Candidate Essay: Libby Garvey

by ARLnow.com March 22, 2012 at 11:55 am 3,816 34 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 Libby Garvey (D):

Like many ArlNow readers, I believe this is a pivotal time in Arlington. We are a vibrant, energetic community – without a doubt, Arlington is a great place to live and do business. But the years ahead present very real challenges and opportunities for our community as well as some very significant decision points for our community’s leaders.

The candidate who wins the March 27 special election will play a crucial role serving on the Board when Arlington faces critical decisions about how we manage change and opportunity in a time of limited resources. Our County Board must be clear about Arlington’s priorities and stay grounded in the fact that it serves you — the Arlington citizen. Our County Board’s priorities must be reflective of our community’s priorities.

While others make promises about improving our County, I have a record of accomplishment. My role in improving our public schools clearly demonstrates my ability to work effectively on an elected board to accomplish defined, measurable goals and objectives. As readers likely know, I have served the Arlington County School Board for more than 15 years, including five terms as Chair. I am proud of my School Board leadership and the work the Board has done to anticipate and adapt to the County’s changing landscape.

When I came to the Board in 1997, our capital program was a mess. Now, we have renovated and rebuilt almost every one of our schools, largely on time and on budget. Because projects were shovel-ready when the recession began in 2008, the Wakefield High School reconstruction project began earlier than initially thought possible, saving taxpayers nearly $30M. When completed in 2013, Wakefield will serve not only as a high school, but also as a valuable – and much needed — community resource.

Although our schools still have work to do, we’ve closed the achievement gap between majority and minority students by about 50% as shown by Virginia Standards of Learning. The Washington Post’s Challenge Index ranks our 4 high schools in the top 1% nationally. People like Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and companies like Boeing move to Arlington, in part for our excellent schools. And, as more people choose to live in Arlington, the student population grows. As a school system, we have worked aggressively to accommodate rising enrollment, through a number of coordinated short-, mid-, and long-term strategies.

This is not a race for School Board, but the traits and characteristics of a successful board member on an effective, responsive Board are the same. They are:

  • Establishing, and sticking to, clear goals and priorities that reflect what citizens have made clear are the most important needs of our community;
  • Being transparent, monitoring progress and reporting back to the taxpayers, even when the reports aren’t so good;
  • Being a team player who remains an independent thinker, one who speaks up, who questions and proposes alternatives.

For 15 years, you have seen me maintain that necessary balance. Independent, original thinking coupled with my years of service and experience is exactly the combination our community needs in our next County Board member.

Finally, we also need someone who has stood, and will continue to stand, up for our core civic responsibilities: public safety, education, transportation, physical infrastructure, affordable housing, and concern for the most vulnerable.
Again, I have a long track record. A commitment to civic responsibility — and to building a better community for everyone – is the thread woven throughout the fabric of my life. I am proud of my service – in the Peace Corps; as a PTA leader; on the School Board; and, and in the wake of 9/11, representing area school boards on the National Council of Governments’ Emergency Preparedness Council.

Whether born in Arlington or a transplant from elsewhere, we Arlingtonians share something important: a sense of community and a commitment to making Arlington a place where the system works for everyone. As we grow and change, we must keep that sense of community and shared values. That is why I’m running for County Board.

If elected, I promise to work as I always have — to listen to you, to look ahead, and to make decisions that I believe will serve our entire community well. I ask for your vote on March 27.

  • Loach

    When does the county have to adopt its next budget?

    • Wayne Kubicki

      Final adoption is at the CB meeting on 4/21. Final decisions are effectively made during worksessions on 4/13 and 4/17.

      • Loach

        Then I think it is important that we get a non-Democrat elected on Tuesday.

        • John Andre

          Not so fast…unless it’s the farther-left Green Party candidate!

          Putting the right wing in power just won’t do in Arlington County!

  • APS parent

    Given the severe overcrowding the APS school system that occurred on her watch which included renovating a number of schools only to see them need trailers within a year or two (Nottingham for example), I’m not sure sure I would bragging about that record of accomplishment as in “As readers likely know, I have served the Arlington County School Board for more than 15 years, including five terms as Chair. I am proud of my School Board leadership and the work the Board has done to anticipate and adapt to the County’s changing landscape. When I came to the Board in 1997, our capital program was a mess.”

    Although one can argue that it was hard to completely predict such a huge increase in enrollment and I partially agree, clearly something was going to happen as older Arlington families were replaced by younger ones and the time to address the problem by adding capacity should have started years ago. I don’t view that as “anticipating and adapting to the County’s changing landscape” at all. The process ongoing now is too little, too late and seems to be yet another repeat of earlier failed efforts under the oversight of APS.

    Sorry Libby, you’re not getting my vote if you think this record is something to brag about.

    • Another Parent

      “anticipating and adapting” LOL! Parents have been asking the School Board to address overcrowding for the last 6+ years, and the Board delayed and delayed. At this point, any construction to help with overcrowding is behind the curve.

    • CarolynP

      Yet Mary Hynes was also on the school board while they were missing all the signs of growth, and she ends up as our board chairman.

      There is never accountability!

    • John Andre

      Sorry! Nottingham & Tuckahoe are the wrong end of town for us South Arlingtonians.

    • bc

      I’m curious to understand your reasoning on this, school boards budget based on the funds available to them, if the renovations could not accommodate the growing number of students then we’d have to build more = more cost = more taxes. How is the answer to this electing someone who wants to reduce spending and taxes? Not trying to pick a fight, just want to follow the logic.

  • Mary-Austin

    I’m so tired of every single Democratic politician in Arlington describing it as “vibrant”.
    That term has been used almost every time I hear them describe Arlington for the past 15 years. It’s gotten tired.
    Also, by now we know “we need to keep Arlington a vibrant place” means we need to throw a bunch of money down the drain.

    • Josh S

      err – I think every politicians at every level across the country would use that word, and similar ones, to describe their jurisdiction. What are they going to say – “Place X is a dump?”

    • John Andre

      Democrats & Green all the way!!!

      Can’t have the GOP messing with my Social Security.

      • bemused bystander

        Um .. how can the County Board affect your social security?

  • T.G.E.0.A….

    I’m just amazed she didnt throw out the word “progressive” at least once!

    I voted for her in the primary, with the full intent to vote for Kelly in the general. Take that loyalty pledge.

    • John Andre

      Kelly is the righty as I see it.

      Whatever you do, DON’T vote for Kelly. He’s the Limbaugh/Cooch–supported candidate.

  • Stitch_Jones

    Without any animosity I will say , “No, thank you,” to Ms. Garvey. It is time for some new blood in the county government, whether it be school board or the county board.

    Also, your ambiguous bullet points contain less than useful generalizations, whereas I prefer specifics:

    “•Establishing, and sticking to, clear goals and priorities that reflect what citizens have made clear are the most important needs of our community;”

    Such as…? Which goals? What has been made clear that you acted or act upon? This says nothing to me.

    “•Being transparent, monitoring progress and reporting back to the taxpayers, even when the reports aren’t so good”

    Madame, these are not supposed to be options. You don’t get credit for transparency in an open democracy. If your point is that you have improved these traits in some way (or that you will), again, you need to include specifics.

    “•Being a team player who remains an independent thinker, one who speaks up, who questions and proposes alternatives.”

    Much as the one above, these are expected. So which questions and alternatives have you raised, suggested, or propose to raise going forward?

    While essays like this inevitably contain platitudes from all the candidates, at some point I want details. Given the opportunity to provide some, you did not.

    Again, no thank you.

  • Josh S

    Much better than Audrey Clement’s piece, in no small part because she avoided bringing up issues over which the county board has little say.

  • burger

    So if the Arlington County school’s capital budget was a mess in 1997, where does it stand now?

    Running for election means running on your record. Given the almost abysmal record Garvey has on anticpating and then reacting to the huge school population increase in the last 6-8 years does she deserve to “move” up. In the real world, she would have been canned.

    • Josh S

      I don’t fully understand this argument. It’s not personal, by the way, plenty of people seem to blame the school board for not doing anything on the overcrowding over the last ten years.

      But her facts are certainly right. APS has had a tremendous burst of capital building over the last ten years. I guess every school has seen its capacity increase. So the problem is that the capacity didn’t increase enough? So they should have spent / borrowed more money than they did to build larger (or more) schools? How, exactly, would that have worked over the last ten years? Where was the extra capacity to spend and borrow?

      The nay sayers must love this current situation – not only can they (and do) complain about lack of capacity, they also complain about too much debt, too much borrowing, etc.

      • APS parent

        In the Nottingham example, a couple of extra classrooms should have been added to the building during its renovation a few years back instead of now looking at the much more expensive option of going back in to build a whole new wing. It would have been much cheaper to do then and we would not have had to spend money on trailers in the meantime. The Board chose not to do so. As a result, the taxpayers are now on the hook for a much more expensive building program county wide. There are other examples at other recent construction projects, but I think you get the idea.

    • NGlebe

      Maybe you don’t remember all of the letters to the editor of out local papers 12 to 8 years ago complaining about spending money to renovate/expand schools in the face of flat to declining enrollment. From 95 until ’04 enrollment grew at an annual average rate of only 1.2%, the lowest in the DC region. Enrollment actually declined ’04 to about ’07, I believe, when enrollment started to take off.

      There is a good chart here (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCcQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.arlingtonva.us%2Fdepartments%2FCountyManager%2FSchoolsCollab%2Ffile84217.pdf&ei=2X5rT5ibLo_irAeXyf3BAg&usg=AFQjCNG4C2Qq4Dp5RAwjwmrec17phprsug) showing the dramatic increase.

      • Suburban Not Urban

        Except that this isn’t rocket science – you add buildings/construction you get more folks. You have an aging population – they’ll leave and be replaced with younger couples with kids that aren’t grown. As the finance people say – Past returns are not necessarily indicative of future performance – that’s why you are supposed to have smart qualified people at the top levels of organizations.

        • NGlebe

          North Arlington (outside the Boston-Rosslyn Corridor) was the first to become overcrowded, and I don’t believe we had a lot of new units; most of the new houses just replaced old ones. To the extent that there is a generation change, that suggests that the current upswing will be temporary, not permanent, and perhaps we should not build permanent capacity for a temporary need.

          In any case, I guess what is important now is the amount of capacity we should build. 15% more? 30% more? 100% more? I don’t think I’ve seen any of the candidates tell us what they think is the “correct” number, and how they came to their conclusion.

          • John Andre

            Quit yelling, Northsiders. You seem to be the high-income toney side of the County. You keep putting all the “affordable” housing in our area along the Pike…and won’t allow any in your neighborhoods. For proper balance, affordable housing should be spread throughout the County, not just along Columbia Pike and a couple other corridors. As I see things the folks around Nottingham and Tuckahoe schools don’t seem to care much how crowded we get at Carlin Springs, Barcroft, Campbell and other Southside elementary schools…but yell “NIMBY” at the least suggestion of affordable housing in your rather swank neighborhoods.

          • NGlebe

            Um. OK. Sure. I’ll agree: affordable housing should be spread throughout the county. But 2012 enrollment vs capacity at the schools you mentioned are: Nottingham (126.7%), Tuckahoe (114.2%), Carlin Springs (114.2%), Campbell (102.8%), and Barcroft (80.9%). So just reallocating new housing units to North Arlington will not solve the problem.

  • Rebecca

    Everyone has great points on here, but the sad fact is, most voters don’t do their research so when it comes time to vote, they just hit (D) on the ballot and move on. You could argue that people who take time to vote this, but as someone who has volunteered at these voting places, people run out all the time saying “I had no idea who to vote for, I just voted for my party.”

    There are fools in every party. Vote accordingly.


      And their votes are worth as much as an informed vote. No wonder we’re in such a mess in this country. DERPHERP

  • lebele

    In the 1980s, Arlington closed schools due to under-utilization. By the 1990s, the situation had reversed. Several elementary and one middle school were re-opened and permanent classrooms added to many schools.

    Then there’s resistance by parents to boundary changes, which greatly exacerbates school overcrowding in some parts of our geographically tiny county and under-utilization in other parts from decade to decade.

    What if the county spent tens of millions to resolve all the current over-crowding, only to be followed on a decade from now by under-utilization? The same folks now complaining about temporary classrooms would then complain about the waste of funds. Neighborhoods do quickly decrease children population, especially when blocks of low income apartments are replaced with upscale housing — that has happened several times in recent decades.

    The basic issue is school buildings are inflexible while the demographics change considerably from decade to decade. That’s not as much a matter of incompetent planning so much as a fact of life.

    Kids can be taught as well in a temporary classroom as a permanent one. They are good for 7 to 10 years. The biggest problem with them is higher life cycle costs than permanent classrooms, assuming the latter are filled over four or five decades.

  • APSNumberone

    She won’t get my vote. Although she did some good things, hiring Dr. Murphy was a HUGE mistake and she refuses to hear any criticism of him by parents or teachers. I am a lifelong Dem. and I will vote for Kelly.

  • Nothingeverchanges

    The board has had overcrowded schools in some areas for years now, and after several processes they have done very little to alleviate it. A few trailers here, and few moved programs there, but they never had enough courage to make hard decisions, as they always caved in to parents who didn’t want to move their children. Now boundary changes will still have to be done once new space is built. Ms. Garvey is as guilty as the others in her reluctance to make hard decisions ten years ago.

  • MC

    My only hope is that if elected she won’t get along with the rest of the Board. I’m tired of unanimous decisions.

  • Civic Activist

    I was amused at a recent expensive glossy jumbo size postcard from Libby. I commented to a neighbor that “She is so shallow that her photograph does not even block out the background that it was superimposed upon.” Since she has been on the School Board, the graduation rate for Arlington students has dropped. In Arlington: No Child Left Behind has become No Excuse Left Behind.

  • barry

    If you attended the candidate debates you would have noticed that Libby opens by reciting a laundry list of problems with the mid-90’s School Board that was controlled by Democrats for years before she was elected in 1996, and then she tears into the Democratic County Board for a laundry list of its failings.

    In fact, Libby is a poor manger and we will have to pay $30 million to remedy her inadequate planning of W-L high school.

  • Arlington Dems HAVE Lost Special Elections Before. Make Sure You Vote on Tuesday!



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