknowns” in the sense they have been seen by many as regular county board members so there is more a need to provide a name captions for the person.

    • Photos do have captions. You just need to click on them to see the captions.

    • CourthouseChris

      Or hover over, depending on browser.

  • Courthouse Sam

    Remind me which of the candidates testified against the severely understated cost of purchasing the Court House-area private highrise building for a 24/7 year-round homeless shelter we can’t afford, offices for more unneeded County employees, taking current tenants and the building off the tax base, bringing the building up to County standards and design…. That alleged $22 million approval by the ACB will cost AC $50 million before the proposal even is fully executed! Arlington needs an independent Inspector General much more than another shelter or County building, but none of these candidates seems inclined to advocate that.

  • Bender

    Wow. This is encouraging, if sincere.

    But the very fact that such concerns are being made so publicly, and by Democrats, should put the lie to those others who constantly claim that all of Arlington supports these insane initiatives to spend our way to bankruptcy.

  • MC

    It’s obvious that the unbuilt street car doesn’t have a union that can delivery money and votes, but teachers and policemen do. I don’t take any of these comments as signs of fiscal conservatism, but just an old-style anti-growth Democratic agenda presented in a different way.

    • CommonSense

      Get a clue– this is a right to work state, there are no REAL unions. The majority of teachers and policemen don’t make enough money to live in Arlington so they can’t vote here anyway. Re-read the article, the police haven’t had an increase in 10 years– does that sound like they’re “delivering votes” thru unions? Use your head.

      • OMG OMG OMG

        Bear in mind, the ‘increase’ referred to is in the size of the police force, not their pay.

      • MC

        The police (Arlington Coalition of Police) have very visibly demonstrated their unionized political muscle when they organized the petition to change government a couple years ago. The teacher’s union, the Arlington Education Association, has “lobbying” County officials and “public relations” in their mission — it’s right on their website . What’s not “REAL” about these things? Why deny that democratic contenders are seeking favor from these groups, which represent thousands of members, many of whom *do* live (and vote) in Arlington, some even in subsidized housing.

  • OMG OMG OMG

    I’d estimate current prospects (votes received) roughly like this:

    Garvey 35%
    Sims 22
    Bondi 21
    Klingler 15
    Fallon 7

    Bondi is falling, and Sims is rising. Klingler has a small pocket of the D establishment in her corner, but Fallon’s support is near imaginary.

    • jus’ saying

      That’s what I say: OMG OMG OMG Big spenders all.

    • Village Genius

      Could OMG OMG OMG elaborate on the basis of the estimates?

      • OMG OMG OMG

        My gut. These are guesses of the outcome based on my observation of the electoral dynamic in Arlington. I am not affiliated with any of the candidates, in fact I haven’t decided who I’ll pick with my own vote.

        Garvey has county-wide name recognition and is the most experienced and polished of the group, although sometimes she ends up being condescending (which isn’t polished at all).

        Sims benefits from being the strongest male in the group, and also benefits from being a veteran and a minority. He generally has good, simple ideas in a straight forward manner.

        Bondi had a large component of the establishment in her corner early, but Zimmerman also has detractors and Bondi seems to be weakening due to questions around her tax issue(s).

        Klingler, although quite earnest, is not the most poised speaker and I can’t tell what SHE is all about. Yes, I hear what she says, but she is the product of 20XX politics — all consistent soundbites and messaging without an ounce of authenticity. This educated electorate won’t tolerate vague waffling and promises to listen… if you’ve been listening already, what would you DO?

        I hear Fallon is not highly regarded by county staff, and he comes off as supremely confident in, and very well-liked by… himself. That’s the last thing we need on the county board.

        That’s the way I see it.

        • Tired, but still voting in January

          OMG OMG OMG is Libby Garvey’s alter ego on this site. She’s reaching back into her dirty tricks bag because she’s running scared. She’s been trying to be relevant in a campaign in which voters keep wishing she’s go away. She has nerve running on a platform of rubber stamping the school superintendnt’s decisions and taking credit for the hard work of staff and the PTA’s. She brags about her success on the school board, yet should be removed from office for failure to deal with overcrowding and the achievement gap. Never in the history of Arlington has such an inept person been in elective office so long with so little to show for it. Now, she so desperately wants attention that she slanders hard working Arlingtonians. She is the last person worthy of the voters trust and will treat the people of Arlington as poorly as our school supporters.

          • Arlingtonian

            You apparently have something personal against Garvey and it undermines your argument against her. I would be interested in some of your comments if you could cite some specific examples.

  • Arlingtonian

    If we are commenting on the candidates.

    I never heard of Fallon in all my years here and his website is too light on content to even consider him.

    I cannot vote for Biondi if it is true that the IRS has filed a lien against her for failure to pay her taxes. While she claims she was not delinquent in paying taxes, it seems really hard to believe that she first became “aware” of the IRS lien filed against her in March 2011 when it was raised during this campaign. Especially when she is very well connected to the county’s democratic party. The car issue is another matter entirely. Aside from that, what does she have to offer? In a county whose citizens per capita is one of the best educated in the country, it is apparent she did not complete college.

    Klinger is apparently running on her “business experience,” but I cannot find any reference to her ever running a business or for that matter having a job other than consultant since she graduated from JMU in 2001.

    That basically leaves Sims and Garvey.

    I wish I knew more about Sims actual committment to Arlington rather than his committment to his political ambitions. From his own website, it is apparent he has not lived in Arlington very long at all and this raises real concerns of his committment to Arlington. It seems that most of his activity is recent and consists of political operative type activities across Virginia rather than in Arlington. It seems to me that like some recent new arrivals on the arlington political scene that he will move on if he does not win a seat.

    I think Garvey is the best qualified. She well-educated and well-versed in the needs of Arlington. She is a committed public servant who has served more than ten years on the School Board. Even though I oppose her on growing the all ready bloated over active police force, I think she has our best interest at heart.

    • Arlandria Border Res

      I really like Sims, personally. I think his web site (although I could be confusing this info with something he’s said at one of the debates) says he grew up in PW county and went to Lake Ridge Elementary, or something like that. I also understand he is very active in the Nauk Civic Association and saw him in that area around Thanksgiving with some radio station.

      I’d say living in the area since before I was born pretty much makes him a “local,” and not seeing him moving on if he’s been here since he was 9 (except for when he was deployed and building local governments from the dust up.)

  • Arlingtonian

    On the issue of spending, I generally have little problem with the Board’s approach over the years. Arlington has one of the best public education systems in the country, is environmentally conscious, has managed growth well, and provides services competently and effectively.

    What I have never understood, however, if this ridiculous idea of the Columbia Pike Trolley pushed by board member Zimmerman. At $250 million (you know it will cost more), it is a huge mistake and an idea that should be put to rest. The money could be better invested in improving all of the high schools and other schools in the county or improving ART bus service along the Pike and throughout Arlington.

  • Real Arlingtonian

    Yes, I am supporting Melissa Bondi. She has done good things and so have the other candidates even if Ms Garvey and her paid staffers wants to tell people otherwise to gain support.

    Ms. Garvey’s baseless claims and misinformation campaigns are a hallmark of her campaign style. She always resorts to these tactics in the final stretch of her campaigns for school board, Virginia state senate, and house of delegates. I agree she is the most polished, but she has run for so many offices that she very practiced. Of course, answering any question, by turning it around to some school success that she takes exclusive credit for, is tiresome. So are her allegations that the Sims campaign is behind the publicity surrounding Melissa’s personal situation. She is smart enough not to attack him directly, but still makes her jabs. I’m happy that people are coming to understand that it really is a mistake.

    I’ve supported Melissa from the beginning and will continue. I have had dealings with Terron Sims, Kim Klingler, and Peter Fallon. All three are equally up for the challenge of serving on the county board.

    Ms.Garvey clearly knows voters are tired of her sad song, but that doesn’t matter to her. She wants to win no matter what, and she’s pulled stunts before. She’s not done yet. The campaign against Melissa isn’t sticking, so Garvey has to go after the other three.

    • ArlingtonWay

      Uhm, if by “the capaign against Melissa” you mean the facts about her lack of experience and refusal to pay taxes coming to light, and if by “is not sticking” you mean “is stickng” I totally agree with you.

    • TGEoA

      Yawn. I never voted in a caucus before but am doing so now just to vote against Zimmerman.

  • spikeconcern

    i thought this post was about the candidates. i have talked with audrey clement many times and i am going to supprt her. although i am not a green party member i see that audrey has common sense and understands the problems here. the streetcar is silly and the technolgy of the early 1900’s.

    the developers have a stranglehold in arlington and they are systmatically carving arlington up into corridors of skyscrapers with lots and lots of rental units thanks to our planning commision and zoning laws.

  • Arlingtonwoman

    I’ve supported Libby several times in the past. I even helped her with the organization GWEN, Get Women Elected Now. About GWEN: “During the 2007 campaign, women of Northern Virginia found themselves wondering yet again why are so few women from our area running for elective office? GWEN was born to support local progressive women candidates.” I very much agree with the mission and was happy to help with fundraising events and to spread the word.

    What I didn’t know was that GWEN ended up being an organization to bolster Libby’s future campaigns. You can check VPAP/State Board of Elections website and see that of the recent contributions, Libby benefited the most. A few women candidates received $100 or $150 from GWEN and then GWEN gave Libby $1000 for her Senate campaign. I’ve even heard one person joke that it should be called GLEN – Get Libby Elected Now.

    • truth be told

      As long as there are groups supporting certain demographics in a manner hinting that they are not equal, but under the law they are equal, they will NEVER be equal. Why can’t these people get that? Stop acting in the public eye like you are inferior and you won’t be.

      GWEN should be called Get Women Equal Never! That is the reality if you keep acting as if you are not equal.

      Rant away.

    • Real Arlingtonian

      Libby was eager to move onto the state senate before the voters noticed her bragging about building new schools “on time and on budget” had nothing to do with providing space for growing enrollment. Sounds like she can’t update a strategic plan to recognize reality even when it stares her in the face. Now, she wants to get on the county board to cover her mistakes. Get Libby elected? It’s time the voters retired her!

  • CrustyOldBag

    Question for ArlingtonWoman: was Libby involved in forming this group? If she turned out to be the one to gain the most, this sounds like at a minimum bad decision making if not an ethics violation or mildly illegal. There are strict rules for 501c’s.

  • April

    I am not participating in the Democratic caucus. I’m voting for Audrey Clement on March 27th. The Democratic candidates were not heard nor seen when the County Board was asked about maintenance of basic infrastructure.

  • David

    I’ve been in Arlington for 15 years and have seen quite a change since I moved here in 1997. While I agreed with most county visions, plans, and projects in years’ past, I see the county (and specifically, the County Board) using the tax base and political power as more of a way to advance a personal/political agenda than as a means of improving the county for the benefit of all.

    First, I must question the need and justification for an Aquatics Center. We have aquatics centers at each of the major high schools now (Yorktown HS just got a new one after W-L’s was completed). Really? I live in south Arlington (just off Columbia Pike) and Wakefield can’t even get a new school before we start adding-onto schools in the lowest population density area of the county?

    Second, I agree that there’s a need to prioritize projects and spending. I’ve seen far, far too many programs cut so that funding can be reallocated to areas where most County Board members reside. Yes, I am calling out the politicization of our county! Where’s the fair and equal representation of communities? Arlington is a TINY county by national standards, yet people separated by just a mile or two live worlds apart in terms of county resources and attention.

    As I said before, I reside along Columbia Pike (the less glamorous end, mind you) and I do not support the streetcar project. Instead, I’d like to see the County Board put some thought, political muscle, and money into bringing (or in some cases, bringing back) businesses and development to the Pike. Every time I’m along the Wilson/Clarendon corridor I see yet another building being torn-down and replaced by a high-rise. How about driving some of that business into underserved areas? How about calling a moratorium on (re)development in Ballston?

    The County Board won’t (ever) support it, but I’d love to see board seats allocated to various districts of our county in much the same manner that DC is divided into wards. That way we might get some equitable dialogue at the Board level.

    Next will be to break the monopoly of one-party rule in our county. It’s sort of like living in Dubai—great place to live so long as you keep your mouth shut and go along with the status quo.

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