Candidate Essay: Audrey Clement

by ARLnow.com March 22, 2012 at 1:35 pm 4,471 68 Comments

Earlier this month 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 during the March 27 special election.

Here is the unedited response from Audrey Clement (I):

I’m eight year resident of Arlington County with a doctorate in Political Science and service as a Congressional Fellow. As a long time Green Party leader and civic activist, I’ve worked hard to promote a better quality of life for Arlington residents. As treasurer of the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation, I filed suit in 2009 to compel VDOT to assess alternatives to piecemeal widening of I-66 westbound. In 2008 I helped to place a referendum on the ballot to consolidate Arlington’s housing programs in one agency to leverage more money for affordable housing. I’ve lobbied to create a year round homeless shelter and ban plastic bags in supermarkets and chain drug stores and Styrofoam in food retail outlets.

I think Arlington needs a change in leadership because County Board doesn’t understand that sustainable growth and so-called “Smart Growth” aren’t the same. As new office towers go up overnight, employers move into the county, spurring demand for housing that drives up rents and real estate assessments and promotes excessive infill development. Nevertheless County Board continues to award developers with more density — 50% more in Crystal City alone. As a result, the supply of affordable housing in this county has been cut by two-thirds in one decade. This isn’t sustainable.

To be sustainable, basic public infrastructure must keep pace with new residential and commercial construction. Sustainability requires the County Board to support not discourage construction of moderate income housing. Otherwise those who move into the County are stuck in a never-ending cycle of tax and rent increases as others are gentrified out. To be sustainable, we need to do more than accumulate LEED points. We need truly energy efficient buildings and on-site renewable energy. To be sustainable, we must appreciate the difference between needs and wants.

  • We don’t need a $50 million aquatic center, when Northern Va. is already drowning in public pools.
  • We don’t need a $250 million trolley when bus service can be upgraded at a fraction of the cost.
  • We may want a cultural center and a black box theater. But we must get the private sector to finance them, not the taxpayers.
  • We may like the already over capacity Taj Mahal high schools recently constructed in this county. But what we need is to expand classroom space at a reasonable cost even if that means building up or renovating rather than building new.

In addition to promoting sustainability, I am running to promote fiscal responsibility.  My Democratic opponent Libby Garvey says she’s proud of the three new high schools built while on the School Board. Yet at over $100 million, Washington-Lee is one of the most expensive high schools in the nation. At $18,000 per pupil, Arlington spends more on students than any other county in the state, even though its state report card indicates that at 76% Arlington’s overall high school graduation rate is less than the state average.

My GOP opponent Mark Kelly says he wants fiscal responsibility too. Yet Kelly is employed as legislative director for a Tea Party Congressman Tim Huelskamp, who is peddling toxic legislation that will bar EPA from regulating green house gases, and the Department of Labor from conducting union elections. Kelly is clearly out of touch with even the Republican voters of Arlington County. If elected to the County Board, I will promote fiscal responsibility without sacrificing the health and welfare of its residents.

I pledge to make developers pay their fair share of infrastructure costs. I also plan to fully fund libraries, schools, and programs for youth, seniors, and the disabled, emphasize recycling and renewable energy; and hire an Inspector General to audit the County’s budget. You can find out more about my Campaign for a Greener Arlington by visiting AudreyClement.org.

With your help, I will work to preserve the Arlington Way. Vote Clement for County Board on March 27th.

  • Josh S

    Gosh, this is disappointing.

    Did ARLnow make it crystal clear that there would be no editing? In which case, how do you let this go by with various puncuation errors? “green house” gases? I didn’t realize that green houses had different gases than blue houses.

    In any case, I really want to like the Green Party, but I just can’t figure out what they are for that is actually achieveable. Especially by the county board.
    “We need truly energy efficient buildings and on-site renewable energy.” Well, yeah, but how does the county have the power to mandate on-site renewable energy? And as far as “truly energy efficient buildings” – why is what you mean by that phrase different than what anyone else means by it and why is it better? And shouldn’t you be working with LEED to toughen up their standards, then?

    “Taj Mahal” high schools? I just don’t know how to respond to that. But first of all, has she ever been in Fairfax High, for example? The thing is cavernous and puts any ARlington high school to shame. It rivals some campuses of NOVA. So what is her standard for what wouldn’t be Taj Mahal? The old Yorktown? The old W&L? Schools clearly too old and too small to continue to meet their purposes? And how does she know that W&L is one of the most expensive schools in the nation? If it is, wouldn’t that be because it’s A) one of the newest, and B) was built in one of the highest cost-of-living areas in the country? What would a reasonable cost be, Audrey? And how would that school compare to what we have?

    • MPE

      LEED is mostly about renewable resources and minimizing environmental impact of the construction process. And they are only guidelines that are completely voluntary. That is why she references “LEED points”, which is a bit of a swipe at the scorecard methods they use.

      If you want the government involved in forcing better operational energy efficiency you have to work at the building code and permit level. Unfortunately Arlington is hampered by the statewide mandate to follow the Virginia uniform building code. When the new Green Building Code is promulgated in the next few years it might help, but from what I have seen it is mostly just a codification of LEED.

  • jackson

    “Drowning in public pools” isn’t the most pleasant metaphor either.

    • Occasionally a Fact

      It’s also not true, but that doesn’t seem to be relevant.

      • Southeast Jerome

        yeah, unless someone dies good luck getting an overlee membership.

  • Quoth the Raven

    I love how the Green Party candidate is pictured with a plastic water bottle next to her. Nice.

    • Josh S

      I’d be willing to bet it was given to her.

      • Quoth the Raven

        And if she were genuine she wouldn’t have taken it. If you’re claiming to be green, and if you’re trying to take all this credit for getting rid of plastic bags, being more “sustainable” etc., then you have to live it. Actions speak louder than words. A big deal? Certainly not. But something to consider.

        • 22205

          What if the bottle was made with a substantial percentage of recycled material?

          Also, find better things to complain about.

          • Quoth the Raven

            Recycled material or not, plastic water bottles are a hot-button topic. See all the attempts to ban them in schools, gov’t buildings, etc. So I think it’s funny that she’s taking credit for banning bags, yet she’s sitting there with a plastic bottle in front of her, while her minions are out littering the neighborhoods with her signs.

            And thanks for the advice, but I’ll complain about whatever I like.

          • 22205

            Minions??? LOL. OK, sorry, I assumed I was dealing with a rational poster.

            Carry on fearing the evil Green Hypocrite.

          • Quoth the Raven

            Good Lord, it was hyperbole! Settle down!

        • greenvoter

          if you look at the pic you can see the cap is on the bottle and it is full. i am sure it was placed there by someone setting up for an event that audrey attended.

          • Quoth the Raven

            Right. And she had nothing to do with the Clement signs and flyers all over my neighborhood either.

  • Rich

    Ah yes, the Green Party Candidate that shoves flyers all through our community that has signs up stating no soliciting. Half of them were on the ground the next day.

  • nom de guerre

    I count 7 instances of the word “sustainable” in her essay. Is it just me or are others getting tired of this buzzword?

    • Bluemontsince1961


    • Lori

      If you judge it by how many times that word shows up on http://www.arlingtonva.us, I would say she knows her audience very well!

    • geezer

      Use of the word “sustainable” in its current form has become unsustainable.

    • Josh S

      Actually, I got tired of it ten years ago but in the intervening years it has become so common as to be just another word, in my eyes.

    • doug

      Other words which are sure to become “tired” in the very near future:


      • car-free diet

        “Very near future”? Kool-Aid Drinker

        • Josh S

          ??? You haven’t really been paying attention have you? How about – the past…..

          • doug

            also a little something I like to call…science

  • Cakes

    I guess calling the street car project a “trolley” is one way to make a terrible point.

  • SouthArlington

    Ms. Clement has some good ideas. But I don’t understand why she comes across as angry. I want my elected officials to have social skills as well. She seems to be lacking those. I won’t vote for her.

  • Ballstonian

    Not quite sure how “award[ing] developers with more density” reduces affordable housing. Perhaps the candidates’ forum should have Billy Madison-esque questions such as “Explain the concept of supply & demand and apply it to a real-world scenario affecting Arlingtonians.”

  • Captain Obvious

    I could never vote for this woman. She has demonstrated time and time again in public comments that she doesn’t have the slightest grasp on how the County government actually works. A good example: Last year, she campaigned on banning plastic bags in Arlington–something Arlington legally cannot do (Dillon Rule).

  • CW

    Wish people would use facts when hating on the streetcar. The estimated cost, including an 18% contingency, is estimated at $214-231M in 2011 dollars in the February ’12 report. Of that, a maximum of 44.8% would come from Arlington County.

    Personally, my opinion is that the streetcar is a good idea. Maybe those opposed haven’t been to a place that has streetcars. But they’re pretty cool. And I really don’t think that it’s that far of a stretch to think that a ~$120M investment from the county could recoup that in revenue over the years, when condos are going for $500k+ just about anywhere.

    But regardless, it’s somewhat disingenuous to quote $250-300M figures and imply that Arlington taxpayers will be footing 100% of it.

    • bluemonter


      Good point. I think most people are for the streetcar. It is a load minority that oppose it.. mainly tea party conservatives and people who currently rent on the Pike and/or whom work at an organization that is looking to support affordable housing and think that the new streetcar will mark the demise of affordable housing (which is partly true).

      More Mass Transit is the future of Arlington unless you want to expand roads and turn Arlington into Union City, NJ a big parking lot into DC with lots of smog and pollution but hey if that becomes the case then we will have plenty of affordable housing….

      • CW

        To the latter point of the first paragraph, the irony of course is that if you have good mass transit, it doesn’t matter if the affordable housing gets pushed further out!!! If we had high speed rail (I’m talking Japan, not Acela), I’d think about living in Fredericksburg…

        • Tabs


      • jw

        I don’t support the street car. I’m not a tea party conservative and I own a home near the Pike.

        It’s not really about the money for me, it’s about seating. Articulated buses and street cars have about the same overall capacity (according to the Pike Initiative’s figures), but 2/3 of the capacity on the buses is seated, while 2/3 of the capacity on a streetcar is standing. That’s a difference not widely publicized or discussed. For me, I’d prefer commuting on a bus having a seat rather than standing on a streetcar. That’s just my opinion. I respect the views of people who’d rather be on a streetcar, but that’s why I personally would prefer the articulated buses.

        • CW

          Uh, that’s the “mass” part of “mass transit”. The ability to hold more people. Which is possible when more people are standing versus sitting. Also, since streetcars move faster and more efficiently than buses, the time spent standing is less.

          • 22205

            Wow, that is kind of an absurd rewriting of the definition. Mass transit would apply to any public transit that carries more than a couple of people, like taxis. Buses are considered mass transit by everybody familiar with public transportation.

          • CW

            Sorry, fair enough. I jumped my point. What I meant was, if you’re implementing a new mass transit system to replace an existing one, and you’re doing it in an already-high density area that’s projected to increase further in density due to said system, the ability to carry more people than the existing system (or similar, as in regular versus articulated buses) is a major motivator, not a detractor. Fair?

          • Jw

            Just to be clear, it is not about moving more people. Articulated buses and streetcars have almost exactly the same overall capacity it’s just that the buses dedicate more of that capacity to seating. And it’s not about travel time either. The streetcar run just 1 minute faster than the bus over the length of the whole route.

          • John Snyder

            Yes, JW, it is about moving more people. People need to choose the vehicle, and a streetcar is going to attract more of them. We need a higher proportion of people to use the system, and not just at rush hour. And on pure capacity, streetcars can double by linking two together. Buses would max out in about a decade, leaving us where we are now, with 10 more years of cost escalation, and ten less years of development to pay for transit.

          • Southeast Jerome

            And honestly- even if sitting would be an option, isnt it nice to NOT sit down?

            The new thing these days is stand up desks because sitting just reinforces the fat culture of america. Honestly, even when there are seats on the Orange Line I still stand.

            I can sit all day at work if I want, I dont mind standing for 10-15 minutes on my commute in. I seriously think that is a cop out.

          • Harry

            @Jerome- Though to be fair there are plenty of people who have to stand all day at their jobs and the commute in may be one of their few chances to take a seat.

            That being said, I’m for the street car. Clement and Kelly both talk about how much cheaper it would be to just put more money into buses, but bus lines just encourage the type of development that’s already on most of the pike: car dealerships and strip malls. I’m all for maintaining some of our “suburb” qualities, but I think you’d have a hard time finding anyone who wants more of that suburbia.

          • jw

            John Snyder: when I said it isn’t about moving people, I meant that there is no difference between choosing a streetcar and choosing articulated buses when it comes to moving people, because they have about the same overall capacity. In other words, if your concern is just to move a whole lot of people, they both do the job equally well, so there is no reason to choose a streetcar over a bus. Nor do streetcars really attract more riders than buses. The Pike Transit Initiative estimates 26,200 daily riders on the streetcar, and 25,100 per day for articulated buses. So you are only getting 1100 more riders per day, about 4% more. And of course you can link two streetcars together, but you can also just run two buses next to each other too.

            Jerome — as I said, my opinion is I’d rather sit. I ride the bus every day. I rarely see anyone NOT take any empty seat, and see people all the time choosing a different bus so they can get a seat. If you want to stand, that’s fine with me, you’re entitled to your opinion. Not sure why you think someone with a different opinion is “coping out.” I prefer more seats to more standing. The articulated buses give me that and the streetcar doesn’t, so I prefer the buses. Why is that a cop out? If you prefer to stand so want the streetcars, I respect that; I don’t think you’re coping out, you just have different priorities that I do.

    • South of 50

      Serious question though, does the estimate include the maintenance and storage facility for the cars? Last I heard they had not even decided where that facility was going to be, i.e. which end of the line or even where. Some said they might build it by the NOVA Alexandria campus.

      • CW

        The newest document I have seen is the February 2012 community presentation, available at: http://www.piketransit.com/downloads/February_Community_Group_Presentation-021612.pdf

        The capital costs estimate (slide 34) includes a maintenance facility, which is shown on slide 22 in a rather crude drawing as being at the Pentagon City end of the route.

      • nom de guerre

        While I think there may be numerous factors to consider in selecting a maintenance/storage facility, It would seem to me that the other end of the line would be more practical for at least one reason. The streetcars primary purpose seems to be transporting riders east in the morning toward DC and west in the evening toward Fairfax-why not park it in Fairfax at night so it would be available in the morning to go east toward DC?

        • CW

          The spot that they’re proposing, on the corner of 12th and Eads and running north along Eads, currently seems to be some surface parking, across the street from the big empty lot by Costco. It may have just been a better land deal. Or, maybe Arlington used the fact that it would volunteer to take the maintenance barn as a bargaining chip. Who knows.

          • bemused bystander

            ‘Tis said that the county wants Vornado to provide the maintenance barn in exchange for some of the density the developer wants for its PenPlace mega-project on the empty lot on the west side of Eads St. That if done would certainly cut the county’s barn-building costs.

          • CW

            Makes sense.

            As much as people hate on the County, they’re pretty good at getting developers to pay for things.

          • South of 50

            But they also had an idea to put it near NOVA and combine it with some sort of trade school curriculum at the campus for maintenance.

          • bemused bystander

            Which might also make sense if they can get the tracks to NOVA at a reasonable cost. Or NOVA students could catch the trolley to school at 12th and Eads …

          • Chris Slatt

            Don’t forget the Columbia Pike Streetcar will connect to the Crystal City Streetcar right there in Pentagon City. Put the maintenance yard there and it’s centrally located to both ends of the line.

    • Mary-Austin

      Has the Commonwealth of Virginia confirmed that they will pay for 15 percent of the project?

      I have a hard time believing the state government in Richmond is going to fork over about $45 million for this project.

      I predict the County will be left to pick up the tab (which they will gladly do)

      • Patrick

        Finally someone mentions that the state has never said they will pay any portion of the cost of the streetcar. Given Arlington’s current relationship with richmond I would not count on that funding.

        • Chris Slatt

          The legislature would have to rewrite the existing legislation in order to do so. As it stands the matching funds are automatic by a formula set by statute.

          • Sophia

            Matching what other funds though?

          • Josh S

            Federal funds.

          • Sophia

            What if they do not get the federal funds?

    • car-free diet


  • Archerrules

    WTF? She makes NO SENSE? How do you have more affordable housing with less density? Land costs drive the cost of housing. The answer is higher density located at transportation hubs. She is a loon.

    • Josh S

      Exactly. It’s wishful thinking.

  • Sarcastic Individual

    Swimming pools are completely over capacity in Arlington.

    • nom de guerre

      and they are not sustainable.

  • Patrick

    I am one Repulican voter in Arlington that Mark Kelly most certainly is not out of touch with. I hate it when politicians attempt to speak for people.

    • Southeast Jerome

      is that you, mr murray?

  • John

    At first it’s all Democratic talking points to lure you into a sense of safety then bam, I’m a republican bitches.

  • Jakedog

    I will not be voting for her. I met her at the farmers market and she came across as angry and not understanding the issues at hand.

    As for the Republican Kelly, I will not be voting for him either because of his extreme conservative (read social issues) that he stands for. If the Republicans had put up a more moderate fiscal conservative, I would have considered it.

    • Tabs


      Not thrilled with Garvey but she’s the best of a blah bunch.

  • liz

    More affordable housing.

    Nope. I need to protect the safety of my kids and the property value of my home.

    No vote from me.

  • barry

    Swimming pools? Yep we are drowning in spa, therapy, public, and private pools. More on the way.


Subscribe to our mailing list